Writing Prompt: My favorite color – but without saying the color

It was only around 2 in the afternoon, but I was exhausted.  The three of us had been awake since five in the morning, up before the sun, when we had started our ascent.  We hadn’t realized it would take this long.  We had planned to be back down by now, back at our campsite, relaxing at the base of the mountain and maybe enjoying a couple beers.

But the mountain had different plans for us.  We had missed the trail, the easy route up, and had ended up hiking ass-backwards, hitting every false summit along the way.  Our trail had gone from a smooth path to hauling ourselves over boulders, struggling across rubble and trying not to slide on scree.  The wind had picked up, pelting us with sand and grit.

We were nearly to the top now.  I could see it – the last summit.  No more false illusions for us.  Only a couple hundred feet ahead.

But this high up, above the tree line, in the clouds and the snow, the air was thin and faint.  I could feel the weariness deep in my muscles, and no matter how long I sat and tried to catch my breath, it wouldn’t recede.

I was down to short little dashes, little bursts of energy between the exhaustion.  Struggle to my feet, fighting against the wind.  Duck around the boulder into the open air, head down, sucking in breath as I struggle up another six or eight feet, and then slump back down to rest again.  The climb had become a battle of inches.

Finally, I clambered to my feet, ran around the boulder, stepped up, stepped up – and stopped.  There was nowhere else to go.  All around me, every direction was down.

I was at the top.

Glancing down, I saw my two friends, a dozen feet still left in their ascent.  Up on the summit, the wind was unfettered by any shields and blew hard and fast across the rock.  I found a crevice between two boulders where I could hunker down.

Squatting between the rocks, at the top of the world, I gazed around.  The clouds of the morning had been swept away by the wind, and the snow all around us reflected back the color of the sky.  The world was inside a robin’s egg, the light blinding and brilliant.

A few minutes later, my friends joined me.  We shook each other’s hands, took pictures, made small talk.  But the conversation was hushed, and we would lapse off mid-sentence as we gazed around.

We were on top of the world, in the sky.  We had a long, tough descent still ahead of us.  It would be a race against the setting sun.  But before that moment, the sky never looked so…

Writing Prompt: Doctors are now being hunted. But why?

I poked my head around, scouting the street for any sign of life. It looked deserted. My path to the grocery store, just across the way, seemed clear. I was going to go for it.

I dashed around the corner, picking up the pace, my feet flapping against the ground as I broke into a sprint. Forty yards. Thirty. Twenty. I was almost to those automatic sliding doors…

“There’s one! Fat-shamer!”

Oh, no. I had been spotted! I risked a glance over my shoulder. A blob had come stumbling around the corner, flapping her arms weakly at me as she waddled forward. Judging by the vast expanses of pink cloth draped over her in a vague sort of dress, I guessed that she was female. She was holding some sort of large cylinder in one hand, and droplets were flying into the air around her from it as she waved it back and forth.

I could outrun her. I could make it into the grocery store. My stomach let out a gurgle, reminding me of my hunger. But this woman would undoubtedly summon up more of her kind, would form a blockade. Would I be able to escape?

Another rumble of hunger came from my belly. The blobs left the fruits and vegetables alone for the most part, as well as most of the “low-fat” options. But being forced to subsist on these foods alone meant that I was always short of energy, always needing to replenish my stores. All of the processed foods, the high-energy, high-calorie protein options, were long gone. Inhaled by the blobs.

In the time that I had hesitated, the woman had managed to take another few steps towards me, rocking back and forth from tree trunk to tree trunk to advance. “Fat-shamer!” she wheezed again. Now that she was closer, I could see that she was waving one of the new Mega-Size(TM) cans of Diet Coke. “Healthy at any size!”

Screw it, I suddenly decided. “It’s not genetic, it’s lifestyle!” I roared at her. “Calories in needs to be less than calories out!”

The woman’s face darkened to a very unhealthy shade of purple and she lurched forward again, sputtering noises escaping from her mouth. I turned tail and dashed into the store, my white coat flapping behind me. I was faster, more agile, but she had numbers on her side. I had to move fast.

Writing Prompt: A mysterious drink….

