April’s Free Short Story

Image of city with storm clouds and title of story.

It’s 21 April, the third Thursday of the month. That means it’s time for a story.

Today, Memories of a Kiss: Since Danita’s New Year’s Kiss, life has been – different. But until she met Luna, she didn’t realize how different.

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Memories of a Kiss

Danita stepped onto the hot evening sidewalk. As the car drove away, she removed an ear loop of her mask, letting it hang free as she breathed in the tangy scent of rain and a summer storm. She tapped her phone. The forecast still said clear skies and only an eighteen percent of rain. She shook her head and examined the street. The houses were old, perhaps over a hundred years old. The front lawns were small, well-manicured patches with masses of summer roses, gardenias, boxwoods, and like the house in front of her, crepe myrtles. Signs announcing legal, accounting, and other professional services stood inside neat little fences, while the blue light of televisions glowing through curtains indicated the houses were also homes. Across the street, a dog park stretched the full block, separating this block from student housing scattered on the opposite side of the park. She could have walked from her office on campus, but it was the end of a long day, and the University would reimburse her for the ride.

Reaching under the hem of her jacket, she tugged her blouse to pull it down. She then twisted, checking the pleat of her skirt and shifting it until the flap was centered between her knees before stepping onto the short walkway between two rows of crepe myrtles pushing out their first blooms of summer. A gust of wind blew pink petals into her thick, dark hair as her stiletto heels tapped on the concrete walkway. Two brass plaques hung on the side wall of the vestibule. On one sign: Mike Young, Attorney; the other: Carson Security Consultants. She raised her eyebrows. “Does he rent a room here?”

As she reached for the shining brass door handle, it turned blue as the dark screen above it glowed to life, revealing a touchpad and camera. “Oh,” she breathed in. “Very sleek.” Then she saw the small plastic sign reading “Please Enter” taped to the solid, dark oak door. Danita pulled her mask into place, checking the tension in the straps over her ears, and that the nose clip was well-fitted over the bridge of her nose, and pushed the door open.

In front of her, a staircase led to the second floor. She stepped inside. To the right of the stairs, a large antique wooden desk with three computer monitors sat empty. A swinging door behind it opened. A young woman in blue-jean cut-offs and a Longhorn T-shirt walked into the room, carrying a brown Chihuahua. The young woman looked up with a smile and wide eyes. “Hi,” she said.

Danita waited as the woman sat at the desk and placed the small dog in the center of the desk. The room was a reception room—neat, well dusted, and old-fashioned with heavy blue drapes enclosing the large garden window Danita had noticed when she arrived.

Danita looked again at the address on her phone and cleared her throat. “Excuse me, but I’m looking for Eugene Plumb.”

“Oh, gosh. Sorry,” the young woman said, looking up. “She’s out of town. Can I help you?”

Danita shook her head. “That’s not possible. He was at work this afternoon and is due back at work tomorrow.”

“Oh,” the woman said. She grinned and almost laughed. “You want Phineas. No one ever comes to see him. My bad.”

Danita opened her mouth to object when the young woman laughed. “Confusing, I know. Twins with the same first name. Silly, isn’t it? His middle name is Phineas, and that’s what we call him around here.”

At that moment, a tall man wearing only faded jeans, tight with the top button resting dead center on his groin, leaped from the stairs over the railing to land in front of her.

“Phin!” said the woman at the desk. “Do you always have to do that?” The small dog broke into a series of loud yaps.

The man looked down at Danita with the darkest, deepest brown eyes she’d ever seen. They glowed in the room’s light. “Sorry,” he said. His voice flowed from deep inside his throat. “I heard my name, but I was just getting out of the shower and didn’t realize I had company.”

Danita tried not to stare, but his wide chest and slim waist glistened with dampness across sun-tanned skin molded tight over muscles that rippled like a wave with each breath he took. His biceps rolled like the tide as he pulled a white T-shirt over his head and tucked it under his waistband.

He bent over the reception desk. “Let me have Bean, Luna. You know CC doesn’t want him in the reception area.” He turned back to Danita. “Sorry,” he said. His eyes danced as he smiled, revealing long, lovely white teeth.

“No problem, —Mr. Plumb,” she said before coughing and opening her briefcase. “You haven’t signed the release papers for Dr. Antoin.” She stumbled over her words, but looking at the papers, she took in a deep breath and returned to business. “For the article about you to appear in our newsletter. We want very much to run the article. You’re a role model for the new PA program. Oh!” She stopped and pulled a business card out of her pocket. “I’m Danita Soliz, Secretary to the Director of Communications for the University Medical System.”

Luna snickered. “Right, role model,” she said.

Danita darted her eyes to Luna’s and cleared her throat. “Perhaps I could have something to drink.”

Luna’s eyes widened as she stood, and her welcoming grin turned up at one corner as one of her eyebrows lifted. “Oh, sure,” she said. “Tea or coffee? Water?”

“A cup of tea would be very nice,” Danita said, nodding. “Thank you.”

Phineas winked at Danita as Luna walked past him. “Have a seat, Ms. Soliz,” he said, pointing Danita to a chair in front of the blue-draped garden window.

“Danita. Please call me Danita,” she said, resisting the urge to wink back at him.

Phineas took the papers from Danita’s hand and set them on the small table between them as he settled with the little dog on his lap. “I’m sorry you felt you had to come here, but I spoke to someone in Dr. Antoin’s office this afternoon. I don’t want an article about me in the newsletter.”

