31 comments

Fiction Romance

“I think it’s funny, don’t you?”


“What could possibly be funny about this conversation, Lane?”


“It’s just— we’re both in the business of piecing things together,” he says, “but neither of us knows how to keep a relationship from falling apart.”


I frown. “How does that have anything to do with—”


“You’re breaking up with me, right?”


“Well, yeah,” I stumble, struggling to control my frustration. All I wanted was a clean break. A satisfying end. And off he goes and beats me to it.


“It’s fine, I guess,” he says. He watches me, his hazel eyes wide and expectant like lilies. “If that’s what you really want.”


“What do you mean, ‘if that’s what I want?’ Obviously it is, or I wouldn’t be doing it.”


“Okay,” he shrugs. He begins collecting his things and takes a final sip of his coffee. 


“Why are you so okay with this?” I ask. I thought I was worth more to him than a shrug goodbye.


“I dunno. I guess I’ll see you around,” he says. Lane shoulders his bag and walks away, leaving me to fume alone at our regular spot in our favorite coffee shop.


On the drive home, I pass by his floristry shop. Roses and lilies and orchids line the windows like sentinels. They stare into me as if to shame me, petals and stamens sharp with accusations. 


I remember he tried to teach me about flower language once, back before we started dating.


*****


“Iris, it means ‘a message,’” he said, handing me a delicate flower.


“How mysterious,” I replied, holding it at a distance, as if it might crumble should I hold it too close. I always was bad with plants.


“This one’s a calla lily.” He passed it to me, already looking for the next flower. “It means beauty.”


“Oh my, I’m flattered,” I said jokingly. His ears flushed red and I started to catch on.


He walked to another corner of the shop and came back with two more flowers. “Violet, for faithfulness. And a red tulip.”


I took the flowers and looked at him, waiting. He stared at the bouquet in my hands for a while as if the paper-thin petals would fortify him.


“It means ‘declaration of love.’”


That was the first time we kissed, with flowers pressed between us like a promise.


*****


I get home, ignore his sweater lying on the arm of the couch, and settle down at my desk to work. There are piles of books strewn about the room, some left open, others with papers or pens sitting inside them to mark a specific page.


My laptop sits open, twenty-three tabs active on my browser. And beside it, a messy college-ruled notebook, covered in scribbled phrases, dark lines, and circled names, dates, facts. 


I set my playlist to shuffle and sink into the familiar haze of my research. 


Still, he lingers in the footnotes of the pages as I write, the scent of jasmine and sage almost tangible in the air. I hate that he has become tied to me, ivy on the walls of a red brick home. 


He used to sit on my bed in the corner of the room, reading books taken at random from my shelves and listening along to the Mendelssohns. We played a game where he tried to guess if a song was by Fanny or Felix. If he got it wrong, he put a dollar in our coffee fund jar. 


He paid for all of our coffee shop dates.


I stare at the draft of my dissertation, examine the score of Das Yahr, let the richness of the music flood the room. I hope it will fill the space he left empty. Instead, I see leaves and vines in the measures of the music, and realize that he was right; I wasn’t going to be rid of him so easily.


It wasn’t long into dating Lane that I realized he was steady. His hands never wavered as he pruned the herbs in his kitchen windowsill. He never said anything he didn’t mean, not even when he was angry. He always looked at me with his wide-open lily eyes as if I was the sun itself. 


He wasn’t perfect. I knew that before we started dating. He liked to be right, even when he didn’t know enough to have a real opinion. He listened halfway if he wasn’t interested in the topic, like there was something about silence that was more important.


I wasn’t perfect either. I hated letting him help with anything, letting him into the safety of my solitude. He had to fight his way through, like a tree growing roots into stone. 


Nearly a year of growing together, and I’m just now realizing how deeply he is woven into me.


*****


I wake up at 11:21 am, my face planted firmly on my desk. My entire body aches when I sit up, unhappy at having been messily folded into sleep. I must have passed out mid-sentence.


The first thing I see when I stand and try to stretch my aching body is the watercolor of a lavender sprig hanging on my wall. Lane got really into painting a few months ago while trying to rebrand his shop. I helped him sort through his designs and chose the font for his business cards, and he gave me the painting as a thank you. Lavender for loyalty and devotion.


Shaking loose from the memory, I grab my phone. Three messages, all from Lane.


8:32 AM - I know you want space, but we need to talk about yesterday. 


8:33 AM - I’ll be at The Bean around lunchtime. Hope you’ll be there.


10:01 AM - I just want to explain. I’m sorry for how I acted yesterday, I was upset and I didn’t want to get into a big fight. Please come.


I sigh deeply, knowing that even if I try to talk myself out of it, I’ll be there. And I don’t have long to resist the way he pulls at me; it’s already almost noon.


*****


He sits at our table, coffee in hand and back to me. His long fingers wrap around the mug delicately. They are scratched and calloused as always, from sharp thorns and pruning shears. 


“Hey,” I say as I approach.


“You came,” he replies, and I can’t tell if he’s surprised.


We order lunch and hover over the plates, proud and speechless like orchids. 


