Contest #138 shortlist ⭐️

124 comments

American Romance Inspirational

“No, she isn’t my daughter,” he corrects a colleague. “She’s my wife.”

On cue, I beam at my husband, innocent and doe-eyed—like I did in my 20’s when he was in his 40’s. His friend invariably elbows him, making comments about cradle robbing and spring chickens. We laugh. I say something clever in reply. His companion looks surprised. 

And she’s witty, too?

My cheeks hurt in an attempt to hold a smile. They continue to talk like I’m not there, but my husband reaches out for my hand. Above all, we are the dearest of friends. 

But in public? I remain silent. 

Silence is expected of younger wives, but—trust me—I have plenty to say to his ogling peers and their stink-eyed wives, unhappy women stuffed into spandex. A decade or two younger than they are, I want to say that I am not some trophy that my husband picked up along the way to the corner office.

We met like they did. Phone calls. First dates. Long romantic weekends. 

His business associates' wives often assume that I lurked by the photocopier after hours, beguiling a hardworking family man, using the currency of youth to pry my husband from the steely grip of an imaginary wronged wife. 

What I want to say is that I am my husband’s first wife—my husband’s only wife. Because of our quarter century age difference, they assume I am a homewrecker. What disappoints them is that for over twenty years, I’ve been a homebuilder, as faithful and as loyal as their husbands pretend to be.

They assume my husband has children from a previous marriage, lost souls now bouncing from house to house in a never-ending custody dispute. They feel sorry for his fictitious children, all those missed soccer games, unseen plays on opening nights, dirty gym uniforms left at the other parent’s home. Doesn’t she know how much psychological damage she’s causing his offspring?

What I want to say is that my husband is childless by choice. 

And due to our age difference? He has made that choice for me, too.

The decision not to have children at the time we married seems plausible. We are involved in so many things that missing the pitter patter of little feet doesn’t matter much. Surely I can nip my need to nurture by the pitter patter of puppy paws?  

This plan works well in my 30’s. Cliché as it sounds, my rescue dogs rescue me, adding a new level of unconditional love and entrance into a welcoming community. I become a fixture at the dog park, the veterinarians, and the neighbors, apologizing for my dogs digging holes under the fence. 

But in my 40’s? I drop off my nephews and nieces after a day with their fun aunt, waving as they open the door to their cluttered and chaotic homes. My house is spotless, aseptic, quiet. 

Whenever I see a long table in a restaurant, filled with generations of well wishers—babies held by doting grandmothers, aunts leaning over to tussle a beloved nephew’s hair—I make an excuse and we leave. My husband doesn’t understand, thinking I don’t want to eat with so much noise and commotion nearby. The problem is that I do. But I want our noise, our commotion, our extended family that isn’t. Not the silence of two people with precious little to talk about—except for how the scallops were undercooked. 


People often ask us how we met. I understand the subtext. 

I know what they are really asking: Is your young wife a gold digger? Does she have daddy issues? Did she lose a bet? 

What I want to say to them is that I met my husband on the subway. It was—and still is—love at first sight. I still swoon when I see my husband pull his car into the driveway. It thrills me to no end to see his blue eyes twinkle when I walk by, his hands tracing my backside when he brushes past. 

I do love him. 

But these days, I’m afraid to go to sleep. 

Now in his early 70’s, my husband seems to age overnight. Exponentially so. 

Each day brings a new pain, new ache, new symptom. His left hip hurts. His cholesterol is running high—even though we have cut out red meat and cheese. He needs a stronger prescription for his eyeglasses, bifocals, trifocals—now, multifocals. 

More of his teeth need crowns; the crowns he has need root canals. 

I spend a lot of time at the pharmacy. With so many new medications, I buy him a pill organizer, since neither one of us can keep up. I pick up his high blood pressure medication along with my birth control pills. 

And his hair. God, his hair. At first, the gray around his temples looks distinguished. Like a university professor. Even when he becomes a silver fox, he turns heads. But in his late 60’s? His hairbrush is full of fine white hair, as his pale pink pate pokes through what had once been a forest of thick black curls. 

Every new change acts as a harbinger, a warning that time is a non-negotiable asset, a message that I’ll most likely spend my golden years alone.

I kiss him on his bald head when I crawl into bed, earlier and earlier in the evenings; otherwise, he’ll fall asleep on the couch.

It’s fine.

I like to read, reassured by his presence next to me, his light rhythmic snoring. 

