Before you scroll down to the story, I wanted to just say a few general things about this.
This was my first contest entry. It didn’t place at the end of the contest, but I still see it as a wild success in my life. I wrote it in less than four hours after finding the contest. I posted it up and didn’t touch the story for a week. I came back cleaned up a little bit of the grammar and used the feedback I received to put a touch more effort in establishing the setting. I’m very proud of how quickly I was able to write this.
Something I do want to make mention of is that this is the first story I wrote that didn’t have the characters risking life and limb. It is the first time for me that I wrote about regular people. No fantasy or sci-fi nonsense on my part.
I do look at it with fondness. It takes me back to happier times. Makes me think I should write something like this again.
Word Count: 1991
Jim savoured the last of his coffee as Adam skimmed through the most recent addition to the story. Adam was the idea guy for this work of fiction while Jim had made the ideas into something. It was even Adam’s idea to go to their favourite café for supper while they reviewed their story. Adam had invited a friend to come and give them some feedback on their project. They now sat waiting at one of the bigger tables the small café had by the window.
“Jim, how do you do it?” asked Adam as he put the short manuscript down.
“Mmm.” Jim lowered the cup of coffee from his mouth. “What am I doing?”
“How do you make such interesting characters?” clarified Adam.
“Ah yes, well…” the thought went through Jim’s mind a few times as he tried to explain his process. He glanced out the window at the busy street to think when the idea came to him. “Let me show you how. See that girl over there?”
Adam turned to look out the window of the café. He snickered and shook his head. “Your weakness for blondes is showing again,” he teased thinking this was better than he had hoped.
“You’re hilarious,” answered Jim, shifting his attention from his first subject to a new one with the map in her hand. “Now,” he paused to evaluate the lady that stood across the street, “pick seven words to describe her.”
Adam signed; he knew where this was going, but he played along. He just hoped she didn’t see them looking at her. “Confident, capable… adventurous, strong, maybe athletic, it’s a bit hard to tell with the map in the way…ah, curious, and… cute. I can’t think of anything else.”
Adam looked back to see Jim scribbling his writing into a new notebook, right on the first page. Jim finished and looked back up at Adam.
“Alright,” Jim began, “let’s start with cute.”
Adam was a bit surprised, and it showed on his face. He had expected that one to get discarded.
“There are a few things that could influence her being cute: natural beauty, she’s trying to get someone’s attention, or she just enjoys looking pretty.” Jim was starting to get excited as the gears began turning in his brain. “And these things can mix together for variety’s sake, but they all influence tiny pieces of her personality. Just for this instance, I’m going to say that she likes looking good, but she maintains a look developed for her by a friend.”
Jim continued, not even looking back out the window, “This helps feed into her confidence, but her confidence isn’t based on her looks… that’s important to point out.”
Adam’s phone buzzed. He read the text and quickly sent out his reply. “Sorry, continue.”
Jim scanned his list, “Jumping over to… capable. I would say that this is the spring that her confidence comes from. Now as for her area of expertise,” He looked back across the street to see her insert some earbuds before picking up a magazine off the stand. “She plays guitar in her off time and… teaches music lessons,” returning his attention to the friend in front of him, “I’m going to say she’s on holiday here for the first time, and she is strangely by herself.”
“That’s adventurous,” Adam commented with a smirk.
“And curious,” responded Jim looking back at his list. “Oh, and we can throw athletic under both reasoning for ‘cute’ and ‘capable’, and let’s give her soccer as a sport.”
“What’s left then?”
“Strong,” answered the writer as he rapidly put pen to paper. “She’s got a strong conviction and doesn’t like to compromise if she can get her way. Both a strength and weakness.”
“Interesting,” Adam said as he sent off another text.
In a moment, Jim had a character sketch written up, and with a nod to his handy work, he handed it to his test audience. In a second after handing it off, Jim knew how to explain his process.
“It’s all about finding some key character traits and reverse engineering them to flesh out the personality,” he said confidently. “From here I just have to put the character into a situation, and figure out how they’ll react to whatever it is.”
The bell above the door rang as Adam sat back and started his appraisal of the flash fiction in front of him. “It’s rough as usual, lots of spelling errors, but it’s not bad. Though you are completely off about her in a lot of respects.”
Jim’s shoulders tensed up instinctively. “What?”
“Hey, Hannah,” greeted Adam as the blonde sat down in the chair she pulled to the table. “What do you think of this description of you? And never mind the spelling.”
“Well, let’s see,” she said as she took the notebook from Adam.
Jim could feel the heat rising in his face. He shot a brief, fiery look at his best friend. Of course, it would be his best friend to set him up like this.
Hannah smiled as she looked up from the notebook, “I’m flattered, but I thought you knew me better than this, Adam.”
Adam took the notebook back from her small hands. “Well, you see,” Adam explained, “Jim here was giving me an example of how he comes up with his characters, and he spotted you and used you as an example before I could introduce you two.”
“I’m so sorry,” Jim said under his breath while hiding his face with his hands. He just felt red.
“That’s why I asked you to wait where you were,” Adam smiled sliding the notebook across the table. “I was cherishing the moment.”
“I’m so sorry,” repeated Jim this time loud enough to be heard. He grabbed the notebook and returned it to the inside pocket of his jacket.
