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Fiction Romance

Note: I am going to "bang" out this one just to keep my hand in here. We'll see what comes out in the next hour or two. This is what I meant when I told my kids "just write whatever comes into your minds"--which is the way to get creativity flowing.


Old Friends

 

He got up before her, as he almost always did, and prepared the coffee--black for him, but creamer set out for her. Habit made it easy, even though he had his aches and pains, his stiff back and neck, nuisances that he had long ago reconciled with by deciding they were not going to stop him.

 

Robert pushed the button to start the coffee maker and shuffled away to the front door. Outside, the paper was up against the door as usual. "That boy has a great arm," he had said a few times, referring to the neighborhood boy who delivered the paper right on time every morning and always up close. "He could make a great pitcher for the Dodgers," Robert would add. He scanned the front page as he carried the paper to the table. Nothing earth-shaking today, but nevertheless he would have his puzzle page and the local section.

 

Before he sat down to read the paper, Robert walked to the utility room, where he had hidden the bouquet of white and red roses behind the paper towels. It was always cool there. He had picked them up the day before while doing his errands in town. He took them into the kitchen, trimmed the stems, and put them into a vase of water. He set them on the counter and walked out.

 

Later, after devouring the crossword puzzles in the paper (the pencil was stuck between his achy fingers before he was done), Robert turned to the local section. Some boys had gotten in trouble, breaking into a liquor store at night. No one had gotten hurt. This spurred his own memory, of his son Daryll, and his run-ins with the law, long ago. Daryll was grown up now and had a beautiful family, but for a time it was not certain how things would end. He had gotten into drugs at school, after making friends with the wrong people. Eventually, he did a stint in Juvenile Hall and, of course, they were deemed bad parents not to have caught it earlier. No consideration was given for how well their daughter Kelly was doing in school. But she had always been a good girl, and perhaps they were distracted, Robert thought.


He remembered all of the arguing and fights that he and his wife had had for the first few years, and he supposed that they were simply too young. Even after all of the great times during school, and the fact they had waited to get married for a couple of years. Two twenty-year-old kids who knew nothing of life’s tough challenges. Neither of them had gotten any significant instructions from their parents, they had learned everything more or less on their own. But they knew that they could not show that side of themselves to their children, they had to get it resolved. And they had persevered. Their dreams would not tolerate the idea of giving up.

 

Robert got up and poured Darlene's cup, adding the creamer. He could already hear her stirring down the hall, flushing the toilet and washing her face. He could not wait this morning for her to walk in. He always got up and greeted her with a "Good morning," a long hug, and a kiss. It was his way to start "their" day. And then she would sit down on the sofa and pick up her tablet. She went for the games. That was her way to start the day. He would go and pour her coffee, bringing it to her, and take his seat again.

 

But this morning Robert could not wait because there was a card lying on the table beside the couch, tucked away in its envelope--upon which he had carefully written: "To the most beautiful woman in the universe." That was how he addressed his greeting cards to her.

 

"Good morning, dear," he said with a smile when she entered, meeting her well before she got near the couch. Darlene's eyebrows arched upwards, but she only said, "Good morning" and returned his kiss as she hugged him. Robert thought that her grip was a little firmer than usual and the hug lasted a little longer, but he said nothing more.

 

He sat in his chair, peeking around the edge of the paper now and then. It took a bit of time before Darlene glanced toward the end table, and then she picked up the envelope, smiled as she read the words written there--casting a fleeting look his way--and took the card out.

 

“You did not look on your bed-side table, did you? Darlene teased. “If you had…”

 

Robert held up the card that he had slipped under a section of the paper. “Oh yes, I got it.” His smile broadened. He got up again and walked over to the couch, sat down, and slipped an arm around Darlene’s shoulders. “Thank you, baby.”

 

“Thank you, darling. I liked the poem.” Robert always wrote a poem for this occasion. He was a retired English teacher and had a knack for poetry.

 

“How many of these days have we celebrated now?” he asked.

 

“You know exactly how many days.”

 

“Fifty-seven?”

 

“That’s right. Two years before we were married, you started.”

 

“Ah, it seems like yesterday.”

 

“Doesn’t it, really? I will never forget. We were seniors at Jefferson High and had just a few months to go till graduation. We knew—we had always known—that we would be together forever. It seemed silly to wait, but you said—I remember it clearly—we should wait until you could take care of me.”

 

“Did I really?”

 

“Your words, exactly. You had prospects with the power plant, wanted to work for a couple of years first, and get enough money saved for a down payment on a house.”

 

“It was tough.”

 

“Yes, it was. As I recall, you took a second job pitching newspapers.”

 

“Right, with my Chevy convertible. Loaded it up and threw on both sides as I went down the street. I made a lot of money at that.”

 

“Huh. Lucky you never ran into any of the parked cars, the way you weaved around on the road.”

 

“And never got any tickets, either.”

 

Robert and Darlene shared a laugh over this memory. And then, Darlene asked, “Why are we still together, do you think? Most of our friends got divorced.”

 

“I don’t know. Maybe it’s because we knew that we had to make each other the most important thing in the universe.”

 

“You and that universe stuff!” Darlene snorted. “But maybe there is a couple somewhere on the other side of the universe saying the same thing.”

 

Robert shrugged. “Love is what makes the world go around.”

 

Darlene raised one eyebrow this time. “Is that so? What kind of love is that? Whatever it is, we must have a different kind from all of our friends.”

