Welcome message


Free Reads From the Genre-istas will close to story posts in February of 2015.
Until we close, we w
ill do Encore Postings each Friday beginning Jan. 9th. Thank you for your interest and support!


Friday, February 27, 2015

Spring Fever

I chose "Spring Fever" for my Encore short because it represents what the romance genre means to me - support and encouragement from fellow authors. It is also the last Encored short story in our three year run. Please check out the posts that have appeared each Friday since January 2nd. Enjoy!!!

Spring Fever
By Judith Ashley and Helen Little with contributions from Sarah Raplee

April 10, 2014
Mineral Springs, OR

Alfred Porterhouse relished the wind blowing through his hair as he drove his red Mazda convertible at the legal thirty-five mile an hour speed limit. Well, not mine exactly. Jared’s the best friend ever because he let me borrow it so I can make a good impression on Allie.

The leafy canopy over the tree-lined road dappled the pavement with spots of sun. “Bfftt!” Frantically Alfred waved the little white puffs swirling about him away from his face and plucked out the offending piece of fluff stuck in his mouth. “Bfftt!” What is that? He slowed down noticing the spots on the road were not just from the sun. Breathing through slitted lips, Alfred glanced around the borrowed car. The stuff was everywhere. Got to be careful. Don’t want to choke to death on one of those cottony snow things. I have important things to do today.

At his destination, he parked at the curb in front of Allie’s house. Taking Jared’s advice to heart, he checked his appearance in the rear-view mirror and quickly finger-combed his hair into some semblance of order. Remembering his co-worker’s admonishment to make sure his eyebrows were straight—a quick finger lick and swipe and he was done. Another moment to savor Jared’s, “You look great in the driver’s seat,” and he was ready. Chest puffed out with pride, he grabbed the bouquet of wildflowers off the passenger seat and headed towards the front door.

Who knew I could land a date with someone as cool as Allie Borders? Without Jared’s help—he paused at the bottom step before jogging up. The list “Tips for a Successful Date” popped into his mind, circling through it line-by-line.

Bring her flowers – he took a sniff at the bouquet in his hands and sneezed.

Open the door and help her into the car – like a gentleman does for a lady.

Compliment her appearance – geez. He blanked out on the rest of the list before he reached the porch. Wiping his sweaty palms on his pants, he chanted under his breath. I can do this, I can do this, I can do this.
On the porch, a frisson of panic stopped him in his tracks. Beads of sweat dotted his forehead and trickled in rivulets down his face. Gotta keep breathing, A-Freddie. Pulling a handkerchief from his pocket, he blotted his face and dried his hands again before stuffing the damp crumbled cloth back in its place. Taking the last few steps, he knocked—tap, tap—tap. He shifted from foot to foot, the anxiety building as he waited.

Side-stepping to the window, he peered in and squinted through the glass. What’s keeping her? Where is she? A strange figure glided into the room and headed toward the front door. Startled, he jerked back like he’d been shot! Who’s that?
Allie Borders adjusted her protective mask as she crossed the room to the door. A serious flare of allergies this morning had almost caused her to call and cancel. Her gaze took in her mustard colored sweater and brown tote on the chair by the front door. Mentally she checked the contents: packets of tissue, rescue inhaler, back-up masks. Why didn’t I cancel if I need all this stuff to go out for coffee? Because I’m going out with Alfred! And we’re just going for coffee and that cute bistro down the street is just the place. I can do this, I can do this, I can do this.

A smile on her face, she opened the door. “Hi, Alfred,” she said. “Let me grab my things.” He looks weird with his black eyebrows scrunched into a straight line. I wonder if something’s bothering him. Allie stepped away from the door and picked up her sweater and tote. I’m not going to ask because I’ve wanted him to notice me forever. He’s a bit quirky and really shy. It could scare him off. Turning back from locking up, she saw the red convertible with the top down at the curb.

Allie’s lungs seized, her hand flew to her chest, “Is this your car?”

“Sure is! Well, not really. Jared let me borrow it. The feel of the wind in your hair is great,” he rattled on. “I like your hair.”

Panic tightened her chest, her breathing labored. I can do this. “Thank.” I can do this.” You.” I can do this.
Alfred opened the passenger door. Anxiety bounced through him and he rocked on his feet. Should I ask her why she’s wearing a mask? Will she be insulted? Geez, Jared didn’t say anything about this? He stood to the side and Allie slid into the seat. What now? “Let me help you with your seat belt,” he said already matching actions with words. The buckle secured with a click. What else? Jared’s list was nowhere in his memory banks so he quickly rounded the car and got in. The mask barely moved - in and out, in and out, in and out. Was she talking?

