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Romance Sad American

They arrived at the same time but since one went to the back door and the other to the front, they didn’t see each other. Pat clicked her car keys, standing at the front door of Cora’s house, and shifted her weight from one foot to the other. She let her keys fall into her purse and then snapped the purse closed. Clouds were gathering, thin and wan, stretched across a darkening winter sky, and just before the door opened, Pat put up a hand and two tiny snowflakes landed. They melted perfectly into the suede palm of her glove, and then the door swung open with a gasp and a woman in a thin red dress smiled painfully and pulled her indoors.

I should never have come, Pat later remembered thinking, but it was too late. The red woman pulled her inside with another glimmering smile. I don’t even drink, and I don’t like these people.

“Hi, I’m Abbey, Abbey Green, nice to meet you. I’m Cora’s friend from work.”

“Pat Ja—I mean, Winters. Good to meet you. I—I met Cora, uh, we’re good friends from a long time ago.”

This is going to be a long night.

They shook hands and heads, but Abbey wasn’t really paying attention. She was craning her neck to look out behind Pat, out at the soft snowy yard for newcomers. Abbey’s hand felt like a limp piece of slimy chicken. Pat smiled and wiped it on the edge of her winter coat when Abbey wasn’t looking. Then Pat was pulled into a hot, blindingly colorful circle of smiling people with shining drinks in their hands.



Mason knocked at the back door and rubbed his hand through his hair. It had recently begun to seed with grey and looked even whiter with the snow falling. He adjusted his scarf and tried on a smile.

I hate parties, he thought to himself. I should’ve let Joe and Isabel take me to evening Mass. Even church is better than this.

A woman opened the door and her face flooded with a smile. “Mason!” she cried before pulling him inside and throwing her arms around him. “I was worried you wouldn’t turn up.” She tucked a piece of flaming-red hair behind her ear—the color was fading at the roots; she must have missed a hair appointment recently—and grinned again.

“Hi, Zinnia. Yeah, I was thinking I wasn’t gonna come, but I changed my mind.” Inwardly he smacked his head, but then handed her the bottle of champagne he’d bought yesterday at the store.

“Ohh,” Zinnia gushed. Mason noticed that her wedding ring was missing. “The real stuff?”

“From Champagne, France.”

“Oh, Mason, you shouldn’t have.”

They were still standing in the back foyer, uncomfortably close. Sweat beaded at his temples. He swallowed a cough. It was unbearably hot, and the air smelled of mingled perfume, sickeningly sweet. Mason rubbed his nose and said, “I’m really hungry, Zinnia, so if you could just point me to…?”

She had been leaning very close to him, and moved away looking a little disappointed. “Cheeseboard’s in the kitchen.”



Pat untangled herself from Abbey’s group of tall, thin, red-dressed friends, and made her way to the kitchen. She wiped at her forehead as she went and tried to think of a good response for when someone inevitably asked her why she wasn’t drinking. The house was cramped and warm and over decorated, and Pat wished she could find a way to escape and go sit on the steps outside to watch it snow.

Mason was standing at the corner of the island, with a plate of different cheeses, crackers, and grapes, and a wine glass half-full of some kind of rosé.

They looked at each other for a moment in the huge, claustrophobic, hot, cold kitchen. The air froze and melted between them, both stomachs burning for a split second before Cora herself bustled in with an empty plate.

“Oh, hi, guys,” she said cheerfully. “Do you guys know each other?”

Pat stepped forward after a sticky moment and extended her hand. Their eyes met. The words caught at the edges of her throat and she pressed her lips together before forcing them out. “Hi, I’m Pat,” she said.

“Mason,” Mason said, looking relieved, and they shook hands.

“Pat’s my good friend from club days, Mason. I think Zinnia mentioned inviting you? I don’t know, she didn’t tell me the people she invited—then again, I didn’t tell her the people I invited!”

Mason nodded.

Pat and Mason were watching each other. Both hands were cold. Mason lifted his glass to his lips but didn’t swallow anything. Cora went to the sink to rinse her empty plate, chattering the whole time. Pat picked at her nails. The flakey gold was already starting to chip away, but she didn’t really care.

“My sister never tells me anything,” Cora was saying. “But since we got together to pay for this thing I told her she could invite like twenty people and she said okay but I had to be okay with her invites, so I am. I mainly invited old friends, like church friends and club friends et cetera.”

“Great, Cora.”

Cora sat down at a barstool by the island and Pat and Mason groaned together, very quietly. Quiet enough that Cora couldn’t hear it, but loud enough that they looked at each other, both fighting smiles.

