Writing Challenge: Wherefore Art Thou?

by Evan Yeong

I decided to major in English Literature for my undergrad, so I know that “wherefore art thou, Romeo?” translates to “why are you Romeo?” which is more Juliet bemoaning that her love is a Montague and sworn enemy of her family than her asking where he is. Just wanted to get that out of the way.

That said, that’s the angle we’re approaching this week’s prompt from. As someone who has been in a long-distance relationship for going on two years now, I often find myself wondering where my partner is and what exactly they’re up to. Though of course, we stay connected however we can-

Werth Hang Up First GIF by efitz11 | Gfycat

This week, in 400 words or less, I’d like you to describe a romantic moment between a couple who are geographically far from one another. My first caveat is this: their separation cannot be due to any current events (you know exactly what I’m referring to). Secondly, I’m nixing handwritten letters. There are no constraints on what era your scene must be set in, but any missives, whether written with quill or ballpoint, are off the table.

Will you write two lovers streaming their favourite show together while on different continents, or have a mix tape unexpectedly show up in the mail (I’m still old enough to remember cassettes, just fyi)? Regardless of your story, all submissions are due this upcoming Sunday April 5th at 11:59 PM EST.

As one final note, I’m incredibly pleased to share that we will once again be providing all entrants with editorial feedback! Come back next Monday I’ll elaborate a bit more, but until then, happy writing!


UPDATE: I got up to this morning to 27 eligible submissions that you all worked hard on this weekend, and each will be receiving editorial feedback by this upcoming Wednesday (April 8th).

A cursory glance at the comments revealed a broad range of different takes, and I’m eager to see how you’ve all chosen to tackle portraying a long distance relationship (and taking down pointers for my own any inspire me!).

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Comments

  1. Theresa Kemble

    I have a question before I summit to the writing challenge. What if this video is the dead husband video to his wife, who is in an marriage of convenience with a foreigner (Irish) All three of them is in the scene? Is that okay?

  2. Amanda woke up with the insistent bip of her alarming. She tried to stretch, but it felt weird when you didn’t have any notion of up or down and your body weight was approximate to nothing. Amanda got out of her sleeping bag and floated a little inside the small booth while trying to put up some pants. When she finished, she opened the small door that gave each sleeping station a bit of privacy, and with only a small push of her arms, she was out. It still amazed her how easy it was to move without gravity. If she was going to miss something from space it certainly would be the liberty of movement, and of course, the view.
    Which reminded her of why she had awakened. She looked at her watch. It marked a little bit after six a.m. Not that time really mattered when you were floating at 300 km from the earth in a velocity of almost 28 thousand km/h. After four months inside the International Space Ship, she kind of had lost her sense of orientation about day and night and pretty much everything else. But not today. Today, if her calculations were right, she would be able to see home.
    Using her arms, she moved till the tine window on her left. There she looked outside, and for a moment, the darkness eluded her, but then she was finally able to locate the lights of Chicago. She watched as the sunlight slowly brought the light of a new day.
    She thought about Sofia, in their small farm, probably sitting on a bench with a hot mug of coffee freshly mad on her espresso machine watching the sunrise. Amanda asked herself if Sofia felt as lonely as her. She wished they could be together.

    ***

    On a small farm just outside Chicago, Sofia was sitting on a bench with a steamy mug of fresh coffee she had just made in Amanda’s espresso machine. She was observing the sky and wondering about what part of the planet Amanda could be right now. For a moment Sofia let herself imagine Amanda was up there seeing the same sunrise as her, that they could be connected. It was a nice fantasy, she knew. But maybe, just maybe, could be true. She let herself believe it. And for an instant, she almost could feel as if they were together.

    • Hannah

      This is, Joice, such a unique set-up for a long-distance couple! I love the idea that, though separated by literal space and time, Amanda and Sofia find themselves, in the same instant, thinking of each other; and, crucially, the day that they can finally be reunited. I would have loved for you to layer, in the passage, a few, small insights into Amanda and Sofia’s relationship.
      Thanks for participating!
      Hannah

  3. Theresa Kemble

    Caryn started to sob and her hands shook uncontrollably. “I can’t do it, Jack! I can’t touch Tom’s video camera.”

    Jack barely touched his forehead to hers and held her gently in his arms. “We can do this together; I can hold and play the camera for you if you wish. Or I can put it away for you, and you’ll never see it again. But, ultimately it’s your choice, darling.”

    Caryn took in a deep breath. “I’m not sure what to do.”

    Keeping her close he said. “Lovely thing about time is you can do or not do anything. One thing I want to make clear to you is I’m here for you. If you need a good cry, my shoulder is ready to catch those tears, sweetheart.”

    She grabbed a tissue and wiped her tears away. ”You’re right, Jack I need to do this. I need to see Tom’s last moments. If you can hold the camera and play it. I think I can deal with it.”

    “Are you sure?’

    She nodded.

    While gently holding Caryn, Jack took the camera and hit the play button. Immediately Tom’s smiling face came into view. Caryn gasped and placed a hand over her mouth fighting back the burning tears that were lodged in her throat.

    Caryn took in a slow deliberate breath as she watched Tom Miller interact with the village children. She saw a little Arab boy as he shyly approached Tom. She assumed this was Atif. She smiled through her tears as she started to remember how playful Tom was with kids. She saw him patiently teach Atif how to work the camera.
    Then Tom gave Caryn his last message. “Hey Babe, I can’t wait to see you!” Tom grinned. “And in forty-eight hours, I’ll be home; and I promise we’ll start on that family addition you wanted.” Within a moment Tom’s demeanor changed to calm alertness. He motioned to the soldier next to him to take the children. Tom smiled towards Atif.”Hey Buddy you don’t mind taking care of my camera do you? I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

    Sadly, Caryn knew what happened next. The suicide bomber and Tom were out of range, but she heard the explosion and women screaming. Through the view finder chaos erupted with the frightened villagers frantically running in every direction. Then Tom’s screen faded to black.