When I finish a chapter, I look over at him. His mouth is open, chin buried into the folds of his saggy neck. He’s pale in this light, hands laying lightly on his chest that rises and falls with his shallow breathing. 

I find myself crying. There’s no reason for it. We aren't promised anything more than this moment. There's no reason for me to cry.

Except when you marry an older man, you don’t realize that one day you’ll be married to an old man. 


Inevitably, the day comes. Far too soon. 

“No, he wasn’t my father,” I correct a nurse. “He was my husband.”


March 23, 2022 18:09

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124 comments

Christina Reynolds
18:53 Mar 23, 2022

There is a depth to this story I think many will miss. It's a love story and it's also a tragedy. She made a choice with an obvious end she chose not to see. There is nobility in that. She stayed true even though the cost of fidelity was so high. I hope this gets the credit it deserves. This should be in the conversation for winner of the week. Great job.

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19:00 Mar 23, 2022

I think your comment was written better than my story (haha). At least she met and married the love of her life. That should give her some solace (and wonderful memories) in the lonely days ahead. Thanks for the read.

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Okashi Kashi
15:32 Mar 24, 2022

This was a fun read! Reminds me of the dynamic explored between Jay and Gloria (Modern Family). Although to I feel unqualified to critique the G.R.O.A.T (Greatest Reedsy-er Of All Time) I have a suggestion. For the line ‘pitter patter of puppy feet?’ Why not replace ‘feet’ with ‘paws’? The word feet is already used earlier in the paragraph, and the alliteration would be fun. Thank for the story.

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15:41 Mar 24, 2022

You win best comment ever. GRCOAT - Greatest Reedsy Commenter of All Time I'm changing it. Woo hoo - team effort!

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Shea West
20:57 Mar 23, 2022

Except when you marry an older man, you don’t realize that one day you’ll be married to an old man. Well that's a helluva line! I love that part about her still needing to pick up her birth control... Because of course he can still get her pregnant, even in his old age. What you navigated in nuance of this story was an interesting perspective. You created compassion for the "younger woman" and helped to shed the judgement they likely feel. And sadness too, once he's gone what is she left with? I'm on "Team Deidra don't fuck around when...

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22:50 Mar 23, 2022

How much do I love you? Let me count the Shea's. As a fan of The Canterbury Tales and Chaucer's Wife of Bath, the life of a richly endowed widow seems extraordinarily appealing some days... And you realize I don't read the prompts. I just figure someone smarter than me will tangentially match it up and declare I'm brilliant -- HAH :) Sending love to you. Let me know when I can get a preview of your latest. I love reading your stuff :)

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Jools .
15:31 Mar 29, 2022

Thoroughly enjoyed reading this and am looking forward to recording it :0) xxx

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15:34 Mar 29, 2022

How great are you?

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Jools .
01:09 Mar 30, 2022

You're not so bad yourself LOL :0) xx

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Daphne Chou
01:22 Mar 29, 2022

i loved it. so heartbreaking at the end. great job!

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15:29 Mar 29, 2022

Thanks, Daphne. I later thought about the movie "The Curious Case of Benjamin Buttons" -- the small window of time that May/December romances have. Bittersweet, indeed.

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Daphne Chou
15:42 Mar 29, 2022

Totally! Also reminds me of this - there's a line in Sputnik Sweetheart (Murakami)- i found the quote- it made me cry: “And it came to me then. That we were wonderful traveling companions but in the end no more than lonely lumps of metal in their own separate orbits. From far off they look like beautiful shooting stars, but in reality they're nothing more than prisons, where each of us is locked up alone, going nowhere. When the orbits of these two satellites of ours happened to cross paths, we could be together. Maybe even open our hearts t...

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16:22 Mar 29, 2022

Oof.

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Sharon Hancock
01:21 Mar 29, 2022

I wonder if people say that about me and my husband…I’m only 3 years younger but I look SO much younger (“you also act like a child!” My husband yells.)🤭 I’m just kidding. This is fabulous, as usual. So well written and thought provoking. It makes me wonder if they ever had any conversations about doing things differently. Seems kind of like she had second thoughts but never said anything. “pale pink pate pokes through what had once been a forest of thick black curls” I love the flow of this phrase (i have a thing for alliteration). I throu...

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15:33 Mar 29, 2022

Alliteration is the OG of literary terms. Who doesn't love Peter Pepper picked a peck of pickled papers? (Onomatopoeia is the secondary OG. Snap. Crackle. Pop.) As with most marriages, I'm not sure anyone talks about things in advance. Things just are, in my opinion. ("We don't talk about Bruno...") Thanks for the support and the read. Love the encouraging remarks...

