Life’s been a little nutty, with vacations, school starting back, appointments, new pet, taking care of an elderly pet…crazy ordinary life stuff….so this piece took me a little longer to complete than I originally intended. I hope you all enjoy this fun flash fiction piece inspired by a GIF posted to my Facebook page by Lauren Luckhart.
And again, even though the GIF shows as embedded and working on my post, when it actually posts, only the link appears…who knows why. Click the link to see the GIF that inspired this story about a reluctant birthday girl, an over-exuberant friend, and a long-overdue reconnection.
Possibilities in Pink Frosting
Corbin leaned against the wall, his phone in a white-knuckled grip. The sound of laughter from the next room permeated his parents’ house. He’d better get on with it. The last thing he needed was someone walking in mid-call.
His thumb hovered over the send button as he rehearsed what he’d say—a lighthearted comment about a promise between kids from fifteen years ago. The problem was, it wasn’t a joke to him, never had been.
He paced. Attached to someone or not, she would think him crazy for calling after all this time.
He lowered his thumb. He’d say hi, wish her a happy birthday. He didn’t have to make this weird. He wouldn’t even bring up their past, unless of course she did….
“Corbin!” His mother poked her head around the corner grinning.
His heart leapt to his throat.
“Jumpy much?” She laughed. “Come on, you can’t hide. You know we have to embarrass you a little bit. It’s time to cut the cake.”
He shoved the phone in his back pocket, and followed her into the kitchen.
Ari started, her phone vibrating on her side table unaccountably loud in her minimalist apartment. She sighed, in no mood to answer an unrecognized number. Especially not today. Today she wanted to hide from the world.
It wasn’t exactly the age thing. Being twenty-nine or thirty made no difference to her, but a stupid promise made to her childhood best friend buzzed in her mind like a incessant mosquito. Just a silly memory, she’d told herself, but still it whispered, “What if?” Her thumb tapped the answer button. She groaned. She’d intended to decline.
“Hello?” She pressed the phone to her ear. Muffled singing played in her ear.
“Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday to you.”
Wrong number. How funny that they accidentally called on my birthday.
“Happy birthday, dear Corbin. Happy birthday to you!”
The phone wobbled and fell from her hand. She cringed at the clatter on her acid-stained concrete floor. A weird coincidence, that’s all. It couldn’t be him. She scrambled for the phone and pressed it to her ear. The muffle cleared.
A male voice whispered an unintelligible expletive, and the call disconnected.
Ari sank onto her bed, eyes wide, and let out the breath she held. Why would he call her for the first time in ten years…on this day…unless…
A staccato beat started up on the door of apartment #9. Jamie. No doubt with some plan to celebrate despite Ari’s repeated urgings not to make a fuss.
“Special delivery for Ari Anderson!” Jamie’s cheery voice chirped, unhindered by the heavy wooden door between them.
Ari groaned and pushed herself upright. She turned the knob and a blur of pink ruffles bounced in. A cupcake, pink of course, appeared inches from her face.
“Happy—” Jamie flicked a glance over Ari’s rumpled pajamas. “My gosh, Ari. Are you sick? I thought you’d be ready to go.”
“You can’t possibly be wearing that out.” Ari laughed.
Jamie brushed a hand through the floor length pink ruffle skirt. “It’s fabulous, isn’t it?”
Ari tucked stray pieces of her auburn behind her ears, debating whether to tell Jamie about the call. Given an inch of romance, she’d stretch it a mile. Might as well rip off the bandaid. Jamie already knew something was up.
Jamie set the cupcake on the table and turned. “Seriously? The Corbin. They guy your betrothed to?”
“No…I…well he didn’t actually call me. Pocket dialed me. And be real. We’re not betrothed. We made a goofy promise to each other as kids that if we were single at thirty, we’d marry.”
“And guess who’s thirty today. I wonder if he’s in town.” Jamie wriggled an eyebrow, humming the wedding march under her breath.
Ari shot her a withering look.
“Go on, get ready. I’ll wait.” Jamie bit into the cupcake with a spark in her eye. She was no doubt planning the wedding already.
That evening, Jamie dragged her from store to store. Ari gamely tried on everything Jamie pulled from the rack, but bought nothing despite Jamie’s wheedling to add variety to her grayscale wardrobe.
Ari repeatedly hinted she’d rather go home and order in pizza and a sappy movie to satisfy Jamie’s romantic leanings. Still, Jamie persisted in her quest as the sun dipped behind the outdoor shopping center.
What Ari couldn’t figure was why Jamie was so insistent to spend the evening with her when she’d spent half the outing tapping out text messages to someone else, nails clicking in the rhythm of an Irish step dance. Jamie’s phone dinged at ten minutes till closing. A sly smile twitched her cheek. “Okay, you ready to head home?”
Bone weary, Ari turned the key and opened the door of her darkened apartment with Jamie on her heels. In the beat right before her hand reached the switch, the lights flipped on.
A jolt went up her spine. The bare apartment had been transformed into a festive scene complete with streamers, balloons, and a giddy hodgepodge of acquaintances. With a plastered smile, she numbly accepted a cupcake from somebody, and walked forward as the sea of well-wishers parted. When she saw why they stepped aside, her heart faltered.
Corbin. By the window. In that all too familiar cocky stance, but the boyishness she remembered in his stature was gone. Something uncertain flickered in his expression.
This fiasco was Jamie’s doing, somehow. Of course. Jamie held her purse while she was changing. She seriously needed to change her phone password from 1-2-3-4. And while she was at it, take back her spare apartment key.
‘Hey, Ari.” His voice was low with a slight tremor he attempted to cover by clearing his throat. “So, you and me?” He lifted a blue ring pop her direction as one corner of his mouth lifted, and the memory flooded back–the two of them and their someday proposal on the lakeside dock.
Shock flickered through Ari, followed by heat to her cheeks. What audacity, to show up after all this time, acting like he was going to call in the promise.
She took three steps forward, shoved the cupcake into his face, making sure to have a solid upward motion so the frosting filled his nostrils.
It felt right. Exactly the type of thing she would have done back in the day if he suggested something moronic.
A gasp sounded from behind her. Jamie’s of course. Regret pooled in Ari’s middle, remembering the crowd around her. What had come over her? She wasn’t an impulsive teenager. And, this grown man was no longer her childhood best friend, but a stranger.
She straightened her shoulders and lifted her chin, making sure her words conveyed maturity. “No need to propose, Corbin. You and I both know we didn’t mean it.”
He made a show of wiping the frosting off his face with his fingertips. He leaned in, and with and exaggerated whisper, said, “To you, maybe. But what if I wasn’t joking?” He gave her a crooked grin, and took her face in his hands tenderly, but then smeared her cheeks with the frosting on his hands.
Just like that, the time gap between them narrowed.
It wasn’t a real proposal. But, his presence, smiling at her like that… Perhaps there could be possibilities between them. Sealed with pink frosting.