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Sad Romance Fiction

My name is Viola Fletcher. I left my man at the altar, resigned from my job, sold my house, then drove across the country to Maine for a different life. Here’s my confession, I guess.

…………………………………………………………………………………………

The drive from Portland to Maine takes all of two days, though I lingered along the road to meet strangers, eat new food, and laughed. I haven’t done that in so long I forgot what it meant to feel like that. 

Why Maine? I don’t know, I mean...it’s Maine. It radiates some kind of energy of people that want to escape, and it reminds me of a Stephen King novel. Some morbid part of me always wanted to live in a King novel, the other part of me knew it was stupid. 

I arrived at the beach, jumped out of my truck, and went to the sand. I loved the smell of saltwater, loved the sight of the waves, loved how cold or warm the water was depending on the season. I remembered when I was a teen when I went to the ocean, sneaking cigarettes under the piers. The sunset was creating colors I loved, I wanted to paint it but didn’t want to break out my oil paints until I was settled. I sat down, popped the beer I had bought, and began sipping. I thought about Steven, wondering where he was and how he was doing. 

Leaving him was the hardest thing. The job was easy enough, I hated the boss. No amount of money was worth that. My house could go to anyone and I could live anywhere. But leaving him at the altar was the part that stung. I didn’t want him to think it was anger, sadness, or unhappiness with him that made me leave. It was all me, and my own feelings. I finished my beer and went back to my truck. Time to visit Ryan. 

……………………………………………………………………………………………

Viola was my dad’s idea, based on Shakespeare’s heroine. Ryan got the basic name from mom who wanted her kids to be normal. They have their differences, but they are happy together. Reminded me of me and Steven. I drove home to Ryan’s in the city, above his lawyer’s firm. It was him who did law for an entire town. I left my truck and headed to the apartment door at the side of the building. His wife, Heather, was singing with the radio and you could hear it from the outside. I knocked at the door, waking them both up to the world again. I could hear Ryan’s footsteps, arriving at the door, and saw me through the peephole. He opened the door and looked at me with bewilderment. “Hey V,” He murmured, looking soft.

“Hey Ryan...you mind if I come in?”

“You want a drink?” was the best he could come up with.

“Make me a rum and coke.”

Ryan’s apartment was as soft and homey as he and Heather liked. Heather was tiny in comparison to us both. A blonde miny lady that radiated kindness in everything she did. I could see why he married her. “Holy-...Viola! What are you doing here?” She was so normal, holding a tea towel for God’s sake.

“It’s a long story,” I offered, sitting at the table. Ryan made me a drink and set it in front of me. I took a long sip before telling him he added too much coke. He rolled his eyes, offering a small smirk. Ryan wasn’t one to beat around the bush, he wanted to talk about what happened and talk right then. Ryan, gently, asked Heather to let us talk in private. I knew he was definitely going to tell her everything once they were alone. Heather went to their bedroom, squeezing his shoulder as she passed. 

“We flew out for the wedding, then we flew back here.” Ryan murmured. “I thought about it when we were flying back. How it all happened.”

I stared at the splash of rum I had at the bottom of a whiskey glass, “You know what Mom said when I got in the Uber?”

“Hm?”

“She asked me if I had planned this the whole time.” I laughed a little soberly, finishing my glass. “I hadn’t. I just thought it was funny she thought I had.”

“Funny?”

“Yeah Mom,” I started. “I planned a wedding, bought a dress, walked away from a good man...you know what I mean.”

“I don’t know.” He said. “I...really don’t, V. What are you going to do now?”

“Live my life,” I replied. “I’ve got a place I’m buying near the pier. I’m gonna paint, write, sculpt, and run a whole studio. What I’ve always wanted to do, but now I can do it.”

There was a pause.

“You could have done that with Steven you know,” Ryan said, getting into his voice. When he was angry his voice got tight, his mouth pursed, he resisted yelling. 

“No, we had different ideas of the future. He really wanted to be a soccer dad, have Thanksgiving and Christmas at the in-laws, have kids running around. Not for the rest of my life, I couldn’t.”

“Does that sound awful to you?”

“No, just not for me.”

He had always been resentful of some things I did that he never did. He always lived safely, became a lawyer which paid for his education and his new house. Married his wife, who he did love more than anyone in the world, and planned for kids. I knew this and he knew I knew this on some level. “You know how easy it is for you?” He asked me. “You know what it takes to start over? Money. Do you know what a lot of people don’t have? Money. You are so lucky you can have that chance, V.”

