Flash Fiction: Dan & Bri

(Dan & Bri’s story originally appeared as a serial flash fiction on CharlieGsOutfitRatings Instagram from 1/25/21 to 1/29/21 under “Book Vibes.” It has been modified for this blog post.)

Dan hated moving, which is why he didn’t know why he was subjecting himself to it all over again. And this time, he’s was going to be stuck here. He had bought this place after all.

Stack of boxes in hand, he unlocked the front door to his new condo and stepped inside. The late summer sun poured in through the front windows, cascading across the newly refinished wood floors. He took a deep breath and smelled clean air, instead of mustiness and hidden mold from his basement apartment. As soon as he set up his electric piano, it would be home sweet home.

He shared only one wall with his neighbor, whom the last owner promised was quite and rarely home. Yes, this was the fresh start he needed after that last breakup.

Dan loved everyone. As David said in Schitt’s Creek, it was the wine not the label for him. He did, however, need to stop ignoring the red flags. Like if they talk about how their last significant other was a long term relationship with a ghost, maybe consider asking more questions before trying to put a ring on it. At least selling that ring had paid for a few months of the mortgage on this place.

It had taken him his two days off to get sorted, despite not having that much stuff, but it felt good to be in his own place. Except, he still didn’t have a television. And he did need to remember to buy pans so he could actually cook something. He was so used to his roommates having something, he was still discovering how much he didn’t own. Like curtains.

He finished hanging a cluster of photos on his living room wall and stepped back. He straightened the one of him and his brother Zack in Vietnam last year. It was still wild to him that he was allowed to put holes in the walls.

He looked around and smiled. Almost perfect. Tomorrow, he’d head to the animal shelter to see if any dogs wanted to come home with him.

***

Dan’s new dog Waffles (he’d come with the name) had ran them both into exhaustion. Waffles was curled up on the dog bed, watching him with half closed eyes. Dan, still too antsy to sleep—he was used to the night shift—wished he’d gotten that television.

With a yawn and stretch, he stood from his sofa and lumbered over to the piano.

He ran his fingers over the keys, playing a few scales to hear how it sounded in the new room. It reverberated off the nearly empty space as if it were a concert hall. He closed his eyes and pretended he was on a grand piano, long-ago memorized songs pouring out of his fingers.

His mom had always hoped he’d become a concert pianist, but that wasn’t the life for him. He loved music but didn’t want to make money from it. Just enjoy it.

Waffles let out a low bark and Dan turned to the window. A shadow darted under his porch light. When he rushed over and peered out, all he caught was a shock of long, red hair in the moonlight.

***

Bri was not a runner, but she had damn near broke a world record sprinting away from her new neighbor’s window. After her terrible day, the music was like a bandaid to her scuffed emotions. Too bad she had clearly forgotten how windows worked.

Pro-tip: if you can see in, they can also see out.

She was going to have to talk to this new guy now. She grimaced. No. Her cheeks heated at the very thought. Maybe a note? Yes, notes were good. A note in his mailbox.

Was that creepy? Eh, less creepy than looking through his window. Mailbox it was.

Hi Neighbor,

I’m Bri, in unit 4. Welcome to the complex! Sorry for peering in your window last night. You play the piano beautifully. I’d love to make you a welcome to your new home dish. Do you have any food restrictions?
-Bri

PS. I swear I don’t make habit of looking through people’s windows.
PPS. Your dog is very cute.

***

Dear Bri,

Nice to ‘meet’ you. Thanks for your welcome and the note. Sorry this is just one the back of yours, turns out I don’t have any paper. I’m lucky I found a pen.

As for food, I’m allergic to strawberries and I hate olives. Olives are an occupational hazard. Let’s just say it was a double shift at the bar and a dare gone horribly wrong.

Anyway, running out of room. Any song requests?
Dan

PS. Waffles says hi.
PPS. Waffles my dog, not the food.

***

Dan,

These are my grandpa’s famous wild blueberry muffins (in my case, wild means store bought.) Hope you like them. Also, including two notepads and a few pens. Nabbed them from work, shhh don’t tell. (And yes, I do work for the city, but no, I’m not the one who approved the chaotic traffic light situation at Main & Fennel. I’m just an assistant.)

You said you work at a bar? Which one?

