Coming of Age Drama Fiction

She can feel her heart pounding. Under nervous, knotted brows, Claire’s eyes are glued to a box of untouched donut holes sitting on an oak-top kitchen bar. The frosted pastries stare mutely back as she takes a shallow breath and admits a truth that could ruin everything, “Ethan, I don’t want donut holes.” 

There’s a stale, drawn-out pause. Tentatively, she peeks up to see his reaction. Surprised and confusion sweep across his face. She can see his mind processing behind his dark lashes and dancing caramel eyes.

After what feels like an eternity, Ethan’s gaze settles on her and relaxes into a compassionate air when he responds, “That’s okay, Claire. It’s not like you have to want them right now. You can always change your mind.”

Her muscles tense, flinching at the wrongness of those words. 

The sudden turn of mood is a stark contrast to her laughing niece and nephew roughhousing in the living room, just within earshot.

“You’re not hearing me.” She exhales deeply. “Ethan, I don’t want…donut holes…ever.” 

She knew this unavoidable conversation had been creeping closer, she just wasn't expecting to have it here, not now.

“I’ve felt this way for years now and the feeling hasn’t changed. I love my time, my career, my financial freedom, the ability to pick up and leave any weekend I want. And it’s not because I don’t like them. I love these two,” her sweeping arm gestures to the now cartwheeling kids. 

“I seriously love being an auntie. I just,” she closes her eyes for a moment and sighs, “don’t want my own.” 

Moments earlier, her rosy-cheeked niece had been rolling across the room in somersaults, yelling “I’m a donut hole!” And in Ethan’s joking reply, she'd heard the more serious implication, “We could make some pretty cute donut holes someday.” 

She could have innocently laughed along, made light of the joke and continued on with their merry day. But, she’d made that mistake more once before. She’d let the dream take root, it had inevitably imploded and she’d ended up alone, not worthy enough and covered in a blanket of tear-soaked tissues. 

Her stomach is churning when she cautiously opens her lids. Beneath dark waves of hair, he wears a contemplative - but otherwise neutral - expression. 

“You don’t want them…ever.” His dark brows raise, “you’d be genuinely happy with it just being…” 

Abruptly, two small, giggling bodies dash through the kitchen. Claire reaches out and musses a nest of tangled hair before the pair roars back out as quickly as they came, leaving in a wake of giddy energy. 

Two pools of golden brown are still staring at her. Without breaking eye contact, Claire reaches past the box of donut holes to gently place a finger on two full-sized donuts. She nudges them together to touch in the middle. A sad smile tugs at her lips as she silently nods. 

“Claire,” he breathes her name so tenderly, so softly, that she can tell a gut punch is coming next. This is the moment when the end begins. When all the shared laughter, soft kisses and whispered promises will evaporate into thin air. And she’ll be left alone again. Because she’s not enough again.

So, instead of waiting for the hit, she beats him to it. 

“Listen, this is not something that's a negotiation for me. I’m not going to change my mind and please understand it has nothing to do with you at all. It’s a personal choice I made for myself a while ago. And if that’s not something you can live with, I completely understand. Truly, I do.” Her restless fingers have absently started folding, unfolding and re-folding a napkin. 

“And if that’s the case, we don’t have to draw this out in a slow death when we both know where it’ll eventually end up anyway. I just…you deserve donut holes if that’s what’ll make you happy and I’m never going to open a bakery, so...”

A forceful huff of air that resembles a laugh escapes her lips at her weak attempt to lighten the mood with the word play.

Creases cover the napkin she’s still obsessively folding when a gentle, calloused hand reaches across the table to settle over hers. 

Those sympathetic, caramel eyes somehow convince her fingers to relax when he responds, “Claire, I don’t want donut holes either.” 

The world freezes and her jaw drops in utter shock. 

“What do you mean? You literally just said we’d make the cutest…”

“I’m so sorry Claire, I swear to God that was a meaningless joke and I don’t even know why I said it. That was my bad.”

He reaches a hand up and runs it through dark locks of hair. 

“I didn’t mean anything serious by it, I promise I didn't mean it as a loaded comment.” 

A childish shriek pierces the air and both their heads whip towards the living room. 

“Kids who pull hair don’t get donuts!” Claire calls out, watching her nephew immediately release a handful of his sister’s hair. 

She sighs with a gentle shake of her head and returns to meet Ethan’s gaze. 

