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Drama Fiction

The minute we got back from our honeymoon, my husband and I began looking for a house. We went to showing after showing, saw hundreds of paint colors (all shades of gray), and turned our noses up at anything that did not meet our exact specifications. Five bedrooms, three bathrooms, a two-car garage, a basement, a fenced in yard, and new appliances included.

While we were on our house hunt, we lived in my husband’s apartment. He had known the landlord for years, so we were able to rent month-to-month. The walls were a flat, eggshell paint that was, I believe, originally off-white. Now the best color descriptor would be “dingy.” The furniture was a compilation of free, used pieces that he had found over the years, and water stayed in the tub for a solid three hours after a shower.  

The carpet was worn and threadbare at every doorway—entrance, kitchen, living room, bathroom, our room. I refused to take off my shoes until I was sitting on the bed. Feeling the strands of carpet working so adamantly to free themselves from their binds just made my skin crawl. But the bed wasn’t much better. It had to be close to two decades old; the springs sagged in the middle and getting up in the morning, as if it wasn’t hard enough already, became a true Olympic feat.

Slowly, after numerous arguments with our realtor, we began whittling down our list. Five bedrooms became four. Three bathrooms became two. A two-car garage became a garage of any kind. The basement went altogether. A fenced in yard became a yard. And new appliances…well, any appliances were better than going to the laundromat and handwashing dishes.

We left each showing shaking our heads. I watched our plans, our dreams, for our future home fade away. We asked the bank for more money, we expanded our geographical search area, we stopped buying coffee and going out to dinner. If temporary sacrifices were necessary for our happily ever after, we were more than willing to make them.

Finally, after eleven long months, we found our home. It was small: two bedrooms, one bathroom, no basement, a carport, a patch of grass for a yard, and no appliances. But, it had character. The dark red, heavy brick exterior was punctuated with clean white shutters, and a bright turquoise door invited you into the living room. Slightly arched doorways gave a quaint, cottage feel to the open layout, and the exposed brick weaving throughout the kitchen was casual and artistic. The hardwood floors were splintered and jagged, but, hey, they were sure better than fraying carpet.

For the second time, I fell in love. I could see us here. I could see myself baking a pie in the kitchen, whistling and sneaking some pie crust to make sure it tasted just right, while wind rushed through the open window carrying notes of freshly cut grass and gasoline as he mowed the yard. I could hear the pitter pattering of little feet across smooth, stained hardwood floors. I could feel the love that was waiting for us here. It might not be perfect, but it would be perfect for us.

We began fixing it up the day we got the keys. I gave everything a good deep clean while he changed the locks. I started planning out where the furniture would go, what new furniture we would need, what light fixtures would look best, and what paint colors would suit each room. I was standing in the spare room, pondering what color would best complement the bay window and the natural lighting, when he walked in.

“Locks are done.”

“Great.” I walked over and rested my head against his shoulder. “I’m torn between white with a dark blue accent wall or light gray with yellow accents.”

“What?” his brow furrowed.

“Paint, babe. What color to paint the room.”

“Yeah, no, I know. But what’s wrong with it now?”

The flat, builder’s grade white currently coating the walls had a tinge of green behind it; remnants of an old color. Quality had clearly not been a concern. 

“Really? Where do I even start?”

“I’m serious. It’s white. It’s fine. And there’s so much work to do everywhere else. It really doesn’t matter.”

“No, I really want to paint it.” I took a deep breath and ran my hand over the wall. “It needs some life.”

“Maybe later,” he said, his footsteps retreating down the hallway, the words tossed over his shoulder like dust into the wind. “Just—not now.”

I stared at the little room. My eyes burned and it tilted and swirled in front of me, transforming from the precious images in my mind’s eye back to something drab, sloppy…lifeless. The room that was fine. The room that didn’t matter. Not now.

----------------------------------------------------

After our honeymoon, we looked for a house for what felt like an eternity. We went to dozens of showings, stared at hundreds of gray walls, and said no to everything. We knew exactly what we wanted: five bedrooms, three bathrooms, a two-car garage, a basement, a fenced in yard, and new appliances included. We had been talking about it for months leading up to this, and we had everything planned out.

While we waited to find the perfect home, we lived in my apartment. I had lived there for 5 years, so the landlord was kind enough to agree to a month-to-month lease. It wasn’t ideal, I know, but at least we still had somewhere to live. And I didn’t have to move my stuff multiple times, which was a pretty big bonus for me.

The apartment wasn’t in the best shape, but the rent was dirt cheap and it gave us the ability to save up a bit extra for the house. I know my wife struggled with some aspects of it. I probably would have too, if I hadn’t gotten so used to it when I was still so young and naïve. I thought all apartments were old and dirty and torn up. At twenty, I was just thrilled to have my own place. And by twenty-five, I was just thrilled to have such a cheap place.

Unfortunately, our search was at a standstill. Our realtor kept begging us to give up our list and be more “realistic,” but we didn’t want to. We made that list for a reason. But, eventually, we decided it would be worth it to at least look at some other options. Maybe we’d find something that was worth putting in the work or spending some extra money.

