31 comments

American Romance Sad

A life long lived is filled with reminders of days gone by. Some are housed exclusively in the mind, while others can be found gathering dust in closets or garages or attics. It was in the latter where Edna found one such reminder, and the discovery brought her both joy and sadness.

“Gilly, look what I found in that old chest.” 

The leather-faced old man with the coke bottle glasses didn’t even have the courtesy to look up from his newspaper. “What you got there?” he asked, more as a conditioned response than in any genuine interest.

“It’s your heart, Gilly. You haven’t actually lost it. It was just hidden in your chest in the attic.” The old woman let out a small chuckle. “Your heart is in your chest. Get it? The chest in the attic.”

“What the hell are you talking about, woman? Can’t you see I’m reading my paper? You know I hate to be interrupted while I’m reading.”

“Forget it,” the old woman muttered. “It doesn’t matter anymore anyway.”

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” Gilbert said as he put down his paper. “What did you find?”

Edna knew her husband was just trying to placate her, but she had been taught by years of silence to grasp the conversations when they came. It would be a while before the next opportunity arose.

“It’s the first box of candy you ever bought me,” she replied, handing the old red box to her husband.

“It’s empty.” He said, after he wiped the dust off using a handkerchief he pulled out of his back pants pocket.

“It’s empty now, you old fool, but sixty years ago it was full of the best chocolates I have ever tasted. You gave it to me outside the movie theater.”

“I remember. It was actually our first real date. We got something to eat at Larry’s Diner and then headed to the theater. What movie did we see?”

Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Don’t you remember? You sang ‘Moon River’ to me every day for a month.”

“I did, didn’t I? If I remember correctly— I embarrassed the hell out of you. You kept begging me to stop.”

“I did ask you, but I have a secret. I actually loved it. You had such a nice voice.”

“Had?”

“You don’t sing anymore.”

Gilbert looked down at the red heart- shaped box in his hand. “I don’t know if I ever told you this, but I borrowed the money from my dad. I told him I needed to give it to you on that very day. He asked why it was so important. It told him was Valentine’s Day, but he had forgotten. He laughed when I reminded him, and he gave me the money.”

“Your dad bought it?”

“No, I repaid him that Friday when I got my paycheck. I had forgotten all about that, too.”

“I knew that day I was going to marry you, Gilly. I gave you my heart that day, too.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. No one knows anything about love on their first date.”

“I did.”

“You were just a silly little girl.”

“Maybe so, but you were a very smitten little boy.”

“I was not.”

“You were, you wrote my name everywhere.”

“Everywhere?”

“Yes everywhere, on your textbook covers, on your science folder—heck, you even carved my name on that old oak out back at your parents’ house.”

“How do you remember all that?” Gilbert asked, looking again at the memory in his hand.

“I remember because I never hid my heart in the attic.”

“That’s not fair.” he said, even though it probably was.

“I’ve realized that life’s not fair.” Edna said as she reached out unsuccessfully to take back the keepsake from her husband. “You made me a lot of promises.”

“Promises?”

“Yes, promises. Some were spoken, others implied, but you used them to steal my heart.”

“I stole your heart? I thought I won your heart.”

“Only kept promises keep a girl’s heart.”

“So you’re saying...”

“I’m saying you stole my heart.”

“Haven’t I kept my promises?" Gilbert asked, "I worked hard to provide for you and the kids.”

“Yes, you worked hard, and we never wanted for things—but you didn’t promise me things.”

“You don't understand, it’s a man’s job to provide. I gave you a home and a car and nice clothes.”

“No you don't understand, it’s a husband's job to love his wife. I needed songs and romantic movies and hearts filled with chocolate.”

“So all my hard work means nothing? This house, our life, nothing?”

“Of course not, but it isn’t what you promised me all those years ago in front of a movie theater. You don’t remember, do you?

“Remember what?”

“What you said when you gave me this box of candy.”

“I do remember, I told you my heart was yours forever.”

“And what did I say?”

“You said you would hold it tightly forever, too.”

“And haven't I? I still have this heart. I’ve held on to it all these decades. . Doesn’t that tell you what I wanted?”

“You wanted a smitten little boy.”

