Showcase: Carol Ferris: Hearts Afire, Book 2: Love in Bloom

Showcase of Earth-1: The Five Earths Project

Showcase: Carol Ferris

Hearts Afire

Book 2: Love in Bloom

by Martin Maenza

Over the past four months, the amnesiac Carol Ferris has settled into her new life as Carrie Ford in Fox Hollow. How will she react when her new friend Red Crawford finally reveals his feelings for her on this Valentine’s Day?


Continued from Green Lantern: Hearts Afire, Book 1: New Friends and Old

In the small mining town of Fox Hollow in the northern Rocky Mountains in Oregon, just over the California border, a red pickup truck pulled into the dirt parking lot on Main Street and came to a stop. The driver turned off the motor, opened the door, and hopped down.

The man bent his knees, checking his appearance in the rearview mirror on the door. He ran his fingers through his short brown hair to try to straighten it out. He then brushed his fingers briskly through his well-kept mustache and short beard. These he had grown over the last few months. Finally, he brushed a little dust off his plaid, flannel shirt; he also wore jeans and black work boots. The man was well-built due to his line of work.

He wanted to look his best.

Before closing the truck door, the man reached across the seat and picked up the items sitting there. As he walked across the street, he kept the items hidden behind his back.

With his one free hand, he pushed open the door to the familiar diner and stepped inside.

“Hey, Red!” called out one of the guys in the booth by the window. “What’cha up to, you old son of a gun?”

Red Crawford made a gesture to his friend to hush. There was a dark-haired woman working behind the counter, her back to the room. He was trying to get to the counter before she noticed.

“Whooo-oa,” one of the other men in the booth said to the first in a lower tone. “Looks like someone’s making his move.”

“Go get ‘er, tiger!” the first man called out.

Red was about to turn around and give his so-called friends a piece of his mind when the woman behind the counter turned around. She was dressed in a light blue uniform, for she worked as a waitress at the eating establishment. “Why, Red,” the woman said, “you’re early. I have another twenty minutes on my shift.”

The man smiled. “I know, Carrie,” Red said. “But I couldn’t wait to see you.”

The woman blushed slightly.

“Here,” Red said, producing the items from behind his back. “These are for you.” It was a bouquet of red roses and a heart-shaped box of chocolates. “Happy Valentine’s Day.”

Carrie Ford blushed even more, and her blue eyes twinkled. “Oh, Red,” she said, accepting the offered gifts. “They’re beautiful.” She took a good sniff of the roses. “That was so sweet of you.” She put the items down on the Formica counter and gave him a great big hug.

The guys in the booth started to whoop and whistle. With a hand behind his back, Red Crawford waved them off.

“I just figured a special gal like yourself deserved something special on a day like today,” Red replied.

Carrie gave the man a little peck on the cheek. “You’re too good to me,” she said, then released him and went for the flowers. “I’d better put these in water. I think Marty has a vase out in back.”

“You do that,” Red said as he took an empty stool at the counter. “I’ll wait here.” As he watched her disappear into the back, he couldn’t help but think about how his life had changed in the last few months, ever since the day Carrie came into his life back in late October of last year.

Red Crawford had found the beautiful women wandering the mountain roads late one afternoon. Wearing nothing but a simple green dress, she looked dazed and confused. He pulled over to the side of the road, rolled down his window, and offered her a ride to the next town. It was the least he could do; it wasn’t safe for a woman to be wandering around the woods after dark in this part of the country.

He had introduced himself and asked of her name. She seemed to struggle with even that simplest of questions, but then said her name was Carrie. He could tell she’d been through some rough times of late, but he didn’t want to butt into her business. They talked for a while as he drove toward town. She seemed friendly enough. (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See Secret Society of Super-Villains: Reclamation, Book 3, Epilogue: My Name is Carrie.]

Soon he managed to find her a place to stay for a while and even got her a job in town so she could cover her expenses. Folks around these parts were always willing to help a person out; that was why Red Crawford stayed in the area — that and the fact that life here was simpler and much more quiet. Sometimes having less distractions made one realize what was important.

And Carrie seemed to like it here, too. The first month or so was hard on her. She kept to herself, mostly, quietly doing her job. She seemed lost in thought or trying to come to terms with things. Red really wasn’t completely sure.

