Two Minutes and The Lifetime They Take

Submitted for Contest #49 in response to: Write a story about waiting — but don't reveal what's being waited for until the very end.... view prompt

53 comments

120 seconds left


Two minutes is barely any time at all. At the same time, it is eons and eons. Time is relative, as the great scientists have said. When she met him, it had taken her only two minutes to decide that he was the one for her. Such a short time to pivot the course of your life but his T-shirt said This is what a feminist looks like and he was blushing and awkward and stammering. He’d offered to buy her a drink and when she’d hesitated, he’d put both his hands up, told her he understood and wished her a good evening. When she caught his wrist to accept the offer, he’d lit up in a way that melted the walls she’d spent so long building. His eyes had crinkled and she’d had to stop her fingers tracing the lines that spoke of a lifetime of laughter. They’d spent the evening adding to those lines and she told friends that she’d known that night but the reality was that it was the first two minutes that had done it. 


100 seconds left 


He’d asked her to marry him two years later in their living room, surrounded by half empty takeout boxes and chopsticks. They were wearing pyjamas and her hair was in a messy bun. The week had been long and arduous for both of them; she’d had a surprise inspection that had gone well but had thrown her and he’d had several deadlines that he wasn’t sure he could meet. He had suggested that they might want a night off cooking and she’d waved the app at him, already open to their favourite place. The question had come after the meal when she’d leaned against him and breathed out something affectionate, letting him know she was happy to be able to come home to someone that understood what she needed so completely. She’d kissed the edge of his mouth gently and he’d blurted it out as she was pulling away. He’d not had a ring in hand and he was trembling. She had been expecting something like this for a while, having interpreted his jittery behaviour in the previous month correctly but she had expected a little more romance in the proposal. It took her one hundred seconds to reply, not because she was unsure but because of the situation and the surprise at the timing. Afterwards, after the kissing and the excitement, he explained that he’d planned a date night to the bar where they‘d first met and a whole host of more traditional romantic gestures. He said that it was her fault that this hadn’t happened because when her lips had brushed his, he’d been overwhelmed with a feeling of rightness, contentment and love and hadn’t been able to wait. Two days later, he reproposed according to his original plan but she still told people that his first proposal was better. 


90 seconds left 


The doctor’s explanation was short and to the point. She outlined the condition, treatment options and survival rates in a mere minute and a half and they had gripped each other’s hands tightly enough to restrict blood supply. She had had to explain what the doctor had said again to him when they got home; he’d not been able to process terms like carcinoma or orchiectomy or tumour in the oncology clinic. He cried then, for the broken hope that he’d been clinging to, for the fear of the surgery he’d be undergoing and for the potential infertility that would prevent them transforming from couple to family. She reassured him, as the doctor had, that childlessness was not guaranteed and that they had options. That the survival rate was 90% and that catching it early had further improved the odds. And she held him as he cried anyway; her reassurances would work but not in that moment. 


60 seconds left  


They chose a short song for their first dance, both aware of their lack of dancing acumen. He spun her and watched in awe as the light caught the gems woven into her hairpiece. He indulged the cliche that she looked like an angel and pulled her back towards him, only half aware of the cheers and applause from their closest friends and family. Blushing underneath the layer of foundation that made her look unnaturally smooth, her shoes, which she’d chosen as a quirky take on the ‘something blue’, crushed his toes and she whispered an apology. Still, she revelled in the feel of his arms, strong around her, and the flush of health and happiness in his face. She sent yet another wordless thanks up to whichever deity would deign to receive it for his recovery, which had been quick and smooth as far as these things go. Lyrics from the song floated between them. 


Life is not the mountain tops,

it’s the walking in between.

I like you walking next to me. 


He dipped her at that and she let out a delighted laugh, gripping his shoulder and kicking one leg out in an imitation of a movie princess. On the upward motion she glanced around and saw the many phone cameras pointed in her direction and the self awareness returned. It was only one minute into the song but she waved people onto the dance floor regardless. 