I held the glass up to my eye.  The liquid inside was a rather disturbing amber color, and a large bubble slowly rose to the surface and popped with a disquieting “gloop.”

I pulled my eyes back up to the girl across from me.  “And you’re sure about this?”

“Of course I am!” she insisted.  “I followed the recipe exactly.  Now stop being a baby and tell me if it tastes all right!”

Oh, the things I do for love.  Closing my eyes and trying not to wince, I lifted the small glass to my lips and tossed back the shot.

As the liquid slid down my throat, I successfully resisted the urge to vomit – but it was a close call.  “Ugh!” I managed to get out after sucking in a few deep breaths.  “That was terrible!  How did you make that stuff slimy and oily at the same time?”

Across the bar, my bartender friend looked concerned.  “Oh no, I must have gotten something wrong in the recipe!” she exclaimed.  “Maybe the maple syrup didn’t mix all the way?  I thought that I shook it up well…”

Maple syrup??  “Maple syrup??” I repeated.  “Where in a tequila sunrise are you supposed to add maple syrup?  That’s not part of the recipe!”

“Well, I couldn’t find the grenadine, so I figured that maybe syrup would kind of work the same… I put in a bit of maraschino cherry juice to balance it out too!”

I shook my head as I reached for the glass of water.  “I’m telling you right now that it is *not* an acceptable substitute,” I announced.  I took a long drink of water, trying to flush out the corners of my mouth and wash my throat clean.

Across the bar from me, my friend reached for the bottles.  “Oh well, let’s move on,” she said.  “Okay, next up is a salty dog.  Do you think they mean kosher salt, or does table salt work?”

I grimaced privately to myself.  This was not going to be a fun night of drinking.

Writing Prompt: A Criminal Becomes a War Hero

I could hear the dull booming sounds roaring in the background.  They were still distant for the moment, but growing closer.  Shit.  I had to move fast.

I scampered through the deserted streets, a small corner of my mind loving how empty the city felt.  All the civilians had been pulled back already, leaving nothing but empty buildings behind.

Off to my left was the glass-fronted window of a jewelry store.  My crowbar sailed through the big glass plate like it was made of sugar.  Not quite empty, I grinned as I helped myself to a very sparkly tennis bracelet, draping it over one wrist.

My little ransacking was interrupted, however, by a rumbling noise from behind me.  That wasn’t a mortar shell!  It sounded far more… mechanical.  I turned, and ducked around the corner of the building just as a tank came crawling onto the street.

Curses!  The rebel forces must have moved faster than I’d anticipated, and they were already in the city!  I leaned against the wall, sucking in breath as I tried to formulate a plan.

On one hand, I liked my own skin.  I took good care of myself.  Ate well when I could, got in exercise, used moisturizer.  I didn’t want to ruin all of that by putting new holes in my hide.

On the other hand, though, I knew that this was a one-time opportunity.  This could be the score of a lifetime.  If I could pull this off, I would be set for life.  I could retire, get out of this war zone, go live someplace by the ocean and drink away the rest of my days in peace.

I took one last, deep breath, and made my decision.  First Federal Credit was only a few blocks away.  I was fairly confident that I could make it there, get into the safe, and be away with my haul before the bombs reached this place.  And besides, if the rebels were already here, this wasn’t likely to be ground zero for the firefight.  Right?

Breaking into a loping run, I hurried down a few alleys, cutting corners until I came out onto the Financial District.  Some bombs must have already fallen here; debris and rubble made piles on the street, obstructing the path.  I’d have to do some climbing.

Thanking whatever gods were around that I had kept up my cardio exercise at the gym, I struggled up over the fallen pile of shattered concrete.  I could once again hear the mechanical grinding of tanks from behind me.  Dammit!  The rebels must have decided to try cutting through the Finance District.  I just had to get into the bank, just on the other side of… this…

I had reached the top of the heap.  But what I saw on the other side made my heart jump up into my chest.

Marching around the corner at the far end of the street were soldiers, dozens of them.  But these weren’t the rebels in their comforting browns and grays.  These men wore black, armored uniforms, with matching helmets; carbines were slung over their shoulders.  This was the National Army.  And I was pinned.

