Daydreaming

Submitted into Contest #203 in response to: Start your story in the middle of the action.... view prompt

43 comments

Creative Nonfiction Contemporary Happy

Eggs are frying in a pan—scrambled with cheddar, and seasoned with black pepper and garlic powder. Sneezing is inevitable. Apple slices are softening in the steam pot on the burner next door. Our twins like them with sprinkled cinnamon. There are some soft tugs at the hem of my gray robe. I see they have joined me in the kitchen. You are still resting on the couch, waiting for the coffee to finish brewing.


“Just a minute kiddos. Papa’s getting your breakfast ready,” I say to the twins.


They are cramming their little arms into cracked-open cupboards within their reach. Childproofed, of course. Elliot insists on being picked up, so I oblige after turning the burners on low. A pungent odor attacks my nostrils when I cradle his rump into the crook of my elbow.


“Whew, Bubs! Babe, he’s ripe!” I call towards you in the front room. “Do you mind grabbing him for a diaper change while I finish cooking? I promise to have your coffee ready by the time you’re done.”


You have recently picked up some shifts at a local Italian restaurant to help us make ends meet. My gratitude for your sacrifices is boundless. We exchange a close-lipped kiss to not offend each other’s nostrils with our morning halitosis. Our daughter Ember does not like when we show each other affection, so she starts whining at us and patting my hip. I pick her up and she stinks too, but the eggs and apples have finished.


After turning off the burners all the way, I begin setting up their highchairs with my one free hand. Both kids get changed, then settled in their chairs. They are clapping with joy and banshee-screaming from excitement. Their food has cooled down enough, so it is time to eat.


“Do you ever stop to ask yourself how we got here?” you ask me across the table. “Like, how do we even manage all this chaos every morning before eight?”


My head rests on my forearm. I am trying to scavenge what little solace remains for the day. “I have no idea,” I mumble. “Survival instinct, I guess. And lots of coffee.”


You chuckle to yourself and let me catch a wink. I hear you sipping in spurts because your cup is fresh, even if cooled a bit by a splash of creamer. Mine sits next to my elbow, black and untouched.


The children inform us they are done eating with swift kicks to their trays and twisting their hands in the air. Food is all over the floor and their faces, but they smile and giggle when the warm rag helps clean them up. My heart flutters a beat as I kiss their grimy foreheads. You clean up the chairs, the floor, and the dishes while I occupy the children with toys and books.


At nine we go for a walk. At ten there are bottles. Then the day’s eye of the storm; naps begin at eleven.


It is a Saturday and the day is once again gloomy and cold. The week has been long juggling our jobs and loving these kids. You work tonight, so we snuggle up on our overstuffed sofa with the video monitor nearby. Naps are not only for children and we are both soon snoring having forgotten our mouth tape upstairs.


Dreams during a nap can be strange. The sounds around us are often still audible and influence our subconscious. Your questions from breakfast echo in my mind. The two-reeler at the back of my skull plays grainy color pictures on my opaque eyelids. They begin twitching from rapid eye movement and my body feels wet.


***


“You know she likes you, right?” my best friend Nathaniel spoke up after a long silence. We were sitting on the rooftop of the high school drying off in our boxers after sneaking into the outdoor pool.


“Who, Leah?” I asked. “She hides it well then. You sure?”


“Yes, she told us as much the other night when she was staying over with my sister. She couldn’t stop crying about you guys moving away. To be honest, I have been pretty torn up about it too,” he admitted.


“I know man, I still can’t believe we are doing this, again. For good this time too. You think she’ll be there tonight?”


“Oh, I don’t doubt it. I’m sure all the youth group will be there. Heck, the whole church will probably see your family off.”


The house of the Lord was packed as predicted. You were there, as were other friends of mine offering to kidnap me so I could stay. I was two years shy of being a legal adult after all. They even offered to help me find a job or two to support myself. We all knew the inevitable was upon us though. Still, we tried to make the final moments count, even if it meant hatching half-baked schemes. Before long, the ceremony was over and the goodbyes drew out as long as possible.


“Simon, my family’s going to miss you guys,” you said after waiting for a final hug. Our younger sisters were best friends and they were losing their biscuits on the lawn behind us. A weep-filled embrace was the only thing holding them steady.


