2022 February Flash Fiction Challenge: Day 10
I’m a big fan of love in all forms—familial, friendly, platonic—but as this is February, romance is a little more on the forefront of my mind. However, romance doesn’t always mean chocolate and flowers; everyone has quirks that their partners have to discover to best woo them.
For today’s prompt, write something romantic.
Remember: As mentioned yesterday, these prompts are just starting points; you have the freedom to go wherever your flash of inspiration takes you.
(Note: If you happen to run into any issues posting, please just send me an e-mail at email@example.com with the subject line: Flash Fiction Challenge Commenting Issue.)
Here’s my attempt at writing something romantic:
Mac didn’t really want to go tree hunting.
That’s what her dad always called it. She remembered being young—probably four or five, though her early memories are scrambled by time—and her dad bundling her into the truck, taking it slow on the icy roads of rural Pennsylvania. They always went to the same tree farm. Her little purple boots crunched through the snow as they inspected tree after tree.
“This one?” he would ask. “Or this one?”
He wasn’t patient with everyone, but he was patient with her. She didn’t like the term “Daddy’s girl,” but they had always been close, the way that Michael and their mother had always been close.
In the early years, Dad would cut the tree. When she was 11, he let her do it for the first time. Even as an adult, they’d always go tree hunting, just the two of them, while the rest of the family set up the tree stand and brought all of the ornaments out of the attic.
“I think you and Arthur should go this year,” Michael said as soon as she and Arthur dragged their luggage outside.
“Really?” she’d given him a side-eye. “You don’t want to come?”
He shrugged. “That was always you and Dad’s thing.”
And Dad’s not here anymore. It hung between them, even unsaid.
“Besides, Dad liked Arthur a lot. And I think he’d be happy that you’re keeping the tradition up with someone you love.”
Mac cut the engine, and the truck’s engine tick-tick-ticked down. Arthur pushed his glasses up his nose and squinted out the front windshield. “We came at a good time—not too crowded.”
They hopped out of the cab and made their way through the trees. The more they walked, the quieter it got—the shriek of children hopped up on hot chocolate and the promise of Christmas gifts faded like a memory. Mac burrowed her hands in her coat pockets and took a deep pine-scented breath. The air was sharp, like grief.
Just last year, she and her dad were out here. It was hard for her to believe—it felt like a lifetime ago but also like it’d only been a few seconds. She could almost hear his footsteps, his laugh.
“I’m getting too old for this,” he’d complained as he rubbed his gloved hands together. “Someday I’m going to sit in the truck and you and Arty can stamp around in the cold.”
God, he’d been so alive. They’d always rolled their eyes as he exaggerated his aches and pains, winking at Michael’s kids and hiding a smile in the corner of his mouth. No one had guessed he might be sick.
She turned and saw Arthur squinting up at a decently sized tree. It took her a moment to feel present. Arthur was thin and gawky and always held himself as if his body surprised him. The hand saw was hanging kind of awkwardly from his hand, and he had his hat pulled all the way down to his eyebrows, which were furrowed as he eyed the tree in question.
“Hmm.” She came back to his side and laid her cheek on his upper arm. The tree wasn’t too tall, but it had a really good shape, the branches full and stiff. It was something you might expect to see in a Hallmark Christmas movie. “That one’s kind of perfect, actually. I can’t believe I walked right by it.”
Arthur tossed the saw into the snow at their feet and tried to put his arm around her, but his puffy coat made it awkward. She smothered a laugh.
“Hey, you,” he whispered.
“I’m happy to be here with you,” he said, “but I wish it was your dad instead.”
She looped her arms around his middle and gave him a little squeeze. “Thanks. And thanks for coming.”
“Thanks for inviting me.”
Suddenly, the years unroll in front of her. She can see December after December of tramping through the snow with Arthur, bickering and laughing, doing this over and over until the space her dad left behind doesn’t feel as overwhelming. Not a replacement, but a shift. A new tradition.
“I love you,” she said.
“Love you back.” He bumped her hip with his. “You’re going to do the tree-cutting, right? Because I’ll be honest, sweetheart, I don’t think my noodle arms are good for it.”
She laughed. “Oh, that was never a question.”