Tag: Laci and Del (page 2 of 2)

Laci and Del: A Wee Bit O’ Picking

It’s the first Friday of the month. Time for another installment of short fiction. You can, at any time, find this work or any of the First Friday Fiction Features (#FFFF), by going to the My Work tab, clicking on Freebies, and selecting the story you wish to read.

Remember that 2014 is the year I’m trying serial work. This is part 3 of 12: Laci and Del: A Wee Bit O’ Picking.

Laci and Del: A Wee Bit O’ Picking

wee bit o' irishIt was an irritant somewhere in her brain, picking away at her comfort zone.

Pick. Pick. Pick.

If Laci had felt nervous before Valentine’s Day, she was positively panicked afterward. The first month and a half of the year had gone more smoothly than she could have hoped after their years apart, then Del had to go and up the stakes with the perfect Valentine’s date: just the right mix of recreation and romance.

Since then she’d been a wreck.

He had dialed everything back to casual, but she knew it was a fake casual. They were past that. He’d taken them past that.

She kept going to movies with him, sharing meals, discussing their days, meeting for coffee, but she knew, she knew, those things weren’t innocuous. It was more than merely food, entertainment, and mindless chatter. They mattered to him. And if she was honest with herself, they all mattered to her, too.

Pick. Pick. Pick.

It was a month after their perfect date, and he hadn’t said anything, hadn’t put any pressure on her—none at all, in fact—but she felt it. Because over the last week, he’d spent less and less time with her. Time was running out. She had to choose.

Pick. Pick. Pick.

Commit or move on.

Pick.

Whatever was fiddling around in her head believed in divide and conquer, because some of it had gone to work in her stomach. She thought about making a bowl of soup, but took some antacid instead.

Pick.

St. Patrick’s Day was Monday. Because of his heritage, it used to be one of Del’s favorite days of the year. He had proven to her that he still knew her well. Maybe it was time to see how well she still knew him. She sat down with a notebook and pen and got to work.

On Monday evening, Laci’s doorbell rang at 5:30, right when she expected it. She straightened her green silk dress under her apron and answered the door.

He must have had a hard day, because he’d already taken off his jacket, untucked his shirt, loosened his collar, and undone his tie. His hair was mussed, like he’d been running his hand through it in frustration, and he was looking at his phone with a frown on his face. But when she greeted him, he pocketed his phone and the stress lines smoothed into a lazy grin. “You look gorgeous. What’s the occasion?”

She grabbed his hand and pulled him into her apartment. She looked gorgeous? One of her favorite looks on Del was his done-with-the-business-day look. His five o’clock shadow was coming in and his clothes were starting to come off… he had that perfect blend of elegant and casual that really got to her. “Are you kidding me? Delany Keegan doesn’t know what today is?”

He thought for a second and shook his head. “Sorry, babe. The last week’s been pretty rough. Today was a real killer. Let me think… It’s not a birthday. Not an anniversary. What am I missing?”

She reached behind her and slowly untied her apron, watching his every reaction.

His gaze followed her hands. He swallowed and smiled, clearly expecting a lot more to come.

Instead of removing her apron, she lifted it to him and said, “Read it.”

“What?” He chuckled, clearly not expecting that turn of events.

“What’s it say?”

He looked at her for a moment, then he looked down at the apron and read it. “Kiss Me. I May Have a Wee Bit O’ Irish in Me.” He smiled. “It’s St. Patrick’s Day.”

She spoke with her best brogue, which wasn’t that good, but was serviceable. “It is indeed, Delany Keegan. And you should be ashamed for neglecting your heritage like that. Forgetting our day. And not even wearing o’ the green! You know what that means!” She reached out and pinched him.

He tossed his jacket on the sofa and spoke in a brogue far better than Laci’s. “You get one free one, Laci Marks. Try it again, and I pinch back.”

She giggled and said, “You better not if you want to put a wee bit o’ Irish in me later!” and ran into the kitchen. He was close on her heels. She turned to ward off his advance, but he had stopped short. “Del? What’s wrong?”

He was staring at her table. “What did you do?” he asked, his voice low, soft.

The nerves were back again, working overtime. Pick. Pick. Pick. “I made dinner. We’ve been eating together almost every night, anyway. I just decided to cook tonight instead of us going out.”