“Ready?” he asked pulling away from the curb. I’ll just take her for a little drive, take advantage of this great car. It’s a beauty!

Two blocks away, Alfred stopped at a red light. Allie’s hand clutched his arm. His eyes widened. The mask bellowed in and out and her eyes gleamed with an eerie light. “What?” The street noise drowned out anything Allie might have said. She gestured behind her and he saw the coffee shop over her shoulder.

“That coffee shop?” Did she nod? The light changed and he drove off. “Not just yet. I’m taking you for a drive so you can enjoy this cool car.” Where? The park! That’ll do it.

Blinker on, Alfred turned left into the city park. Of all the things Mineral Springs was famous for, the city park was in the top ten attractions. It boasted the largest flower garden in the state and this time of year it was ablaze with blooms. The white floaty stuff he’d noticed in the air earlier was thicker here. The roadway was carpeted with it and a fine yellow dust. A glance in his rearview mirror showed a swirl of yellow and white lifting into the air as he drove. He slowed to a crawl so she could take in the full beauty of the apple blossoms, the lilacs, the—he didn’t know what everything was called but they were beautiful. He took a deep breath of the many flavored scents. “Aacchhooo!”

Allie’s fingers dug into his arm and she jerked. “What’s going on?” he yelled. His grip tightened on the steering wheel. He looked over at his passenger. Yellow dust crusted her mask, a wild look flashed in her eyes, rapid sucking motion moved her mask and her free hand flapped around, waving in all directions. He pulled to the side of the road and stopped.

“What?” he asked, one brow arched in question, giving her his full attention. “Is something wrong?”
Allie’s lungs labored with the effort to breathe. With the traffic noise, she hadn’t been able to make Alfred understand she needed to be inside, somewhere the air was filtered. Here in the park, her personal hell, all she could manage was waving her hands around. How to make him understand?

She grabbed his hand and wrote H O M E on his palm. He shook his head, a confused look on his face. She tried again, marking his palm more slowly. No progress. Desperate for some way to communicate with him without taking off her mask, she slumped back against the seat, eyes closed.

“What’s wrong?”

She heard the worry in his voice. If she removed the mask so she could answer him, she’d have to use her rescue inhaler. Is there another way to tell him what I need? Opening her eyes she looked at his face etched with concern.

The dashboard!

H O M E – the white letters showed up plainly in contrast to the pollen coating the surface like golden snow.

“You want me to take you home now?” Alfred asked, obviously perplexed.

She nodded vigorously.

“But we were going for coffee,” he said, a bit of a whine in his voice.

H O M E she underlined the word.

His shoulders slumped but he started the engine and pulled away from the curb.

He escorted her to the door and she invited him in. Once inside, she removed her mask. “Aaaccchooo!”

Alfred pulled his handkerchief from his back pocket and shoved it into her hand.
“Aaaccchooo! Aaaccchooo!” Allie held the damp piece of cloth to her face. Taking a deep breath between one sneeze and the next, Allie realized her mistake as her lungs seized. She shoved the hankie at Alfred, waved him toward the couch, dumped her tote on the table and grabbed her inhaler.

Allie expelled all the air from her lungs, fit the mouthpiece between her lips, pushed the lever and slowly breathed in, filling her lungs with the steroids. The tightness in her chest eased, her body sighed. Her breathing returned to some semblance of normal. What a comedy of errors. Crossing the room the few steps to the couch, she sat next to Alfred.

          “I’m so sorry to have spoiled our coffee date,” she started.

          “What happened?” Alfred blurted out. “I thought you’d like the car. Jared said everyone likes it.”

          “It wasn’t the car,” Allie said. “I’ve a bad case of allergies so being outside when the pollen count is so high is bad for me.”

“You mean that white stuff and yellow dust make you like this?” He cocked his head to the side, his gaze considering as if he were examining the results of a laboratory experiment.

“Yes.” Allie’s eyes watered, her nose ran. She stuffed tissue up her nose to stem the flow. “I need to shower and change. You know, wash the pollen off me so I’ll get better.” Alfred looked so earnest so concerned for her. He didn’t do anything on purpose. He just didn’t know.

