A 777 word story written for the Writer's Cramp prompt, 9/10/19.
| "I Think I Will Remember You."
"I think I will remember you," he says. Should she believe him? Sally looks around at all the other people packing out the bar; each one of them looks so much more memorable than she could ever hope to be.
And yet, this handsome stranger has chosen to focus his attentions on her. She feels the heat rise to her cheeks, knows that she is blushing. Sally hopes that by distracting herself, she'll cool the heat before it gets too obvious. She needs to say something, otherwise she will appear standoffish, a snob; when really she is very shy.
Hoping that it will come out sounding cool and mildly humorous, Sally forces herself to smile. "In a good way, I hope," she finally says.
"But of course!" This man's eyes twinkle when he smiles. "I do not have space for bad memories. I only collect those that are most beautiful and precious."
Struck suddenly by conflicting emotions, Sally wants to flee. There are so many women in attendance; if she left for a moment one is bound to catch his attention and steal it from her. Better to brazen it out, she thinks, and says, "Thank you."
She has never seen this man before, but then this is not a bar that she frequents. In fact, she rarely went into pubs at all and would not have been there if it had not been for Natalie's insistence.
"You can't spend your life hiding away just because of one bad experience," she had said.
Sally had tried to point out that the end of a four year long relationship was, to her, more than a 'bad experience', but Natalie was one of those people that, once she had made up her mind on something, she would not let it go.
"Look, it's my party at the weekend. Please say you'll come along."
Sally had put up resistance, but Natalie had worn her down and now here she is. Natalie is across the room, her own boyfriend's arm fixed possessively around her waist. She seems quite happy, surrounded by her other friends; Sally had been intending to slip away before this man had appeared beside her.
"Erm, you know, perhaps we should exchange names," Sally suggests, but the man puts his finger to his lips.
"I have a better idea," he says. "Let's make up names for each other. What shall I name you?"
While he is thinking, Sally ponders on what name would suit him. Max, short for Maximilian? Possibly, but did it really suit him? Honestly, how could she possibly know the answer to that. She does not know one thing about this man other than the fact that he is good to look at, and that his eyes seem to sparkle whenever he looks at her.
"I'll call you Tom," she says, at exactly the same moment as he breathes out the name, "Esmerelda!"
Mortified by the plainness of her choice compared to his, Sally, flustered, turns away. The rest-room is just across the other side of the bar.
"I'm just... " she begins, then changes her mind. "I'll just be a couple of minutes." In her mind she added 'Don't go away', but she didn't have the nerve to say those words aloud.
Safely inside the rest-room, Sally runs cold water over her wrists. She really wants to splash it all over her face, but that would ruin the make-up Natalie had helped her apply earlier. She stares at her reflection, concentrates on her breathing, and gradually she feels less nauseous.
About to leave and head back to 'Tom', Sally steps back as the rest-room door opens. Natalie pushes her way inside.
"Sorry, Sal. Come on over and join us," she says, scrutinizing her own make-up in the mirror. "It's got to be better than talking to Hank. I bet he's been giving you his normal chat-up line. You'd be amazed at the number of women that fall for it."
If the ground opened up beneath her feet, Sally would be happy. She could only be glad of Natalie's warning before she had swapped phone numbers, or, even worse, made a date. She forces her head to nod knowingly, as if she had not become one of those women her friend was now so scathingly dismissing.
Careful not to catch the man's eye, Sally sidles out beside her friend. She can't help herself; has to take a quick look. And there is Hank, standing next to a short blonde girl. Being a bit of a glutton for punishment she watches his lips as they move.
"I think I will remember you," he says.