“I thought about bringing you flowers,” he says, breaking the silence. “But I know you wouldn’t have liked that.”


He’s not wrong; I hate receiving bouquets. It feels shameful, admiring a collection of things cut too soon from life.


“If I had brought you flowers, though, they’d be hyacinths. Purple ones.”


“What do purple hyacinths mean?” I ask, pushing my salad around on the plate.


“Sorrow. An apology.”


“What for?” I was the one breaking things off, pulling away.


“I shouldn’t have left yesterday.” He picks at the crust of his sandwich. “I didn’t want to say the wrong thing, but then I went and did the wrong thing. So I’m sorry.”


I don’t know how to respond. We eat in silence for a while, and then he sets his sandwich down abruptly.


“Can I just ask why?”


“Why what?” I ask, without looking up.


“Why you want to end it after almost a year. You never really gave a reason. I think I deserve a reason.”


“I just—I need to focus on my work right now.”


“That’s bull and you know it, Beth.”


“Okay, fine. It’s bull.” I hate that he won’t let me lie to him.


“So, why then? What did I do?”


“Nothing, honest.” I look deep into his hazel eyes, eyes that see me better than anyone ever has. It is a terrifying thing to be known.


“You’re afraid,” he says, and I have to look away. “Why?”


“I don’t know,” I shrug. It’s not worth denying.


“I’m afraid, too, you know.”


“No you aren’t. You’re fearless,” I say. 


“I’m serious, Beth. You scare me.”


“That’s sweet,” I retort, rolling my eyes. Underneath, I’m aching, an unresolved cord searching for its cadence.


“I’m not kidding. I haven’t been in love before and this,” he gestures between us, “this is scary.”


I don’t reply. Perhaps if I say nothing he won’t notice that he is softening me.


“I’m not good at this,” he says. “Let’s be honest, neither are you.”


“What—”


He holds up his hands to slow me down. I wish I could hate him for it. I wish I could do anything but love him. 


“I guess all I’m trying to say is that I don’t want us to be over.” He runs his finger along the rim of his coffee mug. “And I don’t think you do either, not really.”


I stare at him for a long time. Usually, I know what to say, but right now my mind is full of petals and symphonies. There is still part of me that hesitates, that doesn’t want to carve space for him. Part of me that wants to run before he and I are bound too tightly together. But he is afraid, like me, and somehow that makes me sure.


I reach my hand out to him. He takes it and intertwines his fingers with mine. I imagine roots weaving through stone, crumbling it, so the tree and the rock can return to the soil where they belong.


I wish there was a flower to describe the way my heart begins to bloom when he smiles at me.

February 14, 2021 18:23

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

31 comments

Leilani Lane
12:29 Mar 15, 2021

After reading your last two stories (the ones you've most recently submitted, as I'm reading these in opposite order), this was a change! I loved how this showcased your talent with dialogue, and the others showcased your talent with description. Just talent all around, leave some for the rest of us! :D This is a great little modern romance. Beautiful, simple, relatable.

Reply

Claire Lewis
15:18 Mar 15, 2021

I’m reading through all your comments but I didn’t want to spam you with replies lol! You’re too kind. Your comments are so motivating and never fail to make me smile :)

Reply

Leilani Lane
02:25 Mar 20, 2021

Haha totally understand! :D Always a pleasure to read your stories!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Zahra Daya
17:10 Feb 19, 2021

I really enjoyed reading this story. My favorite part was the continued theme of flowers, you created such great similes and metaphors with them; it was phenomenal. The last line was really satisfying to me and felt like the perfect ending. Great job! Also, could you check out my story under this prompt?

Reply

Claire Lewis
18:32 Feb 19, 2021

Thanks Zahra! Just left a comment for you, hope it’s helpful!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Kyler Mattoon
15:59 Apr 08, 2021

Oh goodness I am crying. You have such an incredible talent for pulling readers into a world. Thank you for this piece.

Reply

Claire Lewis
16:07 Apr 08, 2021

Thank you, Kyler! You’re too kind :)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
I.B. Dunn
22:17 Mar 02, 2021

I stumbled on this story quite by accident but it was serendipitous. What a lovely read. It was quiet and yet strong. It was packed with emotion and yet still a little distant. You have a gift for description. It feels almost as if there is some of you in this story. If it is at all autobiographical thank you for sharing, if it isn't I can think of no higher compliment than to be surprised. Keep writing. People will read. I wrote one called "Her Other Sock" for a different prompt this week. You said read for read and feedback for f...

Reply

Claire Lewis
02:35 Mar 03, 2021

Hi Thom, your comment absolutely made my day! I’m glad to hear you enjoyed this story, and that you felt it was personal. The only autobiographical bit is the research scene, though I’ve only written a thesis in music and I’m not planning to attempt a dissertation (lol). I’m pleased that was enough of a connection to resonate through the rest of story. Heading over to your page now! 😊

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Eddie Thawne
10:27 Feb 23, 2021

For someone who doesn't like the romance genre, this was just so great and amazing. And the ending was awesome. I loved the way you used flowers to capture emotions. Keep it up!

