22 comments

Romance Coming of Age

Mia’s forehead was sore from where it hit the cool, glass pane of the window as her mother weaved through the single roadway up into the mountains. Their destination: Estes Park, Colorado. The bright, June sun cascaded into their car warming Mia from the black tank top she had donned for the occasion. Her thighs pinked up with every passing minute. She gazed at the rows and rows of evergreen trees with a forlorn expression. Her fingers moved rapidly in her lap and she counted the days, hours, minutes that she had left in these mountains.


“Take a deep breath,” advised Rachel while briefly turning her head to shoot a knowing glance at her daughter in the passenger seat. Mia huffed. She turned her attention to the black SUV that was leading them on their journey, weaving around the curves, airing on the side of the mountain to their right, rather than the rushing river to their left. License plate BFF-321. It always made her smile.


The nature of the mountain made this part of the trip especially uncomfortable. Like any teenager, Mia was most comfortable DJing and belting out lyrics to songs that made her mother shake her head with a slight smile on her lips. But not in the mountains. No radio signal is powerful enough to reach any vehicle in the mountains, even Mia’s cell phone had zero bars. They were all alone. Mia left to count her time remaining; Rachel left to wonder if that job in California could really be worth all of this.


“Wanna roll down the window?” offered Rachel. “James told me that the cabin will be amazing! It’s just a plot of dirt right now, but I think they’re looking at 2 or maybe even 3 stories! I think they’re bringing the plans so we can all look.”


Mia huffed, “It’s not like we’ll ever get to see it. Since someone decided their job was more important than my life!”


Rachel rolled the windows down. Instantly, clean mountain air began to fill the vehicle, cooling both individuals in the car. It also created a white noise similar to the sound of ocean waves. Air rushed in and rushed out in a gentle rhythm. Mia stuck her arm out, waving to the SUV in front of us. She wondered if he could see her. If he was smiling in his own passenger seat. If the smile was forlorn, too. Her arm weaved up and down. Rachel smiled. As they approached the town, Mia’s phone picked up the signal again. He had sent a text: I miss you. She grinned down at her phone and texted back. 


Estes Park was a mutual second home for any family living in Colorado. Out of muscle memory, Rachel slowed the car at the first stoplight into town. The town was a place frozen in time. The car filled with the noise of summer tourists-chatting, eating, drinking, licking ice cream cones through toothy grins in the luxury of the summer sun. Girls in colorful shorts, boys in Hawaiian button downs, babies in strollers dotted the busy sidewalks. They danced across sidewalks. They peered into colorful window displays. They found green benches and were grateful to rest their tired legs. Mia smiled and pointed out a black lab who looked just like their family dog, Charlie. He was lapping up water appreciatively while accepting pets from the shop owners.


They passed through a few more street lights before swinging into the parking lot at the top of the hill. It was 12pm on the dot so both families struggled to find a space. Rachel was successful first and even scouted a spot for the black SUV. Mia lingered in the car, her eyes rolled to the back of her head watching her mother’s long, brown hair peppered with gray blow in the wind while swinging her arms to grab the driver’s attention. 


Once the SUV was parked, Mia hopped out and leaned against the warm, silver frame of her mother’s minivan. She was perching her right foot and back against it, hands in her pockets, black eyes locked on the passenger side door of the SUV. It opened slowly. Her heart beating like a drum as he exited.


Fabian Thompson was the oldest son of Carmen and James; their pride and joy straight A student on track to be an eagle scout by the time he graduated high school. He stood a few inches taller than Mia, always wore cargo shorts with too many pockets, and a sky blue polo that brought out his jet black hair and ink colored eyes. He had his mother’s nose, his father’s jawline. And was two years older than Mia. He casually walked from his parents’ parking spot to Mia and took her little hand in his own, tracing the ridges of her knuckles when her fingers wrapped tightly around his.


Their parents looked on like eager ducks proud of their ducklings. Rachel joined James and Carmen as they chatted about which shops to visit. Rachel pulled the parents to the side while their children reunited in a long, dramatic embrace fitting of their age, “Thank you for doing this.” James nodded, ever the silent partner in his marriage.


“Absolutely,” assured Carmen with a grin. “How’s the move going?”


The families began to meander down the hill on the sidewalk, Rachel’s heart filling with dread at the image of Fabian and Mia walking before her. He dropped her hand and popped behind her saying that, “Ladies walk on the right because when they used to empty chamber pots onto the streets gentlemen were splashed on instead of the girls.” This fact made Mia giggle and crinkle her nose. She planted a peck on her boyfriend’s pink cheek with delight.


