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Coming of Age Contemporary Romance

You are cordially invited to celebrate the holiday season at the Leopold Estate on December 14th at 7 o'clock.

Bring your favorite Christmas dessert, whether it's unique or quite simple, the gathering will be delightful.

I expect to see you there!

~Ann Leopold

***

A giddy feeling bubbles through my torso, tingling at the top of my ears. My family's annual cookie exchange was a jubilant event that everyone looked forward to. In fact, I am sure that I saw it marked on Norah's calendar in January of this year, and I've overheard many conversations in the schoolyard of what theme we were going to choose. These avid people, wait and see!

I sign the last invitation, slip it into my pink hatbox, meticulously tie a bow on the top, and begin to dress for the post office. Winter weather has begun to sneak in through the lousy night hours, leaking into the day. Today, when I stuck my hand out of my window, the cold seeped into my bones so I put on a fur jacket and fleece-lined pants.

I walk down the sleek stairs, my boots echoing through the empty room. Jolene silently dusts one of our ridiculous sculptures that stand by the front door and stops when she sees me.

"Ann," she whispers, "your mother is very upset, you may need to check on her." Just then I hear a low grumble from the parlor.

"Oh no, not Uncle Beckett." I quickly walk into the large room with my tiny uncle sitting in our green leather chair. Uncle Beckett is someone I would describe as a raconteur, one who excels in storytelling, he's almost...too good at it.

My mother is weeping in the other room and it echoes through the house. I head towards her room before a raspy voice stops me.

"Y'all need a recliner or somethin'. I ain't comin' here again if I gotta sit all proper in these torture devices. I swear these things are worse than the electric chair. Might as well put me-"

I exit the room quickly before he blacks out from all of the rambling. My mothers sorrowful sobs fill the hallway leading to her room. Uncle Beckett probably told her the story of Aubade, the love song sung at dawn. It brought tears to the hardest souls. My first time hearing it was when I was six years old, and that's where my love for unique words came from. I used to only use them when I really needed to, but now they've become a part of my everyday vocabulary.

"Mother?" I call into the bright room.

"Aubade. He told me Aubade in the middle of party planning. What is wrong with my brother!"

"Nothing is wrong with him. Stop worrying about Aubade," I say. "Look, the invitations are ready to go," I offer a small smile while holding up the pink box.

"Perfect. You're okay to take them right?"

"Yes, they should be received very soon by mail, but I did tell you that I could deliver them myself."

"No, that's a job for a man. Instead, take them to the post office. But here, take this one to this address," she points to a carefully labeled envelope with her exceptional penmanship. "It's a new family that's moved into town."

I study the envelope, “The Kornegays? Mother, they’ve lived here for years. I’ve gone to school with Noa since I was ten.”

“Oh, no. These-These are their distant cousins,” she says hesitantly.

“With the same last name?”

“Just go! You’re wasting time. Best get out of here before Beckett decides to tell you the comedic story of Darly with Dysania.”

At that, I exit the house and head down our cobblestone driveway. If I take King Street, I’ll arrive at the post office first, and it’d be nice to get rid of this hatbox, so I head that way. 

As I walk down Pennsylvania Alley, I recite unique words. This alley has a bad reputation because of the people who live in it. Greenery covers the tall brick walls and weeds stick up through the brick street. Although the houses are very unkempt, I start to get the feeling of cryptoscopopphilia, the urge to secretly look through windows of homes as you pass by. But considering that the owners here are used to people keeping their eyes on their feet as they walk by, I do the same. 

About twenty feet from the end of the alley, I hear the shuffling of feet behind me. I don’t even have time to look back before a tall boy knocks into me, spilling the contents of the hatbox onto the ground.

“Excuse me!” he yells, already approaching the end of the alley.

“Backpfeifengesicht,” I whisper, bending down to pick up the invitations. He is a person who needs to be slapped.

Another boy approaches and begins to pick up some of the sealed envelopes on the ground.

“I apologize for my cousin, really. He’s not even closely related to me but I have to hang out with him. Here’s your papers.”

