Search Results for: Lynn Nicholas

The Fork in the Road by Lynn Nicholas

The wedding couple were our colleagues. They seated you at my table. The evening was hot and humid—the wine cooling and delicious. I toasted the newlyweds, glass after glass. My professional reserve evaporated.

You waxed witty and teasing, and I leaned into you, giddy and laughing. You asked me to dance. I stood, unsteady. You proffered a supportive hand. Your arm slipped around my waist. I closed my eyes and drank in the scent of you: sun-washed cotton and spicey cologne.

I turned; our eyes locked. Wordless, our hearts signed an irrevocable, binding contract. That night, our paths converged.

Copyright © 2021 Lynn Nicholas All rights reserved

Lynn Nicholas’ first novel, Dancing Between the Beats, was published in 2019. Short fiction and poetry publication credits include Story Snacks and The Storyteller (published by Society of Southwestern Authors), Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, SandScript Arts & Literary Magazine, The Wild Word, Every Day Fiction, The Rose City Sisters, Wow! Women on Writing, Leaves of Ink, and the AARP Bulletin. Lynn is a member of Sisters in Crime and the Society of Southwestern Authors.

Queen of Diamonds by Lynn Nicholas

Six paintings sold! Carey pumped her arms overhead and swayed to Kenny Rogers’ “The Gambler.” Apropos. Her gamble on an unknown artist had paid off. Humming, Carey locked the gallery and set the alarm. The mess and champagne bottles could wait. Besides, a seat at Soboba’s Casino’s poker table, and a couple of martinis, would top off her night perfectly.
 
Except for the smokers loitering outside the dance clubs, the street was empty. The theater wasn’t out as yet. If she’d locked up an hour ago, she could have begged a lift to her car. Carey’s footsteps echoed on the pavement. The long walk to the dirt parking lot was unappealing, but tonight finding parking at all was pure luck.
 
After six blocks, the arts district merged with a once-stylish neighborhood awaiting gentrification. Carey’s feet rebelled in her narrow, new boots. But there it was, right after the fire hydrant—a cobbled alley she knew was a shortcut.
 
Carey hesitated at the entrance. During daylight hours this was just your typical graffitied alley, but after dark it was, well, dark.
 
“Drama queen,” she muttered. “What are the odds?”
 
Carey’s aching feet told her to shut up and take the shortcut. The overhead lamp in the parking lot beckoned from the far end of the alley. She straightened her spine and quickened her pace. Her high-heeled boots echoed on the rounded stones.
 
He stepped out of nowhere, blocking her path. Pale light from a high, semi-curtained window glinted off the garish chain around his neck.
 
“Hey there, hot mama. Slow down. Be easy.”

The man was skinny and twitchy. Tendrils of scraggly blond hair escaped his baseball cap. Carey fingered the car FOB in her coat pocket, wishing it was a mace canister.
 
“I don’t want no trouble, lady. So quick like, what’s in that fancy bag you carryin’?”
 
“Not much.” Her breath caught, and her voice wavered. “My driver’s license, mints, tissues, tampons….”
 
“Don’t dis me, woman. I’m asking nice. You got some coin?”
 
His smile twisted into a sneer—his breath rancid in her face.
 
“I have some twenties and a five. Maybe sixty-five dollars?”
 
Carey handed over both the cash and the breath mints.
 
“Hold up. What’s that flashin’ on your finger?” He held out a flattened palm.
 
The glitzy ring was just a bit of fun. The emeralds and diamonds were excellent fakes. If the punk needed to hold the winning hand, she’d fold. Carey sucked down the rising panic and managed a contrite expression. She twisted off the ring and wordlessly handed it over. A satisfied smirk stretched his cracked lips. Exhaling a relieved breath, Carey swept her long hair behind her ears. Her stomach clenched as she realized her mistake.
 
“You holdin’ out on me bitch? That bling in your ears the real deal?”
 
“Real?” Carey stifled her fear and forced her brain to shuffle possibilities. She affected a nonchalant camaraderie. “Depends who you ask.”
 
“Say what? Stop messin’ with me.” He took a step forward.
 
Carey stood her ground. Fingers trembling, she touched a bedazzled earlobe. A gift to herself, her VVS2 diamonds symbolized her hard-won success. Talking fast, she kept her tone conspiratorial.
 
“Here’s the thing. My boyfriend bought these. ‘Very expensive,’ he said. ‘Insure them.’ The appraiser laughed in my face. They’re worthless fakes. But, if they go missing, and I don’t file for insurance….” Carey lifted her chin. “Do you want to make another man look like a fool?”
 
