The Last of the Dandelion Wine

Submitted into Contest #179 in response to: Write a story in the form of a list of New Year's resolutions.... view prompt

17 comments

Romance Coming of Age

Gail chewed on her pencil, shifted in her seat, and then quickly wrote down her first resolution.

#1: I will stop smoking.

She looked at the words, laughed out loud, and crossed them out. New words appeared.

#1: I will stop smoking.

I will smoke less, but I will smoke thoughtfully. I will enjoy the deep inhalation of smoke. I will savor the feeling of calmness that descends over me, and I will appreciate each puff of the magic poison as it leaves my lungs.

Alissa sat at the same table as Gail, writing her own list. She didn’t chew her pencil for the very good reason that she didn’t use a pencil. She used a fountain pen.

NYR 01 – I will be a better wife to Gail.

The couple traded papers.

“Really? A better wife?”

“Well, yeah,” Alissa said.

“I mean,” she continued, “I bitch at you too much for working in your studio. And I have impure thoughts about Portia de Rossi.”

“I get the Portia thing. She’s hot.”

“But I know I’m too mean about the sculpting thing. It’s your livelihood and all, but I sometimes want to just cuddle and watch a scary movie with you, you know? That’s selfish.”

“Yeah, it is. But it’s ok. We’ll work on it, sweetie.”

“I knew you wouldn’t quit smoking. Ha!”

“Shut up.”

“You shut up!”

Both girls giggled and traded their resolution papers back.

****************************

#2: I will be less sad about Cyrus. I will celebrate his life and his character instead of crying at random times. I will remember the wisdom that he imparted to me before he departed.

NYR 02 – make Gail tell me more about Cyrus.

The girls exchanged papers and both burst out laughing. Gail poured more wine into each of their glasses. The bottle was almost empty. Gail stared at the bottle, lost in sad remembrances of things past.

“The last of the dandelion wine, babe.”

Alissa took a healthy swallow of the amber liquid and grimaced ever so slightly. It was bitter and sweet and very appealing to the palate.

“We’ll get more. I love this shit,” Alissa said.

“It’s the last bottle that Cyrus and I made together.”

Alissa nodded and fell silent. Gail had a thing for this old man that she couldn’t quite fathom. He was her sculpting mentor, yes, but he seemed to be much more than that to Gail. She revered him without worshipping him, and this attitude intrigued her.

“Ok. So, tell me a little something about Cyrus. You’re as secretive about that as the Vatican is about the treasures they have hidden in the catacombs.”

“You’re such a conspiracy nut, Liss.”

“The Catholic church scares me.”

“Everything scares you.”

“Truth. Now spill.”

Gail leaned back in her chair, swirling her wine around in her glass and sipping just a little of it. She wanted to make it last.

“Cyrus found me, almost dead from the cold, on his front lawn. He took me in and gave me a life off of the streets.”

“Yeah. Teenage prostitute. You told me that part.”

“And you’ve never held my past against me, babe. I love you for that.”

“Sure, sure. Tell me more.”

Gail laughed at Alissa’s awkwardness when it came to love and intimacy. She was as warmhearted and tender as any person could be, but she didn’t like to voice these types of feelings.

“Well, he was a lot like you in that respect. He never held my past against me, and he never berated me about my sassy mouth or my penchant for cigarettes, or sneaking a few drinks from his whiskey when he went to bed. I was a mess but he treated me like I had value.”

Alissa gazed at Gail, entranced. This was the most she had ever revealed about the mysterious Cyrus. It certainly explained a lot.

“Did you ever tell him that you were a lesbian?”

Gail smiled softly and shook her head.

“Only after he was dead, but I really didn’t see it as an issue. I never dated until he died; I just wasn’t interested in a relationship at the time. He wouldn’t have cared, though.”

“Tell me more,” Alissa implored.

Gail held up her right forefinger and wagged it.

“One more thing, Liss, and then we move on.”

“K.”

Gail thought about what to say. It wasn’t easy because Cyrus had died recently, and the sting of his passing still hurt way too much to speak easily about the man.

“He never got over the death of his wife. You could see the sadness in his eyes, always. Even when he was happy, he carried that sadness. One night, we were working late in the studio. He suddenly stops to wipe tears from his eyes, so I ask him what’s wrong. He gives me this lost look and said that you always pay a terrible price for love. Then he goes back to work.”