Noa Kornegay is standing in front of me with my invitations in hand. His was somewhere in the mix, signed delicately and specially. To save the anticipation of his answer, I take the stack from him and start sorting through the envelopes.

“Here. These are my invitations for the party. You can come right? I hope so, because we’re going to have a lovely array of homemade cookies, I’ve decided on mine but it’s a secret so I expect you to be there.”

His bushy eyebrows raise and a smile appears on his tan face. Deep dimples carve into his cheeks and he runs a hand through his hair, giving me cafuné, the desire to run your fingers through someone’s hair. He turns the invitation and looks at his name in cursive.

“I’ll be there,” he says. He jogs down the alley, and once he’s out, I begin skipping. I’ve known Noa all my life, but I have never had a real conversation with him. He’s one that I would describe as selcouth; unfamiliar, rare, strange, and yet marvelous. 

***

I finally reach the post office, thankful to have the hatbox out of my hands. Circe greets me at the door, holding it open in a somewhat mocking way.

“What? I can’t hold the door open for you?” He asks after I make a face at him.

“You never hold the door for me.”

“Do too...Now where’s my invitation?”

“I knew it! You’re a sly man. Once you mail all of the letters-and I mean all of them-then you can open your invitation,” I say.

“Yes! Thank you, thank you! I won’t be a second late Miss Annie. I’m gonna be the first one at the door. Just you wait. Momma used to make the best cookies, I mean it. She left the recipe with her, when she passed. I guess she just knew I was gonna need it one day. They are delicious. They’ve got o-”

“Hey! No spoilers! All the cookies are a surprise!” I had never once known who was bringing what cookies before-hand and I was not going to ruin the tradition. “See you later, Circe.”

“Wait, who’s that special one for?” He asks, pointing to the envelope in my hand.

“New family in town, I guess,” I shrug and walk out. 

***

The new Kornegay house is elysian, divinely inspired and peaceful. Massive pillars hold up an overhang that covers the tiled front porch. Perched on both sides of the front doors are flickering lights with a comforting glow. I can see inside the windows, and in the parlor there stands a lovely, black grand piano that’s placed under an extravagant diamond chandelier. On the bench of the piano sits a boy around my age. Although he’s sitting, I can tell that he’s tall, lengthy, and quite handsome. He has the brown hair of Noa, but it's curlier, more boyish, fitting perfectly with his piercing green eyes. I recognize him from earlier.

He’s more calm now and his eyes are focused straight ahead as he plays a mute tune on the piano. His fingers glide across the keys, and though I have never touched a piano, every movement seems right, beautiful. It pains me to knock on the door and interrupt his tristful trance, but another part of me longs to meet him. 

My knocks echo through the wooded area that surrounds the house. He answers the door. He wears an untucked shirt, one side of the collar stands straight up while the other rests on his collarbone. 

“Hello.”

“Hi, my name is Ann Leopold. I-”

“Ronan Kornegay. Nice to meet ya,” he says, stepping back. “Come on in. Your mother told me you were coming. May I see the invitation?” I hand it to him.

“Um-I’m just here to drop the invitation off. I should probably go now. Hopefully you can make it to the party.” I start towards the door that even Goliath could fit through.

“Wait, she told me I needed to play a song for you. So you can see if it’s good enough for your party.”

“Come again?” I knew what he said, I just wanted to be sure. Were my ears really going to be blessed by the beautiful sound of his art?

“Sit down,” he patted the bench of the piano.

***

“The notes came out at all the wrong times, Mother. It was horrific, but he was so especially confident that I had no way to tell him in the moment!”

“Well, you should have told me that night! Not the night of the party! Ann, you just may have ruined this whole event. And if you have…” her finger floats in front of my face. She sucks in air and then blows it out. “Get your dress on. It’ll be fine.” She then mutters something that sounds like, “It was my idea after all.” 

But I can’t be so sure.

***

Circe arrived first, he always kept his word. No matter what. 

Then a few other guests that were on my mothers list arrived. 