The punk grabbed her arm, pulling her close. A look of confusion muddled his features.
 
“I don’t give a crap about—”
 
“Hey! You alright down there?” The male voice came from a balcony, three stories up.” A flashlight beam encircled them. “Need me to make a call, lady?”
 
Carey and the punk locked eyes. He gave her arm a menacing squeeze and backed into the shadows. 
 
“I’m okay now, thank you,” Carey shouted. Relief almost brought her to tears. “My car—that one at the end of the alley—could you keep your flashlight on me until I’m inside?” Car FOB in her palm, she ran as quickly as her heels would allow.
 
Carey locked the doors and hit the start button. Her bravado ebbed away, leaving her limp and drained. Her heartbeat resonated in her ears. She leaned her forehead on the steering wheel before facing herself in the rearview mirror. Her lips compressed. How could she have been so blasé and reckless? Light from the street lamp refracted off her prized earrings, and she smiled.
 
“The luck of the draw controls the game, and lady…you just pulled a diamond flush.”

Carey shifted the car into drive, hit the gas pedal, and moved forward.

© Copyright 2021 Lynn Nicholas. All rights reserved.


Lynn Nicholas’ first novel, Dancing Between the Beats, was published in 2019. Short fiction and poetry publication credits include Story Snacks and The Storyteller (published by Society of Southwestern Authors), Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, SandScript Arts & Literary Magazine, The Wild Word, Every Day Fiction, The Rose City Sisters, Wow! Women on Writing, Leaves of Ink, and the AARP Bulletin. Lynn is a member of Sisters in Crime and the Society of Southwestern Authors.

Striking a Chord by Lynn Nicholas

Her gaze met mine. I prayed for a flicker of remembrance. Her lips worked. She patted my hand, but her eyes reflected only shifting images from the big TV screen.

“Look what I brought you.”

I slipped the costume duplicate of Lady Di’s ring onto her finger. She stroked the large faux sapphire.

Stirring music announced the royal wedding re-run. The camera zoomed to the veiled bride’s face.

Mum’s expression transformed. From the front-row vantage point of her wheelchair, she raised her hand in a palm-inward royal wave and, ring displayed, regally fanned the air.

© Copyright 2016 Lynn Nicholas. All rights reserved.
• • • • •
Lynn Nicholas writes out of Arizona, supervised by two dog friends, a supportive husband, and a black cat who keeps everyone in line. Flash fiction publications include:  Every Day Fiction, A Long Story Short, Wow! (Women on Writing), Gay Fiction, and The Rose City Sisters. Lynn is a member of the Society of Southwestern Authors.

Mr. Machismo by Lynn Nicholas

Paige was barely breathing. She hovered over the drinking fountain, her head tilted just enough to follow Tony Moreno’s every movement in the mirrored ballroom. The staccato beat of Tony’s Cuban heels reverberated across the floorboards, his movements precise and powerful. No one could embody the passion of the Paso Doble like Tony. White shirt open, his elaborate gold cross gleamed against his competition-ready, spray-tanned chest. Chin high, teeth bared in a Matador’s snarl, he arched his back and swirled an imaginary cape, stopping mid-step to appraise his line in the mirror. Paige looked up, caught off guard by the sudden silence. With a wicked thrust of his pelvis, Tony winked directly into the reflection of her wide-eyed stare.

Her brain froze. She prayed to St. Jude, the patron saint of lost causes, for quick-witted quip. Flustered, Paige began gulping back water like a drought survivor. Please God, just let him walk past me.

Tony picked up his sweat towel as he strode across the ballroom. Predatory white teeth gleaming, he admired Paige’s bent posture, which treated Tony to tight butt cheeks exposed under her dance shorts. Continue Reading

One Moonlit Night by Lynn Nicholas

A chill shimmied up Elizabeth’s spine, causing her shoulders to contract in a tremulous shudder. She felt oddly disoriented. Massaging gently, careful not to stain her white evening gloves with makeup, she worked her fingertips across her forehead to her temples. If she could relieve the tightness, maybe she could stave-off the damn headache hovering just behind her eyes.

Sighing with impatience at herself, Elizabeth squared her delicate jaw with determination. She tucked a straying ringlet back into place and tugged on the low-cut bodice of her Victorian-era costume: a peacock-blue, silk ball gown. Elizabeth Stanley could barely contain her exasperation at feeling so out-of-sorts, tonight of all nights. The Victorian Grand Summer Ball was her baby. She’d been the heart, soul, and sometimes drill sergeant of event planning for the Pasadena Social Daunce Irregulars for the past fifteen years. This event was the shining star in her personal firmament. This night was hers, if only she could clear her head enough to enjoy it.

