Category Archives: Two Page Love Stories

Little love stories with a lot of heart. Perfect for internet and smartphone readers.

The Book, pt 3

PART 1    PART 2

The overlook is a little parking lot at the summit of a hill that previews the entire city. Nine years ago I’d taken Corinne here for our first date. Three years ago I married her here. I park my car and step out into the passing sunlight, squinting as I gaze out over the city. The sunset drenches every building in gold and casts heavy shadows over the streets. My shoes crunch over pebbles and twigs as I walk to the edge of the lot, revealing a steep drop nobody could survive. I consider it.

“You take all the girls here?” Corinne’s voice cuts in and my memories take over. I was standing just a few feet closer to my car. I always parked in the same place. She wore a dress with a floral pattern and raised an eyebrow over her thick-rimmed sunglasses. She was chewing a piece of gum – a promising gesture of what I had coming for me. Her footsteps were light and weightless, like she was waltzing over the clouds, and her dress danced over her legs in hypnotic waves.
“No.” I responded. My heart was racing. Dinner and a movie had been the original plan, but nothing original ever satisfied Corinne. No, when I picked her up from her parents’ house, she hopped in my car and hijacked my date. Instead we stopped for ice cream at the pier, played tag in a gift shop (we got kicked out), and drove two hours to get to this summit. Her question, therefore, took me off guard.
“But I’m guessing you take all the boys?” I added smugly. I wouldn’t admit it then, but I was desperately hoping she would reassure me.
“No, no.” She chuckled. She stepped around me and gazed out over the city.
I will never get that image out of my head. Seeing her golden hair glimmer in the sunlight. That moment could make me believe in God.
“Only one boy, ever.”
“Who’s that?” I asked, harshly defensive.
“My little brother.” She said. Her voice carried the trailing of a story, but I didn’t dare ask then. I was too selfish. I’ve always been too selfish.
“Nobody else then?” I asked.
She paused before turning back to me. The look in her eyes summoned me closer.
“Kiss me?” She asked.
My heart tore through my chest. My hands reached for her jaw and I pulled myself into a kiss; her soft lips surrounded mine and I tasted, smelled, and felt tender passion.

When I pull away, twilight turns to dawn and Corinne is wearing a wedding dress. Applause sounds all around us and I stare at her with unbearable longing. Her green eyes look back at me with so much love I don’t know what to do with it. It’s so foreign to me now. I never realized how she looked at me.

The memory wafts away and I’m alone on the summit, my eyes strained from the light. Why can’t I have her back? I fidget with the note in my hands. My eyes begin to tear up and I bite my lip to keep it from quivering.
“I miss you…” I sob into the sky. Whispers to ghosts.
Her little brother, Max, died when he was eight. She always credited him for her outlook on life.
“I was so blind.” She had told me once. “All I cared about were looks and opinions. When he left, I realized his opinion was the only one that mattered to me. I realized what I looked like to him was the most important.”
That’s how I feel now. Nothing matters anymore. Not my work. Not my look. Not my life. Everything just feels so pointless and I feel so lonely. I would do anything to have her back.
I walk back towards my car, nearly forgetting to look for the next clue, and find a small envelope tied to a branch hanging over our wedding spot. There is a red ribbon tied around it, like a bow, and I wonder in amazement that it’s still hanging here so long after she passed. I’m almost reluctant to open it. How much longer is this going to go on? How many more memories am I going to have to live through? I decide quickly that I’m not ready to forget her, and so I grab the envelope. On the back, in Corinne’s handwriting, it reads: Jacob.
That’s me. I gently open the envelope and unfold the piece of paper – I’m careful, like I’m commencing a surgery. The note goes as follows:

Not all paths are clearly laid,
In cobblestone or weeds refrained,
Some are winding, filled with twists,
So many turns for an opportunist.

Not all paths are clearly laid,
Jacob dear, don’t be afraid,
Sometimes all you have to do,
Is see things from a different view.


The Book, pt. 2


“You look so sad.” Her voice was like auditory sugar.
I remember looking up from my hands and seeing her peek up at me over her shoulder. Her hair shown like gold in the sun, and she sat cross-legged on the bleachers with her guitar over her knee.
“Yeah.” I mumbled. Why was she talking to me?
She chuckled, and I took it like an insult. “Poor boy.” She mocked.
Half of me had energy to fight her – to express how miserable this day had been. Luckily the other half won, and I simply shrugged and returned my head into my hands.
“What’s wrong?” She pressed.
Every word she spoke tickled my senses.
“Nmn.” I mumbled into my hands.
The metal bench creaked and I guessed she stood up. Suddenly nervous, I peeked up from my hands and saw her standing awkwardly and facing me. Her beautiful face was strewn in pity – like she was watching the end to the Titanic and I was Leo.
“Bad day?” She asked. This time she tugged at the bass tones in her voice, and she sounded almost sincere. Corinne always had problems sounding sincere. As if God accidentally spilled a whole bottle of sarcastic into her DNA.
“You have no idea.” The corner of my mouth twitched with the intention of smiling.
“What happened?” She set her guitar down and walked up to me. Her body looked like it was carved from wild thunder; flawless skin and perfect rounds and edges in every which way. Her lips were plump and pink like clouds at sunset.
“I overslept.” I sighed.
If ever there was a moment in life that perfectly celebrated the collaboration of sound and vision, it was right at that moment as Corrine burst into laughter. For the briefest of moments, I forgot about all my concerns and became concerned instead with Corrine. Corrine, with her perfect face and body, as if she was sent down from the heavens to laugh at my feeble attempts at success.

That was ten years ago. Now, instead of watching Corrine laugh, I’m clamping on to a little note she scribbled on graph paper before she committed suicide. I’m standing at the foot of the bleachers, squinting to keep the sun from stealing my vision. I’m no longer concerned what people will think of me for being here – at a school after school hours – I only care to know why. Why did she leave me? What was so horrible about her life that she could find no other way to salvage it? I’m having a hard time withholding my tears, but I succeed in the end. Everything is as it was. Every dirty stain and every etched proclamation of permanent love is still on each perspective bench like it was when I had gone to school here. It even smells the same. The only thing missing is the slight hint of pomegranate from her perfume. Hopeful, I pull the note to my nose and sniff it. Nothing. She’s gone, I remind myself.

