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LGBTQ+ Fiction Romance

The stranger sets a jar of flowers on the dresser in my room. I sit on the bed with legs crossed, hugging a fluffy white pillow into my chest; I’m unsure why, but it makes me feel better, something physical to distract myself from the emptiness of my mind.

His gentle eyes crinkle when he smiles at me. “Good morning, Wesley,” he says, brushing a hand through his side-swept hair, streaks of brown peeking through to greet me.

I smile back since it’s the polite thing to do, even though my parents warned me not to talk to strangers. Funny how I remember their faces, yet can’t recall my name. 

My room fills with the sweet scent of summer blossoms… reminding me of the day Max convinced me to skip seventh and eighth period. We had just finished our final exams, the last hurdle before graduating from high school to become “adults,” as our elders would say.

We laid in a field of grass, juvenile delinquents sharing earbuds plugged into his Sony Discman as we listened to the Ace of Base CD he swiped from the mall. Summer blossoms danced with the surrounding wind, their floral perfume tickling my nose as I bobbed my head to the lyrics.

What do you want to study? I asked him. 

I want to be a musician.

My fingers brushed his cheek as he gazed at me, his eyes as blue as the sky above us, our dreams like clouds waiting to be lassoed.

I think I want to be a journalist. You know, report on the news honestly. Not like those scumbags we see on TV.

Max leaned forward, kissing my nose softly, peanut butter on his breath. You’re such a goody-two-shoes. You’d be an amazing journalist…

He sits down at my desk and opens up a leather-bound journal, scribbling something into it before he walks over, handing it to me. “Here.”

I accept it with a frown, my jaw stiffening as I stare at the blank page in front of me. June 8 sits at the top, underlined. “What’s this for?” I ask.

“Do you feel like writing today?”

Who answers a question with another question? It’s considered rude, especially coming from some random creep in my room. I didn’t even ask him to be here.

“No,” I whisper, slouching into a reclined position on my bed. Even though I just woke up, I’m too exhausted to think of anything. Every day seems to be the same: blank, confused, and tired. “I want to rest for a bit. I don’t feel like writing.”

Silence hangs in the air between us until he breaks it with his annoying voice.

“I don’t think you should rest, Wesley.”

My body tenses. What’s his problem? He enters my room every morning, all cheery and full of suggestions, as if he knows anything about me. I throw the notebook in his direction; lucky for him, my aim is terrible, and it plops down onto the floor in front of his feet. The only thing more upsetting than missing my target is trying to remember my name. What did he just call me?

“I think you should write something,” he says calmly.

“And I think you should mind your own business.” It comes out sounding rude, but I don’t care. I cross my arms over my chest, looking away from him, hoping he’ll leave me alone.

He picks up the journal, flipping the pages and setting it down beside me with a pen inside. “Come down for breakfast. When you’re ready.”

After he closes the door behind him, his footsteps fade down the stairs. Blowing out an irritated sigh—no longer tired—I find the page he bookmarked, dated May 6: Max brought me summer blossoms today, and I remembered. I purse my lips, re-reading the words over and over again as the floral scent lingers around me, taunting my nose.

Suddenly craving companionship, I walk down the stairs, hands sliding along the wooden banister; sounds of chaos from the kitchen paint a vivid memory of Saturday mornings in college…

What do you want to eat? Max had asked. He ran his fingers through tousled brown hair, now leaning to one side. 

Even with his crazy bed head, heat swept up my neck when our eyes met. Unable to remain composed, I giggled as I rested on the edge of the island, perching myself on a kitchen stool from Ikea as butterflies in my stomach unfurled their wings and soared into flight.

I don’t know, I said, stumbling over my words.

Come on, he groaned, holding a frying pan in midair. What’s your favorite food?

Waffles.

Really?

Yeah.

Well, then, Wesley Parker—you’re in luck. Because my most amazing waffles are amazing.

I rolled my eyes, a rogue smile betraying me. You’re such a nerd. No wonder I have to edit all your papers.

Yet, you still love me. What does that say about you?

The kitchen sang a cacophony of orchestral notes: the refrigerator door creaked, eggs cracked, milk poured, and flour scattered over kitchen counters. The waffle iron sizzled as Max poured the golden brown batter, its sweet smell swirling in the surrounding air.

So, Max said, his mouth opening and closing before he continued. When are you going to apply for that internship at the newspaper?

I shrugged, my finger drawing circles on the counter. Does it matter?

Who the heck answers a question with another question? You’d be so good at it, Wes. What’s stopping you?

