#WritingChallenge: April’s Day Off

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by Deirdre

Spring has arrived here in Toronto, and we couldn’t be happier. While we don’t have daffodils yet (Hello, London office! *waves*), Torontonians do like to take advantage of the spring weather.

I was looking at a list of movies to watch in springtime, and one of the suggestions was “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”. Technically “Ferris” is set in September, but there’s something about its freewheeling escapism that capture’s the feeling of spring perfectly. What could be more spring-y than faking illness to get outside?*

So here’s your Easter Weekend Writing Challenge: Your heroine, April, has called in sick (cough, cough). It’s a beautiful spring day and she’s determined to own it. In a short scene, tell us how she meets the hero. (Maybe he’s her boss!)

Tip: Authentic character motivation drives the action and creates chemistry between your hero and heroine. For tips on characterization, check out our post on creating memorable characters.

Because it’s a holiday and you might need extra time between hunting for eggs and eating ham and scalloped potatoes, post your short scene in the comments anytime between now and Monday, April 17, 2017, and we’ll check back with you on Tuesday!

* Disclaimer: SYTYCW does not endorse skipping work or school in any season, and cannot be held responsible if you choose to do so and your boss or teacher finds out. Discretion is advised.

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  1. April wiped her brown with her forearm. She stepped back carefully, only standing upright when she was sure she was clear of the hull and wouldn’t end up with fresh bottom paint in her hair. She stood back, roller dangling from one hand while she examined her work.
    The April sun was beginning to wane. The day had been a promise of the summer to come, but the temperature was dropping rapidly. April touched up one spot, circled the boat, and decided she’d finished.
    The yacht club was quiet. Weekends would see it start to come to life as people prepared to launch their boats for the summer sailing season, but the forecast was for cold rain for the next five days, so April had played hooky from work. She hadn’t taken a day off in a year, but she didn’t feel guilty about this. In fact, she might call in sick again tomorrow. After a year of working non-stop, determined to crack the glass ceiling, she’d found out it was all in vain. No one could deny that she was the most deserving person in the Toronto office to be made partner now that Tierson was retiring. So, what had they done? Brought in someone from Vancouver: a man, of course. April had read the email first thing this morning. She’d wanted to scream, or throw heavy objects, preferably at those misogynists in the corner offices, but instead she’d called in sick and come to the club, venting her anger through hard physical labour. Thalassa, her racing sailboat, had been suffering a lack of attention while she tried to earn her partnership. No more. She’d work on the boat on this, the only nice day of the week, and on the rainy weekend, she’d polish up her resume. And start calling her race crew.
    Last year she hadn’t focused on racing, and when she did get out, she’d held back her competitive vein so as to not overtake Midas, Tierson’s boat. After all, she wanted to keep on his good side. Not this year. This year she was winning. She could only get so much revenge professionally without torpedoing her own career, but here on the lake, Midas was going down. Maybe not literally, though that was a pleasant picture.
    “Beautiful boat.” said a voice.
    April started. She hadn’t heard the stranger approach. She wondered for a moment how he’d got into the club, but as she got a good look at him, decided she was just happy he had. He was about her age, tall and fit, and looked like he knew his way around a boat. And would look good on it. April had put her social life on hold, and she was ready to change that. Perhaps she was going to be rewarded for playing hooky.
    “Thanks.” she said, hoping she didn’t have bottom paint on her face. Her shirt and pants were spotted with it.
    “She looks fast. You race?” he asked.
    April nodded. “You sail?”
    He nodded. “Every chance I get.”
    April smiled. “I’m sorry, I can’t offer you a crew position – it’s all women on Thalassa.”
    He smiled back at her. “I prefer to skipper anyway. I’ve got a chance to helm another J boat, Midas?” he said, as if asking if she knew the boat.
    April froze. She knew the boat only too well. The partners raced on Midas.
    “Let me introduce myself.” the man said, but it wasn’t necessary. April knew exactly who he was now. He was the new partner from BC.

    • Kayla K.

      Loved this, Anne! As Yvonne said, the sailing angle is really fun and the arrival of the hero as the new hire from BC promises all kinds of conflict in the future. Not only will she be competitive with him in the office, but with the big race coming up and him helming Midas, well, she’ll HAVE to take him down. They have a friendly start here, but I wonder if this would turn into an enemies-to-lovers romance?

  2. April was crouched behind an oak tree, watching the huge, grey stallion graze on the spring grass. The sun beat down on her back and April was regretting the fact she had retained her chemise and petticoat under the rough clothing.

    “This is more than ridiculous,” she muttered as she stripped off clothes to removed her petticoat. She was tempted to remove her chemise as well, for the sun felt wonderful on her skin. However, there were some things one just did not do.

    Stuffing the garment into the sack, she extracted a few apples, and the soft rope. She’d snuck away from the house at dawn, no one would miss her until noon. It was time to put her plan into action.

    April slowly, and painstakingly walk around the magnificent beast. He watched her with dark, liquid eyes, tossing his head up and flinging his long silver mane back occasionally, though he didn’t move far. She raised the hand with three small apples toward the horse, careful to keep her eyes averted as she murmured low, nonsense words, has he sniffed the offering.

    April need the stallion to be calm and not feel threatened, so she could get as close as was possible. Palm flat, she offered the fruit. The huge animal nickered, and soft lips bushed her fingers as they sucked up the apples. April turned her palm, and as the horse crunched his treat, she slid her hand up his massive neck. The Percheron was a rare prize, and valuable.

    “You don’t look like a ghost to me.” April allowed a small smile to creep across her lips. Gently, standing on tip-toe, she drew the makeshift halter over the horse’s head. The Percheron didn’t move a muscle. “I didn’t think you were a spirit, and this just proves some of the locals like their fun. You must belong to someone.”

    “You are, of course, correct. Ghost, belongs to me.” Ghost raised his head and nickered a greeting to his master, just a April swiftly turned her head in the direction of the male voice.

    There, leaning against the oak tree that sheltered her sack, was a large, dark-haired man. He was hat less and dressed in leather breeks and an open-neck white shirt, and good quality riding boots in casing muscular legs, and an amused light in his eyes as he ran them over her.

