Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Way to a Man’s Heart (Extended Flash Fic)


I posted the 1000 word version of this story back in July. Tonight I was cleaning up my hard drive when I came across the longer version of this flash piece. Originally I wrote the piece as a writing exercise for an online writing group. The exercise challenged us to include instructions on how to do or make something, but to include them in a subtle way rather than an info dump. (This is a great exercise for a writer.) 

I pared down the piece for the 1000 word flash fiction limit because I liked the story, but it pained me to do so. There's an extra 330 words in this version and personally I prefer this longer version so I'm posting it here. For those that feel the urge to compare the two (and I know you're out there) the shorter piece is posted immediately before this post.

If you can't figure it out and you're interested, scroll down to the end of the post where I'll tell you what the instructions were for.   

The Way to a Man’s Heart (Extended Flash Fic)
© 2012

Nathan checked the address. Yep. This was it. He knocked, running his fingers through his messy hair as he waited. The door opened and Nathan stared at the man who’d answered his knock.

They were the same height but where Nathan was skinny, too skinny really, this man was big, muscular. His shoulders filled the doorway.

“Yes?” The voice was businesslike.

Nathan fought the urge to fidget. Mathew Stark?”

“Yes.”

“I’m Nathan. The pet sitter?”

The man regarded him impassively. “You’re early.”

“Yeah, the bus didn’t take as long as I’d thought. Sorry.”

“Come in.”

Nathan slipped through the doorway.

“Shoes.”

“Oh, right.” Nathan slipped out of his battered sneakers, for some reason taking the extra couple of seconds to line them up. Glancing at his host’s rugged face he saw this had been a good idea.

“I’ll take your coat.”

“Okay.” Nathan squirmed out of his jean jacket, wondering if he should have removed the rainbow flag pin. Too late now.

“We can talk in the kitchen.”

“Sure.”

Nathan followed the bigger man down a hall, admiring his muscular ass and strong thighs. The kitchen smelled like cooking though Nathan couldn’t identify the scent.

“Have a seat.”

“Thanks.” Nathan perched on a stool next to a breakfast bar.

“Would you like something to drink?”

“Coffee, if you have it, please.”

“Sure.”

Nathan looked around. There was no sign of the dog he was supposed to be sitting, but a large dog bed sat in a corner of the kitchen and there were clean food and water bowls near a patio door. Nathan could see a garden beyond them.

Mathew placed a mug in front of him, then cream and a sugar bowl.

“Thanks.”

Nathan added cream then two spoons of sugar. He was planning on a third—it might be a while before he got to eat anything—but the slight frown on Mathew’s face stopped him.

He sipped experimentally. “This is good coffee.”

“Thank you.”

Nathan took another mouthful. Mathew crossed the kitchen and opened a cupboard. He pushed a bag of oatmeal cookies in Nathan’s direction. 

“Did you eat today?”

Nathan was already on his second cookie. He chewed and swallowed before answering. “Not yet.” He stole another cookie.

“It’s already one o’clock.”

Nathan folded his hands in his lap. “I had groceries but someone ate my last two bagels.” He shrugged. “It’s hard to keep food when you share a kitchen with three other students.

“Humph.” Mathew turned and opened the oven.  He pulled out a cookie sheet with…squash?

“You’re baking that?” Nathan blurted.

Mathew glanced over at him. “Roasting. For soup.”

“You can cook?”

The corners of Mathew’s mouth twitched. “Can’t you?”

“No.”

“I’m going to keep working on this while we talk. Okay?”

“Sure. You’re the boss.”

Mathew flicked him an amused look.  “Tell me about yourself.”

“Okay.” Nathan babbled away about his program, dorm life, his pet sitting experience as Mathew chopped onions and garlic. He handled the knife with the same level of skill as someone with their own cooking show: rocking the knife back and forth rhythmically, transforming the large chunks of raw onion down to tiny glistening pieces. It was weirdly hypnotic.

Nathan ran out of things to say. Mathew poured some oil into a large pot. He dumped the onions and garlic into the pot and the kitchen was filled with the scent of good things cooking. Nathan’s mouth watered.

“Come here.”

Nathan got up and approached the stove. Mathew handed him a wooden spoon. “Don’t let them burn.”