“Shit!”

“Yeah. Shit.”

“I’m sorry, Gail.”

“It’s fine, Liss. Gimme my paper back.”

****************************

#3:               Write a roman á clef. For the literary Philistines, this means a true story in the guise of fiction. I figure I have had enough of a life to write something worthy of reading.

NYR 03 – create new recipes.

“All of your resolutions are short, Liss. I applaud your paucity of words.”

“You know I don’t know what that means. And I’m the literary Philistine, right?”

Gail laughed and kissed Alissa on the cheek.

“Yes, you are.”

“Maybe I should read more.”

“You should be you, the woman I fell in love with. If you started reading, I wouldn’t know what to do with you.”

“I only read recipes.”

“And I read too many novels written by melancholy Europeans. I think your reading material is superior to mine.”

Both girls sipped their wine, savoring the contrasting sensations of bitter and sweet.

“So. Recipes?”

“Yeah. I haven’t changed our menu for over a year, and I need to stay up to speed with current tastes. I’ve gotten complacent.”

“Maybe. Don’t discount traditional flavors, babe. You make a mean mushroom-and-onion galette. Not to mention a sweet little omelet with artichoke hearts and sweet peppers.”

“You’re a glutton, sweetie.”

“That I am. But I live with the owner of a vegan restaurant, so I’m allowed.”

“I hate you for staying so thin.”

“I admire your Rubenesque figure.”

“That means fat, right?”

“It means I love your softness. Honestly, I don’t know how you put up with me. I’m all angles and bone. It must be like sleeping with a folding chair.”

“You kick me sometimes, in your sleep. If I rub your stomach, you don’t kick me anymore.”

“I wonder why I do that.”

“Fighting your way out of the womb?”

“Sure, Liss. Attach a weird meaning to it.”

“No. I read that somewhere. Honestly!”

“I thought you only read recipes.”

“And women’s magazines.”

“Philistine.”

“Stuck up bitch.”

“So,” Alissa continued, “why write your memoirs? You’re only twenty-five. Don’t you think you should wait until you’re a little older?”

“Hey, I have a lot of life under my belt. I have a lot to say.”

“Always.”

“Shut up.”

“You shut up.”

****************************

#4:               Make more dandelion wine – with Alissa. It will be a sign to her that I love her, and a homage to Cyrus. Alissa and I will get drunk every New Year’s Eve on dandelion wine and keep on writing our resolutions to share with each other.

NYR 04 – Lose weight

“Well, that’s ridiculous,” Gail commented.

“Not even.”

“’tis. No one trusts a skinny cook, babe.”

“I feel like I let myself go these past few years, sweetie. I eat too much at the restaurant. I eat too much here. And I drink too much wine.”

“Sacrilegious statements, every one.”

“Really, Gail. I don’t like all this pudge hanging off of me. It’s unattractive.”

Gail sighed and shook her head, unconvinced of Alissa’s motives.

“Ima tell you a story. It involves Cyrus, so you’ll like it, being such a nosy bitch about him and all.”

“True, true. Continue.”

“Well, he was an old man. In his seventies when we first met. Anyway, he had hair growing out of his ears and out of his nose. Disgusting, right? But no.”

“But yes! That’s some gross shit, sweetie.”

“You would think. But the man was beautiful, Liss. Just beautiful, wild nose hair and ear hair and all. And I know I’m crying a little right now but I can’t help it. I’ll work on that.”

Alissa rubbed Gail’s shoulders and kissed the top of her head. The girl is a mystery, but such a beautiful one. She has a heart and she really has no reason to have one after all she’s been through.

“I’d trim him up from time to time to make him presentable to the world, but it just didn’t matter to me, personally. Beauty is what you see, babe, not what the world tells you to see.”

“Is that how you sculpt?”

Gail wiped her tears away, blew her nose, and drank some more wine. Almost gone. Three healthy swallows or six wimpy sips.

“Cyrus taught me to let the marble reveal itself.”

“I’m that way with food. I look at what we have to work with and it just speaks to me. Weird.”

“Not weird. Magic.”

“And the wine? Will it be magic if we make it together, or do you just want to get drunk more often?” Alissa grinned wickedly.