She needed something to do with her hands, so she took her apron off. For the second time that night, she waited while he looked her over, head to toe. At the door, he just appraised her beauty, and she appreciated it. But in the kitchen, he assessed the intent behind her efforts, and it made her squirm. Then he turned toward the table, where she had already placed homemade soda bread, Colcannon potatoes, corned beef, and a steaming pot of Irish stew. Tall glasses of Guinness were at each place setting. He didn’t even know that coffee was already brewed for after dinner, Irish if he wanted it that way, to accompany an Irish cream chocolate cheesecake that she’d baked the day before. She bit her lip while she waited for his analysis to end.

“You did all this?”

She shrugged. “It’s no big deal.” Fidgeting under his stare, she continued. “We have to eat, right?”

He crossed to her and took her by the shoulders, forcing her to face him, but she stared at the floor. “Laci, look at me.”

She couldn’t quite manage it.

“Laci,” he whispered.

She looked up into his eyes and saw that he was searching for answers. Answers she was frightened to give.

“Did you do all this for me?”

She nodded. “I know your mother makes this meal every year. I wanted to make sure you got to eat your family feast, even if you were with me instead of them.”

He smiled, and his eyes stopped questioning her. Instead, they held answers. Those were the eyes that she’d once fallen in love with. Eyes that once held the promise of a future, of children, of growing old together. Of a lifetime. She saw those things again.

It was frightening.

And exhilarating.

“Your apron said I’m supposed to kiss you.” He pulled her into his embrace.

Everything had changed.

She had picked.

What if she’d made a mistake?

First Friday Fiction Feature — Laci and Del: Romance Tailor Made

It’s the first Friday of the month. Time for another installment of short fiction. You can, at any time, find this work or any of the First Friday Fiction Features (#FFFF), by going to the My Work tab, clicking on Freebies, and selecting the story you wish to read.

Hopefully you remember that 2014 is the year I’m trying serial work. This is part 2 of 12: “Laci and Del: Romance Tailor Made”

Laci and Del: Romance Tailor Made

black & gold valentineThey’d been dating since New Year’s, midnight. This time. Laci had to admit things were going well. Over the last six weeks, Del seemed to have remembered everything that mattered to her.

She only ate ice cream in the summer… unless she was angry, then bring it on. By the gallon. She liked her pizza New York style, as thin as she could get it, and always with sausage and veggies. Chicken wings should be seasoned with paprika and garlic salt, not slathered in sauce, and served with blue cheese, not ranch. And like pizza, she had to drink Pepsi, not Coke, with them. And definitely not iced tea or something without bubbles. Beer would do in a pinch, but was not her first choice. She was fiercely addicted to hockey. She loved museums, but preferred to go to them alone because people usually rushed her through them. She pretended to enjoy art films but in actuality they bored her; she preferred action movies. And obviously, she hated being alone at midnight on New Year’s because not kissing someone was a double whammy for her: it was a new year and it was her birthday.

He remembered it all.

When Del told her he had something special planned for Valentine’s Day, she couldn’t help but panic. “Special” was too much. “Special” was too soon.

They had crossed that bridge before. They had discussed marriage. She’d been ready for it. She had been secretly buying bridal magazines and thinking about venues. She’d tentatively designed the perfect menu, chosen colors and flowers, and known just what gown she wanted. If she had closed her eyes, she could have felt the ring on her finger.

And it had blown up in her face.

She didn’t know if she was ready to deal with all that again.

“What time can you get off work?” he asked.

“Uh… I don’t know. Why?”

“I thought we might start the night early. Valentine’s Day is Friday, so you know it’s going to be even more crazy in town than usual.”

“What time do I need to be ready?”

“Well, I don’t want to give too much away. Can you be ready to walk out the door at five?”

“Five? That’s awfully early for dinner, isn’t it?”

“I’ve got a full evening planned.”

She sighed, but no air felt like it entered or exited her lungs. Her chest felt tight, her palms cold, clammy. “All right. Five. What should I wear?”

“Whatever you’re comfortable in.”

“I’m comfortable in jammies.”

He waggled his eyebrows.

“Seriously, Del. I need to know how to dress.”

“Something comfortable. That’s all I’m saying.” He leaned down and gave her a quick kiss, then started to walk away. He called over his shoulder. “I promise, this will be a night you won’t forget.”

Something comfortable? She bit her lower lip. I doubt I’ll be comfortable until that night is long over.

When Valentine’s Day rolled around, Laci had worked herself up so much that she couldn’t concentrate if she tried. She finally just took the afternoon off and went home. Standing in her closet, she pawed through her clothes countless times, never coming up with anything. Finally, she stood back.

