The following short shorts were published between 2004-2007 on different emerging (at that time) e-publishers, some of which--sadly-- are no longer in business. Short Shorts, mostly under 3000 words are actually pretty difficult to write; I find you can give only the hint of a HEA, but cannot truly flesh it out. However, the beginnings of relationships are sometimes just as happy as the ends, when it comes to love.
I pulled into the drive-thru lane at the International Coffee Shoppe, needing my daily fix of caffeine to start my day. My daily commute to work, barring any accidents or major delays going into the city, was at least forty minutes. It was only eight in the morning so I had plenty of time and the coffee shop didn’t appear to be too busy today.
Around the rear of the building, where the drive-thru line began, I happened to notice as I turned the steering wheel, a man standing on the roof on the building next to the coffee shop. He was standing right at the edge and my immediate, horrific thought was that he was going to jump. My heart dropped in my chest with the very thought—until I saw the other men atop the roof, all wearing construction gear, obviously a crew making repairs to the roof of the older building.
I shook my head and breathed a small, sheepish sigh for my fatalistic assumptions. My mother was right: I did often jump to conclusions.
But then, having been distracted for quite a moment, I promptly smashed into the car in front of me in the drive-thru line.
Shocked speechless by my own lack of attention and carelessness, I stared, horrified and wide-eyed, at what I had done. Quickly, however, my horror was replaced by rising frustration at having done something so stupid, and I laid my head upon my hands on the steering wheel.
After a short moment, I picked up my head and watched a man emerge from the SUV I'd struck and start toward my car. He glanced at his rear fender, which had borne the brunt of the damage. From my vantage point, I could see it was, luckily, minor. One did not, after all, travel at great speeds in a drive-thru lane.
He didn't stop to survey the damage with careful scrutiny but walked directly to my car. He was angry, of course, a significant frown marring an otherwise very attractive face. That was my luck, to meet a handsome man and put myself on his bad side before even one word had been exchanged. And he was handsome—tall with an athletic figure, his shoulders within his suit appearing wide and strong, his hair cropped close and very black, his eyes as he stared at me through my windshield a remarkable shade of blue.
Hesitantly, I opened my car door and stepped outside. Luckily, the coffee shop seemed to be experiencing delays—the three vehicles in front of this man's SUV had not moved and no one had pulled in behind me.
"I am so sorry," I said immediately, feeling quite the fool. But my luck had never been so good as to allow the ground to open up beneath me now.
"Are you hurt?" he asked, his handsome face and—at close range— very arresting blue eyes showing a surprising concern, taking in my appearance from head to toe. His frown eased.
"Me? No, not at all." I ducked my head to avoid his suddenly avid gaze. He was probably thinking something along the line of, Women drivers!
"When you didn't get out right away, I'd thought maybe--"
"I am mortified, not injured," I explained with a grimace. Now my face was beginning to burn with a bright blush, and this was due only partly because of my stupidity in casing this accident, and mostly because of his present stare—those eyes of his could surely bore holes straight through a girl.
He gave a short laugh, which put me slightly more at ease though my embarrassment was still at an impossibly high level.
"You're not injured?" I thought to ask then.
He shook his head and walked back to inspect the damage between our vehicles.
Fortunately, my car looked worse than his. But even this, scrapes and scratches, and one small dent in the plastic bumper, was all that I noticed. His bumper looked no worse. He didn’t say anything as he inspected the vehicles and I wondered if he were doing mental calculations in his head.
"We should exchange insurance information, I guess." In my mind, I shuddered at the thought of my premium rising.
"The damage is so slight," he allowed which gave me immediate hope. If he didn't make a claim against my insurance, my relief would be tremendous. Then he straightened again and looked up at me, his eyes staring for a long moment while his brow raised. "But you are right-- we should exchange information," this came out slightly hurried.
One car pulled away from the drive-up window but there still remained two other customers in front of us and none behind my car, so we weren't causing any delays to the coffee shop. We traded information then, jotting it down on sheets of paper I pulled from my briefcase-- insurance carrier, driver's license data, and home phone numbers, this last item suggested by him.
A nice photo on his license, I decided, and saw that he lived only a few blocks from where I rented an apartment. Such a waste.
"I really do apologize," I said again when we had finished swapping information. "I was distracted. It was very careless of me." I didn't think he needed to know of my foolish presumptions at seeing that man on the roof.