Reply

Claire Lewis
00:35 Feb 27, 2021

Thank you Eddie!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Amany Sayed
15:02 Feb 16, 2021

You've got some real talent! Don't take it down! The feeling is leaking through your words, and the flower words make it all the better. That ending too? Beautiful. And your dialogue flows like a river. I always have trouble with writing actions, because I feel like they take away from the story, but you did really well. I actually have NO critique. This is really well done.

Reply

Claire Lewis
16:08 Feb 16, 2021

Oh, thank you so much Amany! You’re so kind :)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
R. K.
13:57 Feb 16, 2021

Wow, we really have similar tastes! I absolutely love the language of flowers! I even wrote a story on here, 'Wildflower Lyrics' along a similar theme. The way you stitched it into the piece was so natural I could smell the calla lilies. Their relationship is so raw and awkward and sweet, it can only be described as a flower. Delicate, fragile and beautiful. Sometimes wilting, sometimes in bloom. The fact that you can produce such evocative imagery speaks of how well-developed you made these characters.

Reply

Claire Lewis
16:05 Feb 16, 2021

Oh how fun, I’ll have to go give that story a read, I’m so curious now! I love the comparison of the relationship to a flower. It’s fascinating to see what people read into a story that I maybe didn’t intend but makes perfect sense. Thank you for the read and the uplifting comment 🌻

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
K. Antonio
12:50 Feb 15, 2021

I enjoyed how you started out the story. It can be so difficult to start a story with dialogue, yet this made sense and was very humorous and witty. I really liked how you used the flowers and kept that theme throughout the story. Favorite line: "Roses and lilies and orchids line the windows like sentinels. They stare into me as if to shame me, petals and stamens sharp with accusations." I loved how the relationship was complex and somethings just had no explanation, because well sometimes sentiments are too hard to describe. I think th...

Reply

Claire Lewis
14:13 Feb 15, 2021

Thank you! I agree with your suggestion to show more and tell less, I’ll keep it in mind as I continue tweaking things. I appreciate the read and thoughtful comment, as always!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
H L Mc Quaid
12:14 Feb 15, 2021

Hi Claire! Despite your aversion to romance (as a genre), you did an admirable job conveying the small moments of tension and awkwardness, and affection. There were some really beautiful lines: "Still, he lingers in the footnotes of the pages as I write, the scent of jasmine and sage almost tangible in the air. I hate that he has become tied to me, ivy on the walls of a red brick home." And: " It feels shameful, admiring a collection of things cut too soon from life." One question: I didn't understand why she yearned for a dramatic brea...

Reply

Claire Lewis
14:18 Feb 15, 2021

Oh, good point about the beginning being a bit out of character. I wrote that scene just to see where the story went from there, so I’ll go back and edit it a bit. I’ll make those tweaks, too. Your edits are brilliant as always, thank you so much!

Reply

H L Mc Quaid
14:32 Feb 15, 2021

Glad they're helpful. I like reading your stories, and trying to give useful critiques, but it's hard to find anything to improve, so you'll get very minor points from me.

Reply

Claire Lewis
15:25 Feb 15, 2021

Same for you, I usually can’t find much to critique!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Claire Lewis
18:26 Feb 14, 2021

Still stuck on the plant motif. I generally dislike the romance genre, so this was a stretch for me. I may not leave it up. Critique away!

Reply

22:45 Feb 15, 2021

KEEP IT UP! I LOOOOOOOVE IT!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
22:44 Feb 15, 2021

*Jaw drops*

Reply

Show 0 replies
Rachel Smith
14:00 Feb 15, 2021

Awww so sweet. I thought the emotions were very realistic, love is scary. Well done

Reply

Claire Lewis
14:18 Feb 15, 2021

Thanks Rachel! Looking forward to your new story!!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
A.G. Scott
04:22 Feb 15, 2021

With you on not caring much for romance (usually the author will have to hide it and trick me into caring.) That said, I enjoyed this piece. The braided roots metaphor is a bit on the nose but I don't think it works any other way. Romance has got to be a little cheesy, I think. The last line is very strong, too--this is principally a story about communication, and here we find out that some things can't be put into words. Overall put together really well.

Reply

Claire Lewis
05:04 Feb 15, 2021

It definitely felt cheesy, but I tried to embrace the cheese. Hooray for pushing myself to try unfamiliar genres Glad to hear I’m not the only one who’s averse to romance unless it’s snuck into a story, and that you enjoyed this anyway. Thanks for the read :)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Christina Marie
00:11 Feb 15, 2021

For a genre you say you dislike, this is lovely! The flower motif gives it a very romantic and colourful feel overall. I especially liked the line "a collection of things cut too soon from life" - it seems to capture main the sentiment of not wanting to cut off their relationship before it has a chance to thrive.

Reply

Claire Lewis
01:07 Feb 15, 2021

Thank you, that’s good to hear! I did enjoy researching all the flower language things, it’s pretty interesting. I hadn’t thought about that line that way but you’re absolutely right! Thanks for the thoughtful read :)

Reply

Christina Marie
01:26 Feb 15, 2021

Anytime! I always look forward to your stories!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply