Contest #81 winner 🏆

Golden Cheekbones and the Rising Sun

Submitted into Contest #81 in response to: Write a love story about an older couple who’ve been together since they were teenagers.... view prompt

254 comments

Inspirational Romance Sad

I open my eyes.

I am readying myself for the morning.

A golden cheekbone lined by the rising sun, beautiful in its simplicity. I touch it, once, her skin warm under my fingers, a reminder of how alive we are. How young we are.

We are teenagers. Our hands are clumsy, too big for our skinny limbs, not sure where to go or what to think. These hands hold pens, and books, and dreams. We discuss the future in vivid colours, full of blossoming hope of what it could hold. Neither of us say it, our lips tied by the thin string of fear, but our dreams involve each other. Neither of us knows what love means, our kisses fuelled by wandering hands and inexperienced tongues, but I know the lines of her face better than I know the words of my textbook. Neither of us knows anything, but we know each other.

We grow, as all things do, messily, with anger and lust and tears. She holds the neck of a bottle of beer, her head titled back, laughing into the night, her cheeks flushed. She is brighter than any star, and I wonder if I could replicate the jewels in her eyes, and make them into a jewel for her finger. I smile, small, and take another sip. I know that she is the one.

Our wedding is small, but loud, screams of joy echoing from every lively corner. Her mother gives me a talk, my mother gives me a heart attack. All I can feel is the creases of her hand enveloped in mine, and the sweet press of her lips on my face. I do.

"You do nothing!" She screams at me, waving at the dirty dishes lining every corner of our rotting kitchen. She is tired. I am tired. We both know it is not each other we are angry at, but the bank, the debt, the crushing weight of the tiny house. I bite my cheek. It is both my fault, and hers, and neither.

She still crawls into our bed, and hugs me tight. I still make her coffee in the morning. It is a test, and we have passed.

The first one is a surprise, with delighted screams and happy tears at the start, and terrible screams and pain filled tears at the end. But she is alive, and our child is alive, and they both nestle deep into the lining of my heart and refuse to let go. Surely my heart will run out of space for any more love.

I was wrong. We have two more, and it still makes room.

The children grow fast, faster than we ever did. They are sickly sweet when young, chubby cheeks and grotty hands, always reaching for something more. A little older, and they're cheeky, and quiet, and confused. A little older, and they're angsty, quiet, and polite. A little older still and they're angsty, angsty, and quiet.

Then comes the dreaded stage. Angsty, angsty and angsty. Teenagers.

A little older, and it's going, angsty, and angsty. Then gone, going and angsty. Then gone, gone, and going.

It's not long before the last kisses us both on the forehead and thanks us for the privilege of receiving our love. I hold her hands. "Love is not a privilege," I say, "it is a necessity."

She smiles, and thanks us anyway. She was always far too polite.

We move into a smaller house. Cozy, not cramped. It brings back memories of our first place. "Don't talk about that!" she says, "that place was awful!" She smiles more now, and fills her days reading books and making bread. I kiss her neck as she makes cookies, and she playfully pushes me away. She thinks I only want chocolate, but her love is the sweetest thing in our kitchen.

She takes up knitting, and I joke that she's getting old. She pretends to disagree, but we both know I'm right. My knees scream every time I bend to remove a weed from our growing garden.

She gets sick.

She survives.

I get sick.

I survive.

She has glasses now, small and oval shaped, perched on the top of her nose. The kids in the neighbourhood call us "Gran and Pops." Apparently, according to our son, we have a "reputation." I disagree, of course. The only reason she makes cookies for the school children is so they don't drive their chunky bikes through my nice flowers. So what if I help them fix their punctured tyres? So what if she makes them fresh lemonade? So what if we told them "just ask him on a date, he told me he liked you the other day"? That doesn't mean we like the buggers.

The young men flirt with her, as a joke. They say she's the most beautiful thing they've ever seen. I growl at them, of course, but only because they're right.

Our faces are lined with wrinkles now, and my hearing is half gone. She's stooped now, hunched and pinched, yet every time she smiles we go back to being young, with those jewels in her eyes, and I fall in love all over again. We don't go out to the kids anymore. They come to us, and a young man helps her make the cookies when her hands shake, and a young woman helps me with the weeds when my knees give. I hear on the news every day about the new generation being lazy, and I shake my head every time. These kids are just growing the way all things grow. Messily.

I wake up one morning to the sweet sound of birds. I wake up one morning to the smell of fresh grass. I wake up one morning, the sun peeking over the horizon, its gentle limbs stroking our faces from the window.

I wake up one morning.

She doesn't.

A golden cheekbone lined by the rising sun, beautiful in its simplicity. I touch it, once, her skin cold under my fingers. A reminder of how long we had together, how lucky we were.

I close my eyes.

And let myself slip into the night.