I turned around, thinking that I could retreat, but the rebels had entered the street at the opposite end.  Only this big pile of debris blocked the two armies’ sight of each other.  I scurried down a couple steps and waved frantically to the rebels.

“Soldiers!” I mouthed, no wanting to speak aloud, but making exaggerated motions over the hill.  “The Nationalists are here!  You need to retreat!”  And let me hide so I could just get my money! I added inside my head.

The sparkling of the bracelet, still looped around my wrist, must have caught the attention of the rebels.  They paused in their advances, pointing at me and conferring among themselves.  “Yes!” I prayed fervently.  “Retreat!”

A moment later, however, the soldiers did just the opposite.  Raising their weapons and letting out yells, they charged forward, towards the rubble, towards me!  The turrets on the tanks swung around, and I screamed and covered my ears as they fired shells over the blockage at the Nationalists on the other side.

The attack, although barely organized and haphazard, caught the enemy army unawares, and I heard shouts and cries of dismay from the far side of the rubble.  They didn’t seem to be returning fire, and the soldiers were cheering as they shot over the tall mound of wreckage.

A large soldier came bounding up to me, loosely holding his rifle in one hand.  “Hero!” he greeted me, grabbing my arm and hauling me upright.  “You have saved us from ambush!”

“Er, yeah,” I replied, scratching the back of my head.  “Sure, that’s what I was doing.  Anyway, I’d better be on my way-“

“Nonsense!” the rebel soldier interrupted.  “I am captain here, and I say that you will drink with us in our camp tonight!  Much rejoicing!  You must be new scout, guarding and saving us from attack.  A true war hero!”

The man held up my arm in the air, and the other rebels around us gave an unorganized cheer.  I pasted a smile across my face and waved back at them, cursing inwardly.  I should have left the whole place when I had the chance, I thought to myself.

Anarchists have taken Wyoming. Here’s the President’s reaction. [Warning: profanity]

God dammit!  Seriously, god fucking dammit.  This is really not what I wanted to deal with today.  Or at all.

I mean, seriously, I’m what, three weeks into this presidency and I’ve already got a national crisis?  This is worse than that 9/11 shit.  At least Dubya had all that patriotism at his back, not people talking about secession.

Jesus Christ.  No, I’m okay.  Just gimme a minute.

All right, let’s do this.  No, I’m ready.  First off, a message to Wyoming – I know you assholes are listening.  Anarchy doesn’t mean that you turn off the TV.  You shitheads crossed a serious line, here.  I mean, really, of all the places for anarchy to take over and launch a secession, you’re going to pick the place with twice as many cows as people?  You know that our drones can tell the difference between a cow and a person, right?  And we’re not wasting Hellfire missiles on the one that goes “moo,” I’ll tell you that much.

No, you guys are in some serious shit.

What?  National Guard?  Yeah, I suppose that I’ll end up sending them in there.  Bring food, restore order, whatever else their brochures say.  But honestly, right now I’m tempted to just nuke the whole shitty state until it’s flat.  Maybe that’ll finally shut up those assholes in Texas.

I mean, come on, Wyoming.  You know how important cows are to your state?  You still hand out fines to people who forget to close fence gates.  If that doesn’t scream “country hayseed,” I don’t know what does.  In your language: y’all done fucked up there, I reckon.

Anyway.  Hey, Julie, what time is it?  Ten, ten thirty?  When can I start drinking?

Oh, right.  Speech.  Well, to the rest of the nation, and the world, I guess, don’t take a dump in your bonnets yet.  We’ve got this shit under control.  The borders are locked down, and unless they’ve figured out how to weaponize cow turds, we don’t have much of a threat.  We don’t even have missile silos in that state any more.  Even the secret NSA ones are further south.  No one wants to go to Wyoming anyway.

So yeah.  Shit’s under control.  And we’re gonna smoke ’em out.  Embargoes on all junk food, and we’re blocking all their TV channels except C-Span.  Oh, and Bravo.  That shit’ll rot anyone’s brain.

All right.  I think that’s everything.  Wyoming, you’ve got 24 hours to get your panties out of your ass and come crawling back with an apology.  I’m really not kidding about that nuke shit.  You know how many calls that would take?  One.  And it’s only, like, 4 buttons I’d have to press.

