American Romance

Dedicated to the small mountain town of Estes Park.

Fall 2011

The first time I sat next to Finn Frazier was in 6th grade. We sat at long art classroom tables, three students to one table. Our little feet dangled off the metal stools. Mrs. Stevenson looked like Hera. She stood tall in flowing skirts and dresses, Colorado winters be damned. She had beautiful chestnut curls that stirred envy in my 11 year old heart.

“Good afternoon, class,” she greeted us after dancing like a nymph into the classroom. I caught a glimpse of a fiery red ballet flat underneath her earth toned skirt. I smiled. “I want all of you to call me Rachel,” she grinned and the room which had previously felt cold to the 15 anxious students warmed. She was a new teacher to the school and taught intro to art, sculpture, and painting. We were given six inch by four inch rectangles of cardboard which she had us decorate using oil pastels. Our job was to create a name plate for ourselves embodying our hobbies and passions.

I watched as the boy to my right with soft, dark curls that I longed to touch for the sole purpose of saying that I touched them, began forming an F in a deep silver. I created my name in painfully neat, simple, bubble letters. I added a couple flowers. My fingers met the long digits of “F” boy by accident in the pastel tray. I blushed and pulled away so he plucked the orange one we both sought triumphantly.

His name was Finn.

I could read the plaque now. The letter “I” was a dragonfly. The body of the “I” was a long, thick, dragonfly abdomen in a deep, charcoal black. He had given the dot of the “I'' bright, green eyes so it looked like a head. Finn had taken a fine pencil to create the wings which extended out to the “F” and to the “N”. The dragonfly seemed to float off the page. I laid my palm flat against the black table and imagined it crawling along my fingers with its tiny, anatomically correct feet. “That’s fantastic,” I mumbled bashfully, but Finn heard it. In fact, I’m pretty sure the whole class did. 

Winter 2012

The second time I sat next to Finn Frazier was in seventh grade orchestra class. He was a cellist; I was a violinist. On the first day after auditions, I ruefully plopped down at the front of the class. Ms. Michaels believed in placing the students who struggled the most in the first row of the classroom. I opened my used case, inhaling the sweet scent of wood and rosen. I began to care for my bow and tune my instrument. When I looked up, I caught the gaze of the handsome Finn Frazier. He smiled at me and I offered my electronic tuner to him. Wordlessly, we struck a routine. He came in a moment after me, I would offer my device, and we would sneak glances at one another all class long. 

The night of the winter concert arrived. I wore a long black skirt, two sizes too big because it was a hand me down from my cousin. But my mother had plaited my hair and I stole two spritzes of her perfume before I left the house so it all felt ok. I even snuck a tube of lip gloss into my case and was lazily applying another coat when Finn arrived. I handed him the tuner without taking my gaze off my sparkling lips. When he passed it back to me, I noticed a shocking streak of blue along his left pointer finger. “What’s that,” I asked while clasping my compact shut. Finn glanced up at me, down at his finger, and back into my dark eyes. I noticed a hint of blush on his cheeks and admired the way he looked, all dressed up in his black dress pants and button down shirt. He had gel in his hair; it was the first time I had seen it styled. Finn pulled out a worn and beaten folder that held his sheet music. He arranged it on the black metal stand and that’s when I noticed the dragon flies. They came in an array of colors: blue, green, pink, and red. All of them fluttered in the top right corners of the music. 

I stood and peered over his shoulder. I could feel the nervous heat radiating off of Finn’s right shoulder as I inspected his work. I was entranced and traced their wings gently. Ms. Michaels called us over to the door and we poured into the gymnasium. I wanted to compliment him and as other other violists, violinists, and cellists lined up, I desperately searched for him in the crowd of black skirts and pants. Once we were sat, we had to tune up quickly and perform. My sister gave me a bouquet of red roses after the concert and while I scanned the crowds for Finn, my mother demanded I pose for photos. When I finally made it back to the orchestra room, he was gone. So were his dragonflies. 

Spring 2013

The last weekend of summer break, my mother took Melinda and I to Estes Park, a beautiful tourist town tucked in the mountains of Colorado. We had a well established family routine. My mother parked the Civic in the big lot at the top of the hill and we began meandering down, stopping at any of the little shops we wanted. Melinda picked out a little stuffed monkey and my mother chose three Christmas ornaments for the tree. In my bitter, budding adolescence, I begrudgingly accepted her request to pose for photo after photo. The hot summer sun felt cooler up here, but nonetheless, we were all dehydrated.

Melinda begged, screamed, cried, for burgers which my mother gave into. We pushed open the red wooden door of the diner and were greeted by the intense chorus of tourists chatting, kitchen staff calling out orders, and the sound of ice falling into paper cups. Melinda didn’t even order a burger. But I did. Which was a massive mistake. I felt nauseous halfway through as I stared down at the greasy paper. A box fan half heartedly pushed hot, grease filled air onto my face. 

After an agonizing hour, my mother tossed out the half of a sandwich that Melinda refused to eat and herded us out the door. There was a breeze, which made the weather more bearable. But my stomach roared, promising uncomfortable impending trips to the bathroom. “The candy store is next,” promised my mother when she saw my grimace.

We wandered into the old fashioned shop and I felt at home instantly. I was surrounded by penny candies, neatly piled into water well styled buckets. It was a rainbow of childhood joy and the air felt cool while smelling sweet. I grabbed my own bucket and began filling up. I brought my treasure trove of Tootsie rolls, chocolate kisses, lollipops, and more to the large woman up front. She asked if I needed anything from behind the counter and I triumphantly pointed to the giant jawbreakers along the wall. They were the size of my fist and pure sugar goodness. The total was $34.73 and greedily took my change.

Outside, my mother was wiping the chocolate ice cream that covered my little sister’s face with a thin white napkin and her saliva. My mother grinned when I showed her my treasure, stored in a big, white plastic bag. Her quick hand snuck in to steal a few pieces, but I had planned for that. We began the long journey up the hill, weaving through tourists who didn’t know this town like we did. My mother clutched Melinda’s hand tightly as we crossed the street.

There was a rushing river where I decided to wait while Melinda and my mother piled into the restroom. The air was significantly cooler by the river and I popped off my sparkly pink flip flops to dip my toes in. It was deliciously cold. The shock seemed to scare away the nausea so like the pirate I was, I opened my treasure bag slowly. I dipped my fingers in and began devouring my chocolate Kisses first. I decided to watch all the tourists rushing about while allowing the sugar to rush into my system. Envy colored my face green as I saw a young couple embrace and kiss.

I felt a soft tickle on my right knee and screamed while throwing my bag of candy into the river, like the star pitcher. There, perched like it owned me, was a large dragonfly. Her wings glistened in the sunlight and if I leaned in close, I could see the terrifying details of her eyes. She was a deep green and blue. Her feet were what had tickled me. She flew from her perch and I watched her dance away. For just a moment, I wondered what Finn Frazier—who I hadn’t seen all summer—would have done if he had gotten to see his muse so close.

Summer 2021

The fourth time I sat next to Finn Frazier was at the downtown bar of the Convention Center. I pushed back my silk soft black bob from out of my eyes and leaned forward seductively. I knew the little black dress with lace capped sleeves left little to no imagination. The bartender placed the espresso martini down on the bar with a soft tap and a wink. I winked back. Slowly, while I maintained eye contact, I took a long sip. The liquor burned and the coffee lingered softly. “So, Rich, is this really the best cocktail you can make me,” I called out. Rich expertly spun on his heel to face me again.

He wiped down the black counter in front of me and leaned forward, “Sarah, Sarah, Sarah, I do my best for you every time.” I could have gotten lost in those deep blue eyes if not for the voice calling my name. 

I turned to see a tall, pale man. He looked like a vampire lurking at the edge of the bar so I turned back to Rich, but he was distracted by the blondes at the end of the bar. I took another sip of my drink and when I looked up, the vampire was standing by me.

“Sarah Parker,” he said. His voice was deep like molasses.

I smiled, the way the sales manager should because you never know who your next client is, “I am just so embarrassed, I don’t recall your name.” My sales voice is the perfect blend of overly polite with a dash of genuineness. The vampire handed me my clutch and maneuvered into the seat next to me, where Delilah ought to be. His bright red Converse rested comfortably on the floor. In contrast, I perched in my black stilettos precariously.

“Eh,” he shrugged his shoulders, “It’s been nearly a decade since I saw you last.” He was tall. He was handsome. Rich rushed over and the man ordered a beer which was placed in front of him in record time-which is why Rich is my favorite bartender for events to this day. I started counting back in my mind, a decade ago placing me at 12. 

“Finnegan Frazier-although, I think you used to call me Fantastic Finn, if I remember it all correctly,” he said. He took another long pull of beer, not making eye contact with me. All of the memories came rushing back to me. I beamed like the school girl he used to know.

“Fantastic Finnegan Frazier!” I reached over for a hug and inhaled the scent of a clean shaven man. “What brings you to the Convention Center?” I asked. Finn smiled. He seemed glad that I remembered him. My heart tugged at the grin, at the thought of the life we could have lived. 

“I’m on the panel,” he hooked a thumb back at the display board advertising the book signing that I am putting on starting tomorrow.

I blushed a deep red, “Oh, um, of course you are!” Finn chuckled and took another sip of beer. 

“I’m a comic book author,” he explained, looking down at me even though we sat within six inches of one another. I had forgotten how tall he was. But my heart hadn’t as it started to reminisce on the fantasy of throwing my arms around his neck.

