Romance Friendship Holiday

Autumn. Blood orange leaves flowed down the mountainside. Sunset yellow oaks waved like ocean water, twirling to reveal the hidden green branches below; the last of their kind. The season’s turning below mocked the blue sky above, which still conjured clouds of summer rain. If the world was flipped upside-down, it’d look like a sunset sea.

Like the sky, a pair of piercing blue rebel eyes looked out across the expanse. Cal, a man of twenty-four years, was doing his best to accept the loss of ninety-degree greenery. The orange reflection in his eyes dissipated as he glanced down at his journal. He jotted down unseen words as a shiver tickled his spine.

A sudden closure of the journal made for an alarming smack. Bluejays in the tree above fluttered away, only for warblers to take their place. Life still breeds amidst the wooded graveyard. 

Cal put away his journal, small enough to fit in his back pocket. He took one last look at the auburn mountain range and sighed deeply.

“I hate the fall.”


His eyes were glued to the ground as he made his way down the path. Each step was a story for him, ever more intriguing than the brush and brook around him. Despite the beautiful outlook he had come from, Cal looked sadder, angrier than ever. He kicked a stone in his path with his right foot but quickly fell off balance. Not looking, his left foot tripped on an equally sized rock, and sent Cal falling forward down the path. His face hit gravel before he could yelp, and his body slid approximately ten feet before coming to a messy halt. Oof.

Cal laid still, thoroughly caught off guard by the debacle. A nearby stream trickled with an ironic sense of serenity Cal wished he had. He managed to turn himself over, placed at an off-kilter slant downhill, and gazed up at the orange leaves. His face was covered in dirt.

“You’re not an experienced hiker, are you?” Cal’s eyes looked upward, or downward, he wasn’t sure, to see a brown-eyed woman standing mere feet away. She had seen the whole thing. “I saw the whole thing,” she said, a giggle in her voice. Cal grappled to his feet.

“Don’t help me up,” Cal said. There was probably too much sarcasm in his voice because the woman rolled her eyes. “And I do hike.”

“Interesting technique.” Her voice was cool. She seemed thoughtful and had a mesmerizing tone that disguised her insults as compliments. “Are you alright, at least?”

“At least.” Cal was rubbing the dirt from his clothes, and then his face. He only made things worse. He continued on, walking by her without any salutation.

“You coming from the overlook? Any good?” She called after him.

“Beautiful,” Cal said. He didn’t look back.


The singing of bells announced Cal’s entrance. Coffee bean and burnt croissant aroma filled the air. His mood swiftly calmed at the smell. There was no barista at the counter when he approached, so he browsed the CD rack. A local quartet of middle-aged men was selling their debut album: The Quarterly Report. The cringe-worthy pun made Cal smile.

“You’re that guy. Who fell.” The barista had appeared out of thin air. He put the CD down and composed himself. It was the woman from the trail.

“No.” He said, grimacing.

“How’s your face?” She began scrutinizing him. The bruise on his face was a total giveaway.

“Fine.” He involuntarily rubbed his cheek, but quickly threw his hand away. “How’s yours? Cheeks must’ve cramped from laughing so hard.”

“Oh don’t tell me you’re embarrassed? A tough, brooding guy like you. I think I saw you smiling just now.”

“I wasn’t,” he denied. She reached over and grabbed the exact CD Cal had found so amusing. Her poignance was incredibly irritating.

“They’re actually pretty good.”

“Yeah right. A bunch of old men reliving their garage band days. No thanks.”

“Yeah, but these bunch of old guys are good, I’m telling you.” Once again, her voice hummed in Cal’s ear in a way that just made sense. Everything she said he wanted to hear again.

“I’ll have the mocha latte, please,” he finally ordered. She gave him a nod and went to work, but her shimmer had faded.

“Suit yourself.” She turned her back to him. He had offended her.

“And the CD.” He added.


He couldn’t remember the last time he had run so fast or exercised at all. His legs were burning from his cold jeans, but he couldn’t stop. He burst into the store with more theatricality than he had intended. He was trying to buy a book, not stop a wedding.

Avoiding the glares from other patrons, Cal scurried through the store. He couldn’t get to the counter fast enough; fighting back falling books, running children, chairs, old ladies with walkers, and his untied shoelace. Then, finally, he placed his hands on the counter, and said- 

“One copy of Morton’s Grove Mystery, please” she blurted. Beside him, having once again mystically appeared simply to annoy him, was the beautiful, brown-eyed, barista. Cal was so stunned he couldn’t speak. 

“It’s your lucky day, Carman.” Said the cashier. “Last copy.” Scanned, stamped, and paid for…the last copy of the book Cal had just run a mile to purchase, was in the hands of his nemesis crush.

“Carman.” Her name fell out of his mouth as naturally as a breath. He was staring at her. And then at the book.