“We will miss y’all too,” I replied, already channeling the Texan I was soon to be. Both our eyes are red from many tears shed throughout the evening.


“Well, I guess this is goodbye then. I wish you and I could have hung out more Chia Leah.”


“That nickname normally makes me mad, but I’ll let it slide tonight,” you chuckled in the way a knot catches in your throat. “Goodbye, Simon.”


Fresh tears spilled from our eyes as we embraced. Before pulling away from each other I kissed you on the cheek. You did not know I knew of your crush, but I think it was sweeter that way. Thunder rumbled around us and a screaming firecracker fired off in the distance.


***


My snoring woke me up, as did the baby monitor next to us. Bubs must be teething again. He has been emitting a high-pitched whine around halfway through his naps recently. Sis wiggled her butt a little but was otherwise unaffected by him. She is used to it by now.


You also stirred at the sounds, so I pulled you in for some snuggles. There was a chill in the house and you were warm.


“I have better answers to your questions earlier,” I said.


You squirmed and mumbled something unintelligible in response. This indicated that I should leave you alone a little longer. Many memories ran through my mind as I combed my fingers through your soft, blonde hair. A pleasurable sigh escaped your lips and you nuzzled deeper into my hairy chest.


We had both experienced our fair share of trials before returning to each other more than a decade later. As survivors of life’s struggles, our different traumas added depth to our characters. Though we would never wish them on anyone else, we are better for it because we chose to overcome them.


“I’m sorry honey. What did you say?” you finally responded, pulling me from my reveries.


“We manage the chaos well because we do it together now. It took a lot for us to get here, but it all serves as a foundation for success,” I said.


“You’re right, that is a better answer,” you replied, then looked up at me and smiled. “I love you, Rhymin’ Simon.”


“I love you too, Chia Leah.”


As the daydream lingered on the fringes of my mind, I held you closer and kissed you on the cheek not minding the strands of hair stuck to your face. There was deep comfort in knowing it would never again be my last.

June 21, 2023 18:25

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43 comments

19:25 Feb 27, 2024

The All American Love Story, masterfully written.

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J. D. Lair
21:57 Feb 27, 2024

Thank you my friend!

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Helen A Smith
12:01 Jan 14, 2024

This is a great story. I appreciated the skilled way you captured everyday moments - life always lived in full. Also a lot of love here. An uplifting read. We need more of this.

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J. D. Lair
20:57 Jan 14, 2024

Thank you Helen. :) it’s easy to get caught up in the busyness of life and forget how special these ordinary times are with our loved ones. I come back to this story in the midst of the chaos raising twins is, just to remember to take it all in and be present with them. They’re only this little for a while. ❤️

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Helen A Smith
21:20 Jan 14, 2024

Yes, truly special moments.

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Aidan Romo
09:26 Jan 05, 2024

One thing I must commend you on as I read through your stories is your ability to capture such real, human emotions as well as experiences through your characters and descriptions. This one is no exception. Incredibly creative way to address the prompt of "starting in the middle of action." It only makes the story feel all the more human and yet simultaneously aptly dreamlike in how it's told. Thanks for another pleasant little read. You're a solid writer.

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J. D. Lair
20:38 Jan 05, 2024

Dang Aidan! Such high praise and I’m so grateful. :) I really appreciate you taking time to read through my stories and provide such thoughtful comments too. Just when I think I may not have the chutzpah to be an author, you come along and inform me I do have something good to offer in my writing. It means a lot my friend.

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Aidan Romo
23:00 Jan 05, 2024

I'm happy I can provide that for you. I struggle with that feeling myself from time to time. You've got skill. I look forward to reading more of the stuff you've put out and the great work you'll assuredly make in the future.

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J. D. Lair
03:21 Jan 06, 2024

I appreciate that man! Same to you. :)

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Amie Moorehead
00:08 Jun 29, 2023

First off, as someone who’s heavily into drama and tension when writing, it’s so refreshing to see such a well written experience of the pure joy and comfort there is in being married. It’s not terribly dramatic, but it doesn’t need to be, and I applaud you for being able to create something like that, because I find that to be a real flaw of mine in writing :) The beginning paragraph has its strengths and weaknesses - I would say that the sentence structure felt a little jarring with how often the periods came and how short the sentences w...

