Contest #44 winner 🏆

The chance of you breaking up with me right now is 19.67%.


That’s lower than the chance of a long-distance relationship failing but higher than the chance of rolling doubles on two dice.


We stand around awkwardly. This is the last time I’ll see you for an undetermined amount of time, as if you’re just another high school friend that I lost touch with after graduation. We spent the whole day together but now that you’re leaving, all I can think of are questions, not goodbyes.


In some ways, this is like the end of our first date all over again, when the chance of you texting me the next day was 16.33%, lower than the chance of me dying from heart disease. Was this all just a mistake? I thought back then. You walked me to my door, now what? What do I have to do to keep you?


Finally, you ask, semi-casually, “So what’s the probability that I’ll see you again?”


I look down at my doormat and see again the numbers that have haunted me since the thought of long-distance became a likely and then a definite. “What’s the probability of rolling doubles on two dice?” I reply.


You lift my chin up. “You know I suck at those kinds of questions.”


“I know.”


You start to pull out your phone to Google the answer, so instead I throw myself at you for one last long hug before I scurry into my apartment and lock the door.


I hear you sigh and try the doorknob without success. The chance of you asking to come in is 5% since you’re already running late, and soon enough I hear your footsteps fade away.


***


I’ve always seen probabilities. I’ll wonder to myself a question – the chance of a pay raise or the chance of catching the 5:40 bus – and then little black percentages will flicker in my vision like the channel number on a TV screen.


They’re not definite but they’re quite helpful. After all, what’s the point of getting sweaty running toward the bus stop when I can see the low numbers in front of me and know that it will be a wasted effort? Although sometimes they lead me astray, like the time I saw a 90% chance of passing an exam, got cocky, and the less said about that experience, the better. Unfortunately failure is always a possibility.


I can’t see absolutes. I can’t see black or white, yes or no. If I ask myself groggily in the morning the chance that it’s Tuesday, no numbers appear besides the time and date on my phone. If I ask myself anxiously during an exam the chance that my answer is correct, no numbers appear besides my calculations.


If I ask myself hopefully any time, any day, the chance that you’re the one for me, I get nothing, nada, zilch.


Probabilities make first dates interesting. Observing proper social niceties while fielding get-to-know-you questions on my career and hobbies and culinary tastes is dangerous enough without considering that 40 to 50 percent of marriages in the U.S. end in divorce.


A coin flip, essentially. That’s what it comes down to.


And having my brain go into overdrive calculating all the possible worst-case scenarios is not exactly reassuring.


You are not an exception. The numbers I see on our first date are low, like they were for all of the people I dated before. I suppose the difference is that being with you makes me feel like I’m six years old again, wrapped up in a puffy purple scarf and sledding down a huge snowy hill, arms thrown up as I scream excitedly.


I can’t believe I’m banking on a coin flip.


You finally learn about the probabilities because I keep staring at you for far too long with a frown on my face.


Something on your mind? you ask, and I keep processing numbers while denying No, just looking at you, before you finally have enough and call me out about trust and communication and is it someone else? and when I see the probabilities plunge to the chance of rolling doubles on two dice three times in a row, that’s when I tell you in a desperate gamble to keep you.


You have a hard time believing me at first, but my agitation and correct answers to a few probability questions finally convince you. (Or maybe it’s also because days later I purposely leave out my phone unlocked, and you find nothing suspicious besides my brother’s last text of hey, how many doos are there in baby shark. I think you feel guilty afterwards, because you let me koala you for a whole week without complaining.)


You start joking that I shouldn’t go to Vegas.


You start holding my hand when I stare at you for too long.


But the parade of questions in my head never stops.


Probability of me getting through this date without saying something stupid?


Probability of you liking this Valentine’s Day gift?


Probability of you canceling movie night to work overtime being an obvious sign of buried resentment and frustration?


Probability of me regretting this relationship in ten years? Probability of you regretting this relationship in ten years?


Probability of our relationship working long-distance?


Probability of you meeting someone skinnier than me? Someone prettier than me? Someone less neurotic than me?


Probability of seeing you again?


You’ve been spinning me in your web and now I’m waiting for the thread to break.


Because luck runs out. Because no coin lands on heads every time except a weighted one, and I weigh less than you.


