Late summer days in Illinois could get oppressively hot. Thankfully, today was merely pleasantly warm. In the countryside, with no buildings in the way, the sky was clear blue. The red and cream checkered picnic blanket contrasted with the green of the grass. Nearby, a field of corn reached to the sky.
“This is very nice, John. But why are we here?” Rachel had her legs straight out in front of her as she sat on the blanket next to the picnic basket.
“I thought it would be nice to get out to the country and have some time away from everything.” John sat with his legs crossed on the other side of the basket.
“But isn’t your mother expecting us?”
“No. My mom isn’t expecting us. I just used that as an excuse to get you to come out here with me.”
“What? You said this was important! You know I have a big project at work. I only came so your mother wouldn’t have any more reason to dislike me.”
“She doesn’t dislike you.”
“That’s not the point. The point is, I don’t have time for a picnic right now.”
“But you’ve been so busy at work lately. I thought you needed a break. Look, I even made your favorite, blueberry scones.” John opened the basket and brought out a small container. Inside were several triangular-shaped scones.
Rachel picked up the one on top, looked at it with mild annoyance, and then threw it into the cornfield. “I don’t care. I don’t appreciate being lied to.”
John didn’t say anything. He simply stared with his mouth open at the place she had thrown the scone.
“Look. I know you were trying to be nice, but . . .”
While she was still talking, he jumped up and ran into the corn. Rachel got up a bit more slowly and followed, calling after him.
“John? John! What are you doing?”
He was already out of sight, but she heard him answer. “I’ve got to find that scone!”
“What?” She pushed her way in and found him on his hands and knees, carefully inspecting the ground. “John, we have other scones. Are you even going to apologize for lying?”
“I’m sorry, Rachel, I really am,” John said without looking up. “But it’s really important I find that scone.”
“It’s supposed to be a surprise.”
“A surprise scone?”
“It’s . . . Look, I’ll explain when we find it.”
“Well, it can’t be too far. I didn’t throw it that hard.”
“You played softball in college. You were a pitcher.”
“Yeah, but I wasn’t pitching the scone.”
John continued searching, looking behind the base of each stalk and sifting dirt through his fingers. Rachel showed little interest in his frantic search, instead turning her attention to the corn that surrounded them. “What kind of corn do you suppose this?”
“How should I know, Rachel?”
“Weren’t you raised on a farm?”
“We didn’t grow corn.”
Rachel reached and pulled an ear off of a nearby stalk.
“Don’t do that. This is someone’s crop.”
“It’s just one ear. I only want to see what it is . . . Oh my!”
“What?” John finally looked up to see Rachel holding an ear of corn she had partially pulled the husk off of. The kernels were colors neither of them had seen on corn, and each shone as though it had been polished. Bubblegum pink, deep burgundy, pearl, even amethyst were dotted throughout. It looked like a cob of jewels.
“I’ve never seen anything like that before,” John said after admiring it for a moment.
“I think it’s called Glass Gem. I’ve never seen it in person, though. It’s beautiful.”
“Yes, it is.” At that moment, John noticed a light-colored triangle on the ground. It was the scone. Before he could get to it, however, a small creature, maybe a squirrel or chipmunk, grabbed it and began running away.
“No! Come back here! Drop it!” John chased after the creature, desperation driving him to crash through stalks, cutting across the rows. Still he couldn’t keep up with it, and, after a few minutes of following it, he lost any trace of the creature.
“John!” Rachel’s voice sounded distant. “Dammit! Don’t leave me here. John!”
The scone was gone, and along with it, the romantic moment he had planned. Rachel was mad at him. Nothing had gone the way it was supposed to. He began making his way back to Rachel and called out, his defeat obvious in every word. “I’m coming back. I haven’t left.” The least he could do was reassure her. Hoping to save the situation somehow, he plucked his own ear of corn as he walked.
When he reached her, there was a little anger on her face, but mostly, she looked worried.
“There you are. Please don’t run off like that.”
He walked up to her and got down on one knee. “I know this doesn’t make up for anything, but will you marry me, Rachel?” He held up the ear of Glass Gem corn, which was sparkling in the sunlight.
“John. That’s so sweet.”
“I had a ring, but . . .”
“This ring?” Rachel held out a ring made of two delicate bands, one white gold and the other rose gold, woven together. The round stone in the center was a light blue aquamarine, and on either side of it sat two smaller diamonds.
“Where . . .?”
“Before I threw the scone. I saw it embedded in there and pulled it out. Honestly, who puts a ring into food? I might have chipped a tooth.”
“This entire time?”
“Well, you were so panicked, and I was still a little mad that you lied to me.” She put the ring on her finger. “Yes, I will. And thank you for the beautiful ear of corn. I’ll treasure it.” She took it from him and bent down to give him a kiss.
This week’s story was submitted for the second challenge of the NYC Midnight 2021 Flash Fiction challenge. While this story was well-received by the judges, I did not advance to the next round of the competition. Still, I enjoyed writing this, and I hope you enjoy reading it.