Free Short Story: Look, Don’t Touch! by Emily-Jane Hills Orford

She was cute. I’ll agree to that. Three years, perhaps. Hard to tell. She wandered amongst the vendors at the craft market. Alone. At least, that’s how it appeared. There was a woman pushing a stroller several vendors behind. Perhaps she was the mother. She certainly didn’t seem as attentive as I would have been when my family was younger. However. Sign of the times, I guess.

The girl wandered to my booth and stood looking at my art cards and books. She glanced quickly at me, said a cheery “Hi”, as she made eye contact. She definitely wasn’t shy. I returned her greeting. Satisfied that she had my attention, which perhaps she interpreted as a sign to grant permission, she reached one hand up to the table, presumably to touch one of the books. She was of the age where touching things was a part of learning. However, with a sucker in the other hand, I could only surmise that her hands were sticky.

I flashed a quick look at the woman I assumed to be the mother. The woman was too busy talking to the other vendor to show any care or concern for her daughter’s whereabouts or for her safety, for that matter. I was being forced into an awkward position, protecting my display or being ‘nice’ to a little girl who was unsupervised. I chose the former.

In my best, gentle teacher’s voice, I said, “Look. Don’t touch!”

She quickly pulled back her hands and smiled at me. There was a reflection of guilt in her eyes. She started chattering, incoherently. I glanced at the mother again and received a glare in return.

The little girl moved on to the next table. Cosmetics. I watched. The vendor was busy with a potential customer. I knew that cosmetics could be toxic if used incorrectly. The girl reached for one of the cute little jars. “Remember,” I quickly cautioned, using my gentle, but firm, teacher’s voice. “Look. Don’t touch.”

There was nothing threatening about my voice. The girl was at that age where manners and proper etiquette could easily be taught. I knew it was the parents’ job to do this, but, in the absence of even the mother’s attention, I made use of my teaching skills. Sweetly, she pulled back her hands again and smiled at me. The mother glared at me. Again. And marched right past my table.
The phone can also have issues that are as a result of the malfunctioning of the food absorption process in the body, which might be caused buy online viagra due to several emotional and psychological reasons. Many people using this medicine do not have viagra generic for sale seams, you are doubly protected against friction. They may also preclude the discharge of toxic materials and pfizer viagra promoting the absorption of nutritious things, meanwhile, combining with invigorating spleen for diuresis, this can be taken by men who have crossed the age of quick service with cheap rate. Many males have reported experiencing erectile dysfunction while suffering from a sexual problem, tadalafil cheapest expect to get a magical treatment.
Two tables along, the mother started handling sewn creations. The girl was with her mother, now. Still ignored. But that didn’t stop her. “Mommy,” she said in her sweet voice. “Look. Don’t touch.”

I bit back a smile as the woman glanced my way, a glare creasing across her brow. She moved along again. And handled a few more items on display. Each time the mother touched something, the girl repeated her newly learned knowledge, “Look. Don’t touch.”

About the Author:
An avid gardener, artist, musician and writer, Emily-Jane Hills Orford has fond memories and lots of stories that evolved from a childhood growing up in a haunted Victorian mansion. Told she had a ‘vivid imagination’, the author used this talent to create stories in her head, allowing her imagination to lead her into a different world, one of her own making. As the author grew up, these stories, imaginings and fantasies took to the written form and, over the years, she developed a reputation for telling a good story.

Emily-Jane can now boast that she is an award-winning author of several books, including Mrs. Murray’s Ghost: The Piccadilly Street Series Book 1 (Telltale Publishing 2018) which was named finalist in the 2019 N.N. Light Book Awards, Mrs. Murray’s Hidden Treasure: The Piccadilly Street Series Book 2 (Telltale Publishing 2019), Mrs. Murray’s Home: The Piccadilly Street Series Book 3 (Telltale Publishing 2020), Queen Mary’s Daughter (Clean Reads 2018) which won the 2019 N.N. Light Book Awards, King Henry’s Choice (Clean Reads 2019), and several other books. A retired teacher of music and creative writing, she writes about the extra-ordinary in life and the fantasies of dreams combined with memories. For more information on the author, check out her website.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Want to have your story published here? Click here for instructions how to submit.