Rachel sighed and finally answered Carmen’s question “It’s good.” She lowered her voice and paused in their walk to bring the adults in on her secret, “We, uh, found an apartment.”


“We?” asked James.


“Brayden. Brayden found me an apartment,” confessed Rachel.


Carmen’s beautiful eyes twinkled devilishly, “So it’s serious?”


“I’d say so,” laughed James, “She’s moving half way across the country for him.”


“And they’re technically offering me a promotion at the company, too,” insisted Rachel. But her argument was drown out by the giggles of the Thompsons.


Carmen was the first to spot a store she was intrigued by so the kids followed the adults dutifully into the air conditioned oasis. The clerk with flaming curls of red waved at them. They all admired photos of beautiful elk against a backdrop of the pristinely snow capped Rocky Mountains. Mia was drawn to the windchimes hung up in the store. There were little ones made of metal and huge ones made of solid wood. “That one sounds like cathedral bells,” quipped the clerk from behind her counter. She indicated the huge, wooden chimes. Fabian reached up and gently pulled the string. Music filled the little shop. Mia gazed up in wonder. 


“Wow,” breathed Mia. She leaned against his shoulder, inhaling the clean scent of his mother’s detergent mixed with shampoo. It was warm. It was firm. It was safe. She sighed and blushed at the site of the clerk giving her a wink. 


“Someday, I’m gonna buy these windchimes and hang them up in our house for you,” promised Fabian.


“Really?” Mia gleefully asked, “Where?”


“In the entryway, or maybe off the balcony?” he mused.


“We have a foyer and a balcony?” she leaned in to whisper in his ear.


“Of course we do,” he took her face in his hands, always slightly prune-esque like he just got out of a hot bath. He planted a firm kiss on her lips. Mia let her lips part to savor this moment. He tasted like cinnamon toothpaste. His tongue was cool against hers. 


“Teenagers,” teased Rachel. The couple pulled apart and Mia’s cheeks burnt bright ride. “Come on, you two, are we ready to move on?” she asked, indicating the door with her hand. The young lovers exited, followed by their parents. “Uh, oh, clouds,” Rachel pointed up to the cluster that was forming above the mountains with a frown on her face. 


“We’ll enjoy it all while we can,” replied Carmen. She removed her dark sunglasses and placed them neatly into their simple, black case, tucked in her big giant “mom” purse. It was filled with snacks for the kids, a few bills to be paid, and her wallet. Carmen was a firm believer that eating out was a waste of money. This mentality also stemmed from her insistence that healthy bodies lead to healthy minds.


The group meandered to the next shop, a jewelry store. It was incredibly quiet. An older man in a suit and tie stood at the counter. Mia approached slowly. She gawked at the glittering diamonds, shiny pearls, bold rubies. Both of her hands leaned against the counter. They seemed to sing like sirens to the thirteen year old. 


“See anything you like?” inquired the salesman in a soft, low voice. 


“Oh, I don’t know,” Mia was bashful. She vaguely recognized Fabian’s hand brushing against hers. She eyed the discount corner and noticed a necklace on a silver chain. It was a single, small, freshwater pearl. The salesman followed her gaze and expertly snagged it from behind the glass. He presented it on a velvet mat before handing it to Fabian who fastened it. Mia gazed at the girl in the mirror. Rachel gazed at the woman her daughter was becoming. Her heart tugged by raw strings, “I know Brayden’s right. We can’t continue like this. Long distance isn’t built for middle aged widows.”


“I couldn’t do it,” confessed James as he peered into some emerald earrings he considered purchasing for his wife.


“That’s ‘cause you barely talked to me. Even though we had the same English class. Even though we sat next to each other. Even though we were technically dating by the third week of school,” Carmen teased and wrapped her arms around her husband’s waist. Rachel looked on at her friends’ love. The way they stood together just felt so perfect. She longed for the way he towered 7 inches over Carmen. Longed for the way he loved it because it meant he could kiss the top of her head any day or night.


Mia’s fingers played with the pearl for a moment before she mumbled, “Oh, I don’t know. Please…please…take it off.” She tore her gaze away, concentrating on the feeling of Fabian’s fingers on the silver clasp. 


“It’s beautiful,” enticed the salesman. He raised an eyebrow at the young couple. Mia’s face twisted into a pained smile. It fell away quickly. She dropped Fabian’s hand and began to march out. 


“Let’s go to the next store,” she proclaimed to her mother. Hot tears pricked the back of her eyes and her lip trembled.