Then Delaney, Norah, and Hammen arrived. 

They were followed by many other pointless acquaintances that meant simply nothing to our family.

The Korneygays have just arrived. Noa walks in first.

“Ann!”

I’m surprised by his enthusiasm. “Hey Noa.”

He holds up a tin box with tissue paper sticking from the sides. “Made these all by myself. Hope they’re good. I may have taste tested a few of them…”

I laugh and guide him over to the table with many other cookie boxes. None of them are the same. I figure, somehow, all of the moms collaborated with each other in order to make sure no one brought the same cookies, or boxes.

Ronan walks in behind everyone else, somewhat hiding behind his older sister. The good genes definitely run in the family because her green eyes and skinny body are surely sticking out to many of the young men in the room right now. 

It’s not too long before she catches a glimpse of the cookie table and heads over. I feel bad for the boys who try to get her. She’s not going anywhere with anyone. 

“Annie, who is that fine young boy?” Circe whispers in my ear, startling me. I turn around just in time to see him winking at my mother. She raises her glass and then looks at Ronan.

“Circe, what was that?”

He squeals. He doesn’t do too well under pressure. “Nothing. You should talk to him. He’s-ah-he’s…Look I gotta go but…” His voice trails off as he becomes part of the densely packed crowd.

Ronan still stands near the door, scanning the room. Our eyes unfortunately meet for a single second and then break. I fix my posture and check the clock directly above him to make it look like I wasn’t looking.

Then, I look again. And he’s already looking.

I decide to break the ice. “First cookie exchange?” I ask awkwardly, stopping in front of him.

“Yeah, but that’s not the problem.”

“There’s a problem?”

“I know I’m horrible, Ann. Just tell me because I know for sure that I am not going to be playing piano tonight.” His jaw tightens, making him look incredibly handsome. He looks down at me and my gaze quickly shifts to the floor. I fold my hands on my dress and clear my throat. He’s just made this a lot easier but I have a feeling that he already knows he’s horrible. So what’s the big deal?

“What’s going o-” A sudden burst of energy must’ve just pumped through Ronan because he grabs my hand and pulls me out to the dance floor. 

No one ever dances.

He lets go of my hand and begins dancing. You’d think a lanky boy like him would look funny while dancing, and well...he does. His feet move awkwardly to the tempo of the song but a smile crosses his face, creating wrinkles on the sides of his eyes. He looks up at me.

“Come on!” He says in a goofy voice. 

This.

This is the Ronan that knocked the hatbox out of my hand two weeks ago. 

He’s not a piano player. He’s not a backpfeifengesicht. He’s not a poet or an artist and he’s definitely not a dancer. He’s just a happy person to be around. And God, he sure does look cute in a suit. 

I start to dance. Holding up my silk dress, I cross the dance floor, getting closer to him. His pink bow tie bobs up and down with whatever ridiculous dance move he’s doing. 

He starts going side to side and I join, going the opposite way that he does. The whole time, our eyes stay on each other, completely ignoring the amounts of people that have joined us on the dance floor. Noa shimmies by with Norah. Her face is tomato red and I give her a thumbs up. 

Ronan plays a pretend piano along with the song as it’s ending and we both bend over laughing. And just as I stand up, I see my mother conversing with the orchestra. Circe smugly smiles beside her. I know something is up, and it involves my mother, Circe, and Ronan.

A slow song starts playing. Ronan grabs my hands. He places them on his shoulders. It all happens in a few of our heartbeats.

Our heartbeats.

He smiles at me and I smile back. 

Unique words begin to line up in my head. They describe Ronan better than I ever could, but one sticks out to me.

Known as the most beautiful word in the English language. It’s not very unique but not commonly used either. It’s fragile, not to be used in a joking manner. 

It is finding something meaningful or beautiful without looking for it.

It is serendipity.

Ronan grabs my hand and places it on his chest. Through his suit, I can feel his heartbeat. It’s beating faster than mine.

He meets my eyes and smiles that smile that makes me melt.