As she hampered off her laughter, I smiled. It’s hard trying to step into your flirting shoes when you’re miserable (ten years ago, misery was oversleeping and missing an exam), but you can bet your ass my brain was scrambling to get its shit together.
“You think that’s funny?” I asked.
“Oversleeping is hardly worth ignoring a girl for.” She bit the corner of her lip mid-smile in a way that sent my blood rushing.
“Someone else’s misery is hardly fair to laugh at.” I rebutted, but I laughed.
“Fair.” She shrugged.
I forget what else we talked about. But as the sun ducked beneath the clouds and the stars swarmed the skies like a mad game of four-in-a-row, we were still sitting next to each other on the bleachers. She taught me how to play a song on the guitar. I remember my hand brushed over her exposed thigh and her skin felt like soft marble. She was a goddess. We talked about school and life and our plans.
“I’m not sure.” She responded when I asked her what she’d do after high school.
I had just told her my plans for Harvard and what kind of job I’d be working and what kind of money I’d be making. She never waivered in her engagement – everything I said seemed interesting to her.
“You’re not sure?” I repeated.
“Yeah. I’ll probably just continue playing guitar.” She smiled.

I grunt as I sit down on the same bench we had sat on ten years ago.
Continue playing guitar. She’d said. The cool breeze brushes through my hair and I look out into the field. I’ve seen the note a thousand times so I resist the temptation to look at it again. Bleachers, it said. I miss her so goddamn much I feel like tearing apart the very fabric of life. I feel like reaching into space and crushing everything with a giant black hole with the off-chance that I might be warped back in time and be reunited with her. I would do anything to feel her skin again. To brush my hand over her thigh like the first time I met her.
Why did she send me here? What was I supposed to find? I feel underneath the bench but find nothing. Maybe I should’ve brought the guitar… I look down to the bench she had sat on when I met her, about three rows down. It’s empty now.

Is it?

I stand up and move over to the bench, where I eagerly feel under the seat.
“Yes…” I mutter to myself as I feel the folds of a piece of paper taped to the bottom of the bench. I pull it and waste no time opening it. My next clue: The Overlook.

I look up from the note and smile as memories flood over me.


The Book, pt. 1

There she stood, with her golden hair whipping over her face from the furious winds. I had known her half my life, but in this very moment I didn’t understand her. She smiled. Her eyes left me and she stepped back.
My voice scraped past my throat as if my words could grab her. “Corinne!”

The things in life that make sense are common: the sun and the moon, the earth beneath your feet, fresh hot coffee in the frigid, autumn morning. Coffee makes sense to me. Two months ago, I didn’t bother much with what made sense. I lived my life the way you’re supposed to: according to the book. And you know what? The book worked. I graduated a valedictorian from Harvard and had a nice desk job where I wore a nice suit and made decisions that impacted the lives of nice people. I had a catalogue life. Martha Stewart was my god.
Something else happened with the help of the book. I met a girl. My highschool sweetheart, Corinne – and I married her after college. If I followed a book for instructions with my life, Corinne followed a complicated map of multilingual inscriptions and arbitrary code created by moonpeople. She was brash and artistic, and she never fit the mold. That was okay, with me – I’d be breadwinner anyway. Who truly knows what women do by themselves, right? Weirdos.
Life was spectacular! I was the most successful student to graduate in 2010, and my dad was proud. Work was… boring, but I mean, that’s work, right? I was happy. My wife was happy. Soon we would bring some babies into the world (one boy, one girl, hopefully) and at age sixty, the book would tell me to retire. Then we’d buy a quaint little shack on the beach and pretend we cared about the culture of whatever South American town we ended up in. The book worked.

But the book has secrets.

In the summer of 2015, Corinne committed suicide by stepping off a bridge. I… don’t know why. I never realized how much I loved her until she tore herself away from me. I never realized how much I could hate her until she tore herself away from me. These last few weeks, I’ve been staring at her picture on my desk at work. Employees of the company come drop off flowers and offer their hallmark condolences, and I just sit there and thank them and tell them I’ll be alright. Then they leave my office and start rumors about how I abused her or that she was miserable with me. I didn’t believe them, at first, but without answers – without so much as a damn suicide note! – I was left to similar conclusions. Maybe she was miserable. Maybe I should’ve spent more time with her. But the book never told me that. Spending time with my wife would never offer tangible rewards the way extra hours at work would.

One autumn morning I’m sitting outside on the porch where Corinne used to play guitar to the neighbor children. Another act of hers I never understood. They weren’t our children – in fact, I have no idea whose children they were – and her time wouldn’t be rewarded with a successful son or daughter. I sit outside with a cup of hot, fresh coffee. Our street is nice and neat. HOA must take good care of it – they should, I pay up the ass for it.
“You’re Mr. Kilder?” A voice startles me, and I look for the cause of it.
A chubby, white blonde girl with pigtails and an expression of utter fear on her face stands at the steps leading up to my porch.
“Why?” I ask. Like she could be handing me a damn subpoena.
“I have something for you.”
She makes some serious effort to climb the steps up the porch and hands me a folded piece of paper with dried, cracking red substance on it.
“I spilled spaghettios.” She explains as she turns and walks away.
I watch her leave before slowly unwrapping the piece of paper. I’m expecting another “sorry for your loss” or the new favorite, “life must go on”. Instead, I find Corinne’s handwriting in the shape of a single word.
Play. In my mind I hear her strong voice.
I stand up quickly and step down from my porch and into the street.
“Hey!” I scream at the little girl as she walks away on her short, stubby legs.
She turns, her eyes wide, and she begins running.
“Hey!” I yell again. “What is this!?”
But she ducks behind a lawn hedge and disappears from my view.
“Bitch…” I mutter. “What is this…?”
I stare at the word like I might decipher a meaning behind it. Play. Why would this girl forge Corinne’s handwriting? What if she didn’t? The alarm on my watch goes off, telling me it’s time to head to work so I fold the note into my pocket and walk back home. As I open the door, I see Corinne’s guitar next to the umbrella rack. Is this where it had always been? Something about it keeps my attention… play?

Ten minutes later, my suit jacket hangs on the coatrack and I’m outside on the porch with my sleeves rolled up and a guitar over my knee. Holding her guitar reminds me of high school, when we first met. She had taught me one song, “Je Ne Veux Plus Etre Seul”, and my fingers slip neatly into position as if it was yesterday. The day I met her I had fallen out of routine. I had overslept and hadn’t been able to fix my hair. I missed the school bus so I had to run to school. I missed my first class and failed my exam without even trying it. Utterly bummed, I had made my way to the bleachers where a beautiful blonde girl was playing guitar. She used to tell me how much she liked me that day. She liked my disheveled hair and my sighs of contempt. I never listened. She never saw me without a neat haircut since that day. The book told me it had to be that way. Now, on the porch with her guitar and her note on my lap, I look up and see the neat street and harbor a sudden sense of resentment for its perfection. Play. I close my eyes and my fingers take charge. Alongside the melody, a rush of emotions and memories flood through me, and for minutes I am blinded from reality. Through the music I almost feel like she is beside me. I play until I mess up a single chord, and it jars me aware. I need to get to work. I open my eyes and am exposed to a group of children (including the fat one that ran from me) all sitting on my lawn like little gnomes lost from their perspective homes. The sight alarms me, and I’m not sure how the neighbors will judge me for tricking them to my house. Is this adequate proof the police would need to label me as a sex offender? I’m about to stand up and shoo them from my property when one of the kids, a black boy with a Mohawk, walks up to me and hands me another note. Apprehensive, I look at the folded piece of paper and begin to realize what’s going on here. I inhale sharply before unfolding it. It says,