“That’s incredible, Finn! I always knew you were just the most brilliant artist,” I praised.

Finn bashfully looked to the ground. “Thanks. It’s a shame you quit art class. You had some talent, too,” he said over his glass. A ringtone I didn’t recognize began to blare. Finn pulled out his phone from his back pocket, typed something, and tossed a ten and a five dollar bill to Rich. Beer foam clung to his upper lip, as did my gaze. I watched the words form before I heard them. “I gotta go, but I’ll see ya, ok?” he asked me. I nodded furiously and bit my lip.

Delilah arrived shortly after, taking her seat where Finn was. She demanded who was here before and I filled her in on all the memories of Finn I had. We ordered two more cocktails and dinner at the bar before retiring to our room. In the safety of my perfectly clean, pristinely white, hotel bed I began to let my mind drift to all the moments we didn’t seize.

“Maybe in another life, we could’ve fallen in love as kids,” I said to her.

“Maybe it’s not too late,” she replied with a soft squeeze.

I dreamt beautiful dreams of the two of us getting coffee, enjoying a steak dinner, and our wedding. In the morning, I awoke fifteen minutes before my alarm. The ceiling fan slowly whirred above me and I counted down the moments until I saw him.

The ballroom bustled with people setting up booths as soon as I burst in. The restaurant staff had placed a pastry buffet, with individually wrapped pastries, and ice coffees in individual jars. I helped myself and walked while I munched. I checked in with the sound system team and I went through the schedule with my sales team.

By 8am the authors and artists began pouring in. They brought decorations, freebies, Sharpie markers, and their agents who all rushed me to ensure their client was being prioritized. I assured them all while wildly scanning the crowd for Finn. But soon, guests arrived. I worked the room-listening to them oohhh and aaahh over our handiwork. I bursted with pride and noticed the catering team was dropping off cookies and water bottles. My heart burst with the opportunity so I walked over to the catering room. I grabbed a basket and filled it with provisions knowing that the comic section was in the top left corner of the ballroom.

“Girl, you know everyone just gets their own,” Delilah quipped. I smiled at her and winked before walking swiftly away with my treasures.

Seeing Finn sent a jolt down my spine as I locked onto my target and weaved through the crowds.

He was signing a book and a beautiful redhead stood next to him. She leaned in and whispered something in his ear. The world around me seemed to stop as I watched him chuckle. She was the kind of curvy I always hoped to aspire to be; her body was the shape of a guitar. She radiated sunlight in a yellow dress. In contrast to me, the color did not make her look jaundiced. I envied her fashion sense as I noted the thick navy colored headband which did not make her look like a ten year old. Instead, she seemed to have walked straight out of a Hollywood picture.

I swallowed the lump in my throat and waited for the crowds to disperse before saying in a falsely cheery tone, “Hello! I wanted to bring over some uh...refreshments.” The woman smiled at me and gratefully accepted some cookies and water. I blinked back tears as Finn introduced her as his wife declaring that she wrote the stories and he did the art. The room felt cold as hope was extinguished.

I returned to the catering room with my empty basket. Delilah had time to hug me before she had to run dash off to help the audio/visual team with the next presentation.

I chose to make myself busy, collecting plastic wrappers off the floor and stacking the cardboard pallets the waters had come in. “Excuse me,” a melodic voice sounded off the barren white walls of the room. I flipped my head up and my hair clung in a very un-sexy way to my face.

In front of me stood Mrs. Finnegan Frasier, in all her glory. I noticed the navy pumps and once again, battling the little green monster internally. I felt something inside me crack as I admired her necklace: a beautiful, vivid, diamond dragonfly. “Sorry, I was just hoping for another one of those scrumptious cookies,” she said. She, of course, was the type of woman who said words like “scrumptious” and crinkled her button nose. I scanned the room and handed over a couple of the leftover oatmeal raisin cookies that lingered as they always do.

“You’re Sarah, right?” she asked. I immediately began looking for a weapon and eyed the cardboard. I nodded and began wiping down the white tables. “The Sarah who helped him with his first comics?” she inquired which was meant with another uncomfortable nod. She approached me and I could smell her lilac perfume.

“Thank you, for being the first person to believe in him,” she whispered. I met her gaze and saw a bit of fear. She cleared her throat before adding, “For being the first person to love him.” Before I could stop myself, my spaghetti arms were hugging her and she hugged me back.

I watched Mrs. Finnegan Frasier walk out of the catering room into the spotlight she shared with the love of our life. 

April 28, 2023 18:07

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Kate Winchester
22:20 Jun 02, 2023

This story was sweet. I liked the repetition with every time she saw Finn. It’s sad that they didn’t end up together but the ending was good. I liked the imagery with the dragonflies. As always, great job!


