Chris has written more than 300 flash fiction/short stories. Working Vacation was 21st out of 6,700 in the 2016 Writer's Digest competition.
This story is my response to Bill Holland's Photo challenge. Here is the challenge in Bill's words:
I’ll be posting these from time to time, whenever I find myself with a few spare minutes.
There really are no rules. This is not a contest. This is simply a series of five photos which hopefully will serve as prompts for all of you who love to write fiction.
The guidelines are simple:
- Use the photos in the order you see them
- Or don’t
- Use all five photos in your story
- Or don’t
- Your story should be a minimum of 1,000 words
- Or not
- Publish your story on HP
- Or don’t
- Email your story to me so I can be dazzled
- Or don’t
See how easy that is!
Seriously, there are no rules and no obligations. This prompt is just to play around with. If it kickstarts your muse into action, fantastic! If your muse doesn’t need to be kicked, that’s fantastic as well.
I have used Bill's photos for the setting of the story. They do not have a lot to do with the overall plot. But that is my practice in most photo challenges.
I hope you enjoy this bit of literary tragedy.
You will find a link to part two at the end of part one.
A Knight in Shining Armor and a Wounded Heart
Two former lovers sat at a table in a coffee shop they both loved when they were dating. The room was laid out in Art Deco with couches, upholstered chairs, and coffee tables dominating the space. Bethany wondered how she could have considered the place so special.
She looked at Galen and was tempted by resentment to ask the same thing about him, but she still loved the man. She had ended the relationship, but was playing a game she hoped she could win. Her first move was to tell him about her new beau.
“You broke up with me a week ago and met this guy at a bar three days later?” That’s the fastest rebound sex I’ve ever heard of.”
“We didn’t have sex.”
“Yet.” Galen decided to push a little more. “You either got lucky and struck gold really fast or this guy is a super con artist. Have you even had time to figure out which?”
“As a matter of fact, I have. Lance and I are going to the mountains this weekend...alone.”
“Wait, Bethany, that sounds like a really stupid thing to do. You can’t possibly know anything about this man.”
“You are my ex-boyfriend, not my father, so you have no right to tell me what I can or cannot do.” She stood from their table. “I have to visit the ladies room.” As Bethany turned to walk away, a piece of paper fell from her purse.
Galen picked up what turned out to be a brochure. He started to call for Bethany to come back for it, but the caption on the front caught his attention. Mountain Bungalow it said across the top. The photo was of a bungalow tucked into a snowy mountain landscape with smoke drifting upward from the chimney into a cloudless sky. He stuffed the paper into his pocket and waited for her to come back.
Bethany looked into the mirror of the womens’ restroom. She was counting on two things. One, that Galen still loved her. Two, that he would respond in jealousy to the new man in her life. She wanted Galen. She wanted him to love her, to want her so badly he would fight...literally fight another man rather than let her go.
She had been browsing the dusty shelves of a used bookstore one evening before all of this started. On the second floor, at the end of an aisle labeled, Medieval Romance, was a closed door that was not locked. She checked to see if anyone was watching, but of course they weren’t because she was the only person on the second floor. Beyond the door was a room that was lit solely by the sunlight that filtered through the dust and grime of a single window. It was so dark, she could only see to read where the sunlight shone directly on the books. She read the titles until she came to one that arrested her attention.
The cover nearly disintegrated in her hands. She gently opened to the title page. A knight in Shining Armor and a Wounded Heart. Herald was the illegitimate son of King Henry II. He owned no land and could claim no inheritance. He went to war in the third crusade in an attempt to perform acts of valor that would gain his father’s attention. Before he left, he met a woman, Lady Aldith, the daughter of a powerful man. They fell in love, but Herald was committed to seeking his fortune in war. He was gone for three years. Lady Aldith loved him, but in her loneliness she took another suitor and planned to marry. Herald returned after performing great deeds in battle that impressed the officers under whom he fought. Upon his return to England, Herald received his reward in land and wealth. But his heart had been broken by Lady Aldith and he despised the man to whom she was betrothed. He swore he would win back the Lady’s heart even if he had to kill the interloper.