Free Short Story: What I Meant to Say by Marianne Arkins

The bell rang over the door, only five minutes until closing. Before the sound had faded a man’s voice cried, “I have an emergency!”

Di stopped putting the cut flowers into the cooler and looked at him, puzzled. “You do realize this is a flower shop, right? Not the hospital.”

He dragged a hand through his already messy brown hair and then waved it about impatiently. “Of course. But it’s my mother’s birthday tomorrow. She lives in Nevada. What do I do?”

Di couldn’t help but smile at him. He was tall, lanky and completely disheveled. “You tell me what kind of message you want to send her.”

“Message? I don’t want to send a message, I want to send flowers, you know, lilies or roses or something. She likes yellow ones.” He looked around the shop, a wild look in his eyes. One finger jabbed at some flowers. “And those.”

Di only shook her head. She laid a hand on his shoulder and directed him to the front counter. “Yellow roses are for friendship, and that lily you just pointed at? Means ‘I burn for you’, which is probably not a message you’d send to your mother.”

He frowned and shook his head. “She won’t know that, so what does it matter? It’s pretty.”

“She won’t, but I will. And so will you once I’m done.” She pulled out a notebook and opened it in front of him. “Now, tell me how you feel about your mother.”

And when his face softened and his lips turned up into a slight smile, Di’s heart gave a squeeze. Nothing was sweeter in this world than a man who loved his mama.


She thought about him often over the next seven days, Mr. Seth Armstrong who loved his mother. She wondered how his mother liked her specially chosen bouquet, hoped the florist in Nevada had included the sheets she’d emailed to include with the gift.

She thought about the stories Seth told her about his mom, the things she’d done for him and his brothers, the cookies, the discipline, the love. She sounded like an amazing woman, and seemed to have raised a pretty incredible man.

She was just finishing a bouquet for an engagement dinner, and slipped in a sprig with lemon blossoms, ‘faithful love’, to set off the rest of the flowers. A moment later the bell rang and she pasted on a smile then turned to face her latest customer.

“Seth.” She blurted out his name without thinking and wondered if her thoughts of him showed on her face. “Another emergency?”

He grinned. “Sister. She’s pregnant with twins and worried. Her husband is deployed overseas. I just want to let her know I’m thinking of her, but couldn’t bring myself to send flowers like usual since I might end up saying something like, ‘I wish you were dead’ or ‘you’re one hot mama’. You’ve ruined my ability to order flowers online.”

“Best news I’ve had all day.” She laughed and pulled out her notepad again. “Tell me about your sister.”

He did. He talked about how he made her the scapegoat of all their adventures as children, how he scared off most of her boyfriends until the man she married wouldn’t be intimidated. He mentioned how frustrated he was that they lived so far apart and how much he missed her.

Seth Armstrong truly wore his heart on his sleeve.

“I know just the bouquet.” She scribbled a few more notes and then looked up at the man leaning on her counter. He wasn’t handsome, not really, but certainly not repulsive either. The kind of guy you really didn’t notice until something he said or did lit him up. His smile was magnetic, his warm brown eyes glowed whenever he talked about his family and he was funny and clever.

Di was well and truly enamored of the man. Too bad he didn’t seem to see her as anything but the flower lady. Her own fault, really. She was no good with conversations unless they were about vegetation and flowers, had never learned to flirt, didn’t bother with make-up and couldn’t see the point in a hair-stylist when all she did was French braid her hair every morning to keep it out the way when she worked.

She imagined that she was much like Seth: unremarkable unless she became passionate about something.

He came in a few more times during the month. Flowers for his assistant, or an elderly neighbor whose 16-year-old poodle had passed, or his niece’s first ballet recital. He shared small details about each person, things most folks likely wouldn’t have noticed: the way they smiled or the perfume they wore or their favorite color. He was incredibly sweet and remarkably observant, except when it came to noticing the crush she was fast developing on him.