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J. D. Lair
01:52 Jun 29, 2023

Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment Amie! Good critiques are always welcome. Sometimes it’s daunting for new writers to contribute that way, so I thank you for speaking up. :) It’s interesting you bring up the short sentences because it is something I have wrestled with a lot. I use the Hemingway App as one of my editing tools and it often tells me my sentences are too long and therefore hard to read. I totally see where you are coming from with the flow being better with some longer sentences, so I will keep that in mind f...

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Wally Schmidt
18:55 Jun 28, 2023

Love how your story captures the joy and chaos of raising kids. When I was pregnant I told my husband. if we have twins we have to put up one for adoption because I can't even imagine the exhaustion. Makes me sentimental reading about this time that seems long ago-but wasn't really. They grow up in the blink of an eye and the beauty of your story is that it captures where you are now, which is always the best place to be.

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J. D. Lair
22:07 Jun 28, 2023

Thank you Wally! It was quite a shock at that first ultrasound to see two little bubbles there lol. It’s exhausting, but you figure it out and they help entertain each other now. Wouldn’t change it for anything. ❤️

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JF Dawson
13:55 Jun 27, 2023

Okay, first of all, I can tell you have children. Nobody can write like that without experience! So that's amazing you can put your experience on paper! Second, I really liked the 2nd POV, that was different and made it special. The reveal at the end (being Chia Leah) was also a nice touch. Definitely made an "Ohhhh" moment. Keep up the writing! This was great!

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J. D. Lair
20:04 Jun 27, 2023

Wow, some high praise JF! Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment. I’m glad the 2nd POV worked well for some. 😅 and yes, most of the story is nonfiction with creative flair thrown in. :)

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13:40 Jun 27, 2023

This is superb j.d as always. Very relatable I remember such moments well when my lot were little. Fab story!

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J. D. Lair
18:26 Jun 27, 2023

Thank you Derrick! I’ve got your story pulled up and will read it when I get the chance. :)

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Russell Mickler
05:27 Jun 27, 2023

Hey JD - Sigh - so refreshing to see a expository opening, describing a scene, rather than launching into dialogue. "Eggs are frying in a pan..." Bravo :) I like how your opening para sets_a_scene ... and introduces a character. It's almost like we're _writing_ around here, jesh. But oh man, I'm cringing - what is this POV? First person present? Nope, second person present? There's a 'you' in here ... Hang on ... adjusting my brain ... No, it's second person present, wow, that's a hard one. But, you're actually telling a story, and that's...

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J. D. Lair
17:46 Jun 27, 2023

Hey Russell! Happy to see you over here reading and commenting. :) I am glad you thought it was a refreshing opening lol. I noticed a lot of dialogue openers too. Really enjoyed the Ferryman my friend! About the POV, a lot of my experience here at Reedsy is trying out different things and sometimes it works, sometimes not haha. All a learning process, so thanks for bearing with me on that, even if it was a little cringe. :P

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Krystal Brown
21:30 Jun 25, 2023

Very sweet story! I liked the way you did the 2nd person point of view.

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J. D. Lair
23:44 Jun 25, 2023

Thank you very much! Wasn’t sure it was going to work, but I’m happy with how it turned out. :) I appreciate you talking the time to read and comment!

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Kevin Logue
16:28 Jun 25, 2023

Marvelously sweet and real. The banshee screams of excitement made me laugh as I have a 14month old that is "finding her voice" lol.

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J. D. Lair
16:58 Jun 25, 2023

Isn’t it just the best/worst? Lol Mine are just shy of 19 months. :)

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Kevin Logue
17:53 Jun 25, 2023

It sure is ☺️ I done a personal one for the rumours week "Parental Loop" and included a line about my girls smile stretching into scream of excitement....so there is something about that sticks, 👍

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J. D. Lair
18:21 Jun 25, 2023

Ooh, I’ll have to give it a read! The personal stories are always great. 😁

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J. D. Lair
18:24 Jun 25, 2023

Turns out I have already read it and ‘liked’ it. Lol Must have been the one which led me to follow you. 👍🏻

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Kevin Logue
18:25 Jun 25, 2023

Haha, there you go. 😁

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Michał Przywara
20:42 Jun 23, 2023

A very sweet story :) There's obviously much more to their history, since they lost contact for a decade, but this piece keeps things focused on a specific question. That's good. Regarding the prompt, a breakfast scene is not what I imagined for "the middle of the action", but of course with tiny twins, every moment is in the middle of the action :) The hectic feeling of "managing the chaos" comes through well, as does their fatigue, but it really does all seem like a happy fatigue. Thanks for sharing!