Two Page Love Story by G. Z. Kieft

Sword clashed upon shield, sometimes whipping over a man’s head and other times swiping right through it. The gladiator games were intense – a bloody spectacle that never really appealed to Lorelei, even as she feigned excitement upon news of a new champion back in Rome. But this game was different. She had been invited by high standing politicians to partake in a private event, a small little skirmish privy only to select nobles and people of high-birth. And as she stood amongst the gawkers and awe-mongers, she too felt a delicate sense of morbid excitement as the champion Eclipsus tore through an entire battalion of enemies. He was clad in little armor to protect his tall, solid body – another reason Lorelei couldn’t avert her eyes. With every move, Eclipsus’ body was made a mad masterpiece: muscles tensing and relaxing under golden, glistening skin. He wore a helm to hide and protect his face, and in honesty Lorelei was glad of it: a man who makes his wages in battle must have little of a face left. Still, between blood and dust, she could make out two black diamonds glistening through the holes in his helm, and the empty regard they held consumed her. Eclipsus stood heaving over his last competitor, and as he held the point of his blade at the bloody man’s neck, he looked up to his Dominus, the royally rich Ganus of Pompeii. His thumb suspended horizontally for but a brief moment – just enough for the crowd to gasp in anticipation. Then, accompanied with cheers, his thumb angled down and Eclipsus decapitated the defeated man. Lorelei was disgusted with her own enjoyment of the game, and when the crowd roared she remained silent, frequently judging her peers for the mockery they made of human life. That didn’t stop her from stepping on her tippy toes when the crowd blocked her view of Eclipsus, and when that still didn’t give her his sight, she pushed through the bodies to get a closer look. Upon arriving at the forefront of the crowd, her eyes widened and her jaw dropped. Eclipsus had removed his helm, revealing an angled face with a wide, sharp jaw and a head of scruffy brown hair stuck to his skin with sweat. His black eyes publicized their ember nature, bright and hot like a summer fire. His mouth sat agape in heaves, and his stomach rose and tightened into muscular godliness with every breath. What was far more magnificent was the fact that Eclipsus looked directly at Lorelei, his intense eyes tearing into her soul like his sword had done to the dead men on the ground. For that moment, the crowd’s loud celebration muted to Lorelei, and she heard only the race of her own heart, threatening to escape her very chest. “Eclipsus wins!” Ganus announced, stepping into the battlefield and clasping his hand around Eclipsus’ wrist. He lifted it into the sky in celebration, but the gladiator’s eyes remained dead. He was not proud of his deeds, though he had plenty reason to be. He looked as mundane as a man just awoken, and Lorelei thought it quite peculiar. “Quite a sight, is it not?” A voice beside her announced, and Lorelei recognized her friend, Vera. Lorelei scoffed, feeling her cheeks flush. “I’ve told you, I see no joy in the end of a man’s life.” “The joy is to be found in the one man most alive, Lor.” Vera brushed her long, brown hair with her hands and shuddered as she set eyes upon Eclipsus. “The brute?” Lorelei observed, tucking away her jealousy. “Hardly.” Vera met Lorelei’s eyes. “He is a god.” Lorelei announced a loud guffaw, raising an eyebrow in skepticism. “Please, I see more god in the men that write laws for the good of their people.” “Do you?” Vera challenged. “In their tiny white arms and their skeletal chests? Please, Lor, I’d marry a man of stature just as fast as you but you cannot deny longing for the harsh terrain of his skin. I could get lost in those arms.” Lorelei remained stubbornly tethered to her cause. “He lives to end the lives of others. Were it not a sport in fashion our world would be better off, yet.” “A pity.” Vera shrugged, her seductive eyes averting to the gladiator. “I suppose you’d find no time to join me in the private introduction Ganus has set up then.” Three hours later, Lorelei stood with trembling hands at the steps of Ganus’ personal home, accompanied with a dozen or so others. Vera and herself were the only women, though it occurred no worry to Lorelei. She only nerved with the concept of her upcoming meet with Eclipsus. She wondered absentmindedly what he smelled like, or if she would get a brush of his skin upon her own. Ganus appeared from their flank, clad in colorful robes to hide his fat, wealthy body. Lorelei found herself suddenly more judgmental of her peers. “Thank you all for coming.” He announced heartily. “I shall postpone your moment of anticipation no longer. Eclipsus!” From the same curtains Ganus had come, a strong, tan arm reached out and pushed the fabrics aside. Out came Eclipsus, dressed in nothing but a rag tied around his hips so low you could see his defined hip bones vie against the material. His stride was certain and purposeful, and when he arrived at his mark, he stood perfectly still like a statue. He had been cleaned and bronzed, readied for display like a prize pony. He stared above the audience obediently, avoiding eye contact and any exhibition of emotion. “Marvel upon the tempest responsible for cleaning the world of its filth inhabitants!” Ganus chortled proudly. The crowd cheered, and Lorelei stared. He was only a few feet away from her, his scent wafting in her direction. He smelled like… home? Lorelei frowned when she recognized the smell. She had smelled it before, in her birth town. He smelled like the forest she often escaped to with her friends. As she gazed upon his rough, precise features it suddenly occurred to her that maybe she might know Eclipsus from somewhere. The Dominus led each spectator in a tour of the gladiator, circumventing his every angle in admiration. Vera was up next, and Lorelei watched with untamed jealousy as the girl ogled at Eclipsus. “Can I touch him?” Vera asked, her face flushed and her knees at a slight buckle. Ganus laughed and motioned for her to run her fingers down the crevices of his abs; over the smooth, tense surface of his chest, and around his veined biceps. “Are you quite well, Vera?” Lorelei announced loudly in attempts of embarrassing the girl – and sating her jealousy. Vera’s sharp glance shot to her friend, but she quickly recovered with a humble smile. “Thank you, Ganus, for this… marvelous display.” She said, bowing and stepping down the steps. Lorelei took no time, eager to get her own desires addressed, and she quickly stepped up to Eclipsus. The move was to abrupt perhaps. Or maybe Eclipsus had been as eager as Lorelei. Either way, the gladiator removed his blank gaze and stared directly at her. In a moment of shared exhilaration, Eclipsus tender lips parted into a slightest of mischievous smiles, and his deep, rumbling voice catered to her ears like rain to a desert. Void of introduction, he spoke her name. “Lorelei.”