    He had his arms crossed over a massive chest, and straightened away from the tree. “You tempted my horse to your hand quite well. You have a way with the animals, Ghost doesn’t trust many people, and my new groom is not in that select group.”

    April hunched her shoulders and dropped her eyes. He won’t know she was not a boy, not from her height, she told herself, as she averted her face. “I’m sorry, sir. I was told he was lost. Left wandering these past four days.” She shrugged and opened her hand to unknot the rope. If the horse was his, he could catch it himself.

    Head down, April stepped away from the Percheron and made a wide berth around the gentlemen. She leaned down for her sack. “I’ll trouble you no further, sir. Good day to you.”

    April grabbed the bag, thinking she had pulled it off, when a tanned large hand grasped her wrist in a strong grip.

    Automatically, she lifted her head to protest, when her hat was abruptly removed. Her traitorous chestnut hair tumbled down her back and she looked up into deep brown eyes, no longer amused, but heated. “Ghost may not be a spirit, but neither are you a lad.” His eyes flickered over her face. “Who are you, lady?”

    • Kayla K.

      I’m so glad you went Historical with this, Yvonne, and used historical components to ramp up the tension in the scene, such as crossdressing. It’s delightful that the hero finds April in this somewhat compromised position, creating an interesting dynamic where she’s very concerned about being found out, but he’s more fascinated by how easily she handles Ghost. I wonder what their respective stations are in society…really, I want more of all of this!

  3. April James awoke to the early morning light. She sat up in bed, looked out her window, at the brick wall from the new office block next door, and made her decision. Today was the first day of April, spring was well underway and it was her birthday. She was going to have a fresh start, and she was going to do it right now, today, before anything or anyone, was able to change her mind. She was going to move, change jobs and embrace singleness.
    April tied her long blonde hair into a pony tail and reached for her phone. She rang the office number.
    ‘Good morning, Perpetual Motion Advertising Agency. Your product is our next big project. Can I help you?’ came Carol’s chirpy voice over the phone.
    April reached for the tissues to put over her mouth. ‘Hi Carol, it’s me,’ said April in her best ‘Í have the flu today and I can’t talk’ voice. ‘I’m sorry but I can’t make it in today. I have a dreadful cold. Would you tell Matt, I’m sick?’
    ‘Goodness you sound completely dreadful. How did you come down with that so quickly and in spring too?’
    ‘I don’t know,’ April lied. In one way, she hated doing this, especially as it was Carol taking her call, but on the other hand, Matt had been such a rat to her and well…. April had made her decision. If she didn’t call the number for the little apartment and get around to see it early today, experience told her it would be gone by this evening. A whole new change. That was what she had decided.
    ‘Matt will be furious, you know,’ Carol was saying. ‘You haven’t forgotten he’s got that new client coming in today for a meeting at nine thirty?’
    Dash. April had forgotten. What to say? She couldn’t very well back track now and tell Carol she didn’t really have a cold, she was lying and she would be in at nine thirty after all, and she wasn’t a good enough actress to turn up and pretend she really did have the flu. Lies. Didn’t her mother always say once you told one, you were committed to the next.
    Well Matt was a big boy. He would have to manage the new client on his own. And anyway, she was going to be leaving soon. He’d have to manage permanently on his own, then. She’d given him his very last chance. No more waiting. No more looking for love. She was going to be independently single and happy, this time. On her own and loving it, and getting that apartment overlooking the park was going to be her first step.
    ‘Sorry Carol. I did forget but never mind. I’m sure Matt can manage on his own. I’m sure he can meet the client and talk to him about getting ideas for the advertising campaign without me there. There are lots of graphic artists in the company who can do what I do. I’m sure he wouldn’t want me with the flu,’ April added trying to sound convincing.
    ‘Serves him right I say treating you like that. Good luck to him, getting a bit of a taste of his own manner,’ said Carol, brusquely. ‘That’s my thought, even if he does pay my wage.’
    ‘Yes. Well. We shouldn’t talk like that, Carol. Just because he happens to treat me badly, doesn’t mean he isn’t fond of you,’ said April. She was going to sneeze in a minute, trying to talk through the tissues like this. ‘I must go. I’m going to cough.’
    April said goodbye to Carol and hung up. Really the trauma of the last few weeks with Matt was causing her to become forgetful. She had done her dash now. it was an important meeting and she was going to miss it. Never mind. She couldn’t very well help it now.
    April got up from the bed and went to find the sheet she’d printed off with the ad for the apartment. She would ring right now.
    Thirty minutes later, having arranged an appointment to meet the landlord at the apartment, April was on the doorstep of the old restored building ringing the doorbell. The early morning sun warmed April in her simple white linen dress and the park directly next door was ablaze with red roses, their sweet perfume whispered a warm spring greeting. The door opened almost immediately.
    ‘Yes?’
    April took a step back. This was not what she was expecting. The man who stood there was at least six feet tall, with beautiful dark curls, chiselled jaw and dark eyes. Incredibly handsome. April felt her eyes lock with his. She hadn’t expected temptation to come quite so quickly. Her vow to embrace singleness was evaporating before her eyes. She would have to be strong.
    ‘Um,’ said April, more than a little caught and feeling foolish at not being able to think of something suitable to say. The thought flashed through her mind that losing her voice here, might be retribution for the lie she’d told earlier. April coughed. I..I called earlier and I’ve come to look at the apartment that was advertised,’ she stuttered.
    ‘Come in’ he said. ‘My names Simon Winthrop. But if you don’t mind being quick, I have a very important appointment with an advertising agency and they promised to introduce me to some woman, who’s a real whiz at graphic art. I rearranged my entire day to get there and I hate to be late. That and lying are the two things I can’t tolerate. But come with me. It’s this way. By the way what did you say your name was?’

    • Kayla K.

      This was great, Jennie. This is full of nods to parts of the story that we don’t know yet, which is a sound way to keep a reader interested! What had Matt done to April? Who made her decide she was done with love once and for all? You’ve done a great setup here with Simon, too, and I’m dying to know how April gets out of it!

