61 comments

Romance Inspirational Happy

The bar was dark, as a bar should be. 


That didn’t bother John. In fact, it was one of the reasons he had stopped by for a drink. The last four years had all made sense to him, until tonight. She wanted roses at their wedding, yet his mom wanted lilies. If you really want to make a bride-to-be angry a week before her big day, try changing one of the major decisions at the last moment to placate your mother. 


John learned that the hard way. Somehow he knew he should have sided with his fiancée, but he'd spent most of his twenty-three years saying yes to his mom. After all, it was just flowers. John had obviously miscalculated; after the ensuing skirmish with the women in his life, he wasn’t even sure there would be a wedding. 

 

The only things he was sure of was that he needed a drink and he wanted to be alone. The first was no problem—he was in a bar and over twenty-one. The second was a little more problematic.


“Is this seat taken?”


John scanned the bar before answering. The question practically echoed as the bar was nearly empty, yet in truth, the stool right next to his was, in fact, currently unoccupied.


“Um, well, no,” John replied, using his hesitation as a signal that the stranger should find another seat.


“Thanks, my friend. I’m Scott. Pleased to meet you, ” replied the man as he sat down and ordered a beer. John hoped that the stranger named Scott, now sitting beside him at the bar, would drink his beer quietly and leave.  


No such luck.


“What brings you here?” Scott asked, taking the first sip of his beer. “I don’t know about you, but today has been a rough day for me. I’m feeling kind of lost.”  


"You have no idea."


“Do tell.”


"Honestly, I'd rather not," John replied, darkness hiding a flush of resentment.


"Understood," Scott responded and returned back to his beer.


For the next few minutes, the strangers sat next to each other in uncomfortable silence until Scott finally spoke again. "Listen, my friend. We're both in a bar in the middle of the day, drinking alone. We might as well make the best of it, so lay it on me. Why is today so bad?"


John had a decision to make, and he had to make it quickly. Should he engage the stranger in conversation or shut the whole thing down? It was obvious Scott needed someone to talk with. Somewhere deep inside, John knew he did, too.


“I’m getting married a week from Saturday,” John said, “and I just had the worst fight with my fiancée.” 


“Fights before marriages are common. Don’t let it worry you,” Scott reassured him. “What was it about?”


“Flowers,” John answered. “It was about flowers. Roses versus lilies. That's what it was about. Honestly, I couldn’t care less about the flowers. I just want to marry the love of my life. Is that too much to ask?”


“Roses,” Scott replied, sighing, although it was as if he was speaking to himself. “A dozen roses.”


“That sounds like a story begging to be told,” John interjected, knowing he would much rather listen to another man's sob story than tell one of his own. “If you share your story, I’ll buy you a beer.” Without waiting, John signaled the bartender to refill both glasses. “A dozen roses, you say?"


“It’s actually a story about one woman, three men, and a dozen roses, but nevertheless, I accept your offer.” The two men clinked their beer mugs together, a stranger’s contract signed.


“The day she was born was anything but ordinary,” Scott began. “Her mother had been pregnant once before, but her first child was stillborn. The devastation made the young couple fearful during their second pregnancy. Until the little girl was safely in her mother’s arms, neither spoke of the future. Her father had been so cautious that he hadn’t even bought a gift for his daughter, who now slept soundly on her mother’s chest. This, of course, would not do, so he hurried to the hospital gift shop where he bought the most beautiful thing in the store: a single red rose.”


“A single rose?”


“Trust me,” Scott said chuckling. “By the end of my story, you’ll have your beer’s worth and a dozen roses.


“Excuse me,” John responded as he bowed slightly and waved his hand like a presenter on a game show. “Please, continue.”


“I think I will,” Scott responded with a melancholy smile. “You see every girl is beautiful in her father’s eyes, but this daughter was a little bit of a late bloomer.” Scott wrinkled his forehead, deep in thought. “When she turned thirteen, just like most thirteen-year-old girls, she was hopelessly in love. With more courage than sense, she invited the object of her affection to her birthday party. To hers and everyone else’s surprise, he agreed.”


“Oh no, I think I see what’s coming."


“Exactly,” Scott replied, shaking his head. “She told everyone he was coming, but he never showed up.”


“That’s awful.”


