Lewis and Libraries by B. L. Hobson

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SUMMARY: Written for August flash fiction contest (theme is flirting)

I needed to flirt. Apparently. According to the assignment brief. I needed to step outside and learn something. I needed to think about it. Learn as you do type of thing. I had never experienced flirting in any conventional sense, besides, possibly, flirting with danger, though even that was more wishful thinking. I needed to experience flirting first hand if I was to write about it.

So I did. I turned off the computer and cleaned my teeth, getting rid of that coffee breath, not that I thought of success on my first attempt, not in a kissing sense, but one can never be sure. I wore cologne from a bottle rarely used. I even attempted to do my hair, accentuating the part on the side with a comb. I smiled in the mirror. This was the best that I could do. Pretty sad really. I tucked my shirt into my jeans and adjusted my stomach. I smiled again.

I stepped outside.

My destination was the library. Being an intellectual sort I reasoned that the library would be the best place to meet like-minded women. I walked through the barcode detector and smiled at the woman behind the desk. She smiled back. I kept walking.

Flirting, I realised, is all about confidence, and the presence of, or lack thereof. I decided to conduct a few tests.

Now, you need to understand that I'm not sure I pulled 'confidence' off successfully. I have heard that women can see through all sorts of masks that men may wear to impress. They can see right through those charades to the quivering mass beneath. I did my best to hide those traits of mine. I am unable to see, from the results, whether or not I was successful.

I stood in the literary section of the library for a time, gathering myself. A woman walked by me and sat at a table at the end of the aisle. I saw that she was reading a book I had read a year previous. I decided, for the first flirt, to just be myself.

"Hi." I said. She looked up from her book right at me. I smiled.
"Hi." She said. She looked at my shirt. I think she was looking for a name tag. She assumed that I worked there.
"How are you?"
"I'm fine." She said. "Do you need something?"
"I noticed you're reading Til We Have Faces."
"I am." She said. She just sat there. There was no hint of a smile.
"I read that one a year ago."
"Mmm." She didn't really say anything. She just kind of mumbled and resumed the book.
"You mind if I sit down?" I went to grab a chair.
"I do actually, sorry. I really just want to read today." She said. I put the chair back. Slowly.
"Sure thing."
"Look, sorry, I just need a bit of peace." She looked up. "Maybe some other time, okay?"
"Sure," I said. "Sorry to have bothered you. Have fun."
"Thanks. Sorry."
I let her be.

So far as I can see, being yourself, when flirting, sort of works. I wasn't invited to sit down and chat, that was for sure, but I also wasn't out-rightly dismissed. I had been hurt by her refusal, which she saw plain as day. Perhaps displaying your emotions clearly was a trait that women found attractive. Who knows, really?

My next step was to attempt the too-much-confidence-but-also-slightly-charming guy.

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