“What are you doing to me Ann Leopold?”

“You tell me,” I say, leaning into his chest.

We continue to sway to the music until the song ends. We try the cookies, of course. We sit out by the pool when the crowd gets too much. And we talk. 

When he leaves, I break a little but there’s a part of me that yearns for the future and will wait any matter of time to see what happens. My mother and Circe stand by the door as the sillage from the party lingers in the air.

“I...have just experienced forelsket,” I say as the air whistles through the columns on our front porch.

“Define,” Circe says.

“The euphoria you experience when you are first-”

“Falling in love!” Uncle Beckett calls from the chair he hasn’t left for days. 

“And to think it was all your mothers idea,” Circe says, immediately slapping his hand over his mouth after.

“Circe!” My mother yells, slapping him playfully on the shoulder.

“Annie had to figure out somehow!”

I don’t mind though, because I have found serendipity. I have experienced forelsket.




December 12, 2020 00:59

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33 comments

Hope Reynolds
18:43 Dec 14, 2020

Hi Anna! Read your story! Great job having fun -- incorporating what I assume to be an interest of yours - into the story prompt. The ending is what really helped tie the bow and pull together that style/fun part of the story. If I were to give one point of critique, I would suggest changing DJ to musician(s) or orchestra, etc., so it is relevant to the time period. I got slightly confused when we see Ronan through the window, he is described, and then we find out he is actually a horrible player (even though he might have looked good thr...

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Anna Mosqueda
19:28 Dec 14, 2020

Awe thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it! And yes! I love unique words;) And oh my goodness, I cannot believe I put DJ lol. I'd change that if I could!! Thanks for pointing that out! Oh yeah, I see how that could have been confusing haha. At first, I was going to make him really good at playing the piano but then decided against it because I felt like it was a little cliche (for lack of better word). Thanks again!! :)

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Hope Reynolds
19:41 Dec 14, 2020

Sure :) ! Although I keep a list of words and might find that interesting, too, I used to be a huge name nerd. Do you ever invent your own words?

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Anna Mosqueda
12:42 Dec 15, 2020

Yeah, I just keep a board on Pinterest with the ones that I like;) And yes! I do invent my own words sometimes haha, just for fun. Do you? When I was in elementary school, a few of my friends and I invented our own number and it was called Derp. I'd show you what it looks like but that'd be hard on the computer haha. Anyways, it was just a replacement for the number seven and after I moved away, they wrote a letter saying that more people had started using Derp;)

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Hope Reynolds
01:15 Dec 16, 2020

Haha, pretty much the same with the board thing! Well, according to my Dad, I made up a certain word when I was a kid, which he has not let me forget. But I also recently was looking into the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows. I guess the author's idea is that we make our own words to describe things, especially feelings, which are not all "sorrows," necessarily. In the way we think of the word "sorrow." Anyway, the inventiveness or etc. of the words on his website made me think a bit about things that I think there should be words for/feelings...

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Anna Mosqueda
12:46 Dec 16, 2020

Woah! That's pretty cool! I think it's a good idea to write down some of the words:) I know there are many other words in other languages to explain feelings that we have but there's not one for them in English. My Spanish teacher has a few books like that with a bunch of unique words in them, I should ask her what they're called so I can order them off of Amazon haha.

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Anna Mosqueda
12:46 Dec 16, 2020

Woah! That's pretty cool! I think it's a good idea to write down some of the words:) I know there are many other words in other languages to explain feelings that we have but there's not one for them in English. My Spanish teacher has a few books like that with a bunch of unique words in them, I should ask her what they're called so I can order them off of Amazon haha.

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Anna Mosqueda
12:46 Dec 16, 2020

Woah! That's pretty cool! I think it's a good idea to write down some of the words:) I know there are many other words in other languages to explain feelings that we have but there's not one for them in English. My Spanish teacher has a few books like that with a bunch of unique words in them, I should ask her what they're called so I can order them off of Amazon haha.

