Submitted into Contest #98 in response to: Set your story on (or in) a winding river.... view prompt


Contemporary Fiction Romance

The Riverman had lived on the shores of the river all his life.

He knew about the bird life that existed in the surrounding forests. How they mated and how they cared for and fed their young. He knew about the life cycle of the trout that his father had so loved to fish for.

He could sit for hours and watch his father move his trout rod back and forth in the air and then gently let the line stretch across the water, tempting the trout to come after the flies that they had patiently tied the night before. Great discussion went into what the weather was going to be like tomorrow because that would affect what colours to use for the flies. Did they need the line to sink or float? He would feel very important as his father discussed these decisions with him.

Even at a young age, when he started his university studies, he was already known as an expert about the lakes, rivers and forests in the area and after a few months of study he was asked to do research for the Department of Forestry in this area.

Living so far out of town and being an only child made him a bit of a loner so he would rather lose himself in his research than go on a night out with his varsity mates. He actually thought they were a bit intellectually immature, so it suited him to have the excuse of getting work in for a deadline for the Department of Forestry.

Max's life took a little detour in his second year of studies. One morning he was sitting in the sun waiting for class to begin when he noticed a young girl with the most vibrant red hair walk down the path - a bit apprehensive as if she didn't know her way but her stride was self-assured.

He remembered he was not the only one that turned his head in her direction but then, Sarah had that effect on people. He also remembered jumping up from the bench and walking over to her. His steps faster than he wanted, his words coming out faster than he wanted. He asked her if he could help her find her way. He was far too flustered to be the young man he wished to be for her. He was praying he would not trip and land up at her feet.

Sarah looked up at him, squinting into the sun, and called him her "Knight in shining Armour - come to save me". At that moment it felt like they had known each other for ever. That was the start of their friendship.

All his memories of Sarah are still as vivid as the first day he saw her. She had captured his heart. No person had ever had that effect on him and he loved that feeling of being loved.

Ten years later, he loved Sarah even more. He knew every line on her face from the way she wrinkled her eyes when she laughed. He loved the way the sun played on her hair bringing the red and brown shades to life when she tossed her head back. He had also always known that Sarah loved him in a very deep way too.

They were married now and had a beautiful apartment in the city. They were both very successful in the career paths that they had chosen. On weekends they loved to escape to the home on the lake where Max had grown up. There they would stroll through the forest, swim in the river and after a lunch of salad and a good bottle of crispy Sauvignon Blanc they would pull the deck chairs close to each other and fall asleep in the sun.

The Riverman's life was pretty good, except for one wish he had always had. He really would love to grow his family and have children to fill their lives. Being an only child, he knew what it was like to be lonely and he would often think about enjoying the lake with the kids. Teaching his son to tie flies. Hearing a daughter clanging dishes in the kitchen with Sarah.

This problem as he saw it, did not perturb Sarah in any way. She just kept on being Sarah. Loving, carefree, quite content with life. Loving Max.

Eventually Max had to know. Was he infertile? Was it his fault that they didn't have a family? Time to find out.

Max made an appointment with a little-known young doctor in the city to do the necessary testing. He really did not want his friends to know about his little escapade and what he was up to and their family doctor was part of their circle of friends that met regularly. A week later tests were done and then came the dreadful waiting for the results.

He tried to put this episode of his life in the back of his mind and not dwell on this problem too much. Then one morning, when he was least expecting it and as he picked up his brief case on the way out to meet a new client, his office phone rang. He turned back to take the call. The results were in and the young doctor's receptionist asked him to come in and have a chat with the doctor. Max didn't like the sound of that message. He just wanted a result.

At the consulting room the young doctor sat back in his chair and motioned for Max to have a seat as he entered the room.

"Not looking so good old chap. Looks like no young ones are going to be bearing your name."

Max couldn't believe the doctor’s tone. These words were not true. He was stunned and could not respond to the doctor. He picked up his briefcase next to the chair and walked to the door. Not a word would come from his lips.

"Please check with my receptionist before you leave. There might be an outstanding amount to be paid" came a loud voice behind Max.

" I have to get home where everything is normal. Where Sarah is the person I love and where I have a wonderful life with purpose and meaning." thought Max.

Slowly he drove home and welcomed the idea that Sarah was not home. She was attending a lecture and would be late, He could gather his thoughts and straightened his tie.

Did it matter that they could not have kids? They were perfectly happy and perfect for each other. He had overreacted and it really was not a big issue in their lives. Sarah did not think of these matters so why was he so perturbed about the whole matter. Put it to rest and get on with life.

Sarah arrived home that evening after her lecture with an enormous grin on her face. A Cheshire cat like grin. He smiles at himself and thinks it was quite a sexy grin. He was starting to relax after the awful day he had, and that smile was all he needed.

"I have to tell you something really special and exciting and enthralling and ominous and....." and Max laughed and hugged Sarah.

"Sarah, my drama queen. Stop and tell. Don't keep me in suspense" he laughed with her, hugging her at the same time.

"No this is serious. This is going to change things." she said seriously. Her eyes intense and focused on his face.

How many times today would his heart miss a beat. Was this another shock to the system. He held her close. He was afraid.

"Max, we have never really broached the subject, but I know you very well. I know you would love a family of your own. I have a confession to make. I was not at a lecture this afternoon. I went back to the clinic to get the results of my pregnancy test." She was beaming. "We are going to be three soon."

Max stared at Sarah. A statue. He could not respond.

Sarah looked at Max. Was this not what he had always dreamed of. What was wrong with him. " Max darling, are you okay. Did you hear. Don't you want this."

"Sarah, would you like a glass of wine before dinner." Max asked. Sarah was stunned.

"Pull yourself together Max" he thought then he said. "Sarah, this is wonderful news. I am thrilled. Let's celebrate. No, no you can't have a wine. Let me make you a soda with lemon." He hugged her. His life in turmoil. His thoughts in turmoil.

Next morning he lay next to Sarah in bed. He looked at her hair sprayed over the pillow. He loved her so. He watched as she slept next to him slowly breathing in and out.

Next thought in his mind was "Sarah have you betrayed me?" Where did that thought come from. "Let me think logically now and not jump to conclusions" Max thought.

Fifteen years later Max was following the meander of the river. A red headed little imp was making so much noise next to him that the birds were taking flight in the trees.

"Samuel, you must be quiet if you want to see the mother feeding her babies” he told the little rascal with the funny grin and the red shades in his hair. With wonder in his eyes, Samuel looked up at his father's face. "If I don't make noise they don't fly and I can't see them Dad." Samuel gave an explanation for his disturbance.

Max smiled. Sarah would have given the same excuse. Like mother - like child.

Max berated himself at that moment because he knew he had nearly thrown out a precious life moment. If he had made a wrong decision that morning he had woken up next to Sarah. If he had decided that she had betrayed him. If, If, If........

Max thought that Sarah had cheated on him but in his decision to think logically for an instant on a day when he had received such conflicting bits of information about his life and making a decision to not destroy and blame. He had actually made the best decision in his life.

The young doctor was wrong and had much to learn. Sarah was sincere and loved him as always. Samuel was beautiful and the treasure of their lives.

Max thought he had won the lottery although he knew he had just been Max and loved Sarah for who she was.

Life was good.

June 15, 2021 06:31

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in the Reedsy Book Editor. 100% free.