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Glen Gabel
17:47 Mar 28, 2022

Wow, you have a way with words Deidra. The inevitable loss and guilt-filled regret your narrator feels is palpable. Very well written. Thanks for this.

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18:55 Mar 28, 2022

Thanks, Glen! Welcome to Reedsy. It's awesome here. I look forward to reading your work. :)

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L.M. Lydon
21:06 Mar 27, 2022

So poignant! The story starts out more anger than grief and becomes imbued with a gradual, growing grief that takes over the narration. At the end, it's as much resignation/acceptance as it is a sharp grief when your POV character speaks to the nurse. There are little moments that spark with spunk (I like your alliteration: "Surely I can nip my need to nurture by the pitter patter of puppy paws," indeed!)

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22:40 Mar 27, 2022

Quite an astute diagnosis for our MC — Dr. Lydon! 😃 I wish I had planned that out as artfully as you described. I just wanted a May/December romance and conjured her up. I had no idea she had so much to say. Characters be that way sometimes… Thanks for the read and the comment 🦩

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M. Dalin Douglas
17:58 Mar 27, 2022

This was a lovely exploration of this character and their marriage. Thanks for sharing.

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19:25 Mar 27, 2022

Thanks Dalin :) I wasn't sure where this character study was going. I'm still not sure it all quite worked out...? Oh well. Onward.

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08:38 Mar 27, 2022

Hi Deidra. I found this a really bittersweet, moving story. The descriptions of aging you provide have left this beloved and then cared for husband completely visible to me.

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19:25 Mar 27, 2022

Thanks for your kind comment :)

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03:07 Mar 27, 2022

I was absolutely captivated by your story! There is so much depth and the very thoughts that women do think are expressed bluntly and honestly! You give raw and true feelings of the other side of the coin. People should not be so quick to judge a pretty, young face. They marry an older man and end up with an old man. True but they love him warts and all. Thanks!

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19:26 Mar 27, 2022

This character definitely took on a life of its own. I had no idea where she was going to take me.

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Michał Przywara
21:11 Mar 26, 2022

Wow, what a great story! Not only does it explore a kind of love story that normally isn't explored but your opening line is killer! Great hook, especially when paired with the closer.

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22:39 Mar 26, 2022

Thanks, Michal -- woo hoo! I always appreciate your kind commentary. I wasn't sure this thing was going to work or hold together. Younger wives aren't normally sympathetic creatures...

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Michał Przywara
22:46 Mar 26, 2022

Yeah, it seems like you're right, and I think that's exactly why this piece works. We get a look inside this POV, and you address some of the stereotypes she struggles with -- golddigging, housewrecking, hell, even being the nice quiet trophy while out in public -- and we get to see that that's not really the case at all. The younger wife for the old rich guy is not normally someone we equate as "making sacrifices," but her version of events makes it plausible. She's given up things for love, and she's right, she probably will die alone, lon...

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03:29 Mar 24, 2022

What a beautiful story! My heart breaks for her. I love how she loves him through everything. Her love doesn’t change even though his appearance does. Such a special read!

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11:47 Mar 24, 2022

I think you just defined love: love doesn't change. Perfect:)

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❀Leo Fall❀
20:50 Mar 23, 2022

I'm not quite sure how to describe what I've read. It's not like your other stories, at least to me. It has a refined spark to the heart. Does that make sense? Overall though- I enjoyed the tale you told, Deidra. I can't wait to see what you come up with next.

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22:42 Mar 23, 2022

So basically I write like a pacemaker*? Thanks for your continued support. It means the world to me. *A cardiac pacemaker is a medical device that generates electrical impulses delivered by electrodes to cause the heart muscle chambers to contract and therefore pump blood.

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❀Leo Fall❀
22:54 Mar 23, 2022

I- No. I don't know how to word it, but not like a pacemaker. And of course! Your writing's wonderful.

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Calm Shark
20:03 Mar 23, 2022

I'm really impressed at how you can write a lot of good stories with all of these prompts! I liked reading the story and I really loved how at the end, she stood her ground and corrected the nurse. 👍

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20:48 Mar 23, 2022

Not sure if this is good, but hopefully entertaining :) Your kudos are always appreciated. Thanks, Shark!

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Calm Shark
23:25 Mar 23, 2022

No problem!

