Likeability

My friend Felicity Johns has started a new site featuring Flash Fiction (https://fridayflashchallenge.wordpress.com), and I encourage everyone to check it out. She is a passionate talent, always ready to encourage and promote other writers. Her prompt this week is “Forbidden”, and I thought I’d give it a shot.

***

Stuart Monroe was not a likeable man. He was an ordinary man, not particularly handsome, and even he understood that he possessed a certain coldness he could not explain. He was a loyal worker, disciplined and organized, but no one seemed to notice him or, when they did, were curt and dismissive. His greatest desire was to be likeable, but in his heart, it would always be forbidden. Closeness was pain. Donna taught him that. Joy was devastating.

More than anything, he wanted his co-workers to say, “Hey Stu, drink after work?” or Meredith in accounting say, “There’s a beauty in you that no one else can see. Will you take me dancing?” Five years at Butterbox and Templar, and he was still ignored. Forbidden to be part of the laughter.

The walk home after work was dreary. Fat raindrops misted his glasses. He saw people in laundromats and bistros, cozy lights breaking the gray and the bleak.

A man stood on the corner. He was wearing an expensive raincoat and dark pleated trousers. His shoes mirrored the rain. He looked like an important man, a man who held his own destiny by the throat. His smile was wide and perfect. He radiated warmth and good-will. A friend? A new friend, an exciting friend. A friend who would listen and laugh and frown where necessary, who would commiserate and encourage. Yes, thought Stuart. A friend. Just look at him: youthful and confident, successful and learned. A man who instinctively understood the ravages of loneliness (though he probably never had to endure it himself). A man who would guide him out of the monotony.

The man with a switchblade in the pocket of his expensive raincoat approached Stuart. “Say, pal,” he said. “I like the look of your face.”

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