The Plan

The Plan

Two Page Love Story by G. Z. Kieft

The concept was simple: steal her and sell her back. The plan, too, was far from complex. Dressed as two patrolmen of the Royal Guard, we would sneak into the castle, slip narcotics into her food and descend with her into a boat we had preemptively left in the moat. None of these concerned me: Max and I had completed far riskier missions. No, my troubled mind drug my conscious to its deathbed the moment I stalked up the spiraling staircase, removing the cramped helmet from my skull and laying eyes on the most stunning creature I had ever come across. Her velvet skin lay across her slithering figure like a porcelain shell over liquid chocolate, partial only to the harsh, gathered features on her face as she gazed sternly at her own reflection in the window. I had snuck into the hallway leading up to her room, and her door stood ajar, wafting to me her pomegranate perfume seductively. That was her. That was my mission. As I neared the bedroom, I noticed she was dressed in travel garb and a large sack sat at her feet. As I crept in to intoxicate her, I discovered she was on the verge of escaping the castle – willingly. Just then, the alarming scream of the real royal guard sounded, and as I turned around I saw Max booking it our way.

“Into the boat!” He cockled, his panic overridden by his addiction to trouble.

I pleaded for the princess to hurry, and we clambered down the castle window into the boat we had anchored. Max was the last to join us, and by the time he hopped on I had withdrawn the anchor and we rowed away towards the mainland. From there, the three of us snuck into a carriage and Max took the reign while the princess and I snuck into the cab – part of the plan should the princess awake from her narcotics. Instead, a smile crossed her excited face, wrinkling her tiny nose.

“What’s your name?” She asked.
“Gustaf.” I responded, naïvely giving her my real name.
“I’m…” But I interrupted her introduction.
“Princess Colette.”
“Just Colette.” She smiled.

We escaped the city and made it all the way into the woods, where we followed a little known robber’s path created by, obviously, robbers. I climbed out of the cab and joined Max at the helm of the carriage, overlooking the three horses driving us.
“What was all that?” Max asked incredulously.
I explained the situation, and he laughed in disbelief. “Collecting this ransom is going to be easy!”
“Yeah…” My response spawned from my sudden infatuation with our inventory.
From here the plan was to arrive in Luxemburg, where we would hide out for two weeks before demanding a hefty ransom for her return.

Well, that was the plan, anyway.

However, our carriage was intercepted by bandits and we became engulfed in a heated, bloody battle. During the interception, I managed to sneak Colette to safety, but when I returned Max had been taken and our horses had been set free while our carriage had been raided. Overwhelmed, I dropped to my knees and grabbed at the gold and brown leaves on the floor. Colette came to claim me, and when she saw the result of our skirmish she kneeled by my side.
“What do we do?” She asked, avidly concerned.
My priorities remained with her, and I assured her Max would be fine. “I’ll recover Max after I get you to safety.”
Max would want me to keep her unscathed for a maximum return, anyway.We walked through that forest for three days, taking turns keeping watch.

Well, that was the plan, anyway.

More often than not we just stayed up, talking and gazing up at the stars. From those nights, my fascination with Colette grew to love, and within the week I was head over heels. We arrived in Luxemburg, and I kept her in the room Max and I had rented the week prior.
“What about Max?” Colette would ask some days later as we woke in the morning.
The truth was, with Max gone I didn’t have to worry about returning Colette – something even Colette knew nothing about. He had been my partner for seven years, but I was done with that life. I had found what I wanted, and I was willing to forsake him for it. Another week went by – and another. Colette and I began a life together, gradually at first, but it sped up into an exploding sum of passion and overtook us. But one night, as we slept in each other’s arms, our door was kicked down. A hooded figure stomped inside, stabbed me in the stomach and took Colette from my grasp, kicking and screaming. I staggered after them, but I couldn’t keep up, and soon she was taken from me just as I had taken her from her family. The loss of blood left me unconscious, and it was only because a patrol guard found me that I survived. However, after matching my face up to wanted posters, I was quickly shipped back to the castle, where Colette’s father held me captive. I was tortured and beaten there for eighteen days, and I told them the truth every single morning and night. The hard thing about the truth is that sometimes it is impossible to hear, and I myself began wondering if perhaps Colette hadn’t wanted to escape. What if I had been delusional? This is where my story would end, in these dark dungeons with these dark regrets.

Well, that was the plan, anyway.

Instead, I was awoken at dawn to a note with an arrow punctured through it. Colette’s father brought it to me, and I immediately recognized the handwriting.

The deal is off,
find me at our spot,
money no longer counts,
with your blood she must be bought.

The king spirited me away and a group of his men to chase after Max, and when I arrived at a tall cliff with a shallow cave at its foot, I turned to the king’s guard. “This is it.” This is where I had met Max. This is where we escaped to after he had saved me from my slaver. Eight arrows were suddenly loosed into the hearts of the royal guard, and immediately I was alone. I became surrounded by a group of bandits as they crept from the trees and bushes, and leading them was Max, with a tied up Colette at his side.

“You abandoned me!” He yelled.
I tried to reason with him, but he could find no comfort in my apologies. I didn’t blame him, I did abandon him. I deserved whatever was coming for me, and when our fight began I expected to die.

That was the plan, anyway.

But during our fight, my desire for Colette drove my sword through his ribs, and his final words collected under a curtain of tears. “Live a happy ending. For both of us.” I stole Colette one final time and we escaped from the bandits. The experience didn’t leave us unscathed, but Max’s request inspired us to move past it all. Finally we had a plan worth following through with: to live happily ever after.

Lies, Loss, and Justice

Lies, Loss, and Justice

Two Page Love Story by G. Z. Kieft

I don’t suppose there’s any real truth to the stories they tell you as a kid: I mean, there’s no Santa, no tooth fairy, no monsters under your bed and broccoli doesn’t taste good. They’re all lies, ergo, our parents are liars. So what do we do, now that we are grown adults and we have the same responsibility to lie to our kids about the world? What kind of bullshit do I make up for no explainable reason? The answer? Every single piece of bullshit ever.