Pat started opening cupboards while Cora talked to Mason. Pat pulled down a water glass and filled it with water from the sink and a couple of ice cubes from the ice bowl for the wine bottles. She sat down opposite Cora and started to tap her finger against the glass. It was an old habit, and a couple of seconds before she realized that the familiar clinking sound was absent. Then she remembered. Both she and Mason looked down at their own bare ring fingers. Mason’s was the most conspicuously bare; he’d gotten very tan in the months of their marriage and when he took off his ring for good there was a pale circle on his finger. He rubbed at it. They didn’t look at each other.

Out of the kitchen, the noises of the party swarmed—clinking glasses, hearty laughter, clacking heels, swishing clothes. Cora heaved herself to her feet with a heavy sigh, blinked at them owlishly, and said cheerily, “Well, back into the fray!”

Mason looked at Pat for a second. She didn’t notice. She was busy thinking up an excuse to get the hell out of there. She’d forgotten in that half-heartbeat that she and her ex were in the same room together. Alone.

“Why aren’t you drinking?” he asked finally.

Pat almost burst out laughing. Of course he would be the one to ask that. She remembered every night together, every single night in that flashing instant, every evening with every glass of wine and beer bottle, every laughing ticking drunken evening. As soon as she walked out of the courtroom after their divorce she’d wanted to get a drink, but she forced herself that day—and every day after—to drink water instead. To abstain. It hurt her for a bit, but she relished the dry pain because it was a demonstration of her new freedom. Water stove off the headaches, and the divorce stove off the heartaches.

Why was he drinking? He must have really liked it to continue without her. Her mouth filled with a kind of bitterness.

She didn’t answer him, but both of them knew the answer. They were both thinking it:

Because it reminds me of you. 


August 22, 2020 15:30

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17 comments

Hriday Saboo
13:56 Aug 24, 2020

And a brilliant story

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Autumn Williams
17:46 Sep 02, 2020

Yes, it's very good.

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Jubilee Forbess
03:56 Aug 23, 2020

Happy 160th story, Zilla! :)

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Hriday Saboo
13:56 Aug 24, 2020

I have submitted my new story Pls read iT

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Krishi Norris
23:58 Aug 23, 2020

I love the last few lines! Nice story! I would love for you to check out a few of mine and give me some pointers, if you can! Good job! :)

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Lilliane Wei
05:38 Aug 23, 2020

This was an amazing story and I really loved the sophistication of each character. You're a great author and I was wondering if maybe you could check out my story and give me some pointers.

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Ranya Navarez
00:24 Sep 05, 2020

That was good, Zilla!

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Daniela Zozo
21:59 Sep 02, 2020

Wow... this story was awesome! I really loved it. I loved how you ended it. I was a bit confused in the beginning (but maybe that was just me. I'm quite slow and there were so many names being mentioned that I got confused for a bit haha). ❤💜

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Lynn Yorke
16:28 Sep 02, 2020

This is my first time reading a story of yours. Very well done! I loved the descriptions of the setting, their internal dialogue, etc. The ending was bittersweet, just lovely.

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Amogh Kasat
12:19 Aug 24, 2020

It's a wonderful story Zilla! Please read my latest story The Secret Organisation { Part 2 }

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20:57 Aug 23, 2020

I really enjoyed it. The only thing I noticed was that there seemed to POV seemed to shift in the beginning.

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23:11 Aug 22, 2020

Overall, this was a good story of an awkward encounter. Your character are well developed and I didn't see it coming that Pat and Mason were a divorced couple. The beginning however, was very confusing. When Pat is standing at her car, dropping keys into her purse, they're was no mention that she'd arrived at a home for a party, so in the next moment, she's pulled inside, but I thought that it was into a car until I read on. Aside from that, it was a good story, quick pace and fun.

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Megan Sutherland
22:33 Aug 22, 2020

Great story Zilla! You're a very descriptive writer- I can see everything in my mind when I read this. You deserve to be 1st on the leaderboard. Would you mind coming to check out my page, if you have time? I would really appreciate any feedback you may have that would make me better. Please and thank you! -Megan

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🄼🄹 🅂
19:00 Aug 22, 2020

This is such a lovely story, I loved every bit of it. You deserve the win. :)

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Pragya Rathore
17:06 Aug 22, 2020

What a beautiful love story, Zilla! Your romances are certainly something to look forward to :) A couple suggestions: Arrived at the same time-add a comma after 'time', maybe? Inwardly he smacked his head-add a comma after 'Inwardly' over decorated-hyphenate it, maybe? Just suggesting :) Coming to the story, it was a sweet romance. I loved the small details you mentioned, like how the wineglass doesn't clink because they don't have their rings. Good one! Please check out my stories too :)

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Pragya Rathore
18:21 Aug 22, 2020

Oh, and also, the last line was contextually PERFECT :p

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18:30 Sep 05, 2023

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