Yeah, I’m done.  Turn off the cameras, unless you want to record your new president getting shit-faced and chucking empties at the geese on the White House lawn.  I did bean one of those fuckers right between the eyes, though.  You shoulda recorded that.  It was hilarious.

The skiing’s better in Colorado anyway.

Writing Prompt: What if North Korea is actually a really nice place?

*Author’s note: Haha, this is a great prompt!  Lots of potential.*

“Hey!  Welcome to North Korea, the hottest new vacation spot in the world!  I haven’t seen you here before, you must be a new member.  Here, let me take your coat?”

“Yes, the weather’s actually quite nice!  It turns out that we have a very favorable micro-climate thanks to the sea air blowing in.  It lends itself great to surfing or sailing, if you’re interested in swinging by the marina.  All boats have to stay within the five-mile range to avoid satellite photos, of course, but there’s plenty to see nearby.  We even built our own tropical reef for snorkeling!”

“Now, what did you make your money in?  I don’t mean to pry, but it’s always interesting to learn where our newest club members are striking it big.”

“Electronics components, huh?  A real manufacturer – a bit of a throwback!  We’re getting mostly tech and genetics fellows these days.”

“And here, just swipe your gold-plated ID card.  I know, it’s a bit ostentatious, but Jobs insisted on being a part of the design team, and, well, he sometimes went a little overboard.  Now, right this way, and we can get you checked in to the hotel.”

“Oh, don’t worry about your bags, sir, they’ll be delivered to your room once you’ve checked in.  The staff here are very accommodating.  All they have to do is participate twice a year in a few staged “poverty” shots for publicity, and in return they get a very healthy wage and full health care.  Even dental!  Nothing but pearly whites around here, sir.”

“Yes, the history?  I’d be happy to talk more about that!  Most of our new members do tend to be quite curious.  It goes against everything they’ve seen, can’t lie on the internet, all of that.  Yes, I know.  But really, after the whole Korean War debacle, Il-Sung realized that he wasn’t going to win against the West in firepower.  But he also saw that tourism wasn’t working out great for places like Mexico.  Those resort towns lacked… exclusivity.”

“Not to worry, sir, no screaming infants or fat families from the Deep South around here!  Our Eternal President ended up striking a deal with Soros and the Walton family, and they began very quietly distributing around invites to come and visit the place.  It didn’t take long for the idea to spread through the world’s upper crust, and we soon found ourselves with more money than we knew what to do with!”

“No fear of exposure, sir.  We still maintain a few ‘shanty town’ setups on the outskirts – in fact, you and your family could take a day tour if you wished.  They’re quite fun for the children to run around.  Totally safe.  As for the resort proper, we have some very fancy equipment jamming any satellites or spies that pass overhead – I can’t name names, of course, but you may bump into a few generals around here that have a vested interest.”

“Now, for your first stay, I have you booked in the Supreme Leader suite.  A king-size bed, living area, walk-in shower, and your room has its own swimming pool.  Unfortunately, there is not an added hot tub – Zuckerberg continues to keep our maintenance crews busy cleaning gelatin out of the drains.  Oh, how he kids.  But you do have a lovely ocean view, and our pristine water quality ensures gorgeous sunsets.  And, of course, room service is available twenty-four hours a day.  No menu, we do requests only!”

“Please, sir, enjoy your stay.  If you need anything, simply ask, and we will do our best to provide.  I know you’re a bit of a gearhead, and so I wanted to let you know that there is a full garage of finely tuned luxury cars just downstairs that can be taken out on our test track, or on the open road.  And your wife may want to peruse our Main Street, where we’ve just gotten in the latest in Milan fashion.”

“As we say here in North Korea, ‘Prosperous and great country!'”

The Angels: Cold-blooded humans?

I stepped out into the fresh sunlight, smiling and tilting back my head as I felt the light warm my exposed skin.  “Oh, this feels good,” I commented out loud, luxuriating in the light.

Behind me, I heard Otriel clear his throat.  “You know, we tossed around the idea of making humans cold-blooded for a while,” he commented.

I spun around, opening my eyes again to stare at my guardian angel.  “Wait, really?” I asked.  “Aren’t we supposed to be made in God’s image?”

Otriel snorted at this.  “Really?” he asked, lifting one eyebrow.  “God made everything in the universe, and can create anything you can imagine and more.  You really think his true form is limited to a bag of fleshy meat?”

I waved off this comment.  Otriel had never quite mastered the ability to understand the impact of snide remarks.  “Cold-blooded, huh?” I said, pulling the conversation back a step.  “So what, like lizards?  We’d have to carry around heat lamps if we wanted to work indoors?”

“Or spend a lot more money on heating, I suppose,” the angel remarked.  “To be honest, it was one of those ideas that always pops up at the eleventh hour of brainstorming, you know?  When the coffee’s run out and everyone just wants to go home.”

I nodded.  I definitely knew that moment.  “I’m glad we dodged that little addition,” I said with feeling.  The sunlight was still warm, but I decided that it was time to start walking down the street.

As always, my guardian angel floated along, just above my right shoulder.  “Of course, the changes to ears and noses were thought of at that same time, and those went through,” he said.

“Wait, what?  What about our noses and ears?”

“Oh, they keep growing!” Otriel pointed out, a hint of surprise in his tone.  “Yeah, even I don’t remember the reasoning behind that, but it sounded great at the time.  So we pushed that through, the design went gold, and we all took a couple millenia of vacation time while the administrators bickered over budget costs.”

My hand had already rose to self-consciously rub at my schnoz.  “This thing’s going to keep growing larger?” I repeated in shock.

“Oh yeah,” Otriel chuckled.  “That’s the best way to spot age on you humans, I’m convinced.  Like counting rings on a tree.  Just check the ear diameter.”

That was enough conversation with my little guardian angel, I decided.  I lengthened my stride, hurrying along the sidewalk.  I heard a faint voice squawking as the little angel had to work his wings to keep up, but I just grinned to myself.  Serves him right, I thought to myself with just a hint of vindictiveness.

"He was not our God. But in the end, it made no difference."

I clutched my rifle tighter, staring around at the corners of the room.  The shadows – were they growing darker?  I swore that, out of the corner of my eye, I could see things darting back and forth in the darkness.

But when I brought the stock around, the weapon’s iron sights quivering despite my extensive training, there was nothing.  I swung back and forth, desperate and afraid to turn my back on any one corner for too long.

“Come out!” I shrieked, my voice sounding high-pitched and desperate.  “Come and face me!”

My cry was answered by a rustle of dry silk, and I spun as the newcomer materialized out of the air.

He was a man, if a man was stripped of all that made him a man.  He stood too tall, his limbs were too thin, jointed in too many places.  His details were shrouded by that dry, ancient silk, torn black strips hanging and fluttering in the nonexistent breeze.  His head was all but hairless, but his eyes were two pools of midnight.  He lifted his head from his sunken chest, and those eyes locked onto me.

“Why our world?” I beseeched the figure.  “We didn’t ask for you here!  We never summoned you, or your nightmare god!”

The figure seemed to pay no notice to my weapon.  I doubted that it would do much damage, anyway.  He was a Prophet, so filled with the dark glory of his master that there was not a single individual thought left in his head.  “You did not summon,” he wheezed, his voice a rasp across the ridges of my brain.  “And yet we came.”

“If you can choose to come, than you can choose to leave!” I shouted.  It wasn’t my imagination – the shadows were darkening, solidifying, intruding in on the faint and failing circle of light that sheltered me for the moment.  “He may be your god, but he isn’t ours!”

The figure raised a hand, long fingers unfolding with too many joints.  “He was not our God,” the figure whispered.  “But in the end, it made no difference.”

The shadows leapt forward, coiling around his finger and jumping out across the gap towards me.  I tightened my finger, and the weapon in my hand spat rounds at my attacker, but they seemed to pass through without effect.  I hadn’t expected them to do much, anyway.

The ribbon of shadow tightened around my face, cutting off all vision.  For just a moment, I felt pain, and then, by the grace of mercy, it all melted away.  I sank into the comfortable blackness of oblivion.

