Contest #171 winner 🏆

231 comments

Indigenous Western Bedtime

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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231 comments

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 With An H
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 With An H
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 With An H
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 With An H
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 With An H
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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Zilla Babbitt
19:54 Nov 18, 2022

Congrats on win #2! So deserved ✨

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Thom With An H
20:11 Nov 18, 2022

Thanks so much. I have that $5 now if you want to write. :-)

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Zilla Babbitt
22:46 Nov 18, 2022

Haha! I actually posted one of the stories yesterday, not submitting it to the contest. But I hope you enjoy it.

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Karen Kinley
19:01 Nov 18, 2022

Thom, my friend! It's been too long! Your writing, as always, comes from the heart. Congrats on the win! Always well-deserved.

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Thom With An H
19:03 Nov 18, 2022

My fervent hope is that it motivates you to write more. I miss your words. Please write again.

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Karen Kinley
19:36 Nov 18, 2022

One of these days, I will have the motivation and time to write a story for one of these weekly prompts. I'm always writing, but I just can't seem to do it quickly!

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Sophia Gavasheli
17:54 Nov 18, 2022

Thom, this was amazing and so sweet! I love how Delilah and Peter bond without words over such a simple, but beautiful event; it really shows the deep connection and love they shared for each other. The people who understand you without words are the best. I also love the repetition from the first time they met and the second. And the fact that you connect back to the seat at the ending("I'll save a seat for you") brings the story full circle. My favorite line: "With that, she invaded my secret spot, both next to the lake and in my heart." C...

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Thom With An H
18:01 Nov 18, 2022

This means so much, especially because I bestowed upon you an honorary win for last weeks story. As far as I’m concerned I’m just trying to live up to your super high standards. Seriously, thanks so much. I really appreciate your very kind words.

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Sophia Gavasheli
18:06 Nov 18, 2022

😊😊

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Story Time
17:12 Nov 18, 2022

The way you handle yearning in this story is so beautiful. I love that the narrator is fully-realized while still maintaining humility and grace. Congratulations on your win.

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Thom With An H
17:15 Nov 18, 2022

Thanks so much, Kevin. Coming from a writer as talented and versatile as you, that means so much. I really appreciate it.

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AnneMarie Miles
17:03 Nov 18, 2022

Woohoo! You did it, Thom! Congratulations on a well deserved win! This was a beautifully crafted story, I hope you're celebrating today!

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Thom With An H
17:05 Nov 18, 2022

Thanks so much. I was rooting for you this week. I loved your story as well.

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AnneMarie Miles
22:37 Nov 18, 2022

Thank you kindly! We all root for each other and that's what I love about this place. But it was you who brought us the finest work for this set of prompts. I see you've uploaded another, I look forward to reading it :)

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Thom With An H
22:44 Nov 18, 2022

I’m really curious about your thoughts on this weeks story. It’s much heavier.

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Shelly Howell
17:00 Nov 18, 2022

Wow! I felt I was there. Feeling every infintesimal emotion. I couldn't stop reading, fearing that I would miss out on an extraordinary journey, and that it was! Mr. Brodkin, thank you for your contribution.

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Thom With An H
17:09 Nov 18, 2022

Thank you so much. You made this man smile. :-)

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Ricardo Edwards
16:56 Nov 18, 2022

Saturated 'Kleenex'. Bravo Thom!!! Amazing short, but complete story. Very refreshing! I was hooked from the moment that I started reading.

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Thom With An H
17:04 Nov 18, 2022

This is the best present ever!!!

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Carla Ward
16:52 Nov 18, 2022

A beautiful story, beautifully written. I found myself in tears at the end. Now in my mid sixties, I know very well the only real things of value are these moments we have with those we have loved and still love, and the solitary times when we pause to appreciate simple things.

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Thom With An H
16:54 Nov 18, 2022

I couldn't have said it better myself. I'm so glad my story touched you. That's really all we want as writers, isn't it? Thank you so very much.

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Nigel Holmes
16:38 Nov 18, 2022

This is beautiful. A moving story told in a straightforward and very effective manner. Congratulations on your win.