“Yes, but it’s also the second rose. You see, her dad, having been around the block a time or two, was afraid that would happen,” Scott paused, took a sip of his beer, interrupting his own story. “You’re going to be a dad someday, and my advice is: be prepared." Scott took a sip of his beer to allow a moment for John to contemplate before continuing. "Now where was I?”


“Her crush didn’t show up at the party.”


“Oh, that’s right. So the story of the rose had been told at picnics, family gatherings, and holidays—ever since the day she was born, so when her dad knocked on her door and came in holding a single red rose, it made a very bad situation not so bad.”


“How thoughtful," John said, offering Scott a small smile. "Two down, ten to go."


“I’m getting there,” Scott assured him. “As I said before, she hadn’t really come into her own at thirteen. That was not the case at eighteen. She turned down quite a few offers to go to the senior prom to accept an invitation from the young man who was to be her husband. Five years after getting her second rose, her dad gave her the third rose as she left for her special night. It was a father’s way of saying he approved of her date without using any words. She may have married her husband without the rose, but we’ll never know for sure.”


“I hope their wedding went better than I expect mine will."


“Like I said, don’t worry. All weddings are stressful. I’m sure yours will be just fine.”


“So, what’s the story behind the next rose?”


“It was on her wedding day. She was angry and hurt that her mom had made most of the important decisions. Her dad found her sitting alone, and as only a dad can, he fixed it with another red rose. With all the chaos of the day, that one red rose brought her back to the simplicity of it all. Two people who loved each other. The rest was just background noise. She didn’t know it at the time, but it was also the last rose she would ever get from her father.”


“Wait, you promised a dozen roses!”


“I did,” Scott admitted, "but I also told you it involved three men.”


“I’m sorry,” John said sheepishly. He was more invested in Scott's story than he had realized. “Go on.”


Scott took a long overdue sip of his beer and continued. “They call the first year of marriage ‘the honeymoon phase’ because it’s expected that couples will be lost in wedded bliss, but it’s also the time when the worst fights happen.”


“Don’t tell me that,” John said, rubbing his eyes. “I was hoping this fight tonight would be the worst.”


“Trust me, you’re going to look back on this fight and laugh,” Scott replied with certainty. “In fact, most of your marital fights will be forgotten as long as you remember one thing.”


“What’s that? I can use all the help I can get."


“Never say anything you can’t take back. When you’re in the middle of a fight with someone you love, winning isn’t the goal. Forever is.”


“That’s good advice, Scott.” John paused, then turned back to Scott. “So, there was a big fight. Tell me about the next rose.”


“Well, the important thing isn’t what the fight was about. It’s how it was handled. She walked out the door, got into her car, and headed home. She was met by her dad. In tears, she told him all about it. After listening intently he went and got…”


“The next rose?”


“No, I told you the one at the wedding was the last rose from her father. He went and got his car keys and left his daughter with her mom. She didn’t know it at the time, but he went to talk to her new husband. Although the conversation was just between them, the rose tradition was passed down. Less than an hour later, her father and husband both drove up together. Her dad and mom went into the kitchen while her husband presented her with a single red rose. No words needed to be spoken. It wasn’t their last fight, but it was the last one that would require a rose.”


“So her husband was the second man in your story?”


“He was," Scott confirmed. "That brings us to the next rose which was the most bittersweet.”


“Oh no.”


“Yeah, there is no good way to lose a parent. The call came in the middle of the night. Her mom didn’t have to give any details. They didn’t matter. There had been an accident, and the girl’s father was gone. There is a bond between a father and daughter that is impossible to explain, but if you ever have a daughter—you’ll understand. Arrangements needed to be made and details needed to be ironed out, but right after the funeral, in that quiet time where there is nothing left to do, that’s when the weight of loss truly hits. A good man knows when to talk and when to be silent, and she was married to a good man. She would say in later years she should have known, but the rose he presented genuinely surprised her. Of all the twelve, that one was her favorite.”


“That’s amazing,” John said, wiping away a tear. “I hope I can be just such a man.”


“I’m sure you will be,” Scott encouraged. “I have a feeling about you.”


“Thank you.”


“The important thing to know is not every occasion deserves a rose. The next one came on their first anniversary. This is supposed to be the end of the honeymoon phase, but her husband, as he presented her with the rose, told her to him the honeymoon would never end."

