Susan Zutautas of Susan’s Place, tagged me for the latest Finish the Story prompt. The rules for this challenge are simple.
* Copy and paste the story as you receive it.
* Add the next segment or choose to finish it.
* Tag someone for the next installment.
* Have fun and let your imagination roam free.
Here’s how it started:
It all started with a hastily written, albeit vague, note left in an old book.
“To the one I love,
Meet me at our spot.”
Andrei browsed the shelves at Jim’s Used Books, not looking for anything in particular when he spotted a gray and silver spine. Huh. He pulled out the book, tracing the strangely familiar symbol on its cover. No title? No author? Lemon and a hint of peppermint floated in the air as he opened the book.
A small piece of paper floated gently to the floor and caught his attention. A simple handwritten note on tanning paper. His fingers tingled as he picked it up and read it. Without giving the book a second thought, he placed it back on the shelf, tucked the note into his jacket pocket and left the store.
Eartha had just settled into the booth at Phil’s Cafe, plugged in her laptop, and opened her latest manuscript draft. There was nowhere better to write a contemporary story than the corner of a busy cafe in the University district. So many snippets of passing conversations ended up in her stories without anyone knowing.
She giggled as a young couple argued over whether pineapple belonged on pizza, and another pair of young men, probably football fans by their non-player jerseys, debated the finer points of surviving a bullet hell.
Jasper brought over her order and smiled. “Someone left this the other day and I asked Phil if I could give it to you since no one claimed it.” He pulled a small, red leather journal with a heart pressed into its cover out of his apron pouch, smiling.
“Really?” She beamed. “Thanks.”
He grinned, nodded, and returned to his work.
She examined the journal and paused before opening it. “What if it’s like personal? That poor person.” Okay. If it is personal, I’m going to find the person who lost it and return it.
As she opened the front cover, a small piece of paper flitted into her lap. Giggling, she picked it up and read the pristine handwriting. Fancy script from long ago. Her smile faded as she tucked the journal into her bag, unplugged the laptop, put it away, and left her untouched pizza on the table with a ten-dollar bill.
Andre wandered to the nearest rail line and stood by the long row of windows that overlooked the tracks. Lemon, peppermint, and pineapple tickled his nose. He glanced up and saw a beautiful young lady walking toward him. She paused at the other end of the hall and gazed out across the tracks.
His heart fluttered and the note’s message played in his mind.
The longer he watched her, the more he felt he knew her. Compelled to speak to her, he walked toward her and …
… said, “Excuse me, miss, but you look awfully familiar. Have we ever met?”
Eartha looked at the man. She admitted that there was a spark of recognition, but she was unable to recall a time or place. She figured maybe she had seen him around town or perhaps at Phil’s. “I’m sorry, but I don’t believe I know you,” she said.
“My name is Andrei,” he said, “and I know this is going to sound crazy, but a very strange note fell out of a book I picked up at a used bookstore in town. And after reading it, I felt compelled to come here. Then, when I saw you, an overwhelming feeling that you are the reason I’m here came over me.”
Eartha turned pale upon hearing Andrei’s words. “What did the note you found in the book say?” She asked.
Andrei pulled the note out of his pocket and started to read it. “It said, ‘To the one I love.’”
Eartha interrupted Andrei and finished the note, “‘Meet me at our spot,’ right?”
“How did you know that?” Andrei asked.
“I found the same note in a journal that someone handed to me this morning,” Eartha said, showing the note to him. “And like you, I felt the need to come here to this rail station.”
Andrei gazed at the note. “You found this in a journal? May I see it?”
Eartha opened her bag and handed the small, red leather journal with a heart pressed into its cover to Andrei. “Oh my God,” Andrei said as tears started flowing down his cheeks.
“Are you alright? This journal must belong to someone you know,” said Eartha.
It took a few minutes for Andrei to calm himself and when he did, he gave Eartha the biggest hug possible. “Let’s go sit down, have a coffee and I’ll explain everything to you. Only if you have time that is.”
“Yes, I have time and I’m always up for a good story. There’s a little coffee shop around the corner if that’s okay with you.”
“Sure, and by the way, I’m Andrei,” as he extended his hand to her.
“Nice to meet you, I’m Eartha.”
Once in the coffee shop seated across from each other, Eartha began the conversation with, “so tell me, who does the journal belong to?” She couldn’t wait to hear what Andrei had to say.
“About twenty-five years ago when I was in the Navy we were stationed in Italy. It was our last night before returning home and the crew and I were in a little bar celebrating. I happened to be looking at the entrance door and …
… in walked the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen before. I was instantly drawn to her. She had a mystique about her; it floored me. I desperately wanted to get to know her better. In one hand, she carried this very journal you are holding now and in the other, a mug of peppermint tea with lemon. It seemed odd that she would be in this bar rather than a small coffee shop. That just made her even more intriguing!
As she approached, I stood and offered her a seat at the next table which was empty. I needed to talk to her. I introduced myself and she told me her name was Francesca. What started with friendly conversation went long into the night until closing time. Neither of us wanted the evening to end.
The romantic backdrop of the Italian city streets urged us to remain in each other’s company. It was an easy decision as our relationship seemed to deepen with every word we uttered. I believed I was falling in love with Francesca.
In those days, it was unheard of to make love on the first encounter but neither of us cared about what people thought. We ended up back at her apartment and …
I’m tagging Sadje over at Keep it Alive in hopes that she’ll continue on with this story.