Partially hidden in the shadow by the huge stone fireplace, Elizabeth studied the room. It was the ideal vantage point to chart her path across the dance floor. Gathering up the edge of her tiered skirt, she lifted her head, adjusted her posture, and began her sweep of the ballroom. Eyes lighting on no one in particular but watchful for admiring gazes, she circled the floor, each step calculated to show off her costume.

The lighting in the room was soft and flattering. Someone had dimmed the chandeliers and opened the heavy burgundy drapes to allow silvered moonlight to spill across the hall. The gold and brown grain of the polished wood floor gleamed. The swirl of color as the dancers assembled was almost dizzying: gowns of every hue, tiaras catching the light and reflecting rainbows back, men in period costumes ranging from brocade jackets to full tuxedos. Elizabeth caught sight of a classic polonaise gown, circa 1876, in the deepest of emerald greens with a white overskirt, and there was Daniel Taft in full Civil War military regalia. Bruce Anderson was, of course, sporting kilt.

The band members had begun to seat themselves; the scraping of their wooden chairs rose above the buzz of voices. The Band of the California Battalion was playing tonight, in full uniform, authentic down to their period instruments. Light reflected in starry bursts from their brass instruments and medaled chests. Someone new was on second chair cornet. Odd. She knew everyone. Elizabeth nodded towards the musicians but, too absorbed in her own thoughts, failed to notice that her greeting was not returned. The strangest sensation of déjà vu had swept over her. Maybe it’s a past-life memory. She smiled at herself. She’d been living in California for too long. It must be the historical ambiance of old War Memorial Building Elizabeth silently congratulated herself on her event-planning skills.

As she moved through the crowd, Elizabeth’s disquiet grew. Was it her imagination or was she actually being ignored? Had she been a bit too heavy handed at the last meeting? She could swear two of the committee members had looked right through her. Poise shaken, Elizabeth’s cheeks flushed with momentary embarrassment. No. If they had decided to slight her, she was damned if she would acknowledge the snub. She calmly redirected her gaze across the room, discreetly searching the crowd for Peter. Had he told her he would be late? Now she couldn’t remember why she had arrived alone. There was something just at the edge of memory that she was missing tonight. She hoped a migraine wasn’t coming on. Where was Peter, anyway?. Once she found him, everything would be alright. For now, she would pick up her dance card at the reception table and—

“Booking this hall was Elizabeth’s brainstorm. It’s the perfect setting, so we didn’t change.”

Elizabeth paused. Lydia Mercer and some woman she didn’t know were deep in conversation at the reception table. Could they be so engrossed in their gossiping that they didn’t notice her approaching? Elizabeth lowered her eyes and turned slightly away, pretending absorption in adjusting her evening gloves. She leaned closer, just within earshot.

“It was a year ago tonight.” Lydia wasn’t making much of an effort to keep her voice down. “I know you never met her, but you’ll hear about it sooner or later anyway.”

The tiny woman in the pink flounced gown was all ears and eyes, leaning closer to Lydia. “So, what happened exactly?” she said.

Lydia stopped fiddling with the dance cards and focused all her attention on her friend. “Rumor has it that she and Peter—her long-time dance partner—had a terrible fight on the way over. He jumped out of the car, and she drove the last two miles herself. Evidently both she and Peter had been drinking. They say she wasn’t wearing her seat belt, so when she rammed the car into that large oak tree behind the hall, she was thrown thirty feet down the rocky drive.

Elizabeth turned slowly, raising her eyes to the ornate wall mirror just in front of Lydia and the smaller woman. She could see their faces clearly, their voracious expressions.

Lydia continued, breathless with excitement, “She managed to stagger up to the back entrance and collapsed just inside, over there by the fireplace. She died before the paramedics got here. Horrible. Peter never forgave himself. He moved to New Mexico a few months after the funeral.”

Their reflections. Elizabeth saw their reflections. Her head pounded. For the first time she noticed the dirty grass stains on her lovely white gloves, the ruined skirt. Her disquiet became terror. The room spun.

“What was her name again?”

“Elizabeth.” Lydia replied. “Elizabeth Stanley.”

© Copyright 2010 Lynn Nicholas. All rights reserved. 

Lynn Nicholas, a LiveJournal blogger, is also active on FanStory.com as “allinmyhead,”where she posts work for critique and reviews other writers’ submissions. She is the author of “Jumping the Tracks” and “Round One: The Cookie” which appeared on this blog. An experienced technical editor, she is now enjoying honing her writing skills, specializing in humorous commentary. Lynn’s fiction and poetry are inspired by real-life experience. Motto: when life throws you curves, find a way to use it in your writing. She lives in Tucson, AZ.