  4. Sophia W

    April Jones leant back on the bench, closed her eyes, and tipped her head up towards the sun, revelling in the warmth on her cheeks, the gentle sound of the waves lapping against the sides of the boat and the smell of sea salt.
    She’d planned this day for weeks. It was going to be very quiet in the office, she’d made sure that she was on top of her work, and she needed a day off. A day of fun, and solitude. She’d settled on the first of April, because in her head April meant that Spring Had Arrived. Irrespective of the fact that, on the vast majority of April days in Scotland, a woolly jumper and Ugg boots were a lot more appropriate attire than a summer dress and flip flops.
    And now the first of April was here, and Scotland was in the grip of a mini heatwave. It was still only nine am and already she’d been able to discard her cardigan. Temperatures were forecast to top those in Madrid today. She was the only passenger on the boat. Her ‘sick’ day was obviously meant to be. Serendipity. Everything was perfect.
    Until a deep, and strangely almost-familiar voice said, ‘Good morning.’
    April’s eyes shot open and her gaze alit on a pair of well-worn jeans, very well filled out, topped by an extremely solid and muscly chest in a scruffy t-shirt, and…
    ‘Matthew,’ she almost screamed.
    ‘Nope,’ he said. ‘Dan. Twin brother. Easy mistake. How do you know him? And what are the odds? Small world, huh.’
    How. Do. I. Know. Him? April’s mind was working far too slowly. She couldn’t say that he was her boss. With whom she was supposed to be in the office today. And she couldn’t tell ‘Dan’ her name, because not many people both were called April and had a lot of curly red hair that was already going mad from the briny air, and presumably he might mention her to Matthew.
    ‘You’re right. What are the odds? You’d think we’d have met before. Matthew’s my neighbour,’ she said, accompanying her words with what she hoped was an innocent-looking, not-a-care-in-the-world kind of smile.
    ‘I’m not often in town. Matt and I are very different. Neighbours. Lucky him,’ Dan said, smiling lazily back at her.
    April almost blushed. That was a good smile. She wondered if Matthew owned a similar smile. He rarely looked happy in her presence, so she wouldn’t know.
    ‘And your name is?’ Dan said, sitting down next to her.
    ‘May,’ April said firmly.
    ‘That’s a pretty name. You know what, we have beautiful weather and we’re going to a beautiful deserted island, just the two of us apparently. I think we’re going to have a good trip together.’
    This time his smile was even better. Hot, in fact.
    ‘I think we are,’ April found herself twinkling back at him, despite the little alarm bells at the back of her head that were reminding her that, firstly, she was in no way in the market for even a little flirtation, and, if she had been, flirting with Matthew’s twin brother, and on her fake sick day, would be an act of actual insanity. Plus, she’d been looking forward to a day by herself, to do some fun things, like swimming naked on the far side of the island, definitely not going to happen now, but also to think, start to sort her life out in her head.
    And then the skipper shouted something incomprehensible, the boat lurched, and they were off.

    • Patience Bloom

      Sophia, I love how you bring us into the scene with the five senses. It made me want to take the day off! And it was neat how you created a twist with Dan showing up. I could imagine how this could cause our heroine some anxiety. And now they’ll be stranded together. What fun! I hope all goes well for them! 🙂

  5. Chrissie

    “Cool Mom, look at this!” Justin spread the newspaper wide on the table in front of her.
    April Meyers glanced down at the article her fifteen-year-old son pointed out. A chill ran up her spine as she read the column. Old memories flooded her senses. The article was about a new skydiving outfit opening nearby.
    RAINBOW SKY EXCURSIONS – Skydiving lessons daily, all ages. Located at the old Johnson County Airport, fifteen minutes from downtown Riverdale.
    “Can I, Mom?” Hope glimmered in his eyes.
    “Justin, you know how I feel about flying. Your dad—”
    “I don’t want to hear about how Dad crashed and burned again, Mom. I was just a kid. I don’t even remember him, but sometimes I wish he was here. He’d let me have fun once in a while.” He turned and stomped out of the room.
    Why was it so hard to raise a son on her own? After losing Tom she hadn’t wanted to remarry, it would be impossible to find another man as wonderful. Full of laughter, strong and handsome, Tom had feared nothing. She would never let Justin fly as long as it was in her power to prevent him. When he turned eighteen, she would have to let him go and pray he would make wise choices. But the boy wanted to fly and had since he received his first toy airplane from his father on his fourth birthday.
    She walked over to the sliding glass door. They’d had a tropical heat wave the past few days with no relief in sight. A typical Arizona spring. And she had spring fever big time. She’d feigned a cold to play hooky and relax at home—gardening, swimming, and enjoying nature.
    Water sparkled in the Olympic-sized pool, begging her to indulge. She shrugged out of her shorts and tank top, uncovering her swimsuit, and slid open the glass door. A rush of hot air hit her like a licking flame and she nearly turned back into the cool, air-conditioned house.
    She bent to test the water’s temperature. Tepid, just how she liked it. She balanced on the edge, then bent and dove neatly beneath the liquid surface. Holding her breath for the length of the pool, she surfaced in the shallow end and stood to wring excess water from her long hair.
    “Watch-out below!”
    April turned from side to side, expecting a practical joke from Justin. Nothing. She dunked below the water’s cool surface and came up in a back float. She blinked the water from her eyes and gasped.
    A large dark form came hurtling from the sky. There wasn’t time to swim away.
    A heavy body hit hers and knocked the wind from her lungs, sending her to the pool bottom with force. She sucked in water and struggled to resurface, pain gripping her lungs as blackness overcame her senses….
    The most wonderful sensation of being kissed made her heart flutter. Over and over again, a warm mouth pressed to hers. Large hands pressed between her breasts, pressing and releasing in a pumping motion. Her stomach roared with nausea. She rolled to her side and water gushed from her mouth, all over a pair of booted feet.
    April blinked several times in an attempt to make sense of what was happening. Her head pounded like someone knocking on the front door. What had hit her like a ton of bricks? She stared again at the shoes that resembled ARMY boots. Her gaze lifted to muscular thighs covered in dark hair. A pair of khaki shorts and a flat, firm, stomach beneath a white T-shirt. All soaking wet. She shook her head and raised her gaze to meet a pair of silver-speckled blue eyes.
    “You all right?” His wide, deep-dimpled smile contradicted the concern in his low-timbered voice.
    Her stomach rolled like distant thunder. “Are you crazy? You nearly killed me.”
    “I administered CPR—oh, you mean in the pool? Sorry about that. Miscalculation on my part.” He lifted her under the arms and helped her to her feet. “Let’s get you over to the lounge.”
    She wondered how she’d survived the impact of his well-muscled body. “I’ve been around pools all my life and never had an accident.”
    He wiped her face with what she realized must be his wrung out T-shirt. “You mean no one ever fell from the sky and landed on you while you were floating in your pool?”
    Annoyance snipped away her manners. “The airstrip is a mile that way. What were you doing way over here?”
    “Swimming?” He chuckled and a sparkle lit his eyes. “I’m Ted. Ted Rainbow of—”
    “Don’t tell me, Rainbow Sky Excursions.”
    What else could go wrong today? First, an argument with Jason, then almost drowned by this…this, muscle-bound hunk. She laid back with a sigh and covered her eyes to shield them from the sun, as well as the disturbing factor who hunkered down beside her.

