love, takeout, and peperomias

Submitted into Contest #53 in response to: Write a story about summer love — the quarantine edition.... view prompt



She really was getting too old for this.

Maeve’s eyes immediately darted to look at her phone as it lit up again. A giggle escaped her as she read the most recent texts. Subconsciously her fingers started to type back a response before she paused. After all, she didn’t want to respond too fast. 

She busied herself by watering some of her peperomia plants but she’d be lying if she said that the whole time her mind wasn’t preoccupied. She hummed and swayed to the invisible soundwaves of a sweet melody before she finally allowed herself to look at her phone again. What was she, 17? Her self control was truly abominable. She quickly typed a response back to him and reread it over before pressing send. No, should she take out the winky face? Was it too bold? 

Oh screw it. 

She should live a little anyways. If there’s one thing the pandemic taught her, it was that time is a valuable commodity. 

She checked her phone again.

He didn’t reply. Why would he? It had only been a few seconds. She needed to chill out. Maybe it was just a signal from the universe that she needed a snack break. Yeah, that was probably it. 

Maeve moved into her kitchen and shimmied into the narrow pantry. Though small, the pantry held a myriad of food varieties. She had canned chickpeas and bánh tráng rice wraps and then those salty snacks her aunt would always ship over from Hawaii. Maeve didn’t care for the snacks personally, but her father gobbled them up whenever he came over. 

She scoured through the pantry some more. Ah, finally Maeve found something to satisfy her cravings. Not a moment later and Maeve had unwrapped a package of Haw flakes to indulge in. These snacks sold her a one-way ticket down memory lane. Every New Year her grandfather would take her hand and tell her to close her eyes before placing a package of Haw flakes into her palm while wishing her good luck and longevity. While the firecrackers yelped and the lion dancers twirled in front of her, she would munch away. 

But now, all that was before her were her houseplants and rather empty life. She missed having someone to share her space with. Well, there was one person...

Suddenly, three loud pings sounded in succession. Maeve ran to find the source of the noise. It sounded urgent. Like one of her windows was being hit. 

Her study room.

Maeve hurried in to find that the giant window in the study room was being assaulted by...pebbles? 

She traced the trajectory of the thrown pebbles and made eye contact with the offender.

Gorgeous brown eyes locked onto her own.

Maeve’s eyes widened as her mouth made an “o” shape. 

Immediately after her brain processed what was going on, she scurried to the back of her house to unlock the backdoor whilst simultaneously wrestling on a mask. Then she made her way to unlock the gates to her backyard. 

Though the mask covered her gigantic smile, the light in Maeve’s eyes conveyed her excitement more than enough. 

“Emilio! What are you doing here?”

The man in exclamation smiled back. Or at least, Maeve assumed so by the slight movement of his mask and the twinkle in his eyes. 

“Well, I figured we should have a proper date.” His typically cool demeanor seemed to drop for a second as he scratched the back of his neck. “And well, I missed you a lot.”

Maeve’s heart soared at his little confession but she tried to not get it too in her head. After all, they couldn’t spend time together if he was down on Earth while she was flying on Cloud Nine. 

“We can go to my backyard! The patio area is shaded and I have some chairs back there. You can close the gates after yourself. Just lemme go turn on the fans real quick.” 

She couldn’t deny the new pep in her step as she walked back into her backyard. He made her feel young again. Like those schoolgirl times when she’d giggle over her last relationship with her friend Clementine. Not that she was that old anyway, but she had felt a bit jaded. House mortgages, jobs, lame ex-boyfriend, and everything else felt like dead weights on her. 

But enough of that, she chided herself. This was Emilio. After all the Facetimes, flirty texts and walks in the park, he wanted to come see her. And she wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Maeve turned on the outdoor fans and silently thanked her mother for instilling the die-hard habit of keeping everything perpetually clean and tidy. It would’ve been embarrassing if Emilio surprise visited her, a grown adult woman, and found the backyard to be an absolute avalanche of clutter. 

After turning the fans on, Maeve turned back around to see that Emilio hadn’t settled into a chair yet. Instead, he was opening the to-go boxes and setting the ceramic dishes and metal silverware on Maeve’s small metal table. 

Her face adopted a quizzical expression. 

“Wait, where’d you get these plates and stuff?” 

Emilio glanced at her and smiled slightly. 

“Don’t you remember? One time we walked in the park and you commented on how wasteful it was that companies keep making single-use products.” Emilio made a rolling gesture as if hoping that Maeve would catch on. When she didn’t, Emilio continued on. 