“When I was plying my sinful trade back in the day, all I ate was fast food. Never tasted good. Everyone else liked it, but it was just bland to me. But Cyrus and I kind of taught each other to cook, and it all tasted fabulous. I fell in love with you because your food is fabulous as well, Liss.”

“That’s why you fell in love with me? Really?”

“Among other reasons, but yes. And you fell in love with me because of my sculptures. Don’t deny it. We each saw beauty in each other, through our respective arts. So, yeah. Making wine together. Dandelion wine, babe. Just dandelion wine.”

“Yeah, ok. I’m up for it.”

“And if you want to lose weight, do it for yourself, not for me. Agreed?”

Alissa nodded and held Gail’s hands for a moment. Both girls enjoyed the silence and the closeness as they thought their own thoughts about their life together.

The girls handed each other their resolution paper back. Alissa frowned.

“You crumpled my paper.”

“Didn’t mean to. You leaked some of your ink on my paper.”

“Didn’t mean to.”

“Shut up and write.”

“You shut up and write.”

****************************

#5:               Have more meaningful sex with Alissa. I want to show her my love for her when we are in bed doing our adult activities. She deserves more from me in that department.

NYR 05 – Be emotionally available to myself.

Both girls looked at each other, a little puzzled and a lot intrigued.

“What the hell does that mean, babe? Emotionally available to – yourself?”

“Well, yeah.”

“Sounds angst-ridden and a little dramatic.”

“Says you! You’re always emoting.”

“Explain, sweet little chef. I’d be interested to hear about my emoting.”

Alissa shifted in her seat and took a sip of her wine.

“I keep too many things bottled up. You don’t. You let it all out and then you seem…better. Like you had just gotten rid of some inner demon. I need some of that.”

Gail nodded, a little contrite from what she had been thinking.

“I thought you were about to call me a drama queen.”

“You are dramatic, for about ten seconds. Then it just leaves you.”

“Sometimes. And sometimes I go into the studio and beat the hell out of a piece of marble.”

Gail looked at Alissa, and idea brightening her already bright face.

“Maybe…maybe I could get you your own piece of marble. Yeah! You could just smack the shit out of it when you need to.”

Alissa stared at Gail for a moment before answering. She responded by nodding her head and crying softly.

“Hey babe. None of that now. I don’t have a spare rock for you to beat on yet,” Gail said. She stroked Alissa’s arms and kissed her wet cheeks.

“Ok, I’m fine now. But I need to be more like you. Let it all out. Cleanse myself. Be available to my feelings instead of bottling them up.”

“Do I cause some of this?”

“Yeah. But it’s ok. You do what you do and I accept it. Mostly it’s just me not knowing how to deal with myself. You’re so together that I feel a little inadequate.”

Gail laughed loudly and a little harshly.

“I’m not all that together, Liss. I was a hot mess after Cyrus died, but you kind of glued me together and made me what I was with him. I still have my problems and doubts. I worry that you may fall out of love with me some fine day. I worry that suddenly my sculptures won’t sell. I worry that I’ll lose what Cyrus gave me. Most of all, I worry that I can’t love as well as you deserve.”

“I never knew any of this, Gail. Look, sweetie, I had a lot of girlfriends before, but none of them have given me this deep and solid feeling of love like you have. I think you’re worrying about the wrong things.”

“And I think the same about you.”

“So.”

“So.”

Both girls took sips of wine. The amber liquid was fast disappearing, along with the old year.

“Meaningful sex.”

“Yes.”

“Well, let’s get it over with. You know how I hate to talk about that stuff.”

“Precisely! And that’s why I included it in this list. I don’t want you to talk about it. I’ll do all the talking and you can just shake your head, or nod, or flip me off. Whatever. But I need to say this.”

“K.”

Alissa shifted uncomfortably in her chair. She didn’t like to talk about sex, even with Gail.

“Ok. So here’s the thing, babe. We’re in bed, doing our wild thang, and then we go to sleep. We have sex. Good sex. Wonderful, fulfilling sex.”

Alissa nodded and looked away for a moment. She couldn’t look her partner in the eye after such a statement.

“But.”

Gail paused and took another sip of wine. One sip remaining.

“But, I need to be different with you. I want to stop just having sex and start making love to you.”

“Uh…”

Gail wagged a finger at Alissa.