  4. Michaela

    The wrapped package took up more space than Blake expected. The wrapping paper cheerily proclaimed, “Happy Birthday!” in bubble letters. He checked his phone for the fifteenth time, seeing that it was almost 11:00 p.m. Blake opened his laptop, a photo of Cass in front of the fireplace when she had come all the way to London for Christmas. That was six months ago now. As soon as skype opened, the app rang loudly.
    “Hey sweety!” Her voice came through the speakers before her webcam loaded.
    Cass’s face lit up the screen, bright blue eyes warm. She still had her work makeup on, and her blouse was half unbuttoned. She couldn’t have been more gorgeous.
    “Hey yourself, beautiful.” The smile she gave him as she took her earrings out and let her hair down.
    The time difference was rough but moments like this helped the ache of being separated from her. As she stripped out of her shirt, he saw her engagement ring hanging from her necklace. She couldn’t wear it while baking but it always made his heart melt. That warm feeling was something he would never give up. Cass had taken his heart of stone and melted it with her warm hands until he was as soft as the dough she worked with daily.
    “Did you get my package?” She pulled on a t-shirt and pulled her laptop onto the bed, cuddling up against the pillows.
    “Yeah, I wasn’t expecting it to be so big.” He tilted the camera so she could see the wide box taking up his living room floor.
    “Well open it up, sweety! Come on I wanna see your face.” Her Brooklyn accent came through with her excitement.
    Her eagerness brought a smile to his face. Sitting on the floor, he held up the package, shaking it for dramatic effect. He laughed when she rolled her eyes. Ripping it open and prying open the box, he felt his chest tighten. A beautiful blue blanket was folded neatly in the box. He could clearly picture her sitting up, crocheting long after the time difference had forced him to bed. He pulled the blanket out, immediately wrapping it around his shoulders. His eyes stung as he looked up to see her warm smile.
    “Happy birthday, Blake.” Her voice was soft.
    “Thank you…I love you.” The time difference didn’t matter, right now she felt closer than ever.

  5. Danielle

    She always forgets your birthday. It doesn’t mean anything.

    It was pathetic to be moping around on his birthday, glaring at the phone app he’d created for them to talk privately as if he could will a notification to appear.

    Opening the solid door of his beloved log cabin, he waited to be assailed with visions of her desire heated blue eyes as they’d lifted their twenty year friendship to new heights bringing in the new year with fireworks of their own making.

    Michelle had made the first move, but she’d also been the one to leave his bed and, it felt, his life.

    The new year had brought new beginnings. Hers thousands of miles away on stage in front of adoring fans. His a commitment to see if he truly mattered to her, tired of always being the one to call.

    What had followed was two months of silence.

    It was inevitable they’d grow apart. Michelle’s voice was loved by fans all over the world. He was a tech geek who had built her a robot – a Mobile Virtual Presence Device like on their binge worthy show, The Big Bang Theory – so she could always be with him.

    Shaun frowned. The robot that hadn’t moved in two months was parked in front of his favourite chair with snacks and beer, a message displayed on its screen. “Turn on the app notifications.” Hand shaking slightly, he tapped the app. Over three hundred new messages, starting the morning after.

    You were so peaceful, so I left quietly. I love you xxo

    Shaun? Did I wear you out that much? 🙂

    I can’t wait to come home. I miss you. xxo

    This isn’t funny Shaun. Where are you?

    You’re not even turning the Shellbot on.

    I’ve always loved you.

    Each unanswered message saddened the tone of the next, as if she was grieving for him. The Shellbot’s screen lit up, the roar of a crowd announcing her appearance in front of him as he read the last message.

    I had Jim break into your house and turn on the Shellbot. There’s something I need to say.

    He stared as the woman he loved gazed back at him on the screen from half a world away. “This song is for the man I love with all my heart.” Her blue eyes shone with the depth of her love, “Happy birthday Shaun.”

    Word count – 397

  6. Angela Hamm

    Excerpts from beginning paragraphs from a current WIP that seemed fitting.

    Caleb plopped down at a table in the open area between the twenty double-man cells and surveyed the plastic bag that held his jail commissary goods.
    His cellie, Wyatt, said, “You better call your girl tonight, man. She must love you to put all that money on your books.”
    His girl wasn’t his girl at all, though she was his partner. And calling meant using the ‘box’, basically a TV that took video calls. Having Gina’s face pop up in front of forty guys all sweating it out in what amounted to an un-air-conditioned concrete bunker was not smart. She was hot; all raven hair, red lipstick, dark, expressive eyes, and toned, curvy body. She was also a tough-as-nails street cop who’d made detective the right way. Half the guys in there were liable to recognize Gina as the cop who’d collared them. The minute someone saw her, they’d know he was undercover.
    Caleb pushed the bag to one side. He stood and flexed his shoulders. It was past time to get close to Hollings. There were actual lives at stake.
    Wyatt said, “Eh, what are you doing, man? Hey, Caleb…”
    Caleb walked right up to Hollings’ biggest crew guy–and punched him in the mouth. If that didn’t get Hollings’ attention, nothing would.
    *
    Gina upended another tequila shooter and then she bit into a salted lemon. The tattooed blonde behind the bar grinned. “You know that’s number three?”
    Gina settled the glass upside down on the rubber mat before her. “Yeah.”
    “Tough day?”
    Gina sighed. “My boyfriend. I’m so sick of this. Every time he goes to jail he swears he’s done going to jail. Then he lands his ass back in there. I’m over all the stuff that comes with him, but not him. You know?”
    The blonde’s eyebrows elevated. Gina bit her tongue to keep from saying anything else. Had she overplayed it? Lolita Hollings was nobody’s fool.
    Gina squirmed on the bar stool. The drink lay sour and salty on her tongue. She blurted out, “I always fall for the bad boys. How about you?”
    Lolita poured two shots and passed one over. Lolita held hers up and said, with a smile. “Oh honey, I never fall for bad boys. I fall for dangerous men, and trust me—there’s a difference.”

    • Patience Bloom

      What a fascinating predicament, Angela. I’m always intrigued by how love survives prison and here you have a unique setup with two cops navigating the prison system and playing a part. I like the characters here, and Lolita’s last line is priceless. Well done! –Patience

    • Angela Hamm

      I’ve just gotten back to all this. Thank everyone so much! And I’ve had a blast reading your work!

      Patience, I have so many stories about love surviving in jail! The spouse did 30 years as a CO at a large prison. I currently work at a county jail. You’d be surprised how it can work when someone in the relationship, or both, are incarcerated.

