Playing With Fire

Flash Fiction Friday Challenge from Chuck Wendig is here again! This time we rolled the d20 dice of destiny and received two well known pop-culture movie/TV-show titles.* Mine ended up being somewhat of a parody, due to the two options I received. I enjoyed writing it, even though this challenge was so open-ended that it was a slow start.

         Brennan winced as the thick curtains of his room were unceremoniously thrown back.
         “What time is it?” he asked, words muffled by the pillow he pulled over his head.
         “It’s time for you to get out of bed, Master Brennan,” Albert said.
        With a groan, Brennan dug himself more deeply into his covers. Albert would go away eventually if he refused to move. He opened one eye when he did not hear retreating footsteps. Albert stood by the windows, immaculate in his butler’s uniform. His lined face was visible in the bright sunlight that streamed through the windows and Brennan knew from the set of Albert’s jaw that he wasn’t going anywhere.
         “What, Albert? Go away.” Seizing upon the first excuse that came to mind he said, “I’m feeling really sick. I can’t possibly get up. You should leave before you catch it, too.”
        He tried to make his voice convincingly raspy, closing his eyes as though they were too heavy to hold open. Albert grunted. Damn the man. What was the point in having a butler if he never listened? Brennan pulled the covers up higher and rolled over. A moment later, the sheets were rudely yanked from his grip.
         “Master Brennan, it is simply ridiculous for you to lounge about in this manner. You’ve been home three weeks and no one has seen you,” Albert said.
         “I don’t want anyone to see me, Albert,” Brennan finally abandoned his charade of illness and sat up. “I thought I made that pretty obvious when I said: ‘Albert, don’t answer the door or the phone and if anyone asks, I’m not here.'”
         “It’s not healthy, Master Brennan,” Albert turned to get the tray of breakfast. “I know it must be hard coming back to Winston Manor after so many years, but your parents—”
         “I don’t want to talk about my parents, Albert,” Brennan said, getting out of bed and slamming the bathroom door behind him.
        When he came out wrapped in his robe, his breakfast was waiting on the table. Grudgingly, he sat down to eat it. Halfway through the plate of toast and scrambled eggs, he saw a yellow legal pad covered in Albert’s neat writing. Messages from every day since his return. He shoved the plate of food away with a groan. He flipped through the legal pad, practically tearing the pages off as he skimmed them. Parties, galas, fundraisers, premiers, restaurant openings. Then there were the other messages: robberies, escaped criminals, organized crime bosses causing trouble, the usual.
         “Vultures, all of ’em,” he muttered, throwing the yellow pad on the ground.
        These people couldn’t let him have a few weeks of vacation could they? If you could call being locked up in the monstrous Winston Manor that was filled with nothing but bad memories and ghosts from his past a “vacation.” The police force had handled everything just fine those years he’d been away, there was no reason for them to come clamoring at his door like a bunch of groupies now that he was back. Brennan actually enjoyed waking up in the morning without bruises and cuts and broken bones. Maybe they thought he was an adrenaline junkie, that he liked hunting down the scum of Rothsham City. Well they were dead wrong. Suddenly seized with an idea, he changed out of his bathrobe and hurried down the stairs.
         “Albert!” he called, his voice clanging against the suits of armor on the landing.
        He rolled his eyes–the suits of armor, the secret passage in the wine cellar, it was all a bit much.
         “Albert!” he yelled again, just before colliding with the man himself.
         His bushy white eyebrows raised in exasperated curiosity, Albert smoothed his tie and cleared his throat.
         “Master Brennan, this is your house and I am your humble butler, but there’s no need to go dashing about like some sort of—”
         “Never mind that,” Brennan interrupted. “Where are my keys?”
         “Which keys, sir? The Ferarri, the Porsche, the Aston Martin…” Albert ticked them off on his fingers.
         “No, no, no, THE keys, THE keys, Albert!” Brennan practically bounded down the last few stairs, searching through the pile of unopened letters on the table in the hall.
         “Oh. Those keys .”
         Brennan looked up at Albert’s tone, “Just give me the keys, Albert.”
         “Of course, Master Brennan, but I don’t just keep them where anyone can find them. They’re in the wine cellar with…everything else,” Albert barely finished speaking before Brennan was racing down the wood-paneled halls.
         Brennan burst into the dusty room and twisted the bottle of 1785 Chateau Margaux to the left. One of the wine racks slid to the side to reveal a gaping hole. He hurried down the hallway, ignoring the weapons and high tech gear that lined the wall. Of course it was down here, how could he forget? He found the keys where he always left them in the past, opening the case with a fingerprint and retinal scan. Jingling the keys as he strode down another hallway, he began to whistle. He reached the vehicle and stared for a moment, grinning. It was sleek and shining and as vibrantly colored as ever. Just the way he left it. Brennan opened the gleaming red butterfly door and slid in. He sighed as he sank into the custom leather seats, perfectly contoured to his body. He put the key into the ignition and turned it, feeling the purr of the engine run like a lover’s fingers across his spine.
        Brennan pushed a button and a giant door slid open with the faintest whisper of cables and pulleys. He put the vehicle in gear, released the clutch and shot out of the underground cavern. Glancing at the passenger seat, he saw his his old Ray-Bans sitting there, as if no time had gone by. He slipped on the sunglasses as he drove out the secret gravel drive, past the ancient trees, and into the sunlight.
        Hell, even the Firebird needed a day off.