    • Patience Bloom

      Hilarious, Chrissie! What a fun way to meet a hero. And she really didn’t have to do much to get her man. I like the bittersweet tone of the beginning and how it goes into humor at the end. And it definitely raises questions about how the hero ended up falling into her pool at that particular time. I’d love to know what happens after and if her son gets his wish. Nicely done!

  6. Jacqueline Burrows

    April breathed in the crisp Spring air. Hyde Park was alive with new life; daffodils and tulips displayed their bright colours and the trees proudly sprouted new leaves. Cupid, her neighbour’s Golden Retriever puppy, who was her chosen companion for the day, wagged her tail and pulled on her lead, eager to be off chasing squirrels and following intriguing scents.

    April had phoned in sick that morning, quashing the feelings of guilt as she’d lied about a stomach bug. She had no reason to feel guilty. Since the take-over she had been working twelve hour shifts in preparation for the new owner’s arrival the following day. By all accounts the man was a tyrant. Inflexible, strict, distant, cold and humourless. She had heard all those descriptions of him. She was willing to give him a chance, but if they didn’t get on, there were plenty more executive secretarial positions in London.

    She let Cupid off her lead, not knowing or caring if dogs could roam free in Hyde Park. She’d keep her eye on her.

    Still worrying about work, she glanced guiltily at the city skyscrapers that were just visible on the skyline behind the trees. Well, the newly named Benedetti Financial Services would just have to do without her for one day. The weather was glorious, she was feeling reckless and, anyway, she’d be in the office on the dot of seven the following day as usual. To greet her new boss. The Tyrant.

    Suddenly, April was pulled out of her musings by the sound of a child squealing. She looked around for Cupid but couldn’t see her anywhere. She started running towards the sound.

    A man and a little girl of about four stood near the water. Cupid was bounding around them barking and shaking water everywhere. April’s heart sank. As she hurried over, the man lifted the little girl into his arms and held her out of Cupid’s reach. He hugged her to him protectively. April felt sick with anxiety. But as she reached them, she realized that the child wasn’t squealing in fear, she was laughing at Cupid. The man, however, looked less than pleased.

    ‘Papa, let me down, I want to stroke the doggy,’ the little girl said.

    ‘Oh, I’m so sorry, is she alright?’ April stopped in her tracks as the man turned towards her. Her heart beat at a frightening rate, which had nothing to do with her short sprint, and her mouth and throat were suddenly too dry to speak. The man, dressed in an immaculate black bespoke suit with a pristine white shirt and pale blue tie, looked as if he had just been photographed for a fashion magazine. But it was his eyes that held her enthralled. As blue as his tie, they were bright against the midnight black of his hair and were burning into her as she stood, quaking in front of him.

    ‘Papa…’ said the child.

    ‘Just a minute, Clara.’ His voice was low and even, with a slight Italian accent. It washed over her like cool water in a desert. ‘She is fine, but I wasn’t taking any chances. Nothing is more precious to me than my daughter and her welfare is my only concern.’

    ‘Oh. Right. Good.’ Coherent thought had abandoned her completely.

    ‘If you can reassure me that the dog is safe, then I will let her pet it.’

    ‘Oh yes, Cupid is safe. She’s a big softy.’

    ‘Cupid?’ he asked with a sardonic lift of one eyebrow.

    The puppy, doubtless thinking he was calling her, jumped up and laid her big, wet paws on the man’s immaculate white shirt. Clara laughed hysterically and the man stared down at the dog in disgust.

    ‘Oh no, Cupid, down!’

    Cupid sat obediently and Clara wriggled until the man put her down. April grabbed the puppy’s collar so the little girl could stroke her. She looked up at the man who was examining his sopping shirt and frowning. Then he caught her looking at him.

    ‘I’m so sorry. I’ll pay for any dry-cleaning bills.’ Although why he was wearing a suit to take his child to the park she couldn’t imagine.

    Then he smiled and the storm clouds fled. His smile was infectious and she grinned back.

    ‘There is no need,’ he said, ‘I have plenty of shirts. Okay, Clara, that is enough. We need to go now.’

    April felt bereft suddenly. Had she been hoping Mr Gorgeous was going to ask her to accompany them? Wanting to keep him there a bit longer she searched around for something to say. ‘Are you on holiday?’

    ‘No, we live here now. I start my new job tomorrow and was going to take Clara into the office to show her where I work. She likes to imagine me at my desk.’ He laughed and April was dazzled by how his features changed. His eyes danced with light and love as he spoke of his daughter. What must it be like to be loved that much? ‘But I need to change my clothes first. I haven’t met the staff yet and first impressions are so important, don’t you think?’