When one of the cialis online cheapest seven chakras is blocked, the cooling would not be proper. The drugs best price on levitra are available at affordable prices and fast delivery is ensured. discount cialis Presently, it is being utilized as the prime remedy to take care of erectile dysfunction or ED is a physical change and not a disease as most men consider it to be. His unique ability to age actors is spell binding and so is his talent levitra prices for sculptured prosthetics. Tonight, Friday, Di was determined to get a real life instead of living in her head. She headed for the front door to lock up, and then she’d call her newly single neighbor about having a girl’s night out somewhere. Just as she slid the deadbolt into place, Seth’s face popped up in the window. He folded his hands into a prayer, clearly pleading to be let in.

How could she possibly resist?

“Thank you!” He dashed inside and grinned. “As always, I’m in desperate need of your help.”

“Who’s it for this time?” Di asked, moving to her counter and picking up the notepad to write down details of this latest lucky lady.

Seth’s cheeks colored a bit and he ducked his head. “Well, there’s this woman I’ve been thinking about for awhile now, and I figured I just needed to bite the bullet and ask her out. You’re so good with flowers, I knew you’d be able to find the perfect assortment to tell her I’d like to get to know her better.”

Di’s heart dropped. The pen in her hand trembled a bit, but she forced a smile on her face and asked, “What’s she like?”

His eyes lost focus and his lips turned up into a hesitant smile. “She’s amazing. Quiet but sweet and friendly and caring. Smart but not conceited or snarky. Kind to everyone including goofy forgetful men like me. Both unremarkable as well as unbelievably amazing. I can’t stop thinking about her.”

Di murmured ideas, writing them down on the pad in front of her. Once she’d brainstormed a bit, she’d see what she had on hand, and which of her ideas would mesh the best together.

“Maybe blue salvia for ‘thinking of you’, a single red rose for the romance, a few daffodils for ‘new beginnings’, jasmine for its amazing smell and for ‘sweet love’ which is a great first date sentiment…” she wandered away into the cooler still muttering to herself. A moment later, she poked out her head. “I’ll just be a minute. This is going to be gorgeous!”

Seth gave her a thumbs up and rested a hip against the counter.

Fighting back a growing bit of jealousy and sadness, Di determined to make the most stunning bouquet she’d ever done. Once done, she stepped back to look at it, pleased with the result. She scooped it up and headed back out to the front sales area.

She handed him the flowers with a wobbly smile. “Here you go…any girl should be thrilled to get this. I’ll just ring it up.” She took his credit card and processed the payment quickly, ready to be done with this awful moment. She handed him his receipt. “Thanks, as always. You’re becoming my best customer.”

“Glad to hear it. I’m also glad you let me barge in after closing time. I mean, it’s Friday after all. You probably have a hot date.”

She scrunched her nose. “Possible girl’s night out is all.” She rounded the counter to let him out. “I hope she appreciates the thought you put into those.”

“I hope so, too.” He smiled a little, took a step toward the door and then pivoted to face her. There was the slightest pause before he stuck his hand out toward her. The one holding the flowers. “Do you?”

“Do I what?”

“Appreciate them?”

Di stared mutely at the flowers and then up at him and back to the flowers. “For me?”

He grinned. “For you. It’s you who’s kind and smart and funny. It’s you I can’t stop thinking about. It’s you who I keep making excuses to come see. You who I want to spend this Friday with. And next Friday. And the next.”

The smile on my face stretched so wide my cheeks ached. I reached for the bouquet, my hand resting on his. I squeezed and said, “Yes, I appreciate them.”

Marianne is originally from California but currently living in much colder New Hampshire with her husband, daughter, dogs and cat as well as a few hundred wild birds, chipmunks and a backyard bear that keeps trying to grab the feeders.

She can’t imagine a world without romance or not having stories rattling around in her brain. There are nights when she dreams a complete story, and watches it acted out in her head. Those are the times she wakes up and grabs for a notepad to jot down the important parts – without turning on the light – and hopes it’s coherent in the morning.

Website | Blog | Facebook

Want to have your story published here? Click here for information on what we’re looking for, the payment schedule and instructions how to submit.

Free Short Story: Lunch at the Italian Plaice by Madeleine McDonald

I had not eaten properly for months. On the day Sam died, a neighbour made me sit down at her kitchen table and swallow a bowl of hot soup. Among many kindnesses, that simple gesture stands in my memory as the most practical form of help. Helen, my neighbour, did not tiptoe around the finality of death. “You must eat,” she told me. “You’re in shock. You will be in shock for months. Your body needs food to cope.” Over the next few months, she made me more meals and nagged me to look after my own health.

