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Speak Now

Story ID:4695
Written by:Michael Timothy Smith (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Fiction
Location:Caldwell Idaho USA
Year:2009
Person:Contest Entry
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I don't know if anyone else entered this contest
or not.

Below is the topic I received and the word count
limit. Below that is my entry.

This was a great challenge. I only had 950 words
to work with. It leaves very little room for character development. I got my idea early,
took a nap, and then worked through the night.

I got it done in 929 words.

TODAY'S TOPIC!

The small wood stove kept the tiny chapel warm and their snowy footprints had already
melted by the door. The dim light from the candle nubs played on the faces of the
minister and his wife, and made the bride and groom's shadows dance on the empty pews.

The minister’s monotone continued, "If any of you can show just cause why they may not
lawfully be married, speak now; or else for ever hold your peace."

All four turned abruptly when they heard a cough by the door...

~~~~~

WORD COUNT: Stories for today's topic must not exceed 950 words.


Speak Now …

They chose a remote chapel in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Neither of
them had family. The remote church was perfect for them.

Mark and Vanessa faced each other. The small wood stove kept the tiny chapel warm and

their snowy footprints had already melted by the door. The dim light from the candle
nubs played on the faces of the minister and his wife, and made the bride and groom's
shadows dance on the empty pews.

The minister’s monotone continued, "If anyone can show just cause why they may not
lawfully be married, speak now or forever hold your peace."

All four turned abruptly when they heard a cough by the door. A lone man stood there.
“I show cause,” he said.

“Who the hell are you?” Mark asked.

Vanessa took Mark’s arm. “Mark, we’re in church. Watch your language.”

The man walked up the aisle. “The name is Jack Rose – bounty hunter.” He reached into
his pocket and removed a sheet of paper. “I have a warrant for the arrest of Mark
Harrington.”

“Mark?” Vanessa turned to her husband-to-be. “What is he talking about?”

Mark’s gaze turned from Rose to the minister and then to his fiancé. “Vanessa, I don’t
know what this is all about. There’s got to be a mistake.”

“Sir,” the minister finally spoke. “We’re conducting a wedding here.”

Jack pulled a set of handcuffs from his belt and roughly turned Mark around. “There’ll
be no wedding today. Mr. Harrington, you’re under arrest for the embezzlement of more
than half a billion dollars in New York City.”

Mark winced as the steel cuffs clamped tightly around his wrists. “Vanessa, I swear.”
He swallowed hard. “This is some kind of joke.”

“No joke!” Jack said and pulled Mark toward the exit.

The door closed behind them. Flakes of snow spun in the air and settled to the floor.
Vanessa jumped when an ember popped in the stove. She turned to the minister and his
wife. Tears left dark streaks of mascara down her cheeks. “I don’t understand…” Her
knees buckled.

The minister rushed forward and caught her before she hit the floor. “Vanessa, I’m
sorry this happened. You’ll stay in our home tonight.”

*******************

Jack shoved Mark into the back of his car and climbed into the driver’s seat. “You’ve
got the wrong man, Rose.”

“Shut up!” Jack said and started the car. “Tell it to the judge.”

Thirty minutes later, Jack turned the car onto a rutted dirt road. They wound their way
up a steep hill and stopped in front of an old brick house.

“What is this?” Mark asked.

Jack said nothing. He pulled Mark from the car, to the house, and down steep stairs to
the basement. A crude cell filled one corner. “Get used to these bars, Mark. They’re all you’ll see for a long time.”

*******************

They sat around the table in the sparse kitchen of the minister’s home. They’d just
finished a hardy breakfast, which Vanessa ate little of. “I can’t believe this!” she said
and lifted a cup of coffee to her lips with shaking hands. “I thought I knew him. What am
I going to do? I can’t go home. There’s nothing there for me. The few friends I have will
think I had something to do with Mark’s crimes.”

The minister’s wife reached out and patted her
arm. “People can be deceptive. It’s not your fault. You’re welcome to stay with us as long as you want, dear. We don’t have
much, but what we have is yours.” She turned to her husband. “John, aren’t they looking
for help at the flower shop in Boone?”

“I think they are.” he smiled.

“I’m not a florist.” Vanessa protested.

“Who made that bouquet you held last night?” the minister asked.

“I did.”

“It was beautiful. You have a knack with flowers.”

A loud knock on the door startled Vanessa. The minister stood, walked out,
and returned with Mr. Rose.

“What are you doing here? Haven’t you done enough?” Vanessa said.

“I need to talk to you.”

“I have nothing to say.”

“Vanessa … Ms. Smith, I’m sorry. Mark did some bad things. I was doing my job.”

“I know.” She looked into his slate gray eyes and ruggedly handsome face. Under
different circumstances, she would have found him handsome. “It’s …” she paused. “It’s
just so confusing.”

“I understand. This is a horrible shock to you, but Mark did some bad things.”

Vanessa stood and paced the wooden floor of the kitchen. “I can’t believe he fooled me.”

Jack stepped in front of her. “Vanessa, none of this is your fault. Mark is a con. He fooled
many people. Some people are like that.”

*******************

Vanessa settled into her new life, thrived at the flower shop, and soon moved from the
the minister’s home. The three of them celebrated her accomplishments over a last meal
in the old kitchen.

Jack stopped by the flower shop often. Vanessa’s heart healed. She and Jack dated. Love
bloomed.

*******************

"If anyone can show just cause why they may not lawfully be married, speak now or
forever hold your peace."

There was a cough by the door. Mark and three policemen stood inside the door. “I show
cause!” Mark said.

The policemen rushed forward. “Mr. Rose, you’re under arrest for kidnapping and
impersonating an officer of the court and other charges to be determined.”

Jack looked over his shoulder. “I’m sorry, Vanessa! I saw your picture in the engagement
announcements. You should be mine. You have to be mine!”


Michael T. Smith