 

The rose after that one was probably the most joyful for her. She had only one child, a son. On the day he was born, her husband presented her with another rose.”


“Was he the third man you spoke of, her son?”


“He was, but don’t get ahead of the story.”


“You’re right. I promise I’ll just listen.” The two men broke out into laughter.


“So, that was the last rose for many years, but the next one was the most exotic. Twenty-five years of marriage is quite an accomplishment, and in honor of the occasion, her husband planned a secret trip for the two of them to Hawaii. When she tells the story, she smiles broadly when talking about the blue water and white sand. She laughs hysterically when she tells about the wave that pulled her husband's swimsuit completely off. She speaks in hushed tones when she recounts the view of the sunset as they walked along the beach, but she only truly shines when she talks about the rose. I honestly wonder if she would have been just as happy if she’d only gotten that one.”


“Noted,” John said with a smile as he used his finger to pretend he was writing notes on a cocktail napkin. Though he was joking with Scott, he wasn’t with the plan. He decided when he was married for twenty-five years, he was taking his wife to Hawaii.


“That’s nine roses, only three to go.”


“Yes, three to go,” Scott confirmed, but John could tell he said it with a touch of sadness. “That was the last rose her husband would ever give her. I’m not sure if I should tell you about the next one, considering you’re about to get married.”


“You have your beer, and a deal is a deal,” John said, trying to reassure Scott. He needed to hear the end of the story. 


“You’re right,” Scott continued, a little distracted. “Her husband had plans to give her a rose on their fiftieth anniversary, but he came up two years short. The cancer hit fast and it hit hard. In what seemed like the blink of an eye, he was gone. Not since the day her dad died had she been so devastated. No marriage is perfect, but theirs was perfectly imperfect. Afterwards, she was lost, unmoored. Her eyes and ears worked, but she didn’t really see or hear anything until her son asked her to join him in the family room. Everyone in the family knew the story of the roses, but only one man could continue the tradition, and continue it her son did, as he presented her with a single red rose. In an instant, she felt grounded. Though aching for the loss of the love of her life, her son’s rose let her know, somehow, that everything would be alright.” Scott’s head fell and he choked back tears. 


“It’s you," John said. "You’re her son, right?”


Scott nodded in the affirmative, attempting to keep his composure as he finished his story. “Which brings me to the last rose. My mom died a week ago today. I’m on my way to say goodbye and to give her one final rose. Her life has been defined by roses. For my grandfather, my father, and myself, I will give her this one last gift.” And with that Scott finished off his beer, stood and offered his hand to John. “I’m not sure why I came in here, but I just needed a friend. Thanks for listening.”


“Scott, it was my pleasure,” John replied earnestly, shaking Scott’s hand. “ I needed a friend, too, and I am glad you came in here today. Thank you for sharing your mother’s roses with me.” As Scott turned to leave, John put a hand on his shoulder. “Scott, that was only eleven. You said there were twelve. Where is the last rose?”


“It’s my mom. You see, my grandparents hadn’t thought of a name before her birth, thinking it would be bad luck. When my mom was born healthy and her dad gave her the first rose, my grandparents quickly agreed on her name. My mom, Rose, is the twelfth rose.” 


Scott again turned towards the door and left without another word. John would never see him again.


Alone once again, John came to a firm decision. A quick phone call to his mom let her know the flowers at the wedding would be roses, just as the love of his life desired. His mom protested a bit, but soon relented as John was resolute. 


John didn’t call his bride-to-be to let her know of his decision, he wanted to tell her in person and he also had a story to share. He paid his tab and left the bar, no longer confused, and headed straight home stopping only once, at a florist, to buy a single red rose.


May 15, 2021 12:24

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61 comments

Francis Daisy
01:33 May 27, 2021

It's hard to type through my tears. Your story was absolutely beautiful. A single flower is always more thoughtful a gesture than any expensive bouquet any day. Great story within a story.

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Jane Andrews
22:32 May 23, 2021

Thom, you made me cry again. (That's a good thing.) I've read through everyone else's comments and I think dialogue will always divide readers because we tend to write in our own speech rhythms and consequently what sounds authentic to us might not do to someone from a different state or a different country. To be honest, when I read a story like this one, I tend not to bother with the actual dialogue so much as I see it as a vehicle for telling the story - and this kind of fits with your personality as well. (Yes, you are the kind of person...

