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Drama Sad Romance

This story contains themes or mentions of sexual violence.

When I immigrated to America, the thing I hated most about it was the bread. Or rather, the lack of good bread. Stores only sold sandwich bread, pumped full of preservatives, added sugars, and artificial flavoring. 

What I wouldn't have given for a hot slice of Georgian tonis puri on my waitressing shifts at the 16th Street Diner. As I served customers their meals in plastic baskets lined with checkered paper, wiped down the cracked formica tables, or swept potato chips off the floor, I would fantasize about a crispy, slightly salty, yeasty bite of tonis puri. A fantasy so out-of-place in an all-American diner that mainly served hamburgers and hadn’t changed since the seventies. 

A fantasy as out-of-place as Roger had been when he became a regular at the 16th Street Diner. I remember everyone looked up when he came in, pausing with their grease-encrusted hands halfway to their mouths. For a few seconds, their eyes took in his suit, slicked-back hair, and Rolex watch. Then their minds put the label of "Rich Snob" on him and they went back to eating. 

Roger had shifted on his feet at the sight of oversized t-shirts and baseball caps, eyes darting to the door as he regretted his decision to eat here.

I also looked up from the dishes I was clearing away, and our eyes met. I recognized his discomfort that day, the feeling of someone slapping a label on you and putting you in a mental box. It was a feeling that had stalked me every day since I immigrated to America. The scrunched eyebrows when people tried to say my name, the empty smiles when I said I was from Georgia, the stony stares of government officials as they eyed my green card. 

So, I kept eye contact, went over to Roger, sat him down at the nicest booth, and whispered in my rough Georgian-accented English, “You should order the daily special. Bacon-bean soup is the chef’s specialty.”

He smiled so brightly that the aches in my arms and legs disappeared. “Alright. One order of bacon-bean soup.” He looked at my nametag and added, “Thank you, Kate.”

Kate. My American name, since nobody could pronounce Qetevan. I hated it as much as American bread, but somehow it sounded nice on Roger’s lips. 

I almost dropped the bowl of soup in my hurry to serve it to him, telling myself it was because I wanted a generous tip. 

He came back the next day, and the day after that, and the whole week after that, always dressed in his suit. I lived for the moments when he pushed open the diner door, triggering the tinkling of the bell and an influx of gasoline-infused city air. He always winked at me and always ordered bacon-bean soup.

I said yes when he asked me to go on a date with him. 

I said yes when he asked me to move in with him.

And I said yes when he asked me to marry him.

I excitedly video-called my parents after the proposal and saw them jump with joy on the pixelated computer screen. With every break in the audio feed, my heart cracked further with my longing for them.

My mother leaned too close to the camera and asked, “Khom gikvars?” You love him, right?

“Ki,” I answered confidently, yes, but the audio cut again, warping my voice into an echoing screech. 

“Yes,” I said again.

Mother nodded, satisfied, and my father dug out a bottle of homemade wine in the background to celebrate. 

I’d been baptized Orthodox, but we got married in a quaint Episcopalian church in Roger’s hometown. My side of the church was almost empty, save for a few friends, since my family hadn’t been able to get tourist visas in time. 

Roger and I said our vows and the priest pronounced us husband and wife. My finger began sweating the moment Roger slid the ring on it. 

Wrapped up in each other’s arms that evening, I asked my husband, “Can we go to Georgia for our honeymoon?”

“Oh, darling, I already booked a Caribbean cruise. Maybe some other time, alright?”

He twirled a lock of my ebony hair and pressed his mouth to mine, ending the conversation.

The first few months of marriage were a whirlwind of late nights and lazy mornings. Spontaneous dates and enough flower bouquets to fill a garden. Then Roger shattered the rose-tinted glass I’d been looking through when he announced, “Tell your boss you’re resigning, alright? I don’t want my wife working in a hole-in-the-wall diner.” 

I looked up from the onion I was chopping. “But, I want to work. I went to university and–”

“Darling,” he said slowly, like he was talking to a child. "I'll work for the both of us.” Then his phone rang, and he stepped out of the kitchen. The tears that leaked out of my eyes weren’t entirely onion-induced. 

Our trip to Georgia “some other time” turned out to be never, since Roger had a never-ending fountain of excuses. He was a lawyer, after all, and his words had a way of silencing my own.

