31 comments

LGBTQ+ Romance

Sugar chooses a new pronoun every day. It drove their ex boyfriend crazy, that and the way they only watched dystopian psychological horrors on a grayscale screen and supplied too much commentary, so he, and anyone else who was watching, knew exactly what was going to happen. But everyone has their flaws. 

For example, Ian—their ex—rented out his driveway. He still does. The current rate is five dollars an hour in cash only, with friend and family discounts of 20%. People have to schedule ahead of time but if they pay a few dollars extra up front, he’ll excuse the fact that they’re already running late for their daughter’s ballet recital or moonlit date. 

“The parking business is booming,” Ian bragged once. 

Sugar was arched over a pot of boiling water, taking an online guess-my-gender quiz. They were stupid hoaxes—always wrong—but they needed to be entertained in some way or another. “Glad you’re putting that Art History major to use,” they’d said. 

“Glad you’re putting those extra bits of sarcasm to use,” Ian had said once. “Wouldn’t want to waste them.”

They broke up the next morning and got back together at morning-thirty. It was Sugar who claimed that they weren’t meant for each other. Ian had agreed, angrily, and tossed their hamper of clothes out the window. The brass belts had caught on tree branches and the shirts had breezes swimming through them. Sugar left them there, all stretched over the round blackberry bushes, like a version of Dali’s The Persistence of Memory with clocks that melted despairingly onto acute surfaces. 

It was Sugar who seated themself at the local bar, having a conversation on the jagged edge of sanity with a close friend, but it was Ian who texted first. It was simply a bagel emoji. Followed by: could u get bagels at the store? A typical Ian move. Bribing Sugar with their favorite food and a mysterious text. 

So they did. Sugar ended the call and bought bagels and cream cheese in a plastic bag with a red logo. They thanked the man with the paper airplane nose with a blink of their eye. When they arrived at Ian’s, they saw there was a Tesla parked in the driveway. Obviously not his. But he was waiting beside it, flipping a rusted quarter in his palm. 

“Heads, Sugar will come back. Crap, tails. They’re not coming back. Ugh, tails again.” 

Sugar grinned. “Might as well pick petals of a flower like Ariel in The Little Mermaid.” They dropped the bag onto the swollen bricks. 

“It’s always a crapshoot with you, Sugar. I never know.” 

“And look how Ariel turned out. Married to a nice, handsome prince. More of a gamble, really.” 

“It’s the same thing. But not everything is a fairytale.” 

“It can be.” 

“And look how Eric turned out. Reconnected with his mental girlfriend.” 

Life partner. Because today this Ariel feels neither a princess or a prince. More of a they/them.” 

“Gotcha, life partner.” 

Life partner? Don’t stretch your luck, Ian.” 

Sugar leaned into him and grabbed the bagel bag. The couple walked inside and sat on creaky wooden chairs, each one avoiding the other’s eyes. Ian smoothed the creases from the glossy texture and handed Sugar a bagel. They like theirs with cream cheese in the middle so they spread it on with an old butter knife until the old fashioned design of banana tree leaves were tattooed into the side of their hand. 

And so they ate in peace. 

But little did they know, that was the last time. 

Currently, Sugar is lying face-down on their bed. They’re alone with a half-eaten banana propped onto their bedside table. The sunlight filters through the window into sharp spears that pierce their back. 

It’s like time has frozen. Yesterday, Ian had launched their dirty clothes out the window, one by one. Sugar watched them sprout wings but tangled them in a fly swatter before they could get too far. There wasn’t any screaming, except for Sugar who belted the lyrics to Ian’s least favorite song. It was something from a Disney movie, something harmonized and romantic. It was something that made the pigeons take a jolted escape from the lampposts. 

As Sugar lies on their bed, they think about their life like a Monopoly game. Perhaps this was their Get Out of Jail Free Card, which they always kept in their pocket. Perhaps they and Ian weren’t each other’s lifelines, only ones that popped and sank into great blue. Perhaps now they’ve got to roll the dice and move their spaces forward. Hopefully to somewhere nice, like the boardwalk.

Sugar’s thoughts are interrupted by their phone discoing to a chorus of bells. The screen lights up to reveal their friend’s unsmiling face. They pick up the call. 

“LJ.” 

“Sugar.” LJ pauses, and Sugar can feel a sigh prickle the other end. “What happened?” 

“Nothing.” 

“There’s no car parked in Ian’s driveway.” 

“So?” Sugar stands and paces the length of their room. 

LJ knows everything. “You and Ian broke up . . .” 

“For the last time. We’re done.” 

“That’s what you said last time.” 

“Shut up.” 

Silence, static. 

“What did the bastard do?” 

“‘The bastard’ called me the wrong pronoun. For the fourth time that day.” 

“And which pronoun was it?” 

“She/her.” 

“And which pronoun were you?” 

“He/him.” 

“I see.” 

Sugar plays with the spaghetti straps on their dress. 

“What are you now?” LJ asks. 

They sway on their heels. “I am most definitely a girl.” 

“Have you talked to him since?” 