“Andddd so I decided to bring some of my dishes from home and then I can just wash them later. Ya know, instead of just throwing away takeout plates.”

She thanked the mask for covering up her now-blushing cheeks. Call her a dreamer, but she felt like meeting Emilio was a lucky alignment of the stars. But just what had she done to get so astronomically lucky?

They began to fill their plates and Maeve made a mental note in her mind that the takeout was from her favorite vegan restaurant. Again, it was something she had mentioned to Emilio before. 

“So how have your pepperoni plants been doing?” 

She couldn’t help but giggle.

“You mean my peperomias?” 

Emilio rolled his eyes playfully at her before nodding his head. “Yes, your peperomia plants.” 

The sarcastic emphasis on “peperomia” did not go unnoticed by Maeve but she went on to describe how they were doing. 

The pair continued like that throughout the rest of the evening. They traded life updates and interests before delving into old childhood stories. It was an easy flow. Emilio’s perspective as a college professor for physics intrigued her and his passion for mathematics (something Maeve barely scraped by in college) was infectious. The conversation ebbed and flowed at such a comfortable rate that they hadn’t even noticed how time had flown until dark velvet shadows painted their faces. 

But neither of them wanted to move. 

As the conversation dimmed down, they looked around at their surroundings and waited for the other one to mention an adjournment to the night. 

“I think I gotta-”

“Maybe you should-”

They both ended up speaking at the same time. They stopped and shared a nervous laugh before Maeve gestured for Emilio to speak first.

“Sorry, um, but I think it’s getting dark and I should head out.” 

“Yeah, erm, I’m sorry for holding you up so long.” 

Maeve looked down at the ground quickly before glancing back up at him. It was so silly, and Maeve really should be over it, but she was entranced again by his eyes. 

They looked like molten chocolate and his personality really was just as sweet. 

Maeve bashfully looked away while Emilio cleared his throat. They began to clear up the area and then headed back to the front yard of Maeve’s small house. 

“Thanks for coming Emilio. I really enjoyed your company today.”

Emilio smiled back at her. 

“No problem. I had a good time too.” Emilio’s eyes lit up as he remembered something. “Oh! And Maeve, I have something else for you. It’s in my truck, let me go get it.” 

“No you didn’t have to get me anything! You’ve already made my day by coming.”

As Emilio came back from his truck, he shooed away Maeve’s words. “No, no, it’s nothing big. Don’t worry about it. Now just close your eyes.” 

Maeve closed her eyes.

“Hold out your hands. Both hands, please.” 

Maeve did so. 

And Emilio placed something in her cupped hands. 

“Okay, now open your eyes.”

Maeve opened her eyes and gasped.

A tiny Columbian peperomia was settled in her palms and it was simply adorable. 

“Do you like it?” 

Maeve would’ve jumped up and down if it wasn’t for the tiny life in her hands. “Of course I like it! I love it! It’s so cute. Thank you Emilio.” 

Emilio’s lips quirked as she gushed over her new plant. 

“Well, it’s getting pretty late. Imma head home, but I’ll call you when I get back.” Maeve nodded and watched as Emilio got into his truck to drive off. His headlights shone like bright hope in the recesses of her mind and Maeve watched his truck as he left her street. When he drove far enough that she couldn’t see him anymore, Maeve headed inside. 

Once she set her plant down, she couldn’t help herself. She kept giddily eyeing her phone for an incoming call.

But perhaps, romance wasn’t too far-fetched of a possibility for her.

Maybe she wasn’t really getting too old for this.

August 07, 2020 21:44

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Rayhan Hidayat
02:12 Aug 13, 2020

Ahh what a nice note to end on, so touching 😊 I have to admit I read the title as “pepperonis” too haha, the word “takeout” just made me think of pizzas Also I can’t believe you mentioned haw flakes, that just dug up an ancient memory of my Chinese friend giving me some and they tasted SO GOOD 😂 Anyways, I liked this story! Good stuff, and keep writing!


Jessalin Lee
22:40 Aug 14, 2020

Thank you so much! I appreciate that you took the time to read it :) Yes! I never knew what they were called, so I had to look them up haha. I always just ate them without reading the package. Yup, I'm inspired by your creativity! I really like the idea of approaching the prompts in unconventional manners.


Rayhan Hidayat
00:29 Aug 15, 2020

Well I’m glad I could inspire you 🙂 Looking forward to the next story!


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