But it was always me who had to tell my parents I was in the middle of the naturalization process, or Roger was super busy at work, or we wanted to finish moving into our new house. It was always me who saw their faces fall every time I said we couldn't visit yet. 

“He can’t get enough of our Qeti,” my brother joked. He had no idea how right he was.

“I need you, Kate," Roger would wine every time I brought up going to Georgia alone. "I can’t live without you.” You need me to cook for you, I thought. You need me to do laundry for you, to be a trophy you can show off to the world. Even though I wasn’t a waitress anymore, I remained Roger’s servant. 

One night, Roger took me to one of his work parties. He'd been made a partner at the law firm, so he dressed in his finest suit and I put on a tight rosy pink dress. 

Roger held my hand the entire time, introducing me as his "lovely wife." I gave everyone a plastic, Barbie-doll smile, and my husband nodded at me in approval occasionally. 

When Roger went to get martinis, one of his coworkers came up to me and told me he'd been to Georgia. My smile turned real as I babbled about my home village and corrected the pronunciation of a few words he'd picked up.

Across the room, Roger downed a martini and frowned at his colleague. 

That night, when he crawled on top of me, he reeked of alcohol and arrogance. His hands left bruises both visible and invisible as he unwrapped my pink dress like I was a doll. 

After he fell asleep, I folded my hands over my queasy stomach. I knew then Roger had planted a seed that would grow roots and anchor me to him forever. 

I birthed Cecilia with a nurse holding my hand and my mother shouting at me to push on a Skype call. 

Roger rushed in hours after the blood had been cleaned up, apologizing over and over about how he was in a “very important” meeting since his law firm was overseeing a major corporate merger, but I didn’t give a shit. I was too busy nursing my daughter and marveling at her teeny fingers curled around mine, and her slightly flowered scent. 

She became the job I so desperately wanted, her triumphs my triumphs, and her losses my losses. I’d lived for Roger before, but now I lived for Cici’s first steps, her first words, her first day at kindergarten. I found a job, but it was like being in a box; I could never leave. 

I stopped bringing up Georgia. My English lost a Georgian accent, but Georgian words began to sink in my brain like rocks. 

Every conversation with my parents was a deep dive into the recesses of my mind, grasping in the murky waters for the lost pebbles. I would gape like a fish, searching for words, and on the screen, my parents' lips would get thinner and thinner as they saw their daughter become less and less Georgian with each passing day. 

Every morning was the same. Driving Cici to kindergarten, then coming back to make Roger’s oatmeal. Cleaning our enormous house after he left, languishing in front of the TV, and then making dinner. I told myself I had a good life. I was lucky to be in America, the land of opportunity, instead of slaving away for 700 lari a month in Georgia. I was lucky to have such a hard-working husband. 

One day, Roger was running uncharacteristically late because we’d forgotten to set the clock forward for daylight savings. 

Fiddling with his tie, he called out, “Make me some toast, would you, darling? I really gotta run.”

Of course you do, I thought, and put two pieces of white bread into the toaster. The wires in the toaster turned red hot, and the fluffy whiteness of the bread became a toasty golden brown. 

Georgians never toasted tonis puri, it was just so good on its own. I couldn’t even remember the taste of it anymore.

Once the toast popped out, I slathered the pieces in butter, the way Roger liked it. I wondered if he liked cholesterol-clogged arteries too.

I hadn’t even opened the jar of jam before he grabbed the pieces of toast and muttered, “Thanks, bye.”

“I love you–” I began, but the door had already slammed shut. The words echoed around the too-big kitchen, with no “I love you too” to quiet them.

Tears wobbled on my eyelashes as I wrapped a twisty tie around the bag of bread and shoved it in the cupboard. Too hard. The loaf smushed under my hand, soft and pliable. The plastic of the bag sparkled under the kitchen lights, mocking me.

The tears flowed down my face like a river. I was just like this loaf of American sandwich bread, the air and dreams and happiness squished out of me. The preservatives, added sugars, and artificial flavoring I’d sweetened my life with were gone. And I wasn’t sure what was left without them. 