*Batman and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

The Meet Cute: 50 Plates of Brunch III

(If you’re new to 50 Plates make sure to read Part I and II as well as the synopsis up top)

         Sidney was standing in the romance section at the local Barnes and Noble, perusing the titles–each more ridiculous than the last and debating on purchasing one as a good “pool read.” For such an activity, books that required no real brain work were much preferred. Distracted by one particularly ludicrous title and the hero whose flowing locks were longer than the half naked, fainting heroine on the cover, she failed to notice the other person walking hurriedly down the aisle. When she stepped back, shaking her head at the brief synopsis on the cover, she bumped into something–someone. She turned, an apology on her lips, crimson filling her cheeks and stared up into familiar blue eyes.
      “I’m so terribly sorry,” she stuttered, eternally grateful she wasn’t holding any of the books she had been perusing.
      “My fault,” he said with a brilliant smile.
      She thought she saw his eyes flicker with recognition.
      “Do I…know you?” he asked, his brows coming together over his perfectly straight nose as he looked down at her.
      “I eat at House of Brunch quite a bit,” she admitted, feeling her cheeks heat again, fully aware that it was not in the attractive, romance novel rosy sense, but the beet red of a particularly intense workout.
      “Oh of course! You always order Earl Grey tea,” he smiled again and Sidney felt a dangerous flutter in her stomach.
      “Yes. I love House of Brunch,” she said lamely, lamenting her lapse in wit.
      “Glad to hear it! I think we do a pretty good job,” he looked around. “Did I interrupt your shopping?” He raised an eyebrow at the shelves around them.
      “No, no,” Sidney panicked for a moment. “I was just walking through on my way to the coffee shop. I have a friend who always stops in this aisle and tries to find the most ridiculous title.” It wasn’t entirely a lie.
      “I see. Find any candidates?” he laughed.
      “Too many to count,” she smiled tentatively. She looked at the stack of books under his arm, several crime novels, a cook book, and a book on Ireland. “You look like you need a shopping cart.”
      “I will if I pick out anything else,” he smiled ruefully, shifting the books so that he had a better grip. He thrust out his hand. “I’m Damien.”
      “I’m Sidney,” she took his hand and wondered if she was the only one that felt the buzz of electricity as their skin touched.
      “Nice to meet you, Sidney.”
      “You too, Damien.”
      “Well, I’d better get going, I have to get ready for the dinner shift in an hour,” he sounded almost regretful. “Don’t get too attached to the coffee shop here, Sidney. I’d hate to lose you to a chain like this.”
      “Don’t worry, I won’t,” she said, far too enamored with listening to him say her name. “Have a good evening at the restaurant,” she said as he turned to leave.
      “Thanks, you have a nice night, too,” he grinned back at her.
     She stood in the romance aisle staring at his retreating back until she realized she had not moved for several minutes. Abandoning the lurid, brightly colored shelves, she walked purposefully towards the crime section. She had been meaning to read some crime novels and those would make appropriate poolside reads as well. The bright red lettering on the cover of a book displayed on the end-cap caught her eye. It was the same book Damien had been carrying. Well, it was by an author she recognized and it was on the New York Times Bestseller list according to the sign. Plus, one of the store employees–named Stan–had given it 3 stars out of 4. Really, what other endorsement could she need? She picked the book up and walked purposefully to the register, refusing to give the romance aisle another glance.

