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American Fiction Romance


“C’mon! Let’s get this show on the road, Nat. The movie starts in ten,” Levi tapped his watch from where he stood near the door. 


Nat shook his head. “This isn’t another one of those animated ones is it?” He grabbed his coat off the back of the sofa and started to shrug his arms into the sleeves. The last action movie involved a stay white puff marshmallow hero who walked around with bacitracin healing powers or some such nonsense. “I don’t know how I let you talk me into movies. Why not just stay in? Order take out? Watch a hockey game or something? My superhero powers are telling me we should stay in. Why go out?” 


“Because it’s good to get out now and then, man. You’ve got to get back to the land of the living. Oh, sorry,” Levi immediately regretted his choice of words when he saw Nat’s neck redden and eyes threaten to overflow. It had been three years since Nat’s wife had passed away. “Listen, the movie has real people, no cartoons. Promise. They are from a comic book, but they are played by real people.”


Nat barely heard the answer. Laura loved this time of year. The holiday lights and music. The cheerful decorations and excitement. The buying and wrapping of presents. She made everything special and beautiful. The house would sparkle with twinkling lights and red bows. She would have evergreen boughs on windowsills and white votive lights placed just so within the branches. The windows would appear just as magical on the inside as on the outside. 


And the tree. Oh, the tree. She handmade each little silver star out of tinfoil the first year they were married. He actually dared to laugh at her at the time. They were so poor back then, but she was so determined to decorate their tree and make it pretty. She made hundreds of twinkly stars from the roll of foil and placed each one gingerly on the tree. When mixed with the white lights, the result was breathtaking. They saved those stars and used them every year. There was never a need to buy ornaments when they had the most perfect ones already. When the tree was almost done she would call out, “Get the eggnog Nathaniel, time to light her up!” He loved the sound of his name from her lips. 


Nat sighed and stuck his hands into his coat pockets. “Let’s go, those avengers await us.”


****


“Hello? You ready? The show starts with or without us,” Valerie shouted from the other room.


“I’m not going. That’s my final decision. The show can start without us,” Naomi replied. “I never agreed to this blind date and I’m not going.”


Naomi walked out of her bedroom to plop down on the sofa next to Valerie. “You are in sweats and ponytail?” Valerie asked.


“Is that a question or observation? I am not going. I’m sorry. You can go. You can tell them I got sick or decapitated or run over by a bus. I don’t care. I am not interested or leaving this apartment.”


“As your oldest, longest, and dearest friend, I am asking you to reconsider your decision. You have been alone for so long. What is the harm in meeting someone? One date? One double date? You never know…” Valerie asked.


“And you also know, there are so many answers to your question. My stomach has been in knots ever since you first told me about this cockeyed idea last week. I haven’t been able to eat. It is turning me into a nervous wreck. I do not want another human being in my life. No thank you. I have you, my dear friend, and my health, and my job, and occasional visits from my children. That’s all a person could want or need. I am okay. My gut is very firmly telling me no.”


“Not every man is like your ex. You know this, right?” 


Naomi sighed and grabbed a pillow to hug into her stomach and chest. “I know, I know. But knowing doesn’t change anything. I really don’t care. I prefer to walk alone. It’s much safer and way more easy this way. I have all the privacy I could ever wish for! I never have to share anything with anyone. I am the keeper of all my own personal belongings and information; no one else is opening my mail.”


“I wish things had been different for you and your ex,” Val said. “But that aide was over the top. She shouldn’t have been opening your mail and going through your personal information. Just thinking about her having access to all of your bank accounts, social security numbers, passwords! I can’t even believe your ex gave her permission to do all of that. The lack of respect for you makes me so angry. 


“It was one thing when you first told me she was going through and rearranging your cupboards and closets and refrigerator, but then when you revealed that she was much more deeply ingrained in your personal life, I was ready to go over there and pull her out of your house by her hair. The nerve of that woman! But if he was giving her permission! You deserve someone who respects you. You deserve someone who treats you like a person and a lady. Not an object who, what did you tell me once? Someone who has to give him sex?”


“Yeah, that was something that still makes me cringe. Him coming up the stairs late at night, after I’d already gone to bed and fallen asleep. He always stayed up later and drank. Then he’d come in with his beer breath and tell me that I should give him sex. Or he would get mad at me for some misunderstanding, like not reminding him that there was a school concert that night - or reminding him too many times that there was a school concert that night, and he would ignore me for days or weeks on end. Ignore me. To the point that he would speak only through the children to me. In front of me. When we would all be in the same room. He would say, ‘Tell your mother…’ 


“And, I took it. I accepted all of this behavior. I thought this was normal. I taught my children that this was normal relationship behavior. That this is how couples act. I taught my children that dad’s have girlfriends, go out and drink, treat their moms like objects, that the only way to earn dad’s respect and happiness is to do something for him. I hate myself for accepting that. I hate that I lived that lie for almost thirty years. Why, why would I want to go meet someone? No. No thank you. I am perfectly okay alone. My gut tells me to stay away from men. Stay away from people whenever possible even.”