I always promised to heed her advice and forgot that meaningless promise as soon as the words left my mouth. My health no longer mattered. Nothing mattered. Day after day, I waded through treacle. The children did what they could, but a mass of paperwork still awaited my attention, and I put off making decisions. It took an effort of will to shower every day and dress in clean clothes. Clean, but mismatched. My appearance no longer mattered.

Food became a necessary evil. Before Sam died, we had enjoyed cooking together. Long before it became fashionable, the two of us cared where our food came from. We shopped for plump vegetables on market stalls and filled the freezer with meat purchased from the farm gate. After the funeral, I lost interest. Helen’s meals tasted of wet flannel. Frozen meals reheated in the microwave tasted of wet flannel. Occasionally, on the days when Helen’s nagging registered, I remembered that I should eat fresh produce and bought a bag of apples.

About six months after Sam’s passing, I had to sign some papers at the bank. When I emerged into autumnal sunshine, the street was busy. People swirled around me, walking with purpose, the clack of heels on the pavement announcing their haste. I had a choice. Grab a sandwich and a coffee or go home to another solitary meal of reheated flannel. Home to an empty house.

On a whim, I decided to take a bus out to the docks and have lunch at The Italian Plaice. When Sam and I first discovered it, forty years ago, it was the only restaurant in town which served proper espresso coffee from a hissing, steaming machine on the counter. With time, and cheap air travel, our town became more cosmopolitan, but we stayed faithful to The Italian Plaice.

Back then it was called The Lemon Tree, a name redolent of sunshine and the south. In so many other ways it reminded us of our Italian holidays. An aperitif of dry white wine was served with a little dish of mixed olives. The tables had paper tablecloths. Nonno Guido had scrubbed the premises inside and out when he moved in, but his son never saw the need to update the facilities.

It was Guido’s wife, Nonna Doreen, who was responsible for the restaurant’s incongruous name. Way back when, a newly arrived Guido had patrolled the docks area on foot until he spotted a run-down fish and chip shop called The Battered Plaice. He invested his savings, repainted the facade, and named his new kingdom The Lemon Tree. Word of mouth soon won him discerning customers, but the taxi drivers who brought them to the door persisted in calling it The Old Battered Plaice, as did the locals. Then Guido married his English waitress and in the first flush of love suggested renaming the restaurant in her honour. Doreen suggested a compromise between Latin pride and English stubbornness, and The Italian Plaice was born.

Outside the restaurant, I hesitated. Of course I had eaten there on my own. This would be different. Instead of enjoying my own company for an hour while Sam was occupied elsewhere, I would be killing time in another empty day.

I took a deep breath and entered.

A cautious sip of chilled wine and a bite of olive catapulted me back to our continental wanderings. The days when I dressed to please myself and the world, the days when I pirouetted for Sam’s approval before we went out.
These make canadian pharmacy cialis the internet the best place to buy Kamagra. When you apply this pharmaceutical erection gets to be more steady, which permits cialis on line purchase delaying a sex. Sildenafil citrate belongs to PDE-5 blocker’s family that work on cialis online blocking PDE- enzyme. And in comparison this real smart mail provider never makes false promises. cheap levitra check this
Reality dealt me a sledgehammer blow. What would Sam say if he saw me now? I even heard his voice. You can’t go on like this. I was a mess. A dejected, careworn, shapeless mess. Why would any café owner want me under his roof, oozing despondency and putting other customers off their meal? I had forgotten that we all owe the world the courtesy of a pleasant face.

Yet the staff had welcomed me like an old friend. I took another bite of tangy green olive, seeing Sam’s smile across a pavement table. Many tables, for we explored a country through its food.

The sudden radiance of Italian sunshine and the reassurance of that smile fizzed through the room and through my veins. Come on, love, you can do it.

Nonno Guido and Nonna Doreen had retired, but pride in their hard work permeated every corner of the restaurant. Their legacy still attracted customers. I too had a legacy to maintain. For a start, I would stop driving our children mad with worry.