“Okay.” Nathan stirred diligently. He still hadn’t seen the dog he was supposed to be sitting, but if Mathew wanted him to stir some onions while he interviewed him, he didn’t mind.

Mathew scooped the soft flesh from the inside of the squash. His fingers gleamed with the oil that had coated the cookie sheet and the squash. Nathan couldn’t seem to stop looking at those hands. Big, strong hands; sure, decisive. Nathan deliberately turned back to the onions and gave them another stir. “I think these are done.”

Mathew came up behind him and looked over his shoulder. He smelled like soap and clean laundry. Nathan stood very still as his body responded to Mathew’s physical proximity. His heartbeat picked up and his gut fluttered pleasantly. Damn.

”Keep stirring.”

 “Okay.” 

Mathew dropped the pieces of squash into a food processor. He added chicken stock from a carton.

“You’ve looked after lots of different pets. Have you ever had your own dog?”

Nathan opened his mouth to respond but Mathew held up a hand. “Just a second.” He turned on the food processer. They both watched as the squash was reduced to a smooth paste. “Now the onions.”

Nathan stepped back and relinquished his spoon. Mathew added the onions and a little more stock. Then he dumped the whole thing back into the pot.

“Sara’s a yellow lab.”

Nathan assumed Sara was the dog he was supposed to sit.  “Labs are great. I had a chocolate lab when I was a kid.” 

“Sara’s ten and a bit arthritic or I’d take her with me this weekend. The trip would probably be stressful for her and I’d prefer she stay at home with someone to keep her company.”

Mathew poured the rest of the stock into the pot. He added salt, pepper, cinnamon and curry powder before turning the stove down to low. “There.

“That’s it? It’s done?”

Mathew put the lid on the pot. “Yep.”

Nathan eyed the soup longingly. It smelled amazing but it didn’t look like Mathew was planning on eating it anytime soon. He’d probably made it for dinner and by then Nathan would be back at the dorm eating his last microwave dinner. If one of his roommates hadn’t got to it first.

“So does Sara need medication?” Nathan asked.

Mathew shot him a surprised look. “Not yet. Not as long as she doesn’t overdo it.”

“I won’t take her hiking or anything but I bet she likes to amble around the neighborhood.”

“She does. Yeah.” Mathew had been filling the sink with hot soapy water but he stopped and turned to look at Nathan.

Nathan fought the urge to roll his eyes. “You don’t have to look so surprised. I am a good pet sitter.”

“I’m beginning to think so.”

Nathan raised his eyebrows. “Didn’t you do some checking before you called me? I have references.”

Mathew shook his head. “I got your name from Eric. So I thought maybe…”

“You thought maybe what?” Nathan kept his voice even. He needed this job.

Mathew raised his chin. “I thought you might have been one of his…boys.”

Nathan’s face flamed. “I don’t always get to be choosy about the people I work for.”

Even so, he probably wouldn’t pet sit for Eric Henning again. When Eric had come home from his trip, Nathan had somehow found himself on his knees, blowing the other man while Eric talked dirty. The experience had been hot but made him feel like a slut. The extra twenty Eric had tried to pay him, with a smirk, for “additional services” made him feel like a whore.

Nathan scowled. He didn’t usually have sex with people he didn’t know, but Eric had been aggressive and Nathan had found himself responding. It looked like he had a thing for assertive men: Men like Mathew.

“Did he do something you didn’t like?”

At Mathew’s tone Nathan looked up. A muscle jumped in the other man’s jaw and his fists were clenched.

Nathan grimaced. “Oh, I liked it alright, but he’s a jerk.”

“Agreed.” Mathew’s tense posture relaxed.  “Are you seeing anyone?”

Nathan stiffened. “That’s not your business.”

“It would be if I asked you to dinner.”

“Are you?” Nathan tried to be nonchalant but his stomach grumbled noisily.

Mathew smiled and reached into a cupboard. He brought out a soup bowl. “Maybe we should do lunch first.”


End.


Did you get it? It's a recipe for roasted squash soup. (One of the few things I can make.) Maybe it's obvious to you, but I did tell you there were instructions for something in here so I think that helps. I have had people read this short and they didn't see the recipe until I told them. Feel free to leave a comment if you're so inclined. :-)