“What’s that country song say? Sometimes you’re the windshield and sometimes you’re the bug,” Val said. “I’m not sure which one you are in this analogy, but either way, life is messy. But with a little work, or sometimes with a lot of elbow grease, things become clearer. Maybe not perfect, but better.”


Val reached for Naomi’s hand and gave a warm squeeze. “Okay, so maybe tonight isn’t the night for the blind date. But someday, you just never know. You are a beautiful person and have so much love in your heart to give, you never know what might happen. The world is full of possibilities. Let me give my guy a call to cancel and then we can order Chinese and watch a movie or the game. Sound good?”


Naomi hugged her friend, “You really are the best and I would be lost without you. Thank you for understanding. I think the Rangers are playing tonight. I’ll order the food and get the game on while you make your call. And, I’ll find you a pair of sweats too.”


****

“You can’t just show up anytime you feel like it!” Naomi muttered under her breath as she sat on the toilet. Either she was in menopause or not. This perimenopause was some fabricated term created by a man somewhere she was quite convinced. It had been months, maybe a year perhaps since her last period. And now she is staring at what? Good Lord, she thought, do I even have any supplies in the bathroom for this? Do I have any supplies in the apartment? Well, maybe one of her daughters had tucked something in one of the cabinets in the bathroom. 


“Thank God for daughters!” She celebrated moments later with a smile and a hum. She made a mental note to buy more supplies to replace the ones she took in case her daughter went looking on the next infrequent visit. This made her chuckle thinking that those visits were almost as infrequent these days.


Who said it’s a good sign when your children don’t call or visit? This means that you raised strong, independent, and wise children? For some reason she wasn’t buying into that particular piece of wisdom. She thought it was more that the kids learned that they needed to rely on themselves to get things done as she was too distracted trying to please her husband who was never, ever going to be satisfied with anything she did. She was never going to be enough. 


She sent a quick text off to her daughters, “Thanks for helping me be prepared for Aunt Flo’s visit. I’ll return the favor for you next time. XOXO.” She could sense their eye rolls before she even read their replies. Naomi finished dressing and was off to work.


***

“I can show you how to do this one more time, and then you are on your own. Okay?” Nat said with a bit more patience than he was currently feeling. The child was holding a ruler in one hand and a plastic straw in the other.


“The longer lines are the inches. Each of these small lines in between are sixteenths; the fractions. The markings on a ruler represent the fractions of an inch. We want to start here and go to here, to the 1″ mark. The measurements are: 1⁄16“, 1⁄8“, 3⁄16“, 1⁄4“, 5⁄16“, 3⁄8“, 7⁄16“, 1⁄2“, 9⁄16“, 5⁄8“, 11⁄16“, 3⁄4“, 13⁄16“, 7⁄8“, 15⁄16“, and 1”.


The fourth grader’s eyes glossed over and Nat knew he may as well be speaking to a snowman at this time of year. 


The kids didn’t care about the activity. The floor was littered with discarded plastic straws. None of the snowflakes looked like the perfectly measured ones he had modeled for the class. Who tries to teach kids on the last day of school before the holiday break?


He may as well have put in a movie and given them hot chocolate, popcorn, and called it a day. But not with administration breathing down his back and wanting every last minute filled with lessons and learning. Schools are not a place for laughter and making friends. They are an institution of education.


Retirement was looking better and better. “How about I just cut these for you and you can assemble your snowflake?”


“Would you do that for me? That would be great, Mr. Tinkerton,” The boy skipped away to tell his friends. A chorus of “Mr. T! Mr. T! Cut mine!” and “Hey, not fair!” and “Mr. Tinkerton, will you cut mine?” echoed and bounced around the classroom. 


Nat was now tasked with cutting everyone’s straws, but at least the students were all engaged and happy. That’s all a man could ask for…and love.


Nat almost cut himself with the straight razor. Now where did that thought come from? He’d had love. The love of his life. His beautiful and perfect Laura. She was here and now she was gone.


He was okay. It must be the holidays getting to him. The holidays were always the hardest. So many nights he would feel Laura in bed beside him, only to roll over and feel the cold sheets and realize she wasn’t there. She was in his heart and in his memory, but he couldn’t hold those feelings. He couldn’t touch those things.