July 23, 2023 18:36

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20 comments

Laura G.
03:38 Aug 12, 2023

Omg, Sophia, I'm so proud of your work on this story. Obviously, you must have fueled it with your own feelings and backstory to make this such a masterpiece, to begin with. Having this as an extension story was a really smart move and I hope to see more in the future. (; P.S. I really liked the metaphor at the end, and this, "grasping in the murky waters for the lost pebbles. I would gape like a fish, searching for words"

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Sophia Gavasheli
03:41 Aug 12, 2023

Thanks so much, Laura! Your praise means everything! ❤️❤️

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Andrey Trofimov
16:37 Aug 04, 2023

I share the same views on bakery and also pastry of the 'new world' :) Unfortunately, after living here for almost two decades I find myself being quite used to it... Your story makes me want to buy some fluffy white bread, break it and dip it in sour cream before I eat it.

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Sophia Gavasheli
18:10 Aug 04, 2023

Haha, I'm glad the story was relatable!

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Philip Ebuluofor
14:44 Aug 03, 2023

Fine work. I will like to know how you come out with a story that can run for about ten or more prompts.

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Sophia Gavasheli
14:48 Aug 03, 2023

Thank you! Usually I start writing a story without prompts and then continue it if a new prompt fits. That's probably why so many prompts make it in, because I've also been inspired by past ones.

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Philip Ebuluofor
08:31 Aug 05, 2023

I understand.

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Sophia Gavasheli
08:39 Jul 31, 2023

If you liked this story, please consider reading the sequel, "Samshoblo:" https://blog.reedsy.com/short-story/x3g0mr/

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07:31 Jul 31, 2023

I’m so with your mc on the bread! My Moroccan husband stands bewildered in the bakery section of American grocery stores trying to figure out why the only loaf of decent bread costs 40x what it does at home. This story is sad and real and makes me hope so much that she gets away

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Sophia Gavasheli
07:47 Jul 31, 2023

I'm so glad the bread bit was relatable! Yeah, American grocery stores seemingly have everything, but nothing beats bread from your native country. Thank you for reading and commenting!

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Delbert Griffith
11:35 Jul 29, 2023

This is a continuation tale, right? Qetevan, the girl who had come to America from a small Georgian village? I hope I'm recalling this correctly. Terrific tale, full of pathos and tinged ever so slightly with hope and redemption, in the form of her newborn. The bread motif doubles as something thematic. Bread is life. It's very Biblical, actually. As a motif, I don't think you could have done better. Just the right thing to bring out the tale in a full and comprehensive manner. Also, white bread sucks. Qeti being put into different boxes...

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Sophia Gavasheli
16:44 Jul 29, 2023

Yes, this is a continuation! Or more technically, a prequel. The bread motif I mostly chose because I always miss bread when I'm in the US, but you're right, bread is life. Especially in Georgia, where bread is a huge part of our culture and food. "how empty some boxes can be, no matter the sweetness or preservatives contained therein." - Yes, I'm so glad you got that! Qeti realizes she's being boxed in, but as long as she still has some sugar to sweeten her life with she doesn't act. And when reality hits, it's a bitter pill. Thanks so...

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Emma D
04:11 Jul 28, 2023

Wow! Great story. I loved the metaphorical meaning of the bread at the end. Wonderful job.

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Sophia Gavasheli
07:24 Jul 28, 2023

Thanks for reading! I'm glad that metaphor came across.

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Michał Przywara
01:14 Jul 26, 2023

Heh, the opening line is something I can relate to - though different country, and eventually we found some good bakeries. Can't beat a good bread. The story is sad on a number of levels. The marriage itself isn't ideal, but the character is also lost. Something drove her out of Georgia in the first place, and there's a restlessness to her, like she hasn't found what really matters to her. There's a line that struck me: "I’d lived for Roger before, but now I lived for Cici’s first steps." Other than that, it seems like she's living for h...

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Sophia Gavasheli
17:23 Jul 26, 2023

Glad you found a good bakery! I miss Georgian bread all the time, and felt I had to include that feeling here. Yeah, this is a pretty sad piece. After I wrote "Samshoblo," I really wanted to know how Qeti's marriage and dreams turned sour, as you so aptly said. That's when this story was born. "It's not just others that put her in boxes. She put herself in one too." - I never thought of that when I was writing but you're so right! She's kind of a passive person, with the last time she took action being when she immigrated. I hope I'll get ...

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Mary Bendickson
21:34 Jul 23, 2023

Best of luck to Qeti.

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Sophia Gavasheli
06:10 Jul 24, 2023

She's going to need it.

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Unknown User
22:00 Aug 02, 2023

<removed by user>

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Sophia Gavasheli
10:09 Aug 03, 2023

Thanks, Joe!

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