Here is my short story in response to the Flash-Fiction photo prompt provided by award-winning author, Suzanne Burke this week.
The Park Bench
The wooden slats creaked when Jim sat down on the park bench. He held a bouquet of red chrysanthemums. The cool air, warm sun, and the smell of autumn leaves brought peace to his tired body.
It was October 18, 2019, which marked the 30th year of meeting Julie Henderson every Friday afternoon at 1:00 pm.
In 1989, they were strangers sitting next to one another on this same bench. Julie was reading a book and Jim was eating a sandwich. They glanced at one another and soon struck up a conversation discovering similar interests and histories. They were both divorced, each had three children and careers. Julie was a nurse and Jim was caught up in the corporate world but had dreams to open up his own restaurant.
Jim looked up to see Julie standing there as beautiful as the first time they met. He gave her the bouquet saying, “Happy anniversary, my love.”
After an hour, Julie stood up. “Oh, my goodness. I must leave and get to the hospital for the evening shift. It was nice to meet you.”
“Wait. Do you come here often? I am being presumptuous, but I would like to see you again,” Jim stammered.
Trusting her instincts, she smiled and said, “I am here every Friday at one in the afternoon. I like to come here and enjoy nature, the quiet, and to gaze at the beautiful oak tree across from this bench.”
“Perhaps we could meet here next Friday. By the way, my name is Jim Agen.” He extended his hand.
Julie took his hand and replied, “I am Julie Henderson. I’ll be here.”
They both felt a special energy sweep through them when their hands touched.
For several months, they met each Friday, same time and place. The park bench knew when they held hands for the first time, each embrace and kiss, and heard their words of affection.
When the weather changed to winter, they just swept the snow off the bench and enjoyed the wintry beauty. In the spring, they breathed in the fragrant smells from the cherry blossoms. On a hot summer day, Jim proposed to Julie. They got married on October 19, 1990, standing in front of their favorite bench decorated with red chrysanthemums and red leaves from the oak tree. It had been a part of their lives from that first meeting and was proud to be at the center of the ceremony.
Over the first months of marriage, Julie encouraged her husband. “Follow your dream of having your own restaurant. Don’t let naysayers stop you.”
With his wife’s help, Jim opened his restaurant Autumn, serving soups, sandwiches, and homemade desserts. It was a successful business and soon he opened two more restaurants naming them Autumn Leaves and Autumn Waltz. The couple filled one wall of each restaurant with books available for the customers to enjoy. Soothing music playing Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, an orchestral rendition of Autumn Waltz, or Nat King Cole singing Autumn Leaves completed the ambiance. Julie quit her job at the hospital and became the manager of all the restaurants.
Despite their busy schedules and were married, they continued to spend every Friday afternoon together on the park bench. They talked about their week, hopes and dreams, growing family, and love for each other. Julie loved to say, “I think the angels were tripping over each other to find a way for us to meet. I am grateful that you decided to have lunch in the park that Friday.”
The years passed by, and one Friday only Julie came to the park. Once again, the board creaked as she sat down, letting out a sorrowful sigh. She spent her time talking out loud as if Jim were there. A tear fell on one wooden slat and Julie thought she heard a moaning sound.
Six months later, the October sky was cloudy and the last of the oak’s leaves had fallen. It was Friday, but the park bench was empty. It missed Jim and Julie who never sat on the park bench again.
I hope you enjoyed my short story and I welcome your comments. Writing in a flash-fiction format is fun and challenging at the same time. If you would like to participate in this or any future Flash-Fiction opportunity, please click on this link https://sooozburkeauthor.com
Suzanne Burke is an outstanding and creative author.