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Romance

warning: language

Of course in hindsight, she should not have told her boss to go to hell, but damn it felt good.


 Alicia kicked the door of her apartment open, slamming it into the wall before it rebounded against the cardboard box of detritus from her office desk. The box collapsed onto her, spilling the office supplies, pictures and files on to the floor of her tiny one room apartment. She kicked the logo’d coffee mug from her ex-company toward the kitchen, and left the rest, doing several quick Samba steps to avoid slipping on the loose papers. 


She gave that company 3 years of her life and her conceited Sales Manager John told her she wasn't ‘assertive’ enough! An overachiever her whole life, she did not understand what went wrong. Somehow, always apologizing, even when she was in the right, had backfired into being unemployed. 


 Out of habit, Alicia reached for her phone, answering the instinct to check the messages, maybe an ex-colleague texted, or someone swiped right on her bio.

 She patted her jacket pocket, feeling it empty, then reached into her purse before remembering it didn’t exist anymore. She slammed her purse back down. Along with her job and self esteem, John had taken her work cell phone.

“Damn!” She screamed into the empty room, echoing into walls that didn’t care.


She opened the fridge to find leftover sushi from a bad date two nights ago on the barren shelf, along with a bottle of white wine. Another example of letting a man walk all over her. She didn’t even like sushi. She dumped the ToGo box, and opened the wine, pouring it into the closest cup, the logo coffee mug at her feet.


The last thing she did before she cried herself to sleep on the couch was to open her laptop to look for a new phone, grimace at the price and then buy a used one from an online classified site. She didn’t want to face the world again, especially without a phone. 


The package showed up, a white padded bag, a day later. She stared at the unopened parcel with longing. Just a thin brick, the phone would be useless without a service plan. She had an appointment scheduled at AT&T, but for the next day.

What was she doing with her life. She lost her job, and what if she could not get another one? Alicia had failed for the first time in her life, and her world was spinning out of control. 


 Without her phone, she didn’t know what to do, the walls of her apartment pressed in, trapping her in the slow moving amber of the morning light. After an hour of flipping channels, opening and then closing the one book she had in her apartment, she gave up. How did people live without the instant gratification of a phone? Trembling like a drug addict without her fix she opened the bag. The phone, laying dead in the bottom of the bag glowed rose gold with the possibilities of connection to something better.


She picked it up, and pushed the power button, maybe it had a game to keep her occupied until it received service. It opened up and, it had a signal! She tapped through the apps, thrilled with her new toy. Whoever sent it to her had neglected to wipe the phone, nor remove the sim card. She scrolled through the screens, Candy Crush, Wordle, and many she didn’t recognize.  


Numbers glowed red, announcing 105 unread emails and 5 unread texts.

Instinct drew her thumb. But it felt wrong, these messages were not addressed to her, it would be reading someone's personal mail. Her thumb hovered, she could be a voyeur in this person’s life and they would never know.  


No, she would delete it all. She opened the mail app, and highlighted everything. Focusing on not reading the subject lines, she still saw many spam emails, for offers of credit, for beauty products, and dress shoes. A woman probably owned this phone, she recognized the ads as she clicked delete. It made her feel good, she did the right thing


The text messages were next.


 She opened the app, and then did the same, focused on not reading the texts, but one stood out, drawing her attention.


A text from a ‘JackRabbit Slim’ several days ago. 

Wwhat are you up to? Can I come over 2night?? 12:15 AM

The owner of the phone had sent a text response. 

No, I’m tired.


The JackRabbit put on a full press.

I got something to wake you up, come on - I need to see you- 12:30 AM

Hello you there, Im already in my car, I need you-  12:45 AM

Sara 12:55

Sara! 1:15 AM

Sara, hit me up, youre missing out 1:30 AM


 Alicia felt like a character in a soap opera. A Sara owned the phone. This JackRabbit Slim just wanted to come over for a booty call! What a prick. Hungover, bored and disgusted by all men, Alicia did what she would never do to someone she knew. She responded in kind, tapping out a text response on the phone.

Screw you. We’re done. You’re a pathetic waste of my time- lose this number


Alicia laughed out loud, reviewing her text before she sent it. She would be doing Sara a favor. She clicked send and a thrill shot through her, of putting a man in his place. A position she hasn't been in much. Almost immediately, the phone buzzed in her hand, followed by an electric charge in her body.