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J. D. Lair
23:54 Jun 23, 2023

Haha ya, when I first thought about the prompt my mind went to warfare or something along those lines. Then I had a relatively hectic morning and it just seemed to make sense. There is a lot more history there and I thought of adding more, but I also didn’t want to get too specific with personal history so that the average reader could still relate to it. Thanks for reading!

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Laurel Hanson
20:17 Jun 23, 2023

Lovely moment in time and hugely real feeling. Details like: "The children inform us they are done eating with swift kicks to their trays and twisting their hands in the air." are so precise and elegant. People familiar with children will immediately see this action and know the ages of the children (if. the diapers didn't give it away). This is a slice of real life, both loving and hopeful. Love the framing with the kiss - first and not last.

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J. D. Lair
00:26 Jun 24, 2023

Thank you so much for such kind comments, Laurel! It makes me happy to see the finer details at home for those familiar. :)

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Jack Kimball
18:51 Jun 23, 2023

Hi J.D. What I like best is this rings so true. Two people in love. I could have learned more about how you got together. "“You know she likes you, right?” my friend Nathaniel spoke up after a long silence. We were sitting on the rooftop of the high school drying off in our boxers after sneaking into the outdoor pool." This was intriguing I loved the line, "...chuckled in the way a knot catches in your throat." Critique wise, I was a little confused by this passage: “That nickname normally makes me mad, but I’ll let it slide tonight,”...

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J. D. Lair
00:51 Jun 24, 2023

Hey Jack! Thank you for taking the time to pop over, read, and comment. I especially appreciate the timely critiques! I will be taking them into consideration, and hopefully tweaking some things before it’s too late. For now I will respond to your comments in order: • I guess I thought the idea we had grown up together was more apparent than maybe it is. Since it was a dream I was portraying, starting it at a random point in our history seemed the most natural thing to do. •For the ‘you’ tags, I was trying to play around with some second pe...

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John Werner
01:18 Jun 23, 2023

This is a powerful story. Lots of heart. Thank you for sharing.

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J. D. Lair
01:40 Jun 23, 2023

I cried at certain bits while writing, so I’m glad the heart came through. Thank you for reading.

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Bre Brix
01:57 Jun 22, 2023

Such a beautiful and powerful story. I love the contrast between the reality of everyday love and the hopeful innocence of new love. A truly lovely story.

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J. D. Lair
02:27 Jun 22, 2023

It means a lot you would take time to read and then think to comment such lovely things. :) I appreciate your appreciation! You have one in the works this week?

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Mary Bendickson
19:17 Jun 21, 2023

How sweet and romantic and a little manic. 🙏 Thanks

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J. D. Lair
19:49 Jun 21, 2023

Manic is a good way to put raising kids haha. Thank you for reading and commenting as always Mary! Off to return the favor. :)

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Amanda Lieser
17:46 Jul 16, 2023

Hi JD, I have to say, while I adore the way you portrayed family in this story, I am not a mother so my heart was more interested in the romance story you put in here. I think it’s human nature to wonder about the life we have lived and if there was a better choice we could have made if we chose someone else. But you chose to portray the gentle, dedicated love that comes from a long lasting marriage. You wrote about the comfort, but you also emphasized how our protagonist is choosing her marriage. Nice work!!

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J. D. Lair
00:23 Jul 17, 2023

Aw thanks Amanda! I’m glad you enjoyed the warmth of it all. It took a lot of life and lessons learned to get to where we are today. We were also fortunate to reconnect after a long time having already chosen other paths. It’s worked out well in the end. :)

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Unknown User
23:08 Jun 23, 2023

<removed by user>

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J. D. Lair
23:49 Jun 23, 2023

I appreciate the compliments, thank you! You bring up a good point. I’ll try and take another look at it before time is up. Thank you for pointing it out. :)

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