  7. Michelle

    “The outfit doesn’t matter. It’s what’s underneath that counts…” Janna’s smile spread across the screen.

    Was Cleary so pathetic that even her twin sister was going to give the ‘you’ve got a great personality’ speech?

    “… A good push-up bra and cute thong.” Janna continued.

    Cleary laughed. It was hard to believe they came from the same DNA. Janna was tall and skinny and liked to push-up and pop out her assets, while Cleary was short and rounded and preferred to coverup and batten down hers.

    “Thanks for the advice.” Cleary waved, hung up, and reluctantly heeding Janna’s advice, dug out her sexiest lingerie and splayed it on the bed for later.

    Cleary’s phone rang and she clicked the video chat expecting her sister again, but it wasn’t Janna’s face that popped up. Instead, it was the chiseled face of a man.

    “Cleary?” He asked peering into the lens. “It’s Ethan.”

    Ethan? Their date wasn’t until seven… but who’s time zone? Cleary’s hand flew up to her face. She didn’t have makeup on, and her hair was a mess.

    She quickly flipped the camera to the front view, off her.

    “Umm…” Ethan hesitated. “I see your undergarments.”

    Cleary let out a small high pitch screech and thrust the phones view off her bed and to the floor.

    “I thought we were meeting at seven my time.” She said as her legs went wobbly. “I’m not ready. No makeup, no cute dress.” No girdle.

    “That’s okay… if you’re okay?” His voice was deep and accented.

    He was better than her expectations and there was no way she was going to measure up to his. Why had she thought a dating app that didn’t reveal what you looked like for three months was a good idea?

    “You have cute toes, but they’re kind of awkward to talk to.” A chuckle followed his words.

    Cleary smiled. That laugh; it was Ethan’s. Funny, smart, Ethan. She knew him. He was now devastatingly handsome Ethan too, but he was still the same guy she had been talking to for months.

    If it was all going to end because he didn’t like the way she looked, she might as well get it over with now. Cleary flipped the camera on herself and nervously watched as Ethan took her in for the first time.

    “You’re beautiful.” He breathed. “I knew you were before I ever saw you.”

    • Patience Bloom

      Dear Michelle, This is my nightmare come true! Only substitute a work colleague accidentally seeing me with hair in disarray. This scene you have is sweet and I love Ethan’s adoration at the end. But then who doesn’t love a hero who is all-accepting? Nicely done. –Patience

    • Michelle Katherine Bai

      Hi Patience, thank you for taking the time to read my entry and your positive reception.

      When I read your mention of co-workers, I realized that this entry was probably subconsciously inspired by the anxiety of whether the camera/mics are on/off when they’re not supposed to be during zoom meetings. I have learned a lot of new things about my colleagues these past few wks and I am sure the same is true for them with me. Yikes… lol.

  8. Lakisha Friday

    Adrian turned the keys in the doorknob. She barely got in while taking off her work clothes. She had to hurry. She didn’t want to miss his call. You’d think having worked the nightshift she’d be worn out but it wasn’t so. Her adrenaline had hit full force once she left work. In the shower now. Adrian scrubbed and scrubbed til her skin burned from running so much. Even though they couldn’t see each other in person she wanted to make sure she glowed. Mathis is on the other side of the world in Camroom, Central Africa due to his mission as a surgeon. He felt that he could do more overseas than he could do in his own country. At least the people of Africa were a bit more grateful. He had told her once. Adrian fixed breakfast. Her fave dish of hash browns with onion, eggs, and sausage all in one bowl. What she liked to call the Big Mess. Hopefully Mathis will join her soon. Even though she’s hungry she waited for her husband to come through. Mathis finally did.
    “Hey boo! How’s it going your way? Mathis asked.
    Adrian shrugged her shoulders.
    “It’s going. She said. Had to break up a fight between two elderly men over two women this morning. She laughed. That was the highlight of my day. What about you?
    Mathis chuckled thinking about the fight between the elders. He wished he could have seen it. He explained he performed surgery on a twelve year old boy with a huge tumor on his face. Adrian shuttered just thinking about it. Poor kid. Must have been rough for him.
    “It was. Mathis said, people are cruel you know but I think they’ll be nicer to him once his face is back to normal. I miss you babe.
    “I miss you too. Adrian said. How long will you be gone now? Seems to keep changing.
    ” I know. I know. Another couple weeks. Mathis sighed. What you eating?
    “The usual. Eggs, sausage, and hash browns all mixed up. Adrian said.
    “I just had some water. Mathis stated which caused his wife to scold him. Mathis missed that too. He really wanted to be home but duty comes first. Adrian had hoped he’d come home sooner but it doesn’t seem to be that way and she started to tear up. Mathis touched the screen to comfort her and Adrian leaned into her screen as he gently sang a song to her. She sat up with tears still rolling down her cheeks staring at him. She wasn’t just crying cause she missed him terribly. She’s crying cause her water broke.

  9. Chrissie

    He traveled the country doing whatever an executive CEO of an International security firm did. They’d met online in a chat room. She only knew him as Drifter. What kind of name was that? Did it mean he never settled in one place? Just drifted from town to town? It didn’t matter. A joint love of cats is what drew them together. She would be silly to forget since her chat room name was Cat. After months of chatting online, learning everything thing there was to learn about each other, falling for this man who lived three thousand miles away seemed fanciful. She had only ever seen one photograph of him lying on a sofa with a cat in his lap. Silvery white hair and a smile in his blue eyes that begged her attention.

    She nervously wiped her palms on her jeans as the elderly man sitting next to her on the jet bound for Texas leaned closer and whispered, “It’s only turbulence, dear. We’ll be fine. Have faith.”

    Those words hit home for her current situation too. A married couple, friends from the same chat room, had sent her a roundtrip ticket to visit them and their two young sons on their Texas ranch. She hated leaving her own kids behind with her mom, but this was not the place to introduce them. Only last night did she learn from Drifter that he could meet her in Texas. In person. For the first time in over a year that they had been chatting online and by phone. The only photo he had of her was with her late husband, whom she’d used as a protective reason for not meeting in person. But here she was—about to step off the plane and enter the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport.