Youre back? Can I see you? Comeon baby I need yoU!   


 Alicia grinned at the pleading text. When was the last time anyone had begged to see her? This JackRabbit sounded like an asshole, but he doesn't know who she is, and that gave her a sense of power that energized her like a shot of whisky.


You aint worth the effort it takes the type this out. What is in it for me?

Oh baby I like this new you! What I am not good enough for you?  


The text included a picture, a partial profile, a jaw line, and a frown. Alicia looked at the image, enlarged it on the phone. JackRabbit was certainly handsome, and he looked familiar, but as all beautiful men look familiar, with a strong jaw and a good complexion. She felt the spark of interest grow, fanned by the good looking face, and his interest in her. Her Tinder profile got only weirdos, even on Bumble the men were jerks.


 dinner and a movie? netflix and chill? Im up for anything as long as it is with you :)  


Dinner? I need a Michelin star at least, or dont bother.  


Tonite 8?   


Where? better be good-   


 A fire roared inside her, she felt the thrill, just like when a sale went through, proof of her winning the game. She had the control in her hand. That she was not this Sara person, was unimportant.

She didn’t want to actually meet this guy, Alicia just wanted to see how far she could push him, how far she could take control. Still in her pajamas on the couch, she looked up to her apartment, the cheap and dated posters, and broken lamp that she hadn’t dealt with. It had been only a few days and she felt tired of being in it, she needed something to do. 


What was a Wednesday, in the life of the unemployed? Once a marker of halfway to the end of the week, a hump day to get over and begin the downhill ride to the Weekend. Wednesday seemed dreary, another day of being stuck. The errands, the cleaning which regularly waited for weekends to get accomplished, called to her. To clean a bathroom for no reason on a Wednesday seemed the bottom of despair. 


Alicia’s head ached, she wished to be as carefree and light as the dust particles dancing in the sunlight streaming through the window. She looked down at the phone which she had taken over. 


She scrolled through the photo library, no pictures of anyone she could identify as the owner of the phone, but lots of pictures of a fat, gray, short-haired cat, and plates of food, many of dramatic sushi rolls. Alicia’s stomach turned at the raw fish. Sara took landscapes too, beautiful mountains, and oceans. Is that in Hawaii? Alicia had never been, but that blue looked like the pictures she had seen.


No square-jawed man, or any men at all, not counting a pair of grade schoolers who made cameos every month or so. Maybe nephews?


Alicia stirred, and moved to a sitting position on the couch. She needed a project, and texting with JackRabbit Slim was better than nothing. 

Jack-I dont know if dinner is going to work- I have a better offer


The phone pinged right away

What? I made a resi at Kin Khao, I used a Big Favor! Comeon  

My gf called, wants to go to tacobell. She will let -me- talk   


JackRabbit was an obnoxious conversation hog, she just knew it. 


 Haha. ok- no mansplaining or long stories- promise !  


doubt it. What else you got? 


After five minutes of no response she frowned. She did want to go to Kin Khao. She had heard about the San Francisco Thai restaurant, and the celebrities who regularly went there. She thumbed the screen on the phone, refreshing the feed. Nothing. She should have just respond with a yes. She hasn't been asked out to dinner at a real restaurant, since… only pizza dinners and burritos came to mind. She frowned, thinking of a response.


roses. a dozen enough?  


Goosebumps rolled up her neck, and her lips curled into a smile. She can get used to this.


 Make it 2 dozen. Getting closer.   Tell me something I don't know about you   


I love ballroom dancing  


She didn't expect that, her fingers flew in a syncopated response.


   where do you dance!? 


Golden Gate Smooth Dancers- South City. do you dance? You didnt tell me -  

Alicia remembered what it felt like to float over the floor, her instructor moving with quick determination. She hadn’t danced in months, it was hard to make it every week. Suddenly it clicked, how much she missed it, the release of movement, the energy she took from it. A slow beat began inside her, the intro to a familiar song. Then she had to know.


 Why dancing?   


because it's elegant, because it combines beautiful music, beautiful people and artistic expression - I spend my days in an office- when all I want is to do is move

why do you dance?


Her heart fluttered, she felt warm, and connected. The horns began playing, a piano filling in the melody. She had been looking for this person, someone who shared her passion and she found him on an old phone, with someone else’s number. She looked up, her eyes unfocused, searching for the words. Music coursed through her. How can she describe the feeling she gets when she dances?


