take 15 minutes to craft a short story based on the following idea. The key to a good writing prompt exercise is to let the story flow naturally from your fingers. Don’t overthink it – this is just for fun!
T R U E L I E S:
Create a scene that builds to the revelation of a secret. You can write the revelation first or last. It’s completely up to you. An optional twist: have your character’s secret actually be a lie. Consider the traits of the secret holder. Why is not as important as how the secret is revealed and of course what happens next.
I do admit that this took me longer than 15 minutes. I’ll work on my timing!
Kate’s fingers ticked at the typewriter deftly and with precision, the tips of her nails clacking slightly against the hard plastic keys. She paused to raise the delicate spectacles back to the bridge of her nose, and brushed a wisp of reddish hair behind her ear. She needed to get this report to the General before two pm and it was nearing one thirty five. Her nails clicked faster.
The creak of the door brought her eyes to the entryway, past a hazy lobby where the last visitor had smoked a cigarette.
“May I help you?”
A man with broad strides, a tailored suit and handsome features approached the desk in three steps.
“Yes, Miss..?” He raised an eyebrow.
She paused. “Miss Haywood.” She thought she noted a hint of surprise, but decided she’d imagined it.
He proceeded smoothly. “Yes, Miss Haywood. I was wondering if you’d be so kind as to let the General know that his nephew has arrived.” He smiled, flashing white teeth in a lazy smile.
Kate couldn’t remember the General mentioning a nephew. Although, to be fair, he rarely mentioned anything to her other than reports and the timing of his meetings with government officials. She’d seen little of his real life. She gazed again at his features. Smart. Keen eyes, perhaps a little too keen, and a mouth that tilted boyishly. She saw very little of the General in his face. He is a nephew…
“Yes, certainly.” She decided not to get his name. If the General had a nephew, he’d certainly know it, wouldn’t he? What if he has more than one, Kate? She raised her eyes back to him. This man could be dangerous…in more ways than one.
“I do apologize. May I get your name?”
She thought his eyes twinkled slightly. “Of course, Miss Haywood. You may tell him Jack is calling, his only good-looking relative.” He winked, his gaze fixing on her face with an intentness that made her blush. The audacity! She’d seen plenty of his kind at the local pub on Friday nights, boozing and flirting with every woman that dared glance at him. Maisy had asked her to go last Friday, and she was certain she’d stay home this weekend. The only man who had asked her to dance had clumsily stepped on her foot twice and had slurred the whole song.
Kate straightened in her chair, feeling emboldened by his demeanor.
“Well, Mister Jack, the very good looking relative, I’m sorry to say that the General is not in. Shall I let him know that you called?” She picked up her pencil with a raised eyebrow, prepared to take a mock note of his visit. Of coure she wouldn’t forget he’d called. Kate, you’re being ridiculous. You know the General is sitting comfortable as ever in his plush leather chair in the next room!
For some reason, she didn’t care. Kate hesitated, afraid she might be thinking too highly of her position as secretary. Then again, she was secretary to the General of the British Intelligence office. She was sure she could explain her need for skepticism should the question arise. And it would.
He rubbed his chin in thoughtfulness. “Funny. I was sure I just saw him step out of his motor car a few minutes ago, returning from lunch perhaps.”
Her stomach quelled, but she remained firm. “I’m sure, Sir. I’m sorry but you must be mistaken.”
“Am I? Oh, what a pity.” He tskked. He glanced longingly behind her at the closed door. “My mother, his sister, well, she’s been ill lately, and I was hoping to bring him by.” His voice became genuine, and she sensed a true disappointment in his words. His eyes remained riveted on the door.
At that moment, a muffled creak could be heard from the office behind her. She nearly rolled her eyes. The General’s chair! Of all the blustery-headed ideas, Kate. Keeping the General from his own nephew! Just apologize and show him in.
She felt heat creep up her neck and redden her face in embarrassment. She swallowed against a tongue of sandpaper and looked back at him somewhat sheepishly.
“Mister…Jack, I’m terribly sorry,” she rushed apologetically, seeing the nice secretarial job she’d landed nine months ago begin to disappear into thin air. Blasted red hair! Mother always told me I had a temper to match it. “It appears I am mistaken about the General being in. He must have slipped past me when I went to the ladies’ room. Please forgive me.”
She stood to open the door and let him in when she heard a thud and muffled groan. Oh no!
Her eyes met with his and in one fluid motion, he was behind the desk with a finger pressed to her lips to remain silent, forbidding her to make a sound, his boyish features replaced by a sober, commanding presence. She blinked. What just happened? The General! The stranger, Jack, was standing near the door, his ear pressed against the dark wood grain. It’s like he expected something to happen. She hesitated. Should she trust him?