    ‘Oh yes, I absolutely agree.’ She would have agreed with anything the man said.

    ‘I’ll just phone my secretary and tell her we’ll be in later.’ He took his phone out of his pocket and pressed a button. April couldn’t tear her gaze away from him. His every move was fascinating to her.

    ‘Your phone’s ringing,’ said Clara.

    ‘Oh, so it is.’ She’d been so engrossed in Mr Sex-on-legs that she hadn’t heard the ringtone. ‘Hello?’

    ‘Hello?’ What the…?

    ‘Is that April Merriweather?’

    April heard his voice in two places and the blood drained from her face as realization dawned. ‘Yes, is that…?’

    ‘Rocco Benedetti. Your new boss.’

    • Chrissie

      Great beginning. I love the dog and little girl added to make it more family oriented. The next line is going to be the clincher. I can think of a few but it’s your story. So fun!

    • Patience Bloom

      Well done, Jacqueline! This is a sweet scene and I love how you bring in the hero’s little girl. And how can anyone resist a dog? Mostly I love the stomach-dropping moment when the heroine’s telephone rings, showing that she is definitely taking a fake sick day. Great job!

  7. Elaine Washington Vigne

    April is a plain Jane, a college graduate who wear coke bottle eye glasses. A brainiac who spends her days in the office pushing paper filled with numbers in Finance. Her boss a college graduate fresh off the press, and down for anything. Since his employment a month ago April is beginning to wear clear lip gloss, and peach colored blush. Today April wake up on this beautiful Spring morning with her allergies acting up, and in need of a get well day. April is sick but not enough to miss out on this beautiful weather. So he decided to call in work sick and catch a movie entitled “Love on the Run”. April put in her eye contacts: Instead of her eye glasses then put on flaming red lipstick and blush. She slipped on a lavender colored paisley print sheath dress, and put her hair up in a quaff style. April jumped in her blue Toyota and away she was on her way to the movies. Not before stopping at the local drug store to purchase a small bottle of Passion perfume her favorite scent. As she entered the drug store something was different pulse shock waves spiked up and down her body. She slowly made her way to the perfume counter reaching for the bottle. She felt a warm electric shock on the back of her hand. The hair stood up on the back of her neck, and a voice from the Gods said, “…Don’t I know you?…” April slowly turned her pulsating head looked into his tea colored walnut shaped eyes, and then to his raisin stained lips. “…Yes you are my boss Mike Lee…” . The energy filled the drug store ails like fire works. He then coughed into his elbow and said, “…I took a sick day…” and April “…I took a get well day…”
    Wink, wink, wink etc…

    • Deirdre

      Hi Elaine! I like your idea of having both the boss and the heroine taking a sick day on the same day and meeting in the drug store. And the idea that she is actually sick and he is possibly faking it is a fun twist. 🙂 You could upright expectations even more by avoiding the “heroine is more beautiful without her glasses” convention. Maybe April sees her boss differently – and not in a good way – when she realizes he’s skipping work! And how is he going to overcome her newfound opinions? Could be fun!

  8. Michelle

    Balancing her latte, April slid on to the window-front stool at Rise and Grind Coffee. She delicately sat her cup and saucer on the bar in front of her to avoid disturbing the intricate leaf design the barista had made in the foam. Usually her morning latte pick-ups were a rushed affair on her way to work, paid for in a frenzy and capped quickly with a white plastic lid while her car sat illegally parked in front.
    Today, she breathed in the scent of fresh-roasted beans, enjoying the sun streaming through the window and ignoring the burn from her first morning workout in almost three months.
    April felt a small pang of guilt about calling in sick that morning. She thought of her team making the last-minute touches on the letter of proposal for the Halcyon Gallery, her architecture firm’s latest and most prestigious project. She dismissed the feeling, knowing that she’d led her team this far, and they were more than capable of sending out the briefs and scheduling the follow-up meetings with the client. Today was all hers, her first day off in who knew how long, and she planned to make the most of it. Morning yoga, coffee, then lunch with her best friend Adrienne. She had an afternoon massage appointment booked, and she would check her email periodically to see that everything was going well at the office.
    Just relax, she told herself. You deserve this.
    She sipped her latte, noticing the tension in her shoulders. She loved her work, but it was definitely taking its toll.
    The bells on the front door jingled. April looked up, then quickly buried her forehead in her palm, pretending to concentrate on the home screen of her phone. Of all the coffee shops in Toronto, how was it possible that Bryden Janes would be at Rise and Grind?
    She contemplated making a quick exit, but didn’t want to draw any attention to herself. Not that he would know her from a hole in the wall, but the largest benefactor for the Halcyon Gallery would almost certainly be at the proposal meeting next week. She was currently sweaty and without any makeup, never mind the fact that she was ‘off sick’ the day before the proposal delivery. Not the first impression she wanted to make.
    With her back to the counter, she started to gather her things. She slipped off the stool, and with her head down, turned to move towards the door. As she did, she bumped into a tall figure, spilling coffee down a crisp white shirt. She almost couldn’t look up.
    When she did, she was met with dark brown eyes fixing her in a steely stare.
    “Oh my god, I’m so sorry,” she blurted out. “I didn’t see you. Did you burn yourself?” Her instinct was to run as she looked around to find a napkin dispenser. She pulled a fistful from a nearby table. “Let me—“
    Bryden Janes took the napkins from her outstretched hand, and dabbed them on his shirt.
    “Not to worry,” he said, checking his watch and then wincing. “I’ll just go home and change.” His dark eyes flashed, and he tossed the wet napkins on the table.
    “Let me as least get you another coffee,” she said, desperate to make amends.
    “That’s not necessary,” he responded, turning to leave. “Thanks anyway.”
    April watched him stride away quickly, his tall frame disappearing through the doorway, the bells signaling his exit. She stood beside the puddle of coffee, wondering if she could change her afternoon massage to a hair appointment.