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Thom With An H
16:42 Nov 18, 2022

Thanks, Nigel. I really appreciate it.

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Amalia Wompa
16:36 Nov 18, 2022

At first I thought this was a memoir by how humbly and earnestly it was written. This is such a simple and sweet love story, great job!

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Thom With An H
16:37 Nov 18, 2022

What an unbelievably kind thing to say. Thank you so much.

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Monica Kendrick
22:32 Nov 16, 2022

This was soooo beautiful! I loved every word.. true talent, almost cried❤️

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Thom With An H
23:22 Nov 16, 2022

Thanks so much. I’m thrilled you enjoyed it.

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Jon Casper
23:41 Nov 15, 2022

Wow - your opening paragraph pulled me right in. Strong stuff. There are so many gems in this piece. -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. -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 had said “I love you” to others before, but it was obvious to me that I had lied. For in that moment, I was f...

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Thom With An H
23:57 Nov 15, 2022

Jon, in so many ways this is the nicest comment I’ve ever received. I wish I could say thank you more than once. Thanks. Wait I can. Thanks. Seriously I really appreciate it.

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Jennifer Cameron
08:19 Nov 14, 2022

I sometimes think I'm a good writer and then I read stories like this and realise I still have so much to learn from and improve. This was so touching and lovely, a beautiful read.

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Thom With An H
14:35 Nov 14, 2022

Trust me, Jennifer, you are a good writer. I know how you feel though. Writers, by nature, are given to imposter syndrome. We always think others write better than we do. I am a big fan of your writing. Never stop, you're that good.

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Jayde Trilo
02:51 Nov 14, 2022

This is so well written. So few words from Peter and Delilah, but I still feel like I got to know them very well. I'm also impressed that you didn't need to go into great detail describing how the sunrise and the view at the lake looks visually. Describing the way it impacts Peter instead was a much better choice I feel.

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Thom With An H
03:01 Nov 14, 2022

I really appreciate the positive feedback. I really enjoyed your story as well. Sci-fi always scares me because of the need to create a whole world especially in a short story. You did it really well. Great job to you too. Keep writing.

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Jayde Trilo
04:23 Nov 14, 2022

Thanks for that, I'm glad you liked my story. Worldbuilding in short stories is always daunting, and it's good hearing that I'm getting it right.

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Aeris Walker
23:31 Nov 13, 2022

Yet again, another heartwarming story! Love that beautiful first line and its nod to Phillipians. You covered so much time in this story, but it did not feel too fast at all. The whole thing read like a quiet, even paced walk through the woods (if that makes an ounce of sense). There were many, but this was one of my favorite lines: “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...

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Thom With An H
02:23 Nov 14, 2022

Aeris!! I always wait, not so patiently, to hear your take on my writing. As always it’s worth the wait. Thanks for always encouraging me. You are as good a human being as you are a writer and I promise you that’s a high bar.

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Aeris Walker
01:34 Nov 15, 2022

Aw, well thank you Thom. I'm very behind on reading all the recent Reedsy stories, but this one just pulled me right in. I'm glad to hear my thoughts brought you some encouragement :)

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Aeris Walker
16:44 Nov 18, 2022

Congratulations Thom!!

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Thom With An H
18:23 Nov 18, 2022

Thanks so much. It’s nice to share this with a group so talented. You have quickly become Reedsy royalty and your words, for me, are always held in the highest regards.

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Aeris Walker
18:38 Nov 18, 2022

Reedsy royalty?! Well now, I wish that carried over into the real world—maybe I wouldn’t be doing so many dishes 🥴 Thanks Thom—glad to keep the encouraging spirit going, as you do so well yourself.

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21:08 Nov 13, 2022

Great story. Well written. It captured my attention from the first paragraph, and conveyed a feeling nostalgia and deep longing very well. I like how the story circled around memories of the sunrise and drinking coffee rather than go into other details. And what a sentimental ending, make us think about how short life is and how we should value the moments we have.

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Thom With An H
21:24 Nov 13, 2022

Thanks so much Scott. I try to let the reader be a part of the story. You validate that.

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