Kate sat shakily, her eyes riveting to the pistol he held in his right hand. He stepped back and with a swift kick, the door to the General’s office flew open. She held back, crouching next to her desk chair, unsure, before curiosity got the better of her and she crawled to the edge of the doorway, peeking inside. She watched as he aimed his gun methodically to each corner of the room, clearing the room. Where is the General?!
He turned and lifted his eyebrows, as he spotted her huddled on the floor in the doorway. She shuffled to stand but the pencil skirt she’d worn kept her from rising in a ladylike fashion. You’re smooth as an eel today, Kate. His hand reached out to her, and for a moment she didn’t take it.
“I promise, Miss Haywood, whatever has transpired with the General, it is not I that had a part in it.” He signed and ran a hand through dark brown hair, an unruly lock falling on his forehead.
She grabbed his hand and stood to see the boyish smile had returned. “I thought for a moment that I might not gain the trust of General Howard’s secretary. I’m glad you’ve changed your mind about me…seeing how I’m his nephew and all.” He winked again. The scoundrel.
“I can assure you, Mister whatever-your-name-is, that while I don’t know where the General is or what has happened to him, you are just as high on my list to blame you as the next handsome bloke that waltzes in the office looking for him.”
The side of his mouth tipped. “So you think I’m handsome?”
“You are being ridiculous! I need to go to the police about this. Which by the way, why do you have a gun? I don’t remember the General ever saying he had a nephew, especially one in the military.” She eyed him suspiciously.
“Calm down, Miss Haywood.” He chuckled softly, which further unnerved her. “I will admit…I am not the General’s nephew.”
Her eyes narrowed at him, waiting for further explanation as to just who he was and why he had appeared right when the General had disappeared.
“However, I am an officer in the British Intelligence, and we’ve suspected for awhile now that the General has been in somewhat of a…well, shall we say a compromising situation.”
She waited, expecting him to go on. When he didn’t, she pressed for more.
“What type of compromising situation?”
“Unfortunately, I am not at liberty to say?”
“Not at liberty? From whom?”
“My superiors. Miss Haywood, I need you to think very clearly for me. What time exactly did the General return from his lunch?” His head lowered slightly to look at her directly, and she felt the strength in her legs give way.
“I don’t know. I think it was close to one fifteen.” His eyes narrowed slightly and took hold of her forearm gently.
“You’re ashen. I’m sorry. I’m sure that was quite the scare.” His voice held none of the arrogance from before. “I wish I could give you more information, truly. Just know that the General was not what he seemed.”
She felt the past nine months flood to her memory, as if every moment could be a clue to something greater that she had missed before. She thought of the long afternoon lunches he took, the men who’d come to visit. Was the man with the mustache in the lobby before lunch suspicious looking? She could only remember that the cigarette he’d smoked had appeared to be his last one. He’d appeared calm except for the slight tremor in his hand when he’d lit his cigarette, but she’d assumed it was due to that.
“You mean he was a…spy?” She nearly croaked on the last word, and cleared her throat.
“I wish you wouldn’t put it so directly.”
His eyes softened and her stomach took a small dive when he reached up to tuck the wayward wisp of red hair behind her ear again. “Because…when I walked in here, I didn’t expect to meet a wide-eyed, beautiful secretary caught up in a web of trouble.” She opened her mouth to protest, to be indignant, but he held up his finger once more to her lips. Be careful, Kate.
“One more moment, please, Miss Haywood. Let me properly introduce myself. My name is Ben Carlisle. I’ve been on this case a very long time. We expected the General to make his move today, but we didn’t know when which is why I risked exposure by arriving here today. We planned on meeting with him, hoping to foil his plans. Unfortunately, it appears I need to work on my acting skills, as sadly, it appears we just missed him. I blame my partner. He mentioned posing as a rather sloppy drunk the other night at a pub to snoop out the dear old secretary of the General to see if she knew anything. He assured me you were clean as a whistle, but I’m disappointed as I can see he kept some of the truth from me now, for you’re neither old or dull, as he led me to believe.” His mouth tipped again mischeviously.
“Don’t worry. I’ll be sure to clobber him later.”
“You and your partner are impossible, Mr. Carlisle!”
He laughed then, a good hearty sound from his belly and raised his hands in surrender. “Please, I’m sorry for teasing you.” The twinkle was back.
A small smile slipped without warning from her.
“Would you be willing to accompany me to coffee, Miss Haywood? Unfortunately, I have a lot of details to go over with you regarding the General, and I admit, I’m looking forward to more appealing company than that clumsy partner of mine.”
She smiled then, feeling a small shift within herself that both frightened and excited her. Deep down, she knew she was taking a small step of faith towards this unpredictable, handsome stranger.
“Well, Mr. Carli-“
“Please. Call me Ben.”
“I like my coffee with cream, Ben.”
He held her gaze as a satisfying smile spread.
“Lovely.” He murmured, so soft she almost couldn’t hear as he followed her through the hazy lobby, a gentle hand resting ever so slightly on the small of her back. He shut the dark wooden door behind them.