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Chance Encounter - Old Flames, Flash Fiction

The ruins of someone's hearth and home smoldered into the morning hours.
The ruins of someone's hearth and home smoldered into the morning hours.

Conversation came to a screeching halt as we all looked up at the guy standing next to our table. The six of us had been laughing and teasing one another, trying to make the best of having to work on a Sunday, much less on Mother's Day itself. The impromptu breakfast at our favorite restaurant near the salon was winding down as the clock ticked toward nine when we opened for business.

It took me a moment to place his face; one I hadn't seen in over a dozen years. My heart skipped a beat and I nearly choked on a mouthful of pancakes as recognition set in. He hadn't changed much, still wearing the same Jack-o-lantern grin and shiny, boyish face.

I had been one of 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 spoke.

"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.

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

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

Glamour shots of the eighties
Glamour shots of the eighties

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 at the table looked on with unconcealed interest. Each of them had met my fiance and knew this wasn't him. I'd pay a price later when the merciless teasing would transform an ordinary working 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.

"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 fiance walked closer, put his arm around my waist and planted a sloppy, wet 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.

Writing Challenge

Flash Fiction stories are generally a thousand (1000) words or less while Wikipedia defines it as "an umbrella term used to describe any fictional work of extreme brevity, including the Six-Word Story, 140-character stories, also known as twitterature, the dribble (50 words), the drabble (100 words), and sudden fiction (750 words)."

Please accept my challenge to write your own story about Chance Encounters and let me know when you've published it. I'd love to read about your experiences.

© 2016 Peg Cole

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Comments 26 comments

Jodah profile image

Jodah 5 weeks ago from Queensland Australia

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.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 5 weeks ago from Dallas, Texas Author

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.


Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 5 weeks ago from Hereford, AZ

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


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 5 weeks ago from Dallas, Texas Author

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.


mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 5 weeks ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

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.'


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 5 weeks ago from Dallas, Texas Author

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.


Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 5 weeks ago from Hereford, AZ

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.


Venkatachari M profile image

Venkatachari M 5 weeks ago from Hyderabad, India

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


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 5 weeks ago from Dallas, Texas Author

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.


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 5 weeks ago from USA

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.


marcoujor profile image

marcoujor 5 weeks ago from Jeffersonville PA

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.


Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 5 weeks ago from Hereford, AZ

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.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 5 weeks ago from Dallas, Texas Author

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.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 5 weeks ago from Dallas, Texas Author

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.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 5 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

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.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 5 weeks ago from Dallas, Texas Author

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..."


MsDora profile image

MsDora 5 weeks ago from The Caribbean

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


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 5 weeks ago from Dallas, Texas Author

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


mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 5 weeks ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

Hey, were you on the cover of Vogue Magazine?


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 5 weeks ago from South Africa

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


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 5 weeks ago from Dallas, Texas Author

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.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 5 weeks ago from Dallas, Texas Author

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.


bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 3 weeks ago from Central Florida

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.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 3 weeks ago from Dallas, Texas Author

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.


Lawrence Hebb 6 days ago

Peg

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

Great stuff


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 5 days ago from Dallas, Texas Author

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.

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