As for requests, I love everything. Nora Jones or Jennifer Thomas would be cool!
-Bri

PS. The small container is a treat for Waffles. Wrote the ingredients on the top
PPS. Watch out for the raccoon that lives in Unit 8’s garage. He tried to nab the muffins earlier. Chased him away with a broom. In retrospect not the wisest idea.

***

Bri,

The muffins were great. Thanks. Waffles ate the treat you sent him in four licks.

Ralph the Raccoon is definitely up to something nefarious. Waffles barks at him every walk. Considering putting up a scarecrow to scare him away. Is that how raccoons work?

Saw your open window earlier—you hear the music? Threw in some Taylor Swift. Figured you’d like it.

Dan

PS. Do you have any pets?
PPS. What’s an item on your bucket list?
PPPS. Waffles says hi

***

Dan,

Saw Ralph or his accomplice near our trash cans this morning. Thankfully,  my car backing out of the driveway scared him off.

In between pets right now. Figured the right one will pop up when it’s the right time. My old cat Guinevere would’ve given Ralph the fight of his life.

Bucket list—I want to fill a bathtub with like 200 bath bombs and just sit in it why they froth everywhere. You’d probably thought I’d pick something normal like travel the world or meet my favorite celebrity.

I should warn you: I’m even weirder in person.

Same questions, back at you.
-Bri

PS. I loved the Broadway medley you played last night. Favorite show?
PPS. Going to happy hour at The C Chord for my coworker’s birthday on Friday. Will you be working?
PPPS. Yes, this is homemade pasta sauce. Here’s a treat for Waffles, too.
PPPPS. Do you every back up your car one handed?

***

Bri,
Great job on Ralph defense! He knows not to mess with us.

200 bath bombs? Noble goal. Maybe we can do it with a kiddy pool?

Bucket list: Eat at every restaurant that’s been on Diner’s, Drive-Ins, and Dives. I’m weird, too.

Not working Friday :(. Going to visit my brothers. But have fun! My bestie Kara will take care of you.

Favorite Broadway show is Once. You?
– Dan

PS. The sauce was incredible!
PPS. Can you make sure Ralph doesn’t commandeer my place why I’m gone?
PPPS. Raincheck on meeting up? Next Friday?
PPPPS. Made a video of me backing up but don’t have your # to send it. Mine is…
PPPPPS. I can parallel park

***

Bri shook out her hands, took a deep breath, then texted Dan.

Bri: Hey, it’s Bri! Hope you’re having a good day. My niece said a guy named Dan came to teach them music today? Was this you?

Once is one of my all time favorites too. Saw it on Broadway. I’m free next Friday. Want to come over for dinner? Waffles is invited too.

Bri: Sorry this is so long. Have fun this weekend!! Leaving you blueberry croissants to take with you.

Bri: PS. I can’t wait for this video

Bri: *picture of Ralph in front of condo*

***

Dan: Hey Bri. As promised, here is the video.

Dan: *video message*

Dan: And yeah. Music teacher is my bestie’s boyfriend. Went in as a special guest. He’s trying to convince me to teach piano.

Bri: Before I continue on, I have to ask

Bri: Are you single? Because these were the best texts I’ve ever gotten and I just need to know if I have a chance

Bri: Also when I’m hungry, I’m super direct

Bri: I scared you off didn’t I?

Dan: sorry, work’s slammed. Bachelorette party 🥴 Yes single. Very single. You?

Bri: Hint—the fourteen most recent pictures in my phone are of Ralph

Dan: 🧐 Definitely single 

Bri: yes! Or in love with a raccoon

Dan: I’m cuter than a raccoon

Bri: Yeah you are 😉

Bri: dinner on Friday?

Dan: Friday   Dessert and concert after @ my place?

Bri: Perfect

Dan: Can I tell you a secret?

Bri: definitely

Dan: I am obsessed with aprons. I think they’re mad hot

Bri: *picture message*

Bri: Here’s a pic of me in an apron with flour all over my face because I got distracted by your last text

Dan: Forgive my bluntness but this is the sexiest thing I’ve ever seen

Bri: I’ll actually brush my hair on Friday. You won’t know what to do with yourself

Dan: I’ve never been more upset that I’m making bank in tips tonight. Flirting session to be continued

Bri: go work weirdo! See you Friday

***

Bri was so nervous about tonight, she had already mixed up the salt and sugar, and the cilantro and basil. She had bought a brand new apron for the date like a weirdo.

