Contest #204 shortlist ⭐️

14 comments

Contemporary Lesbian LGBTQ+

No one was worried at first. The minivan lulled them into a false sense of security. Normal has a certain taste and color. It's a perfume that lingers. The neighbors sniffed at the air.

The house looked the same as everyone else’s. The beauty of the homeowner’s association’s iron fist over the subdivision. The tan porches blurred into eggshell garages that contrasted subtly with the off-white of the doors. All with more pigment than the residents of the community. 

The woman carrying the boxes into the home had a few tattoos on her arms. People reminded themselves that Mr. Fitz, the local mechanic and usher for Easter services, had tattoos. Nothing to worry about. 

They remained unworried. Newcomers didn’t have to mean change. They continued on business as usual. People washed their cars because the news about the drought didn’t concern them. 

Another woman drove up a bit later. They embraced. Arms lingering around each other’s waist. No one acknowledged the intimacy of the gesture. Women were always more affectionate with their friends. It’s just the way of things. Hugs were not uncommon here. When everyone knows everyone and their grandmother’s grandmother’s taste in dining ware, you embrace in the grocery store and ask about their health. No, it is fine to hug. Nothing to worry about. 

The child that bounced out of the car had curly hair. Neither woman’s hair curled with the same bounce. The neighbors could relax their shoulders. There was clearly another part of the equation that created the little boy. All was well. All was normal. 

Sounds of happiness wafted from the home. The neighbors heard laughter. The laughter that comes from pure exasperation when a child just won’t nap. The laughter that comes when your only options are to laugh or cry because the dog ate the chicken right off the stove. A whole life was being lived inside the home, but the neighbors could not pin it together. No, it is not that they couldn’t. They wouldn’t. They wouldn’t think of it. They continued to believe that their small slice of the world would remain unchanged. 

***

The local banker liked his mornings. Most people came to the bank before too much of the day passed them by. He liked human interaction. He found comfort in the banality of chit chat. As he cleaned his already meticulous front counter, the front door bell chimed. A familiar stranger walked in. She must be the new neighbor that he’d heard about. The one no one was talking about. 

She asked to start a joint account. He asked the other person’s name. “Erin”. He input “Aaron”. She asked him to correct it. She spelled it for him. Her voice is gentle, accommodating “E-R-I-N”. The banker changed it. He handed her the paperwork. He went into the back without any conversation.

***

She looked incredibly stressed when she walked into the doctor’s office. The child in her arms had that glazed, feverish look with flushed cheeks and droopy lids. The child’s dark curls and deep brown eyes showed no genetic similarity to this blonde, blue-eyed woman. She asked for something to help the child’s stomach flu. She had that frazzled look of mothers who can’t take away their child’s pain. The doctor had seen the look a million times. He knew the stress of young parents as they cared for their fragile offspring. Normally he would put a hand on the woman’s shoulder and say that all kids get sick, she was doing the best she could, that she was a good mother, that the flu would pass. He just couldn’t. Not after everything he heard. He hoped the child would grow up alright. But how could he?

***

“Did we make the right decision moving here?”

It was the kind of vulnerable question one can only ask under the cover of darkness. The kind of sentiment only safe without eye contact or accountability. She pulled her wife into her. Their bodies fit together like perfect puzzle pieces. She kissed her shoulder letting her lips linger. 

Today was a hard day. Their child had been the only one in their preschool class not invited to another child’s birthday party. It had been months in their new home. They’d moved here with all the optimism of pioneers exploring the wild west. They knew they’d be different and that they’d be shaking things up just by existing. They thought people would get used to them. 

“It’s like boiling a frog. We are slowly raising the temperature of the water and they won’t even realize they like us until its too late.”

"What if the frog just jumps out?"

There was nothing to say to that. Acceptance was never a guarantee. Here or really anywhere. At least here their child could get a good education. They could afford a house with a yard. They'd been priced out of the places that would "accept" them, so they paid the emotional tax here instead.

***

Mrs. Oglethorpe had lived on the outside of town all her life. She’d worked as a maid in most of the large homes that dotted the streets. She knew the dirty secrets of the imperfect people who she called her neighbors. Everyone treated her with a mildness. No one was overtly rude or blatantly racist, but she was the fly who’d fallen into a bowl of milk. She wore her difference wherever she went. 

