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I mentioned before that I have once again signed up for NYCMidnight’s Flash Fiction Challenge. This is a competition I’ve done every year for the last few and it is something that has really helped bring my writing to higher levels. This year, my round one assignment was a pain in the ass.

Genre: Romantic Comedy
Location: Jewelry Store
Item: A Slice of Lemon

I am not very good at writing Rom-Coms. Well, that’s not fair. The truth is, this is only the second attempt I’ve made at writing a Rom-Com. My first one was pretty well recieved, but I blanked a it on this one. It’s okay on the comedy, but really light on the Romance. I’m hoping the judges give me a little leeway. I know “Buddy” Rom-Coms are kind of a thing these days, so that’s what I went with. Here’s hoping. (And I know that because Google told me so while I was desperately trolling for ideas on a place to start.)

#flashfictionchallenge


Lemony Love

The shop door slammed open, sending the tinkling brass bell above it into a full-fledged racket. I blinked up at the clock on the wall without bothering to turn to face the main room. Ten minutes till. Eh, close enough. “Sorry.” I yelled, still rummaging through cleaning supplies. “We’re closed.”

“Even if I brought booze?”

I turned at the sound of Diana’s voice. It was equal parts anger and frustration with a solid dosing of sad sprinkled over the top. She held a bottle of tequila in one hand and a bag of lemons in the other. I raised an eyebrow at her and sipped at my cup of tea. One of my signature moves that makes my face look like I’m thinking something intelligent when I really don’t know what to think. “Hey, D. You’re early. I didn’t think you’d be here until after your date.”

She dropped the lemons to the counter with a thump. “This is after my date.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah.”

“What happened this time?”

“He called me his mom.”

The mouthful of tea I’d just drank sprayed over the counter and onto the floor. “Jesus, D! How old was this guy?”

She mumbled something I didn’t quite catch and fumbled at the foil on top of the bottle. I leaned forward, still smiling as I wiped tea off my chin. “What did you say?”

She scowled at me as she yanked the cork out of the top of the bottle. “I said he was twenty-three, okay?!?”

“Twenty-three? D! You’re thirty-seven.”

Her eyes blazed. “Thirty-six!”

“Yeah, for two more weeks.”

She banged the tequila onto the counter top beside the bag of lemons. “Are you going to help me with this or not?”

I held up my hands in surrender. “Let me lock up,” I said. “Glasses are in the back.”

Diana bustled through the door into the back of the shop while I walked to the front of the store and flipped the ‘Vanessa Case Jewelry’ store to read ‘Closed’. I pulled down the ornate security gates and locked everything in place before switching the lights to their ‘night’ setting.

Diana came out of the back a second later with a pair of mismatched glasses, a cutting board, and a knife. “Vanessa, how long have we been friends?”

“Easy.” I smiled. “Since the morning after your twenty-first birthday party. I let you use my shower and you bought breakfast.”

The memory made her crack a smile. “I still don’t know why I was wearing your pressure cooker as an army helmet.”

I laughed with her. “I don’t even know what you were doing in my apartment. We’d never met.”

She sobered a little and slipped a lemon out of the bag, lifting the knife. “So… If there were something horribly wrong with me, you’d say something right?”

“Diana, there is nothing wrong with you.”

“Then why can’t I find a good guy?”

I smiled. “Apparently, it’s because you’re dating teenagers.”

She laughingly pointed the knife at me. “Twenty-three.” She started laughing again. “God, V. What was I thinking?”

“If I had to guess? Probably that you haven’t gotten laid since your divorce.”

She froze in the middle of quartering a lemon, her skin flushing crimson. “I tell you too much.”

“I’m your best friend. That’s how it works.”

“I can’t find a decent guy my age.” She shrugged still blushing. “I thought I’d try the cougar thing. It would have worked too, if he’d just kept his mouth shut.”

I covered my laugh with a cough and looked down at the bag on the counter, raising and eyebrow in confusion. “No limes?”

“Why would I get limes? You said lemons.”

“You drink Tequila with limes, not lemons.”

“Then why did you ask me to get you lemons?”

“I use them to clean silver. I didn’t know you’d be bringing tequila remember?”

She looked down at the pair of neatly sliced lemons on the clipboard. “Oh. Can we use lemons?”

I shrugged. “Sure.”

She poured a glass for each of us and handed over a lemon slice. “You’re sure there’s nothing wrong with me?”

“Positive.”

“Then why can’t I find anyone decent?”

I threw back the tequila. “Your standards are insane.”

“What?”

“You insist on only dating guys that have never been married.”

“So? I don’t want someone’s broken toys.”

“D… If they are our age and they’ve been single the whole time, there is probably a very good reason they have been single that long.”

She shot her tequila and lemon and poured herself another. After a moment, she sniffed. “Like the mustache guy?”

I chuckled and refilled my glass. “An eight inch handlebar mustache isn’t really a personality flaw, but it is something he maybe should have mentioned in his online profile.”

She grinned after her second shot. “Yeah, So much for web dating.” I poured her another before downing mine. “How do you do it?” she asked.

“I treat them like jewelry.”

She looked around my shop. “You put them on display?”

I shook my head and dumped a small burlap sack out on the counter. It was filled with battered and filthy silver jewelry that I’d gotten at an estate sale. I picked up a heavy silver ring that was nearly black with age. “I figure that everyone our age has probably been through the same crap we have. So they may be a little tarnished.”

I grabbed a hunk of lemon and worked the ring into it, using the inner rind of the lemon like a scrub brush for several seconds before pulling the ring free and grabbing a soft towel. “I keep an eye out for something that has potential. Then, I use a little sweet, a little sour attitude, and a little acid to scrape that off. If they’re worth it, we shine.”

I held up the ring. With the tarnish gone, the rich silver gleamed.

“You treat them like crap?”

“No, dummy. I treat them like my friends.”

 

 

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