I love to dance, because it is the closest I can come to flying


I will be your co-pilot. What about Salsa? I know a place Lets go dancing tonight!


Cha Cha Cha! see you at KK at 8.



She had already put six dresses and two pairs of shoes into the discard pile on her bed, when the realization blew through her like a gray storm cloud. She was not Sara, not the woman JackRabbit Slim was expecting to have dinner with, to give two dozen roses to.

 This stranger intrigued her, she had to meet him, and to do that, she had to tell the truth, even if it ended their connection before it even really began. She looked into the long thin mirror in her closet door. Would JackRabbit even like her? She wasn’t bad looking. Objectively, an 8. Maybe a 7. She was out of shape though, and too many hours on a phone at a desk, and not enough dancing.

She closed her eyes, the mirror didn’t matter. Texting with this JackRabbit, made her feel like a 10. Being herself, felt good.

Alicia knew this was all that mattered. She didn't want to pretend to be Sara anymore. She wanted to be Alicia, the real Alicia, not the obsequious one she was at work, always letting her customers get the final say.

 She will be the Lead in this dance, and JackRabbit Slim needs to get in line.  

  Jack, just to let you know-- This isn't Sara. This is Alicia. I have her phone, longstory, but be on the look out for the gorgeous bombshell in red


 Was that too much? She wasn't going to apologize for pretending to be someone else. She was never going to apologize again.


I knew something was different. Sara never talked like that- and never wanted to dance. Looking forward to the bombshell !!! 😀


Does she get there first, second? Alicia couldn't decide, and then because she has never been late before in her life decided to try it out. He will have to wait for her.


She skipped into Kin Khao and then seeing the full restaurant, the Maître d' smiling at her, she pulled off to the side. Her heart raced, her entire body flushed with heat and adrenaline. She can’t do this! She breathed out, she needed a pep talk in the mirror.


 She saw the sign, and headed to the restroom. Alicia turned the corner and side-swiped a man, in the collision he spilled two glasses of white wine on her shoes and his pants. She looked up to see of all people, her ex-boss, John.


The last words he had spoken to her, “You’re fired!” rang in her ears.

 Red lightning shot across her vision as pent up rage boiled out of her. The responses she was too numb to think of then, poured out now.


 “I’m not -assertive enough!” Alicia yelled, responding to a conversation that ended three days ago. “I might not be the best salesperson, but I have the best customer service scores, best customer growth numbers-”

John’s eyes went wide and his mouth fell open. He held up the empty wine glasses as a shield from the bomb exploding in front of him.


“And just because the rest of the team screws their customers with delivering crap they didn't order does -not- mean I’m not assertive enough! “


 She felt the tears in her eyes and the stares from the rest of the restaurant. She didn’t care what anyone thought about her, she needed to let this out, no matter that she was wearing a strapless red cocktail dress and in high heels. She moved in a box step around him, jazz hands flying.


 “They only care about themselves- I look after the accounts! Fuck you, and fuck that damn company!” Alicia pirouetted, moved off her stage, and then outside. Her date, her big night out forgotten. 


The cool outside air pulled the rest of her anger away and her whole body deflated into exhaustion. She collapsed on the curb, hugging her knees.


Cars drove by, their headlights piercing the night, on the way to somewhere, accelerating toward a purpose. Alicia felt stuck, her music stopped and she had no place to go.


 A man sat down next to her, holding two dozen roses.


 “Hello Alicia, or should I call you Sara?” 


Alicia looked over to see John. “No, damn way. You have to be kidding me. You?” 


“Sara called me Jack.” He tapped the roses against his hand. “You’re right, you know. Several of your customers complained, they thought the other sales guys, especially Bill, were too aggressive.” 


He put his head down and then looked up. “I can get you your job back- it has just been a few days-” His eyes stared into the roses. 


“No,” Alicia shook her head. “You are an asshole. You won’t change, and I didn’t like myself when I worked there. I’m tired of who I was.”


“Ok then. Is this it, we’ll never see each other again?” Jack frowned.


 “I don't like John, the sales manager. But Jack the ballroom dancer who shows up with two dozen roses, that guy is all right.” Alicia smiled. “Maybe we can start there..."


 “I like the new Alicia too.” A smile grew across his square jaw.


