Contest #171 winner 🏆

167 comments

Romance Indigenous Western

There is a peace at sunrise that surpasses all understanding. It's a renewal. A feeling that anything is possible. I’d like to say I drag myself from the comfort of my bed every day to enjoy sunrise’s splendor, but you wouldn’t believe me and I would be lying. What is true is I was there that day and so was she. 


There is a connection between sunrisers just because they are sunrisers. It’s a shared, yet unspoken, appreciation for things quiet and beautiful. That might explain why I was immediately drawn to her, but I know it wasn’t just because of the earliness of the morning. Delilah, you see, would have attracted me no matter the time of day. 


The first time I saw her I was sitting there, at my favorite secret spot, overlooking Lake Quinault. It’s a hidden gem in Washington State owned by the Quinault Indian Nation and, before that day, if I had my way, no one would ever sit and admire its beauty other than me.


The lake, a destination point for fishermen, swimmers, and sightseers, is nature at its most spectacular. It is located deep in the Olympic National forest. It isn’t easy to find, even if you’re looking for it. Once discovered, even the most magnanimous outdoorsmen will keep the secret to themselves. In an era where, too often, free time is wasted in front of a flat screen TV, Lake Quinault is a reminder of the reasons for taking vacations and the sunrise over the lake is God's definition of must-see. 


That particular trip occurred in early summer. I remember it vividly because I had to be in place just after 5:00 a.m. to catch the sun as it appeared over the mountain. Summer is the best time to watch the sunrise because no one in their right mind would be up early enough, nor would be hardy enough to make the journey to my secret spot. No one except me, and Delilah.


“Is this seat taken?”


Not many people can remember the first words spoken by or to the love of their life, but I absolutely can. That morning, as I turned to see from where the unexpected voice was coming, the first light of dawn revealed the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. Not all men might have thought so. Delilah wore no makeup, a pair of ripped jeans, and a faded brown hoodie. Her hair, perfectly auburn, looked as if it hadn’t been touched since she rolled out of bed that morning. It was obvious she had made no effort to look beautiful and yet she had an inner spark that couldn't be hidden. Not by tattered jeans or a faded hoodie. Something changed that first moment I saw her, I changed. I had spent years guarding my secret spot, and now, surprisingly, unexpectedly, delightfully, I wanted nothing more than to share my sunrise with her.


I, unfortunately, was not born a poet and as such the most romantic thing I could think of in response to her inquiry was: “It’s a free country.” With that, she invaded my secret spot, both next to the lake and in my heart. 


The silence that followed was both loud and revealing. Delilah wasn’t there for small talk; she was there to admire the beauty of sunrise. We sat in silence and watched as the sun peeked over the horizon, covering the two of us in its warming light. She and I carried on a conversation without words. She told me, silently, that she understood the importance of the moment, and I responded in kind that this moment was made all the more special because she was there to share it. 


Perfection is a goal impossible to realize in this mortal realm, but that morning came as close as is humanly possible. So many thoughts ran through my mind as the sun revealed itself completely. Then just as quickly and quietly as she had come, Delilah rose to her feet, wiped some residual dirt from the seat of her ripped jeans, and headed down the trail and out of my sight. 


Eight words verbalized, an infinite number of potential events contemplated. Thirty minutes had passed, a lifetime had been imagined. I was sure I would never see her again, and the thought made me overwhelmingly sad.


The next five years came and went, five long years since that day at the lake. There were first dates, first kisses, and the words “I love you” exchanged, yet every time fate or intention would reach down and sabotage promise. I became determined to find peace in my solitude.


There was always a reason or an excuse for my ending every potential relationship, but at its core was a shared sunrise and a conversation that didn’t happen. 


I went to our spot from time to time, to see the sunrise, not for her. At least, that’s what I told myself. I had given up without realizing I was hoping. Hoping to see her again. Hoping to feel what I felt that day. Hoping she would be there. And then it happened. It was once again summer, it was sunrise, but this time she was there.


“Is this seat taken?”


“It’s a free country.”


The same eight words.


At the time, I didn’t know that she, too, had often made the trip back to our secret spot.