45 seconds left 


Packing was such a complicated process - a hasty jumble of the pieces of their lives into boxes that didn’t seem big enough to cope with the complexities of what they’d built together. Her promotion had been unexpected and he had been so enthusiastic until she’d told him that it required a move halfway across the country. He’d never lived more than an hour from his family and the idea of having to take a flight just to see them was not one that he was thrilled about. They’d fought for two whole days and she thought that this could be the thing that broke them. On the second day, she pointed out that she’d put her career on hold during his treatment and he threw a book across the room in the first violent expression of rage she’d ever seen from him. They’d both been stunned by it and he’d left without a word, returning an hour later in a different frame of mind. That had been the turning point. He’d agreed to try it for a year and she’d apologised for weaponizing his pain. They’d come together and held each other tightly for nearly a minute without speaking, both aware of how close they’d walked to the precipice. 


30 seconds left


The barking in the kennels had been an assault on their eardrums but they ignored it and grinned at each other anyway. They had a specification worked out between them: short haired (her allergies); medium size (neither liked dogs that could be mistaken for rodents); older (he had a soft spot for older animals more at risk of euthanasia) and not too drool inclined (she couldn’t cope with the cleaning). Once they’d spoken to the volunteer behind the counter, they’d been led to a liver and white spaniel who trembled at the sight of them and it had taken half a minute for them to fall in love with him. They spent an hour offering him treats and toys and the space that he needed before signing the paperwork. The moment, one month later, when the dog jumped up and settled down between them on the sofa for the first time was the first time they’d felt joint triumph since they’d moved. 


10 seconds left 


At the park they threw the ball and shouted encouragement in the vain hope that this time fetch would be a followed command. Each time, the dog chased the ball and then sat by it, cheerfully guarding his prize until his humans came to retrieve it and continue the game. Each time they laughed together and, shaking their heads, walked to the dog in defeat. She threw the ball and it arched high, falling towards the playpark railing. The dog barked in glee and neither bothered to even shout the command at all, both moving in tandem towards the landing point. At the fencing, a toddler was stretching her chubby little arm towards the dog and it snuffled her hand in greeting. She giggled in delight and by the time they reached the ball, the dog was pressed up against the metal bars, tail wagging near hard enough to detach. The mother was apologetic and pulled her daughter away, complete with tiny fistfulls of snatched fur, and the dog whined at the loss of his new friend before bounding back to his owners. She looked at him and saw in his eyes the question that she wanted to ask him. He asked it first and the question and answer combined took only ten seconds. They walked home together, her hand resting on her abdomen in anticipation and his heart beating a quick tempo, trying not to think too hard about his reduced chances. 


Three… two… one


They looked at each other and inhaled as one. She saw the hope in his eyes and the shadow of uncertainty seeded all that time ago in the doctor’s surgery. She knew that they had less chance than most but she also knew the roiling in her stomach wasn’t solely anticipation. She reached out to squeeze his knee with one hand and, with the other, turned the pregnancy test over. 


It took exactly one second for them to see the positive mark. 

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53 comments

Note Book
07:52 Jul 25, 2020

Loved it. I liked this one even more!

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Tanja Cilia
04:32 Jul 16, 2020

This is a marvellous story - you keep us on edge, waiting to see what the countdown is for.

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Laura Clark
06:02 Jul 16, 2020

Thank you so much!

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Tanja Cilia
12:37 Jul 24, 2020

You are welcome.

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Eve Falls
01:40 Jul 12, 2020

This is a wonderful story, laura! I really liked it! Would you mind giving my story a go? I'd like some feedback from an Author whose story's I enjoy! :)

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Laura Clark
06:01 Jul 12, 2020

Thank you so much! And yes of course I will. What kind of feedback are you after? Read and enjoy? General improvements? Detailed editing help?

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Eve Falls
06:21 Jul 12, 2020

Umm, I think general improvements would do:) also, please do let me know if you did enjoy it since I'd love your point of view on my story! Thanks so much for your help!

