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Chance Encounter - Old Flames, Flash Fiction


Peggy Cole is a self-published author who enjoys writing fiction stories, book reviews and articles about simpler times.

Old Flames


The clock moved closer to nine, opening time at the salon where the six of us worked. We'd been joking around trying to make the best of working on Mother's Day, a Sunday. The gathering at a nearby restaurant was winding down when conversation came to a screeching halt. Everyone looked up at the guy standing next to our table.

It took me a moment to recognize the face I hadn't seen in a dozen years. When I did, my heart skipped a beat and I nearly choked on a mouthful of pancakes. He hadn't changed much. He was still wearing the same Jack-o-lantern grin and shiny, boyish face.

I had been the first to arrive that morning which put me against the inside wall of the booth. Two bodies kept me from making a quick exit to take the conversation somewhere away from my coworkers' curiosity. Instead, all eyes were on us when he started to talk.

"Hey, I when I looked across the room, I thought that was you," he said, confident as ever in his endearing charm. Scenes from football games, drive-in movies, and that first kiss in the Haunted House at the amusement park played in my head as I stammered for a proper greeting.

"Um, yes, it is me." I mentally slapped my forehead at the dorky retort.

High school seemed worlds apart from where I found myself that day, surrounded by flashy stylists whose outfits and hair styles failed to match how he likely remembered me. The vibrant make-up of the eighties accentuated high cheekbones and eyes while the big-haired perm and padded shouldered look replaced my former bland fashion choices.

No matter how much time passes, no matter what takes place in the interim, there are some things we can never assign to oblivion, memories we can never rub away."

— Haruki Marukami

Water under the bridge

Water under the bridge

I'd traveled thousands of miles since those days when his adoration once held me captive. For a brief moment in time, we'd been more than casual friends. His band played at school functions and, thrilled to be included, I had a permanent back stage pass to every show. That was before I discovered the magnetic draw musicians exude on young girls.

The others seated at the table looked on with unconcealed interest. They had already met my fiancé and they knew this wasn't him. I'd pay a price later when the teasing would turn an ordinary work day into something more interesting. We made small talk across the syrup smeared plates while my companions began to fidget and look at their watches.

"Are you here alone?" I asked.

"No, I'm with the family." He pointed to a table with two small girls and a woman who clearly looked perplexed at his absence.

"Well, if you ever need a haircut, I work at the mall." I instantly regretted telling him that. So ingrained in drumming up business, I'd blatantly disregarded the rules of engagement.

Our group made their way toward the exit and I waved goodbye at my one time boyfriend. Part of me envied his darling children while the rest of me knew how changed my life would be in his wife's shoes. I imagined the ear full he'd get when he returned to his table and I smiled.


A couple of hours later I looked up to see him standing at the reception desk. Panic struck, I thought for a moment it was a coincidence. I never mentioned the name of the salon where I worked. The customer seated in my chair sensed my uneasiness.

"Is something wrong, Dearie?" she asked. She was a regular who worked at a toll booth on the causeway. Her head wobbled uncontrollably from some unknown ailment.

I whispered into her ear, "It's someone I haven't seen for years, at least, not until this morning." She nodded forcefully up and down, fighting the usual back and forth movement of her head.

"Please don't interpret my palsy as disapproval," she said quietly. I put the final touches on her hairstyle, sprayed it firmly into place and showed her the back with my larger-than-life hand mirror. She smiled and winked, knowingly.

“Old flames never die,” she told me. “They just smolder until the time is right.” She left me a five dollar bill on the counter and went up front to check out at the register. I hoped she was wrong. As he walked toward my chair grinning, I desperately hoped she was wrong.

Part Time Lover - Stevie Wonder

I shook out the cutting cape and fastened it around his neck with trembling hands. He craned his neck around to look at me, rather than talk to me in the mirror like the other patrons did.

"What are you doing here?" I asked. I couldn't imagine what excuse he'd given his wife to leave her on this special day, the mother of his children at home while he dredged up old memories.