“Actually,” suggested Rachel, “I’m feeling a bit peckish. Shall we stop for a bite to eat?” Eagerly, Carmen nodded. She followed Mia and Rachel into a burger shop. Mia was overwhelmed with the instant wall of grease that they felt upon entering. The heavy scent of french fries and the loud sizzling of burgers filled their senses. They were faced with a long line. At the counter were two young women with their hair up in bouncing ponytails. They were calling out orders to their kitchen staff. Mia tried to focus on the menu-not on the necklace-not on what this visit meant for her, for Fabian.


Rachel leaned down to Mia, “Take a deep breath.” Mia’s shoulders shook as they rose. She stepped forward as another set of customers wandered from the cherry red counter to the soda machines. All three women turned in surprise at the sound of James and Fabian rushing into the restaurant. They squeezed past the two families behind Mia, Rachel, and Carmen. Mia breathed in the fresh air that lingered on their jackets like cologne gratefully. It cut through the greasy air. 


Mia caught a wink thrown to Carmen by James. They placed their order. Carmen and Rachel fought over who would pay. The cashier looked worried and laughed uncomfortably. One of the toddlers whined to her mother. “It’s the last lunch we’ll have together,” said Carmen. She laid down her blue credit card. Mia tried to take another deep breath which was easier as she felt Fabian clutch her hand. Unlike almost everyone else, they all ate their meal in silence. Mia had four bites of her cheeseburger and felt full. But one look at Carmen’s pinched face caused her to shove the rest down her gullet. It sloshed around, mixed with soda and french fries. She smiled gratefully and offered a thank you four times.


Upon exiting, Rachel grimaced at the clouds. She turned to Carmen expectantly who conceded, “Alright, let’s look at the cabin now, how about that?” They marched up the sidewalk which was now much clearer as the world had become grayer. Clouds had officially turned the tides in the battle against the sun. Mia’s legs hurt as she reached the car. She turned to Fabian who offered her a kiss on the cheek. Her heart rate was raised once again. He gave her a kiss…on the cheek. She felt her resolve crumble as tears began to fall. Fabian didn’t miss a bit, just began brushing the tears away while shushing her softly.


The parents looked on, mutually deciding wordlessly to let their ducklings have this moment. “Young love can handle the distance,” Carmen reassured Rachel. “They have hope long forgotten by the rest of us,” she glanced at Rachel whose face was stony, turned towards the mountains. “It’s a hope that Brendan reignited in you and that can’t be taken lightly,” she urged.


“But how can I take this lightly,” Rachel’s hand gestures weakly to her daughter and their son.


The families piled into their cars. Mia sat in the passenger seat desperately attempting to swallow the lump in her throat that felt like it hadn’t gone away since May when Rachel sat her down at the kitchen table. She said, “Sweetheart, I know that this will be difficult to hear, to understand, but…we’re moving at the end of June.” The words felt like dumbbells weighing down her soul. “There’s a job in California. With the beach. You love the beach,” she reached a hand across the table which was not reached for by Mia.


Anything else Rachel offered as enticement or as an explanation wasn’t heard by her daughter. It had been a gut shot for Mia who refused to talk to her mother for a whole week afterwards. But her feelings were heard through the whole house with every slam of a cabinet, every stomp down or up the stairs, “fuck you” mumbled under her breath. However, this was like a wave-impossible to stop. And that summer Mia was a victim, standing on the beach in terror, watching the wall of water build knowing soon it would over take her and drag her into the depths of the unknown. 


She had called Fabian that evening, crying. He barely understood her through her sobs-but once he put it together he promised he would call, that their relationship wouldn’t end. “I love you,” he had said. 


“I love you,” she had said.


The cars arrived at the plot of land within fifteen minutes of driving west, out of town, into the suburbs of Estes Park. It was nestled on the side of a mountain, surrounded by picturesque pine trees and extended out west. They parked along the curb of the road and got out. The air had gone cold. Black rain clouds loomed above them. Mia furiously dried her face and unbuckled her seatbelt. “Mia,” started her mother, but Mia’s door slammed shut. Rachel heaved a sigh and looked out at the mountains. She was going to miss this. Her phone beeped, indicating a message. Standing on the beach listening to the waves, thinking of you. B Rachel cleared her throat before exiting the vehicle herself. 


“It’s not much now,” explained James, “But by next summer, it’ll be a whole cabin.” He beamed with pride. “The house will be here,” he walked forward onto the plot, indicating with his arms as if they could even attempt to encircle the home, “But then we’ve got a full back yard.” James waved his arms outward.


