Romantic Exposure Therapy

Submitted into Contest #144 in response to: Start your story with somebody taking a photo.... view prompt


Romance Speculative Adventure

He puts his arms around me, in a gentle and non-overbearing way—this is still new to me. He then reaches his hand above and away from our faces and takes a picture. My face looks pale, but I love it. The field of wildflowers that resemble their maker the sun, is our backdrop. I am glad he took this photo. It will remind me of the time I was sick, and my new love still showed up that weekend with soup and a bouquet of flowers.

We continue to walk on the trail. I am dizzy, weak, and out of breath. Somehow the strong grip that is wrapped around my hand keeps me going.

“We can turn around at any moment,” He assures me with warmth.

“I’ll let you know. I am feeling better out here.” I tell him giving his hand a squeeze.

I share my fears of walking in the forest with the wind because an associate from my old high school’s brother died from a branch falling out of a tree. I wonder if he thinks I am a paranoid weirdo. Probably not, he truly seems to like every part of me that I have shared thus far.   

This relationship was surreal. We began our romance slowly then all at once just a month prior. It felt too good to be true. I had been through the runner when it came to men after my first marriage ended. I thought all the good ones did not exist past the age of thirty. Then he showed up on a weekend that I think the universe knew I needed him the most. The night before it started, I was having dinner at the fancy Mexican joint, the Bebedero with my friend from my improv comedy troupe. We ate tacos and drank tequila. Then he told me he was moving back to England. My heart dropped. It felt like everyone I became attached to in our improv group, ended up leaving. It was a part of life, I knew. That did not make it easier. I went upstairs to my apartment and let out drunken sobs of grief. I longed for a special connection; I knew this was not with him. My comrade leaving, was a reminder of something I usually shoved down while I normally embraced my life of independence and self-love.

After my friend and I parted ways, he sent me a gift through Spotify. All his favorite songs from a British punk singer, Frank Turner. At first, I was like, “Okay, Chris.” Then as I wiped snot from my nose and tears from my puffy eyes, I connected the music through my headphones and gave it a listen. His lyrics immediately spoke to me, “I want to dance. I want to dance. I want lust and love and a smattering of old-time romance. But I’m no good at dancing, and yet I have to do something. Tonight, I’m gonna play it straight, I’m gonna take my chance.” Damn, I needed that. It’s okay that I am independent, but also want love. I thought this to myself as I sat in the nook under the roof outside of my apartment, watching the mystical glow of the streetlamp as the rain pattered its way down and bounced off the reflection. Each song that played had a message that spoke to me. I took a deep breath, went inside, and fell asleep. No more tequila for a while.

The next day I drove an hour to the rolling hills of the central Virginia countryside to visit my dear friend Farrin and her mom. Landon was there too. This was my fourth time interacting with him. I didn’t know much about him, besides the fact that he was Farrin’s older brother, he loved Saturday Night Live as much as I did, we had similar tastes in music, we had similar senses of humor, and I loved his three kids and knew they would vibe with my kids. I also knew he had a girlfriend, who was not there. In addition to that, I knew they were having problems. I respected this fact, but that did not stop us from sharing intimate moments of laughter, through sharing jokes. stories, and music. I told Farrin that weekend that I had a small crush on her brother. She told me that maybe if it didn’t work out between him and his girlfriend, something could come of that. I didn’t hold my breath on it. Four days after our visit, I received a text from Farrin: Ominously, Landon broke up with his girlfriend. I had two comedy shows booked in Richmond that weekend. Farrin and I ended up staying at his house. That’s when we fell for each other.

Two months later, we are walking this trail. I am short of breath, but we finally arrive at my favorite spot. We walk down the sandy bank and push through overgrown trees until the river appears. We hang our towels on the branches of the mimosa tree and undress down to our bathing suits. We jump in the water. It feels cool and comforting on my feverish skin. I hold onto my love, and he wraps my legs around his waist. He pulls my body in and we share warm kisses. We are lost in this moment. Nothing else exists. Then we hear grumbles coming out of the clouds that were not there just fifteen minutes earlier. We rush to the shore and gather our belongings. As soon as we climb the sandy hill and reach the asphalted trailside, the wind begins to blow strong gusts and the buckets of rain follow.

We are in the forest. I cover my head with my hands.

“This is literally my fear!” I yell to him.

My heart races, but he grabs my hand. Somehow, I know I am safe.

“Let’s make a run for it!” He shouts over the rain.

I forget about my sickness, and we run like two wild wolves through the forest. I remember we are humans again when we see a trail runner standing in the rain, waiting it out. She smiles at us as we giggle-run past her. The trees are whooshing around. Little dead branches are spattering out but come hell or high water—precisely—we avoid them.

We come to the end of the trail and begin to slow down. As soon as we reach Landon’s car, the sun appears, and the rain stops. The timing feels serendipitous. The timing of the whole lot between us feels coincidental. My fears of branches in the wind dissipate this day. Was this romantic exposure therapy? 

May 02, 2022 15:13

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Marty B
18:23 May 12, 2022

I liked this line 'watching the mystical glow of the streetlamp as the rain pattered its way down and bounced off the reflection. Each song that played had a message that spoke to me.' I can relate to this !


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Kelsey H
18:48 May 10, 2022

I really enjoyed this story of finding love again, the forest and storm coming were so well described.


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Alisha Proffitt
18:09 May 02, 2022

What a nice love story. I enjoyed reading this!


Heather Winslow
18:50 May 02, 2022

Thank you so much! True story! :)


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