    As she made her way toward the airport lounge the crowd cleared. There he was. She would know him anywhere. That hair, those eyes. He was real. Tears misted her vision. She mustered every ounce of courage and walked into his arms. Scared was far from the right word. But it would do. She received the biggest bear hug she’d ever experienced. She was home. This was meant to be. God sent her a new chance at life. Her heart filled with love as Drifter bent to kiss her for the very first time. “Hello, Cat.”

    • Patience Bloom

      Dear Chrissie, How sweet! I also really like the mature characters and that rush of excitement over meeting someone for the first time in person. Taking a plane to see that person is a big effort and I’m glad the heroine gets the romantic payoff. Very emotional and nicely done. –Patience

  10. Gina Bell

    “One half cup of cabernet in the pot, and a healthy sip for the chef,” Luca grinned, pouring wine into the large saucepan before him and raising his glass. Claire smiled at the computer screen and lifted her glass, blue eyes twinkling. She took a sip, then tipped the bottle and splashed a half cup of the glorious red liquid in to the bubbling, meaty stew on the stove in front of her. Luca looked every inch the chef he was. He stirred the contents of the pot, adding a pinch of one ingredient and a dash of another. Claire tried to keep up.

    “Let’s start on the salad while that cooks,” Claire said. She watched through the computer screen as Luca began tearing romaine heart leaves and dropping them into a salad bowl. Claire sighed. Only three more weeks until he came home to her. For Luca, assisting a master chef in Paris was the height of his career so far, but oh, she missed him terribly.

    “Claire, we didn’t have tomatoes in the salad on our first date. Remember, you remarked on it?” Claire paused in the process of cutting the tomato.

    “You’re right,” She giggled.

    “If you want to add them, I won’t tell.” He grinned, laugh lines appearing at the corners of his eyes.

    Claire drew in a deep breath. Good heavens, he was gorgeous. She winked at him and kept on slicing the juicy tomato. This re-creation of the meal from their first date six months ago had been Luca’s idea. How like him to think of it. A whole half year together! Claire thought it was worth celebrating, even if almost 4000 miles separated them.

    Moments later, seated in front of her computer screen with dinner spread out before her, Claire lit a candle and watched as Luca did the same. She took a bite of the stew and smiled.

    “Wait,” Luca said. He reached for his glass and leaned in towards his computer screen, so close she could see the gold flecks in his brown eyes.
    “To our first of many six months.”

    Claire tilted her glass to him and they both took a sip together. The velvety liquid slid down her throat and the taste of it remained on her lips like a kiss. A promise of things to come.

  11. Montana White

    Oliver always had that serve and protect in him, even before he joined the Air Force. I remember him going on and on about how he was ready to protect those he loved and he even looked me straight in the eye, when he said ‘love’. He got shipped off to boot camp a bit later after signing the papers.

    Two years and he still hasn’t come home. We video chat and talk on the phone all the time. We even get into yelling contests over football or some other sport, just to spend some time together, before one of either has to go to bed, or the WI-FI craps out.

    But after two years of being apart from one another, I finally have my braking point. “I can’t do this anymore.” I say softly threw the phone.

    He knows what I’m talking about, we’ve had this talk before and it normally ends in us yelling at one another and not talking to one another for a couple days, that are ‘beyond’ painful. “I’m coming home soon, just give the distance a little bit more time.” He says and I can hear it in his voice, he’s trying to keep it together, as much as I’m failing at keeping the tears at bay.

    “And what if something happens between now and the time you are supposed to come home?!” I yell threw the phone.

    Someone knocks on my door, but I don’t move from my spot on the sofa. “Someone at the door, you better get it.” He tells me.

    “I don’t-”

    He cuts me off, his voice so soft. “Please Evie, open the door.” He tells me.

    Getting up, the knock comes again. When I open it, I see a figure slip around the corner and a small box at my feet. Oliver been known to send me stuff. Bending down, I pick up the box, there a bow on it, no wrapping paper. Opening the box, my heart stops. “Oliver-”

    “It’s my promise, that I will be coming home soon and promise, never to let you go, no matter what.” He says strongly. “I love you Evie and when we see one another again, I’m getting down on one knee and asking you to marry me!” He declares strongly.

  12. Fortune Whelan

    Mercy opened one eye to the gleaming sun, pulled the sheets over her head, rolled over. Today was her twenty-eighth birthday, and the first in a decade without Conner. Gone one hundred fifty one days and counting this time. He loved undercover assignments, but until now, Conner never missed her special day.
    “Fuck it,” Mercy said, throwing off the covers, and sitting up in bed. She reached for their shared copy of Just Kids from her bookcase. Ten years ago on this day, Mercy sat at a bistro table on Fifth avenue outside the H&M, watching shoppers from the Scribner Building across the street. The newly purchased Patti Smith missal in hand, she imagined life in New York City in the seventies.
    A shadow cast over her shoulder, and someone asked before she turned around, “Excuse me, did you purchase the last book in the stack?” Shaggy, walnut brown hair, and eyes shining blue like a lake under the summer sun.
    How did he know? Choosing from the bottom was her habit.
    “I did. Why?” Mercy eyed his leather pants and tight white t-shirt.
    “May I see it? I’ll give it right back.” He smiled, and she picked a hint of an irish accent.
    Curious as to what he wanted, she handed it to him. It was just a book. If he took off, she could purchase another, or not.
    The spine rested in his left hand, and he used his right to flip through the pages. Between pages sixty-six and sixty-seven, a card sized envelope stood straight up. He picked it up with his index and middle fingers, closed the book, and handed it back to her.
    “Thank you. Have a happy birthday.”
    “Wait, how did you know that?”
    “Meet me here at half-seven, and I’ll tell you everything.”
    Mercy met Conner Sullivan at seven-thirty that evening, and except for work, they’d been inseparable ever since.
    Still, the thought of spending a birthday without him was heart wrenching. She flipped through the book, the way he did the first time she saw him, and sticking up within the pages, a card, unaddressed but she knew what it was. Mercy pressed the card to her chest, wondering when he had put it there. Before he left? Snuck into their apartment in the night? When she was at the office?
    I love you Conner, wherever you are…
    Word Count: 397