“It was always a dream of ours. Ever since we first got married,” chimed Carmen. She leaned into her husband and gazed up at him. “Maybe we’ll pass it on Fabian,” she teased.


“Come look at the plans!” urged James. He was negotiating his way down the mountain and attempting to lay out the blue prints on the hood of the SUV. The wind was fighting him every step of the way. Carmen collected two rocks and so did Rachel so James could hold them paper down.


Since his parents were distracted, Fabian seized the moment and took Mia’s hand. He led her to the hill on their right where the yard would be, disguising his grin by staring at the ground. A small cluster of trees were positioned at the base of the hill. Mia leaned against one, mumbling an apology for her tears.


Fabian stepped back, away from Mia who felt her heart crack at the action. He held up an index finger and began to dig into one of his four pockets of his right cargo pant leg. After a moment, a look of success filled his face. He grinned a toothy, crooked grin, producing a little black box in his right palm. He shoved it at Mia who snagged it with apprehension. Sitting on a tiny velvet pillow was the pearl. She ran her right index finger along the silver chain, removing the necklace from its box. Fabian nodded at her. He took the necklace from her hands and placed it on her.


“How did you afford this?” she asked breathlessly. The pearl and chain were cool on her hot neck.


“Allowance, birthday money…my dad helped out a bit,” he looked beat red when Mia turned to face him. He took her face in his hands, gazing into the eyes that matched his own. “I love you,” he promised. 


“Me, too,” she said.


They kissed as the first drop of rain fell from the storm clouds above. 

February 10, 2022 23:39

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

22 comments

Patrick Samuel
11:56 Feb 18, 2022

While I initially thought the opening a bit long for a short story, there is a wistful quality that slowly emerges and wins you over. The fact that most of the action has already happened (or might happen, depending on your imagination) underlines this, making it a suspended moment in time - those moments we try to hold on to, knowing they will soon be gone forever.

Reply

Amanda Lieser
15:04 Feb 21, 2022

Hi Patrick, Thank you so much for the wonderful musings on this piece. You are an incredibly gifted writer and I so value your feedback. Thank you again! Amanda

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Zack Powell
06:28 Feb 13, 2022

Finally getting around to reading this, Amanda, and I'm glad to say that I enjoyed it. The ending was sweet and I like how you kept hinting at the clouds and the rain, so when it eventually happened in the last sentence, it felt like we had come full circle. Fabian (such a fun name) seems like a great boyfriend. So, props there. Constructive criticism time: Had I written this story, I actually think I would've started it with the scene of Mia and Rachel at the kitchen table discussing the move to Cali, before we see the families take their ...

Reply

Amanda Lieser
16:24 Feb 13, 2022

Hi Zack, Thank you so much for the crazy in depth comment. I love when people take the time to really pick apart the story. It means a lot to me. I’ve workshopped it a bit and tried to make the move an important conflict, but I also added a secondary one with Rachel. I also loved the advice you gave about the ending so I tried my best to add a bit more into the piece itself to foreshadow it. When I was in elementary school I received feedback from a teacher that my writing had too much dialogue and not enough plot. I also struggled wi...

Reply

Zack Powell
19:40 Feb 13, 2022

Thanks for the reply, Amanda. I just reread this updated version of the story and I think it looks a lot stronger now, especially Rachel's character. I like how giving Rachel a relationship of her own allowed both her and the Thompson parents to bond and grow as characters through their musings on love. Or maybe I just adore the parallel between the love lives of parent and child. Such a good, universal topic to explore, and I think you handled it well in your workshopping. (Quick side note: Sometimes Rachel's love interest is referred to a...

Reply

Amanda Lieser
23:46 Feb 13, 2022

Hi Zack, Thank you for catching those little details. I went back through the piece after a bit to try and have fresher eyes. I did catch the name swap and changed it. I’m really glad you liked the way the addition of Rachel’s conflict elevated the story. It means so much to me that you’re getting serious Sparks vibes with this piece since he really is a writer idol of mine. I liked your advice about the details and I will certainly bring it with me in my writing journey. Thank you again for everything!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
K. Antonio
00:10 Feb 12, 2022

Hello, Amanda! I saw a comment of yours asking for feedback in a story I commented on so I decided to give you a visit. I'm commenting as I read! - I understood the first line, but I actually thought it could be simplified. This line: "The bright, June sun cascaded into their car warming Mia from the black tank top she had donned for the occasion..." was much more interesting and beautifully written. I feel like something in this sort of tone would play out really well for a first line. - The first paragraph is a bit long-looking. I think...