Her phone rang as the timer for her shredded chicken beeped. She swiped  the cell out of her pocket with one hand and released the valve on the pressure cooker with the other. She paused when she saw it was a FaceTime from Dan.

Frowning, she answered. “Hey—“ then she started laughing. A dog nose filled the screen as Waffles stated into the camera. “Hey boy! Where’s Dan, huh?”

Waffles let out a huff.

“You’ll see me soon buddy!”

Waffles lifted and turned his head just as Dan walked over. “Hey, what are you doing, boy?”

Bri’s hand went over her mouth as she saw a bare chested Dan lean over the phone. His eyes went wide and she disconnected. She dropped the phone on her counter and covered her face with her hands. “Oh no.”

Her phone dinged. She looked at it from between her fingers. It dinged again. She dropped her hands and shook them out, hopped up and down twice, then looked at the screen.

Dan: Guess Waffles was eager to see you

Dan: so am I

She dropped her phone again. God it was like she’d never been on a date before. To be fair, it had been over a year. She sucked in a deep breath and answered.

Bri: Me too

She laughed once loudly, threw her phone in her pocket, and went back to her chicken.

***

Dan cleared his throat, lifted his fist, but paused before knocking on the door. Was this crazy? Going over to a woman’s house—a woman he didn’t know—for dinner?

But he did know her, at least a little. Between the weeks of notes and texts, he knew her favorite songs and food and her bucket list goals. And she knew him. Anyway, she was literally next store. It wasn’t like he couldn’t walk home.

Waffles barked and interrupted his freak out. “Thanks boy.” He patted his companion on the head.

The door opened and Bri stood on the other side, smiling. Her hair was the same red as her lipstick, her blue eyes shining back at him. And the apron, navy and frilly and tight against her curves. He forgot how to breathe.

She leaned in and kissed him on the cheek, the sweet scent of vanilla holding him in place before she bent down to give Waffles a greeting.

Waffles soaked up every ounce of attention lavished upon him, before sighing happily and wagging his tale so hard, his entire body shook.

When Bri stood, he held out the flowers his bestie, Kara, had suggested, and a bottle of wine. “These are for you.”

“Thanks!” Her cheeks turns red and she bit down on her lip. “Well, come on in boys. Dinner is ready.” She turned toward the kitchen. “Oh, can you make sure the door is completely  latched?  I need to replace the lock, but haven’t gotten around to it yet.”

“Sure thing!” Dan turned around to check the door, when a small, furry object pushed it open and ran between his legs.

***

Of all the things Bri imagined would happen tonight, having Ralph break into her place and proceed to stick his paws in her dinner was not one of them. After erecting makeshift barriers to block the other doorways, she and Dan opened her back sliding door and Waffle did his guard dog duty. If she hadn’t been laughing so hard, she would’ve cried at the mess.

“I still have a Ralph-free dessert at my place,” Dan said, gently rubbing between her shoulder blades. “You order a pizza, I’ll clean up.”

“No olives,” she stated.

He winked at her, which made her face flame. Why was that wink so sexy?

After pizza and Dan’s famous peppermint brownies—which where the star of the show—she sat beside him on the piano bench while he played. Watching his fingers move across the keys was mesmerizing, and sitting this close with him smelling this good made her stomach flip flop.

“Pick a song,” he prodded, after he hit the last chord to Unruly Heart from The Prom.

She smiled up at him. “I know one song on the piano.”

“If you play Heart and Soul, I will close this lid,” he teased.

“Okay, okay. Two songs.” She raised her hands to the keys, guessed wrong, then tried again. On the third attempt, she nailed the beginning to “Falling Slowly” from Once. She wasn’t much of a singer, mostly a shower performer, but she sang the words anyway.

On cue, Dan joined her, playing both an accompanying piano part and singing the duet. She was lost in him, lost in the song, lost in the moment.

When the last note reverberated, then both dropped their hands from the keys, but didn’t speak.

Dan reached over to the pad of paper and pen he had sitting on the top of the piano and scribbled out a note, before folding it in half and handing it do her.

Baffled, she opened the note. “Can I kiss you?”

She looked up to find him holding a pen out to her. Rolling her eyes, she wrote “yes,” then handed both the pen and paper back to him.

He glanced down at the note, smiled, set it down, and lowered his lips to hers.

(Fin)

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