“I know I am,” I told him. “And I know that this is a massive risk but I still want to do it. If I don’t I’ll wake up every day, then I’ll be 80 and never did anything with my life.”

“I...for God’s sake V.” He answered, rubbing his face. “What if I tell him where you are?”

“Do you think he owns me or something? I’m a grown woman Ryan, what the hell is he going to do?”

Ryan thought about it, “I don’t know...maybe just talk to you?”

“You can do whatever you want,” I told him. We sat for another moment, not speaking. “Where’s the rum? I want another one.” He pointed at the counter where the alcohol had been left. I made myself another drink. We talked a little more, getting tired and he let me crash on their sofa. 

…………………………………………………………………………………………....

I unpacked for a month and painted my beautiful house to a wild fun green. When I woke up in the morning I didn’t feel like I was wasting my life. Over the month I started meeting the locals, finding I started to like them. A waitress named Bea was my first friend in Maine. I went to the diner she worked at every morning. Bea served me, every time. She was my age, and let her hair go grey unlike me who was nothing but vain about it. We spoke here and there, talking about her boyfriend who she got engaged to recently, finally having a whole conversation when I noticed her engagement ring. “May I?” I asked her, meaning to take her hand.

“If you insist,” She let me hold it and study the ring. “That’s not a good look, is it cheap?” I informed her it was. “I used to sell engagement rings for a living,” I explained. “I can pick out cheap rings in my sleep.” I found my gold magnet from my truck, showing the ring stuck to it. If the gold band sticks, it’s a fake. Real gold is not magnetic. The next day the ring was off, and she informed me he was gone. 

“Did….I do that?”

“No, but you give me the proof I needed,” Bea responded, looking happy. She sat down and we talked for hours. She told me she got a degree in English and was applying for an editorial job. “College was nice, messed around for a while, guess I was looking for something. I’m still not sure what that is, but now I’m 36 and I just don’t care anymore.”

“Isn’t it wonderful?” I asked her. “Not caring anymore? God, if I had done that when I was in my 20s,”

“Tell me about it.” 

Bea asked if I wanted dinner tomorrow and we set a date.

…………………………………………………………………………………………..

Three months passed. I got the studio and started offering classes. I painted, sculpted, wrote, and laughed more than I had in almost 10 years. Bea and I rotated making dinner for the other every weekend. Ryan came around, slowly but surely. Heather came around more at first, Ryan began to warm to the idea. He confirmed he had not told Steven, nor planned too. It was my life, despite everything he did want me to be happy. 

“I think I’m gonna get into glass blowing,” Ryan told me one night after we left the movie theatre together. “You remember when I did it in high school?”

“I remember one time you snuck three jello shots, called me at work, and made me come and get you.”

He thought about it for a second, “Oh yeah,” We climbed into his car. “I...forgot about that.”

“Uh-huh,” I snorted at him. “I remember clearly. You were sobbing the whole time and begged me not to tell Mom and Dad.”

“I wasn’t crying!” He objected. I gave him a look. “I was a little.” 

“I have no idea how you got drunk off of three shots, and it was mixed with gelatin for God’s sake. I was able to do three pints by then!”

“Yeah, and I never ratted you out.” He pointed out. “Beer’s gross anyway.”

Before I could object I caught the sound of my phone ringing. “That might be Bea…..”

“What?” He saw my face. “Who is it?” He saw how I looked. “Who is it?” He knew the answer. 

“What should I do Ryan?” I asked him.

“You...don’t owe him anything.” He offered. “But, maybe you should answer. Considering your history, what you feel, what you have felt.”

“You mind stopping for a bit?”

Ryan went to a gas station, parking under the artificial lights. He climbed out, looking at me for a second, “You want anything?”

“I dunno.” I offered. “I shouldn’t get drunk if I’m gonna call him.”

“Agreed.” He smiled. “Take all the time you need.” He shut the car door.

I answered the phone call. I couldn’t say anything, listening to his soft breathing, trying to decide what to say. “Steven?”

“Viola?” He murmured, softly. “Hey.” We didn’t speak for another minute. Steven finally managed out, “I….Um, I...don't know what to say.”

“Maybe I should have changed my number.” I offered. “I am planning to.”

“How are you?” He asked. 

“I feel good Steven, how are you?”