“What the hell constitutes ‘comfortable’ to a man?”

She took a bubble bath, styled her hair, and applied her makeup. When her doorbell rang at 4:55, she was still in her robe.

“I know I said ‘comfortable,’ but I don’t think we’ll get out of your apartment with you looking like that.”

The look on his face was something between appreciation and predator. She whacked his arm as it reached for her and darted out of his reach. “I’d be ready by now if I knew what I was supposed to be wearing. You won’t tell me where we’re going, or what ‘comfortable’ means, or how dressy I should get, or…” She stopped and took a good look at him for the first time.

He was dressed in jeans and his winter jacket, underneath which she could see a hockey jersey peeking out.

“When you say ‘comfortable,’ do you mean ‘casual?’”

“I do.”

She started to relax. “How casual? Like, my lucky-hockey-jersey casual?”

“That would be perfect.” He smiled.

The pressure in her chest released so quickly, she was surprised steam didn’t pour out her ears. “I’ll be right back!” She all but danced to her room and stripped out of her robe. Her beloved Lemieux jersey held a place of honor in her closet; it hung right by the door next to the white Sidney Crosby, black Evgeni Malkin, and blue James Neal jerseys. But the black Lemieux jersey was her lucky jersey, and it was a special night, so that’s the one she wore. She donned it with a pair of black jeans and black boots, grabbed her jacket, and headed for the door.

“Perfect,” he said, standing back and looking her over.

She could feel the heat rise in her cheeks. “Stop it. I hate it when you look at me like that.”

“Get used to it.” He opened the door for her. “Let’s go.”

“Where are we going?”

“That’s classified.”

She sighed, but played along. Downstairs, a black car was parked at the curb. She started to walk around it to cross the street, but he led her to it and bowed low, opening the door. “Madame, your carriage awaits.”

“What?”

“I rented a car for tonight. I didn’t want to walk in the cold or try to hail cabs.”

“Where are we going?”

“Geez, Laci. Would you just play along and get in?”

“Okay!” She got in and Del climbed in behind her. He poured her champagne and they toasted to a wonderful Valentine’s Day. Laci hadn’t even finished her drink before they were at their destination: her favorite pizza parlor. “Are you kidding me?”

“Nope. Come on.” Del took her hand and led her inside. They ordered salad and pizza—New York style with sausage and veggies, of course—and two Pepsis.

When they were finished, Del took her hand. “Did you enjoy your meal?”

“Every bite.”

“Ready to go?”

“There’s more?”

“It’s only six-fifteen, Laci. The night’s just getting started.”

Their driver valiantly braved rush hour traffic to cross the river and stop at The Square, where Del paid for them to ride the incline to the top of Coal Mountain and look at the view of the city.

“It’s a little chilly, but it’s beautiful,” Laci said, nerves creeping back in. The top of the mountain was exactly the kind of place people went to propose, and she wasn’t ready.

“I’m glad you like it,” Del said. “But we can’t stay. We’ve got one more stop.”

Relief flooded through her, warm and comforting, tingling her chilled fingers and toes. “Really, Del? You’ve already given me a great night.”

“I think you’ll like this.”

They rode the incline back down and got in the car. Again the driver fought city traffic and took them to one of Laci’s favorite places: the hockey center.

Del produced two tickets from his pocket. “Center ice. Right behind the bench.”

She threw her arms around him. “Are you serious?”

“Happy Valentine’s Day, Laci.”

“Happy Valentine’s Day, Del.”

As they walked inside, Laci knew she was going to remember that night for the rest of her life.

She also knew Del had put together a far more romantic evening for her than if he had wined-and-dined her at a fancy restaurant.

What did that mean for them going forward?

First Friday Fiction Feature – Laci and Del: Second Chance?

It’s the first Friday of the month. You know what that means… it’s time for another installment of short fiction. (You can, at any time, find this work or any of the First Friday Fiction Features, by going to the My Work tab, clicking on Freebies, and selecting the story you wish to read.)

This year I’m doing something different. Instead of twelve months of different stories, I’m trying out some serial work this year. So there will be twelve consecutive pieces released starting with this one: “Laci and Del: Second Chance?”

Laci and Del: Second Chance?

2014 Laci glanced around the room, her gaze flitting from the people to the door and back. Panic clawed through her insides as desperately as she wanted to claw at each figure blocking her way. She had no means of escape. She’d waited too long. What fifteen minutes earlier had been a navigatable maze of clusters of party guests, standing like islands in a sea she could have traveled, somehow had morphed into one massive throng she had no hope of wading through. The door might as well be in another country. She’d never make it.