Round One: The Cookie by Lynn Nicholas

Susan surveyed the wreckage. The ceramic floor tile shone from the patina of spilled sugar crystals. Nearly empty tubes of frosting oozed colored gel, staining the festive paper tablecloths. Susan grasped a cloth at one corner, expertly enfolding decorating paraphernalia and gooey mess all in one deft movement. The crumbled bundle landed neatly in the trash bin. The rest could wait until morning. She was bone-aching tired but deeply satisfied with the evening.

Closing her eyes to the shambles, Susan inhaled the lingering aroma of baked cookies. The holiday cookie-decorating party had been a great idea—current disarray aside. Her friends even asked her to host another one next year. They were all so lighthearted this eveningz; rolling out dough and sharing favorite cookie cutters, joking as they passed bowls of colorful Royal Icing between tables. The finished cookies were gorgeous. Everyone filled tins to take home.

Even Paul’s grown-up daughters had shown up. Notorious holiday cynics, their enthusiastic participation surprised Susan. Their enjoyment in decorating the cookies seemed to be genuine. Heads almost touching, Julie’s blond hair entangled with Anna’s dark, they carefully shielded their handiwork from copycats. The artistic detail on their finished cookies was impressive. Her stepdaughters actually hugged her before they left. Susan smiled to herself. Finally, their coolness towards her was melting. She even heard them giggling as they got into their car. She stretched happily, contentment filling every pore.

Susan kicked her off her shoes and happy-danced towards the bedroom. It had been the perfect party. She had to admit to herself that she’d been eager for her stepdaughters to see her through her friends’ eyes, as someone generous and kind and warm. She was loved by her friends, adored by Paul, and wanted her stepdaughters to, at least, like her. Including them tonight with her friends was a public declaration that they were a family. She took the girls’ participation as their unspoken accord.

Loosening an earring one-handed, Susan reached towards her jewelry box. She froze, eyes widening with bewildered disbelief. The earring bounced off the carpet as her hands rose involuntarily to her mouth. She gasped for breath: gut-punched and nauseous. Embarrassment at her own naivety and stupid optimism flooded her face with hot color. Tears of humiliation blurred her vision. If this was the girls’ idea of a joke, it was cruel and cowardly. She envisioned them sniggering spitefully all the way home, imagining her reaction.

It was a cookie, hand-decorated especially for her and artfully placed where only she would find it, on top of the leather jewelry case. They must have used the Mrs. Claus cookie cutter. No attention to detail had been spared, from the softly curled hairdo and the naked breasts adorned with raisin nipples, down to the vulgar chocolate-frosting mat of pubic hair, enhanced with silver sugar crystals. This was more than a cynical mockery of her holiday celebration; it was a judgment.

Susan took a deep, shaking breath and sank into the bedroom chair. She leaned forward, her right arm protectively hugging her middle; her chin supported on the back of her left hand. She glanced pensively at her husband’s slumbering form. He was everything to her.

Newly resolute, Susan stood up and squared her shoulders. Okay. Now she understood the rules of the game, and she had the home court advantage. The girls were about to learn that she would not crumble as easily as this Christmas cookie. Neither was she as sweet. They had only won Round One.

© Copyright 2010 Lynn Nicholas. All rights reserved.

Lynn Nicholas, a LiveJournal blogger, is also active on FanStory.com as “allinmyhead,”where she posts work for critique and reviews other writers’ submissions. She is the author of “Jumping the Tracks,” which appeared on this blog in June 2009. An experienced technical editor, she is now enjoying honing her writing skills, specializing in humorous commentary. Lynn’s fiction and poetry are inspired by real-life experience. Motto: when life throws you curves, find a way to use it in your writing. She lives in Tucson, AZ.

Jumping The Tracks by Lynn Nicholas

Claire tried hard not to fidget. She leaned against the paneled wall and shifted her weight to her left hip, arms folded, right foot crossed over left. Howard was scrunched on the floor, still tinkering with the track: checking electrical connections, adjusting couplers, aligning joints. There were, evidently, some major mechanical issues. Howard was engrossed. Claire was bored.

“How long to I have to just stand here, Howard?” Controlled breathing curbed the impatience in her voice. “Didn’t you say that model railroading is a great hobby for couples? Remember the ‘couples’ part?”