“Well...I’m better. Better than I was before. I finally sold that suit, nice dude said it was for his sister’s wedding..”

“I still have my dress...it’s in my keepsake trunk. I dunno, I’ll do something with it.” I could hear him trying not to cry on the other side. We weren’t the type to argue that much, we both ended up crying when we got mad or frustrated. Crying tended to help though. “I’m sorry Steve,” I said, feeling my chest hurt. “I really am. You didn’t do anything wrong. This was not about you.”

“What was it about?” 

“Me. Everything I felt and did I felt like it was all so pointless. You were the only good thing I had, and that….that’s awful.

“I would have done anything you needed-”

“I know you would have,” I said, softly. “And that’s why it’s awful! It’s not your job to take care of me. To make me feel whole or give me a reason to live. That’s not the point of having a relationship! It’s supposed to be better for two people, not some burden!”

“You were never a burden,” Steven told me. “Not to me.”

“I know!”

“Well…..I’m glad you know!” He managed, laughing a little. I could see his misty green eyes, welling with tears. “I wish you had told me all this before. I don’t know if I could have fixed it, or if you wanted me to fix it. But I would have...been there.”

“That’s all I ever could have wanted from you.” 

“You were always there for me when I fell apart,” said Steven. I could hear something in the distance, it sounded like crashing. “At least I could have done the same.”

“Steven I swear to God,”

“Stop feeling guilty, I know, I know,” He replied. “I do this to myself all the time.”

“Yes you do,” I tried not to laugh. “I know why.”

“Yeah….” There was another crash. My mind connected the dots. “Steven….are you…”

“Yeah.”

“How did you know?”

“Heather told me on accident. I know you were trying to stay off the internet for a while.” He explained. “She and I were reading the same book, and she mentioned you liked it. Then she got quiet, so I put two and two together. I didn’t tell her I was coming. I didn’t tell anyone I was coming. I probably shouldn’t have-”

“Where are you?”

“You do not have to come-”

Where are you?” I ordered. 

He told me. I crawled to the door and shouted for Ryan to come back. He ran over, looking at me nervously. “Stay where you are. I mean it,” I told Steven. He started crying a little harder. 

“What the hell-” Ryan started, still confused. I told him to take me to the beach. By the time I got there the entire beach was deserted and dark. I used my phone as light once I touched the sand. Ryan got out, standing at the car, “V?”

“I’ll be back!” I shouted over my shoulder.

Steven was sitting on a sand dune, crawling down it from his own nerves. We met eyes. He smiled, I was still baffled.

………………………………………………………………………………………………

This isn’t Nicholas Sparks book ending, wrapping up my story with a giant romantic gesture. He stayed for a few days, at my place. We talked, and talked, and talked. I showed him my studio, he showed me a dog he adopted on a whim and wanted forever. He made me my favorite casserole and stayed up until 2 am talking a little more. By Sunday, he told me he was going back to Oregon. I told him if he had a surprise proposal or any grand party to do it then. 

There were no plans. 

We hugged one last time before he got into his car. He told me he was happy that I was happy. I told him I loved him, and he was always going to be special to me. Regardless of what was going to happen. Steven drove away while I stood in my driveway. 

That was it. 

It’s been five years since then. We still talk to this day, and sometimes he comes to Maine. Last Thanksgiving he brought his dog, Thor, and we made pancakes. Ryan and Heather had their first kid and named them Hero. I gave Ryan a look when he told me, but he just shrugged. “I always liked that name.”

I have the studio still, and I’m about to publish a book. I wanted to write it for years and finally sat down to do it. Bea edited it for me in her spare time, and she kicked me for not doing it sooner. 

I’d be lying if I told you it was easy, but it's better than I could have hoped for.

November 01, 2020 16:59

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2 comments

Sam Kelly
18:55 Nov 12, 2020

My god, I'm way more invested in Viola than I expected, the pacing is so well done it was smooth to read with a monumental impact. There's only one thing to critique and it's very minor, Ryan was introduced out of nowhere, and at first, I was a little confused between him and Steven, though when he and V started talking and we got the depth of there long friendship I found him a perfect character for the story, I'd of just added an extra sentence or two to introduce him at the start. Great read though, and it hit hard, really thematic!

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Megan Faith
21:06 Nov 12, 2020

Aww, thank you so much! I'm glad you enjoyed it. I can see where you're coming from about Ryan, I will definitely try to make that a little more clear!

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