"I needed a haircut," he explained with a shrug. "And you told me to come in." My words came back to haunt me as he continued. "So here I am." He craned his neck around and flashed me a big smile.

I could feel the eyes of the other stylists from across the aisle and on either side of my chair. The noise level, usually boisterous and merry, seemed absent. Our words carried into the four corners, echoing around the room.

Helene Curtis Headliner at Hair Show

Helene Curtis Headliner at Hair Show

"I wrote you a few songs," he said, twisting his head again. With firm fingers on top of his head, I guided his face toward the mirror in front of us. "I'd like a chance to play them for you." His voice had a pleading whine that reminded me of all the reasons for our break up those many years ago.

I finished the haircut in record time and turned on the blow dryer. Under the din of the noise, he said nothing further. I dusted off his neck with my barber brush, removed the striped cape and folded it. He remained immobile in the chair until another man approached.

My fiancé walked up, wrapped his arm around my waist and planted a sloppy kiss directly on my mouth. When I turned around, my styling chair was empty. He didn't even leave a tip.

The Salon

Styling salon of the seventies in the mall.

Styling salon of the seventies in the mall.

© 2016 Peg Cole


Abitha from Chennai, Tamilnadu on September 19, 2019:

Thank you, Peg, looking forward to reading more of your articles.

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on September 19, 2019:

Hello Abitha, Nice to meet you here on Letterpile. Good writing to you.

Abitha from Chennai, Tamilnadu on September 19, 2019:

Those gorgeous photographs and the peppy 80s music paired with a quick narrative and subtle handling of the ending ties it all up nicely together. Entertaining read! I am beginning to like the idea of flash fiction a lot!

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on October 24, 2017:

Hello Ann, Thanks so much for the visit. Glad you liked the comeuppance at the end. I hope you write a flash fiction on this topic. Please let me know if you do. I'd love to read it. It's interesting to learn the differences in how people handle things, fictionally speaking, of course.

Ann Carr from SW England on October 24, 2017:

Great story, Peg! I think chance encounters can be quite dangerous; I love the ending to this one and I'm glad he got his comeuppance!

I'll think about taking up your challenge.


Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on December 03, 2016:

Hello Lawrence. I hope you'll share some of your "fiction" stories. Only the names need to be changed to protect the guilty, and, of course, add a good disclaimer. Cheers. I look forward to reading your work.

Lawrence Hebb on December 02, 2016:


Really enjoyed this story. I've got a few I could write, only trouble is they wouldn't be 'fiction'!

Great stuff

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on November 15, 2016:

Hi Shauna, I'm glad you liked it. Thanks for listening to the music as well. You know, I love Carol King, too. Amy's look just seemed to fit the bill for the extraordinary styles of the story setting and I'd never heard her version. I kind of like it. Thank you for stopping in to read this flash fiction.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on November 15, 2016:

Great story, Peg. The ending is a cross between a cliff-hanger and and abrupt, screeching halt. Well done!

I love your music choices. I listened to every one, with the exception of Amy Winehouse's version of Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow. I like Carol King's version much better.

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on November 03, 2016:

Hello Martie, Not with THAT one. I also ran into a different one who'd been knocked off his high horse. That was food for thought as well as a smile maker. Karma. Thanks for the delightful comment and for taking time to visit. Love your news series. Fascinating information.

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on November 03, 2016:

Mckbirdbks, you made me smile today. It's raining here and gloomy. Sometimes I miss those old days of loud music and crazy get-ups.

Martie Coetser from South Africa on November 03, 2016:

"What could have been?" This question always lingers in our mind, especially when we meet a former boyfriend. Delightful flash fiction!

mckbirdbks from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on November 03, 2016:

Hey, were you on the cover of Vogue Magazine?

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on November 03, 2016:

Wow, thanks for the great comment, MsDora. Thank you so much.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on November 03, 2016:

Really a chance encounter that is unforgettable. You're a great story teller. Thanks for the good read.