“Sure, Babe. Absolutely. Just give me a minute to figure this out.” Howard spoke without raising his eyes from the track. “Hand me that small Phillips, okay? It’s the one with the blue handle.”

“Here.” Claire slapped the screwdriver into Howard’s upturned palm with the efficiency of a surgical nurse. She was fed up with being a good sport.

“I think I’ll add another straight section of track; this layout isn’t right. The passenger cars derail every time…” Howard’s voice trailed off, his absorption total. He was lost in that single-minded focus indigenous to the males of the human species.

Caught somewhere between exasperation and bemusement, Claire stared darts at the back of Howard’s head. The man was impossible. For weeks she dropped hints big enough to trip an elephant, and this is what Mr. Romance gives her for their 20th wedding anniversary: an HO-scale, Pennsylvania Railroad model train set, complete with chuff-chuff steam engine sounds and lighted passenger cars. How obtuse could he be? Did she have to hit him over the head? Next time it would be with a club.

“Howard, remember how we used to talk about taking a cruise one day after the kids were grown?” No response. Deaf as well as obtuse.

Claire sighed. Loudly. Indiscreetly.

Being relegated to observer status added insult to injury after Howard’s big presentation and sales pitch just a few hours ago. Grinning like a kid on Christmas morning, he had half-pushed, half-pulled the unwieldy, unwrapped box out of hiding. Talking fast and selling hard, his words had tumbled over each other. “You’re gonna love it, Babe. I got this special for us so we can spend more quality time together. Isn’t what that you keep talking about? Quality time? We can even join the Pasadena Model Railroad Club.” Biting her lip, Claire had folded into silence.

Grimacing, she rubbed the ache out of her jaw. Clenching her teeth was becoming a bad habit. Her eyes closed with the release of tension. She drifted into a favorite fantasy. She was the women in the ‘tell her you love her all over again’ TV commercial: one of those Diamond Council ads where adoring husbands drape glowing wives with diamond anniversary jewelry. So, 20 years and what does she get? Something sparkly from her favorite store in the whole San Gabriel Valley? No. A toy train.

Reality sucked.

“Howard, what about—? She cut herself off. He wasn’t listening anyway. Claire switched her attention to the photo collage hanging above the fireplace: the kids’ baby portraits, Danny riding his skateboard, Linda’s dance recitals, one of herself huge with pregnancy, and a pre-baby Claire and Howard, toasting their future with dripping ice-cream cones.

“Wooo-WHOOOO! WOOOO.” The burst of sound ricocheted both itself and Claire off the wall.

“What the hell was that?” Claire’s eyes widened. “Howard?”

Howard managed a lopsided grin, working his words around the wooden train whistle clenched between his teeth. “Sounds like the real thing, doesn’t it? Bonus gift. Came with the set.”

Claire’s stare morphed into a full-blown glare. The intended impact was lost on her husband whose nose was already buried in a technical information sheet.

“The locomotive runs great alone, but the passenger cars still derail at the turnout.” Howard wasn’t speaking directly to Claire as much as mulling the problem over out loud. He was visibly enjoying himself, despite his frustration with the mechanics. “If I connect the engine behind the cars, so it pushes rather than pulls, everything holds. Maybe if I change the coupling on the back of the locomotive…” His
voice trailed off again.

Claire pulled up a barstool. There was no telling how long Howard planned to tinker with the wretched train. She studied her reflection in the mirror above the wet bar and grimaced. OK. She wasn’t exactly young anymore but she was still attractive, wasn’t she? Her skin was unlined and her chestnut hair was barely touched by gray. She wondered what Howard saw when he looked at her these days. Her life felt like a cliché.

“Here we go?” Howard stood up as he spoke. “Hey, Claire, are you watching?” He motioned with his head.

She nodded her attention, and Howard ceremoniously pushed the ‘forward’ control on the remote. The locomotive chugged to life and began its trek around the S-curve of the track. The stream engine whistled; the coal car lit up; the passenger cars stayed attached. The train clicked its way around the track.

“Well.” Howard boasted. “Got her running. I think I learned a couple of things too.”

“Me too.” Claire responded thoughtfully. “Sometimes you have to pull, sometimes you have to push, and sometimes you just have to change the coupling.”

© Copyright 2009 Lynn Nicholas. All rights reserved.

Lynn Nicholas, a retired technical editor, now writes just for the pure joy of writing. She won National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in 2007 and 2008; her story was chosen for the NaNoWriMo True-Life Tale in September 2009.When not writing, she can be found cooking for friends, gardening, or ballroom dancing. Lynn lives in Tucson with her husband and much-adored Australian Terrier