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Laura Clark
06:26 Jul 12, 2020

No problem 😊

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Khizra Aslam
19:16 Jul 11, 2020

It literally hooked me till end and I love how you started decreasing seconds 120, 100, 90. It was increasing my curiosity about what's gonna happen next. Superb indeed 👏❤

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Laura Clark
20:52 Jul 11, 2020

Thank you so much!

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Aliyah Yahaya
19:34 Jul 12, 2020

Reply here... I loved the Story it was amazing I just couldn't stop reading till the end

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Laura Clark
19:43 Jul 12, 2020

Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed it.

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Roshna Rusiniya
11:24 Jul 11, 2020

Beautiful story Laura! Brought a smile to my face. Very well-written too.

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Laura Clark
11:52 Jul 11, 2020

Thanks, Roshna!

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Roshna Rusiniya
14:01 Jul 11, 2020

You are welcome Laura. When you get time, please have a look at mine too. Thanks!

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Laura Clark
20:53 Jul 11, 2020

I absolutely will!

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Jonathan Blaauw
18:31 Jul 10, 2020

Oh no. Days ago I declared a particular story my favourite, now I might have to change my mind... but I can have multiple favourites, can't I? I loved how the ending came as a surprise, but not in a way that makes the reader feel cheated or misled. That's not easy to do. And when done right, it makes you want to read it again and again. I've read your story 3 times (so far), so that says it all. And your stories are so clever, with so many layers. Only on my second read through did I pick up that, for each part of the countdown, you work...

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Laura Clark
19:26 Jul 10, 2020

You’re such a sweetheart! Thank you so much for such a lovely comment. I did start a novel and then got distracted. It’s been a while since I worked on it but I may pick it up again! Have a wonderful day 😊

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Deborah Angevin
11:26 Jul 09, 2020

Loving the ending! I thought one of the characters would end up dying. Would you mind checking my recent story out too? Thank you :)

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Laura Clark
11:30 Jul 09, 2020

Thank you! And yes, of course. What sort of feedback are you looking for? How in depth do you want me to be? Or would you like me to just read and enjoy?

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Deborah Angevin
11:52 Jul 09, 2020

Up to what you feel like, Laura! (I tried my best with the grammar so hopefully, you can just read and enjoy, though!)

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Laura Clark
11:52 Jul 09, 2020

I can do a read and enjoy if that’s what you’re after ☺️

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Sarah Greenwood
03:00 Jul 09, 2020

Love this story. Read so smoothly. I like the part about walking so close to the precipice and scaring them both. I thought someone was going to die but thank goodness It had a happy ending. Look forward to a part 2 of this story?! Two more minutes ha

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Laura Clark
18:59 Jul 09, 2020

Thank you so much! I don’t think I could do part two justice but we’ll see what the prompt is next week. If I can’t think of anything else, I may well do part 2! 😅

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Peony Price
03:34 Jul 08, 2020

Loved this! Also love that the ending was a bit of a twist--after the part about the cancer I was convinced the countdown was to one of them dying. So glad I was wrong!

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Laura Clark
06:00 Jul 08, 2020

Oh I’m even more glad I made it a happy ending now! Thank you for reading it 😊

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Jane Andrews
18:09 Jul 07, 2020

Beautifully written, as always. I’ve just read through all the other comments and for me what stood out was the fact that so many momentous parts of our lives happen in such a short space of time - a lit can happen in two minutes when it’s a marriage proposal or the discovery of a pregnancy. Also, the vignette with the dog in the park, whilst symbolically looking forward to their own happy news, emphasises that life is a juxtaposition of big and little moments: the everyday occurrences have just as much value as the red letter days in life.

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Laura Clark
18:14 Jul 07, 2020

Thank you so much for this lovely review! I think we have this misconception that big things take time but I’ve found in my own life that the big moments often take a very short amount of time. At least, the key parts of those moments do and that’s what I was hoping to capture so I’m glad that this is what you could see in it. Thank you for reading!

