Knockout Blonde: Noir Flash Fiction By A.R. Bender
A.R. Bender, author of Knockout Blonde, is a writer of German heritage now living in Tacoma, Washington, USA. He graduated at the University of Washington in English Literature and Journalism and has held a variety of odd jobs over the years, including one on a newspaper.
He’s completed two short story collections, a few of which have been published individually, multiple flash fiction pieces, and a smattering of poetry. In his spare time, he enjoys hiking off the grid and coaching youth soccer.
Vic was pleasantly surprised to see the blonde sitting alone reading a book when he walked into the coffeehouse. He’d seen her in there before, but usually with another woman. He ordered an Americano, sat in his usual spot against the wall, and opened up his laptop to do a little writing. Most of the other customers were sitting at the outside tables on this sunny day, so they were one of the few in the room. He thought he detected a brief smile of recognition from her as she glanced up from the book toward him.
Soon, she got up to place an order so he checked her out a little closer as she stood there. She looked to be in her late twenties, taller than average, slim, and dressed casually with black boots, factory-distressed blue jeans, and a short-sleeve black blouse revealing an elaborate string of tattoos on one arm. Her longish blond hair was pulled back into a single braid.
She rummaged through her bag, evidently looking for her purse. The waiter declined her request to pay for the order later so Vic sprung to action and offered to cover it. After a brief exchange of pleasantries, they sat together at his table and chatted it up a bit.
Her name was Shelly, but she sounded more like a Svetlana based on her accent. She came to Seattle the year before from Ukraine under rather vague circumstances, but he didn’t pursue that. They spent most of the time talking about music, movies, and books, including the one she was reading: Perfume, by Patrick Suskind.
Her name was Shelly, but she sounded more like a Svetlana based on her accent.
He became increasingly infatuated with her as they talked: the accent, her gray-green eyes and fixed knowing smile, the subtle whiff of amber, and even the little cleft on her chin. He figured she was about twenty years younger, but they made a little connection, exchanged phone numbers, and agreed to meet for dinner the following weekend.
Vic stared at himself in the bathroom mirror with bloodshot eyes. It was an all too familiar sight. What did it this time was that bottle of champagne he and Shelly drank in his place before they got it on. He lost track of how many drinks he had before, during, and after their dinner at the swanky Metropolitan Grill.
He reached for a bottle of aspirin, let the water from the faucet flow, and stared back up in the mirror, wondering how much longer this could go on. Ever since his divorce three years before, he’d been chasing women like this: looking for The One, or for just a kick. None of them lasted for very long. Whatever he was looking for in a woman, he hadn’t found it yet. Maybe this Shelly would be different, but probably not. He downed the aspirin and padded out of the bathroom to join her in the bed.
He woke up to the smell of smoke and saw her across the room sitting on a footstool in a yoga butterfly position, smoking a cigarette, and staring out a slightly opened widow, lost in thought. The dim morning light shone softly on her profile, like a Rembrandt painting. The black lace panties and matching bra highlighted her smooth alabaster skin.
He was still parched from all the booze so he started to get up for some water. Before he could do so, she playfully pushed him back into bed and offered to get it for him. She grabbed her purse and came back from the kitchen a minute later with a glass of water. After downing most of it, he offered her the rest, which she declined, and then hopped into bed with him for another round.
He was still parched from all the booze so he started to get up for some water. Before he could do so, she playfully pushed him back into bed and offered to get it for him.
The last thing Vic remembered was Shelly straddling his body in the bed and looking down at him with an alluring half-smile.
He woke up feeling woozy and disoriented. Shelly was gone, as well as all her stuff. He sat up with a jolt, sprang to the dresser and opened up his wallet. All the extra cash and credit cards were gone. As well as his Rolex watch. It was almost noon; plenty of time for her to have gone on a shopping spree. At least she didn’t take his cell phone or the rest of his I.D.
First, he sobered up with coffee and then called the bank to report the theft. As he was about the call the cops, he visualized her expression when she looked down at him just before he passed out: the weight of her body on his, with her hands pressing down on his chest, and that lingering scent of amber. He set the phone down, suddenly gripped by a strange and strong desire to be with her again, despite what happened.
The feeling not only persisted during the rest of the day but grew much stronger. That evening he poured himself a stiff drink and texted her.
Hi Shelly. It’s Vic. I’d like to see you again. And to let you to know that from now on you won’t need those knockout drops to get what you want from me.
There was no response from her that night, or the next two days. Every time his text beeped he felt a little rush, thinking it was her. After the third day, he texted her again.
Sorry to bother but just a reminder that I’m still open to meeting you.
Shelly knew she had him at ‘sorry’ after she read this. She waited a few hours and texted him to meet her the next day at the same coffeehouse where they first met.
There she was, sitting alone and reading a book. As soon as he gathered his composure, he slowly walked toward her. After a few steps, she turned toward him with that same damn crooked smile.
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