“Yes. He texted this morning.” 

“A bagel emoji?” 

“No. He said ‘I want my partner back.’”

“But today you’re his girlfriend.” 

“I know.” 

“Bastard.” LJ waits for a few seconds, listening to the drum of Sugar’s breath, and finally hangs up.  

Sugar falls onto their bed and watches as the afternoon shadows seep into the creases in the wallpaper. It’s a faded cherry color complete with the light-up stars that they pasted onto the ceiling a while ago. Even before everything. 

And as if on cue, Ian texts a bagel emoji. It’s round and dotted with little sesame seeds. Sugar doesn’t react at first, only observing their phone fill with lies. Then they braid their hair onto their left shoulder and tuck a handbag into the crook of their arm. The door to their apartment clicks when it locks. 

Sugar’s car doesn’t start at first. They’ve left everything in an apartment that reeks of stuffed animals without eyes and expired bananas. The roads are almost empty. It’s surprising because the sky is still shaped a lavender blue. They honk their horn at passersby for no reason at all, smiling out of pure joy when the pedestrians hold up a certain finger.  

Finally, Sugar swerves into his driveway. He’s standing at the head of it, clutching his phone with his eyes closed. There are blackberry bushes on either side so Sugar has no exit except for the street behind them. Ian doesn’t even jump when they slam the car door. 

“‘A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.’” He sighs. “I’ve been catching up on my Disney movies.” 

Sugar plays with the keys in their palm. “That’s not Disney.” 

Ian doesn’t say anything for a second. “With a spoonful of Sugar you’ll be driven out of your mind.” 

“I agree.” 

“In the most delightful way.” 

“Sure.” 

“Did you bring bagels?” 

“No.” 

Pause. 

“Let’s go inside.” 

“Whatever.” Sugar’s hand is way too small to fit in his but they make it work anyways.

February 19, 2021 05:39

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31 comments

Scout Tahoe
05:40 Feb 19, 2021

Oh well. A spoonful of Sugar for you all. I wanted to experiment with pronouns. Don't think I did a very good job. Oh well.

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Eddie Thawne
10:29 Feb 23, 2021

An amazing and well crafted story. I enjoyed reading.

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Scout Tahoe
13:30 Mar 17, 2021

I'm glad you enjoyed--thank you

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19:28 Mar 23, 2021

Oh, I really liked this! I think having a protagonist who uses multiple sets of pronouns (or is genderfluid and changes them depending on the day, which is how I read Sugar) was really effective for this prompt. I especially liked the conversation between Sugar and LJ, because it highlights Ian's main flaw: he cares, but he doesn't try hard enough to understand. LJ only appears briefly, but in just a few lines you showed how much more understanding and respectful they are of Sugar. I also really liked the section about Monopoly - it's been y...

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Scout Tahoe
19:49 Mar 23, 2021

You understood exactly what I was trying to convey—thank you so much. Others who commented said the pronouns were confusing, but that’s just Sugar.

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01:29 Mar 25, 2021

Nope, not confusing at all! It requires a little extra effort, sure, but for me it's no different than remembering someone's name or their favorite coffee order. I mostly use she/her pronouns currently but I'm nonbinary and it's really great to see more people writing about characters with different gender identities. As they say: representation matters.

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Scout Tahoe
03:00 Mar 25, 2021

Representation does matter. It empowers people. I’m sorry, I should’ve asked your pronouns when we met. I use she/her. And I’m actually writing about another non-binary character this week too.

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11:26 Mar 25, 2021

Oh, no need to apologize! I put them in my bio because it’s hard to remember to ask in comments. That’s great - I’ll look forward to reading it!

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Julie Ward
18:05 Feb 27, 2021

I'm a big fan of Sugar - they're, flighty, indecisive, impetuous, a hot bubbling mess. So the opposite of their name. The pronouns emphasize that so well and although the story was sometimes hard to follow, it was perfect for this character. I really enjoyed the references to the Disney universe, where everything is bright, bubble gum, cotton candy, spun sugar. Ian is a great foil for Sugar, I love his quirks - the bagels, the parking. Really enjoyable read!!

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Scout Tahoe
13:30 Mar 17, 2021

I am a big fan of Sugar too! Thank you, Julie.

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Amaya .
03:48 Feb 27, 2021

I love the non-binary representation in this story! People complain about they/them being too "confusing," but the brain gets used to it so quickly that those arguments are just...stupid, I guess. I loved Sugar and Ian as characters and I love the Disney touches to it! You did an amazing job on their relationship, and the last line is just perfect. I have a new story out, it would be great if you could leave me some feedback on it :)

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Scout Tahoe
13:28 Mar 17, 2021

Thank you, and those arguments are stupid. :P

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Claire Tennant
23:02 Feb 24, 2021

This is a good story Scout but, to be honest, I don't think the pronouns created the picture you desired; rather it created confusion I got the fact that Ian was difficult and Sugar wanted something better than she had Im quite sure, if you desired you could rework the story so that, the reader is blown away by the word pictures. eg bagel emoji Lastly I loved the analogy between your character and the Mary Poippins song.