I sighed, lacing my fingers together and resting my forehead on my knuckles. 

Hey, he said with wrinkled brows. What’s wrong?

They rejected my application. I didn’t make the cut.

Max closed the gap between us, wrapping an arm around my shoulders; his heartbeat quickened as I leaned into his chest.

My parents already think ‘this whole writing thing’ is a waste of time. I just don’t want to be pathetic. You know?

He rested his chin on my head. Yeah. I do…

“Is your waffle burning?” I ask with pursed lips.

“Oh, geez.”

I flip through more pages of the journal as he opens the silverware drawer. Somehow, the handwriting reminds me of a long-lost relative, someone I used to know. It’s as if the memories are there, waiting to be found like kids playing hide-and-seek. I pinch my lips together when my eyes land on an entry from February 15: Max made me waffles today, and they tasted like heaven.

He sets a plate in front of me, his eyes sparkling like morning dew. “Are you ready to taste the most amazing waffles ever, Wesley?” he asks.

A lump forms in my throat. “Sure.”

“Open.”

I frown. “What?”

“Your mouth. Open your mouth.”

My chest tightens at the idea of being hand-fed by a stranger. But my stomach growls, revealing my hunger as my mouth salivates, tempted by the sweet smell of butter and maple syrup dripping from the fork in front of me, so I close my eyes and open wide. 

“Well?” he asks, as the waffle melts on my tongue. “What do you taste?”

A tingling sensation overwhelms me, as if brushing against something just slightly out of reach, hairs on my arm standing at attention. One familiar word comes to my mind. 

“Heaven,” I say to him.

Silverware rattles as he closes the dishwasher. My mind stumbles as I admire pictures of two handsome men on the living room walls. Heat rises inside me as memories try to escape from their gilded cage. Do I know them? 

Or perhaps the better question is: should I? 

The gray-haired stranger sits beside me, a cheery grin on his face and a guitar in his lap. He strikes a chord across its strings, and a smile pulls at my cheeks. He continues playing a song—haunting yet familiar—and moves through different chords that repeat. The sounds are like audible sunlight: bright, happy, and simple.

“You never told me you’re a musician,” I say, still smiling…

He reached for my hand. Here, try it.

Oh, no. Max, I couldn’t—

If Max had known how to listen, the guitar wouldn’t have found its way into my lap. Yet, he took my right hand anyway, my skin crawling with heat as he guided it over the strings. He lifted my left hand to rest it on the wooden instrument as the thumping of my heart rang through my ears.

This one is the easiest. C chord.

With callused hands, gentle and strong, he positioned my fingers on the strings, his breath tickling the back of my neck.

Now strum down with your right hand, he said, his voice barely a whisper…

I smile again at the sound of his music—what a wondrous feeling. And suddenly, the bubble surrounding me bursts. Warmth radiates through my chest when I recognize the song: the first one he ever wrote, the same one he played at our wedding. Sweet melodies I was ignoring, too busy thinking about what I couldn’t remember instead of just listening to the beauty unfolding in front of me.

But I’m listening now.

With trembling lips, I interrupt him. “Max.”

He stops, his hand thudding against the wood, muting the guitar’s strings.

“Wes?” he asks.

I nod, my heart exploding when he says my name. No longer a stranger, his eyes redden as he leans forward to kiss me. My hands drift up to his familiar face, and I fall in love with him all over again, the back of my fingers tracing a delicate path from his temple to the edge of his square jaw. I know it won’t last forever, and by morning, we’ll be strangers once more. But when I return to my room that evening, I smile at the jar of flowers waiting for me: like a best friend I haven’t seen in decades, picking up exactly where we left off. And as I scribble in my journal, I’m lying on the grass amidst a field of summer blossoms, humming myself to sleep with our song, a taste of heaven still lingering on my lips.

March 19, 2022 01:00

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18 comments

Alex Sultan
02:29 Mar 29, 2022

Very poetic writing, friend! I really enjoyed this one. Everything flows so well. The paragraph about a cacophony of orchestral notes in the kitchen was very impressive. I agree with Dorsa's comment, about the seamless alterations with the memories. I'm looking forward to catching up on your other stories.

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J.C. Lovero
11:56 Mar 29, 2022

Hi Alex! So happy to see you. Thanks for dropping by to read and comment. I appreciate the feedback. Also happy that the transitions to/from memories flowed seamlessly! I look forward to reading your next story!

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Alex L
01:11 Mar 24, 2022

Great use of sensory details to trigger memories, I've had sounds and scents remind me of people as if they were right there. And the shyness that comes from hiding feelings is an experience all orientations can relate to.

