L. Phillips Carlson ~ freebies


Make yourself at home
and feel free to look
around my attic.
I won’t mind a bit!

Second Thoughts

A very short story
By L. Phillips Carlson

Amanda slipped a little in the reddish mud. This couldn’t be the right place—or was it?

Almost a year ago, to the day, she and Dimitri had walked to a hill overlooking Vodice, where she’d been teaching English to a group of adults and teens. From this vantage point, the Croatian village had shimmered with diffused sunlight; the small grove of ash trees had borne splendid, golden leaves. The many branches enfolded them both, hiding away their first, marvelous kiss—and the second, and the third—

Stupid trees, she thought, as she looked at the autumn-bare, weatherworn guardians. Of course, they hid us. Maybe they shouldn’t have.

He’d shown up the first day of her classes, his rugged good looks a severe distraction to her teaching. They’d talked afterward, laughed, and a week or so later shared secrets over espresso in the only decent café Vodice had. He said he liked her accent—she certainly liked his—and his eyes, his hair, his build—

Stop it, she told herself. This isn’t helping.

She rustled through the ankle-deep, faded leaves. What happened after that was also hidden—snatches of phone calls before being interrupted, meeting him at odd hours in less than respectable pubs, a passionate rendezvous at a friend’s empty country cottage—

At the top of the hill, she looked out. The view she’d remembered from that day was vast, limitless. Now it was cluttered with squat homes, all with dirty, chipped stucco and broken roof tiles.

She thought of the surprise visit she’d planned, of the new dress she’d worn. Her heart skipped almost as much as her feet as she’d made her way through cobbled streets to his apartment. He’d never invited her there—too messy, he’d said, and no time to maintain it. Not suitable for a princess like her. She was going to prove him wrong.

Clutching a pricy vintage, she’d knocked on his door with her free hand, ready to embrace her love when he answered.

The door sounded hollow. Cheap construction, he’d complained earlier, left over from the Communist days.

She had to agree.

The door opened lightly, revealing a pretty woman in Western-style jeans—a woman with a wedding ring. She gave Amanda and her wine bottle a single glance, then her expression darkened. “Dimitri?” the woman called, her voice shrill. He came to the door, too, wearing only shorts, his eyes wide, his mouth agape. Amanda left without saying a word, although plenty of them came through the thin door as she made her escape.

She took one more look at the hill, the village, the view. Just like Dimitri, there was a charming fakeness to it—a pretense to greater times, a self-centered air. How had she not seen this before?

It was evening now. Amanda made her way down the muddy rise, careful not to lose her footing. She would be leaving soon, returning to the States. This place, this once exciting, thrilling place, did not exist anymore, if it ever had.

It was just a hill, nothing more.

end of message!