Seeing her again, I knew I wouldn’t let the opportunity slip from my grasp, not a second time. When the sun had completed its part in our play, Delilah rose to her feet and wiped the dirt from her jeans exactly as she had done five years earlier. This time, however, I stood up as well.  


“My name is Peter. I don’t like coffee, but I’d really like to have a cup with you.” 


“My name is Delilah,” she responded, matter-of-factly, “and I would be glad to share a cup of Joe.”


She called it Joe? It’s funny the things that confirm that a love is real. I couldn’t tell her that day, for fear of losing her, but at that moment, I was sure. I had said “I love you” to others before, but it was obvious to me that I had lied. For in that moment, I was finally sure what love felt like.


Lifetimes are only lifetimes when viewed in reverse. A cup of coffee became a dinner date. A dinner date became a commitment. A commitment became a proposal, and a proposal became forever. There were kids and dogs and vacations, but more than anything, there were trips to Lake Quinault. Always at sunrise. Always just the two of us. Never any words spoken.


You never know the last time is the last time until it’s too late. The final trip we took to Lake Quinault was like all the rest. It took a little longer for tired, old bones to make the trek, but we found our spot, sat together, and conversed in silence. The sun, unaffected by time, rose as perfectly as always, but Delilah rose only with my help.  


“Would you like to share a cup of Joe?”


She knew I did. She knew sitting next to her pretending to like coffee was my greatest pleasure. She also knew she would never come back to see another sunrise even though I was too stubborn to admit it to myself. 


That day in the café, we told stories of family and friends, living and lost, as we sipped on what had eventually become my favorite beverage. We made a mental scorecard of our life and realized we had won. 


Two days later I lost her. Just like that first day at the lake, I watched her as she left me alone, this time without even the hope of returning. The sadness I felt from years back flooded over me like a tidal wave. 


I’ll save a seat for you. Those were her last words to me. True to myself, I replied: “It’s a free country.” Then, she was gone. 


One day, hopefully soon, I will watch the sunrise with my Delilah again only from a far better secret place. Until then, I only go to our special spot at night. 


I’m never alone when I go there. I make my way to our clearing and sit down just as I did all those years ago. As the moon reflects off the lake, I feel her comforting hand reach down for me, and in the silence only we understand, I hear her very clearly. 


November 11, 2022 22:35

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167 comments

Rebecca Miles
06:15 Nov 12, 2022

This is affecting in its simplicity because of your narrator's honest and humble POV. The sunrise is awe inspiring but what rises is the understanding of the beautiful wonder of shared silence with a beloved. Anyone who is in or has had a long term relationship will be moved by this beautiful understated story.

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Thom Brodkin
16:13 Nov 12, 2022

What a nice way to start the day. Two fantastic comments from my two favorite Miles sisters. I know you two are not actually sisters but you’re both incredibly talented writers and both so very kind to me. You both made my day. Thanks for making this writer glad he writes.

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Rebecca Miles
16:21 Nov 18, 2022

Pop those corks Thom, well deserved. As I said before, a beautiful celebration of a forever love.

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Thom Brodkin
18:20 Nov 18, 2022

Rebecca, thanks so much. I didn’t have high hopes this week. I really thought you had it. I’ll accept your congratulations as long as you accept mine. Yours was every bit as deserving.

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Rebecca Miles
19:38 Nov 18, 2022

It was a strong week for sure but that doesn't steal any of your thunder. I'm so glad i was shortlisted as my son said I'd have to do a 100 push ups if I wasn't! There's going to come a week soon which is mighty painful for me and he'll be in hysterics!

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Thom Brodkin
19:42 Nov 18, 2022

Give that boy a juice box from me. He cracks me up and I don't even know him.

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Rebecca Miles
19:46 Nov 18, 2022

He's 19 so he'll probably be laughing at my efforts with a beer in hand. I'll need something stronger than that afterwards. I hope you're at least one bottle of fizzy down. I've had a meal out and a glass of Prosecco and I was "only" shortlisted🥂

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Lindsay Flo
16:56 Nov 18, 2022

I think its challenging to write a love story, because its the most common and most overdone (if that's possible) subject. I once had a debate with my son that "every movie is a love story at heart". Its central to everything. What stands out with this one is just the simplicity, the eloquence, the way the narrator summed up his life story and romance with the key things that were the most important: not the milestones, the kids, the jobs and all of that. Sitting at the lake, sunrise, a cup of coffee. My favorite line: Lifetimes are only li...

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Thom Brodkin
17:06 Nov 18, 2022

Lindsay, I am such a fan of your writing. I honestly think you could win every week. That makes this comment so special to me. Thanks for taking the time to make a great day better!!!

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Jexica Marcell
19:04 Nov 18, 2022

OMG YOU WON AGAIN!!!!! CONGRATS!!!! <3333

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Thom Brodkin
19:08 Nov 18, 2022

Thanks Jex. Your turn is coming. Keep writing. I am a big Jex fan.

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Jexica Marcell
19:30 Nov 18, 2022

OMGGG TYSMMMM but... if you a Jex fan, I just wrote another story....wanna read it?

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Thom Brodkin
19:31 Nov 18, 2022

But of course. I'll head to your page after work. :-)

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Tommy Goround
03:08 Nov 13, 2022

Red head, genus: gorgeous, from the Latin. Yep. Good story.

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Thom Brodkin
03:18 Nov 13, 2022

You sir, as always are too kind. Thank you.

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Anne Marie Miles
06:19 Nov 12, 2022

As a "sunriser" I was drawn in immediately by your opening. And then stayed for the sweet love story. Love that they repeated the same words together on their second meeting and at their final goodbye. This could have worked for the other prompt of carrying someone with you, as well. A lovely read, Thom!

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Thom Brodkin
16:13 Nov 12, 2022

What a nice way to start the day. Two fantastic comments from my two favorite Miles sisters. I know you two are not actually sisters but you’re both incredibly talented writers and both so very kind to me. You both made my day. Thanks for making this writer glad he writes.

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Anne Marie Miles
20:45 Nov 12, 2022

That is such a sweet thing to say, Thom! Happy to make another wonderful writer's day! Hope writing this week goes smoothly for you. I'll be looking forward to your next work!

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Bailey Elmore
17:48 Dec 02, 2022

This story has its fine points....and then there are the even finer points. I appreciate writers like you, and I know many other people do as well. This is my first week doing the writing contest, and I needed some inspiration. It seems that I have found some. Thanks so much!

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Wendy Kaminski
02:28 Nov 29, 2022

I knew I was going to cry. Dangit! :(

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Thom Brodkin
02:33 Nov 29, 2022

I’m sorry. 🙂

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Wendy Kaminski
02:37 Nov 29, 2022

:)

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Tamie Bennett
22:34 Nov 23, 2022

This is beautiful. I teared up towards the end! Incredible work!!! I love how you have used the sunrise as a motif for the characters love.

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Thom Brodkin
22:35 Nov 23, 2022

Thanks, Tamie. I so glad you enjoyed it and took the time to leave me such a nice comment. It’s very much appreciated.

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Tamie Bennett
23:36 Nov 26, 2022

I am semi new to Reedsy and I am ashamed to say this is actually the first time I have commented on a story. Although it is the first time I have been so moved that I could not help myself. It is truely a beautiful story. I am studying a writing course and have to use a short story as a reference for a blog post. I have chosen yours as it is amazing!

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Thom Brodkin
01:24 Nov 27, 2022

I’m honored.

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Mostafa Fayad
01:23 Nov 22, 2022

I liked your story, and it deserve to be a winner story allow me to translate it into Arabic, so it can take more reads in the other side in the world

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Thom Brodkin
18:59 Nov 22, 2022

Tell me more, I am interested in what you would like to do. Oh and thank you very much!!

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Mostafa Fayad
10:46 Nov 24, 2022

please, let me contact you, here is my E-mail: Mostafa.Fayad2009@gmail.com and here is my FB profile: www.facebook.com/Mostafa.Ahmed6020 and for whatsApp here is my number: +201145711080 waiting for your reply, and i hope i can do more for a good author like you best regards

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Mostafa Fayad
07:29 Nov 26, 2022

waiting for a massage from you my dear friend

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Joy A
21:47 Nov 21, 2022

“... and in the silence only we understand, I hear her very clearly.” Every line in this story was simple, beautiful and hit home, but that last one was, by far, my favourite. That's because I understand it in a very deep, personal, yet different way. Sometimes, the silence becomes too loud for me, with a kind of deafening quietness that comes from loss. I'm glad the narrator was comforted by the silence. Your story gave me comfort too. By the end of this, I had a small bittersweet smile and a stinging in the back of my eyes. This is an ab...

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Thom Brodkin
22:56 Nov 21, 2022

I can’t think of a higher compliment you can pay a writer then to let them know a story touched a heart in many different ways. You made my day. Thank you.

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Kim Dachung
15:51 Nov 21, 2022

This is the best piece I have read so far this year. It kept pulling me in to the last paragraph. Congrats on the win

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Thom Brodkin
22:57 Nov 21, 2022

How nice you are. Thanks so much. Really thank you.

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Gabriela Wels
19:10 Nov 19, 2022

Oh, oh! Thom, this is beautiful. It's romantic and bittersweet, yet there is a hope that lingers on. Congratulations. :)

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Thom Brodkin
21:48 Nov 19, 2022

Thanks so much.

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Ndekwoh Ojen
18:20 Nov 19, 2022

It's been a long time since I wrote or took time to read a story here. At most I flash-read the winning stories but Thom, your story got me there. I had read the entire story and comments before realizing it. It's so captivating! You deserved the win. Congrats bro.

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Thom Brodkin
21:48 Nov 19, 2022

Wow, this is really impactful. You really made my day. Thank you so much.

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Brenda Wilkins
16:19 Nov 19, 2022

There is only one word that can truly describe the simplistic artistry of this piece...beautiful!

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Thom Brodkin
21:49 Nov 19, 2022

You are so kind. Thank you!!!

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Molly Layne
15:58 Nov 19, 2022

What a beautiful story! So clean and a true pleasure to read. It was one of the best stories that I've read on this website. I'm impressed! Great Job!

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Thom Brodkin
21:50 Nov 19, 2022

Thanks so much Molly. That means more than you know.

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Kendall Ballou
14:44 Nov 19, 2022

i came across this story bc i read my gf a short story before bed every night, usually when i know she's fallen asleep i stop reading and go to sleep. i found myself attached to this story and still reading after she fell asleep i'm usually never emotional during reading any type of stories but this story i caught myself literally bawling my eyes out. this was such a beautifully written story.

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Thom Brodkin
15:15 Nov 19, 2022

First of all, let me say your girlfriend is a lucky lady. Reading a story every night is quite the expression of love. I might even use it for a future story. Secondly, thank you for your very kind words. They made my day already.

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Francis Daisy
12:31 Nov 19, 2022

This story should have come with a warning: bring a kleenex! So beautiful, it reads like a poem. Well deserved win. Congratulations!

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Thom Brodkin
15:13 Nov 19, 2022

Francis!!!! Where have you been. Thanks so much for stopping by and offering your congrats. Now please don’t be such a stranger. Write a story, you’re too good not to.

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Francis Daisy
12:22 Nov 20, 2022

Thanks for the encouraging words. It's been a rocky year.

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Thom Brodkin
16:53 Nov 20, 2022

You’ve got a friend in Virginia. I’m sending good thoughts and warm wishes your way.

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Francis Daisy
22:01 Nov 20, 2022

Thank you. Very much appreciated.

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Pamela Brown
12:13 Nov 19, 2022

Thank you, Thom. I am too moved by this story to comment constructively. I felt it deeply. Pamela.

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Thom Brodkin
21:50 Nov 19, 2022

Pamela, your comment was perfect. Thanks so much

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Laurie Roy
10:21 Nov 19, 2022

Lovely. The simplicity of the voice, the honest and unaffected manner of writing, as if it's just a conversation is powerful. More so than if it was filled with the sort of fluttery prose that we often times try to infuse our stories with to give them zest. This does that just by being true to the beauty of love.

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Thom Brodkin
21:51 Nov 19, 2022

I’m so glad you say that. I know I write in broad strokes. It’s to know it resonates. Thank you!!!!

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Liz Zare
22:26 Nov 18, 2022

Wow, what a wonderful story! Brittle and yet so strong and powerful. I see why you won!! Congratulations :)

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Thom Brodkin
22:30 Nov 18, 2022

Liz, I love the use of the word brittle. This is one of my favorite comments. Thank you so much.

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