Contest #191 shortlist ⭐️


Contemporary LGBTQ+ Romance

Love was stored inside an egg.

Charlie remembered his father saying that. Not once or twice, but many times in multiple ways, and always with a bright smile. Charlie liked remembering his father smiling.

If someone cooks you an egg, they love you. Simple as that.

That was the core of his father’s argument. That eggs could embody all love the way Paul described it to the Corinthians – patient and kind, giving away all it had without arrogance or resentment. Eggs were resourceful, unobtrusive, a tiny mass of potential. If there were eggs, there was something to eat. No matter how bare the cabinets or how many times a store trip had been forgotten, eggs could be breakfast, lunch, dinner.

If you love someone, Lee, make them eggs. It’s impossible for someone to make eggs for you and not know they love you with their whole heart. They’ll fall in love right then.

His father would say things like that and Charlie, ever attentive, would listen. In his softest pajamas on weekend mornings, he would sit cross-legged in a kitchen chair to watch him make breakfast for the family, nodding along with whatever he said. Charlie had thought they were silly and strange, but decided to store the missives away anyway. They weren’t cryptic or unknowable, but he knew even then he was missing something. Something his mother, his father, and soon enough his sister understood; some small detail, a scant speck of knowledge that would crack open the meaning for him.

You can’t know an egg until it’s broken, lad. Don’t look at me like that. Yes, I know, your dad’s going on and on again, but you’ll thank me someday. When you’re older and you’ve tried it, you’ll know I’m right and you’ll thank me. And I’ll be happy for you.

The meaning behind Patrick Noether's words cracked open on a February morning, cold and miserable.

Charlie had all but sleep-walked through the weeks prior, aimless in his days and fidgety at night. He didn’t know what to do with himself without the daily cycle of lunch and dinner service, to the point where begging his way back into Maison Sabourin's kitchen started to sound like a good idea. He knew it wasn’t, the same way applying to another restaurant or working at Casa Inés under Ezra was a bad idea. He knew he had time, that he didn’t need to rush to the next thing, but he could feel himself sliding into complacency. Every option felt at once too much and like ten steps backwards.

Simon dragged him out for drinks or dinner, easing up when Charlie asked for space. He didn’t need to be babysat anymore. He and Linnea had a standing lunch date on Wednesdays where she asked his opinion on her articles and he gave her book recommendations for her weekly library trips. In return, she sent him embarrassing childhood photos of Ezra. He saved every single one. Holly would text him on the nights she was at Casa Inés overseeing service, occasionally talking him into coming out for a drink at happy hour, claiming her own desperate boredom.

Ezra, for his part, had all but officially moved into Charlie's apartment. He held him until they fell asleep, after Inés' closed for the night and Ezra had showered dinner service sweat off of himself. He roused him most mornings with hot coffee, breakfast, and Lily canine needs all taken care of. Charlie repaid him with kisses and moaned praise; with tongue and teeth and soft fingers in tangled red hair.

Ezra's cooking stocked his fridge so long as Charlie had ingredients in the house – when he had time to turn out full meals on top of everything else he did in the day, Charlie didn’t know but he couldn’t convince Ezra to stop. More books inexplicably showed up on Charlie's shelves, his coffee table, the dresser in his bedroom.

Ezra kissed him in his worst moods, pulled him higher when he was at his best. He bothered Charlie about eating and drinking, about taking his pills and remembering his therapy appointments. All with love.

So much love.

It was a rare morning where Charlie woke before Ezra. He couldn’t remember sleeping so well in his life, and attributed it to Ezra. As if the weight of Ezra's arm slung over his midsection was the cure to insomnia he’d been looking for. But, that morning, he rose first to Ezra's mussed up hair and long lashes spread over his cheeks, face slack and open in sleep. Grey morning light sifted through the windows, the radiators leaving a warm-toaster smell in the air. Charlie was over-warm, laying there under Ezra's warmth, two blankets, and the heating heavy in the air, but he soaked it all in. He’d have to get up soon enough and wanted to take it with him.

He stared at the ceiling for long minutes, watching the slight shift with drowsy eyes. He felt content. If not outright happy, then something very close to it. He inhaled slowly, exhaled slower, pretending he could feel it in his lungs, filling him up with every breath. Ezra was asleep and his mind was clear. Charlie basked in the sensation, deciding it was worth savoring as long as he could.

Lily’s collar jingling and paws treading the floorboards in front of his bedroom door ended the moment's peace. Charlie pressed a kiss to Ezra's forehead, sliding out from under the covers before the chill could reach Ezra's bare back. He tugged a sweater over his head, snagged a pair of socks Holly had gifted him after her most recent trip to Norway. He shushed Lily’s happy whines as he stepped into the hallway, reaching down to scratch her ears before sending the dog running to the door. He tugged on a coat, hat, and boots. Lily sat politely as her lead was clipped onto her collar, tail wagging eagerly.

It wasn’t until they were outside that Charlie realized it was snowing. A good snow too. Thick fluffy flakes drifting merrily in the air like the opening of a cheesy holiday movie.

As Lily sniffed each tree, Charlie took it all in. He let his eyes wander over the fresh white laying on the sidewalks, the street, and trees. It was yet untouched by tires or plows or the churn of humanity that turned it into slush. He tilted his head back, watching the flames high up in the air float, imagining he was in the bubble of a snow globe. It drifted and swung, caught on the cuffs of his coat, the top of his hat and Lily's golden tail. It was beautiful, that blanket of white, the hush it brought down, the icy openness it brought to Charlie's lungs.

Charlie lingered in it, walking his and Lily's usual route slower.