My daughter, Lilith, is tucked in under the blankets and her little mouth stretches as wide as it can under the pressure of a yawn. She has bright green eyes, like emeralds, and she looks at me with that sleepy daze of trust you notice in little puppies and kittens. Her blonde hair is sprawled out over the pillow like a wild, golden octopus, and I push the remaining strands from her cheek back and tuck them behind her little ears. I’m sitting next to her tiny little body in my work clothes, endeared to be in her presence. But this particular instance wasn’t like the other nights I put Lilith to bed. She seemed to be preoccupied and bothered by something.
“You okay?” I ask her.
She looks me right in the eyes, fearless. She contemplates the way only a kid can, with her lips pursed to the side and her tender complexion strewn with compassionate concern for her father. Then, deciding on something, she sighs with heavy burden.
“Dad,” She says, very grown-up like. “You don’t know where mother is.”
Somehow I knew this was coming. I raise my eyebrow and grin uncomfortably. “Why do you think that?” I ask.
“You always tell me something different every night, and honestly, it just doesn’t add up.”
I could tell how difficult it was for her to confront me about this. She wanted the truth, not another fairytale.
“All right,” I nod. “All right, you got me.”
Lilith seems shocked by my confirmation of her suspicion. “Where is she?”
“You want the truth right? The honest truth, every little detail?”
“Yes.” Lilith eagerly sits upright. “Yes, please.”

All right. A long time ago, in a little town far away from here called New York, your mom was a barten… or rather, a princess in a little pub downtown. She was very popular amongst the men there, and every prince and king came from all over the world to ask for her hand in marriage. But your mom, Camilla, she refused every single man. You know why? Because she was taken; by yours truly. I had proposed to her with some crappy, thrift shop… I mean, with a beautiful eight-carat diamond ring, which I had found in the high cliffs of northern Russia during a mining excavation. We were very happy together. The only thing: there was an evil witch who controlled a small part of Camilla’s brain. She was born like that, and sometimes, during really rough days, Camilla would lose control and the evil witch would take over, and Camilla would do something mean or foolish. But it didn’t matter; because when I was around I was always able to help her regain control. One day, I came to the bar in New York after my job, which was to slay dragons, and I surprised Camilla. Little did I know, she had an even bigger surprise for me: she was pregnant! With you, no less: the brightest, most beautiful angel ever. Your mom and I celebrated that night on the rooftop of my castle, cuddled up under a blanket and watching the dim lights of the stars. Nine months later, you entered our life and your mom quit her job as princess and began working from home as an online sales consultant – her dream job! We moved away from New York Town and came here, instead, to raise you peacefully. But a few months later, I came home from my job as dragon slayer, only to find that your mother was missing, and so were you! I was really scared at that point. I called upon my knights at the police station to help me find you, and I discovered the king of the knights had kidnapped both of you! My very own king, betrayed me! I flew to this evil king’s castle upon the back of an eagle, and when I arrived I was met with reporters, hundreds of them! Their magic flash powers were intended to blind me, but with my sword I cut through them all and arrived at the entrance of the castle, where a giant statue with a scale stood. Her name was Justice, but she wasn’t really justice, only pretending to be. I fought justice for thirteen months, but every time I cut off one of her arms, more lawyers came along, and with their magic, they regrew her limbs. The fight was hopeless, and after thirteen months, I was bloodied and defeated. It seemed I had lost to the Justice system, and I would never, ever steal you and Camilla back. But just when I thought I had lost all hope, one lawyer turned on his kind and joined my side, driven by compassion and understanding. He helped me recover and continued the fight. See, because your mother was struggling with mind control from the evil witch, many times she couldn’t quite think straight. Usually she was the most peaceful, beautiful woman, but the witch switched her button and in this particular instance, Camilla accidentally hurt another person really badly. So the evil king, in fear of the evil witch, locked up Camilla in a white prison to be with other people under the mind control of the witch. And unfortunately, killing dragons didn’t give me enough money to take care of you alone, so the evil king thought he had to take you and take care of you by kidnapping you from me. But with the lawyer at my side (and a new job as an assistant at the lawyer’s law firm) I was able to incapacitate Justice long enough to sneak into the castle. I found you, just a little bundle barely a year old, and I was able to steal you back.

“So…” Lilith mumbles. “Mom is locked up?”
I nod, fighting the burning sensation in my eyes as tears struggle to trickle down my cheek.
“I miss her too.” Lilith nods, slipping out of her blanket and clambering on top of my lap. I wrap my arms around her and squeeze her familiar, small body.
“I miss her so much.” I whisper into her hair. My shoulders shake over her, and her tiny hands grip my shirt tightly. “I miss her so much Lilith.”
“I know.” She comforts. “Me too.”
We participate in a long span of silence before Lilith breaks it again.
“Why did you lie to me before?”
I wipe my wet face with my sleeves, avoiding her gaze. “Camilla begged me never to tell you. To never tell you the truth.”
“Why?” Lilith asks.
“She was embarrassed. She feels like her mind control is her fault.”
I wait, my hands trembling as I try to stabilize them on my lap. It’s been six years since Lilith was able to hold her mother the way she holds me.

“You know, Lil.” I said, pre-emptively nodding. “We can visit her.”

Kissing Molly

Kissing Molly

Two Page Love Story by G. Z. Kieft

There aren’t many rules in life. I didn’t realize that until I saw her – that every “unchangeable” aspect in our lives is just a work of fiction. I used to believe that I was who I was, and that meant I talked to the people I was supposed to talk to; cried over the people I was supposed to cry over; and loved the people I was supposed to love.

But as I was sipping away at the contents of a red solo cup at some frat bro’s party, she walked in, and like a clasp of thunder in a cloudless sky: she changed everything. I was drawn to her. To her style, with her infinity scarf tucked into her jacket and her boots and thigh high socks. I was drawn to the golden curls that ringed around her smooth cheeks. I was drawn to her cherry lips, her frail neck and slender shoulders. But more importantly, I was drawn to her eyes and what was behind them. A sense of belonging. A determined conception of happiness.

I saw her at a few more parties, in passing mostly. I never quite collected the courage to talk to her. I drowned my insecurities in cheap beer and source-less shots, eyeing her from a distance as some new guy stuck his tongue down her throat every night. She deserved better – I felt like I ought to tell her. That was my responsibility, right?

One night, as busy chatter caused by lost inhibitions overcast some Lil Wayne song and I took my familiar place in the corner of the party, I saw her enter.
“Molly!” Some guy with a beer gut called her over.
I eyed her as she unbuttoned her thick coat. Her long legs took large, confident strides to him.
“I won three games of beer pong!” The guy bragged. He was genuinely proud of himself.
“Great.” Molly smiled.
Nobody else noticed, but I did. I always did. That smile was plastered on, like papier-mâché on that otherwise perfect face. That smile didn’t belong with those sad, misguided eyes.
“Well?” The guy continued. “Do I get a kiss?”
Molly chuckled and shook her head. “I don’t think Dan would like to hear you ask that.”
Dan was her boyfriend-kinda-thing.
“No, I mean on my dick!” The guy laughed. His friends laughed too. Everybody laughed, and nobody cared about little old Molly and her loss of self worth as it was wrung from her body like water from a dirty, used old rag.
Nobody cared, except for me, and quite honestly I had enough. I don’t know what was different that night from others – maybe I had had one too many drinks and I, too, had finally lost my inhibitions. Maybe there’s an internal bullshit meter that had finally filled up. Maybe I was just finally doing what I should’ve done for weeks, the right thing. I don’t know. All I know is that I marched right up to that guy, and channeling my inner Pacquiao, I jabbed him right in the jaw and sent him staggering back to trip over the beer pong table. He fell; the beerpong table was knocked over; and the whole party roared with cheers and laughter. I felt victorious. I felt like David, standing over Goliath.