Our relationship has always depended on you.


A week before you have to leave, I ask Do you really love me? and when your forehead wrinkles a bit and you squeeze my hand tighter before saying Of course, I wonder about the chance that you’re lying. But I don’t see any probabilities.


***


I sit with my back against the apartment door. My mind is surprisingly blank.


A few minutes after you leave, you text me.


I miss you. I love you, you say. Don’t listen to the numbers.

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

177 likes 166 comments

15:18 Jun 12, 2020

Well done. I love the quirky probability theme and how it runs through the entire story, connecting everything effortlessly. The ending, while short, was sweetly perfect. Deserved win!

Reply

22:51 Jun 12, 2020

Thank you! I'm glad you liked the probability theme - I had a lot of fun Googling probabilities of different things while writing

Reply

14:13 Jun 13, 2020

That's the best. I usually search --northern birds-- because I usually run out of different bird names and descriptions really fast. Robins, nightjars, sparrows... then I have to go look something up.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply

Oh wow, I absolutely loved this. It's tightly written, with every detail feeling perfectly chosen. I like that you didn't tell us too much about why these characters have to pursue a long-distance relationship. It's a really great character study for the narrator, without spending too much time on a backstory. We don't need to know why they focus on probabilities - they just do, they always have. And "Because no coin lands on heads every time except a weighted one, and I weigh less than you" is just a beautiful sentence. Great work!

Reply

I wrote this just before I saw you were announced as the winner. Congrats, well deserved!

Reply

22:09 Jun 12, 2020

Aah, thank you so much for your kind words! My goal was to keep all the details open to interpretation and just focus on their relationship in terms of probabilities as a whole, so I'm glad you enjoyed it! (That sentence with the coin is my favorite too :D) Btw, your stories are amazing, especially "Millie's First Walk" - I loved how the story focused on Millie and yet you were able to introduce and expand on multiple relationships between Evelyn/her father/Miles/Millie in such a clear, concise way!

Reply

Leaving it up to interpretation is always a great way to make sure different readers can see themselves in a story, so that was a really good choice on your part. The specific probabilities you chose also felt really organic and not totally random or made up. And thank you! I really appreciate it - that story was tricky for me to write because I was working with characters I had never written before, so it makes me really happy to know the characters and their relationships came through!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
06:35 Jun 15, 2020

Congrats! Well derserve. Really like the way you wrote the details on the probability.

Reply

17:04 Jun 16, 2020

Thank you for reading! I'm glad you enjoyed it!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
14:58 Jun 12, 2020

This is a wonderful story - really unique! The beginning was just splendid and concise. The title also fits the storyline perfectly. It's a really amazing work that I hope to learn from. Great job on your win

Reply

22:50 Jun 12, 2020

Thanks so much! I'm still a learning writer too, so I appreciate the encouragement!

Reply

04:48 Jun 13, 2020

You're welcome :) Could you also check out my stories and give me feedback? I'd really appreciate it if you did.

Reply

02:33 Jun 14, 2020

Will do!

Reply

03:03 Jun 14, 2020

Thanks :D

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
21:51 Jun 12, 2020

There are a lot of beautiful aspects of this story that I’m tempted to comment on, but the most compelling is this: I read the whole thing without skipping a line. Your use of language was so controlled and calculated that you had me hanging onto every lovely, aching word.

Reply

22:57 Jun 12, 2020

Thanks so much for your kind words! There's no better praise than knowing your story held onto a reader until the end!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
16:29 Jun 12, 2020

Great win, D. Holmes, we'll be remembering your name!

Reply

22:50 Jun 12, 2020

Thank you for reading! I'm glad you enjoyed it!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
14:56 Jun 12, 2020

Wow!! Great story and congrats on the win!

Reply

22:45 Jun 12, 2020

Thank you for reading!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
17:46 Jun 21, 2020

Hey! You've crafted it very beautifully! I really loved your concept and the way you've used probabilities in such a vivid manner. Yours was the very first story that I actually read on Reedsy and I couldn't help, but feel captivated by it! Keep up the good work buddy:) A well deserved win indeed.

Reply

15:25 Jun 24, 2020

Thank you for reading! I'm glad you liked my take on the prompt.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
22:40 Jun 16, 2020

Congrats on your win! Great job on your story!