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06:28 Dec 12, 2020

This was so nice!! I liked how it wasn't a typical love story, it was like I didn't know what to expect next, it was just really enjoyable. The slight mystery, Ronan, Noa, it was just enjoyable how unique it was! And how interesting the story kept on being! I loved the big words some I have never head before in my life! Some look like German words, well it was interesting! I enjoyed trying to pronounce them too😂and putting some of them in google to see if it was actually real. I just loved this story! I always enjoy things that are rand...

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Anna Mosqueda
13:27 Dec 12, 2020

Aweee, thank you Ugochi!!!! That was so sweet;) It was definitely weird with the unique words but I’m glad you liked it. I wasn’t too sure how they would work so I’m glad they did :)) Thanks again!!!

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20:23 Dec 12, 2020

Of course! It worked perfectly! 😊

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Thom Brodkin
02:56 Jan 15, 2021

This was a joy to read. Sometimes description is so over the top it distracts from the story as you try to imagine what the author is seeing but you weave in description so seamlessly that it doesn’t interrupt the fantastic tale you are weaving. You have a lot of talent and I think I’ll be telling people I knew you way back when when you were just a Reedsy buddy. Great job. Keep writing. If you get a second check out my latest, “The One”. It’s out of my comfort zone but after several edits I think it’s totally readable. I’d love to know wh...

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Anna Mosqueda
14:22 Jan 15, 2021

Awe! This means so much Thom, thank you! I'm really glad that you enjoyed this one:) I will definitely check out your story and let you know what I think!

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16:09 Dec 24, 2020

Love the gibberish-y things she calls Noa. I'm gonna start calling people weird things like that! Really good story, very unique, made me happy. I need some "forelsket" in my life. :) Good work!

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Anna Mosqueda
20:07 Dec 29, 2020

Hehe, thanks! I need some forelsket too!!!

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21:53 Dec 29, 2020

LOL everyone does.

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Thom Brodkin
22:00 Jan 18, 2021

I know I’m cheating. I’m using one story to ask for two reads but you don’t have another new one for me yet. 😀 I just submitted “The End of the Beginning”. If you can give it a look see I promise to do the same for your next story.

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Anna Mosqueda
02:04 Jan 19, 2021

Don't worry about it;) And sorry about not having a new story out, I worked on one but didn't get it finished in time because of school midterms:( But, hopefully, I'll get a new one out this week! And I'll check it out in the morning, can't wait!!!

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Aman Fatima
09:38 Jan 01, 2021

The story was very nice. It was a lovely story. keep writing.

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Anna Mosqueda
12:41 Jan 04, 2021

Thanks!

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Frances Reine
15:46 Dec 30, 2020

I normally don't like romance but this was AMAZING

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Anna Mosqueda
12:41 Jan 04, 2021

YAYY! I'm glad you liked it:)

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Sue Marsh
20:45 Dec 17, 2020

Interesting storyline, it certainly not a typical Christmas love story. I really enjoyed it. If you get the time please read my story Meg's Crazy Cookie Project and leave a comment.

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Anna Mosqueda
12:43 Dec 18, 2020

Thanks! I'll check your story out in just a minute:)

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Sue Marsh
20:32 Dec 19, 2020

Thank u for reading Meg's Crazy Cookie Project, I am glad u enjoyed it

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Anna Mosqueda
16:36 Dec 20, 2020

No problem;)

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Dorsa S.
13:25 Dec 12, 2020

i love the concept of this! you have a way with description, truly! the mystery, chemistry, and all the characters' personalities really kept me in the story. it was one of those stories that helped me relax, and take my mind off things. it was bursting with creativity, i'll definitely keep reading your stories. amazing job! :)

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Anna Mosqueda
13:30 Dec 12, 2020

Yay, thank you so much!! I’m so glad you liked it. And right back at ya, I’ll keep reading your stories too;))

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Anna Mosqueda
04:30 Dec 12, 2020

Okay...grammar sucked in this if I’m being completely honest buttt I actually like the concept of the story. Let me know what y’all think! Leo, I think this one needs some of your honest criticism😬

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