This story is my first entry to the 2017 Flash Fiction Challenge, which I was able to enter thanks to my gracious sponsors. Thank you!
For the first challenge, I was given a prompt that included a genre, a place, and an object. The prompt I received was: romance, a strawberry field, and a golf ball. As you probably know, romance is not my genre of choice, so this is my first ever attempt at writing it. I hope you enjoy!
Waiting By the Bridge
Melissa swayed her golf club back and forth impatiently while Erica carefully gauged their distance to the seventh hole. The wind was mild and the sky was bright and clear. It was a perfect day for a game of golf with a friend. Almost.
“Come on,” Melissa said.
“Calm down.” Erica placed her ball on its tee and pulled a driver from her bag. “There’s no rush.”
“Sorry, I just don’t want to be overtaken by that junior league we saw unloading in the parking lot. They’re already catching up.”
Erica swung, sending her golf ball flying through the air.
“I guess we do play like a pair of old ladies, don’t we? Taking our sweet time with every shot,” she said. “I mean, seriously, a whole junior league is catching up with two players. What game are they playing, golf cart polo?”
Melissa laughed. “I used to do that.”
“Yup,” she laughed. “Back in high school. They actually let us get away with it.”
They laughed together for a moment as Melissa moved forward to replace the tee and set her own ball. She stood and was about to line up her shot when she heard a call in the distance.
She didn’t even have a chance to turn and look for the incoming golf ball before it struck her on the temple.
Melissa blinked, only vaguely aware of what just happened. She tried to focus on her surroundings, which were dark and shadowy. Suddenly she realized that she wasn’t laying down. Startled, she threw out her hands to catch her balance, but discovered that she wasn’t in danger of falling. She was floating, as if she were at the bottom of a pool, with her feet lightly touching the ground.
In front of her the darkness parted. It was difficult to make out details, but she got the sense that it was like a forest edge, where the trees thinned and ended. She stepped towards the opening, then floated, bobbing through the air until she reached it. As her eyes adjusted to the light, she felt her feet press against the ground and her body grow heavy again. She was no longer floating, and before her she saw the Rainbow Bridge, the bridge to the afterlife. She remembered reading about it in college. On either side of the bridge were fields of strawberries, and their scent filled her nose.
Suddenly she remembered something else about the bridge. She looked around quickly and soon saw all her old friends coming up to her. In moments she was surrounded by the animals she knew and loved during her life. Dogs and cats from her childhood, and a rabbit whom she only barely remembered but always loved.
“Oh my god,” she cried quietly as she was greeted with licks and face rubs. “I’ve missed you all so much.” She looked at them through her tears and laughed. “You’re here to help me cross the bridge? Just like the stories say? I’m so glad.”
Then she noticed a person standing out in the field of strawberries. It was a man holding a basket. He held up one hand when he saw her notice him, and waved.
“Jae?” She stood up and walked out into the field, her friends following along in a group behind her. “Oh my god, Jae, it is you!” She ran up to him and gave him a hug.
“How are you, Melissa?” he asked as he hugged her back with one arm. She couldn’t see it, but she could tell he was crying too.
“Um,” she said. “I’m confused, but happy? What are you doing here?” They stepped back from each other.
“I was waiting for you,” he said with a smile. “It’s not like I had somewhere to be.”
“But, it’s been ten years since you… since you died.”
“It’s fine,” he insisted. “I had good company.” He smiled down at the animals around her feet and then looked around. “Mine are around here someplace, too,” he said.
“So, you just hung around here for ten years? Just waiting for me? Why?”
“When I arrived, I was so sad that I would never get to have a life with you beyond that year we shared before I died. I thought: what if I cross the Rainbow Bridge, and that’s it? I never see her again? I couldn’t bring myself to take that risk. I couldn’t move on without seeing you again.”
“You couldn’t move on,” Melissa repeated quietly. “But Jae… I’m so sorry! I moved on. Oh god,” she sat down suddenly in the strawberries. “My husband! My kids!”
“I’m sorry, Melissa,” Jae said as he sat down beside her. She cried into her hands. She wasn’t sure how long, but eventually she stopped. Then, she was quiet for a long time. Jae sat beside her patiently, quietly, surrounded by their cherished pets from life. Eventually, she spoke.
“That’s not true,” she said quietly. “I didn’t move on completely. I mean, I love my husband and kids. But I never stopped missing you.” She looked at him. “I’m glad you’re here,” she said. She leaned over and hugged him tightly. “I missed you so much.” They embraced for a while. Melissa could feel her sense of time slipping away among the strawberries. “So, now what?” she asked. “Do we have to cross? Could we wait for my family?” She leaned back from Jae. “Did you see your Dad?” she asked.
He shook his head. “No,” he said. “All this time, I never saw anyone else. I wasn’t even sure I was going to see you whenever the time came. But I did. Maybe we only see the people we’re waiting for?”
Melissa thought a bit.
“Can we wait, then? For my family? I want to wait for them, here, with you. For as long as it takes.”
He answered with another hug, and they waited, sitting there in the field of strawberries.