  13. Sally Freytag

    Chin on hand, Emilia gazed out of the window and wondered where Henry was now. He’d left more than a year ago, to sail on a botanical expedition to South America. Since then, every single day, she had found somewhere quiet at four o’clock to commune with him.
    That had been their agreement. Four o’clock. Every day. Emilia shut her eyes, envisioning her wonderful, handsome, clever fiancé. She could see his unruly black hair and piercing grey eyes as he’d gazed at her so passionately the day before he’d left for the docks, to join the Royal Botanical expedition.
    ‘An honour,’ he’d told her, awe on his face. ‘I cannot refuse, Emilia. But how I can bear to be apart from you for so long, I do not know, my love.’
    He had leaned forward and kissed her tenderly, smoothing his hands over her neatly coiffed brown hair as he gazed into the deep blue of her eyes, brimming with unshed tears which made them sparkle like the finest sapphire.
    ‘Promise me,’ he continued, his thumb catching a tear as it fell, ‘promise me that at four every afternoon, you will think of me, and I of you, and we shall know we are together.’
    The clock struck four. Emilia looked up, startled from her reverie, and closed her eyes, pulling in a gentle breath, slowly exhaling. In and out, until her mind calmed and his beloved face swam in her mind’s eye. Her hands lay open on her lap as she breathed. She knew Henry was there. She could smell him, see him, hear him as he spoke her name, a caress in his voice. She felt his excitement at some bird he’d found and knew he was telling her it might be named for him. His enthusiasm was boundless and she answered with pride, pleasure, and love, pushing the thoughts towards him for him to receive, just as she was receiving his. Henry quietened and told her of other things since yesterday. That they had sailed to another place, and once explored, they would return home.
    Joy shot through Emilia and she knew Henry felt it when in return, his tenderness and longing washed over her. Soon, soon, their parting would be over. Their final thoughts entwined with loving promises until he slipped away.
    She sat a moment longer, then sighed and opened her eyes.

  14. Jeanna

    I haven’t taken part in one of these challenges for months. I really enjoyed doing this one. It helped me get out of the funk I’ve been in recently. Thank you for ending my writing drought. I double checked and it’s exactly 400 words. I hope it’s okay. Looking forward to reading everyone else’s x

    Meghan stepped into the VR suit. She pushed a button on the sleeve, activating the special Fifth Dimension™ membrane; a strange material that was neither liquid nor solid. Fitting the headset reminded her of ducking under a waterfall in Belize that she and Jason had visited on their last day on Earth. She shivered, trying to concentrate on the blank space before her.

    At first nothing happened, but then the air blurred, folding in on itself, expanding and contracting like a beating heart. Light seared into the inside of her eyelids and when she opened them again, he was there.

    ‘Meg,’ Jason whispered, and Meghan was momentarily startled by the warmth of his breath on her cheek. But it was just an illusion. A virtual Jason. A Novotech innovation, designed to create a more immersive user experience. She should know, she’d designed the technology after all.

    Shooting stars of emotion fired throughout her body before spluttering and dying in her chest like faulty fireworks. If she willed herself enough, she could almost believe this was real. Almost.

    ‘I miss you. I thought I could do this but I can’t, I’m not strong enough.’ The words came in a rush, as if they were tumbling over each other to escape her lips.

    Jase was safe on Proxima II, the outpost Novotech had set up in search for a new Earth. If her calculations were right – and she was certain they were – she’d found it, but the journey would be fraught with danger. Could she risk it? Better to know Jason was alive and able to look up at new stars above Proxima II than throw him and the others into jeopardy.

    But Jase was smiling that lopsided grin she knew and loved. Before she could react, he reached up and deactivated her headset.

    ‘What are you doing!?’ Panic rose in her throat. Why was he disconnecting her? She wouldn’t see him again now for months.

    But he was still there. Could it be?

    ‘Jase…I-I don’t understand.’

    ‘For the cleverest person I know, you can be infuriatingly dense sometimes…We did it! We got the Zone tech to work for a test jump. I volunteered as guinea pig. So here I am… I once promised you the stars, Meg; looks like you got them for me instead.’ He smiled again before taking her in his arms.

    Oh, he was real, alright.

    • Jeanna

      Please can you use this version instead. Thank you.

      Meghan stepped into the VR suit. She pushed a button on the sleeve, activating the special Fifth Dimension™ membrane; a strange material that was neither liquid nor solid. Fitting the headset reminded her of ducking under a waterfall in Belize that she and Jason had visited on their last day on Earth. She shivered, trying to concentrate on the blackness before her.

      At first nothing happened, but then the air blurred, folding in on itself, expanding and contracting like a beating heart. Light seared into the inside of her eyelids and when she opened them again, he was there.

      ‘Meg,’ Jason whispered, and Meghan was momentarily startled by the warmth of his breath on her cheek. But it was just an illusion. A virtual Jason. A Novotech innovation, designed to create a more immersive user experience. She should know, she’d designed the technology after all.

      Shooting stars of emotion fired throughout her body before spluttering and dying in her chest like faulty fireworks. If she willed herself enough, she could almost believe this was real. Almost.

      ‘I miss you. I thought I could do this but I can’t, I’m not strong enough.’ The words came in a rush, as if they were fighting to escape her lips.

      She’d left Jason on Proxima II, the outpost Novotech had set up in search for a new Earth. If Meghan’s calculations were right (and she was certain they were) she’d found it, but her journey to this strange new world – where stars shone during the day – had been fraught with danger. Could she risk it? Better to know Jason was alive and safe than throw him and the others into jeopardy.

      But Jase was smiling that lopsided grin she knew and loved. Before she could react, he reached up and deactivated her headset.

      ‘What are you doing!?’ Panic rose in her throat. Why was he disconnecting her? They might never see each other again.

      But he was still there. Could it be?

      ‘Jase…I-I don’t understand.’

      ‘For the cleverest person I know, you can be infuriatingly dense sometimes…We did it! We got the Zone tech to work for a test jump. *Your* Zone tech. Guess who volunteered as guinea pig? So, here I am… I promised you the stars, Meg; looks like you got them for me instead.’ He smiled again before taking her in his arms.

      Oh, he was real, alright.

    • Connolly

      This is such a great scene! We tend to see contemporary and historical scenes in response to our challenges here on the So You Think You Can Write blog, so it was fun to get a glimpse of the future! You did a really great job of describing what was happening in a way that felt engaging instead of expository. I can’t wait until this kind of technology is actually available! Thanks for participating in this writing challenge!

