In this week's story, Weak in the Knees, Hillary would rather forget a rather embarrassing incident at work
Suggestions for writing prompts are always welcome! Otherwise, prompts are chosen in random ways. This week's prompt simply came up as a common phrase that could be used in a number of different ways.
More about Susan Quilty
Susan Quilty mainly writes novels, including two standalone novels and her current YA series: The Psychic Traveler Society. Susan's short stories for Freely Written are created during quick writing breaks and shared as a way to practice her narration skills before she dives into recording audio versions of her novels.
Below is the transcript for Season 1, Episode 22 of Freely Written, a podcast by author Susan Quilty:
Welcome to Freely Written where a simple prompt leads to a little unplanned fiction.
[Light piano music]
Hi, friends! I’m Susan Quilty and today’s prompt is Weak in the Knees
Before we get on to the story, here’s a quick refresh on how my process works: I choose a word or phrase as a prompt and let it inspire me to write a story—with no planning and very little editing—and then I share that story with you.
For today’s story, I used the prompt Weak in the Knees, and I chose that prompt for no particular reason. Sometimes it’s just nice to start from a familiar phrase, and that’s the first phrase that came to mind.
Here’s the story it inspired:
Weak in the Knees
“I collapsed in the middle of the room.”
“What?” Diane didn’t know what to make of Hillary’s statement.
“I collapsed in the middle of the room,” Hillary repeated, plopping onto the couch and dropping her face into her hands.
“What do you mean collapsed?” Diane crossed from the kitchen into their small living room, forgetting about the whisk she still held in one hand.
“It was mortifying!” Hillary wailed from behind her hands.
“But you’re okay?” Diane eyed her friend, seeing no bumps, bruises, scrapes, or other signs of injury.
“No.” Hillary dropped her hands and shook her head. “I am not okay. I will never be okay again.”
“I think you should start at the beginning,” Diane suggested, finally noticing the whisk and setting it on the table beside her.
“It was Jared.” Hillary bit her lip and sighed.
“Oh, Jared.” Diane nodded, as if that said it all. “But… you collapsed?”
Hillary was the hostess at a swanky uptown restaurant. She met a lot of elegant patrons—including celebrities—and always treated them with a cool but friendly deference that made her a favorite with her boss. No one ruffled her calm, even when they showed up trailing paparazzi. No one that is, except Jared.
Jared wasn’t a celebrity. He was a weeknight regular who often came in with coworkers and occasionally stopped by the hostess station to apologize for his pretentious workmates and tell Hillary her smile was a bright spot in those excruciating dinners.
“He hasn’t been in for weeks,” Hilary began, as if she hadn’t already commented on his absence on more than one occasion. “No one has seen him or his friends, and then tonight… he was just there.”
“Okay… and?” Diane wasn’t sure what Jared’s appearance on a Saturday night had to do with her friend collapsing.
“Well, I was across the room after just seating a large party. The place was totally booked, and Jared’s name was not on the reservation list. But when I turned to go back to the door, he was just… there.”
“He was there,” Diane repeated uncertainly. “Like, behind you or at the door?”
“At the door,” Hillary clarified. “Standing by my station in a sleek black suit with his hair perfectly in place and giving me that smile with the little twinkle in his eye…”
“And?” Diane prompted again, as Hilary had drifted back into a dreamy memory.
“And I collapsed,” Hillary frowned deeply.
They sat together. Hillary in misery and Diane in confusion. The bell went off on the oven, telling Diane it was now hot enough for the quiche she hadn’t yet mixed up.
“When you say collapsed…?”
“I mean collapsed,” Hillary answered darkly. “I mean, I turned around, saw Jared at the door, and my knees buckled. Not in an oh I feel wobbly way, but in a literal dropped me to the ground like an insane idiot way.”
“Oh, uh…” Diane blinked at that information. She tried not to smirk as she said, “So seeing Jared made you actually weak in the knees?”
“Oh, god!” Hillary wailed, again covering her face in both hands. “It’s not funny!”
“No, no, it isn’t,” Diane agreed, pressing her lips together to keep from laughing.
Hillary leaned back against the couch, dropping her hands to her sides as she stared at the ceiling. She sighed and went on in a stunned monotone.
“It happened so fast but was like slow motion, too. I saw him, smiling at me, and felt my knees start to bend… And I almost reached for the nearest table, but I could picture myself stumbling into it and going face-first into the crème brûlée, so instead, I just fell to the other side.”
“You just let yourself fall…?” Diane leaned in, amazed by the story.
“Well, it seemed like the best option.” Hillary shook her head weakly. “It seemed like the… graceful… thing to do. But there is nothing graceful about falling on your ass in the middle of a crowded restaurant!”
Diane covered her mouth with both hands, desperate not to laugh.
“I lost a shoe!” Hillary exclaimed, tossing her hands in the air. “It just flew off and skidded across the floor, tripping a waiter who dropped a tray of drinks. Which made even more people look, of course, while I’m sprawled there on the ground with my Spanx on display!”
Diane broke into teary laughter. “That is mortifying!”
“Oh, it gets worse,” Hillary smirked grimly, not bothered by her friend’s reaction.
“It can’t!” Diane insisted, trying to compose herself.
“I couldn’t explain what had happened,” Hillary continued. “So I kept my eyes closed like I was in a dead faint. Not fixing my skirt. Not fixing my hair. Just lying there in a terrified panic.”
“For how long?” Diane’s eyes were wide, picturing the scene playing out.
“Not long…” Hillary conceded. “But when I opened my eyes, I tried to play it off all confused, like I’d actually fainted, and they wanted to call an ambulance.”
“Oh, no,” Diane swallowed hard, her laughter forgotten. “They called an ambulance?”
“Well, no,” Hillary looked down at her twined hands. “I insisted I didn’t need one, so, instead, they asked if there was a doctor in the restaurant…”
Diane sat back, studying her friend in horror.
“It wasn’t…?” She flashed through her memory, trying to dredge up everything Hillary had ever told her about Jared. “The doctor wasn’t… I mean, Jared isn’t a doctor, is he?”
“No,” Hillary said softly. “But his date is.”
The room was so silent, they could hear the buzz of the refrigerator and a few faint clicks from the heated oven.
“His date was the doctor?” Diane’s mouth gaped. “What did you say to her?”
“Him,” Hillary corrected tightly. “I told him that I hadn’t eaten since breakfast and had just turned around too fast.”
“Ah.” Diane chewed her fingernail. After a minute she added, “So the reservation was in his date’s name?”
“Apparently,” Hillary agreed.
“And… all those times you thought he was flirting with you…?” Diane stopped talking awkwardly.
“They look good together,” Hillary stated primly, as if she hadn’t had a crush on Jared for the last six months.
Diane looked around the apartment until her eyes settled on the whisk.
“I’m making quiche,” she offered weakly. “Do you want quiche?”
“Sure,” Hillary smiled faintly. “I mean, I haven’t eaten since breakfast, right?”
“That’s what I hear,” Diane agreed, leaving the whole incident behind them.
Thanks for listening to that awkwardly fun story. You can learn more about me and my books at my website, SusanQuilty.com. You can also find me on social media, or support me through my Patreon page.
Until next time, try a little free writing of your own. Let go of any planning and see where your imagination takes you.
[Light piano music]