    • Deirdre

      What I like about this scene is how April goes to her usual coffee shop – but with different results. And when April literally bumped into the hero (we see that a lot), I assumed there would be some sparks between them so it was nice to see the scene go in a slightly different direction and leave the reader hanging. Nicely done!

  9. Jocelyn

    “Woo hoo! Great hit, Micah!” April cupped slender fingers around her mouth to help carry her encouragement to her son as he sprang to his feet after sliding in to second base. She turned her attention to the small but intense batter currently stepping into the box. “You can do it Mitch! Knock it out there!”
    If her coworkers could see her now, they’d have a hard time recognizing no-nonsense, detail-demon Dr. Sampson in the pony-tailed, petite jean-clad figure among those that lined the fence of the little league field. Of course, it was a good thing they couldn’t see her now, because they were at work, and she wasn’t. The spring day had been too beautiful, the twins’ eyes too beseeching in regard to their first game of the year, and her lecture trip to Arizona looming too soon. April had taken a quick review of her schedule and played hooky for the first time since her freshman year of college.
    Mitch took a high pitch and April hollered her approval at his steadiness. The boys were growing up so fast and she was missing so much. She swallowed past the lump that suddenly rose in her throat. It was hard being a single parent. Scott would have loved these events. April rubbed a hasty knuckle under her eye to catch the wayward tear that leaked at the thought and tugged the bill of her ball cap further down. You’d think those would have stopped by now. He’d been gone for five years. Five busy, blurry years. Curling her fingers into the heavy-gauge fence in front of her, April watched as Mitch swung mightily but the ball still smacked into the catcher’s glove. The thought of a foul ball had her quickly pulling them out again.
    That’s why, with no patients today – she’d never cancel on a patient – and no surgeries on the schedule – transplants didn’t always go by regular hours, so even though she was ‘sick’, she carried that phone – motherhood had trumped her job. The only appointment on the calendar had been with the obnoxious drug rep whom her admin would contact and cancel. April had told Janice not to accept another appointment with the man this time.
    “Way to connect, Mitch!” she called as her son popped up for the third out of the inning and he trudged to the dugout with slumped shoulders.
    To be fair, the drug rep wasn’t obnoxious so much as just disturbing. The pharmaceutical company had pulled out the big guns, sending in their new VP of Sales to call on her regarding their anti-rejection drugs. April wasn’t flattered, she figured the top transplant facility in the country was a pretty rich prize. She’d done her research and determined that the immunosuppressive drugs she currently prescribed were more effective, cost and performance wise, than their line. In their meeting, after she’d un-swallowed her tongue and managed to keep it from hanging down her chin, she’d told him so in no uncertain terms. If her tone was more adamant than normal, it was in self-defense. The man was gorgeous. He’d made axons and dendrites spark throughout her body that hadn’t sent messages for years. How he’d gotten another appointment through Janice, she didn’t know, but it was probably through using charm, a piece of cake for him.
    But he’d been like a too rich dessert. Better not to take a bite at all, because one might not be enough. April knew better than to take that first taste, because she and her metabolism wouldn’t see the twenties again.
    Besides, it would be unethical to prescribe a drug just because the pharmaceutical rep made her temperature rise for the first time in a long while. And she, of all people, knew about the intricacies of working with organs. She switched her heart for her head once, with bittersweet results. It would be too painful to do it again.
    Flinching away from the thought, her wayward mind returned to desserts and her excellent memory conjured an image of the devastatingly attractive Matthew Dalton. April’s eyes widened as a whole new meaning to the old adage – a minute on the lips, forever on the hips – popped into her head.
    The hand that wagged to cool her heated cheeks changed to a finger-curled wave when Micah gave her a thumbs-up after tagging out a runner at second base. April smiled. She was thankful the boys hadn’t yet reached the age where they were embarrassed to interact with their mother in public. She was going to enjoy these precious years. Her focus needed to be on the twins and her patients. Not on Mr. Dalton’s excellent backside – yes, her eyes had lingered on it as he exited her office. There were very few on par with that one, although the one ten yards up the fence might run a close second. Clad in jeans, this one would also be stellar in a suit, as would the broad shoulders above it.
    April reined in her libido, now attempting to leaf out after a long dormancy. She returned her attention to the infield after a buzz of approval rippled through the parents that lined the fence. The pitcher on the boys’ team had struck out another batter.
    Clapping her appreciation, April welcomed the diversion. She hadn’t seen him before, but the twins’ had mentioned the new player. He was good, a natural athlete by his easy movements, she noted as he wound up and threw another strike. He was also going to be a heart-breaker when he grew up. Dark hair bordered his red ball cap and, unlike her small and scrappy boys, he would grow into his shoulders like Mr. Nice Buns up the fence.
    “Great job!” she called as the inning ended when the pitcher fanned that batter as well. Mitch and Micah came bounding off the field toward where she stood by the dugout, big smiles on their identical faces. A flick of her eyes revealed that Mr. Nice Buns was also moving in her direction. His expression was harder to read. April’s, upon seeing his face, wasn’t. Hers was a neon sign, flashing red, of shock and dismay. She quickly turned, tugging the bill of her cap further down until it retained only an inch of clearance from her nose, and hunched the shoulder in his direction.
    “Mom! Did you see my tag?”
    “Mom! I popped out this time, but I hit it into the outfield!”
    “Mom! I’m so glad you made it today!”
    April gave the boys a strained smile at the customary chorus that greeted her. It was the next exclamation that flattened it and sent prickles up the back of her neck.
    “Mom! ‘Member we told you about our new pitcher? This is him, Ben Dalton. He and his dad just moved into the neighborhood.”
    April smiled weakly in the direction of the taller boy, who was greeting someone just behind her. Turning, she tipped her head up, and up, and up to meet the enigmatic blue eyes of the dark-haired man with excellent buns, in jeans or in a suit.
    “Dr. Sampson, glad to see you looking so,” Matthew Dalton’s eyes left hers to slide over her jean-clad figure, lingering on certain parts of her T-shirt and jeans in a time-frame just this side of acceptable, “well.”

