I registered late for the A-to-Z blogging challenge this year, so I have no real theme. In past years, I have done flash fiction inspired by readers' comments, and I'm happy to do that again, but this month the fiction has been peppered in amongst other random topics of my choosing. After A to Z, I intend to get back to weekly flash fiction Fridays, so you can still suggest a story idea in a comment if you have one.
The counter clerk looked expectantly. "Name? For your order?" he finally asked.
"Oh!" It was her first time at this noodle shop. "Ari," she replied, and scanned the QR code to pay. She smiled a wiggly smile, nodded, and moved to the side, to collect utensils and select a table.
As she was looking around, chopsticks and spoon in hand, a girl came over to her. "You're not from here, are you?" she asked. The newly minted "Ari" spun wide-eyed at her interrogator. She appeared to be a young college student, a few years behind the stranger she had approached. "Are you?" she asked again.
"Um," a startled smile wavered on her face again. "What makes you ask?" She couldn't be found out already! She just got to Korea yesterday. Her new identity was supposed to be secure.
"Your accent," the girl shrugged.
"Oh, yeah, I hear that a lot," Ari bluffed. With a shrug she added, "I grew up in Japan." Was that all? She breathed a sigh of relief. This new identity had not come cheap. In an effort to avoid minority persecution in China, Ari - then Zhang-Li - had managed to cross into Thailand, from where she had bounced around as incognito as possible, finally reaching a contact in Japan who fixed her up with a new identity. Having studied Korean in college, starting a new life in Korea was a natural choice.
Zhang, now Ari, had a new passport, new ID, and a new personal history available for searching online, should anyone choose to do so.
The hardest part was getting used to a new name. She'd spent a month in Japan, learning about the area her new history said had been her home, and practicing responding to a totally different name. There was no time to mourn the loss of her previous life. Her parents were already dead from the terrible persecution anyway, and she knew they would be happy she was safe.
After eating her noodles alone in the shop, Ari left in the direction that would take her past a shrine she saw earlier. She'd light some incense and pay respects to her parents.
No, wait, not her parents, the parents of a former close friend named Zhang-Li. In time, she would see them again but for now she'd pray for blessings in a new life, under her new name.
This short Flash Fiction story was inspired by the prompt "A secret you wish to tell none" offered by Afshan Shaik of The Pensive, in a comment on my U post. You're welcome to suggest any prompt in a comment and I'll get to it on one of my forthcoming Flash Fiction Fridays.