50 Plates of Brunch, Part II

II.

The invitation to go to brunch was one Sidney couldn’t refuse, and when she casually suggested the House of Brunch and it was accepted, she was overjoyed.  She stood in front of her closet, discarded outfits scattered at her feet as she tried one shirt and then the next.  It was brunch, so she did not want to look too put together–that would be too obvious, but she definitely needed to improve over the bedraggled, hungover state in which she had made her previous appearance.  She finally settled on leggings, tall brown boots, and an oversized blue sweater.  She spent fifteen minutes perfecting the messy bun atop her head and wavered on whether to put in her contacts or leave on her glasses.  She knew her glasses made her face look thinner and she always got compliments on the frames.  Glasses it was.  The buzz of her iPhone on the dresser announced the arrival of Monica and Richard, her usual companions for the decadent meal between breakfast and lunch.  Sidney hoped Richard would be ordering the pitcher of bottomless mimosas today.  She slid into the backseat of Richard’s massive SUV and was acknowledged briefly before the two began arguing.  Sidney checked her twitter feed, nothing new.

They arrived at House of Brunch and Sidney swiftly scanned the open kitchen, looking for his wavy brown hair and gorgeous smile.  Her heart sank when she did not see him anywhere and she ordered her pancakes in a listless tone and couldn’t muster more than a half-hearted smile when Richard ordered the bottomless mimosas and grinned at her.  She sat twirling her fork as she waited for the food to arrive, not really listening to Monica as she complained about her three roommates in turn.  Sidney was used to the complaints; whenever one or more of them was present they would gang up on whichever roommate was absent.  She was watching a young couple leaning over their omelets and coffee to smile and murmur to each other when she caught sight of someone walking in the back door.  He was carrying a large ice-chest that was obviously heavy and she could see the tightening of his shoulder muscles under his butter-soft American Apparel v-neck as he hoisted it onto the gleaming silver table at the back.

“Ice is here,” he announced to the kitchen staff, running a hand through his coffee brown hair and smiling at his employees.

Sidney almost dropped her fork when the waiter appeared in her line of sight and set her steaming pancakes down in front of her.  She mumbled her thanks and tried to ignore the flush rising in her cheeks.  Richard splashed a generous portion of frothy, frozen mimosa into her cup and she took a gulp, feeling the slushy mixture of champagne and orange juice trickle down her throat.  She glanced back at the kitchen over the edge of her cup and watched as he took his place at the register. He was handing a customer their receipt when he caught her eye over the man’s shoulder. He smiled and gave her a slight nod of recognition.  Sidney told herself it was the bottomless mimosas that left her feeling weightless and giddy by the end of brunch, but she knew that was only partly the case.

50 Plates of Brunch: a Serial Short Story

50 Plates of Brunch

Disclaimer: This should in no way be taken seriously.  Any resemblance to previously written works of romantic fiction is purely coincidental. Thanks to my friend Frosty for giving me this idea. I also almost called it: “50 Plates of Brunch: a Cereal Short Story” but I thought that would be punishment.  Sorry…couldn’t resist that one.

I.

Sidney watched him from across the restaurant, poking at the last of her scrambled eggs and waiting impatiently for the fresh fruit she ordered that never came.  He quietly asked customers’ names as they ordered and rang them up quickly and efficiently.  The café by day and upscale restaurant by night had no separate kitchen, all the food was cooked in the open and ice for the drinks was scooped unceremoniously out of a red igloo ice chest.  He occasionally scanned the café, making sure everything was as it should be.  She took another bite of her eggs that were almost cold and drank some more of the ice cold water, trying to rinse the taste of the cigarettes from the night before.  She only smoked when she drank too much and someone offered her a cigarette in the surreal glow of a lighter.  The smell of the smoke always took her back to France, to the perpetual scent of tobacco, bread, and sunlight that hovered under the café umbrellas.  Sidney knew the taste would be on her tongue for the rest of the day and that the headache that was starting under her cheekbones would spread as the day went on.  The water helped momentarily, but it couldn’t completely dispel the cottonmouth feeling the combination of vodka, nicotine, and a hint of marijuana left behind.

