On Monday mornings, I send out a story via email: ultra-brief tales of 1,000 words or more, usually in genres including horror, science fiction, and the supernatural. Those stories collectively are called Once Upon A Time. I’ve also published several ebooks and compendium volumes of those stories so far.
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The Way of Things
He first bumped into her at the little shop on the corner. She didn’t notice him, but that wasn’t surprising, really. He wasn’t especially noticeable at the best of times. He didn’t speak to her that day at all.
The second time he saw her was at the bus stop. He was walking by, and she was reading a book. He nodded at her when she happened to look up, and she smiled. That was a better day.
She spoke to him in the corner shop a few days later; she asked his name, and he told her, and she introduced herself too. He was a little flustered, but she didn’t seem to mind. They talked for a minute or two, and then she went on her way, and it was almost a week before they ran into each other again. He was relieved when they did, and so was she, and then she told him — without being asked — that she worked in the florist’s shop just down the road. He dared to say he was sorry to hear that, and she asked why, and he said that if he wanted to buy her flowers he’d have to find the next-nearest florist. He was blushing before he’d finished saying it, and fortunately she found it sweet, and she told him so.
They spoke often after that, on most days. It became the highlight of his day, and even though he refused to accept it at first, she seemed to feel the same way.
The weather grew colder, and one day she had a cough, and she remarked that if this were a Victorian drama then the cough would be a harbinger of her upcoming tragic demise and a premature end to their courtship. Then she’d blushed and looked shocked because it was the first time either of them had put a name to their situation, and he’d been delighted.
The cough was gone by the following week, and she said that she must no longer be carrying the plague, and in a quite uncharacteristically bold move, he chose that moment to kiss her.
They had their first proper date two days later, and their second date the next again afternoon. Her friends were asking about him now, and he had already told his own friends about her too. He started making an effort to see her on his lunch breaks, and then it quickly became their custom to take their lunch breaks together. In good weather they’d go to the park and sit on a bench to watch the world go by, and he would wonder at all the things that had to happen in order for him to first see her in the little shop on that day long before. In poor weather they would sit in a café, or hang out in the back of the florist’s, or they’d wander around the other shops in the town centre and look at things, and she would imagine that those things were in a home that they shared, and he would imagine the same thing.
A few months later his lease was up, and she nervously said he could stay with her for a while until he sorted something out. He agreed, being careful not to assume anything, and on the evening after he moved in he reassured her that he would find his own place soon, and when he saw that she was sad he dared to suggest that perhaps they could look for a place where they could both start their life together. Then she cried and she told him that was what she had wanted him to say, and he felt grateful to whatever part of himself seemed so willing to take these risks and leaps with her.
They found a place after some time and many, many viewings, after he reminded her that this place didn’t have to be the place, as long as it was theirs together. They moved in for the second time, but really the first, and it wasn’t so long before he realised that this was what he had been missing in life, and what he had been looking for, and he could no longer imagine or even quite understand what life would be like without the girl from the florist’s shop, and so he went and he bought a ring.
It was a modest ring, but no ring given with sentiment can ever truly be modest, and he found himself worrying and obsessing over how he should give it to her, and when, and accompanied by what words. It began to weigh on his mind, and he tried to hide it from her, but on one evening she came and sat with him and she laughed. He asked what she was laughing about and she smiled at him and shook her head, and she asked if he truly believed she would ever say no.
And so they were engaged, and in time they were married, and all their friends — who now belonged to both of them, just as they belonged to each other — said that they had never seen a couple so well suited to each other. They were fortunate because they knew they were fortunate, and they would do well to remember that above all else.
She no longer worked in the florist’s shop, and his work had changed too, but he was still him and she was still her, and in the way that things so often go, there was soon a third member of the family, and in the fullness of time even a fourth. Years later the four even visited the little florist’s shop, and he bought her flowers to show his son how a man did such a thing, and the young boy refused to believe that his own mother had once worked there as a young woman.
There would come a day when one or the other would no longer be there, and he and she both knew that. They had always known, because that was also the way of things. But that day was not today, and not likely to be tomorrow, and so he continued to be the him that he was with her, and she continued to be the her that she was with him.
As they lived each of the many, many days that came before the distant future day when they would find themselves one fewer in number, they tried always to remember that this was the most normal, and natural, and most common way of them all.
I hope you enjoyed this brief tale. If you have any thoughts or questions, I’d love to hear from you; I'm @mattgemmell on Twitter.
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