  15. Susan Bixler

    “Luther, its really you on the screen. Modern technology at its best.”
    “Mary, I see you too. My grandson showed me how to do this Skype stuff.”
    “My daughter showed me how. That little teeny tiny speaker and camera really work. I hear and see you just fine.”
    “Is yours a, what do they call it, a, oh,,,, laptop?”
    “Yes, and speaking of laptop, I’d love to see your laptop Luther.”
    “Mary, you little devil. I hope your daughter isn’t around. But I would love to see your laptop too.” Luther chuckled.
    “Luther, its been too long. Texas and Maine is too far apart and this long distance relationship is getting old, like us.”
    Luther wiggled his eyebrows. “I know and we had a great time when we met over six months ago.”
    “Oh Luther, we are nearing eighty. Do you need one of those little pills if and when we get together again? You were amazing that time!”
    Luther turned red. “Mary, your daughter is behind you!”
    “Opps! Hi dear. This is so nice chatting with Luther.”
    Amy looked at her mother, shook her head and walked away.
    Mary laughed, “I think she heard me.”
    Luther chuckled. Do you think we could have Skype sex? You show me yours and I’ll show you mine.”
    “But Luther, I can’t touch yours and vice versa. We would have to, OH DEAR! We can’t do…that! We’d get caught for sure.”
    Luther laughed so hard tears ran down his cheeks.
    “Oh honey, I haven’t taken a pill either and mine would be useless right now.”
    “Grandpa, Did I hear Skype sex come out of your mouth?”
    “Ah, nooo! I don’t think so.” Luther replied.
    “Well, keep it clean, old man. You are seventy-nine!” He walked away.
    “Guess we better clean it up, right Mary?”
    “Speak for yourself, old man,” Mary grunted.
    “Mary, we could be like two teenagers in love and try it after everyone goes to bed. First time and all!”
    “Luther, its still no good. We have to touch each other for it to work.” She laughed.
    “I know! Well, we tried. I’m gonna get on a plane and come see you. I can’t stay this far apart any longer. I love you Mary, and I’ll bring my little pills along.” He blew her a kiss.
    “Oh Luther, I can’t wait.” She blushed.

    • Deirdre

      I enjoyed your fun dialogue, humor, and the twist on the traditional romantic couple! A little more background on how Luther and Mary met, and why they’re apart, might add emotion to your scene (if that’s what you’re after.) I’d love to know more about these two. Thanks for writing!

    • Thank you so much. I wasn’t sure how to add it into the challenge since it was only 400 words. They met when Luther’s grandson took him on a trip with him to Texas. Luther’s grandson’s girlfriend lived there and Luther was bored in Maine and wanted to go along. The girlfriend’s grandmother met Luther at a family gathering and they hit it off and were constant companions until he had to go back to Maine. Constant companions as in DAY or NIGHT! They kept in touch with phone calls until they were introduced to Skype.

  16. Maurine

    A year was a long time to go without seeing Anthony in person. Julie didn’t begrudge him the promotion he’d received from his company, but wasn’t thrilled it had taken him as far from Miami as he could go and remain in the lower forty-eight. Seattle may not be a bad place to live, but he’d said it rained almost constantly. Still, she’d give up her job so she could see him every day. She couldn’t wait to tell him.

    As soon as she settled in her seat, she opened her contacts on her cell phone and connected with him. “I’m sitting here thinking about you.”

    “Me, too. I shouldn’t have taken the promotion.”

    “Don’t say that. You deserve that promotion.” Maybe all the rain made him depressed. It would have that effect on her. “Do you not like it there?”

    “I like it all right. I just miss you.”

    “I miss you, too. We’ll work something out.”

    “I could take a cut in pay, move back to Miami.”

    That would really screw everything up. “No, don’t do that. I could move there.”

    “But you said you would never move away from your folks.”

    “That was a year ago. Things change.”

    “They’re okay, aren’t they?” After she’d assured him they were, he expressed his relief. “What if I found something I like closer to Miami? Say Orlando?”

    She laughed. “Like that would ever happen. Remember how hard you tried before you accepted Seattle?”

    “That was then. This is now. Maybe something will come up.”

    “I don’t want you to sacrifice your career for me.”

    “It won’t be a sacrifice.”

    She noticed his wording–‘won’t be’ and not ‘wouldn’t be’ as though he’d already made the decision. Over his end came a voice making an announcement. “Please fasten your seatbelts.” He wasn’t at his home like she had thought. “Where are you?”

    The sound of fabric chaffing came over the phone. “On a plane. We’re getting ready to land. There’s an hour layover in Denver.”

    “No. Mine’s in Kansas City.”

    “I quit my job,” they said in unison.

    He laughed. “Don’t tell me we had the same idea.”

    “Okay, I won’t. I wanted to surprise you.”

    “Me, too.”

    • Deirdre

      I love the emotion in your scene, Maurine. I also really like how you’ve taken a somewhat well-worn romance conflict “They live in different cities!” and made it feel authentic. The only change I would make would be to leave Julie’s decision to give up her job as a reveal at the end, instead of hinting at it (telling us?) in the first paragraph. Well done!

    • Maurine

      Thank you, Deirdre, for the comments. I see where you’re right about saving any hint of Julie’s decision to give up her job till the end. I’ll keep that in mind in the future.

