A Fantasy Flash Fiction
by Linda Mooney
It began with a rose, a single blood-colored velvet bud wearing a crystal drop of water like a tear on its petal. The flower sat on top of Illustra’s desk, between the keyboard and the computer monitor.
Dropping into her chair, she picked up the flower by its stem and brought it to her nose. Closing her eyes, she savored its sweet, poignant perfume as a soft cloud of memories washed over her. There was no note or card accompanying the bud, but there didn’t need to be. She knew who’d sent it, and why, and she softly smiled.
Later that evening, Illustra exited the elevator on her floor and fumbled her way around an armload of groceries, trying to unlock the door to her apartment without spilling anything. Getting the key turned in the lock, she pushed the door open with the toe of her boot and walked in, only to hear the crackle of paper beneath her foot.
She hurried to the dining table to dump the bags before she dropped them, then went back to close the door and pick up the cream-colored envelope that had been slipped under the door. The front of the envelope was plain, the back flap simply tucked inside. Pulling out the flap, she withdrew a piece of folded paper. It was a printout of an ad from an entertainment website announcing that Thursday night was opening night for Mozart’s The Magic Flute, and written in the margin on the side was the message, “Tomorrow night, 9 o’clock, with you in my arms.”
Tapping the paper against her lips, Illustra smiled and gave a small laugh. A sense of anticipation hugged her, momentarily relieving the aches and soreness brought on by the day. After laying the note on the table, she took her bags into the kitchen to begin putting away her groceries.
By eleven that evening, she finished her last report, emailed it to the police chief, and shut down her computer. Turning out the lights, she pulled her nightgown closer around her body and stepped out onto the patio balcony of her rooftop apartment. Closing her eyes, she breathed in the sweet night air.
She knew Steev couldn’t come to her tonight. He was out there saving the world one bit at a time, the same way she did. There wouldn’t be a tonight, but there was tomorrow. She shivered slightly, not from the cool pre-Fall air, but knowing that her loneliness could be counted in mere hours and minutes instead of weeks or days.
She took another deep breath, and it was as if she could feel another heartbeat keeping pace with hers. A strong, slower rhythm of love she had heard, had shared, many times before.
“Goodnight, my love,” she whispered, expecting, then receiving the gentle surge that cupped her heart in reply. Smiling once more, she went to bed and dreamed of golden hills and green valleys, and blue eyes that were able to look deep into her soul.
It was mid-morning the next day when a delivery man walked up to Illustra’s desk and handed her a package bound in brown butcher paper and twine. She stared at the package, turning it over several times before setting it down on her desk and using her power to sear the cord. Unwrapping it slowly, she discovered it was a slim book with a brown leather cover. The title ran up the spine in gilt letters. “Selected Works of Voltaire,” she read aloud, puzzled as to the sender’s choice in literature. Curious, she thumbed open the volume and discovered it parted at a page already marked with a scrap of paper. A simple quote had been underlined to catch her attention.
If one could write kisses, I would send you an infinity of them.
Illustra felt her face grow warm as the first hint of tears stung her eyes. Her nose tickled, and she grabbed a tissue from the box on her desk. “What am I going to do with you?” she murmured to herself. Taking a deep breath, she shoved the book into her satchel and left to answer her next call for help.
It was close to seven p.m. before she finished with her last emergency call. Flying home, she hurried to take a quick shower. She was nibbling on a sandwich while she was getting dressed when the doorbell rang a little past seven-thirty. She quickly zipped up the back of her royal blue beaded gown as she went to answer the door.
“Who is it?”
“Finn. Can I come in?”
She unlocked and opened it, smiling as the police chief gave her the once-over and whistled softly. “Some outfit, Illie.” He nodded appreciatively.
“Thank you. Have a seat.”
Albert Finn parked himself on the arm of the couch and watched as Illustra headed back to the bedroom to finish dressing. “I’m not interrupting anything, am I? I was on my way home and I thought I’d swing by for a sec.”
She reemerged, inserting the other stud into her ear, and stopped beside the end table. “You could say that. What’s up? I know this isn’t another emergency because you don’t make house calls.” She raised an eyebrow at the man.