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on November 03, 2016:

Hello Bill, Thanks so much for the visit. That Dan Fogelberg tune was a truly a great song. I had to look it up. It's called Same Old Lang Syne. "Saw my old lover in the grocery store." There's also that wonderful Harry Chapin song, "Taxi" that I love, too. I truly appreciate your kind words and the earworm. I'll be singing that one all day. "We drank a toast to innocence..."

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on November 03, 2016:

I just loved this one. I was humming Dan Fogelberg's song about a chance encounter with an old lover as I read this. Great story, my friend.

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on November 03, 2016:

Hello Mar, We seem to love the same tunes and agree on so many things about life and romance. I love the pun "all wet" an appropriate description for that hair salon customer. Good one!

Wouldn't it be fun to have a whole day to pick and choose songs and listen to them together? I'd pull out the old Techtronic turntable and we could play all the old vinyl recordings. I have dozens of albums. Love the graphic covers and some have the words on the back.

Thanks for liking this semi-dark story and the ending as well as the big hair I once wore. I'm trying to bring back the eighties styles. It's a tough sell.

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on November 03, 2016:

FlourishAnyway, you are the Queen of the story song, so your comment is truly appreciated. I hope you will take the challenge and pen a story about your own chance encounters. So true, water under the bridge and best left that way. Thanks for coming by.

Becky Katz from Hereford, AZ on November 02, 2016:

Oh, she has not chosen that as her career, just a hobby. She is studying to be an elementary school teacher. She had someone tell her the other day, that she looked like a model and was so thrilled.

Maria Jordan from Jeffersonville PA on November 02, 2016:

You know I'd love to hang out with you and listen to our tunes...listening to Amy now - just so lovely.

This old flame seemed 'all wet' to me. He lost out the first time around...and as they say, 'you snooze, you lose'.

I'm not sure what I love more...how this tale ended or your 'rockin' hair. That glam shot is Hollywood all the way, dear Peg.

So happy I chanced by this encounter. Your writing shines.

FlourishAnyway from USA on November 02, 2016:

This was awesome, and the music adds even more to it (great selections!). I loved your story and can identify with chance encounters and unfinished business that has to be left that way. Water under the bridge, roads not taken and all that. Sharing.

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on November 02, 2016:

Becky, big hair will make a comeback and you'll be quite fashionable. Nice to hear that your daughter has chosen a fashion career. Hair styling can be quite lucrative and a lot of fun. And, I confess, I still mentally style people's hair when I meet them.

Venkatachari M from Hyderabad, India on November 02, 2016:

A wonderful and interesting story. Enjoyed much and the music also.

Becky Katz from Hereford, AZ on November 02, 2016:

I am still stuck with my big hair. It is naturally that way. I have to tie it down to keep my stylist daughter from going nuts every time she sees it.

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on November 02, 2016:

Hello Mike, Thanks so much for the visit and the big hair comment. Oh how I miss the eighties styles and the extreme makeup! I appreciate your sweet comments.

mckbirdbks from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on November 02, 2016:

You did a great job of writing this 'Chance Encounter' The presentation is also so well done. From the music to the photographs this really shines. Oh, the days of 'big hair.'

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on November 02, 2016:

Hello Becky, I'm thrilled that you took the time to drop in and read this. I also live several states away from my roots. It is amazing where we might run into our past, as I have found old acquaintances from another state at least twice in Dallas. Ah! Thanks. That memory may lead to another chance encounter story or two.

Becky Katz from Hereford, AZ on November 02, 2016:

Cute story Peg. Luckily I live many States from where I grew up.

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on November 02, 2016:

Jodah, thank you for being first to stop by and read this fiction. Your stories are always entertaining and a good read. I appreciate your thoughtful comment and that you liked the music. Cheers.

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on November 02, 2016:

A wonderful piece of flash fiction, Peg. Apart from poetry, this is my favourite form of writing. The story was engaging and the personal photos added a sense of authenticity to the story, the music choice was a perfect accompaniment as well.

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