“No talking. Just listening.”

Alissa nodded, smiling at Gail’s nervousness and anxiety. It was cute.

“I need to be a thoughtful lover. Maybe hold your hand afterwards instead of jumping up to raid the fridge. Maybe kiss you and hold you a little. You deserve it.”

Alissa nodded at this. It wasn’t at all what she expected.

“But if we make love now, we will make love when we’re old, with our fat, hairy bodies. I guess…I guess I want to be with you always, even if I do raid the fridge.”

“I’m gonna cry.”

“Well, don’t. It’ll make you hairy.”

Alissa stopped sniffling and burst out laughing. She glanced at the clock and noted the time.

“Ten minutes until midnight. What shall we do to ring in the new year?”

Gail stood up with her glass and indicated that Alissa should do the same.

“We will drink the last of the dandelion wine. Then I’m gonna put on an Al Stewart song. The Year of the Cat. I want to hold you close and slow dance with you until midnight as this song plays. I will kiss you deeply at the stroke of midnight. And then…”

Gail sauntered over to Alissa and whispered in her ear.

“And then I’m gonna take you upstairs and make love to you.”

Alissa whispered back.

“Start the damn song.”

January 06, 2023 19:09

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17 comments

Susan Catucci
15:55 Jan 10, 2023

Zack's points are true, I agree - this works equally well as a stand-alone and as a continuation of the adventures of Cyrus and Gail. This go-round we get to know Alissa and Gail as a charming, super engaging couple with the spirit of Cyrus flitting about and spreading his wise and valuable contributions. And what a lovely character he is; his is an impact you wouldn't want to ever leave behind. Gail, and now Alissa, are that much better because of it. Sigh.

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Delbert Griffith
16:47 Jan 10, 2023

Again, thank you very much for actually liking my story. It means a lot to me that a writer of your quality enjoys my little tales. I got the idea of a character influencing a story without actually being there from J.D. Salinger's "Raise High the Roofbeams, Carpenters." He had this uncanny knack for making someone the main character without the character actually being there. I know that Cyrus isn't the MC, but I wanted him to be the relevant spicing for the tale. Again, thank you so much, Susan. Your reviews make my day!

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Zack Powell
02:37 Jan 10, 2023

Based on this story's comments, I feel like I'm the target audience, having not yet read the prequel story and thus learning about these characters for the first time here. And I can say with absolute confidence that this piece works just fine as a standalone, which is always a big concern with interconnected stories, that the other stories in the series NEED to be read first to fully comprehend what's going on. Not the case here, and I thank you, Delbert, on behalf of all the uninitiated folks out there. Loved your interpretation of this p...

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Delbert Griffith
12:27 Jan 10, 2023

Wow, Zack. I really am appreciative of the kind words that you have for my tale. I'm also appreciative that you see some of the deeper meanings in their conversation. This was a tough prompt, and the idea of having dueling resolutions seemed like a novel way to approach it. Once I began writing, I knew it was a solid plan because the dialogue just kind of wrote itself. I read Douglas Adams, Joseph Heller, J.D. Salinger, Charles Bukowski, the Sherlock Holmes cannon, Agatha Christie, Jane Austen, George Elliot, Thomas Hardy, Dickens, the B...

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Michał Przywara
21:44 Jan 09, 2023

A good take on the prompt! Just writing a list can be hard to make interesting, but by having people write together and exchange their items, it naturally invites a more intimate atmosphere. I like how some of their items line up, like learning more about Cyrus. This shows that they are good together as a couple. But then some items, like the last one, are quite divergent, so this means they still have a lot to learn about each other, as they grow together. "Gail had a thing for this old man that she couldn’t quite fathom. He was her scu...

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Delbert Griffith
22:36 Jan 09, 2023

Yes, it was a tough prompt, so I just had to tackle it. LOL I took it as a challenge. I appreciate that you picked up on the convergent/divergent themes, not only in resolutions but in the two women's characters. Thanks for enjoying my tale and leaving such nice and insightful comments, Michal. I always look forward to your comments, and I certainly learn a lot from them. :)

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Wally Schmidt
04:54 Jan 08, 2023

So happy to have stumbled onto this story . I felt like someone poured me a glass of dandelion wine and I was basking in the glow of the MC's relationship. The way you wrote the relationship you could see the geniune love and affection they had for each other, but also how their love had grown comfortable and fit like an old pair of jeans. The addition of the Cyrus character gave the story another dimension. A lovely story filled with sweetness, and I might add, a nice change from a lot of the heavy stuff in the stories that are popping up ...