  10. It was April first. April fool’s day, and April Brookes was in a bad mood. The one day of the year that she dreaded, and it also happened to be her birthday. April had been found, only a couple of hours old dumped in a bin behind the local hospital on the first of April twenty eight years previously, and the nurses had named her April. She had cursed them ever since for their lack of imagination, a permanent reminder that she was a joke, a baby that even her own parents didn’t want. With the warm, early morning sunshine streaming through her window, April decided on a whim to take the day off. Quickly she left a message on her boss’s voicemail complaining of a bad throat, finishing the call with pathetic cough for good measure.
    Within an hour, she was at the local park enjoying the spring weather with Buster, her Labrador, and a large stick he’d found. April hurled it as far as she could for the dog, but to her horror she watched it sail in slow motion through the air, and hit a passing jogger on the top of his head. Appalled, her hands flew to her face as Buster ran around her, barking, and her victim, carrying the stick, strode over to where she stood until he was towering over her. His dark eyes under heavy brows were flashing with anger, his black unruly hair swept back from his broad forehead by one of the biggest hands April had ever seen. There was a bruise already starting to form on his brow, and he looked far from pleased. April began to wish she’d just gone to work as usual.

  11. Fiona Marsden

    April pressed the end button on the phone, half guilty and half relieved her excuses had been believed. She’d taken far too many family days over the last twelve months. More than her contract allowed. Sure, she made up for them by working long hours to make sure her projects didn’t fall behind, but she’d never been good at lying.
    Her daughter’s broad smile on her pale face made up for it. In and out of hospital being treated for leukaemia, June hardly saw the sun, and it had been a wet summer. No way were they going to waste what might be the last, gloriously warm, sunny day before winter set in.
    “Ready to go, June-bug?”
    “All ready, mummy.” Her small hand clung, and April’s heart lurched. Celebrating June’s remission was far more important than spending the day testing innumerable samples in the laboratory. There had been a moment as six-year-old June made her choice about where to go when April’s stomach rebelled. But the zoo had always been her daughter’s favourite place. Hardly surprising in the circumstances.
    There was no way they could see everything in one day, but June had her favourites. The monkeys were always good for a laugh. The Bengal tiger inspired wide eyed awe, June’s half-eaten ice-cream cone forgotten, dripping over the small fingers. April dragged out the cleaning wipes and started mopping up.
    “Hello, ladies.” The deep voice with a strong southern US accent resonated at the pit of her stomach.
    June twisted around. “Daddy?” Her hands, still sticky, reached up. April had to give him credit for not hesitating to lift her into his arms. His tall frame towered and she stood up, hating the feeling of inadequacy.
    “Hey, June-bug.” He’d given their daughter the nickname when she was a baby and it stuck. Trust a zoologist to call his little girl after a beetle found in the part of the US where he was brought up. With June’s bright green eyes and golden blond hair, so like his, it suited her.
    April cleaned the last of the ice-cream from her hands and threw the wipe in the bin. “I didn’t realise you were in the country.” He spent most of his time finding specimens in the hard to reach places of the world.
    “Only flew in yesterday.”
    And would no doubt be flying out soon enough. Max Featherstone never stayed anywhere long. It was what had broken their marriage. Especially once June was diagnosed. It was easier when she didn’t have to make excuses for him missing the appointments, not turning up for birthdays, Christmas. The first day of school. June was more tolerant, loving her father, even when he was largely absent. She leaned into him, her thin arms winding around his neck. There were ice-cream spots on his khaki shirt. Pain tightened April’s chest. “When do you leave?”
    His bright gaze steadied on her face. “I don’t. I’ve taken a job here. I’ll be managing the acquisitions and overseeing the veterinary team. I’m here to stay.”

  12. Esther Valencia

    April looked at her calendar and realized she’d been working for the last twenty-three days straight. Her boss David was a workaholic father and when his wife walked out, he commandeered her into taking care of his daughters. The girls were six and so adorable, but she needed a break. Grabbing her phone, she sent him a quick email explaining that she had food poisoning and would be laid up next to the toilet for most of the day. David White hated sickness so she knew he would tell her to stay home and as far away from him as possible.
    After a leisurely breakfast of bacon and pancakes from a box, she decided to do something fun with her day off. The annual Huronia Flower Show was happening and this year she was determined to grow and keep alive flowers in her rooftop terrace. She rode her Schwinn that she had spray painted rose gold and after locking her up, she bought a ticket and walked around looking at the abundance of blooms.
    April was reading an information card about a yellow orchid with lilac striations, when she heard a voice she knew all too well. The deep rumbling of his voice sent a shiver down her back and she looked around to see where he was and how she could hide. He was at a booth on her right and luckily there were enough people around that he probably hadn’t seen her. He was about six feet four with long black hair that reached his waist when he let it down. His beard was thick and highlighted his full lips that in moments of extreme weakness she dreamed about. In jeans, dark brown work boots and an evergreen t-shirt that showed off arms that could lift anything, he was the type of man who she wished would look twice at her. April turned away and decided to go to the far back section that had all types of roses. In such a high traffic area he’d never notice her.
    As she looked at some soft peach tea roses she noticed that a group of elderly women and their grandkids surrounded her, so she was able to relax. April had just picked up two small planters with peach and cream tea roses, when she heard his voice. She turned and he was right behind her.
    “Well hello, April. How are you?” His expression was questioning.
    “Oh Joseph, hey. I’m good. What are you doing here?” ”
    “I’m glad you’re feeling better. My brother said something about you having food poisoning, so I’m glad to see you’re quite alright.” He said dryly as he looked her up and down. His gaze lingered on the gold locket resting below her collarbone.
    “Please Joseph, don’t tell him you saw me today.”
    “It’s just Joe, April.”
    “Please Joe. I just needed a day. I’ll be back tomorrow, promise.”
    “David really needs help right now April. pretending to be sick is juvenile and you should know better.” He sounded disappointed and April felt defensive and a bit angry.
    “Do you think I don’t know that. I’ve been working for weeks with no days off. My days start at five and don’t end before midnight mostly. Last night was the first night I slept in my own bed since his wife dumped the girls on him. When was the last time you watched your nieces? Don’t lecture me, when you’re an invisible uncle.” She abruptly turned around but Joe reached out and cupped her elbow. April felt goosebumps all over her arms and tried to take a deep breath, but all she could smell was him, a mixture of sea spray and pine.
    “April, wait.” Her name on his lips caused flutters in her stomach and for a moment she wished they were in her bedroom, completely alone. She looked back at him and just shook her head.