Bethany sat on the dirty floor surrounded by broken shelving, scattered books, spider webs, and dust. She read through the night by the light of her cell phone and into the morning until she had completed the tale of Lady Aldith and Prince Herald. In the story, Herald challenged the man who had stolen Aldith’s heart to a duel which he won. He also won back the love of the Lady.
Bethany longed for someone to love her this much. The longing became an obsession that led to a plan. The first step was to break up with the man she loved and longed to marry. This would send him away much like when Herald went away to war. If Galen wanted Bethany, he would have to fight for her heart.
The drive to the mountains was exciting for Bethany. She was with a handsome man who seemed to care for her. She had only known him for a little over a week, but she had always been a good judge of character.
When they arrived at the bungalow, the view was so expansive it nearly kicked in her vertigo. The confluence of mountain ranges and rivers awed her to the point that she didn’t even attempt a photo. She just took it all in with her naked eyes.
Lance stood beside her and pointed to the west beyond the rivers. “That is where we docked my cabin cruiser in the marina this morning on the first leg of our adventure.”
“It seems so far away,” she said.
“We are about as far from another human being as you can get in this part of the country.”
Bethany wondered about Galen’s words. He had said that the weekend trip sounded like a really stupid thing to do, that she couldn’t know anything about this man.
“Come on, Bethany. Let’s go inside.” He took her arm, and they walked toward the bungalow.
The main room featured cathedral ceilings with rough hewn beams crisscrossing the heights. She could nearly have stood up in the fireplace which was already loaded with wood ready to be lit. Lance did so, and they watched as the flames licked and leaped until the entire stack was aflame.
Lance put his arm around Bethany’s waist and pulled her to him. He kissed her neck and ran his hands down her body.
“Let’s wait until later. I don’t want to rush. I want to enjoy everything.”
Lance released her and smiled. “I’m going to the kitchen to prepare dinner. I am excited to show you how I make my living.”
Bethany sat down in one of the overstuffed chairs and pulled out her cell phone. She was surprised to see she could get service. She texted Galen. The bungalow certainly is romantic. Too bad you never brought me here when we were together.
Seconds later, Galen responded. Are you regretting breaking up with me?
You will have to find that out for yourself.
Don’t tempt me, Bethany.
Will you be my knight in shining armor and rescue your fair maiden? Will you fight for me, Galen? Will you kill for me? You were right. I don’t know this man.
The barrage of questions and the final statement hit Galen with such force, he almost dropped his phone. She wanted him to drive to the Bungalow. The brochure certainly hadn’t fallen from her purse by accident. She had intended for him to find it. But there was something more going on. She wanted him to have some kind of confrontation with Lance. It sounded like she wanted him to kill her new boyfriend.
But her plan had apparently gone awry. Lance was not the good man she had hoped he would be. That’s why she had used the word rescue and had virtually admitted she had been wrong about him. At least that is how Galen interpreted the situation—or how he had been manipulated to interpret it.
Lance treated Bethany to a full five course meal, one course at a time. They began with a cranberry pear salad followed by a bowl of Ajo Blanco, almond and garlic soup. Bethany, a seafood lover, was in heaven when he delivered truffled bay scallops with celery purée to her plate. She was full and ready to plead for mercy until she saw the main course. Medium rare rib-eye steak and crispy smashed potatoes.
After a desert of apple and pastry rose puffs, they sat in front of the fire. Lance had his arm around her and she lay against his chest.
“So this is how the prince wins the heart of the lady he desires?” Bethany’s mind was back in time with Lady Aldith and Herald. Her heart ached for such desire, sacrifice and romance.
“Can you think of a better way,” he said.
In her mind, she said yes, yes, I can think of a better way. Fight for me, you fool.
A loud pop shattered the serine moment. The lights went out.
Link to Part Two
- A Knight in Shining Armor and a Wounded Heart: A Short Tragedy, Part Two: A response to Bill Holland
This is the continuation of the story about the broken love affair between Bethany and Galen. She finds an ancient book that tells her all about gallantry. She longs for her heart to be won by a man who would fight for her and be willing to die for h
© 2020 Chris Mills