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Delbert Griffith
14:03 Jan 08, 2023

Wally, thank you for the kind words and the nice review. I appreciate your time and thoughtfulness in your comments. Yes, you are absolutely spot on about the 'girls' references. I had gotten so used to addressing my students as 'boys and girls' that I find I use it too often. Nice catch! I will go back and modify the original today. They are young women. This is a sequel to a story I had written a week or two earlier, entitled "Whispers from Pygmalion." The history of Cyrus and Gail are in this tale. The timeline has the young women in the...

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Wally Schmidt
15:59 Jan 08, 2023

Hi Delbert, Based on your comments above, I have another suggestion (-nope! you're not done with me just yet). If you go to all the trouble of creating these characters and telling their story and making people fall in love with them, then let readers know that they have existed in prior stories. LOL Readers should know about "Whispers from Pygmlion" without having to leave comments on your more recent story. At the end of your new story, skip a few lines, put in some ***'s and say 'read more about Alissa and Gail in Whispers from Pygmal...

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Delbert Griffith
17:49 Jan 08, 2023

Wally, I thank you for considering me a good writer. Like you, I follow Anne Marie, Suma, Zack, and Deidra because of their quality work. I'm honored to be thrown into the mix with these literary miscreants. LOL Your advice about promoting prior stories that have the same characters is solid, and I think I'll take that advice. I had never considered that, so thank you. And thanks for taking the time to comment and advise. It is truly appreciated, my man.

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Wally Schmidt
19:05 Jan 08, 2023

Last thing: I'm a woman 😉

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Wendy Kaminski
18:17 Jan 07, 2023

You are such a romantic, in the best and non-traditional of the ways. :) This vignette about promises made to ourselves and others, and the dialogue throughout, were warm and wonderful and prompt-perfect. Touching without being too sappy... just the right amount of sap, as it were. :) "Beauty is what you see, babe, not what the world tells you to see.” Lovely!

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Delbert Griffith
18:30 Jan 07, 2023

Thanks so much, Wendy! I appreciate that you picked up on my favorite line (and a line, BTW, that I fully believe in). I'm a little sad that you didn't use the word 'ensacchrinated." You'll always be one of my favorites for that alone. LOL You also picked up on something crucial to the tale: the promises we make to OURSELVES and OTHERS. Both. I did this on purpose to show maturity in love and affection. These women will be together through thick and thin. Again, thanks so much, Wendy. I'm a fan of your insights.

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Wendy Kaminski
18:33 Jan 07, 2023

omg I had to stop myself from using it! It was perfect there! Laughing. :)

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Amanda Lieser
16:40 Jan 07, 2023

Hi Delbert! Truth be told, I love being the first to comment on a story. It’s like I get to be the first one to open the book. And this story is such a good one. It made me so happy because I often think of who my mothers were when they first fell in love. I consider their hopes, dreams, and new year’s resolutions. My favorite line was actually in the dialogue: “It means I love your softness...” I loved how solid of a character Cyrus is in this piece. I loved his presence and how it gave this warm glow of approval over this relationship. I a...

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Delbert Griffith
17:41 Jan 07, 2023

Wow, thanks so much for the kind words and the nice review, Amanda. Your words hearten me to write more, and to continue to search for characters that touch readers' souls. The prequel to this tale is a story I wrote for Reedsy entitled "Whispers from Pygmalion." I'm not plugging it to get you to read it, but it shows how Cyrus and Gail met, and how they lived their lives with each other. I'm gratified that you picked up on how important the 'absent' Cyrus was to this story. He kind of glued it all together, though he had passed on. Aga...

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Lily Finch
20:04 Jan 08, 2023

Del, this story is a stand-alone, but because I read the prequel, it works that way too. It is a lovely way to develop a relationship and watch the ladies delve deeply into their core beliefs about necessary items to know in a relationship. The dandelion wine that Gail and Cyrus made and the telling about Cyrus that led to the telling of more of the two women's stories was fabulous. Well done! LF6

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