“It’s alright,” Hannah assured him, “Adam told me you were a good writer.”
“I wish Adam had told me something about you.”
“Hey,” Adam replied with his hands up at the accusation, “I said ‘I had another writing friend you should meet,’ and you said ‘bring here to our next coffee meeting,’ remember?”
“I would like a little more warning.”
“Old habits die hard,” smiled Adam innocently.
Jim recomposed himself, praying he wasn’t beet red. “So, you’re a writer?”
“Yeah,” answered Hannah, “I started a couple of months ago. You?”
“I’ve been writing on and off for a few years…”
“He’s been writing since we were twelve,” interrupted Adam, “don’t be modest.”
Jim could feel the colour rising again. “Yes, well, ah, Hannah, was it?” She nodded, and he continued, “Ah, what do you write?”
“Hmm, sort of Lord-of-the-Ring type stories,” she shrugged a little before giggling a little. “I’m not sure how to describe it without spoiling anything.”
“That’s okay,” Jim found himself saying, “I don’t know how to describe my fiction beyond high-fantasy either.”
The owner of the café came to the table at that moment to Jim’s relief. “Hello, are you ready to order?”
“Three cappuccinos, please,” Adam answered for everybody, “and three Italian beef sandwiches as well. If that’s alright?”
“Sure,” said Jim.
“Sounds good,” chimed Hannah.
“Ya, that’ll be it,” Adam said turning back to their mutual friend.
“Good, good,” said the owner before shaking Adam’s hand, “good to see you.” He then took Jim’s hand, “How’s the book?”
Jim answered without hesitation though he felt the heat under his collar, “We’re going over the first completed draft today, Sunny.”
“Wonderful,” answered Sunny before moving to Hannah’s hand. “And your name is?”
“Hannah,” confirmed Sunny with a nod and a smile from her. “I hope you enjoy your time here.”
“Thank you; I will.”
As Sunny left the table, Adam and Jim called out their thanks as well for his service. Hannah turned to face Jim. “A book?”
“Just a short one,” answered Jim pushing the manuscript across the table to her, “I’ve been working on it for a year, or two, with Adam’s input.”
She started thumbing through the pages of the loose document. “You wrote this,” she said stopping at the seventh chapter titled “The Eye of the Storm”.
“Yes,” Jim responded to the clearly rhetorical statement, “Adam’s going to be doing a few drawings once it’s done being revised and edited.”
After she had gone through a couple of pages, she looked back at Jim. “So, you’re planning to publish it?”
“You didn’t tell me any of this,” said Hannah turning to Adam. “You made it out like you guys were just hashing out ideas.”
“Ya,” responded Adam. “I hash, he writes. And he writes faster than I can hash.”
“Are you trying to say you didn’t know where we were?” asked Jim with obvious suspicion in his voice.
“I didn’t want to intimidate her with our incredible work ethic.”
Hannah laughed. “You have a work ethic.”
Jim snickered a bit at the statement; clearly, she knew Adam.
“I’m just full of surprises,” he backed up his statement by pulling out his own sketchpad and opened it up to an earlier version of the book cover when the title was Warriors. It was the first time Jim had seen it. As he and Hannah stared at the detailed artwork, Adam started flipping the pages every few seconds. “All of these are concepts I’ve done for practice leading up to this point.”
“Whoa, I was just expecting a meeting of the minds,” said Hannah as he continued turning pages. “Instead I’ve stumbled onto a project going to the printers.”
“Excellent,” stated Adam as he stood up and closed the sketchbook, “I’ve surprised both of you twice in one day. I’m out. Peace!”
The two remaining table members sat and watched him race to the men’s room. An awkward half-second passed before either one spoke. When the silence was finally broken with the only thing that Jim could think of.
“Did I, by chance, get anything right?” She blinked at him, and he clarified, “About the character sketch I did of you across the street.”
“Oh yes, well,” she answered, “I am actually here on vacation, that was about all you got right.”
“I see,” he shifted in his chair. “So, where are you from?”
* * * * *
The sun had gone down, the full moon was out, and the street lights were on. Adam had said goodbye and pedalled off on his bike. Jim had insisted on walking Hannah to her bus stop and making sure she got to her aunt’s place safely. As the two of them walked down the street a block or so away from her aunt’s house, Jim pointed out a house with the front lights on.
“That’s where my grandpa used to live.”
“It’s a small world after all,” answered Hannah as they continued their pace. Jim didn’t even slow down. “Where does he live now?”
After a pause of consideration, Jim replied, “He lives much closer to home now. Near my place.”
They continued in silence till they got to Hannah to the door of her aunt’s.
“Well, here you are,” said Jim as Hannah went up the few steps.
“Yes,” said Hannah standing in front of the door. “Thank you for the wonderful evening.”
“Maybe we’ll do it again sometime?”
“Well, you got my number,” replied Hannah with a smile, “maybe Saturday.”
“Have a safe trip home.”
“Thanks,” answered Jim as he started stepping backwards, “good night.”
With one more round of goodbyes, Hannah went in, and Jim turned to walk himself home. As he went back, he came to a stop in front of his grandpa’s old home. Now owned by people he didn’t know, lingering was not an option, but he would be quick.
“I think you would have liked her, Grandpa. Have a peaceful sleep, okay.”
Jim continued home. On Saturday, he and Hannah went out for the first time.