She’d seen the cold stares. The subtle rejections of those new neighbors. She understood it, but she also didn’t. She lived here all her life. She had nowhere else to go. They chose this place. Regardless of that insanity, she parked her car next to the minivan. She got out of her car and walked up to the front door. Before she could even knock or ring the bell, the dog started barking. One of the women opened the door. A confused smile on her face. Had anyone ever come to their home?

Mrs. Oglethorpe handed her the pie she made. “Welcome to the neighborhood.”

The woman smiled at her. They both ignored the small pool of tears that formed in her eyes.

June 30, 2023 11:49

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14 comments

Damien Brown
18:15 Aug 16, 2023

This story was told beautifully, and perfectly encaptures the struggles of LGBTQ+ parents.

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Lizzy Hardy
06:21 Nov 06, 2023

I loved the end when one of the neighboors was nice to the new family, and how it showed how hard parenting can be, LGBTQ+ or not.

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14:58 Jul 11, 2023

b e a u t i f u l , s i m p l y , b e a u t i f u l

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Philip Ebuluofor
10:36 Jul 11, 2023

Simple but captivating. Quality of a nice story. Congrats.

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Kevin Logue
17:56 Jul 07, 2023

This was great, seeing the new comers from the different towns folk, then the normality of parents trying to look after their child, then the acceptance of them by the "outcast". It all kitted together so well at the end, and this line - No one was overtly rude or blatantly racist, but she was the fly who’d fallen into a bowl of milk. - Boom! Chef kiss! Great job. Looking forward to your future works.

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19:38 Aug 05, 2023

I am writing a book regarding how to have a successful marriage. Amazing the child was not invited to the party - Mark 10:14 - the only time in the New Testament that Jesus becomes indignant is when His desciples are not allowing the children to come to Him. Maybe Jesus was not at the party either?

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Amanda Lieser
03:54 Aug 05, 2023

Hi Leah, Oh what a heartwarming shortlist! Congratulations! As the eldest daughter of two mothers, this story made me feel like my family was seen. I loved the way you used all the little moments to add up to the bigger picture. And I deeply valued that these characters were simply doing their best to live their lives. They wanted family, love, and their own happily ever after, a sentiment my parents and so many others identify with. Nice work!!

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Bruce Friedman
22:54 Jul 14, 2023

Leah, a very interesting story that stands out because of its lyrical simplicity. Good job.

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Angela Ginsburg
08:58 Jul 13, 2023

They will like them before they know it, for sure. I really hoped to get some of the scenes where a neighbor starts to like them despite themselves. Oh well, lovely and important as is.

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Mary Bendickson
15:40 Jul 07, 2023

Congrats on the shortlist.

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Sophia Gavasheli
02:03 Jul 06, 2023

Wow, the way this insidiously unfolded... I really like how you start this story: "No one was worried at first," foreshadowing the rejection of the community and the lengths they went to deny their new neighbor's sexuality. Referring to the new neighbors without their names was very effective - as Kay pointed out, it shows how they haven't even gotten to know the women, but also that this could happen to anyone. I'm glad that the story ended on a more hopeful note; acceptance is possible, but unfortunately too slowly. Amazing job! Fa...

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Leah Haberman
19:56 Jul 06, 2023

Hi Sophia! Thank you so much for the feedback. I really appreciate it. I'm glad the lack of name had the desired effect! A very Curly's wife styled inspiration.

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Kay Reed
21:22 Jul 05, 2023

Leah - I really liked this story! You begin with a certain detachment that is so expertly done - we feel the sensation of keeping these newcomers at arms length just through the way you keep our attention focused from outside the house, and how they don't receive names at first, and are only referred to as "woman." And then how you focus in a little closer as the story progresses, which mirrors the emotional resonance that crescendos as we go. Really well done - this piece hit in all the right places!

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Leah Haberman
19:57 Jul 06, 2023

Hi Kay! Thank you so much for the comment. I really appreciated the thoughtfulness. I'm glad the tone of detachment to a more connected feel translated to the reader!

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