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Scout Tahoe
13:27 Mar 17, 2021

Thank you for your honesty. I personally don't like Ian, so in my mind he is difficult. If he wants to continue to be with Sugar, he should get to know them & their pronouns. Sugar was my idea of a gay icon, although they were non binary.

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Splinter Magus
00:56 Feb 24, 2021

A story using singular they? Sure. Scout has it! I'm not gonna lie, it was a little hard to follow at first (the word themself messes my brain), but it's amazing how quickly the brain gets used to it. I guess this is why it's so important to have this kind of representation. It normalizes the thing so that dummies like me can get used to it. The whole story kind of reminded me of "Lady Bird", the movie, which by the way has great writing, in my opinion. And it also reminded me a bit of the youtube series "The gay and wonderous life of Caleb...

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Scout Tahoe
13:23 Mar 17, 2021

Interesting! I have never seen "Lady Bird", what is it about? I also have not seen "The gay and wonderous life of Caleb Gallo." Thanks for your comment!

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Waverley Stark
07:34 Feb 23, 2021

This story was highly adorable with some fantastic lines. I agree with other commenters; the contrast to Disney and real-life relationships was a great touch. I wasn't entirely sure what to make of Ian, if I'm honest. If mispronouncing Sugar's pronouns is his only flaw, couldn't that be because it can get a little confusing for him? Although I suppose I don't know whether or not that's offensive to non binary people. Sugar was charming as a character and you did an incredible job. My fav line was probably "It was Sugar who seated themself ...

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Scout Tahoe
13:22 Mar 17, 2021

Thank you--it's amusing to read other people's comments about how they support Ian, because I personally don't like Ian. I don't think it's offensive to non binary people but I feel that someone's pronouns are very important to them, like their name. I do think Sugar overreacted but that's just who they are.

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Mia S
01:53 Feb 23, 2021

I love Sugar as a character so so much. Like seriously. And the way you contrast their relationship with Ian to the Little Mermaid is super cool, because it shows how different fairy tales are from real life. The bagel thing and the bit where Ian keeps throwing her clothes out the window really flesh out their relationship and make it feel real. And the ending is just...*chef's kiss* beautiful. One more thing—this sentence is *amazing*: "They honk their horn at passersby for no reason at all, smiling out of pure joy when the pedestrians ho...

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Scout Tahoe
13:18 Mar 17, 2021

Thank you so much, Mia!

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N. N.
10:23 Feb 22, 2021

"Sugar’s hand is way too small to fit in his but they make it work anyways" Oh, Sugar. I loved that line. I like their character and the way you bring it out using Disney. And, of course, Ian with his bagels. The concept of pronouns was very interesting and also added a nice touch to the story. Anyways, hoping that the two of them will stick together for real now. :D

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Scout Tahoe
13:18 Mar 17, 2021

Haha, me too. Thanks for your comment.

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18:06 Feb 21, 2021

For a moment, I got confused and then I realized that the answers were in the first line. Sugar used pronouns all the time. As much as this contained elements of pain and messy relationships, there was hope laced within it. That's what I call powerful. I like Ian and well, I don't know if it's good or not. I just like him and I think you did a good job with your characters.

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Scout Tahoe
13:17 Mar 17, 2021

It was slightly confusing at first, but I hope you enjoyed the later parts. Thank you, Abi.

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Dorsa S.
19:19 Feb 19, 2021

ahh, another great one. i like your experimenting on the pronouns. keep making stories like this one, we need more of them. ian and sugar are like puzzle pieces: you try to place them together and it works, but they eventually snap. yet, they can still be put back together. that's just my imagination. keep it up! :)

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Scout Tahoe
13:16 Mar 17, 2021

your imagination is correct. thank you, dorsa.

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R. K.
14:10 Feb 19, 2021

I'm visualizing the piercing sunlight and sesame seeds as I pinch a chocolate chip muffin and eat spoonfuls of peach yogurt. You did a good job creating different snapshots in time of a messy relationship. Messy, not toxic. You've written it so I like Ian. He makes mistakes, gets adorably overwhelmed and tries his best to fix them. He's not incompetent, lazy or inconsiderate. The poor dude just can't keep up with Sugar and how their outgoing nature makes things complicated. But I'm really rooting for them :)

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Scout Tahoe
13:16 Mar 17, 2021

I am rooting for them too! Thank you, Ru.

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Dorian Gray 📖
17:15 Mar 02, 2021

Ok, this was so awesome!!!!! I totally loved the idea, but I think what could've made it amazing is if the narrator themselves forgot which pronoun Sugar was on. I feel like that would be kinda humorizing it, but you don't have to if you want a more serious vibe. Other than that, great dialogue and I really loved the story!! Great job, Scout (I haven't had any conversations with you even though you're one of the best and most prolific authors on here, so I'm planning to start now :))

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Scout Tahoe
13:15 Mar 17, 2021

Thanks, Luke. :)

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Dorian Gray 📖
13:16 Mar 17, 2021

No problem!!

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