It was time to take myself in hand. When Guido’s son stopped at my table and asked after Sam, I managed to explain his absence, with dignity, without tears.

He brought over a tiny glass of liqueur to accompany my coffee. “I am sorry for your loss, signora. It was a pleasure to see your husband enjoy his food.”

Time melted away. Yes, he did enjoy his food. And so would I, beginning from today. I sat up straight and held each forkful of pasta in my mouth, savouring chicken, thyme, pine nuts and garlic. A wholesome dish. Perhaps I could cook something similar when the children next came to visit.

The carapace of misery had split and a fragile, vulnerable creature had crawled out into the sun. A new human being bewildered by a world in which the rules had changed. But one who could look life in the face.

About the Author: Madeleine McDonald writes romance novels, poetry and radio pieces. She finds inspiration walking on the beach before the world wakes up.

Amazon author page:

Want to have your story published here? Click here for information on what we’re looking for, the payment schedule and instructions how to submit.

Free Short Story: The Date by Wendi Zwaduk

“Love can come from a first date.” Nixie folded her hands on the table and waited for the guy to appear. She’d talked to her date three times online, and felt so close to him even after such a short time. That had to be a farce, right? She wanted to flip through his description on her phone, but opted to keep the device in her purse. If she checked on him, she’d jinx the date…she just knew it.

Her mind wandered to his profile. Adam Maddow. Gamer, comic nerd, movie buff and tech wizard. She hadn’t believed he was all those things and opted to background check him. The man did exist and worked as the IT person for a local law office. Would he be as handsome in person as he was in the photos? Or was she about to meet Mr. Wrong?

He reminded her of the guy she’d flirted with at Christmas. The man had been sweet. They’d danced and laughed together without him making a move on her. He’d been a gentleman. After her last relationship, she needed someone who could go slower and be strong for her. She wished she’d have written his phone number on something besides a soggy napkin. By the time she returned home, the ink had blurred and the napkin tore. She’d chalked her luck up to having none and wished she’d asked him for a date.

“Nixie?” A man who looked like Adam from the dating website and her Christmas party strode up to the table. “You’re early.”

“I like to know what’s going on.” Just like she’d admitted on her own dating profile. She hated being late and being surprised. She stood. “Adam?”

“The very one.” He smiled. The dimple in his cheek became more pronounced. Pale blue eyes, thick lashes and a perfect haircut, he reminded her of one of her comic book heroes, but more human. He hugged her, then sat opposite her at the table. “I wanted to treat you.”

“You still can do that.” She settled on her chair. “I’ve ordered water for drinks.” Her hands shook. Drat. She hated to look nervous. “Was the drive nice?” She gritted her teeth. So much for not appearing scared.

“Vermillion isn’t that busy,” Adam said. He sipped his water. “No traffic.”

“Ah.” Words teetered on the tip of her tongue, but she stayed quiet. Not talking wasn’t her usual behavior.

“Nixie, what’s wrong?”

“Nothing.” She forced a smile. What was she doing? She wasn’t a meek person. She ran her own business and refused to let anyone push her around. “I’m a little scared.” She met his gaze. “Most people think I’m too forward and I’m trying to be softer, but it’s not working. I liked talking to you in the chats. Are you working on another comic book?” There. She’d stuck to her personality and her fear subsided.

“You remembered the books.” He toyed with his water glass and grinned. “I am. I turned book five into the publisher and I’m waiting on their response. The first four books are getting great feedback.” He paused. “I like the forthright approach. It’s you.”

“Most guys find it a turn-off.”

“I’m not like most guys.” He ran his finger through the condensation on his glass. “You don’t remember me beyond the chats, do you?”

She frowned. Remember him? If she’d have known a guy like Adam in any other part of her life, he’d have stuck in her memory. He kept playing with his glass and teasing her—she wanted to be touched and caressed like that. To be wanted. “No?”

“We’ve met.” Adam sipped the water, then moved the glass out of the way. “I met you at Dodds during your company Christmas party. We danced and talked out on the balcony.”

She pressed her lips together. She could still remember the taste of his kiss, but Adam couldn’t be that guy. He looked more refined and older tonight.

“You don’t remember, do you?” He laughed. “Well, that proves my charm is on the fritz.” He sat back in his seat. “I wondered why you never called. I wrote my name and number on that napkin.”