Maybe he did need a dog. Someone to talk to or watch TV with at night. Does his apartment even allow pets? He’d have to check his lease when he got home.


***

“Your prince isn’t going to just show up to sweep you off your feet,” the girl crooned to the fury fiend. “You have to control your temper.”


The round orange ball flashed to the other side of the room leaving a trail of fur in her wake. “You are the last on left of your litter. All your siblings have gone. Just because you are tiny, doesn’t mean you aren’t mighty. We know you are strong and scary. You don’t need to show us your teeth every time we try to come near you. Please come here. I’ve got some treats.” 


The kitten tentatively creeped towards the girl’s outstretched hand but jumped back as soon as the door chimed indicating someone new had walked into the shelter. “Stay here. I’ll be back for you, you fury beast.”


Naomi stood at the counter questioning her sanity. Did she really want to commit to a pet? A cat? That’s a long time and could be expensive too. Maybe she should just go buy another house plant and call it a day. But it’s hard to pet or play with a plant. And a plant wouldn’t snuggle her.


“I think I’d like to, I mean I am considering…” Naomi started when the door chimed again.


Nat walked in not sure what he was looking for or why he was at the shelter. “Hello, I was wondering if you could…”


Just then the orange kitten made its escape and ran right at Nat. He scooped up the little fur ball and stared into the big blue eyes. “Why hello there, and who do we have here?” The kitten settled into his arms and began to purr. Naomi went over and started to stroke the kitten’s ears and chin. “Oh, she’s beautiful! Has she already been adopted?” 


“I’m Naomi, by the way. I just came in looking for a kitten.” She suddenly felt butterflies in her belly.


Nat smiled at Naomi and said, “Hi, I’m Nathaniel, but friends call me Nat.”


“It’s very nice to meet you Nathaniel,” Naomi smiled back. His name sounded rounded and soft around the edges. “It seems like you have a new kitten. She really likes you.”


The girl behind the counter handed Naomi a slip of paper and looked pointedly at her watch. “It’s closing time and that beast is all yours. She has terrorized me for the last time. I’ve written down the place where you can go buy some food, kitty litter, and other supplies for her on your way home. Have fun!” 


Naomi and Nathaniel were shown the door and were promptly locked out. “Friendly sort of girl, wasn’t she?” Naomi joked and Nat chuckled. 


“She must have thought we were together,” Nat said. “I better go buy some supplies. And a cat carrier pretty quick or this little fur ball will get lost and we can’t have that.”


Nat realized he said "we" and his cheeks reddened. 


Naomi cleared her throat and glanced down at the scribbles on the paper. She couldn’t believe she was about to say the words that were forming on her tongue, but then they were out, “Oh, I know where this store is, it’s right near my favorite restaurant. Come on with me, I’ll show you.”







January 03, 2022 01:34

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36 comments

F.O. Morier
21:06 Jan 12, 2022

Very pleasant story! I love it!

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Francis Daisy
04:16 Jan 13, 2022

Why thank you!

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F.O. Morier
18:02 Jan 13, 2022

You’re welcome! It’s a good read!

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Kevin Broccoli
17:37 Jan 10, 2022

I think it's great that you were exploring a different genre and I thought your style meshed nicely with it. Good job.

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Francis Daisy
21:17 Jan 10, 2022

Thank you for stopping by and for giving my story a read!

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Jalissa Cooper
04:45 Jan 10, 2022

A simple reminder of how fast life can turn around...it is unfortunate how many women live years in bad situations very similar to Naomi's thinking it to be normal or that it should be accepted...this topic is definitely a pet with me. Anyway that was a long way of saying, I you did a great job with making this story real and engaging.

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Francis Daisy
21:20 Jan 10, 2022

Hello Jalissa, This is also a niggling little pet project/theme with me also. I am not sure if the topic will grow or fizzle, but I feel it is important to talk about for certain. What some people live with and think is normal is so often not really normal, yet we accept it. Thanks for reading and for the comment/compliment. Hope you are well. -Francis

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Graham Kinross
07:42 Jan 09, 2022

This was cute. Reminds me of my friend who just got a kitten and suddenly uses a dad voice with it all of the time and seems infinitely happier than he was just weeks ago.

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Francis Daisy
14:17 Jan 09, 2022

Now that is adorable! It also makes me happy to think that your friend is happier because of a furry adoption. I'm fairly certain the kitten is happier too! We keep trying to talk my husband into letting us adopt a kitten, but he tells us he is allergic to the cat we already we have. (As he strokes her soft ears and speaks gently to her). Thanks for the read!