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Beverly Romige
16:12 May 14, 2023

Great job! Love your descriptions and story telling abilities . Look forward to reading more stories from you.


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Wally Schmidt
06:22 May 12, 2023

There are some great descriptions in this piece. My favorites are the dragonfly (of course), the box fan in the diner, and the art teacher among others. I thought the story was well constructed but would have loved to had the ocassional glimpse into Finn's perspective. Was any of this reciprocal. Maybe that's not the point, but I think a line or two of dialogue could have shown more of Finn's thoughts. The ending was so graceful and such a nice transition in to the future reality that Sarah is forced to acknowledge: that she must relinquish ...


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John Jones
21:37 May 11, 2023

That was a lot of fun. I felt like the proverbial dragonfly on the wall. :). Very good descriptions, could see it all as I read it.


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V. S. Rose
12:04 May 11, 2023

I really liked this take on a childhood crush, turned into adult romance. But the ending was satisfying because it is unexpected. You are thinking that the two children will eventually get together, but then we learn that Finn has a wife which has closed the door to Sarah starting a relationship with him. Naturally, Sarah begins to feel emotions of jealousy but then after her interaction with Mrs. Frasier, she learns that all of us have insecurities, and once we get to know someone, they aren't so bad. There's a sense of connection at the en...


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Viga Boland
23:38 May 09, 2023

Just a magnificent story Amanda. You stirred up memories of similar encounters and emotions when I was a youngster, then teen etc. Such a wonderful capture of how we all grow, change and wonder “what if…”. Love this. What a gift you have. 👏👏


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Zack Powell
19:47 May 09, 2023

This feels like a very Amanda-esque piece: you have the young love aspect, the coming-of-age style transition into maturity, the pining for what the heart wants. I think if you removed the author's name from this story, I could almost certainly guess who wrote it. Which is cool that your style comes through like that. As for the story itself, some mixed feelings, but mostly positive. The feelings that Sarah has for Finn were palpable from the very start. Her perspective was well done. A small thing, but this story easily could've been writt...


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14:43 May 09, 2023

A sweet what-could-have-been romance story. I couldn't really predict where it was going, but you landed a surprise clever and realistic happy ending which I really enjoyed. And most importantly you captured the mood of how all our interactions in childhood just seem so significant at the time. It reminded me of a famous Taiwanese film, 'You Are the Apple of My Eye'.


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Mihnea Balan
13:27 May 06, 2023

"The room felt cold as hope was extinguished." I felt that! What a bittersweet journey this was. Congratulations on writing such a mesmerizing story!


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Robin Owens
23:45 May 05, 2023

Love this, Amanda. This captures my feelings from my adolescent years and the could-have-beens. I smiled so big reading the line: "Her quick hand snuck in to steal a few pieces, but I had planned for that." This was a joy to read!


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Chris Campbell
09:55 May 05, 2023

Amanda, What a lovely tale of unrequited love. I wanted Sarah to have a happier ending, but the prompt was the giveaway, so I settled on the acknowledgement she received for her selflessness. The choices we all make in one life, can sometimes raise questions of "What ifs." However, there are times when we just need to grab the bull by the horns and hang on for the ride. This ride was worth it. Well done!


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Michał Przywara
20:39 May 04, 2023

I didn't know until the end if they'd wind up together, but given the prompt I should have known :) Oh well, great examination of a missed opportunity. What's striking is that a decade later, even though she doesn't immediately recognize him, as soon as she places Finn her mind and heart are running at full speed. He really made an impact on her in her youth. I did notice a couple minor issues: "I smile like the school girl he used to know." There’s a shift to present tense here. "A ringtone I don’t recognize begins to blare." Another...


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Michelle Oliver
12:57 May 04, 2023

This is beautiful Amanda. -“You’re Sarah, right?” she asked. I immediately began looking for a weapon and eyed the cardboard.- I had to chuckle at that. The whole missed opportunity in this piece is so poignant. The child is unable to take advantage of the moments when their paths crossed, and the adult is too late.


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12:42 May 02, 2023

I really loved the childhood scenes in this. Your descriptions of the art teacher, the Colorado town: those are real strengths.


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Philip Ebuluofor
20:29 Apr 30, 2023

Fine work. Matters of the heart are something strong and wrench-like grips when it first hit you. Congrats in advance.


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Delbert Griffith
13:12 Apr 29, 2023

Wow, what a great tale, Amanda. The strength of it is that this is a bittersweet story, and the bitter never leaves the sweet, or vice versa. If this were a chocolate bar, it would be the perfect one. Nicely done, my friend. Nicely done, indeed. Cheers!


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Mary Bendickson
00:10 Apr 29, 2023

Oh, yes, in another life... I could write like you: 😉


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