February 19, 2021 11:20

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254 comments

Zilla Babbitt
16:37 Feb 26, 2021

This was incredibly beautiful, wistful, and ethereal. I loved these lines: "She gets sick. She survives. I get sick. I survive." That's then countered by: "I wake up one morning. She doesn't." Really well done, Molly. Deserved win!

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Molly Quinnell
20:46 Feb 26, 2021

thank you so much!

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Angel {Readsy}
08:53 Apr 03, 2021

What a compliment

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Ellie Yu
15:05 Feb 26, 2021

I'm so, so in awe of the way you write. All of this is so sweet, so heartbreaking. It's really simple, and yet it feels so complex because of the way you construct your sentences and your prose. I honestly don't really know what to say because this just takes my breath away. Congrats on your win (and on your first submission!) This really, really deserves it. Wow.

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Molly Quinnell
20:47 Feb 26, 2021

i'm so happy you enjoyed it!

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Scout Tahoe
15:05 Feb 26, 2021

This is your first story. My gosh, it's amazing. I felt the love through the story and your descriptions made me feel like I was there. Thank you for this wonderful piece, Molly. Keep on writing. Congrats on the win, totally deserved.

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Karimot Hamzat
16:39 Feb 26, 2021

I can't believe I cried... haha. Your story's beautiful. I like how descriptive it is, almost like a poem. Congratulation on your win... and its ur first submission... Can that be any cooler? Hehe.

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Michael Boquet
15:02 Feb 26, 2021

I really like how you mark the passage of time in this story, especially with how you describe the kids growing up. Congrats on the win.

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Willow Byrd
15:00 Feb 26, 2021

Oh my goodness. This is stunning. Your imagery and the way you slid through their life with such grace and heartfelt truth was absolutely beautiful. Congratulations on perhaps the most deserved win I've seen in a while, and thank you so much for sharing your words with us. :)

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Rebecca Cole
15:43 Feb 26, 2021

Is this my favourite story on Reedsy so far? Without out a doubt. Congratulations on the win, this story was beautiful, heartfelt and just a fabulous story.

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Frances Reine
19:24 Feb 26, 2021

In love with the glowing simplicity, the subtle dialogue and tiny paragraphs that leave space to think. Congrats :)

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Writer Maniac
15:24 Feb 26, 2021

Aww, this was a beautifully written story, it really touched me! Every word pulled at a heartstring, and I could imagine it all unfold with closed eyes. The imagery and your descriptions of love had me swooning with joy! A very well written story and a very well deserved win! Congrats!

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Holly Fister
15:09 Feb 26, 2021

Beautifully written. I love how you alternated between flowing imagery and choppy truths. Congrats on the win!!

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Rayhan Hidayat
19:10 Feb 26, 2021

What a stellar piece of work. A lifetime condensed into one beautiful, wholesome morsel. Congrats! 🥳

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Redd Herring
15:39 Feb 26, 2021

Molly this is outstanding! I am choked up as I am typing this. You captured whole lives in such a short space. You were able to bring so much emotion through. Well done!

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Lana Trevor
15:24 Feb 26, 2021

That was truly beautiful and it brought a smile on my face :) So thank you, for writing this.

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15:19 Feb 26, 2021

Wow, this is so sweet and sad and beautiful. Congrats on your first story, and congrats on the win! You definitely deserved it. It was just beautiful. I have no words.

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Fawn Marshall
15:07 Feb 26, 2021

Congratulations on a well-deserved win! You write such lovely prose. I love the sweetness in the memories, even the bitter ones. It was so clear that their relationship was full of love. My favorite line is "she is brighter than any star" - and I really liked the paragraph where the narrator talks about the neighborhood kids. Thank you for sharing this gem!

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Amarah Friedman
21:13 Mar 09, 2021

Chills-- I got chills reading your story. It captures the essence of growth and fear and beauty. I particularly love how it finishes similarly to the way it began, with the beautiful simplicity that hides in each moment, waiting to be noticed. Reading your story felt like languishing in the sun as it filters through a stained glass window. I can't wait to read more of your work.

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Michael Palermo
16:46 Feb 26, 2021

Wow. Very creative way of conveying such a happy and sad story. Congratulations on the win!

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A.G. Scott
15:17 Feb 26, 2021

Very well written, congrats. I like the echo of the golden cheekbone line. Obviously too late to reconsider, but I think maybe the repetition of angsty in that one section is a little over the top. Favorite line was "Her mother gives me a talk, my mother gives me a heart attack." So simple, so charming.

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Dorian Gray 📖
15:08 Feb 26, 2021

CONGRATS ON THE WIN!!! I think that the emotions could really be felt through the amazing prose, and I am bowing to this storyyyyyy it was amazing!!! Your characters were very developed and I loved the way you portray certain situations... great job!!!

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Nainika Gupta
14:59 Feb 26, 2021

Oh wow, Molly. Amazing story and well-deserved win!

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