“Shoot. You weren’t going to buy this, were you?” To her credit, she did look a smidgen guilty. That is until she recognized him. Her guilt quickly twisted into the hypnotic smile that had burned so deeply into his brain. “Listen to that CD yet?”

“Not yet.” Cal shoved his hands into his pockets with both fury and embarrassment. He turned to the cashier. “No other copies?”

“I’ll lend it to you after I’m done. Don’t sweat it.” Her graciousness was the last thing Cal wanted, but also the only thing. “So, what’s your name then?”

“Uh.” Cal panicked, clumsily pulling his hands back out from his jacket pockets. “Cal.” He held his hand out for her to shake.

“Carman,” she reaffirmed. They shook hands for far too long, but it didn’t seem to matter to either of them. Cal brushed his hair away from his face, not sure whether to look at her eyes or his own feet. He was sweating, but in a fit of bravery, Cal took the book from Carman’s hands. She was appalled but ceased as Cal grabbed a pen from the register. He opened the book and wrote his phone number on the inside flap.

“For as soon as you’re done reading. No later.” He handed the book back, then made a break for the exit. 


Daylight savings had come, and the Sun had gone. The orange leaves had migrated to the streets, and frigid breezes and chapped lips had taken their place in the air, both of which Cal suffered as he walked through town. But despite the cold, Friday still wrought crowded streets and happy folks.

Much to Cal’s dismay, he had been invited out for some fun at Wretched Willy’s, a locally famous pub frequented by just about everyone over the age of twenty-one who had taste. A band was playing at the pub that night, so it was bound to be busy.

Cal waited outside in the cold, looking in at the overcrowded bar. He kept spinning on his heels trying to keep warm, bopping up and down, and shoving his hands into his armpits. Her voice made him spin in a full circle.

“Well well well. The man who never smiles. Unless he’s with me.”

“Carman!” Cal nearly choked on his own spit. “Hey.” He tried to act cool, but he felt warmer already. He couldn’t help but smile when she looked at him. She looked beautiful. He’d never seen brown eyes glimmer so radiantly.

“You here for the show?”

“Yeah. I’m waiting for some friends. You?”

“My dad’s playing,” she said. A frozen November breeze engulfed them, followed by a terribly awkward silence. Cal could barely keep his smile hidden. He tried not to make eye contact. “Well, I’m here.” Carman was suddenly holding his hand. “Walk me in?” She led them to the door, and, to Cal’s own surprise, the thought to pull his hand away never crossed his mind.

The two of them shimmied through the crowd, chained together hand in hand. They emerged at the bar. “Stay here! I’ll be right back.” She let go of his hand and vanished, pulled into the crowd. A sense of absence overtook him and left him so nervous he was shaking. He quickly turned to the bartender.

Carman returned minutes later to find Cal with two beers. “Thanks!” She was yelling over the chatter. The lights dimmed, and cheers erupted. Carman was hooting and hollering with everyone else.

“I didn’t know your dad was in a band!” Call yelled. Carman turned to him with a mischievous grin.

“You’re gonna love this.”

“Good evening ladies and gentlemen!” The microphone boomed. “And welcome…to Friday night at Willy’s!” People cheered, and the crowd parted. Cal finally laid eyes on the band, and it was none other than…The Quarterly Report. They began to play, slamming down some sick rock and roll. It was awesome.

Cal was on his feet and smiling, dancing beside a girl he was pretty sure he had just fallen in love with. He had forgotten all about the friends he was supposed to meet and instead spent the whole night talking with Carman. Everything she said felt like magic. She talked about her dreams for the coffee shop and her passion for music. She told him how she had moved away for school, but missed home too much. He met her dad, Greg, and his bandmates, who might as well have been The Beatles. It was the best night of his life, and in the end, she kissed him.


Autumn. Blood orange leaves and sunset yellow oaks waved like ocean water along the mountainside. The sky carried the last remaining clouds of summer rain, and bluejays had nested in the nearby branches.

Cal stood at the overlook, once again. His blue eyes were just as bright as the sky above him. But this time he wasn’t there alone.

“What do you think? Beautiful, like last year?” Carman asked. Cal took her hand, intertwining it gently with his own.


November 09, 2022 18:38

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Starry Skies
16:13 Dec 02, 2022

Wow, this is wonderful! The imagery is lovely, and the love story is simple, but makes sense, which is often hard to capture in such short stories. I really enjoyed reading this.


22:28 Dec 03, 2022

Thank you so much! Your kind words are motivating :) I'm happy to know it was worth writing!


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John K Adams
00:14 Nov 19, 2022

Such a well-wrought story, Chris! I've rarely read such beautiful descriptions that don't hinder the flow of the narrative. Write on!


14:51 Nov 26, 2022

Thanks, John! Your compliment means a lot! This one was fun to write, so I'm glad you enjoyed it :)


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