“I’d better go,” he said.

“I hate to have you go but I’m not fun now and I know I shouldn’t go out again.”


She smiled at the panicked look on his face. “No, silly. I have to be very careful outside until the pollen count is down.”

“Hey, I have an idea. I think I can fix this,” he said, his eyes bright with excitement.


“Promise me you’ll go out with me next weekend and you’ll see.”

He was still Alfred, that quirky guy who pricked her interest. “I’ll be ready,” she said, a lightness or maybe lightheadedness overcoming her.
Saturday Alfred Porterhouse pulled his red Mazda convertible to the curb in front of Allie’s house. Well, not mine exactly. Jared let me borrow it again so I can make a good impression on Allie. The top was up and the inside gleamed. Before getting out of the car, he checked the rear-view mirror. He grabbed the box of candy he’d brought her and another package off the passenger seat. Allie Borders is going out with me. He exited the car and took the steps two-at-a-time. She’s something else. Way cool.

At the top of the stairs, he stopped a moment and went through his list.

1. Something to give her – check

2. Something to surprise her – check

3. Make sure she agrees to what we are going to do on our date – I will do that.

He knocked on the door and rang the bell for good measure. This time he didn’t look in the window because he knew she was coming.

The door opened and there she was–Allie Borders looking like a princess in a long flowing midnight blue dress, her soft auburn hair piled in a riot of curls on her head, her green eyes peering at him over her mask.

She stepped aside and he walked in. The door shut behind him as he turned and thrust his packages towards her.

“What’s this?” she asked, taking both objects. She unhooked one side of her mask letting it hang down.

“Open them.”

They sat, knees together on the couch. Her warmth filtered through his slacks and his cheeks pinked.

The opalescent green polish on her finger nails flashed as her fingers grappled with the ribbon tied securely around the first box.

“Oohh, I love chocolate covered macadamia nuts!” She popped a treat in her mouth. Her eyes closed in ecstasy and she chewed slowly. “Want one?” she asked, licking her lips and grabbing a second candy. With her free hand, she held the box out to him.

Alfred took the offered candy and put the box on the couch between them.

“And this?” she asked holding up the mystery package. Her eyes sparkled, her rosy lips turned up in a smile of anticipation.

Alfred stood and paced a few steps away before turning back to face her. “Open it and see.” He clasped his hands behind him and rocked back and forth on his feet.

Allie tore open the wrapping and found a plain brown cardboard box. “Alfred?”

He smiled at the confused questioning look on her face but kept his hands clasped. It was all he could do to keep from reaching out and helping her. She’s never had anything like this before.

“Too much tape, I have to get a knife to open it,” she said and headed for the kitchen.

He followed, waiting in the doorway while she plucked a knife from the rack and slit through the tape.

“Oh my,” Allie said delight and surprise in her voice. “I’ve never—”

“Words fail you?” he asked, bouncing on his toes.

She nodded and grinned. “I’m confused, there are two.”

“One for you and one for me. Want to try them out?”

“I do,” Allie said handing one to him. She grabbed her tote along the way. “Are we going for a drive?”

“We are but today the top is up.” Alfred helped her adjust the straps just right before putting his own on.

“Why don’t we put it down,” she said, her voice now having a mechanical edge to it.

“Really? Are you sure?”

She nodded and headed toward the door.

His hand on her elbow, Alfred escorted Allie to the car and helped her in. Top down, he drove off. The strange looks from people as they drove by meant nothing. She’s a little odd but I like her.
Allie Borders relaxed against the while leather seats of the red Mazda convertible. White fluffy stuff and golden pollen swirled in the air and made mini-dirt-devils as they drove through the Arboretum. The crisscross of straps kept her hair somewhat contained. She glanced over at Alfred’s profile and chuckled. The Darth Vader-like-shape protruding from his face was the image of the perfect man for her. It can’t get more perfect than this.

Copyright © 2014 Judith Ashley and Helen Little

Thanks to my writing friends, Helen Little and Sarah Raplee, for brainstorming the core elements of this story, adding content and editing. This story is so much better because of your involvement.

Learn more about Judith, Sarah and Helen at 

Judith's blog: www.judithashley.blogspot.com features a new post most Mondays
Judith also posts the first Friday of each month at www.Romancingthegenre.blogspot.com

No comments:

Post a Comment