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J.C. Lovero
02:18 Mar 24, 2022

Hi Alex, Thanks for taking the time to read and give me feedback! I really appreciate it. I also left you a comment on your story for this week. Nice job!

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Kevin Broccoli
16:05 Mar 22, 2022

I always find it hard to strike that balance some authors do between poetic language and clear narrative and you nailed it. Just amazing.

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J.C. Lovero
23:06 Mar 22, 2022

Thank you for the feedback, Kevin! I tried something a little different with the style this week, and I'm glad it worked. I really enjoyed your story this week, as well - rooting for you!

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Mae R
14:57 Mar 22, 2022

A really sweet story, and paced really well. You give us enough hints about what’s going on without revealing it until the end. The only note I have is the short paragraph about ‘the cacaphony of orchestral kitchen music’ one. I appreciate what you tried to do, but it stands out amongst the rest of your writing as being different in style and tone, and you achieve everything you need to without including it. In another story it would be really creative, but it’s a testament to the story that you’ve told here that you don’t need to rely on wr...

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J.C. Lovero
23:04 Mar 22, 2022

Hi Mae, Thanks for taking the time to read and comment! I appreciate the note and will work on that for future pieces!

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Dorsa S.
16:30 Mar 21, 2022

this is a beautiful story. the dialogue was very lovable and wholesome, and the final lines really nailed me in my soft spot. the alternation between the memory to the actual journal was especially seamless. i love this a lot. :)

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J.C. Lovero
16:40 Mar 21, 2022

Hi Dorsa, Thank you so much for reading and stopping by to comment. I really appreciate the feedback. I tried to recreate how our memories can be triggered by our senses, in this case, a smell, taste, or sound. It happens so quickly in our day-to-day as we move about, and that's what inspired me to try it with this piece. I'm glad it worked!

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Clyde Laffan
00:42 Mar 21, 2022

If I wasn't reading this at work I'd probably be crying right now. This is beautiful.

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J.C. Lovero
01:06 Mar 21, 2022

Hi Clyde, Thanks so much for stopping by to read and comment; it really means a lot to me! I'm glad you liked the story. I've found that Max and Wesley have a special place in my heart now. So happy to have found this couple. Also looking forward to reading your next story!

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Riel Rosehill
07:35 Mar 19, 2022

Oh my god this was tugging at my heartstrings hard from the beginning..! The feeling of sadness and loss weaved in throughout, and how it all came together to reveal to us what really is happening, just as Wesley realised it himself - I am so beyond impressed! And so heartbroken for them... Also, we all need a Max in life..! Their relationship was so wholesome and beautiful, and it made it all the more tragic. It was also so beautifully written - beautiful, beautiful prose, and the whole story was just so moving and filled with emotion from ...

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J.C. Lovero
12:04 Mar 19, 2022

Hi Riel! Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment. It really means a lot for me to get feedback. I'm glad you enjoyed the story. I had fun reading and writing both of these characters, and I agree - we ALL need a Max LOL. It was a pleasure to spend time with this couple over the last several days in my head and on the page. Really enjoyed your sci-fi lizards this week, as well!

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Zack Powell
02:21 Mar 19, 2022

Greetings, penpal! Looks like you and I swapped genres this week! Love to see it! Speaking of genres: Stories like this are why I love literary fiction so much. The language here was rich and fresh, the plot was human and moving, and the characters were deep and relatable. Seriously, what a creative take on the prompt. I tried this one for a bit (and failed, obviously, LOL), but I never would've stumbled upon something like this. No joke: When I read your stories, I have a pen and paper ready to jot down lines that resonate with me. There ...

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J.C. Lovero
12:20 Mar 19, 2022

Hi Zack! Yes, it appears we swapped worlds this week: I came back down to earth and you went creepy mode LOL. (that came out a little wrong but I'm leaving it) I'm glad you enjoyed the story. I had no idea you took pen and paper note of lines you enjoy in stories, but it's a great idea! I do the same thing with the highlighter feature on my Kindle. Sometimes, you just want to go back to those lines that hit you, you know? The Sony Discman and Ace of Base references are nods to my young adult life, and they just came to me as I was writing...

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Graham Kinross
11:45 Jun 09, 2022

It would be awful to forget the ones you love. The bittersweet ending is excellent. I felt a twist coming but I thought it was just going to be that Wesley was in a nursing home. That was more powerful.

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16:21 Apr 13, 2022

I love your take on the prompt. Wonderful story.

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