Sara’s Keys by Amber Hendricks

Hi everyone!  I wanted to share a short story I wrote a few years ago.  The prompt was a set of keys laying on the ground and the story had to be 500 words or less.  I hope you enjoy!

                *******************

Sara’s already sitting in our booth as I step into the diner.  It’s become part of our daily routine to meet at the Royal for lunch and chat about our busy day.  I bend to retrieve a set of keys lying on the floor before sliding into the booth across from her.  Their tinkling joins the cacophony of clinking silverware and dishes as I slap them on the table between us.  She laughs and scoops them up, shoving them into an already too full pocket of her coat.  Sara is always losing her keys.  It’s how we first met.

She had been attempting to balance a coffee cup on top of a stack of books as she fished for something in her pocket.  It had been winter then too.  Her brown hair was swept into a messy tail and she was wearing a pair of fluffy earmuffs.  I could see something glinting in the snow near her boot clad feet.

“Are you looking for your keys?” I asked, gesturing toward the ground.

The snow must have muffled my approach because she yelped, spinning towards the sound of my voice.  In her haste, she lost her precarious hold on the books and they spilled over the snow-laden ground.  Her bottom lip stuck out in the cutest pout as she surveyed the mess around her.

I think I fell in love with her right then.

I helped pick up the books and our hands brushed when we both reached for the overturned cup of coffee.  Even through gloves I could feel her heat.

“There’s a diner I know just around the corner, if you’d let me buy you another cup,” I said.  “It’s the least I can do for scaring you.”

I could see her measuring me, weighing the sense of walking somewhere unknown with a stranger.  It was New York City after all.  I felt like I was falling into the deep cinnamon pools of her eyes as we stood there.  Snow had started falling silently around us and I shivered, drawing my coat closer.  She must have felt sorry for me, standing out there in the cold, because she smiled and agreed to go with me.  That had been three years ago.

I reach into my pocket and finger the small velvet box inside.  If all goes right, we’ll have the rest of our lives together.

“Micah, are you even listening to me?”

I snap my gaze back to Sara’s face and paste on a smile.  She narrows her eyes at me, but smiles back.  That smile.  I almost ask her to marry me right then, but I don’t.  Sara deserves the perfect proposal.

We chat about our day. My story of how Chuck managed to catch his tie in the copier gets interrupted when our lunch arrives.  I watch as Sara tucks into her pasta with gusto.  I’ve always liked that about her.  Sara likes to eat and never worries about what the extra calories will do to her.  I pick at my plate, too nervous about this evening’s plans.  If Sara notices, she doesn’t say anything.

Outside we huddle close as we wait for the light to change at the corner.  I work in the opposite direction but these extra few minutes with Sara get me through my day.  I adjust her scarf and tweak her nose as the light changes.  She leans in to give me one last kiss. I linger, not wanting the moment to end.  There’s laughter in her eyes as she pushes me back and tugs her gloves from her pocket.

“See ya tonight,” Sara calls over her shoulder as she steps into the street.

People mill about me on the sidewalk, but all I see is her.  I should go but a flash of silver catches my attention.  I sigh.  Sara is already across the street as I bend down.

“You won’t make it very far without these,” I call, holding up the keys.

Her mouth curves into a sheepish grin and it’s the only thing I see as I step off the curb.  I don’t hear the screech of tires or the startled cries around me.

There’s only her.

I don’t see her smile melt into a look of horror as the bus slams into me.

I don’t feel the jar of my bones as I’m thrown onto the cold, unforgiving pavement or the warm blood. running down the hand still grasping her keys.

Sara’s keys.

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