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Praveen Jagwani
06:50 Jul 07, 2020

I absolutely love happy endings and this story was replete with all the drama of a Bollywood romantic thriller. Like a good roller coaster, the health scare and the fight were the much-needed troughs, against which the highs of the dog and impending baby can be enjoyed. You captured the nuances and the minutiae of a relationship splendidly. I like the story's structure and rapid pace. I didn't lose focus, which I tend to ordinarily. In terms of critique, while I enjoy the idea of a countdown, it heightens the drama, I didn't really get i...

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Laura Clark
07:33 Jul 07, 2020

Thank you for your lovely review! The premise of the waiting was that pregnancy tests take two minutes to develop and that as the couple were waiting to find out the result, they were remembering their relationship and the steps that led to them being in the current moment. Maybe I should put in some more explicit waiting cues? It is indeed a departure from my usual style! I’m trying to push myself so that I can improve and giving myself challenges to step outside my comfort zone is one way I’m doing that. The superhero one for the last ...

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Praveen Jagwani
11:27 Jul 07, 2020

Right! See, I've never done a pregnancy test. I had no idea that it takes the same time as Instant Noodles ;)

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Laura Clark
14:02 Jul 07, 2020

Haha!

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Jessica Bell
20:49 Jul 06, 2020

This was completely awesome. The descriptive nature of emotions and the progress of the relationship was a refreshing read. I felt myself getting emotional and this is definitely something I could see being animated or filmed. You did an awesome job.

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Laura Clark
20:58 Jul 06, 2020

Aw, thank you! That's so kind! I'm glad you had an emotional reaction :)

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Kylie Gillins
18:54 Jul 06, 2020

This was a great analysis of marriage. I like that you explore the good and the bad and the vein of uncertainty that comes with spending a life together. This was beautifully written.

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Laura Clark
20:10 Jul 06, 2020

Thank you so much!

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Verda Hussain
06:01 Jul 06, 2020

Oh, I love this. I'm a sucker for stories with countdowns.

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Laura Clark
06:48 Jul 06, 2020

Thank you!

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Corey Melin
23:51 Jul 05, 2020

Really enjoyed the story. The trials of life. Parts of it I can come close to relating to so extra special. Good, smooth read.

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Laura Clark
04:46 Jul 06, 2020

Thank you so much! I hope the good parts are the ones you can relate to 😊

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Vicky S
20:49 Jul 05, 2020

I liked the countdown and how you wrote the story . And the twist for the pregnancy test.

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Laura Clark
20:51 Jul 05, 2020

Thank you!

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Joseph Varkis
09:03 Jul 05, 2020

Beautiful!! Don't tell me u took just two minutes to think this through. A gem of a story. Loved the starting. The contrast "eons and eons". The timer set the tempo for the whole story. Introducing the spaniel was a masterstroke. I almost thought that it was an unnecessary filler but that moment in the park was priceless. A really heartwarming end.

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Laura Clark
09:15 Jul 05, 2020

Haha! Slightly longer than two minutes! Thank you so much for your kind comment.

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Laura Clark
09:24 Jul 05, 2020

Also, I feel like I’m maybe confused here but didn’t you have a different name yesterday?

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Joseph Varkis
09:32 Jul 05, 2020

Yes. Being new to Reedsy, I didn't get time to work on my profile till yesterday. This is kind of my pen name.

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Laura Clark
09:34 Jul 05, 2020

Oh cool!

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Joseph Varkis
13:05 Jul 05, 2020

By the way, is it too early to ask for a critique? Or should I wait till Weds? :D

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Laura Clark
14:43 Jul 05, 2020

Not at all- I’ve done it 😊

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Batool Hussain
05:43 Jul 05, 2020

Oh my God, Laura! This is so good! All of your stories are great but this one is probably my favorite. The ending was so unexpected and to the point! Beautiful.

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Laura Clark
05:54 Jul 05, 2020

Thanks Batool! I really struggled with the prompt this week and a friend suggested a pregnancy test. It was fun working out how to build to it without revealing anything till the end!

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Batool Hussain
06:38 Jul 05, 2020

You're welcome!

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Batool Hussain
13:55 Jul 05, 2020

Also, I posted a new story. It would mean the world to me if you could check it out and share your views on it.

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