  17. Christina

    One, two three. It seemed like an eternity for my boyfriend to call. I had waited over three hours for the phone to ring, and what was minutes seemed like hours on end. Finally, the phone rang. I could hear his heavy breathing and quiet whispers.
    “Hello?” asked Peter, whispering into the phone.
    I was about to yell at him, ‘What took you so long,’ when he sounded like he was catching his breath. “What’s wrong?” I asked. “What happened to your mission? Did they give you the maps?”
    “I was chased down three alleys, ran over barber wire, and had to wait in the rain for three hours. Not that I minded. Someone must have ratted us to the Nazis. I need you to stay low for a while until I can get to you. I have the maps of troops. But what if they are not real?”
    I looked out the window of the French villa the agency had been renting and stood near the climbing roses of the two-story townhome. “I don’t want to wait. Not here. I want to come and help you. Tell me where you are, and I’ll come.”
    “No, you can’t. I’m in a small hotel room that’s run down. The manager keeps walking outside my door. You can’t come. Not now. Sing to me, with your beautiful French singing Geraldine.”
    I started to sing I’ll be Home for Christmas softly against the climbing roses. One pricked me. It was a sign. I went inside the townhouse and stopped.
    Peter was listening on the other end. “Your soft singing is beautiful, but you didn’t sing in French. Sing me a song in French.”
    “I’ll sing it when you’re home for Christmas,” I said, lapsing back into my French accent. Francesco, our other agent, was listening to me sing while smoking his last cigar. He watched me drink in the sound of Peter’s voice for as long as I could.
    “Alright,” said Peter. “You’ll sing to me then. Now, give yourself a hug.” I did and rolled my eyes.
    “Now kiss your hand,” he said. I did.
    “That was from me,” said Peter. I rolled my eyes to the smirking Francesco.
    Yes, I thought, staring out the window blankly, soon it will be Christmas.

    • Deirdre

      This was a fun take on our challenge – I wasn’t expecting to read about this period in history, or your unique take on the couples’ separation. I enjoyed how you staged a sweet scene and added tartness with your skeptical observer, too – nice! Thanks for writing!

  18. Andrea Lessane

    Lady Marie Du Vant curled into a ball, shivering, in the corner of the chilly, rotten cell. She was trying her best to keep warm under the rough, woolen cloak. A steady drip of water falling from the ceiling oddly calmed her as she recalled the previous morning, when both she and her lover, Jean Michel, were forced from their bed during a raid targeted on several cottages in his village outside Paris. They were stunned to awaken and find soldiers at their bedside with swords dug into the side of both their necks.
    After being arrested, they were separated and sent to Bastille prison. From what she now knew from the guards on watch, Jean Michel was sentenced to beheading at nightfall. Her own future was still unknown.
    The clank of keys roused her. A guard placed food on a nearby wooden tray and quickly walked out. An angry growl from her belly reminded her that she had not eaten since the evening before.
    She glanced at the tray. It held a small bowl filled with lukewarm broth, a thick slice of moldy bread, cheese, and watered wine in a tin cup. Immediately, she noticed something odd sitting under the bread- a ball of rolled up ribbon. Her ribbon! Looking closer, she saw that it had been tied to a lock of black hair she knew belonged to Jean Michel!
    Excited, Marie clutched the ribbon. She remembered telling him how scared she was of him getting caught.
    Just the day before, the French Militia sent out an edict promising to jail and prosecute any rebels who dared questioned state authority. She knew that Jean Michel, leader of such a group, was in danger.
    He paused, then replied “If you see a piece of me, you will eventually see all of me, mon cher.”
    “And what does that mean?” she impudently asked, her heart shaped mouth formed into a beautiful “mou” that was ready for her next kiss. Her hands played with his black curls, pulling him closer.
    “Do not worry, ma belle” he replied. He then made love to her so fiercely, to Marie, it felt as if he was letting her know he would never see her again. She smiled and gently placed the ribbon inside the bosom of her gown. Somehow, because of this ribbon, Marie was sure they would meet again.

    • Deirdre

      Great choice of setting for a dramatic separation! You depicted the romantic connection between your characters well, and I wanted to know what happened to Jean Michel! Good job!

  19. Sarah Richards

    “It’s bad here, love,” Rod said over the staticky phone that crackled as if it was being consumed. “Hell on earth.”
    “How is your father?” Bex asked.
    “Marked Safe,” he said, and she could hear the smile in his voice. His sense of humor—gallows, black, and otherwise—was what had endeared Becca Bryan to Rodney Harmon when he had walked into Fairhope Community College, looking for his mother. Francesca Highsmith was an alumna of FCC and had married his father and moved to Australia with him before Rod was born, leaving when Rod was nine. Rod believed she had returned to Fairhope and was possibly teaching there.
    “I’m glad,” she said, and though she loved him for volunteering to help with the relief and rescue, she couldn’t help but feel that the fires were just one more thing that kept pulling him back to his hometown like a boomerang—that he was as stuck in Australia as his mother had been homesick for her Alabama hometown.
    Rod’s mother had taught as an adjunct at FCC one semester before meeting his father—one semester that he swore had marked her forever. Rod believed that whatever happened that spring had compelled her to return and was tied to her disappearance. Bex liked to think his search for his mother had led him to find his wife—her—but whenever he left, she wasn’t sure when she was going to see him again, for every time always felt like the last time.
    “I don’t know when this will all be over,” he said.
    “But you’ll come home when it is?”
    “Of course. I’ll always come back to you, Bex.”
    She closed her eyes as if she could blot out his expression as she asked, for she dreaded the answer: “Tell me, if you didn’t believe your mother was here, would you come to Fairhope?”
    “Aw, love, I would feel more compelled to whisk you away to Australia.”
    And that’s when Bex understood why Rod had been so copacetic with their long-distance relationship, with letting her take her time, for if he’d asked her to marry him and move to Sydney, she would’ve said yes, and then he would no longer have a valid reason to come to Fairhope, except chase a ghost, his sister said.
    She gave him a reason to come but feared she was not the reason he did.

    • Deirdre

      You’ve created a dramatic setting for your scene and your couples’ separation. Don’t be afraid to cut explanation and backstory, especially with word count restrictions. If your readers are immersed in the present action, they’ll care enough about your characters to pick up important details later. Thanks for participating in our challenge!