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Calm Shark
23:55 Mar 23, 2022

What is your writing process, Deidra? I'm just curious.

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00:17 Mar 24, 2022

1. Fail to come up with a good idea. 2. Start a bunch of stories then delete them. 3. Have a crisis of faith. Think that I'm a hack and should get a new hobby. 4. Talk to a friend or two and bat around ideas. 5. Get words on paper. 6. Hate all of the them. 7. Write some more words. Hope they make sense. 8. Revise. Edit. Cry. 9. Post 10. Hope Calm Shark likes it.

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Calm Shark
00:25 Mar 24, 2022

Wow, that is a lot! The "revise, edit, and cry" is so relatable! Thanks, Deidra for giving me a few pointers and a laugh!

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Russell Norman
09:54 Mar 24, 2022

Deidra and I discuss her approach to writing on Episode 24 of our Read Lots Write Lots podcast. Awesome story as always.

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Bianka Nova
14:23 Apr 10, 2022

I don't believe this! I read the story effortlessly. You make writing seem so simple... I can't possibly go through all of the comments to ensure I won't repeat some, but I need to share that it felt as if I read it in 5 seconds, and it had been written in 15. The prompt is about not wanting to fall asleep and the story was like a lifetime compressed in the time-space of a dream. *clap-clap* :)

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15:30 Apr 10, 2022

That's the highest of compliments -- readability. It always amazes me that we have the same 26 letters and 14 punctuation marks -- but how they are arranged either seamlessly flows or not. Thanks for your continued support. :)

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S. Nicole
18:35 Apr 24, 2022

Such a powerful story with a powerful theme. You did a great job telling this story.

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18:08 Apr 25, 2022

Awesome! At least one of these short stories doesn't suck. Thanks S.

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Amanda Lieser
03:28 Apr 08, 2022

Hi Deidra! Congratulations on the shortlist! It was well deserved. I really enjoyed the way you balanced what each of the MCs wanted and needed in order to create their characters in 3,000 words---very impressive! I also love that you chose to create a love story, you know I'm a sucker for a love story. Personally, my favorite part of this piece was the introduction. I love that you contrasted the way the MC knows her husband and her are in love with the negative public opinion. I thought that was a brilliant choice! You are such a great wri...

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18:03 Apr 08, 2022

Thanks for the wonderful comment. I'm off to read your story :)

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Anna Nonymous
23:28 Apr 05, 2022

Damn, Deidra (this is my new stock response for all of your amazing work)! So I am in something of an "August-December" relationship myself. Not quite a full generation, but close - I was once referred to as his daughter at Disney of all places - and this hit me right in the feels. Can't wait to change diapers in a couple of decades... Anyway, story time. The first time I met my (future) SIL was at an Applebees (lol), and I made a boneheaded joke about how forge-able his scribble of a signature was when he signed the check. I was 24 at the ...

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23:34 Apr 05, 2022

Yes, family bonding at Applebee's is the American way. Two of my SIL married men 16+ and 18+ years older, so I just watch them and take notes. Nothing wrong with being a rich widow. :)

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Anna Nonymous
00:09 Apr 06, 2022

How about being a poor widow? Any thoughts on that?

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00:58 Apr 06, 2022

That's why God invented Life Insurance.

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Phil Manders
19:34 Apr 05, 2022

Love the last line. Perfectly executed.

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21:09 Apr 05, 2022

*executed* I see what you did there. haha

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Riel Rosehill
08:04 Apr 05, 2022

This was such a nice read... I appreciate when a love story is not just all pink fog but also the trade off, and the price of the choice we make and keep on making. Love how it comes full circle from "“No, she isn’t my daughter,” he corrects a colleague. “She’s my wife.”" to "“No, he wasn’t my father,” I correct a nurse. “He was my husband.”"

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12:41 Apr 05, 2022

That's a great phrase -- "pink fog" It reminds me of Shakespeare's Sonnet #130. For 12 lines, the speaker basically trashes his woman, calling her ugly, saying she has bad breath, etc. However, in the rhyming couplet, he states: And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare As any she belied with false compare. To me, that is the greatest love poem ever written. He knows her faults, but loves her in spite of them. Give me that over being on a pedestal any day of the week!

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Riel Rosehill
15:10 Apr 05, 2022

Yes! I very, very enthusiastically agree. And yet I just realised I am currectly writing something that might be very much on the cheesy side of the spectrum, haha...

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16:38 Apr 05, 2022

Nothing wrong with cheese. :)

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