Danita removed her mask and smiled at Phineas. “So modest,” she said. “It’s very attractive, which adds to Dr. Antoin’s choice of you as the model—for the new program. He’s very passionate about the project. So am I.”

Phineas nodded. “I’m sure. Updating the Physician’s Assistants program opens it up to more people, but I’m not the model for you. Now, my friend Rob? He puts in as many hours as I do, and he’s a UT grad. He’s perfect for your article.”

“Rob?” Danita asked. A chill ran down her back, and she sat up. She shivered but shook her head to chase it away. “His last name? The physicians I spoke with all recommended you, but I recall the name Rob now, or perhaps Robert?”

“Glad to know they like me. Yes, it’s Robert.” He pulled his phone out of his back pocket. “Let me send you his info.”

Danita’s heart skipped a beat. “Here’s my e-card. It has my cell on it. I’m very easy to get hold of.”

Thunder erupted around them, shaking the windows. Rain poured onto the roof, and the wind rattled the windows. Danita turned to the covered window behind her. “Oh!” she squealed. “Weathermen! They never get it right.”

Phineas stood and pulled the curtains apart enough to look outside. The little dog snuggled close to his chest and licked his chin. “Then it’s a good thing Luna brought out the tea tray. Enjoy your cup. I’m sure it will pass soon. I’m sorry, Danita, but I really don’t want that article to be about me.”

Another rumble of thunder rattled her eardrums, and the lights went out.

“No!” shouted Luna. “I’ve got an—exam tonight.”

“Just wait,” said Phineas. “The generator will kick in soon.”

“Oh,” murmured Luna. “Will you stay and make sure we have internet?”

“You know I will.”

The lamp on the reception desk and the lamp next to Danita turned on.

“You see,” said Phineas. “Generator’s already kicking in. I’ll head up and check the computers. You two sit here and relax.”

Phineas pushed the swinging door, but before walking through, he turned back to Luna. “You better lock up, Luna. It’s late, and no one we want to see will come in this storm.”

Luna grumbled but set the tray on the little table as Danita picked up the paperwork.

“Thank you,” Danita said, looking at the neatness of the tray with its pot and matching cups and a plate of large chocolate chip cookies. She smiled up at Luna, who stared at the tray with her head cocked to the side. “I hope you will be able to take your exam. It must be a mean professor who makes you take an exam on a Friday night.”

Luna snickered. “Eugene’s got this super system here. We never lose net. That’s one reason I take my exams here. CC doesn’t mind as long as I do it after hours. But really, this place is always open, so it’s not like I can block off time just for me.” Luna drooped her head to her shoulder and pointed to Danita’s neck. “That’s pretty.”

“Oh.” Heat washed over Danita’s face as her fingers touched the gold button on its black silk ribbon tied at her neck. “A little good luck charm I picked up somewhere.”

Luna put a finger to her lips. “Looks familiar, but I can’t place it. Too dark to see it well.”

Thunder cracked again, smashing into the house. Danita startled in her seat. “A very big storm. It’s the ones that are so sudden that frighten me.”

Luna pointed to the swinging door. “We’re safe and snug here. Nothing bad happens in this house. Stay until it passes. I like your suit.”

Danita poured water from the pitcher into a cup without looking at Luna. “Thank you. Your boss doesn’t mind?” She stopped and looked up. “What kind of exam do you take on a Friday night?”

Even in the darkened room, Danita could see Luna’s cheeks darken.

“Well,” Luna began. “I suppose I could have taken it earlier.”

 “You didn’t heat the water,” Danita said, lifting her cup.

“Dang, blast it!” Luna said, puckering her mouth and pounding her fist into the table. “Knew I forgot something. I’m so sorry. CC picked out this set just for clients, and I had it all set up. I even picked up cookies on my way here tonight. I guess with my mov—exam and the power out, my mind is just not working.” Luna sighed as her face and shoulders drooped.

Danita stood, picking up the tray, and laughed. She let the laugh linger, easing the tension in the air. As Luna’s cheeks returned to normal, she said, “You’re new to professional work. You’re the secretary?”

Luna’s face widened with a smile. “Administrative Assistant. I don’t normally do tea, coffee, that sort of thing. Not that I mind. Learned how to do it right at the family coffee shop. Mama always insisted everything be done right, but—”

Danita’s laughter stopped Luna’s speech. “I like you, Luna. You remind me of me when I was younger.” She stepped toward Luna. “I’m a secretary. Secretary to the Director of Communications for the entire University Medical System. I’ve worked very hard. I make tea and coffee all the time, not because Dr. Antoin asks or expects me to, but because my services help very busy people doing very important work. Oh, the stories I could tell you over the past year, like when poor Dr. Antoin caught COVID. But first, let’s make tea. We’ll use the storm as an excuse for me to be here a little longer. These cookies are very good. You must tell where you got them.”

Thunder shook the building again. The two lamps blinked off as the front door swung open, letting in an icy rush of wind. Danita, startled as icy rain blasted her face, screamed. The tray crashed to the floor, the lid of the teapot falling off, spilling water across the floor as the cups shattered into pieces.

In the doorway stood a tall, thin man dressed in black. Long hair dripped down his face and neck. “Where’s Phineas?”

Luna put her hands on her hips. “Max? Will you stop making an entrance? Look at what you broke this time.”

*****

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