That’s when the crowd quieted, and one man brought me back to reality.
“Knocked out by a girl!”

That’s right. I wasn’t David standing over Goliath. I was Dana, and I was a full-fledged girl, with a vagina and all.

My eyes flashed to Molly, and she smiled at me. She looked at me acceptingly, with a real smile. I smiled at her back, but I couldn’t help but feel reality nagging at my fantastical notions. Without a word, I left the scene and walked out back, where the party took a more mellow shape with pot smokers and sleepers (the latter of which had several dicks and mustaches drawn on their faces). I crawled up beside the pool, pulling my knees close into my chest and resting my chin on them. What was I going to do? What did all this mean? What about the two boyfriends I had in middle school? I liked them, didn’t I?

“Thank you.” Her voice felt the way a kiss feels on the back of your neck.
Molly took a seat next to me. She had taken off her socks and rolled up her jeans so she could wade her feet in the icy cold pool water.
“You didn’t have to do that.” Molly continued. She never took her eyes off of me.
“I’m sorry.” I said, a bit offended. “Someone had to. I’m so sick of that guy.”
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad you did.” Molly chuckled. There was a brief pause before she cocked her head to the side. “Why did you do it?”
I sighed. This is the part where you’re supposed to confess all your feelings. I was so bad at this stuff.
“I’ve noticed you before, you know.” Molly pressed. “I know you look at me.”
“I know how you look at me.”
“Whoa, what?” I scooted away from her. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
Molly shrugged and looked at her feet in the water. “I don’t know.”
So much of me wanted to fight her about this. To tell her she was wrong. To protect my pride as a straight woman. What was she accusing me of? What was she expecting me to say?
What did she want me to say?
“I’ve always wanted a boyfriend who would stand up for me.” Molly said as she dazed out at her own reflection.
“Well, I’m not a boy.” I scoffed.
“Yeah.” Molly sounded disappointed. “You would’ve made a good boyfriend.”
I was all twisted inside. Embarrassed, annoyed, excited and nervous. I knew so little about myself. I knew so little about her. The only thing I did know was what I wanted, and yet that was the one thing far more absurd that any of it.
“Maybe in a next life.” Molly concluded.
“You know,” I snapped, and Molly looked at me. “There aren’t many rules in life, Mol. I never knew that. I always thought you are who you are and you’re supposed to talk to the people you’re supposed to talk to and fuck the people you’re supposed to fuck. But it’s not true. There’s only one rule that matters, and that’s the rule of happiness. It’s the rule of doing what you’d like. The rule of taking what you want. It’s the rule of not caring how the world looks at you if you act out and do something that it doesn’t want from you. The only thing that matters is that the smile on your face matches the smile in your eyes, and that you never, ever settle for what other people expect out of you.”

I could barely finish my sentence before Molly leaned in, wrapped her slender fingers around my neck and planted her cherry lips on mine.

I was kissing Molly.

Better To Have Never Loved At All

Better To Have Never Loved At All

Two Page Love Story by G. Z. Kieft


The salty winds dance on my skin and the setting sun scares my eyes away: I hold them shut tight and clench my teeth together in frustration. My fingers sit curled up into fists and my blood boils with agitation. I want to hurt something. I have been punching waves and kicking sand into my own eyes all afternoon, which, obviously upset me even more. Now, as the sun threatens to leave me just as everyone else has, I sit with nothing but anger and the incapability to do anything about it and I am lost.
See, I’m cursed.
When I was a young boy, my friend and I snuck out of our house one night. I’ll never forget the scent of gasoline and burnt rubber from the asphalt, accompanied with the prickling sense of sweat rubbing between skin and grass stained shirts. We jumped fences and hedges between neighboring gardens and giggled with anticipation as we approached our disturbed goal: break into Marley Higginson’s house. Mrs. Higginson was an old lady – probably the oldest thing in our neighborhood, and, in our opinion the oldest thing in existence – who always spat words in weird languages at us as we played on her sidewalk. She always shook her bony little fingers and threatened us with words we didn’t understand, and for us kids, this perfectly casted her as a witch. My friend (Max) and I, we were the brave ones. We always stood there, laughing tauntingly as her old lips struggled to comply to her twisted brain. We promised our friends that one day, we would break into her house and officially expose her as a witch. Tonight was that ‘one day’.
We didn’t really believe she was a witch, of course. We knew witches didn’t exist. But what did exist was adrenaline, and for boys, living in the safe, suburban streets of Vancouver meant it wasn’t exactly easy to find anything adrenaline worthy. I remember distinctly: we arrived into her yard and fear suddenly replaced my bravery. Her garden was bare and ugly, like a little desert in the middle of a beautiful, flourishing city. Max had said something like, “Come on, let’s go”. At this moment, he seemed a hundred times braver than me, and I became forced to expand my own bravado. We had watched some videos online on how to pick locks, so naturally we were experts, but when we tried to pick the lock on her door it wouldn’t budge.
“Must be witchcraft.” Max had chuckled excitedly.
“Yeah.” I agreed enthusiastically.
It wasn’t witchcraft. I knew that. I assumed Max did too, but he was beginning to worry me. Did he know there was no such thing as a witch? Did he realize we were just breaking into an old woman’s house?
“I’ve got an idea.” Max said.
I remember the look in his eyes. Hungry, full of life and energy. It had scared me.
“Max, let’s just go.” I had said. “Let’s regroup and do this another night.”
But Max had already picked up a rock, and before I had any chance to stop him, he chucked it at the window and it cleared a hole straight through. We watched in anticipation until the hole cracked off like a spider web and soon the entire window shattered.
“Max!” I scolded in a whisper.
“Shh.” He hushed, and disappointment crossed his gaze to me. “I thought we were in this together?”
But before I could even respond, an alarm went off. We both jumped, startled, and booked it over her fence together. That’s when it happened. As we struggled over the fence, I peeked back over shoulder and saw, to my horrible surprise, that the old lady was looking at us out of her window. And she mouthed – so clearly that I could read her lips – she mouthed: You will never live this down.
For a long time Max and I laughed about this event, and soon we forgot about it. Then May 1st, 1996 came along, and Max was killed in a car accident. I remember standing at his grave, holding a bouquet of flowers, staring at his name on the tomb and feeling so out of place without him. The next year, June 2nd of 1997, my mother died of a heart attack. July 3rd, 1998, my dad was shot during a gas station robbery. My wife, Celeste, died during childbirth August 4th, 1999, and my son lasted only five days before complications took him from me too. Today was September 5th, 2000, and I was still alive. I had nobody left – nobody to be taken away from me, and yet I was forced to live on. All day I had walked in front of traffic, under ladders, through dangerous neighborhoods and literally carried a sign saying, “kill me”. I threatened a police officer, but he only laughed me off and left me. I tried to overdose with medicine and accidentally dropped the bottle of pills into the toilet. I tried to find a gun store but I guess we don’t have any in Vancouver, or the ones we did have were closed today. I had no idea how difficult it was to die. Then it occurred to me, as I sat staring into the horrible, unchanged sun, that I was cursed. That old lady, she was a witch, and I was cursed.
And so here I am. What am I supposed to do then? I can’t live with myself, but I cannot seem to die, no matter how hard I try.
“Nice sign.” The voice comes from my right, and when I look over the sun illuminates a young, pale face with thick lips and long eyelashes. The woman seems amused, but I just ignore her and return my face to the salty wind.
“You want to die?” She asks.
“More than anything.”
She asks me why, and I monotonously explain my depressing scenario. During this time she invites herself to take a seat next to me. When I finish, she shrugs.
“And this makes your cursed?” She reiterates.
I sigh. “Obviously.”
“I don’t know.” She shrugs. “A hundred-fifty thousand people die every day. You only knew five of those. Do you mourn the other thousands of people that have died since then?”
“No.” I say.
“So you’re not upset that they died, you’re just upset that you loved them.”
I think for a moment. “No.”
“So if you’re not upset that they died, and you’re not upset that you loved them, then…”
“I am upset that they died.”
“You’re upset that you lost them.” She says, a bit sternly. “But that’s just you. You look at it like you lost five people, but you have to look at it like you got to love five people, so deeply and so passionately, that you will never, ever forget them. Only you got to know those people the way you did.”
She pauses and stares me right in the eyes. Then, she says kindly, “It is better to have loved and lost.”