“Yes, I did. I do. Is that too much to ask? I’m not just a wrinkled old woman, Gilly. I’m still that silly little girl who saved an empty heart-shaped box for over sixty years.”

“I don’t know what to say, I’ve always done my best to make you happy.”

“Fine, you’ve done your best. I guess I should be grateful. I guess I’m no longer that silly little girl and you aren’t that lovesick boy.” Without asking, she reached down and snatched the heart-shaped box from out of her husband's hands and walked towards the kitchen.

“Where are you going?” Gilbert asked.

“I’m going to do what I should have done a long time ago., I’m going to throw this worthless piece of garbage in the trash.”

“Wait! You can’t do that,” Gilbert said, as he jumped up from his chair.

“I can’t? Why can’t I? What is so important that I shouldn’t throw this thing in the trash this very second?”

“You know perfectly well why...” Gilbert said as he took the box out of his wife’s hands. “It’s garbage day. It should go in the can outside.” With that, he walked to the curb to dispose of it correctly, grateful he didn’t miss the pickup. 





February 16, 2022 20:02

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31 comments

Zilla Babbitt
01:38 Feb 22, 2022

Do you remember the first few stories of yours I read and critiqued? I do. They were good but you've progressed far beyond those. This has so much dialogue and the showing outweighs the telling. Instead of saying, the old man was rude to her, you have him say "Can't you see I'm reading my paper?" I love stories that start with a grumpy old man and ends with the softening of his heart... though this is nicely, terribly realistic. I love happy endings but sometimes the sad ending is the best one. I still think you can cut some excess sentence...

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Thom Brodkin
14:33 Feb 22, 2022

Do I remember? How could I forget. You are Reedsy Royalty. You were and are the gold standard. You were always the first person I would reach out to when I had finished a story and I would wait, sometimes not to patiently for your feedback. In so many ways you are one of my biggest influences as a writer. I admired and still do your ability to craft such thoughtful stories every week. The first one I ever read is no longer on Reedsy. It was one where a woman found a young girl in a store in a blizzard. I think you named her Blackberry or...

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Zilla Babbitt
20:19 Feb 22, 2022

I so appreciate your response. I'm glad you liked Qataris Grocery Store so much! (I had to look the title up in my files haha). I reached out to Blue Marble about that story and also one of my own favorites, The Longing. We'll see what happens! I listened to your episode of their little podcast and was transported back to that first time I read Silence. I loved that story :)

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Maggie Gibbs
00:09 Feb 23, 2022

Zilla - I would love to hear your feedback on any of my stories. If Lee says you’re Reedsy Royalty then it must be so! I’m new to Reedsy and trying to get my footing. Trying my best to become a better writer. :)

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Zilla Babbitt
22:37 Mar 02, 2022

"The Longing" is now up! And Russell told me "Qataris Grocery Store" will be up sometime next week. Thanks so much for telling me about this and inviting me :)

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Thom Brodkin
04:32 Mar 03, 2022

Yay!!!! I can’t wait to listen. It’s first on my list for tomorrow!!!

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Thom Brodkin
13:54 Mar 03, 2022

Bravo!!! A great story so well told. It was nice to put a voice to the name. I can't wait for Qataris Grocery Store.

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Zilla Babbitt
19:47 Mar 03, 2022

Thank you! I'm a bit sick right now, you can probably tell through my voice! But it was a new and interesting endeavor and I appreciated the opportunity.

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Maggie Gibbs
22:42 Mar 01, 2022

You’ve been MIA lately! Where’s your latest submission? 🤔

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Thom Brodkin
15:40 Mar 02, 2022

Guilty as charged. :-) If all goes well I should have a story up by Friday. Fingers crossed.

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Maggie Gibbs
15:49 Mar 02, 2022

You can do it! Looking forward to reading!

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Maggie Gibbs
00:16 Feb 20, 2022

But wait - what does this mean? Does it mean they’re giving up? That they both feel unloved and under appreciated? Or do I have to surmise what it means on my own as the reader? It was very well-written. I was listening to the podcast you were interviewed on earlier and you made a comment that you give the reader the characters and trust them to visualize. I loved that. That’s the style I want to emulate in my writing. Great job!

