Adventure Romance Thriller

It a gorgeous August night. The heat has been tamped down with a cool breeze reminding us all that fall is right around the corner waiting for us. Tonight, our small town celebrates the children and teachers gearing up for the start of the school year. I always thought of it as a funeral for the last day of summer.

Charlie steps up to the mic under the gazebo at the center of town. Sticky sweat gathering on the back of his neck and running away from his hairline. He’s not a public speaker. He has never had the urge to be the one in the spotlight; in fact, he preferred being behind the scenes. He got an F in his speech class in high school, which he is SURE that his teacher took the most pleasure in giving him because of the big smile on her face as she handed him his final grade. Despite how much tutoring he put in with her he never could get over his fear of the judging eyes upon him.

Here he is anyway. Feeding this crowd their weekly gossip and giggles for the next week. While his stomach is twisted into impossible knots that will take two weeks to ease. Maybe months to loosen if things don’t go well.

Charlie taps the mic coercing a loud squeal from the speakers. He clears his throat and rubs the back of his neck. Realizing his mistake too late he quickly wiped the sweat off on his pants.

“Hello, thank you all for allowing me this time up here.” He mumbles.

“I honestly did not expect to be here today let alone standing up on this stage.” This elicits a low humored grumble from the crowd.

As he searches through the crowd, he locks eyes with her: Noémie Lemaire. My delight; My pleasantness. The baker that came to this small-town Connecticut from France. Her exquisite, sharp features gently holding the sunlight and all of his attention. Those deep hazel eyes inspecting him with pure curiosity.

Suddenly the lump in his throat softens and gives way allowing him to continue, giving him courage.

“I know this may be a shock seeing me up here. You all know me as a pretty quiet and reserved man, but I’d like to open today’s festivities with a song I wrote for someone here. Someone that I am sure you all know by now is very special to me” Charlie picks up his guitar from its case. Something he has only ever done in private, and he begins to think of all the ways this could go wrong.

They could laugh him off this stage and he would not blame them. He’s not a musician, he’s a local accountant for the businesses in this small town. Everyone must think he’s a fool with his skinny tie, suit pants, and old guitar in his hands.

Charlie looks to Noémie. She’s smiling. The most encouraging and generous smile he’s seen since his mother first allowed him to put on a show for her in their backyard.

“Can’t forget the way she grabs my attention

And takes away all my apprehension,”

The guitar strings vibrate beneath his fingers creating a satisfying chord that calms his nerves.

“She makes me brave

She’s all that I crave,”

The melody continues through the crowd as he plays the final few chords.

“She is pure, and she is kind

I need her around all the time,”

The chords he plays are seemingly intricate, but he’s practiced this moment and song so many times that they come naturally and swiftly to his fingertips.

“Marry me

Oh, Noémie please marry me.”

The last line comes out as a near breathless prayer more than a question. His nerves now clenching at his throat even as he stares into her ever calming and steady eyes. His fingers tremble as he takes the ring out of its hiding spot behind the neck of the guitar and holds it out for her.

The whole crowd turns to Noémie now waiting for her answer. She plays them no mind as she walks to the stage never breaking eye contact. She has always had the confidence he craved. She wears it on her sleeves like armor. Impenetrable.

She’s in front of Charlie now. She takes the ring from his slick, shaky fingers and flashes her brilliant smile. She lets a tear fall onto her stark white blouse as she slides the engagement ring onto her finger.

“Of course!” She whimpers in her thick French accent.

Charlie gently drops the guitar back into his case and sweeps her into a zealous embrace. His friends and- albeit distant-family that he has known since he came to this sleepy town for a quainter life are cheering and hollering below their feet.

“Now let’s get the hell out of this spotlight before I turn into a puddle”

“Yes, let’s go celebrate,” she muses as she holds both of his hands in hers.

As quickly as the crowd took up cheering, they dropped it as her husband, Josiah, cuts roughly through the crowd flanked by two deputies. He is the sheriff, so this is not unusual, but their pace is what sends panic through Charlie’s bones.

He’s never been one to fight let alone steal someone’s wife. He kicks his guitar case closed as Noemie spins and pulls him away from the gazebo in the opposite direction of her husband. She picks up a case tucked beneath the stairs, and they race to Charlie's car parked just a block away from the town square.

Josiah and his deputies are right behind them as Noemie slides into the passenger seat. Charlies takes one look back as Josiah steps into the streetlight and comes a halt.

“Charlie don’t do this. Don’t get in that car.” He pleads with a thick coat of sentiment in his voice.

He considers this for only a moment then slides in next to Noemie. The excitement and relief buzzes between them as they race towards the sunset.

As sun goes down further, Charlie considers the brazen act they both pulled off. Panic beginning to set in as he realized what they had done. He has left the only home he had since his mother passed and a stable job that has been able to afford him stability and comfort like he has never known.

He puts his head between his knees as he contemplates asking her to turn the car around. What a coward she would think he is.

He rolls the window down as Noemie continues to drive looking straight ahead not noticing his distress. He just needs some fresh air.

Charlie checks the back seat to find his guitar case as well as the case she picked up. He notices a sweater sleeve sticking out of the side. She had her bag packed as if she knew this was going to happen. He didn’t even know this was going to happen on this night so how could she?

Charlie notices for the first time the smile hanging on her lips. Not the generous smile he has come to love and admire since he met her a year ago, but a new smile. Something almost sinister hiding behind those lips.

The prickle on the back of his neck begins to percolate down his back and sticks pins in his fingertips as he replays the warning he received from her husband.

It wasn’t a plea of desperation.

He wasn’t asking Charlie to let him keep his wife.

It was a plea of concern for him. For his safety.

March 02, 2022 12:31

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Gip Roberts
18:27 Mar 10, 2022

My goodness, that was the most hair-raising twist I've experienced in a while! I was so relieved to see Charlie overcome his butterflies singing that song that the U-turn in the plot knocked me backwards. I loved the humor at the beginning: "I always thought of it as a funeral for the last day of summer." That's exactly how I always felt about the beginning of a new school year growing up.


Shelby Rose
20:52 Mar 10, 2022

Thank you!!


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Ashmit Kar
08:13 Mar 10, 2022

Did not see that ending coming. Nice story! Would love to see what happens next.


Shelby Rose
13:52 Mar 10, 2022

I hope that’s a good thing! I love writing stories that have a surprising twist, but I might need to work on add foreshadowing for the readers sake. Thanks for your feedback! 😋


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