 “I’m still up for dinner, and I wore my dancing shoes.” Alicia looked down at her black Capezio heels with ankle straps.


 “I have found when I dance, it is not about getting to a certain place, but to enjoy each step along the way.” Jack said.


Alicia put out her hand. 


 “Comeon, let’s go flying.” Jack pulled Alicia up off the curb and into her new life.


August 25, 2023 15:53

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15 comments

Joe Smallwood
17:35 May 27, 2024

I really like the way you write. It flows, with a certain cadence and rhythm that I don't always see. I started to lose interest somewhat around the time that the texting started. Losing a job is so incredibly devastating, I just couldn't see how dancing and going out was realistic. So from that point, the story was a wash for me. But maybe there are people who just want to escape. A story doesn't have to be bad for a reader to disengage, obviously. I case you are wondering why I chose this story to read, I wanted something recent and a stor...

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Marty B
22:24 May 27, 2024

Thanks for comments. In this case 'escapism' is why Alicia wanted to go out and meet someone, I can see what it didn't make sense though. TO answer your question- Yes! IMO- the 'better' story engages the most people, and connects with them, touches a nerve inside them to feel real. Now- How to do that is something I'm still working on! Thanks!

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Amanda Lieser
15:37 Sep 23, 2023

Hi Marty! What a crazy turn of events! I love the way that this story is started out with a cell phone because I think that the integration of technology into art is increasingly important live in the 21st-century, and no longer are the days of random letters. It’s much more likely that we find our people through technology. I really appreciated that. It also turned out to be a double Catfishing, because perhaps that gives us the ability to be who we always wanted to be. The story was amusing and heartfelt at the same time. Nice work!!

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Marty B
05:36 Sep 25, 2023

I agree cell phones are the new communication method and all the problems of missed communication that come along with it. Technology is a benefit- and a curse- Thanks!

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Tom Skye
16:55 Aug 31, 2023

I enjoyed this very much. Nice arc on the whole thing. I like how even though Alicia was kind of repulsed by Jack at the beginning, he still won her over. What a player! haha. Funny that it was John. Probably accurate as well, because I think many people have totally different (usually more confident) personas on dating apps. Nice twist on the prompt as well. Great job.

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Marty B
20:41 Aug 31, 2023

I tried to follow the Rom story arc, the MC has to dislike/hate the eventual love interest! You are right on the nose - people act quite different online, for better and worse! Thank you!

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Michał Przywara
20:42 Aug 30, 2023

That's a really neat take on the prompt, with the phone and all the messages it contains. For a moment it even seemed like it might have gone horror (what happened to the previous owner, is it a dead woman's phone, etc.) but it takes a very different turn indeed. The twist with Jack being John was perfect :) Didn't see it coming at all, but not only is it fun, it also doubles down on the theme of work-personality vs real-personality, from another angle. Thanks for sharing!

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Marty B
00:15 Aug 31, 2023

This exact scenario happened to a friend, may years ago, although they laughed at the man's ridiculous texts to women late at night, they never responded back. We all have different sides, depending on our situations. Some manage it better than others! Thank you!

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Kevin Logue
07:55 Aug 29, 2023

This was really good Marty. You capture emotion in such visual ways. From the down trodden recently unemployed, to financially distressed, depressed, man hating, phone needing MC, was a rollercoaster. The inclusion of music made me think the whole thing had a deeper rhythm, verses, choruses and bridges. Then the mystery begins and through it Alicia gets some hope, rekindled passion for dance. The arguement with former boss and now potential lover described through dance was quite genius. This is a fantastic entry and although the first of ...

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Marty B
18:06 Aug 29, 2023

Thanks for the good words! I had Danny Hathaway blasting while I wrote this, he helped with the rhythm! I just wish I could dance, I can feel the beat, but it gets Lost in Translation ;) Thanks for the good words!

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05:03 Aug 28, 2023

Fun story. Nice to see one that really uses texting well, and mixed signals/identities always works. I liked the happy ending where they forgave each other as well. It does feel like you need one more full edit to prune a few words here and there. Good luck in the compeititon!

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Marty B
05:09 Aug 28, 2023

Thanks- will review!

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Unknown User
20:30 Aug 31, 2023

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Marty B
20:36 Aug 31, 2023

Thanks for the good words! A Good tip generally, to win over a crush, bring your dancing shoes and lot of roses!

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Unknown User
20:44 Aug 31, 2023

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