As has so frequently been the case with my creative writing, a dream has inspired a new story. The opening of this flash fiction story occurred in a dream, but I woke up in the middle of it, so I had to guess at how this would have played out. Hope you enjoy.
As we walked out of the restaurant, Amber said, “I guess since we’re dating now, there’s something you need to know.”
Goose pimples prickled my skin. That sounds ominous. “Okay.”
She stopped on the sidewalk, and I stopped alongside her. “I like to go to the club and drink every night.”
Not exactly healthy, but not as bad as she’d made it sound. “Mm-hmm.”
“Except I can’t afford to buy my own drinks, so … you know.”
I either couldn’t follow that train or didn’t want to. “I don’t know.”
“Guys buy me drinks.”
“Why would they do that? I mean I know why, but what prompts them?” The charm and the coy smile and the mini-dress were all the ‘why’ anybody needed. I knew that. But still you didn’t buy drinks for every hot girl at the club. That’s a good way to go broke. Or maybe you did? I don’t know. I’d never been. And it’s not how we’d met.
“I … uh … chat with them.”
Everything was coming apart. Dinner had been so nice. But if this were the dessert course, it was a plate of bile. “To be clear, the nights that we’re not together, you’ll be at the club flirting with guys so they’ll buy you drinks?”
“It’s not a big deal. I get to drink some expensive cocktails. And they get to go home a little later and wonder why they didn’t close the deal.” She left a little space for the rebuttal to breathe before dropping the other shoe. “Some of them get a little handsy sometimes, but that’s about it.”
“Nice. So you’re flirting and getting felt up.”
“Hey, how ‘bout you get off my—” she laughed sharply and covered her mouth as a family with several small children walked by.
Red splotches peeked out from under the collar of my shirt. It was the telltale sign that I was getting angry. A giveaway since youth. “Don’t you think you should have told me this before now?”
“No, I don’t. It wasn’t your business until now. And frankly, I’m not real sure it’s your business now.”
This wasn’t going to work. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who’d read it that way. Amber pulled her phone out of her clutch.
“What are you doing?”
“Getting an Uber.”
“Come on. I’ll take you back to your place.”
She rolled her eyes. “I’m not going back to my place.”
It took a minute for the inference to sink in. I was being dense.
She flicked her eyes up from her phone to me just to see how salty that little word was.
“I can wait with you until your ride gets here,” I offered.
“Umm, hard pass. That’d be super awkward.”
The anger must have been wearing off. I tried but failed to swallow a laugh at how obviously true that was. Inappropriate laughter was a default mechanism in stressful situations. It hand landed me in hot water countless times.
My face must have been a jumble of messy expressions. The laugh broke the tension like a spell. One side of her mouth curled up in a smile.
I turned to walk to my truck. There wasn’t anything left to say. Crap. Yes, there was. I pivoted to face her again. She was scrolling on her phone. “Umm. What about chem lab?”
She looked up, her eyes a little wider than before. Neither of us considered how that would go if this didn’t work out. She shook her head. “We’ll figure it out. But not right now.”