"Don't worry about it, Mary," he said, now knowing my name.
"You are being very kind about this," I noted.
"No one was hurt and there was little damage done," he said with a shrug of his shoulders in his immaculate navy suit.
The cars ahead of us had both been served and pulled away.
"We should move," he said and tucked the paper he'd written upon into a pocket inside his suitcoat. "You'll be hearing from me soon," he promised, which sounded to me like, "My lawyer will call you." He offered a short wave and got back into his truck. His smile baffled me, however; it had appeared rather genuine, not predatory, as if he were really as unpreturbed by this incident as he proclaimed to be.
But still-- beautiful smile aside-- that ruined my entire day.
And it was only Monday. Eight-thirty in the morning.
However, during the next few days, when I hadn't heard from him or my insurance company, I began to forget about the whole episode. Though on occasion, I did catch myself wondering what might have come of a meeting with Kevin-- the handsome stranger whose SUV I'd struck-- if we'd met under less... jarring circumstances. After all, not only was he very fine looking, he was also very nice. A lot of men would have ranted and railed at me for my poor driving, perhaps even upbraided me for the entire population of women drivers. But Kevin Ryan had not. He'd been extremely polite, even solicitous. And that was very appealing indeed.
My driving since this small fender-bender had been remarkable... and attentive, keeping my eye always on the road with near religious zeal, despite all there was to see on the city streets. And I had decided to forgo my morning coffee for a while. It seemed a safe choice to make, and there was a part of me that did not want to encounter Kevin Ryan again at the coffee shop; I was still humiliated at having done something so careless.
On Thursday, my phone began ringing just as I opened the door to my apartment, returning from work. Struggling with my purse and briefcase, and the few bags of groceries I'd picked up, it took me a few moments of wrestling before I could answer. A bit breathless from the search, a rather huffed into the phone, "Hello?"
I didn't recognize the voice. Probably a telemarketer.
"This is she."
"Have I caught you at a bad time? You sound out of breath."
"No, I was just coming in. Excuse me, but who is this?" I didn't want to sound rude, but....
A decidedly masculine and thoroughly pleasing laugh came across the line.
"Sorry, I seemed to have skipped that part. This is Kevin Ryan... from the other morning at the coffee shop?"
There was a question in his voice. As if I had forgotten him!
"Oh," was my hardly-clever reply, my excitement mounting until it dawned on me why he might be calling. Insurance. Premiums. Rental fees, perhaps. Everything deflated. "Hello again. I really need to apologize for what happened Monday morning. I do not usually --"
"Please stop apologizing. My brother-in-law has a repair shop in the city. He took care of it that day while I was at work."
"Oh. Then you are calling to...?" I had no idea why he was calling. He had all the necessary information. "Do you need my insurance agent's number?"
"No, I don't need to go through your insurance company. I won't be making a claim. Like I said that morning, there was hardly any damage at all." He paused for a moment then asked, "Can we talk about something else?" There was a smile in his voice.
"Yes," I said and never was there greater hesitancy in my voice than at this moment. "Sure." What else did we have to discuss? I wondered. As much as it might please me to think about knowing this man, the truth was that I did not. I knew only that he was extremely handsome, with a beautifully warm smile, and that he was nice to me when he didn’t really have to be.
"Good," he said and inhaled sharply. "I'd like to invite you to dinner, Mary Thompson," he informed me on the exhale.
Dinner? My mind raced. Oh! Dinner.
"I'm bungling this, obviously," he said when my silly excitement refused to let me speak right away. I could hear a small laugh in his voice. "What I am trying to do is ask you out on a date... and we won't need to discuss our mutual traffic problems."
I nodded, too thrilled to realize that he could not possibly see this or my happy smile over a telephone line. "This wasn't so bad a week, after all," I thought then realized that no, I had not simply thought this, I had said it aloud.
Kevin did not bother to hide his laughter now.
"Is that a yes?"
"Oh…um, yes. Thank you.”
"And you'll let me drive?" he teased.
By the time I had hung up with Kevin a few minutes later, I was nearly as giddy as a teenager, considering my date for tomorrow night.
It occurred to me that should anyone ask how Kevin and I had met, I would simply say, "We met quite by accident. I bumped into him at the coffee shop.”