Contest #81 shortlist ⭐️

32 comments

Feb 20, 2021

Romance Contemporary

I run my hand along the scalloped edge of the table we shared for so many years.  I remember setting it for the two of us almost every night, sometimes for something fancy and romantic, other times for a simple sandwich and potato chips.  There are so many memories of us at this table.

It’s strange to think that I’m setting it now for someone else.

I set the silverware first, and I try to remember the proper place settings.  Those were so important to your family, especially your mother.  You came from such a different world, one full of strange rules but free from want.  Your mother would glare daggers at me over a misplaced salad fork, but you swore you never noticed.  I remember the first time your parents came to my house with you.  When I left the room, I heard your mother mock me for my poor table manners.  I felt like such a fool, but then I heard you tell her that you planned to marry me because I mattered to you more than oyster forks.  Later, that would be our little joke, and we amassed a sizable collection of oyster forks to display.

I never dreamed I could love you more fiercely than I did in those days, back when you were healthy and vibrant.  I wonder now what loving someone else will feel like.  I wonder if I’m truly ready to try.

I lay down two plate settings.  They’re the good plates with the little violets on the edges you gave me for our fourth anniversary.  I trace the delicate pattern and remember our first date.  You showed up on my parents’ doorstep with a bouquet of violets you picked from my neighbor’s garden when you realized you’d forgotten to bring flowers.  That was the day you learned my favorite flowers were violets and the day you decided violets were your favorite, too.  We were so young then.

I wonder what his favorite flower will be.

I touch the lace tablecloth we bought for our thirteenth anniversary.  It’s so delicate, the once-white lace now a lovely antique cream.  I remember the first time we used it for a romantic evening, and you spilled red sauce on your side.  We tried so many things to get that stain out, but in the end, we couldn’t quite fix it.  I always knew which side was yours, and you’d laugh when I laid out the tablecloth accordingly.  So tiny that no one else could possibly notice, but still I couldn’t bear to give that side to someone else.  Not yet.  I smile and tap the little sauce stain next to my plate.

I wonder what lasting changes he will make.

I place the silver candlesticks we bought for our twenty-fifth anniversary and light the taper candles.  I think about how you laughed when I picked out the candlesticks.  You called them ugly and talked about their heaviness and how they reminded you of the board game Clue.  I nicknamed you Colonel Mustard after that.  But even though you didn’t find them beautiful, your eyes would still darken with desire when I brought them out for a romantic dinner.  You knew how the evening would end.

I wonder if it’s possible for these candlesticks to kindle similar feelings tonight.

I pour the wine into the glasses, careful not to spill a drop.  I’m using the wine glasses you bought for our anniversary, the tiny rubies in the stems signifying our forty years together.  My heart pinches with guilt for a moment to think of using these with another man, but I know you wouldn’t want the glasses to sit dusty in the cupboard.

The savory scent of chicken cacciatore drifts from the kitchen.  My eyes well with tears.  This was your favorite meal, and I resisted making it for someone else at first.  In the end, though, it’s the only fancy entree I know how to make.  I remember sneaking a plate of chicken cacciatore into the hospital like contraband.  You were so tired of broccoli and Jell-O, so tired in general.  You laughed when I pulled the Tupperware out of my purse, and I cried because I hadn’t heard you laugh in so long.  The way your eyes sparkled at the first taste of the savory spices is seared into my heart.  The nurse tried to take the container from you when she found out, but you insisted that my cooking was instrumental to your recovery.  You didn’t recover, but I know the food brought you joy.

I wonder if he’ll like this meal, too.

I take one last look at this table set for two. I sink into a chair as my heart is crushed by the weight of memories: us having dinners just like this, us irrevocably in love, us promising each other a beautiful forever.  I will always hold these memories in my heart, but you made me swear not to close myself away.

I was tempted to break that vow and live my life in the shadow of our years together.  Then I met him, and he swept me off my feet despite my cement shoes.  He woke my heart again after so much time dormant after such a devastating loss.  Still, it’s strange to set the table for someone who isn’t you.  This table is rich with your ghost, but you don’t haunt me like I thought you would.

The doorbell rings, and I stand up to answer its call.  He’s here.  The photo of you and me on the sidebar (better term) catches my eye, front and center in the collection of framed memories.  We’re so happy in that photo, moments after the preacher announced that you could kiss me.  I spare a moment to touch the carved wooden frame, then I move the photo from its place of honor to a spot behind the one of our son at his college graduation.

You wanted me to move on when you were gone.  And now it’s time.

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32 comments

Michael Boquet
15:17 Feb 26, 2021

You just eat shortlists for breakfast, huh? Three in a row! I'm very impressed and a wee bit envious ;) I like how straight forward your story is. No words wasted. I can see the set table and place settings clearly in my head. You take something rather mundane and make it shine. Congratulations.

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Fawn Marshall
18:55 Feb 26, 2021

Thank you! I'm incredibly grateful and surprised for the honor. I appreciate your comments, too - I love love love short stories!

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Zilla Babbitt
20:43 Feb 26, 2021

Wow, poignant and beautiful. Excellently done, and as I've read from Michael's comment, a third shortlist. Congrats, Fawn!