Visiting Hours

Visiting Hours

Two Page Love Story by G. Z. Kieft

I leapt from the balcony and the cold night air did its best to hold on to me. The wind whipped my hair against my forehead and I saw the approaching ground in increasing detail. I closed my eyes. I smiled. It felt like I was flying.

Three days ago, a woman entered Southwest Hospital in her pajamas. Her blonde hair hadn’t been combed in days and the bags under her eyes were so deep you could swear they holed up some of the tears she had shed the night prior. She gripped around a Styrofoam coffee cup tightly, and as the door to the hospital closed behind her, a nurse approached.
“Ms. Winters.” The nurse smiled.
“Hey Maggie.” The woman responded, and she forced a hollow smile. The nurse passed her and whipped out a cigarette, and Ms. Winters continued down the pale fluorescent halls. She turned the corner and passed the visitors’ desk. She walked along the pictures of kids playing in meadows and holding dandelions with phrases that read, “Hope” and “Happiness”. She made a right, then a left, a second left and finally up a set of stairs. She followed this hall, passing rooms with little white erase boards under the room numbers. The little white boards had names written on them: Jeremy Sanders and David Newville and Holly Caston and Kevin Ming. Then to the left, a door with a small whiteboard under the numbers 287, and on the whiteboard was written “Martin Winters” with a smiley face.
Ms. Winters was the mother of a boy diagnosed with acute lymphocytic Leukemia.
“Hey.” She smiled as she entered the door.
“Hey.” I replied. I had been watching cartoons on the TV that they left propped up in the corner of the room.
“Did they serve you breakfast already?” Mom asked.
“Yeah.” I nodded, smiling. My mom’s eyes kept focusing on my forehead, and I instinctively rubbed my bald head self-consciously. “Mooom.” I groaned, uncomfortable.
“I’m so sorry.” Mom caught herself, and she cupped her hands over her mouth. “I’m so sorry, I know you hate that.”
“It’s okay.” I said quickly, but it was too late. Those fragile eyes cracked under the pressure of her tears. She sat down on the bed next to me and she leaned over to hold me while she sobbed. I didn’t blame her. I mean, it was hard for me to have to deal with it – to deal with seeing her so sad, but I couldn’t be upset about it. It had to be hard. For me though, happy days weren’t so hard to come by. See, recently a new patient had been admitted to the hospital residency with Leukemia. I’d like to tell you that I would never wish Leukemia on anyone, but to be honest, one more person with Leukemia meant I was one person less lonely. The patient, however, wasn’t just another person. Her name was Madelyn and she was gorgeous. They had already shaven her head by the time I met her. Unlike Holly, Madelyn refused a wig, and the first time they rolled her through the halls in a wheelchair I was already in love. I snuck into her room one night to ask about her. “I’m Martin.” I said.
Madelyn propped herself up on the bed and invited me to take a seat. “Madelyn.” She responded. “You have Leukemia too?”
“Yeah.” I nodded, smiling.
Madelyn’s bright eyes struggled to hold back a few tears. “Aren’t you scared?”
I shrugged. “I’ve had it for a while. It’s not that bad, really.”
“How?” She chuckled skeptically.
“I mean, some of us have Leukemia. Others get mugged on the street and some people get in car accidents.”
“The world sucks, I get it.” Madelyn averted her eyes to the ceiling and the tears tumbled down her round cheeks.
“No, it’s more than just that.” I shook my head. “I just mean that world is busy. It’s random. It’s wild and unpredictable and a lot of us don’t have it that good. But I think that’s the point. Of this – of all of this. Is to make the best of what you do have.”
Madelyn refused to adopt my point of view, arguing with me all night, and I loved it. Every night since then I came to her room to discuss things – all things. Sometimes I thought she would take an opposing point of view just to prolong our conversation, and I was more than grateful for it. We laughed so much. We’d get snuggled up under her blankets and relive memories from our childhood. Sometimes we were brave enough to talk about the future. We compared chemo sessions together and even bragged about the size of our veins. Something about her presence made everything in that hospital better. One night, Madelyn told me she had discovered something.
“What?” I asked her, excited.
There was a light in her eyes, a spark of life that I hadn’t seen in her before. “Follow me!”
We snuck through the halls and up several stairs until we arrived at a short hallway leading to a set of French doors that opened to a balcony. Through the windows of the doors I saw all the city lights, and I looked at Madelyn in awe. I asked her how she found it, but she only shrugged and opened the doors, letting in a strong breeze that pushed my hair aside. We stepped with our bare feet out onto the balcony and Madelyn closed her eyes. We stood in silence for some time, before Madelyn smiled.
“It feels like we’re flying.”
That hospital went from being a lonely, cold deathbed to being the place where I met the love of my life. I often pretended to myself that I wasn’t twelve years old – that I was ninety-eight instead and had lived a fulfilling, successful life and was just hanging out in a retirement home with my wife, Madelyn. The prospect did a lot to lighten my day, and the only time my mood dipped was when my mother came by. No matter how much I told that lady not to worry and to just be happy for me, she remained miserable. She was scared. I understood that. Scared of losing me.
“What if I promise you?” I told my mom as she sobbed over me.
“I promise I will never let Leukemia take me away from you.”
My mom shook her head and only cried more. Under her breath she whispered, “You can’t promise me that.”
That night, I had had just about enough of my mom. Agitated, I left my room to go complain to Madelyn. I snuck into her room, like I always did. What I hadn’t noticed was that her name had been erased from the white board.