When she finally did open up, she didn’t talk that much about her past. Carrie said she was having a hard time remembering things. But, on the few occasions that memories did come to her, she’d share them. For example, she had recalled her father taking her out to an airport or someplace to watch the planes fly. She would say that she liked flying, and sometimes she would dream about being able to fly herself without a plane or wings.

Red didn’t know much about Carrie’s past beyond what she would share, but that didn’t seem to bother him. He knew a lot about her present; he’d see her every day at the diner to talk over a morning donut and coffee or over an evening meal. He found her to be charming, warm, and funny. And recently, he realized he was starting to fall in love with the woman.

Now, all he had to do was get up the nerve to tell her.

Carrie finished her shift and got her clothes from her locker in back. Ducking into the ladies’ room, she entered one of the stalls and began to change out of her waitress uniform.

That was so sweet of Red, she thought to herself. He’s such a nice man, such a good friend. She folded the uniform and placed it in the bag of her stuff. She then pulled out a pair of black pants and slipped into them. I don’t think I could have made it these last few months without him.

Something nagged at the back of Carrie’s mind, something elusive that she couldn’t wrap her brain around. It was like a thought or memory, or something nagging at her from a deep place. She shook her head, trying to clear it. She hated that feeling. She’d had them a lot since she first found herself in the woods four months ago.

It frustrated her so that she couldn’t remember much of anything about her past, in particular how she ended up where she was. Still, at the same time that she was frustrated, Carrie was scared, too. She had a feeling, a very strong feeling, that there was something in that forgotten past that she was running away from, something unpleasant that she might not like to remember. It was for this very reason that she never pushed the issue, never tried to go to the sheriff to see if there was a way she could find out who she was.

Carrie felt like maybe this selective amnesia was God’s way of telling her something, telling her that maybe she needed to step back from whatever she did before and realize what was important again. For now, she wouldn’t rock the boat.

She picked up a fuzzy purple sweater and paused for a moment before putting it on. Purple — why did she feel something about that particular color? Purple and the color green both had an effect on her. Again, there was that nagging at the back of her brain.

Ughh! she thought to herself. Not tonight. I can’t do that to Red. It’s not fair. Carrie finished getting dressed, picked up her bag, and exited the bathroom.

Red Crawford still sat patiently at the counter. “You look nice,” he said as he stood up.

“Thanks,” she said, gathering up her candy and flowers. “I’m ready to go if you are.”

“Great,” Red replied, picking up some of the items to carry in one hand, while offering his other arm to the woman. She took it with a smile, and together they left the small diner.


A few hours later, the red pickup truck sat parked atop Stone’s Ridge, a clear spot not from town. It was a quiet place where two people could go to be alone to watch the stars and talk. The heater on the truck was on low, just enough to take the chill out of the cab. In the cassette deck, a copy of Eddie Money’s Can’t Hold Back played; it was on its second go-round.

“You know,” Red said, breaking the silence, “that’s Ronnie Spector doing background vocals on this one.”

Carrie nodded as she snuggled close to the man. “I know,” she said. “I always liked the girl groups of the ’60s: the Ronettes, the Supremes. Something about women prominent in the business.”

Inside, Carrie felt good; it seemed that the memory of the music came to her so easily. It was almost as though the less she tried to remember things about her past life, the more naturally things tended to seep back into her consciousness. This made her happy.

Red moved to put his arm about the woman’s shoulders. He felt a bit of moisture on his palm, so he quickly wiped it on the backside of the seat before laying it to rest on Carrie’s right shoulder. He didn’t need for her to see how nervous he was.

“You know,” Red began, “I remember when I was a boy how thrilling it was when men first walked on the moon. I often wondered what it’d be like to take a rocket and fly among the stars. They just look so pretty from here.”

He felt the woman stiffen slightly under his grasp, as if she shuddered or something. “Carrie, you all right?” he asked.

The dark-haired woman paused for a moment and then said, “Yes, I’m OK. Just a bit of a chill is all.”

“You need me to turn up the heat more?”

Carrie relaxed for a bit. “No, thanks, Red.” She turned to face him. “I’m OK, really.”

Red nodded. “Good,” he said softly. Their faces were close to one another in the dimly lit cab. There was an awkward silence, and neither moved for a moment.

Then Red leaned forward slightly, his warm breath gently caressing Carrie’s face. Moving closer still, he gently pressed his lips to hers. She didn’t shy away as he was worried she might. In fact, she melted into his kiss.

Before too long, the couple was turning up the heat naturally in the truck’s cab.

The End

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