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Maggie Gibbs
00:18 Feb 20, 2022

Oh and I forgot to also say… Moon River! Love that song. I could “hear” it playing as I was reading. :)

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Thom Brodkin
00:57 Feb 20, 2022

Perfect love song and a great movie too.

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Thom Brodkin
00:22 Feb 20, 2022

I wanted to show how different two people can see the same situation. It was a microcosm of their whole lives played out in just a few minutes. It was also a study in how clueless we men can be. The end showed he learned nothing from the conversation. You are right though. I want the reader to be a part of the story. I want you to decide. I’m so glad you read. I’m so glad you listened. I hope you take the chance to be interviewed. Trust me you are exactly what they are looking for.

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Maggie Gibbs
00:27 Feb 20, 2022

I’ve only written the one story. Maybe after I get a few more prompts under my belt they’ll be interested in hearing what I have to say. She talked a lot about stories you wrote… different themes and whatnot. It would be a short conversation for her if she were interviewing me now :). But I so hope to write more that is worthy of me being interviewed!

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Thom Brodkin
00:57 Feb 20, 2022

Write some more then. 😀

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Maggie Gibbs
01:00 Feb 20, 2022

I plan on it! I’m trying to think of a good idea for this week’s prompt. Sci-fi isn’t my thing so I may skip the contest this week and pick a random prompt from the backlog. We’ll see what happens! Stay tuned!

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Thom Brodkin
01:05 Feb 20, 2022

Think outside the box. Shameless plug, check out Endless Love. It was my way to write about a post apocalyptic world when that’s not my thing.

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01:13 Feb 25, 2022

I loved this story!!

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Sharon Hancock
03:32 Feb 24, 2022

“You know perfectly well why...” Gilbert said as he took the box out of his wife’s hands. “It’s garbage day. It should go in the can outside.” With that, he walked to the curb to dispose of it correctly, grateful he didn’t miss the pickup. “ I find this hilarious, but it was probably pretty sad for the wife. I think she may have gone out and gotten herself a boy-toy or maybe just a new box of chocolate 😂. I enjoyed the dialogue and the flow. Excellent story😻

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John K Adams
22:14 Feb 23, 2022

Great turn about at the end. Just as we think/hope he has gotten a clue... that isn't who he is. I liked that she felt comfortable enough to raise these issues. Probably not the first time. She didn't tip toe around it. She wasn't afraid. But even direct hits didn't mar his self-confidence. He too, knew what he knew.

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Taj Isly
22:24 Feb 19, 2022

Silly Gilbert :)

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17:40 Feb 18, 2022

Lee, this is so very well written! You give us a very real and somewhat heavy conversation in a very palatable way. It truly highlights the couples different "Love Languages", if you will. I'm sensing the husband shows his love with "Acts of Service" but what the wife wants is "Quality Time", or even "Physical Touch". also ... the ending was beautiful, and made me laugh. EXCELLENT JOB!

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Jonathan Blaauw
11:06 Feb 18, 2022

Hey Lee, this was a cool story! An interesting look at the idea of regret and unfulfilled expectations in a not overly serious way. I think the essence of life is that things never turn out quite the way we think or hope they will. And that's ok. If asked, Edna would probably admit that her complaint is minor. I mean, sure, after years of marriage the romantic spark has probably faded, as is common, but it's turned into a comfortable, dependable partnership. The very fact that she can raise the issue proves that. As does the ending. When Gil...

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Thom Brodkin
14:10 Feb 18, 2022

Jonathan, I really look forward to your feedback and you really hit it out of the park on this one. I think this story is a bit of a Rorschach test for the reader. My guess is the split, although not perfect will be somewhere between men and women. Men see their lives as a success if they have protected and provided for their families, whereas women dream differently. They envision a lifetime of the romance felt at the beginning of a relationship. I think my story wasn't meant to pick a right or wrong, it was to show that men and women a...

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01:02 Feb 17, 2022

A surprising (but expected) ending. Gilly and Edna are entirely relatable, the antiheroes for Valentine’s Day. ❤️‍🩹 Hopefully they’ll be on speaking terms by St. Patrick’s Day ☘️

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Thom Brodkin
01:12 Feb 17, 2022

You get me.

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