Sighing, she turned around and unlatched the patio door. Cracking it open just enough to squeeze through it, she slipped outside and closed the door behind her. Immediately she was hit in the face with the bracing cold of winter.

“Damn, it’s freezing out here!” She wrapped her arms around herself and watched as her breath dissipated into the night. She briefly entertained the idea of going back inside, but shook the idea off before even turning around. The countdown had begun. Even through the heavy door she could hear them all chanting, “Fifty-seven… Fifty-six… Fifty-five…”

Less than a minute, and she could put another horrid year behind her.

And start another one.

She rubbed her arms harder and tried to blink back the tears that were threatening to fall, tried not to imagine every single person in there sharing a warm kiss at midnight… while she stood on the patio. Alone. In the cold.

“Thirty-two… Thirty-one…”

The voices had grown louder, and Laci realized the door had opened. Wiping her eyes and clearing her throat, she mustered the last ounces of courage and dignity she possessed and turned toward her unwanted intruder. “I’m sorry. Would you mind terribly? I’d like to be alone.”

“No, you wouldn’t.”

He was backlit by the lights from inside the house, but she didn’t need to see his face to know who he was. She’d know his voice, his body, anywhere.

“Delany?”

“Only you and my mother ever call me that.”

She cleared her throat. “Del. What are you doing here?”

“Something I didn’t think I’d ever do again.”

“Three… Two… One…”

As shouts of “Happy New Year” and the beginning notes of “Auld Lang Syne” rang out from inside the house, Del crossed to Laci and kissed her.

There was no forewarning. No preamble. He didn’t stroke her cheek first or brush her hair back from her face.

There was just Del. And the kiss.

And the disappearance of her whole miserable world for a blissful moment.

When he released her, the people inside were about done cheering. The strains of the song were fading away. The tears had dried on her cheeks.

And her heart rate was nowhere near normal.

“And what, might I ask, am I supposed to make of that?” she managed to get out in a steady voice.

“I’ve been watching you all night.”

“You’ve been watching me all night? What are you, now? A stalker or something?” She clutched at where a collar should be, but all she found was a necklace. A beautiful diamond necklace he’d bought her, highlighted by her upswept hair and the low-cut bodice of her cocktail dress. She tried to cover it with her fingers, but she saw the look of recognition on his face. Why did she have to choose that piece—of all pieces—to wear that night? Thankfully, he didn’t comment on it.

“We’re both still friends with the same people. We’re bound to end up in the same place at the same time. But after how things ended…”

She lowered one of her arms and studied his face.

He shrugged his shoulders. “I didn’t know if you were ready to talk. So I stayed on the opposite side of the room all night. I was trying to be polite and give you space.”

She sniffed.

“Anyway, I figured you would leave before midnight. I know how you feel about not having anyone to kiss when the ball drops, especially given it’s not just the new year, but your birthday too, so when—”

“You remember my birthday?”

His eyebrows shot up. “What kind of person do you think I am? Of course I remember your birthday.”

She relaxed enough that she dropped her hand away from her throat and started rubbing her arms again. Since Del had walked onto the patio, she hadn’t felt anything but heat. The cold was starting to hit her again, though. As well as some old feelings she hadn’t buried as deep as she had thought.

“Come here,” he said.

Before she could object, she was nestled in his arms, tucked against his firm, warm chest.

“Laci, I know things got all messed up before. I don’t want to revisit the past. This is a new year. For you and for everyone.” He pulled back a little bit and looked down at her. “I’d like to give us another try.”

She couldn’t meet his gaze, so she tucked her head back against his chest and held on tightly to him. “I don’t know, Delany. It took me a long time to move on. I don’t want to go through something like that again.”

“That’s how you know it’s worth fighting for. Because we were so hard to walk away from. Come on, Laci. What have you got to lose?”

Laci thought about the year since they had broken up and the men she hadn’t been able to date. There had been something wrong with absolutely everyone who’d asked her out—too tall, too nerdy, too creepy, too involved with work, too interested in fantasy football—so she’d politely declined all her offers until the offers had stopped coming. Yes, she realized her reasons were ridiculous. Well, maybe not the creepy guy, but all the other ones. But obviously her social calendar was in need of some CPR.

But wasn’t Del the reason it flat-lined to begin with?

She had a lot to lose. He couldn’t possibly understand. Was he worth the risk?

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