I cried, digging my face as deep into her pillow as I could. Her scent was still on it. All that optimism drained from my body, and it was deep into the night when I decided there was only one way to find the best in this situation. Wiping the tears off my face, I made my way through the halls and up the stairs, towards the balcony Madelyn had shown me.

Young Love

Young Love

Two Page Love Story by G. Z. Kieft

The old rain-worn shutters rattle under the pressure of another storm: a casual encounter in the cloud-clad city that is Seattle, Washington. My forehead sits pressed against the window, each wrinkle of excess skin collecting at one point as I fog the glass with my warm breath. I exhale deeply, coughing once at the end, before pulling away. In my absence the window portrays a little balloon of fog, and I smile my crackly old lips in satisfaction. One shaky index finger later and suddenly the window is smiling.
But something special happens as condensation takes its toll on the smiley window, and suddenly tears stream down its fog cheeks. Tears, then, erase its entire existence, and before I know it all that is left is a window without a face.
Well, not entirely. In glimpses I can catch my own reflection but I quickly turn away, soured by the prospect that I am… an old fart.
Eighty-seven and counting. You’d think a bus could’ve hit me by now. But no, here I am, alive and not so well. I manage my way through the kitchen, and in the living room sits my wife. She’s really old too, just like me. Everything’s sagging everywhere. It looks like we’re made of wax and somebody lit a candle on our heads. As you can tell, I’m not too happy. Every day I look at the picture of my wife and I that we’ve posted on the fridge, and I think of how happy we used to be: so young; so vibrant. We used to be so in love. Now look at us. Every time we look at each other we nag at each other. We complain about pain and call each other names. Sometimes I think she hates me, which makes me think sometimes I hate her.
I don’t know. A bus sure would make all this easier.
I open the fridge and look for my soy milk, which I cannot find.
“Ell,” I call.
No response.
“Ellie!” I call again.
“I said what?” Eleanor’s voice finally permeates through the walls.
“Where’s the milk?” My voice sounds like an old scratched vinyl.
You finished it!” Eleanor strains.
I mutter something even I don’t understand before leaving to grab my coat.
“I’m going to get some more.” I tell Eleanor and I exit the house.
Outside. This place sucks. As if walking wasn’t a struggle enough, the wind is constantly trying to sweep me off my feet and the rain is spitting in my face. I hate it. I hate it all. I turn to cross the street to the grocery market, when out of nowhere a sensation similar to getting hit by a bus overcomes me.
This is because I am actively getting hit by a bus.
There is pain in every inch of my body, throbbing through my veins and cascading between my bones. I feel worse than I ever have before, but then, suddenly… The bright white lights of heaven shine on my face. I reach out my arms – for I can see my arms: young and fresh and not as veiny – and I’m ready to be taken by my Maker. But the light dims – in fact, it condenses all into one small light bulb, and I am sitting in a little café. Warm chatter and the aroma of espresso alarms me and I look about myself a bit shocked. What’s going on?
“Are you okay?”
My heart, which had been beating quite normally up until this point, suddenly goes up in pace. I turn to my left and I know exactly who I am going to see.
“Ellie.” I say in utter shock.
Eleanor is sitting next to me, but she is not as I saw her just moments ago. She is young, with her floral blouse and long skirt and her brown hair drawn back into a bun. And she is smiling at me.
“You look like you just saw a ghost.” Ellie chuckles.
I chuckle awkwardly with her and quickly look down into a mug of coffee placed on the table in front of me, and I see my own reflection. I too, am young. And boy, am I handsome! Whatever is going on, I already like it better. Ellie and I talk, just like we used to when we were younger, and I am having the time of my life. I am enjoying myself quite a lot. That is, until I mention one of our beautiful grandchildren, Thomas. My sentence sounds like this:
“Thomas would’ve loved that.”
It was in response to Ellie as she explained that she went swimming in the lake. Thomas, our eldest grandson, loves swimming and has longed to go swimming in the lake, which we have always deemed too dangerous. He also loves football and action movies and has a special place in his heart for Ell’s spaghetti and tofu meatballs. One time he ate them so fast that he had a tummy ache and we were up all night watching infomercials together.
“Who’s Thomas?” Ellie asks.
My heart aches at the question. I quickly shrug it off and shake my head. “Nobody.”
We continued on as if nothing happened, and I do my best to avoid any of our life experiences. It feels strange, suddenly. Talking to a woman that looks the way I remember my wife, and yet she sounds nothing like her. Nevertheless, we proceed in conversation and I try to ignore the slow agony which is creeping its way under my skin. I feel so lonely – all these experiences and I have only myself to know them with. We finish our coffee and a young blonde man comes to take our cups out of the way.
“Thank you.” I tell him politely.
But the man makes no eye contact with me – he stares only at my wife, at Ellie. Surprised, I look to Ellie and am shocked to see that she, too, is looking at the young waiter. And as a surge of jealousy overcomes me I am suddenly reminded of this day: this was our first date.
In my old age I had fantasized about this day many times, remembering how perfect we were. But talking to her now… was pointless. This woman was not the woman I had created memories with. This woman was not the woman who had sworn her commitment to me. This woman was not the love of my life.
Not yet.
I blink, and suddenly opening my eyes is a struggle. Pain reemerges and I feel how fragile my heart is. I squint to block out some of the bright, white medical lights when suddenly a familiar face enters my view. I see the wrinkles and the saggy skin. I see the glaze over her brown eyes and I see her thinning, white hair. I see the marks on her hand of lipstick she considered putting on before rushing out to meet me in the hospital. I see her hunched back and her dusty clothes and her veiny hands. But as tears form in her kind, knowing eyes, I see something far more meaningful than any of that.
I see my wife. I see the mother of my children and the grandmother of my grandchildren. I see the woman I have spend over sixty years with.
In her eyes I see my soulmate.
And suddenly, all is right again.