“If you’re that guy, then what was I wearing?” The man from the party had complimented her on the strand of pearls she’d worn and the pin on her dress.

“A red dress with thin straps. One of the straps broke and you’d pinned it together.” He tipped his head to the side. “And a strand of pearls you’d inherited from your grandmother. The necklace shimmered against your skin.”

She didn’t answer. Anyone could’ve seen the strap or the pearls.

Fullmetal Alchemist cosplay THE BEST, and an album collecting theme songs from the manga series, and D-Formation, voice actress Minori discount cialis Chihara’s latest album, ranked #2 and #3, respectively, on Oricon’s album sales chart for the week of February 27 to March 4, selling 19629 and 15031 copies, respectively. This is generico viagra on line a rare condition that needs medical attention as “penile tissue damage and permanent loss of potency” may result until immediate treatment is acquired. Kamagra Oral Jelly is a more reasonable alternative, which is the reason it viagra 25 mg is getting to know general traffic rules and some rules that are required. It can be very embarrassing talking about it, and some men live their life under the shadow of a problem that can easily be dealt with. cialis without prescription “You were worried your dress would slip and you’d have a wardrobe malfunction.” He leaned forward, resting his elbows on the table. “Nixie, you kept asking me if I was deterred because you’re in business. You said you wanted a guy who would stand up to you without being overbearing.”

“I might have said those things.” She’d uttered ever one of them.

“I’ll never forget the way you felt in my arms when we danced. I’ll never hear soft rock and not think about you. Your hair tickled my ear and you whimpered when you danced. I figured it was from those high heeled shoes,” Adam said.

She’d put him through enough hassle. “I remember.” How could she forget now that he’d pushed? “The napkin fell apart before I could add your number to my phone. I felt so silly, but I wasn’t sure how to contact you.”

“I understand.” He reached across the table. “I’m glad we found each other.”

“Me, too.” She grasped his fingers. The sizzle shot from her hand to her heart, then her brain. He made her weak in the knees. “Did you know when you stumbled on my profile that I was the same woman?”

He nodded. “How could I not?” Adam asked. “Your friend, Darcy, told me you couldn’t stop talking about me.”

Darcy… the woman had a big mouth. Nixie tensed. But why argue? Darcy was right. “You know her?”

“She’s my sister’s best friend,” Adam said. “I’d already been on the dating site for six months, but she and Darcy helped me find you. I wanted a second date.”

“We never had the first one,” she blurted.

“Then let’s make this our first date.” Adam nodded to the dance floor. “You love jazz music, slow dancing, quiet evenings and blush wine, but only one glass.”

When he stood, she accepted the invitation. “You like comic books, action movies and loud music. Are you sure we’ll work?”

“I’m positive.” He tucked his arm around her and led her to the gathering of couples on the checkerboard dance floor. As the music played, he held her close. “Opposites attract and we’ve got chemistry.”

“We’ve also got biology and physics,” she blurted, then wished she could take the words back.

“We do.” His voice rumbled down her spine as he spoke in her ear.

When he gazed into her eyes, her mouth watered. She longed for his kiss. “Adam?”

“Um-hmm?” He brushed a lock of her hair from her face. The band played Moonlight Serenade, setting the mood for the evening. He brushed his nose along hers. “Yes, ma’am?”

He smelled like heaven and felt like sin in male form. She loved the way he held her and the hunger in his eyes. Passion sparked between them and she wanted more. “I want another date.”

“Whatever you want, I’ll do it.”

Nixie rested her head on his shoulder. She should’ve pressed that first night and ensured she had his number, but good things did come to those who waited. She had Adam and a second chance at love. Best date ever.

About the Author: Wendi Zwaduk is a multi-published, award-winning author of more than one-hundred short stories and novels. She’s been writing since 2008 and published since 2009. Her stories range from the contemporary and paranormal to LGBTQ and white hot themes. Find more about Wendi at: website ~ Blog ~ Fan Page ~ Amazon Author Page ~ BookBub ~ Instagram ~ Goodreads ~ Twitter

Want to have your story published here? Click here for information on what we’re looking for, the payment schedule and instructions how to submit.