She sighed and smiled across the table at her friends as they joked about the night before and recalled events that were, thankfully, somewhat fuzzy to her.  The smell of maple syrup from one of the girl’s French toast was cloying and she leaned slightly away from it, staring into the bottom of her coffee mug where a teabag slumped in the dregs of the once-hot water. Sidney caught herself watching him again, admiring the way his dark hair was just long enough to cover the tops of his ears and to have that tousled look.  His gaze slid past hers and she looked away, laughing as her friends glanced over their shoulders to take a peek.  They were acting like teenagers, checking out some cute college guy in the mall food court.  She rolled her eyes at herself and turned back to the remains of her brunch in time for her friend’s boyfriend to steal the last of her toast and cram it into his mouth.  Her friend Catherine was scanning her iPhone for movie times with her roommate Allison as Richard and Monica bitched at each other good-naturedly.  They were always bickering; Monica would say something idiotic and Richard would roll his eyes in an overly dramatic expression of martyrdom.  Sidney shifted in her seat, annoyed at the three of them, especially Allison who was whining about something for the umpteenth time that morning.

“Like, literally, this is the most hung-over I’ve ever been.  I literally think he was trying to get me plastered,” she complained to Catherine, pushing her thick dark hair away from her pointed, pixie face.

“Well, you did go home with him,” Catherine pointed out, her normally cheerful tone tinged with jealousy.

“I mean, yeah.  But like, literally nothing happened.  I was so drunk that we just like cuddled and went to bed.  But he is literally the cutest guy I’ve ever been with.  And he’s literally so nice.”

Sidney blinked and avoided looking at Richard who was tallying the number of times Allison said “literally” by holding up his fingers and wiggling his eyebrows at her.  Allison never noticed.

“I think I’m going to pass on the movie,” Sidney said, taking another huge gulp from her glass of ice water and sneaking another look at the gorgeous cashier by day and maitre d’ by night.

“But Sid, it’s supposed to be so good!”  Catherine protested, looking up from her phone at last.

“I heard it’s like literally the funniest movie of the year.  Literally,” Allison said, looking at Richard in confusion as he burst out laughing.

“Wait is this the one with the guy?”  Monica asked.

They all laughed at Monica protested that she hadn’t gotten to finish what she was saying and tried to remember the name of the actor.  Which was completely pointless since he wasn’t in the movie anyway.  In the end, Monica and Richard decided to go along to the movie with Catherine and Allison.  Sidney stayed firm in her decision to stay behind, claiming that she had a book to finish before class and a long-overdue conversation with her mother.  As they left the restaurant, she drank the last of her water and crumpled her napkin in a ball.  She toyed with one of her earrings as she pretended to read through emails on her phone, skimming them and quickly consigning them to the trashcan as she peered over the top of the screen at the nameless but undeniably attractive cashier.  She wondered if he was the owner of the place.  He seemed like he could be.  Young, confident—not too high and mighty to run the register.  He did forget her side of fruit…for which she paid an outrageous $4.85.  But in the grand scheme of things that was nothing.  He was busy, and absentmindedness could be adorable.  Plus, she was certain that behind the aqua blue eyes and beneath the perfectly tousled hair there was a brilliant mind.  He was probably witty and sarcastic, with just the right hint of gentleness.  Sidney just knew that he was no ordinary waiter.  He must be smart to come up with the idea of a casual brunch restaurant for the daylight and a swanky diner locale for the night.  In a town known for its restaurants that never sleep and are always willing to serve breakfast to the sleepless, it was genius.

Unable to procrastinate and finding her inbox cleaner than it had been since she purchased her phone, she gathered her things and got up from the corner booth.  Unintentionally, she told herself, her eyes sought out the object of her restless thoughts and their eyes met.

“Thanks for coming, have a great day,” he said.

“Thanks, you too,” she replied, throwing him a smile.

“Come back sometime,” he said as she walked through the door.

She smiled wide as she pulled her sunglasses down to block out the blazing sun.  He didn’t have to ask; she would be back and not just for the omelets.