Reply

20:01 Jun 17, 2020

Thank you for reading!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
21:13 Jun 13, 2020

Amazing job with this story, you're an awesome writer! The narrative character's thoughts are really shown to the readers instead of directly being told, which shows really great descriptive skills. I love how you wrote the ending because although it *would* be super cool to see all those probabilities, many events in life are truly uncertain and sometimes you just have to take a gamble. :)

Reply

03:47 Jun 14, 2020

Thanks so much! I do have trouble with "showing vs telling," so I'm really glad you thought the narrator's thoughts were shown! And yes, I wanted to end on a hopeful note, but since even the narrator doesn't know what will happen next, how can we? :)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
21:19 Jun 12, 2020

A wonderful story and beautifully told! Congratulations on your win!

Reply

22:22 Jun 12, 2020

Thank you for reading! I'm glad you enjoyed it!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply

Hi! I really love your story! This piece reminds me of some of the novels John Green has written, because it plays with a common theme of man vs. themselves conflicts! Congratulations on the win! You story was amazing and you definitely deserved it!

Reply

22:22 Jun 12, 2020

Thank you! Haha, yes, I do love man vs self conflicts. I actually haven't read many John Green novels (besides Fault in Our Stars a long time ago, b/c who hasn't) so I will definitely check some of those out!

Reply

Haha! I loved the Fault in Our Stars! One book by John Green that this short story specifically reminded me of was Turtles All the Way Down. It is about a girl who misses out on opportunities because she can't get the idea of sickness and disease out of her head. Again, great job on your submission! I can't wait to check out more from you!

Reply

01:07 Jun 13, 2020

I just read the summary and it sounds great - thanks for recommending it!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
20:10 Jun 12, 2020

Great job! congrats on the win! That was such a great story with a really great ending.

Reply

22:19 Jun 12, 2020

Thank you for reading! I'm glad you enjoyed it!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
19:38 Jun 12, 2020

So sweet. This is a great story. Congrats on the win! Keep on writing.

Reply

22:19 Jun 12, 2020

Thank you for reading! I'm glad you enjoyed it!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
19:26 Jun 12, 2020

I love happy endings! I was worried about her for a moment... but you know he really loves her when he goes the extra mile to text her reassurance. I also appreciate how you wrote in present-tense. It doesn't always work well, but you pulled it off. Congratulations on winning!

Reply

22:17 Jun 12, 2020

Thanks so much! Yeah, I had the beginning and last lines written out first because I didn't want it to end on a depressing note :) I'm glad you liked the present tense!

Reply

21:09 Jun 25, 2020

Good plan! It's always nice to know the ending when you start.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
19:23 Jun 12, 2020

I love your story and the ending was perfection! Congrats on the win!

Reply

21:55 Jun 12, 2020

Thank you for reading! I'm glad you enjoyed it!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
19:03 Jun 12, 2020

The second time I read this, I realized that I had pictured the narrator being of a different gender, so I got to enjoy it twice. Thank you!

Reply

21:54 Jun 12, 2020

Thanks so much! I purposefully left out names/genders because I wanted details of the relationship to be open to the reader's interpretation. So at the beginning when I was writing, I was trying to figure out how to avoid "he" and "she" and then I suddenly went, oh, I forgot about "you" :D

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
18:43 Jun 12, 2020

Awesome read. It was a unique story, and well put together. Perfect! Congratulations on the well-deserved win.

Reply

22:45 Jun 12, 2020

Thank you for reading! I'm glad you enjoyed it!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
18:24 Jun 12, 2020

Very cool concept. Reminds me a bit of an OCD mindset. I'm glad he got peace at the end. Would have been so interesting to learn more about the character as a person, naming him or his girlfriend, or perhaps, expanding more on some backstory. Regardless, you did a great job and it was written very poetically. Well-deserved win!

Reply

22:44 Jun 12, 2020

Thank you! Unfortunately I've never really been good at telling backstory without it becoming tedious, haha - I'm hoping to practice that with future prompts. I'm glad you enjoyed it!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
18:23 Jun 12, 2020

Congratulations 💥💥🎉well deserved

Reply

22:42 Jun 12, 2020

Thank you for reading!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply