19 comments

Fiction Contemporary Happy

Daniel watched as the train left without him, leaving him stranded until the next day in the town that used to be his hometown. The warmth of summer still bravely flickered far into the fall, the reds and yellows of the leaves bringing their own kind of warmth, but he could feel the cold seeping in. There wasn’t much left for him here except for a few friends, acquaintances, and old memories. His brothers and sisters had long since scattered to other parts of the country, and his parents had moved someplace sunnier. But maybe she still lived here. He still felt terrible about the way they had parted seven years ago, so he hadn’t tried to reach out to her during his short visit. But deep down, he knew he had secretly wished they would randomly bump into each other.


His hometown was along the way to the city where he was scheduled to present his most ambitious architectural plans for a building. That was why he had decided to stop by. Now he had to hurriedly call his company to tell them that things had to be delayed. It was a bit embarrassing. Once that was done, he shuffled over to the service desk to reschedule his ticket for the next day.


Then he felt like grabbing a quick bite to eat. There were a few restaurants in the train station, including a pizza restaurant with a big round pizza sign, which was the one he chose. Perhaps it was because they would always eat pizza together back in the old days. He was lost in his thoughts as he was seated at the restaurant and was handed a menu by the waiter. Then as he read the menu without really reading it, he sensed a familiar presence nearby. There was a playful and excited energy as someone came and sat down right across from him at his table. He didn't deserve this. It couldn’t be!


Daniel looked up from his menu to see Helen's expressive eyes and her wide grin, looking as though this was a surprise party for him. And it was.


"Where I come from, I used to have this boyfriend named Daniel, and we liked to order Hawaiian pizza together," she said, winking at him.


“It's great to see you again, Helen. I'm so glad I ran into you.”


“It is a nice surprise. I'm happy you finally came back, Daniel,” Helen said, making him feel the old regret, but her look of forgiveness made it feel more sweet than bitter.


Daniel stared at her black cat earrings for a moment.


“Oh, these? I got them for Halloween. Don’t you think they’re cute?” she asked, touching them.


“They look good on you, Helen.”


“Aww, thanks, Daniel. You were always so sweet," she said, giving him goosebumps. "But I’m dying to know what you've been up to all these years,” she continued.


“Well, I’m a successful architect now, just like my father always dreamed of,” Daniel said, digging up the building plans from his suitcase and showing them to her.


“They look nice, but I know you, Daniel… and you don’t seem excited about this. Why is that?”


“I could never hide anything from you, Helen. They’re good plans, but frankly, my heart hasn’t been in my work for a while.”


“When I look at these, I see a fine building that people would be happy to use. But if you say your heart’s not in it, then what is your heart in, Daniel?”


“I’ve always wanted to be an artist, but my father never approved. He always said I should apply my artistic skills to something more serious. That’s why I went into architecture instead.”


“Of course, I remember. You always talked about making art for video games and stuff like that. You were pretty good at it too!”


Daniel became excited. “I’ve been working on a graphic novel. Here, let me show you some of it,” he said, reaching over to show her on his phone, and their hands touched.


Helen looked his work over appreciatively.


“Oh, this is very nice, even better than I remember. What an imagination you have, Daniel! You should totally pursue this!” Helen said, her hand touching his elbow as she spoke enthusiastically.


“It’s hard to do at the same time as my work, though.”


“But these are so amazing. It would truly be a shame if you stopped, Daniel.”


“I guess it is up to me. You know, it's time I faced my past in order to move forward. I shouldn't blame my father anymore. He did his best to give me a good life. But I'm in control now, so if I'm not happy, the fact is that this is all my fault.”


“That’s a good way to think, Daniel.”


Daniel saw the shadow of someone waiting patiently behind him. He turned around and saw the waiter; it seemed like he had something to say.


“I’m sorry, I couldn’t help but overhear. I hope it’s not intruding too much, but I wanted to let you know I’m taking a big leap too. Everyone at the restaurant is celebrating my leaving party today. I’m going back to school to study psychology, just like I’ve always dreamed of. I think you should take a chance too. Just my two cents. I’ll stop talking about it now.”


“No, it’s fine. That’s an encouraging story. Thank you,” Daniel told him.


“You probably need more time to think about it, but what are you thinking about right now, Daniel?” Helen asked after the waiter had left.


“I'm just adding up the expenses in my head, and I think I've saved enough to come back here and live with minimal income for some time. It's risking everything, but maybe I can give my dream a try for at least a year or two.”


“That's awesome, Daniel!” Helen said, looking genuinely happy for him.


“Helen, may I ask you something?”


“Sure, Daniel.”


“Are you seeing anyone right now?”


“As a matter of fact, I’m not,” she answered coyly.


“You know, I’ve always regretted leaving you behind when I went to study across the country.”


“Oh, Daniel. I’m not going to lie. It was very hard, and I hated you for a long time. But now I’m over that.”


“I know it sounds a bit like a silly rom-com, but I’d like to reconnect with you.”


“I’d like that very much. And if you come back to live around here, maybe we can…” she said.


“Yes, that’s what I was thinking, too,” Daniel said, and she smiled and held his hand.


Daniel paid the bill and gave a large tip to the waiter. Then they went to wish him luck in his studies before leaving the restaurant.


“Helen, I missed my train, so I’m going to have to spend the night at a hotel,” Daniel said when they reached the tall double doors of the train station.


“There's no sense in you going to a hotel alone. Why don't you come to my place, Daniel?”


“Thanks for the offer, Helen," he said with a smile. "Hey, look, it’s starting to rain outside. We better get to your car quickly."


“Who cares? We used to love the rain when we were younger,” she said, taking him by the hand and pulling him after her into the rain shower.


“Remember when we used to go down to the lake together every day, rain or shine?” Helen said as they danced in the warm rain, feeling like kids again.


Daniel snapped out of his daydream during the morning team meeting, but there was a smile on his lips as he thought of Helen. I really should reach out to her and see how she’s doing, he thought.

October 29, 2022 18:18

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19 comments

Graham Kinross
21:42 Nov 05, 2022

You struck on something really universal here, the ‘what if’ feelings about an ex that didn’t necessarily end badly. The dialogue is really good and gives us a lot of detail about them. I like the not too subtle flirtatious energy at the end. I was a bit confused when it turns out it’s all a daydream, though I can empathise with that as well. Well done. Working a bit of description of the surroundings through the dialogue would help a bit.

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Francois K
02:30 Nov 06, 2022

Thanks! I appreciate the feedback, Graham. I liked ending it with the daydream prompt because it gives it even more of that 'what if' feeling and the feeling of going through scenarios in your mind of how you wish things would go. I agree that the dancing in the rain ending is nice too. Maybe I could have added earlier cues to indicate the dream-ness. Also, thanks for the feedback about working in more descriptions through the dialog. Will keep an eye on that.

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Graham Kinross
09:06 Nov 06, 2022

There’s a gentle balance with ending with a daydream. It can make the reader feel cheated if it’s a high stakes event that turns out didn’t happen. A conversation with an ex girlfriend is just enough not to frustrate the reader, with enough promise that him seeing her for real would be a nice follow up.

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Delbert Griffith
21:30 Nov 04, 2022

Nice. You got some recent prompts in there. I liked the ending.

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Francois K
02:04 Nov 05, 2022

Thanks for the read and the comment, Delbert. I do like how the ending turned out with that daydream sequence prompt.

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Cindy Strube
23:51 Oct 29, 2022

Clever, cute, and fun! I hope Helen is receptive. ; )

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Francois K
03:57 Oct 30, 2022

Thanks for the kind words! I like to hope for Daniel that she would be.

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AnneMarie Miles
23:29 Oct 29, 2022

Heh, I like the use of several of the recent prompts. At first I thought it was a little cheesy but then I smiled when I realized what you were doing. Very clever. Bet this was a fun one to write, huh?

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Francois K
04:34 Oct 30, 2022

Thanks, Anne Marie! Yes, I did have fun with it, and it wrote itself in a very short time. Basically, I mashed together about seventeen prompts with varying degrees of success, and in the end, this story popped out.

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AnneMarie Miles
13:39 Oct 30, 2022

What a great idea! Sometimes I have a hard enough time with just one prompt so this is actually quite impressive.

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MB Campbell
22:53 Nov 13, 2022

Love the ending.

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Francois K
23:39 Nov 13, 2022

Thanks, Mb. Happy to hear the ending resonated with you.

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Heather Koelle
21:22 Nov 09, 2022

I really liked how the daydream sparked Daniel's resurgence of feelings for Helen. It was a unique approach to an age-old situation. And you handled it with a great twist ending.

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Francois K
21:24 Nov 10, 2022

Thanks, I appreciate the comment, Heather!

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Sophia Gavasheli
22:09 Nov 08, 2022

I like the twist at the end with the daydream! It's definitely universal as Graham said. Maybe Daniel will go back to his hometown and make his daydream a reality. I love the title as well; I think it represents how we all have dreams but they might not translate into plans. Critique-wise, the dialogue does reveal a lot of important information, but real people don't necessarily talk like that. Daniel and Helen sound like two schoolmates who've reconnected, instead of two exes with mixed feelings about each other. Taking the expository info...

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Francois K
22:57 Nov 08, 2022

Thanks for the comment! I appreciate the feedback, Sophia. Yes, I think you've captured what I was going for, including the title. I think taking some of the expository information out of the dialogue is good advice. For the tension/tone of the dialogue, I am leaning a lot on the daydream-ness to make things rosier than they would be in real life. But it is a good point that even when daydreaming, one might anticipate more hesitant moments, at least at the start, and getting over these initial hesitancies is something that would be intere...

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22:32 Nov 07, 2022

Francois! This was delightful :) I meant to comment earlier, forgive my delay. But I loved the twist at the end of the story! I didn't see it coming, which made me enjoy it even more. This feels like a study in "chances not taken". A real look at what could have been under different circumstances. Your characters and dialogue were very well done. Great job!

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Francois K
05:47 Nov 08, 2022

Thank you, Hannah! I'm glad you enjoyed it, and I appreciate your comment. I like "a study in chances not taken." I think that's a good description of it. I also wanted to leave it hopeful at the same time and show that it may not be too late for him to rekindle his romance with Helen/his passion for his art.

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15:49 Nov 08, 2022

I honestly really appreciate the hopeful note, it made me feel happy even at the finish of the story :)

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