For the first time in weeks, Charlie felt himself. Nothing dragged. Nothing ached. Whatever had been so hard at work inside him, knitting himself back together, had come to rest. It was finally at rest.

Charlie sat on the floor as he dried Lily off. Despite being damp, he let the dog curl up in his lap, put wet front paws up his chest. Cold nose pressed to his cheek and wet tongue caught his ear before Lily found Charlie's thumb, holding it in her mouth like a baby. Charlie scooped her up like that, wrapped in a towel and sucking his thumb in imitation of the day he brought her home. He buried his face in Lily's fur as he started the water boiling for the French press.

Once Lily was fed, Charlie stretched and watched the snow out the window. Collecting on the sill, turning the fire escape white and bright. Without thinking, he pulled down plates and found a pan. He pulled sausage out of the fridge and beat eggs while it browned. He filled the French press and made toast. He cooked the eggs in the sausage bits until they were pillowy and soft, sipped black coffee as he found butter for the toast and finished Ezra's coffee with milk and sugar.

“Morning, gorgeous,” Ezra yawned, appearing in the kitchen behind him. He ran fingers through his curls. His glasses slipped down his nose and he all but melted as he embraced Charlie from behind.

“Morning, Ez,” Charlie replied. He made up plates and dug for forks, dropping a bit of sausage in Lily’s bowl. “How’d you sleep?”

“Really well. Missed waking up to you.”

“And I you. But Lily has needs too.” Charlie turned in Ezra's arms to kiss him. “I made coffee.”

Ezra hummed quietly, picking up the mug and inhaling deeply. “Fuck, I love you. I was going to try and go over to Greenhouse, grab our favorites. But you beat me to it.”

“I might have saved you some disappointment, love,” Charlie said, heart swelling. They’d made a point to say it, reminder and affection both. Charlie thought the flushed feeling would wear off, but it hadn’t. Hearing Ezra say it, saying it himself as much as he liked, still left him flustered and doe-eyed. “Look outside.”

But Ezra didn’t look outside. Alertness engulfed him and his eyes hit Charlie full force, taking him in. “You made breakfast.”

Charlie blinked. “I did. Yes.”

“You…” Ezra stared, awe dawning on his features. “You cooked.”

“Well, I, erm…” Charlie took a sip of his coffee. “I suppose I wanted to. It was snowing and I–.”

“You wanted to.”

“I-. Yes.”

Ezra grinned sleepily and pulled him back into a sturdy hug. “I’m really glad, Lee. That makes me happy.”

Charlie flushed to his ears, returning the embrace just as fiercely. “Hush. You’re just glad I saved you a trip out into the snow.”

“You got me, baby. Just want to avoid winter. Definitely not proud of my boyfriend cooking again.”

“I’ll never be able to shake the Carolinas out of you,” Charlie snickered. He tucked his head to Ezra’s head, pressing cheek to soft and warm as he watched the snow out the window again. The countertop bit into the small of his back, but Ezra’s bedsheet smell soothed over it. He exhaled slowly, a question nagging at him. “Are you really?”

“Really what?”

“P-proud of me?”

Ezra’s hand circled gently over his back, scratching lightly along his spine. “Yeah, Lee. I really am.”

Charlie swallowed. “And… if I told you I-. I think I know what I want to do?”

“Do you?” Ezra pulled away, studying Charlie's face like a cookbook. He was trying to keep his face calm, but all Charlie could see was the thin veil of neutrality keeping Ezra's enthusiasm in check. When he nodded, Ezra's expression split open, gorgeous and furiously happy. “Then I’d be over the goddamned moon and would badger you with questions until I got every fucking detail out of you. I’d be so, so fucking happy for you, Lee.”

“Oh.” Charlie exhaled. The relief was nearly palpable – smooth to the touch and smelling like toast and sausage. Charlie leaned into it. He leaned into Ezra. “Then I suppose I should get my notebooks.”


“For the details you apparently require. If you’re going to give me the third degree, darling, I want to come prepared.”

“Notebooks. Okay. Notebooks.” Charlie could hear the proverbial gears in Ezra's brain whirring about as he processed his excitement, his curiosity. If it were possible, he came back up grinning brighter. “Alright. Get the notebooks, sweetheart. We’re going to eat breakfast and you’re going to tell me everything.”

Charlie grinned back. The whole room seemed lighter, and Charlie was sure it wasn’t just the snow’s doing. “Couch or table?”

“Couch. Duh. It is a snow day.”

“So it is.”

March 24, 2023 17:16

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22:18 Apr 14, 2023

that was so beautifulllllllllllllllll . .]


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Amanda Lieser
03:50 Apr 13, 2023

Hey Caroline! Congratulations on the short list! I loved the way that you will then all these beautiful little details about day-to-day life and how you can absolutely find romance in the smallest things. I also really liked the way that you started this piece off with some solid advice. It’s like a spin on that old saying, “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” I think that this story portrays a really beautiful couple, who genuinely want each other to find, and discover their own autonomous definition of humanity before they co...


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Viga Boland
16:45 Apr 07, 2023

Congratulations on being shortlisted👏👏


Caroline Eddy
21:05 Apr 09, 2023

Thank you so much!!


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Jody S
17:47 Apr 03, 2023

Great and very smooth dialogue! Lovely story!


Caroline Eddy
18:04 Apr 04, 2023

thank you so much, that's very kind of you!


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Nico D.
14:42 Apr 01, 2023

This is so sweet :') I love your writing style. Your dialogue is so natural and the characterization is really strong, too.


Caroline Eddy
12:20 Apr 02, 2023

Thank you so much! I was talking through the dialogue out loud as I wrote, so I’m very glad the extra step paid off well :)


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