And then the ribbons of darkness wrapped around me once more, hauling me out of my eternal slumber and into eternal horror.

Writing Prompt: Three video game characters must confront the computer bug destroying their worlds.

I stared up at the monstrosity looming in front of me.  My diamond sword slipped from my loose hand, landing on the crumbling digital floor and reverting back to a small, floating icon of itself.

This was it.  The end of the line.  All of the lines of the horizon, the vectors that sketched out the skyline and the clouds mapped across its surface, seemed to fuzz out and desaturate as they were sucked into the maw of the beast before me.  Straining my eyes, I could swear that, just before entering, the graphics were reverting back into streams of faintly glowing ones and zeros.

Shepard skidded to a stop beside me, his mouth falling open.  “That’s a hell of a bug,” he commented, his words a whisper in the roaring sound of our worlds being destroyed, consumed.

I nodded, still trying to find the words to describe the monster.  The creature was illogical, a mishmash of body parts from a dozen different nightmares, all crammed together onto a single body that wasn’t big enough.  Some of the limbs seemed intricately detailed, robotic with firing pistons and winking lights or insectoid with shining, spiked black chitin.  But other limbs seemed to be nothing more than a series of blocks and tubes, somehow connected and floating together as they flailed back and forth.

At least six gigantic, skeletal wings stemmed back behind the creature, blending into the gridwork lattice revealed behind the vanishing sky.  The thicker lines of the wing supports seemed to pulse, growing and absorbing the very universe we stood in.  Indeed, perhaps the creature was now the only thing still giving structure to our reality.

Worst of all, however, was the head, if you could even call it such a thing.  A central mouth, surrounded by irregularly sized glowing red eyes, gawped open mindlessly.  It sucked in the world, innumerable teeth gnashing together inside as it chewed through our digital world.  And yet, despite pulling in violent winds towards it, a faint scream, a scream of pure agony, rose up above everything.  I didn’t know if it was outside my ears or inside my mind.

I glanced at Shepard, next to me.  He was standing strong, sure, but his white-knuckled grip on his particle rifle betrayed his fear.  “This is going to be a nasty battle,” he commented, his voice tight with controlled tension.  “I would love some air support for this.”

I glanced up at the disappearing sky, tilting back the diamond-studded helm perched atop my blocky head.  “I don’t think we’ll have much atmosphere left, pretty soon,” I said.

There was the scrape of boots next to me, accompanied by a metallic ringing.  I turned to my left, looking at my other companion.  Dressed in green, he didn’t speak, but his gaze narrowed as he stared up at the monster before us.  Try as I might, I could see no fear in his young face – his blonde hair framed only rigid determination.  He had drawn his sword, an unlit bomb ready in his off hand.

I took one last deep breath and then reached forward, picking up my sword once again.  “Well, gentlemen, it’s been good to know you,” I said.  “Shepard, you’re on ranged support.  Link, I’ll be right behind you.”

The man next to me opened his mouth in a wordless roar and charged forward, his blade held high.  I was only a step beside, switching to my bow to get a few hits in before closing with the bug.  Behind me, I heard the ratchet as Shepard racked the slide on his assault rifle.

For just a moment, I closed my eyes, and all was silent.  And then they snapped open, and I became a slashing whirlwind of death.

Writing Prompt: Every woman has a purity ring that reveals their future husband

The Prompt: All women have a purity ring of sorts whose size and quality are derived from their social standing, wealth, and traits desired for optimal relationships.

When I arrived at the bar, the collar of my jacket still upturned against the chill of the crisp fall evening, Tommy had already managed to procure a couple seats at the counter.  He waved me over, and I cut in through the already forming throng of young people.

“Hey, glad you could finally make it!” he greeted me, sliding an opened bottle of beer across the bar’s top to me.  “Man, I’ve been sitting here scoping out our targets for, like, ten minutes already!”

I grasped the wet bottle and took a long drag.  “Let’s just say that I needed this,” I replied, nodding towards the beer.  “Classes were terrible, and Finklestein kept us late.  I don’t think he realizes that most of his class doesn’t care about fluid dynamics at all, much less as much as he does.”