With each house, our list was reading more and more like an obscure fantasy. We wanted too much for too little, it was a seller’s market, there wasn’t much for sale, so on and so forth. We asked the bank for more money, looked farther away, and pinched pennies to try and increase our budget. This was important. We were willing to do all of this, but I’ll admit I was beginning to doubt it would actually make a difference.

Finally, after eleven long months, we found our home. It was far smaller than we had hoped, but it was fine. Solid, turnkey, just needed some cosmetic fixes. The heavy brick exterior was in way better shape than any siding would have been, and the previous owners had slapped a new coat of paint on the door and shutters to increase curb appeal. The interior had been changed to make it as open as possible. Nothing fancy, nothing special.

It was a fine house. And she seemed happy…but I knew it was far from her dream. The more I watched her walking through the house chattering about what we should do to fix it up, the more my stomach turned. She was taking it in stride. But the house was small, much too small for a family. At one point she just stood in the kitchen, staring out the small window over the sink, without a hint of emotion. For the first time, I couldn’t tell what she was feeling.

As soon as we could, we went in and got started. Changing the locks was the first thing on the to-do list. She wandered around through the house while I was working on them. I still couldn’t read her. I kept my head down and tried to look as preoccupied as possible anytime she passed me. Possibilities raced through my mind as I tried to calculate my chances at a promotion, raise, or even finding a better job. Could we fix up the house and sell it for more? Based on our difficulty finding anything, surely it would sell quickly. I latched the door and went to find her.

“Locks are done.”

“Great.” She came over and rested her head against my shoulder as she spoke. “I’m torn between white with a dark blue accent wall or light gray with yellow accents.”

“What?” I tried to look down at her, but I couldn’t see her face.

“Paint, babe. What color to paint the room.”

“Yeah, no, I know. But what’s wrong with it now?”

It was white; a perfect canvas. One blank room would probably be good, plus it would save us quite a bit of time.

“Really? Where do I even start?”

“I’m serious. It’s white. It’s fine. And there’s so much work to do everywhere else. It really doesn’t matter.” I tried to twist her around to face me, but she pulled away and walked further into the room.

“No, I really want to paint it. It needs some life.”

“Maybe later”—I headed to the living room to start a list—“just…not now.”

I had to fix up this little house as quickly as possible. I’d start with the hardwood floors, then move to the kitchen and bathrooms. New countertops were big selling points. I would do everything I could to flip this house and buy her that dream home. Then we could decorate a bedroom or two. Just not now.

January 15, 2021 03:15

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12 comments

William Flautt
16:45 Jan 21, 2021

I absolutely hate slow-draining showers like that. Great story!

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Marissa Yates
16:48 Jan 21, 2021

Haha me too!! Thanks!

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Tom .
16:07 Jan 21, 2021

The thing I really liked about your treatment was there was no bad guy. Both had solid reasons and justifications for how they saw the world. Both were trying to do the right thing. You nailed the prompt. They were just on different pages.

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Marissa Yates
16:42 Jan 21, 2021

Thanks, Tom! Miscommunications like that can hold so much power, especially when there are justifications for both sides. But they can be hard to write. I’m glad it came across so well!

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Elena Rouse
00:19 Jan 21, 2021

I really enjoyed the way you positioned your story from the different perspectives! I think you could have differentiated them a tad more but overall I really enjoyed amazing job:)

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Marissa Yates
04:15 Jan 21, 2021

Thank you! I wholeheartedly agree, especially looking back at it. I’m glad you still enjoyed it though! :)

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Anjali Goel
21:44 Jan 20, 2021

Hi there, I got your story for the Critique Circle. As someone whose parents went through a similar process, this was agonizing to read. It's frustrating-- why does finding a place to live that makes you happy have to be so difficult?? But I suppose that's the emotion you were trying to invoke in your readers. If that's the case, you did a very good job. Your imagery/description is detailed, but not over-the-top, and the story is simplistic and relatable. Nice job!

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Marissa Yates
04:13 Jan 21, 2021

Hi! Thank you so much for your kind words! I really appreciate the feedback, and I hope you were still able to enjoy reading it despite the emotions...it can be tough. Thank you again! :)

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N. N.
16:20 Jan 16, 2021

Ah, a good take on the prompt, Marissa! Loved the overall plotline of the story, it's so simple, yet poised and elegant — an easily misunderstood situation, that leaves us hints about what lies in the future for the two of them. While I loved the female's narration and thoughts, it might just be my two cents, however the man's pov seemed a bit bland and emotionless even if he meant well. I'm not sure if this is intended for his character, but it might make the story feel a little rushed towards the last. But, overall, a great story!

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Marissa Yates
17:11 Jan 16, 2021

Thanks for reading and commenting!! I’m so glad you enjoyed the premise! I agree with you; the guys POV needed some extra work and development...I think I got a bit too antsy to post something lol. As always, thank you for the feedback! :)

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N. N.
17:56 Jan 16, 2021

Sure thing! Ah, I totally understand. The deadline seriously sets my heart racing.

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Marissa Yates
18:28 Jan 16, 2021

Haha so true!!!

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