Finn fidgeted. “How did I do, Illie? Was it too much? Or not enough?”
“It was perfect,” she hurried to assure him. “In fact, I didn’t know what to expect when you asked me to be your guinea pig. You surprised me. I didn’t know you had such a romantic streak in you.”
“You liked it then? The rose?”
“It was a nice touch. All women love roses. You should send flowers more often.”
“How about the invitation to the opera? A lot of women like opera, so I thought I’d give it a shot, just to see if I might be able to develop a taste for it,” he admitted. “Or maybe I should’ve chosen a musical. What do you think?”
Illustra gave him a big smile. There was something boyishly appealing about the man’s charming quality in trying to please her. “Mozart’s a good choice. I like him, and I’m not even from this planet. It’s a light piece she might enjoy. And that was a nice touch, slipping the note under my door.”
Albert bowed his head and tried to hide a grin of embarrassment. “I read a few articles online about how middle-aged men can get back into the dating scene,” he confessed. “In fact, that’s where I got the idea for a book of poetry. I went to that little shop on the east side that Deidra used to love going to. That’s where I found that book by Voltaire. The shopkeeper’s the one who suggested it. I rather like that quote about an ‘infinity of kisses,’ didn’t you?”
Leaning over and laying a hand on his shoulder, Illustra remarked teasingly, “It almost made me think twice about going out tonight.” She laughed warmly, noting how his eyes grew wider, and the man smiled in return.
He cleared his throat. “So, you think I might convince Cheryl to go out with me if I do for her what I did for you?”
“The woman would have to be a mental case not to. You’ve always had the looks and the intelligence. And on top of that, you’re the police chief!”
“But it’s been so long since I’ve done the dating scene,” he half argued.
“Then it’s time you dove back into that pool. I realize it’s been a while, but since then, you’ve developed that suave and debonair style that will drive any woman wild. You may be in your forties, Al, but you’re nowhere near being over the hill.” She eyed his slightly grayed hair and the creases in his face. The job had aged him, yes, but more in the way time aged a fine bourbon. “May I add one more word of advice?” At the man’s nod, she continued. “Just remember this. It doesn’t matter what you do, just as long as you mean it.”
That puzzled him. “Please explain.”
Illustra sighed. “You can buy a woman all the presents and flowers you want. You can take her places and spend all the money you have. But you won’t win a woman’s heart unless she knows you mean it. Romance is empty unless it’s from the heart, my dear friend.”
He clenched his jaw. “I understand. Okay, I’ll try.” He glanced at his watch and rose to his feet. “Cripes, the ballgame starts in fifteen minutes, and I’m keeping you from your date. Thank you for the advice, Illie. And thanks again for letting me use you to bounce ideas off of.”
She followed him over to the door. He opened it and paused on the threshold as she remarked, “You’re welcome. I’ll admit, it was…a very interesting experience. Just remember what I said. You have to mean everything you say and everything you do. If you don’t, a woman will be able to sense that immediately. At least, I will.”Albert gave her another quick smile and started down the hallway toward the elevator, but stopped when she closed the door behind her. Once he heard the click of the deadbolt, he walked back to the door and ran his fingertips over the cold wood. “I did, Illie. I truly did,” he mouthed without sound. Having made the confession, he turned and walked away.
~ ~ ~
A FUREVER HOME
Sweet Christian Romance
by Linda Mooney writing as Lynn Gayle
Word Count: 22K
$2.99 e / $6.99 p
After getting a call to the warehouse district, firefighter Knox Norville was ready to write it off to arson. The abandoned buildings are home to many vagrants and drug addicts, but he arrives ready to do his job regardless. He wasn’t expecting the effect this call would have on his life...or the one decision he made that could possibly ruin him forever.
By saving one young woman, and going back to look for her dog, he thought he was doing the right thing, not neglecting his duties. But what he soon learns hits hard, and his conscience eats at him. One horrible thing after another on the worst day of his life lands him a hefty fine, community service, and possible jail time, but is it all divine intervention?
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