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Thom Brodkin
22:55 May 23, 2021

Thank you for understanding me. Every writer has a story to tell but we don’t all tell it the same way. You have always encouraged me to be myself and it’s allowed me the confidence to write the way I want to. Your friendship is a gift and I am so grateful for it. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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Zilla Babbitt
22:10 May 28, 2021

Let's do one this week, shall we?

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Karen Mc Dermott
11:53 May 19, 2021

Hi Thom, Thanks for inviting me over to read such a sweet story. I've read through the comments and honestly have nothing more to add on the technical side. In these times of a loneliness pandemic where we think we have all this technology that unites us but doesn't, it's nice to read of a chance meeting and a connection in a bar. Gives me hope!

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Thom Brodkin
15:04 May 19, 2021

Thanks for reading and for your kind words. Both are always appreciated.

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Anna Mosqueda
17:44 May 18, 2021

Amazing once again. I read through this over the course of a few classes at school because I just couldn't get any free time today but I absolutely loved this, Thom! This is a story I will remember and think about a lot. I can see all the creativity and thought that went into this story inside a story. You're an amazing writer and never fail to impress me, as well as inspire me. Tremendous job. Anna.

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Thom Brodkin
18:03 May 18, 2021

Thanks so much for taking the time to read. It sounds like you had a busy day and still read my story. That means a lot to me. Also thank you for your kind words. They keep me writing.

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Anna Mosqueda
00:44 May 19, 2021

I'm glad I could be of service :) I know how nice it is to get positive feedback so I'd like to give you the same thing!

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Julie Ward
17:15 May 18, 2021

Thom! I just got your message - on top of everything, I've had some family things to attend to and I've had to do a little traveling up and down the state. All ok, but I didn't look at my laptop all weekend! I did a quick read and loved it as usual-such a sweet story-but I'll try to take some time to really read when things calm down a bit.

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Nina Chyll
17:01 May 18, 2021

Hi, Thom, In ways of technical comments, there's little to say beyond what's already been touched on by other readers. I lean here on the side of the dialogue coming off a little unnatural and stilted, and the story sounds a little too perfectly rehearsed to be told quite so seamlessly. The resistance comment was also very valuable, I reckon, because there's not so much at stake in the exchange and a successful setup in the story would involve creating a little mystery and something to lose for both characters. As such, I found myself havin...

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Thom Brodkin
17:17 May 18, 2021

First of all, thank you. You give of yourself when you help me and I know that is valuable. I also thank you because your feedback allows me to see my work through another's eyes and that perspective is what will make me a better writer. I am a storyteller and it has it's advantages. Most times a storytellers story is easy to read. Less hard work. But it also has it's drawbacks. It's harder for people to lose themselves in a story that doesn't require one to invest themselves in the journey. Last thing, dust myself off. I want to ...

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Nina Chyll
19:51 May 18, 2021

I don't think it's true that a person won't need to invest themselves emotionally in a journey that's more epic than it is lyrical or dramatic for that matter. Prose is prose, who doesn't love a bit of LotR or GoT? And they don't precisely play on too many feelings other than being used to the characters, hardly a hot sentiment. I wouldn't underestimate the intimacy of familiarity is all I'm saying. How do you know when you've made it to the recommended list? Just out of curiosity. Not quite sure I understand your explanation there. I'm ob...

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Thom Brodkin
20:12 May 18, 2021

Never hold back. I'd rather get stung and get better. It's a very hard thing to truly expose yourself. Maybe I'm trying to be what a good writer is instead of just writing. Part of my problem is I'm not a reader. I think I've read fewer than 10 books in my life. It limits me. I'm also very new to creative writing. I wrote my first story about a year ago, before that it was just birthday cards and facebook posts. You give me a lot to consider. Honestly, thank you. As for having your story recommended, at the top of the page choose ...

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Nina Chyll
21:13 May 18, 2021

I’m not entirely sure how being a reader affects things, but if it feels limiting then it’s definitely worth considering. On the other hand, I’m guessing not reading much helps you retain a very clear voice of your own. I think some famous writer once said they didn’t read in order not to pollute their vision. You just blew my little mind with the “longlist”, I had no idea such thing existed! How did you even get onto this? You’re a Reedsy wizard. I always very much enjoy your comments and I think giving advice to others can help you some...