    • Kayla K.

      Wow, running into the boss’s brother! This is very interesting, Esther. I like how April isn’t just an employee, she’s practically a family member, which means very close proximity between her and Joseph with the added complication of her position. I could really see some sweet scenes between her and Joseph looking after the nieces after she goads him into getting more involved. Lots of potential here!

  13. Richard DeLaurell

    “Turtles,” April Meadows said out loud.
    She stepped closer to the wooden railing at the river’s edge and squinted.
    “Yep, turtles,” she repeated.
    It was spring and the sun was high at midmorning. April could feel the season in the air as she watched the little reptilian lumps sunning themselves on a fallen tree.
    She looked away then from the mucky green water of the nearly motionless pool down below.
    She could see the pavement of the biking trail curl from where she stood and gently slope upward into the shape of the bridge that linked this side of the park to the small island across the water.
    She pulled the hat of her hoodie over her unbrushed hair and turned and started towards the bridge.
    Biking path it may be, she thought, but I’m going to walk it today; today and every other day for the next six months.
    Patrick had been all about fitness and she supposed now, over a month since they’d last been together, that some of that had rubbed off on her. They had known one another for two years and been lovers for the last six months of that.
    The end had come abruptly as it so often does. She had cried a fair bit, as so often happens. Eventually, however, the realization struck her that she really didn’t care that Patrick was gone. She hadn’t really liked him that much anyway.
    Her awareness of time’s winged chariot had thrust her into his arms for safety’s sake. His obsession with fitness had been a good thing then. As the chariot rolled on it became less about fitness and more about competition and control. Finally, she’d given in to her deeper instincts and spoke her mind.
    So it’s over, she thought, her feet padding rapidly along in the expensive trainers Patrick had given her.
    God love him, he did know a lot about running shoes.
    These too were particularly attractive she thought. A nice deep blue with light green acc—
    “Hey!”
    The concrete walk jumped up suddenly in front of April. She was too surprised to raise her hands fast enough. The right one went down on its side and slid forward; the left was barely at hip height when she hit.
    She rolled over then, unsure which hand to use to comfort the other. She felt a cool wash on her right wrist and knew it was bleeding heavily.
    “Are you okay lady?”
    Her face still contorted in pain, April couldn’t quite make out who was talking to her. Had to skip work today didn’t I, she thought scolding herself.
    “No, I’m not,” she said after a moment. “I’m bleeding from my chin…and my hand is badly skinned. I’m going to need to go to the ER.”
    A boy’s face came into focus finally. A square-jawed kid, maybe twenty-five. April could tell that he’d nearly ridden over her on his bike. Little sh**, she thought. “You’re going to have to take me,” she said aloud.
    “Are you…uh, listen lady, I don’t…I mean I just rode my bike here. I can’t—”
    “We’ll take my car; can you drive a manual?”
    “A what?”
    “Never mind, you’re going to learn; I’ll do the shifting.”
    He stepped clear of where he’d laid down his bike in the grass. He was sweaty and unshaven, his face framed by brown curls of hair.
    “Help me up,” April said for some reason.
    The young man leaned down and put his arm beneath hers and across her shoulders. He made a clumsy effort to lift her. His cheek brushed against hers as he did and April felt his breath on her neck.
    Finally they were face to face, April balancing on a turned ankle her eyes barely at the level of his bristled jaw.
    “You need to watch where you’re going…and get a helmet…” Her ankle buckled a bit and she put her face against his upper arm for support.
    “My name’s April. I’m a doctor. Who the hell are you?”

    • Deirdre

      Here’s another twist on the heroine bumping into the hero – or can we assume this is the hero? I wasn’t sure about April’s age (I’m a bit sensitive about being called “lady” or “ma’am”!) While April’s day off has gone in an unexpected direction, she seems determined to take charge. I wonder how the hero will react? Thanks for writing!

  14. Kathryn

    The sunshine that morning blew away the memory of the winter, almost. At first, people were suspicious, not convinced that the warmth would reach the shady corners, until they stood in short sleeves to see for themselves. Then it was the same drill, run inside to drop their hoodies at the doorway and rustle through drawers for a pair of shorts. It didn’t matter to April that all she could find were yellow shorts and a wrinkled tee, no way was she putting on black pants. Today, she was collecting on the bill for old man winter’s little tricks. Wasn’t she was owed something for the time spent waiting for the bus to make it up the Broadway hill when it snowed?
    The crow had woken April, early and she had reported her absence, giving her a whole day free. There were daffodils nodding in the garden and she brought her coffee outside to drink it sitting on the bench, she had set out on the lawn. She closed her eyes and it occurred to her that this was the first time she had felt completely happy for a long time.
    “Hey Daffodil!” The man’s voice interrupted her reverie. “Daffodil, can I come inside your gate and look at your plants?”
    April smiled. “Is there some reason, you want to look common daffodils? And I love these shorts, by the way.”
    He grinned. It was a nice look on him. He was tall and his hair fell into his eyes but he seemed ordinary. “They are pretty, but the tree looks like a cucumber Magnolia, “Magnolia acuminate” and those are certainly lady slippers growing around it. That tree is on the at risk list.”

    “My grandfather planted that tree when he built the house for my grandmother in 1921.”
    “It blooms every year?” He asked.
    “Like clockwork,” she nodded.

    “It is extremely rare.”

    “My name is April, not Daffodil, by the way.”

    “John Smithe, I am a botanist, and working on a catalogue of rare plants and the sites where they are surviving.”

    “Tell me the story of the garden,” he said.

    It occurred to April, that the point of the garden was to celebrate love, and that somehow that meaning was not lost upon the smiling man looking at her.