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Fawn Marshall
22:40 Feb 26, 2021

Thank you so much for reading, Zilla!

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Thom Brodkin
20:23 Feb 25, 2021

Hey there Fawn, my name is Thom and I want to write like you. Maybe it's because I'm a guy or maybe its because I'm new to writing but I don't have close to your gift for simple detail. I read quite a few stories on Reedsy and some of them have exquisite detail that makes my head hurt. I spend so much time trying to picture what the writer sees I can't see anything myself. Your writing is much better. It captures my attention and keeps from start to finish. It guides me through without making me fixate on every detail. You are a fanta...

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Fawn Marshall
03:33 Feb 26, 2021

Hi Thom, I really appreciate your comments! I just word vomit onto the page, let it sit, and then clean it up a couple days later until it looks nice. I'm happy to check out your stories!

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Holly Fister
19:03 Feb 25, 2021

At first I thought her new love would be her old love with Alzheimer’s. Well written, as always!

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Fawn Marshall
20:16 Feb 25, 2021

Aww, that would have been kind of sweet!

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J C
11:25 Feb 27, 2021

Wow, great story and well done. Well deserved shortlist. Which raises a question - you've made the shortlist the last three contests in a row which is amazing. What's your secret, if I might ask? Do you have a particular process/methodology you follow? As someone who sort-of set themselves the goal of getting to the shortlist as proof to myself that I've improved over time, any tips that you might be willing to share? Not that I'm jealous or anything...

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Fawn Marshall
21:20 Feb 28, 2021

Hi JC, I really appreciate your comments! With short stories, I find it easiest to outline almost the same way you might in high school for an essay. That way, you're 100% of the steps your story needs to have, and you can be very particular with your words since you have a limit. Other than that... I generally don't write something unless I'm inspired so I don't spend a lot of energy forcing something to work. I don't know how helpful that is, but it works for me!

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J C
03:42 Mar 01, 2021

Thanks for the tips. I've been outlining more on my recent stories than I have previously and have noticed my stories getting more...tight, I guess you could say. Or at least I hope so. Will you be entering this week as well? I suppose everyone will have already asked you to read their stories but...don't ask, don't get, and if you find any free time and fancy reading a fantasy romance I'd love any quick thoughts you have to offer.

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Fawn Marshall
15:07 Mar 01, 2021

I didn't end up entering the App contest, but I'm hoping to enter for the tropical one this week. And I'm happy to read your work! <3

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J C
00:31 Mar 02, 2021

I'll keep an eye out for your entry!

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S. Athena
22:45 Feb 26, 2021

So sad and moving! Thank you!

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Fawn Marshall
21:21 Feb 28, 2021

Thank you so much for reading!

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Jonas Reed
20:19 Feb 26, 2021

Wow. That's all I have to say. After I finished reading this, my eyes teared up, and I almost cried. This is a beautiful story, and I can't wait to see more!

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Fawn Marshall
22:41 Feb 26, 2021

That's such high praise - thank you, Jonas!

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Redd Herring
20:00 Feb 26, 2021

Your story feels so real. Maybe that has something to do with my wife and I being married for 25 years this year. It makes you stop and look back. You really did a wonderful job!

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Fawn Marshall
20:11 Feb 26, 2021

Thank you! I'm so glad it feels real to you - I have so much respect for people who are willing to put the work into a marriage long-term. There's a little envy in there, too! I got a lot of inspiration from my grandparents who were married for 72 years.

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Lori G
16:32 Feb 26, 2021

Great writing, Fawn!

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Fawn Marshall
18:55 Feb 26, 2021

Thank you, Lori!

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Deidra Lovegren
16:03 Feb 26, 2021

Congratulations! I am so happy for you -- DESERVED WIN :)

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Fawn Marshall
16:32 Feb 26, 2021

Hurray, thank you!

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Mustang Patty
22:28 Mar 05, 2021

Hi there, Thank you for sharing your story. I am putting together an Anthology of Short Stories to be published in late Spring 2021. Would you be interested? The details can be found on my website: www.mustangpatty1029.com on page '2021 Indie Authors' Short Story Anthology,' and you can see our latest completed project on Amazon. '2020 Indie Authors' Short Story Anthology.' (It is available as a Kindle Unlimited selection.) Feel free to reach out to me: patty@mustangpatty1029.com Thank you for thinking about participating, ~MP~ Could...

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Fawn Marshall
04:59 Mar 06, 2021

Hi MP - thank you so so much for the consideration! I’m not quite ready to publish yet, but perhaps in the future :)

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Stevie B
14:08 Mar 03, 2021

Very tastefully well done, Fawn!

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Fawn Marshall
18:48 Mar 03, 2021

Thank you! Pun most appreciated =]

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Kate Winchester
02:09 Mar 03, 2021

This was really beautiful! Congrats on being shortlisted. Well deserved!

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Fawn Marshall
18:48 Mar 03, 2021

Thank you for reading!

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Kate Winchester
19:53 Mar 03, 2021

You’re welcome. 😊

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Bia Jee
20:05 Apr 05, 2021

You are perfect just the way that you write

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Bia Jee
19:52 Apr 05, 2021

I truly appreciate the story as I enjoyed every word of it as it is out of this world you have marvelous sense of humor.

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