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Thom Brodkin
21:30 May 18, 2021

It took a while to crack the code. It started by accident. I saw one of my stories on the recommended list and was probably overly proud but I started to look to see if iI was there each week. It didn’t take long before I figured out that even though I didn’t win, the winners always came from those recommendations. The rest was just dogged determination. 😀 Also, go back and read “Don’t Forget the Milk.” It was my first story on Reedsy and I’ve been told I am getting better. I’m not sure if I should be honored or hurt by that. 😀😀

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Mark Wilson
20:47 May 16, 2021

Thom, another great job here! " he wanted to tell her in person and he also had a story to tell." 'A story, to tell.' That's why we are here. I loved this one. Mark.

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Thom Brodkin
20:56 May 16, 2021

You’re welcome at my fire anytime.

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Karen Kinley
18:51 May 16, 2021

Thom, Hope I'm not too late and that your story wasn't approved yet! However, I am basically going to reiterate what others have already said. I love the tie-in with the roses and John's wedding and his plan to stop to pick up a rose for his fiancée. The story follows a clear theme and wraps up nicely. I agree with others who say there needs to be a little more tension/resistance from John at the beginning. It's clear that he wishes the stranger sit somewhere else, but after that, he seems to confide in him too quickly. Doesn't feel natura...

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Thom Brodkin
19:07 May 16, 2021

I do. I really do. One day I’ll write the perfect story and I promise I’ll dedicate it to you. The good news is I still have time to clean it up. I already started to make some changes and I’ll use your guidance to make more. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

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Karen Kinley
20:55 May 16, 2021

👍😉

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K. Antonio
23:33 May 15, 2021

Hey, Thom! This is probably the first time I read a story from you, so I'm excited to share my thoughts. I agree with Heather on the usage of dialogue tags/action beats. I feel like those could be trimmed down or subbed. I also enjoyed the dialogue between the two characters, it was interesting, but I still believe that in the beginning there could be a bit more resistance, I say this because Scott dominated a lot of the story, and his dialogue is pretty lengthy in comparison to Johns. I feel like in the beginning there could be a bit of p...

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Thom Brodkin
23:39 May 15, 2021

I love the detailed feedback. I’ve only been writing for about a year so I need all the help I can get. Your points are fantastic. I already cut out some of the tags but I’ll look them over again. I’ll also see if I can strengthen the beginning. It’s so important to draw the reader in. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read the first few sentences of a story and stopped. I don’t want people doing that to mine. I hope we can read each other’s stories more often. You can definitely help me and I’ll do my best to reciprocate.

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K. Antonio
23:51 May 15, 2021

Yes, I love contributing when I can. I have come across a wonderful circle of people that I thoroughly value their opinions, and I know how much it means to me as a writer to have people reading my stuff and giving back honest feedback. I hope I can provide that for you too!

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Kristin Neubauer
17:56 May 15, 2021

This is lovely Thom.... you bring such art to the story. I could see an elegant illustration of a single rose to accompany it. I also am impressed by how you covered an entire life - lives really - in such a short space. There were just two things that I wondered about....first, I wonder how many men would really placate their mother over their bride before the wedding? At the point where John tells Scott he doesn't care about flowers, I understood his cluelessness about it, but perhaps it would be worth dialing that up a bit earlier? I...

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Thom Brodkin
18:15 May 15, 2021

On the first part I can absolutely see your point. I will have to contemplate making that a little more realistic. However, the funeral rose was the eleventh rose. His mom was the twelfth. The thirteenth was the one John picked up for his bride to be on the way home. I'll have to re-read that to make sure it's more clear. More than anything, though, thank you for your time and kind words. I know you know I seek you out but it's because you are such an encouragement to me. You help me write.

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Kristin Neubauer
18:20 May 15, 2021

Oh, I see....duh, me! I was probably the only one who didn't quite get the alignment of the last three roses. I had my second shot on Thursday evening and have been in an achy, migrainey, fevery vaccine fog since. I'm sure it is perfectly clear to less addled minds and you should not mess with it in that case....it was beautiful!

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Thom Brodkin
18:22 May 15, 2021

Ouch, take good care of yourself. You're precious cargo. Thanks again, really thank you.