After draining a quarter of my beer, I spun around in the high stool, gazing out across the sparse but growing sea of eligible college students.  “So, identified any prospective targets yet?” I asked.

Tommy raised his own bottle to his lips, took a sip, and then nodded towards a pert and smiling brunette a few paces away.  “She’s pretty cute,” he offered.  “Athletic, you know?  I’m pretty sure that she’ll do all the work later on this evening!”

The girl was chatting with a friend, and she lifted her glass up to her lips to take a sip.  I caught a glimpse of the ring on her finger, and shook my head.  “Not a chance, dude.  Carved jade?  She’s only gonna go for an Asian guy.”

I was the next one to choose, leaning past Tommy to check out a wavy-haired blonde further down the bar.  I couldn’t see her hands, but she was wearing quite the low-cut top, and I could definitely see some other assets that called out to me.  “I wouldn’t mind bumping into her, if you know what I mean!” I exclaimed, tilting my head towards her.

This time, Tommy was the one to shake his head.  “She’s sprouting a two-carat diamond on her finger,” he pointed out.  “She’ll be totally into you – until she gets out of the bar and sees that you drive an old Honda Civic, not a Bentley.  And then she’ll be gone like the wind.”

I sighed and took another pull of beer.  “So what’s your best prospect, then?”

Tommy waggled his eyebrows at me suggestively, and then pointed over his shoulder at a girl sitting in one of the booths.  The girl was cute, sure, but she could definitely afford to shed a few pounds.  And the fact that she appeared to have ordered food at this college bar was not a great sign.  “Really?” I asked, apprehension clear in my voice.  “Her?”

“The ring, dude!” Tommy replied.  “I saw it when she was lifting up a mozzarella stick.  She’s got a ruby, a diamond, and a sapphire, all small – all I have to do is spout off some patriotic stuff and I’ll be totally in!”

I opened my mouth to protest, trying to convince him that he could do better, but Tommy reached out and slapped me on the back, nearly making me choke on the beer.  “I’ll let you know how it goes later, buddy!” he told me, and then went scurrying across the bar.  I watched with a combination of bemusement and resigned disappointment as he slid into the booth opposite the girl and started chatting.

“This seat open?”

I turned around, nodding.  “Yeah, it is.  I think I’ve just been ditched for the evening.”

“Great!  At least I get something out of it.”  The voice was distinctly feminine, and I couldn’t stop myself from checking out the girl sliding onto the stool beside me.  She had straight black hair that fell on narrow shoulders, but as she pushed errant strands back out of her face, she revealed a pair of large and sparkling brown eyes.  A cute little upturned nose was above a large mouth, pulled back into a smile as she wryly observed me checking her out.  One eyebrow lifted slightly, as if asking if I had finished yet.

“Sorry,” I apologized, putting on my best disarming smile.  “If it helps, you’re way prettier than the last occupant of that seat!  Can I get you a drink?”

“You know what?  I’d be happy with one of what you’ve got,” the girl replied, nodding towards my beer.  “I think it’s been one of those days.”

The words made me smile; I knew exactly what she meant.  “Heck yes,” I agreed, reaching over the counter to wave and catch the bartender’s attention.  I pointed to my bottle, and then held up two fingers, waiting until he nodded in confirmation.  “I’m Jake.  Nice to meet you.”

“Hi, Jake,” the girl greeted me.  “I’m Abbey.”  She held out her hand to me for a joking handshake.  I couldn’t help but risk a quick glance down at her ring.  It was purely instinctual – how could I not?

The ring was surprisingly elegant.  A central diamond, princess cut in a square, was flanked by two smaller emeralds.  The ring was made of white gold, its lines both clean and appealing, but strands of white gold rose to curl slightly around those two side emeralds, giving just the slightest hint of playfulness.  It was, I realized with a sudden rush, the most beautiful ring I’d ever seen.

“Abbey,” I repeated, my eyes finally rising up to meet hers once again.  “It is, honestly, a pleasure to meet you.”  I caught a hint of a blush in the girl’s cheeks as she smiled back at me, and in that moment, the rest of the bar seemed to all fade into the background.

Author’s note: I really like this writing prompt!  It’s a fun idea to consider.