“Claire,” he continues quietly, dropping his eyes to the creased napkin lying on the table, “the entire time you were just explaining why you don’t want donut holes, all I was hearing was all my own exact thoughts and feelings, repeated back to me through your voice.” 

When he lifts his eyes to meet hers, she realizes she’s barely been breathing.

A flicker of hope ignites in her chest, when she responds, “are you absolutely sure? The last guy I seriously dated ended up wanting…more than I can offer. I need you to be a hundred percent certain.” 

His reassuring smile and nod fan the flicker into a flame, heating her from the inside. 

“We’re on the same page, Claire. As long as I have you, I’m more than happy with a life without donut holes.” 

Tears are pricking her eyes when she reaches across the table and pulls him into a crushing hug. The embrace is a surreal relief, like she'd been holding her breath her entire life and is finally just now exhaling.

“I love you, Ethan,” she whispers. 

“I love you, Claire. And you’ll always be enough for me,” he murmurs back.  

She leans back, her radiant smile matching his, the moment before a knock sounds at the door. 

“Mommyyyyyyy,” ring out twin squeals before the patter of feet running to the door. 

Claire rises to open the door as her sister breezes in. 

“Hello, my little munchkins,” she smiles, crouching to their level and wrapping the two in a hug. 

Still embracing them, she looks up to Claire she raises an eyebrow, asking, “how were these little ones?” 

“They were perfect, as always,” Claire smiles before the pair runs back to the living room to resume their interrupted play. 

“Thanks for watching them, I really needed this morning. Just wait ’til you have your own, you’ll totally get it!”

Claire sneaks a a glance at Ethan, who flashes a knowing smile before picking up a donut and lifting it in a “cheers” motion at her. 

And in this moment, Claire thinks a full-sized donut has never looked so good. 

February 24, 2024 00:05

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Hazel Ide
18:38 Feb 24, 2024

"I'm never going to open a bakery, so..." Relatable! Love the donut hole analogy. Their conversation also felt written in a realistic, healthy, and honest way.


18:58 Feb 24, 2024

So glad you enjoyed it, I really wanted it to feel normal/healthy even without following societal expectations about “donut holes.” Thanks for the feedback, Hazel!


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Jim LaFleur
14:59 Apr 06, 2024

Great read!


14:44 Apr 07, 2024

Thank you!


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05:32 Mar 07, 2024

Beautifully written story! I'm also part of the no-donut hole clan :D


16:49 Mar 07, 2024

Thank you, Melissa! No donut holes may not the standard story but still an important life perspective to share!


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Karla S. Bryant
23:18 Feb 28, 2024

Well-done! Beautiful balance of deep emotions with lighter layers. Great to read a story about a relationship that is unique and not predictable.


01:28 Feb 29, 2024

Thank you, Karla, so glad to hear it wasn’t too predictable!


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Kerriann Murray
15:40 Feb 26, 2024

This was so clever. Great read!


22:17 Feb 26, 2024

Thank you, Kerriann!


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Helen A Smith
13:15 Feb 25, 2024

There are a lot of donut holes in the world already so maybe there’s no need to open another bakery. Hmmm. Good point, not always openly talked about. It was a vital conversation that needed to be had and I liked the way your storytelling tackled it.


15:57 Feb 25, 2024

You know, some couples are happy with a few donut holes and some are happy with zero, and I wanted to highlight that both choices are okay. Thank you for the feedback, Helen!


Helen A Smith
16:06 Feb 25, 2024

I really enjoyed the way you highlighted it. I think maybe more people are choosing that path now. I’m not sure it was so acceptable in the past. Like you say, either is good.


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Alexis Araneta
14:06 Feb 24, 2024

Brilliant take on the prompt ! Before the reveal, I actually thought the divorce route. I love how you used a very innocuous item like donut holes for an analogy. Lovely job !


15:45 Feb 24, 2024

I’m glad to hear that Claire’s fears came through and the donut hole analogy landed. Thank you for the feedback and for taking the time to read my story, Stella!


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Trudy Jas
00:46 Feb 24, 2024

I'm with Claire. No doughnut holes. On the other hand, now that I'm old, it would be nice if I had a doughnut hole to drive me to the eye doctor. :-) Great story.


04:48 Feb 24, 2024

Thank you, Trudy! Definitely pros and cons to the donut hole life :)


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