 

“Yeah, I think we do.” Robert fondled Darlene’s hair, running his fingers through her tresses. “It’s called friendship. You are my best friend, Darlene.”

 

“I know that we like the same things.”

 

“Even if we didn’t, we’d still get along. And you have taught me things I didn’t know. Your knitting, for instance. Do you remember that little sampler I stitched that time?”

 

“Of course I remember.”

 

“But the greatest thing you’ve taught me is how to love. You know, you’re just as beautiful to me as you were in your senior year.”

 

“Go on! So, why do you come up with that, all of a sudden?”

 

“I don’t know. Maybe that’s the other thing people lose, and they start looking around.”

 

“I know what you mean. I’m content with you. I’ve always been happy that you asked me to be your wife.”

 

Robert thought about this for a moment. “You know, dear, we’ve got to remember those times—the good times as well as the bad. They are all we have for our today. There is literally nothing else.”

 

“I guess that’s what romance is all about, enjoying the time we spend together, remembering it, and looking forward to whatever time is left. And one more thing.”

 

“What’s that?”

 

Darlene held out her now empty coffee cup. “Doing for each other.”

 

“Right.” Robert got up to fetch more coffee. “There is a word for that,” he said, stopping short of the kitchen. “It’s Togetherness.”

 

“I couldn’t have said it better. Oh, and you can bring out the flowers now.”

 

“How did you know?”

 

“Well, besides the fact that you always give me flowers, I can smell them. I’m sure they’re lovely.”

February 13, 2021 21:49

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18 comments

Nainika Gupta
20:15 Feb 22, 2021

I liked this story a lot, Roger. Especially the bit about loving and staying friends is important. The commitment and loyalty between the couple were really heartwarming to see! Amazing job :)

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Courtney C
22:21 Feb 19, 2021

It's a very sweet story, and there is a substantial sense of commitment and tradition between the couple. Good work! Completely off topic, but I saw in your bio that you're a retired English teacher. Do you have any advice for making it that far for a third year English teacher?

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Roger Crane
00:34 Feb 20, 2021

What precisely do you teach Courtney? English at what level? General advice is to love what you do and, as far as the teaching bureaucracy is concerned, go with the flow. Don't rock the boat. Tell me more and I'll try to give a better idea for what you mean.

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Courtney C
01:48 Feb 20, 2021

I teach Grade 7-9 English. I definitely love the subject, love the students, but sometimes the student apathy and workload can get pretty heavy.

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Roger Crane
06:27 Feb 20, 2021

I hear you, Courtney. To teenagers, teachers are generally not in their world, although there are exceptions. Teaching today is also fraught with discipline issues and if you do it right they will mostly not be your friends, so don't expect that. Try to remember what you were like then--or most of your friends. Outsiders do not understand a teacher's workload, thinking about all the time off (ha ha) and not the hours you spend at home on your class preparation, test grading, etc. You have got to be your own reward, because children don't kno...

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Courtney C
16:02 Feb 20, 2021

Thanks for all of the advice Roger, I appreciate it. You hit the nail on the head, definitely young (25). Finding that work-home balance and supportive teachers is what has kept me going this long without burning out. Thanks for taking the time to chat, and I hope you're enjoying retirement!

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Akshaya ✨
07:17 Mar 04, 2021

Hi Roger! I really liked reading this story! There wasn't a lot of action in it, but it was simple and sweet and it showed a lot about the characters (the couple)! I liked how you wrote this in an attempt of writing with whatever your mind came up with, and this suited the prompt really well! I don't have any critique, because I'm not that experienced to give suggestions (I can try grammar critiques sometimes, but I didn't find any grammatical errors here) Great work! I can't wait to read more of your stories! :)

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Roger Crane
18:36 Mar 04, 2021

Thank you Akshaya. Actually, your comments are a critique, which does not have to cover every area of writing. How you like the story is the most important part! You are only the second person to comment on my story, and you may imagine that any and every writer likes to have feedback--even me. I am by no means too far along to benefit from anyone's viewpoint. That is the essence of learning. My trilogy (on Amazon, about 20% of which can be read there) has gotten comments from people age 16 to 80, all positive, so this really turns me on. ...

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Roger Crane
18:38 Mar 04, 2021

I was mistaken, I had three other comments. If you know Nainika and Courtney here, they were the last. All of you whom I review.

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Akshaya ✨
11:16 Mar 09, 2021

Yes, I know Nainika but not Courtney.

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Akshaya ✨
11:15 Mar 09, 2021

No problem! I really liked reading it and I think your stories deserve more readers here! If you don't mind, could I give your stories a shout out on my bio? Nice! I'll read your novels too! Thank you and same to you!

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Roger Crane
16:35 Mar 09, 2021

Of course, Akshaya. Share away, and I'm flattered you want to. I think that my writing may intimidate some readers, so that they--like you--don't know what to say. But all that is necessary is how you liked it and maybe if it said anything special to you. My best writing is not here, just my impromptu writing, because I have other uses for my better short stories.

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Akshaya ✨
07:16 Mar 10, 2021

Sure, thank you, I will do that! Oh nice! Do you post your stories anywhere else? Like on other writing websites?

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Roger Crane
13:24 Mar 10, 2021

I have just started writing short stories after my novels. Actually, I wrote a few years ago but never did anything with them and so now I've begun to send them to contests with literary magazines online. I'm waiting to see what happens with them. This is why I only put up these things I write impromptu for Reedsy.

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