31 DaysDay 13: GOODNESS {the prompt follows at the end of this post}

{start}

Can I See You Again?

Audrey sat on the couch reading one of the seven new novels she received from Amazon this afternoon. It had been a difficult decision to select which one to read first, but she was more than relishing her choice as she turned another page. She glanced at her watch and then the front window. No headlights and still no Max. She wondered briefly if he’d gotten lost driving to her place. It was their first date, after all. But, he had her cell phone number, so she tucked her feet up under her and returned to the story in her hand. She got another three pages in before the doorbell rang.

Book in hand, Audrey padded over to the door and swung it wide.

“Max?” she said and smiled.

“I’m sorry I’m late, I left later than I meant to and then I took one wrong turn and couldn’t find a place to turn around.” He seemed flustered and his face was flushed.

“Thank you for giving me the opportunity to meet Ben and Emily,” she said, holding up her book. “We’ve gotten acquainted and now it won’t be so awkward to catch up with them later.” She winked and headed back into the living room. “Come in, Max, it’s cold out there.” She placed a bookmark in the page of her book and placed it on the coffee table, pausing to run her hand over the raised words on the book jacket before slipping into her shoes and shrugging into her coat. “Ready?”

Max smiled and appeared more relaxed as he leaned against the wall watching her. “Indeed.” He turned and held an arm out toward the door, inviting her to move ahead of him, one hand lightly on her back. He opened her door and let her get settled before heading around to the driver’s side. He backed out of the driveway and turned back toward the main road.

“I hope Italian is okay,” he said with some hesitation.

“One of my favorites. Which restaurant?”

“Guiseppe’s Italian Bistro. Is that ok with you?”

“Oh, I adore that place,” Audrey told him. “They have the sweetest maître d’ there. His name is Antony and he tells some of the greatest stories.”

“I had no idea,” Max said.

“Once you get to know him, you won’t be able to go there without getting him to tell you at least one of his stories of where he grew up in the North End.”

Max smiled and seemed to relax. He looked at Audrey and couldn’t help being struck by her presence beside him; he was sure he’d never met anyone quite like her, someone so joy-filled and easy-going.

“I’m really glad that Martha introduced us,” Max said as they inched along the crowded North End streets looking for parking.

“Me, too,” Audrey told him, her blue eyes shining in the intermittent glow of the streetlights. She looked out the window and drank in the scene around them and suddenly rested a hand on Max’s arm her eyes on something outside her window. “Oh, hey, if it’s okay, can you let me out right here? I’ll meet you outside Guiseppe’s in just a few minutes.”

“Ah, sure.” Max slowed the car and pulled over as much he could to let her out.

“I’ll see you in just a few minutes,” she said and flashed him a warm smile. “Oh, and sometimes you can find a place to park just around the corner in the alley.”

“Sure.” Max watched her with a quizzical expression as she moved gracefully through the parked cars and onto the sidewalk. That’s when he saw what had apparently captured her attention. An older, weathered gentleman sat huddled beneath a blanket in the shadows of the buildings. He was slightly sunk into an alcove from the cut out of the bricks so as to not draw too much attention to himself. But Audrey had seen him.

A car pulled up behind Max and he put his hazards on and waved the car around him, offering the driver a sheepish grin before turning his attention back to Audrey, who was now sitting on the sidewalk next to the man, his hand in hers. The two talked animatedly, and at one point Audrey tossed her head back and laughed, her laughter a ringing bell he could hear inside his car.

He moved on toward the alley she’d suggested, found a spot and headed back toward the spot where he’d left Audrey. But she was gone. The man looked up at Max and Max smiled awkwardly and mumbled, “Hi.” He found Audrey standing outside Guiseppe’s like she said she’d be and he smiled widely at her.

“Gosh it’s a beautiful night, isn’t it,” she said as he approached. “I just love the City. So much energy and so many amazing people. Oh, I cannot wait for you to meet Antony. Come on!”

He followed behind her and found that he couldn’t help but smile just from being with her and they’d barely gotten to know each other. As they entered the restaurant, they were greeted by an older gentleman who recognized Audrey almost immediately.

“Oh mio!” he exclaimed. “Sweet Audrey, what a wonderful surprise.”

Audrey stepped into his open arms and kissed him once on each cheek before backing away and turning to introduce Max. “I promised Max that I would get you to tell us at least one story of your childhood, Antony, so you mustn’t make me a liar. Promise?”

“Of course, mi Bella,” Antony told her. “I will come with wine and a story just as soon as I seat these other guests and get the staff settled.” He showed them to a table in the back and kissed Audrey once more on each cheek before he left.

Max smiled at her across the table. “You’re amazing, you know that right?”

Audrey smiled widely at him. “I’m just me, that’s all.”

Max reached across the table before he could think too much about it and took her hand in his. “Well, I find you amazing and I’m already having a wonderful time.”

“Me, too.”

They each looked over their menus, Max stealing a glance at her every now and again and Audrey drinking in the atmosphere and Max’s hand in hers. She squeezed his hand, looked at him over her menu and smiled and then looked toward the door. Two tables away she saw a young woman with a pained expression and immediately excused herself, giving Max’s hand a squeeze and then heading over to the young woman. Max followed her with his eyes, wondering what she was up to.

Without waiting for the woman to notice her or invite her to sit down, Audrey pulled out the chair next to the woman and leaned in and started talking, taking one of the woman’s hands in hers. The woman blinked repeatedly and Max guessed that she was trying not to cry. Audrey picked up a napkin and dabbed the corners of the woman’s eyes and scooted her chair closer. The waiter approached their table and Audrey spoke to him. Within a few moments a glass of wine sat in front of the woman and Audrey was moving around the table, running a hand along the table cloth and then checking each chair.

Antony approached and Audrey spoke and gestured. He left and returned with a small flashlight. Audrey shined the beam on the table and then knelt down and peered around the floor under the table and around the surrounding area. Suddenly, she popped up, holding her hand out to the woman. Apparently she was handing the woman something, but it was so small Max couldn’t tell what it was. The woman threw her arms around Audrey and hugged her tightly for several moments, tears streaming down her cheeks.

As she turned and headed back to the table, she looked back at Antony and said, “I really want Max to get to know you and your stories.”

“I’ll be right there,” Antony assured her. “Let me just get William to run this down to Jimmy.” He held up a To Go dinner and winked and Max knew without a doubt that it was for the man on the street.

Audrey slid back into her seat and slid her hand back into Max’s. He looked at her in wonder.

“She lost the diamond from her engagement ring,” Audrey told him and he squeezed her hand.

“I know we haven’t even ordered yet, but, I’d really like to see you again” Max said. “And again, and again, and again.”

“I’d like that,” Audrey told him.

{stop}

{Just a reminder, we try to keep these writing exercises to 30 minutes maximum, but that’s not a hard and fast rule. And I will say that in order to keep my writing within the 15 to 30 minute time, I create playlists on Spotify that allow me to put together songs that come close to 30 minutes. I also select music that fits with the story idea and help inspire the words I write. When the final note plays on the last song…I stop writing. Usually.}

Writing Prompt: GOODNESS – imagine a character who is kind, whose every act is based on the notion that other people need help, and who rarely thinks of himself first. This should be a person of great empathy. The character walks into a room and notices immediately the other person in the room who most wants something – a drink, the last cookie on the tray, help remembering a movie character’s name. Don’t punish the character. Don’t make a big deal of this goodness, either. Simply follow him through a handful of encounters. {Exercise 33 from The 3 A.M. Epiphany: Uncommon Writing Exercises that Transform Your Fiction by Brian Kiteley. Note, this is an affiliate link}

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