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Tricia Shulist
16:44 Jan 08, 2022

That was fun. Kittens as harbingers of love. Who knew? I like the way it all comes together, with a world of possibilities in front of them. Thanks for this.

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Francis Daisy
02:23 Jan 09, 2022

I would like to say that this was a fun write, but I was cringing the entire time. The kitten totally took me by surprise to be honest. Thanks for reading, and for taking time to comment too! This is always appreciated. I love seeing the little yellow dot when I log on. Take care!

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Tricia Shulist
17:39 Jan 10, 2022

Yes! The little yellow dot is a bit of affirmation!

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Francis Daisy
21:22 Jan 10, 2022

Sunshine on a cold winter day! :) I hope you find a dot on your page also!

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Daniel R. Hayes
21:26 Jan 06, 2022

Wow.... this was incredible Francis!! I really loved this romance story and I applaud you for trying this out. I always have a hard time with romantic stories because they always tend to get away from me... lol. This fit the prompt really well, and I loved the title. I think you did a great job with the characters and overall flow. You keep getting better and better with every new story! I loved this one. Great job as always!!! :)

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Francis Daisy
11:30 Jan 07, 2022

Daniel, Thank you for reading for noticing that the story fit the prompt in a very subtle, trust your gut sort of way. Both characters had really great best friends who were looking out for them with good intentions, but for some reason, Nat and Naomi held back. Or is that how romance always work now that I think about it? :) Again, because I've never tried writing a love story before, I wasn't sure how to write this. Thank you for saying I am improving. The encouragement is what keeps me coming back to the keyboard. Thank you.

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Keya Jadav
17:12 Jan 04, 2022

A lovely romantic piece here! I loved how you brought the two personalities together at the end. The prompt is taken up very well and the flow is unbreaking and intriguing. Great story!

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Francis Daisy
02:15 Jan 05, 2022

Really? Thank you! I've never tried a romance before, so this was more than a bit intimidating for me to attempt. Thank you for saying it flowed...I was worried about how to make the transitions work between the characters. I was also concerned about how to show the characters ages, personalities, you know...everything! Thank you for reading and for commenting!

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Palak Shah
12:57 Jan 04, 2022

This is an amazing story and very well crafted. The ending is awesome and the plot is great :)) Well done :))

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Francis Daisy
02:20 Jan 05, 2022

Thank you! This was my first time trying a romance, so I had no idea how it would turn out. I'm glad you like the ending; I thought it was kind of cute myself! :)

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Palak Shah
00:15 Jan 07, 2022

It was a great story :))

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Francis Daisy
11:22 Jan 07, 2022

Thank you! It's always scary when trying something new!

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Palak Shah
14:31 Jan 09, 2022

How are you doing?

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Francis Daisy
21:09 Jan 10, 2022

Do you really want the answer to that?🤪 So far 2022 can only improve, let's just say that! How are YOU doing?

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12:05 Jan 04, 2022

Hi, I think this is a wonderful story. I loved the ending! :)

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Francis Daisy
02:22 Jan 05, 2022

Thank you! I know I have read my fair share of romance novels over the years, and certainly seen a good amount of "chick flicks", but for some reason, the idea of writing a romance seemed so daunting! And, coming up with an ending was even more perplexing to me! So I am ever so relieved that you liked it! Thank you!

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11:18 Jan 05, 2022

You're welcome. Keep writing! :D

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Francis Daisy
12:08 Jan 05, 2022

Thank you for the encouragement! (always needed and much appreciated!)

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13:42 Jan 05, 2022

No problem!

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John Del Rio
23:26 Feb 17, 2022

Another slice of life. Its crazy how different relationships can be. I'm fortunate enough to be like Nat only my lovely wife still graces me with her presence. You have a wonderful way of portraying "real" life I continue to enjoy your stories.

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Francis Daisy
01:56 Feb 18, 2022

LOL! I think I have more "real" in my life than romance! Perhaps this is why writing anything in the romance realm is practically beyond my capabilities. I'm glad you are enjoying my stories. Reedsy is a great place to share!

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Francis Daisy
01:37 Jan 03, 2022

This story is WAY out of my comfort level and strange and new for me...I have no idea what I am doing or how to write, but I thought I would give this a try. It was rattling around in my brain last week and was going to end a bit differently in order to fit last week's prompt with the characters wishing one another Happy New Year's, so...(insert wrinkled brow here)...again, I have no idea what I am doing here or why I am here...just playing with words! Thanks for reading!

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