Reply

Amanda Lieser
16:38 Feb 13, 2022

Hello! Thank you so much for commenting as you read. It is so beneficial to me because I can really pick apart the piece in the editing process. I agreed with you the first paragraph needed some work and I read other comments that the conflict needed to be presented a bit faster so I reworked it. I also workshopped the entrance into the town itself. I added a second conflict to the story surrounding Rachel which I hope answers your call for introspection. In doing this, I hoped to create a juxtaposition between first love and adult love...

Reply

K. Antonio
16:58 Feb 13, 2022

Well, my current story was already approved, BUT I would love it if you read it.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Kate Winchester
04:44 Feb 24, 2022

Hi Amanda, Your story is sweet, and I like how it leaves us hopeful that things will work out for Fabian and Mia. I had never been to Colorado until this past September. I went to Estes Park, and it is beautiful! I have some feedback if you want my two cents :p. - Toward the beginning you have "Mia stuck her arm out, waving to the SUV in front of us." I think you meant in front of her as the rest of your story is in 3rd person. -The line "Thank you for doing this." James nodded, was confusing to me. I understand it once I read it agai...

Reply

Amanda Lieser
16:47 Feb 25, 2022

Hi Kate, I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed Estes! It’s one of my favorite little places to run away to and subsequently write about. I am a firm believer that tightening up the little things tightens up the whole piece so I really loved reading this feedback. It’s so helpful to know which areas I can grown in as a writer. Thank you so much for your time!

Reply

Kate Winchester
17:23 Feb 25, 2022

You are very welcome. 😁 I’m glad it was helpful.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Cindy Strube
22:37 Feb 23, 2022

Hi Amanda, As noted in another comment, I haven’t been on site much recently - so this is rather delayed! I will just say that I really enjoy your descriptions of Colorado mountain scenery. I can picture it, smell the mountain air, and feel the breeze! It does seem that some descriptions are over-detailed, which has been covered by others here. You may be overcompensating, as you mentioned the comment made by an elementary school teacher that you had too much dialogue. Sometimes a story can be told very cleverly, using mostly dialogue… and...

Reply

Amanda Lieser
16:45 Feb 25, 2022

Hi Cindy! Thank you for your insights. I’m so glad you enjoyed the piece. I loved creating it. I love hearing how a writer is shaped by their education. Sometimes, those little comments stick with you forever. :)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Jeannette Miller
01:13 Feb 18, 2022

Hi Amanda! This is a cool story with a lot of wonderful visuals. I felt like I could see the story unfolding. :) I think I would've liked the story from Mia's perspective only. The title is First Love but it's full of a bunch of other people experiencing things and very little background and interaction with Mia and Fabian. Maybe her daydreaming about how they met, how they got together, how long they've been together, a conversation between them about being apart before this trip. Mia's thoughts expanded about how her mom can't understand a...

Reply

Amanda Lieser
14:54 Feb 21, 2022

Good morning! Thank you so much for then incredibly in depth comment. I really appreciated what you pointed out as the ways I could have changed this story. I felt a bit of conflict because I’ve written stories focused solely on the love story between two characters before and it went well, but not well enough to win the contest, so I thought I’d push myself a bit. Thank you for the feedback!

Reply

Jeannette Miller
01:31 Feb 22, 2022

Hope I didn't overstep! That's one of the things I'm beginning to like about these weekly prompts, they push us in ways we may not normally go :)

Reply

Amanda Lieser
16:29 Feb 25, 2022

Hello! Absolutely not. I really value all the feedback I receive. Any opportunity to grow is valued to me! :)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Kim Kelly Stamp
16:48 Feb 12, 2022

I enjoyed this! The characters are believable and the anticipated loss is definitely felt as the story progresses. Thanks for sharing your talent, Amanda!

Reply

Amanda Lieser
16:33 Feb 13, 2022

Hi Kim, Thank you so much for the supportive comment.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
B.T Beauregard
01:37 Feb 12, 2022

Hey there! As someone who moved very often during their childhood, I relate to Mia's experience. It's a difficult, complicated feeling to capture. Goodbyes are the worst part. What hurts me most about this story is, although I believe in Mia and Fabian, distance kills things slowly. I want to know what happens next!! I think you did a great job. Keep writing! :)

Reply

Amanda Lieser
16:33 Feb 13, 2022

Hello! I’m so glad you loved the characters and felt the conflict they were enduring. Thank you so much for the comment!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply

Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in the Reedsy Book Editor. 100% free.