Near Miss : NPR 3-minute fiction entry

On March 21, 2010 by Aimee

The winners are up in the 3-minute fiction contest from NPR. While I didn’t win (or place or probably even get read) I did submit. 🙂 Gotta try, right? Might as well! No more than 600 words (such that it could be read in 3 minutes) and it had to be based on a specific photograph.

This little piece is based off of Little White Lies … a little “extra” to go along with the novel.

Near Miss
Charley disappeared ten years ago.

As she strolled along a Chicago sidewalk prepared to people-watch through floor to ceiling windows, she saw him. In one molded plastic chair, he sat — the man she still loved. One foot crossed over his knee, an arm across the back of a second chair, Wyatt sipped from a signature cardboard cup and read a newspaper.

I can’t let him see me.

The aroma of fresh roasted coffee that invaded her senses and pulled her forward no longer held the same appeal. Charley dropped her gaze and averted her eyes as her hands shook. Golden curls spilled out of an apple-red leather coat into which she tucked her cheek. She cinched her belt tighter as the wind snuck its way into the crevices.

I have to get out of here.

Charley moved to her left, then her right, in an attempt to break through the streams of patrons who exited the coffee shop one or two at a time. As the familiar bell rang with each bump of the door, ingrained manners kept her still — a push through them would be far too rude, though she imagined how her arms would swing as she shoved people out of her way.

Did everyone get their coffee at one time?

“Excuse me,” she said. “Excuse me,” she heard. Stuck in place outside the window where Wyatt relaxed, the bell continued to jingle.

Charley watched as Wyatt set his cup on the table, raised the paper above eye level, flipped a page and shook it flat before he laid it down again.

As long as he doesn’t look up …

Charley kept Wyatt in her peripheral vision as memories flooded. Ten years before, she’d fallen in love with the boy he’d been, but had walked away and vowed never to see him again. Her hair, eye color and attire had changed to ensure she’d never cross his path as the woman he’d known.

On the anniversary of their separation, she’d dusted off her previous life and fell back into it as seamlessly as an addict. He lived thousands of miles away, so Charley assumed she’d be safe. For just one day, she’d wanted to relive a time where she’d enjoyed pure happiness.

The first time I choose the past, it bites me on the butt.

Charley changed her focus to the taxi stand ahead but caught a movement in the corner of her eye; the table’s occupant had disappeared, the Daily Times lay open upon it.

At a break in the line, Charley snuck through. She passed a third and fourth pane in slow motion, followed the stream of customers, though her heart beat faster with each step forward.

What if he saw me? Would it be so bad?

A chill danced along the line of her arm. At the building’s edge, Charley stopped. She could turn around and fall back into love as easily as a leaf falls to the ground, or she could take another step forward and pretend she hadn’t seen him.

Her heart warred with her mind.

“Excuse me, ma’am,” a passerby called. “Would you like to share a cab?”

Charley hesitated.

“Yes,” she said and turned to the car at the curb.