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Claire Lewis
17:21 May 15, 2021

Thom, this is so sweet. Your skill at dialogue is really evident here, the conversation felt realistic and your narrator’s interrupting comments/questions showed a lot about the character. Usually I find roses cloying and a bit on the nose, but you’ve added such depth and heartfelt emotion to them that they have newfound significance here. Very well done :)

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Thom Brodkin
17:30 May 15, 2021

You always say the most perfect things. Thank you.

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15:41 May 15, 2021

This is beautiful. And as expected, made me cry.

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Thom Brodkin
15:43 May 15, 2021

In a good way, I hope.

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17:40 May 15, 2021

As always!

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Tony Kaizen
03:45 May 28, 2021

What a beautiful story. I thoroughly enjoyed that. Keep writing!

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Thom Brodkin
12:36 May 28, 2021

Thank you for your words of encouragement, I will and I hope you stop by again for a read.

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00:44 May 28, 2021

The last five paragraphs of this story were amazing! The slight twist at the end was perfect. I could definitely see this scene being in a movie or a book.

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Thom Brodkin
12:35 May 28, 2021

Thanks so much for your kindness. I love to write mainly because I love to be read. You reinforce that. Thank you!!!

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Elk Whistler
00:11 May 28, 2021

I love this story so much. It almost made me cry. The ending was so hopeful, and I love how you connected the two stories of John and Scott. The title only clicked until the last sentence, which is just how it should be. Thank you for writing it, and be sure to keep writing great stories like these. -Elena

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Thom Brodkin
12:34 May 28, 2021

Your words are inspiring. Thank you for taking the time to read my story and let me know what you thought. It means the world to me.

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Rob Boss
04:54 May 27, 2021

I don't know you, Thom, but I was looking through prompts for ideas and was interested in the submissions for this one. There were quite a few to scroll through, but as soon as I read the first few lines of yours I was HOOKED. I knew in that 'new story' kind of way that I was going to love this one, and you did not disappoint. It's way too common for a story to start out extremely strong with a great hook and just enough tension, intrigue, and mysticism to get a reader's attention (like yours got mine), and then peter out and unravel along...

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Thom Brodkin
17:02 May 27, 2021

I’m truly touched you took the tine to read my story and give such detailed feedback. It reminds me why I write. You are so kind and also a fabulous painter. 😀

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Willow Byrd
16:36 May 26, 2021

Thom! I wish I had seen this sooner! ( This is Helen, by the way. New pen name) :) This was absolutely gorgeous. You tugged at my heartstrings. The mark of a great author is that they can make you feel something. You have truly done that here, my friend. I can't even begin to tell you how much I enjoyed this. The story of the roses swept me along, left me wanting to know the rest of the story. And the way you concluded it, with the last rose was just perfect. Nothing felt overdramatic. It was sweet and simple and oh-so powerful. Wonderful ...

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Thom Brodkin
16:41 May 26, 2021

Hey there, I’m so glad you came for a read. You always say the most encouraging things. I will make sure to refer to you as Willow from now on to maintain your anonymity. I’m so glad your back.

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Willow Byrd
17:19 May 26, 2021

Believe me, I'm glad too. :) I had to take a bit of a break, school is wrapping up and I have some testing going on, but yes, I'm back now! Willow is just a fun pen name, and an excuse for me to try out Reedsy's pen name generator. I'll probably be back to Helen Jett soon enough! Hope you're doing well!

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Charlie Murphy
01:30 May 26, 2021

What an awesome story and twist! - The thirteenth rose! Wonderful job! Where did you come up with this story?

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Thom Brodkin
01:35 May 26, 2021

Thank you so much. It’s very loosely based on a story about my wife and I.

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Charlie Murphy
01:45 May 26, 2021

Cool, can you read mine?

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Thom Brodkin
01:48 May 26, 2021

Sure

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J B
15:57 May 25, 2021

Wow! I'm speechless. But my heart is so full!

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Thom Brodkin
17:26 May 25, 2021

This is such a heartfelt response. I am truly grateful for you kind words. Thank you.

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J B
06:48 May 26, 2021

You know how to tell a story and captivate readers. This story is one of the great stories I've seen on Reedsy - both in terms of language structure and substance.

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