  20. Iris Swift

    The world outside Helen’s window was white, pure and perfect. Snow blanketed the chalet roofs and the branches of the mighty pine trees guarding the foot of the mountain. Rob would have loved it here. He’d have stepped carefully onto the balcony and held out his strong hands with customary gentleness to catch the falling flakes of snow. He may even have tipped back his head and stuck out his tongue, just like Helen was doing now.
    If Rob had been here, the two of them would have been laughing like school children. As it was, Helen could take little pleasure in the scene. Even though she loved the mountains, even though winter was her favourite season and even though she had always believed that moonlight added a special kind of magic to every occasion, without Rob by her side nothing felt truly real.
    She looked at her watch. At last, the minute hand had made its long journey down to the number 6. It was finally 10.30pm. It was time.
    With tears threatening to blur her vision, Helen moved forwards to stand by her balcony rail and fixed her eyes firmly on the shimmering orb of the moon. She could hear her lover’s voice whispering in her ear.
    “It’s the same moon Helen, wherever we are in the world. We can look up at the same moon at the same time and we can be together.”
    A whimper caught in her throat as the icy cold railing burned through her thin woollen gloves. It wasn’t enough to look at the moon. She wanted to feel Rob’s arm around her waist, to lean against his solid frame and feel safe.
    “You have to try harder,” she imagined him saying, compassion shining from his brown eyes.
    “It’s too difficult,” she mouthed the words back at him.
    “Nonsense.” If Rob were here now, Helen knew that he would scoop her hand away from the cold railing and blow on her chilled fingers until they were warmed. “You’re stronger than that Helen. We’re stronger than that.”
    Helen peeled off her own sodden glove and breathed life and movement back into her hand.
    “That’s it,” Rob encouraged her. “Now look at the moon and know deep in your heart that I’m doing the exact same thing. We’re thousands of miles apart, but we’re connected.”
    “Yes,” whispered Helen, “for now and for always.”

  21. suzanne Hull

    Ysabella posed in front of the artist, her gown draped, long and white, pooling around her feet; her arm raised holding out an orange. Lodovico, the painter, was still ill-humoured with her for changing the fruit from a lemon which had been his choice; but last night as she tossed on her bed, unable to sleep whilst the sultry night-air wound itself through the open windows, she remembered that Dante preferred oranges.
    Her arm ached from holding the fruit out, just so, but Lodovico assured her that her stance conveyed the elegance of Roman Goddesses that had preceded her. It gave her the required look of nobility, and, after all, her father was paying Marco Cavalli vast amounts of florins, in order to marry his daughter off advantageously. In a few weeks, when her likeness was finished one of her father’s messengers would gallop off to Florence deliver the painting to the House of Cavalli. Ysabella squirmed inwardly with pleasure whenever she thought of Dante receiving her likeness. Would he notice the details that she’d surreptitiously placed in view; would he understand the depth of her feelings for him?
    Had it been a month already since he’d last visited? Whilst his father and hers had discussed politics and the state of the Signoria, Dante had escorted her along the terraces and the loggia, with her mother and sister wandering behind. Hours they had wandered, along paths lined with myrtle and lavender, and he plucked roses and lemon-scented verbena for her to smell as they walked, before resting on the stone bench. He had sung to her then, his rich tones needing no accompaniment, as he wooed her by his voice alone. Afterwards he had knelt in the dust before her, the scalloped sleeves of his velvet tunic so long they tickled her toes that peeped out from under her houppelande.
    “For you,” he had said, handing her a sweet-smelling orange from a tree that he had just plucked. “My favourite fruit, for my favourite lady.”
    “Ysabella!” Lodovico censured her. Her arm holding the orange had drooped, lost as she was in her daydreams. Blushing, she dropped her eyes, in case he could read her thoughts. A sharp tap on the door interrupted them. A maid bobbed a curtsey to Ysabella and held out a platter. “Milady, fresh oranges have arrived. A gift from the house of Cavalli.” Ysabella’s heart swooned.

    • Katie Gowrie

      This was a wonderful scene, Suzanne! I love all the details you’ve brought into this scene, from the scents of the flowers to the scalloped fabric tickling her toes. This was an interesting situation, with the heroine having her likeness painted for a lover, and I was swept away into another time and place. Nicely done! 🙂

    • Suzanne Hull

      Thanks so much ladies! It was my first submission for one of these shorts. I love all the different stories everyone has posted! Great way to pass a Monday reading them all!

  22. Lori Urick

    Claire’s bare feet padded across her cabin’s wooden deck. It was a beautiful night she thought as she settled herself onto an Adirondack chair and brought a steaming cup of Chamomile tea to her lips. She took a few sips of the amber liquid, letting its warmth slide through her before setting it aside.

    Gazing into the starry night sky, Claire admired the beauty of the full moon. It struck her that despite the ocean separating them, Ben was beneath the very same moon. It made the distance between them not so far.

    Breathing in deeply, the feel of him pulled across the far miles filling her. She imagined him sleeping peacefully in his London hotel room, his handsome features relaxed and owning the boyish charm only the night revealed. Gone was the powerful exterior of a corporate giant, unveiling the gentle features of the man who owned her heart.

    It was in these quiet times, she questioned how they would work. He lived in a penthouse overlooking Central Park and was responsible for most of the renovation taking place in Hudson Park. She lived in the little village of Woodstock and owned a bookshop which catered to the tourists seeking refuge from New York City by heading upstate. His was a fast-paced unpredictable life. Hers was everything predictable except for those times when Addy Powell’s pet pig, Rambo, would wander into the square and become a Facebook sensation. Still, Ben fit easily in her world. She only worried if she fit in his.

    The phone beside her rang and she jumped. Scooping it up, she answered it. “Hello?”

    “Hey.”

    The sound of Ben’s deep voice sent thrilling sensations through her. “I was just thinking of you,” she murmured.

    “You were?” he asked, the warmth of his smile echoed in his words.

    “Um-hmm, I was. What time is it there? It has to be at least three o’clock in the morning.”

    “It is. I couldn’t sleep.”

    “I was just having a cup of tea.”

    “I wish I was there with you.”

    “In a way, you are.”

    “You know, I was just looking out my room’s window. The moon is really amazing tonight. And I thought about something.”
    “What?” Claire breathed.

    “Look up at the moon.”

    “I am.”

    “Isn’t it wild? You and I are looking at the same thing at this exact moment. Pretty incredible, huh, kid?”
    “My thoughts exactly.”

    • Katie Gowrie

      Lori, nice job establishing the hero and heroine in your scene. I got a solid sense of what separates them beyond distance and you’ve brought some great detail out here. Of course, it’s obvious that these two are connected and I love that being under the same moon reminds them of what brings them together. Well done!

  23. Erica glanced at the calendar as she trudged into the kitchen. Her birthday, and here she was, grabbing a frozen meal to pop in the microwave. Some celebration for the big 3-0. Derek’s promise to be home in time to celebrate had evaporated. She pushed the buttons on the microwave a little harder than usual. She should have known this business trip would be no different than any other.

    The echoing of her doorbell halted her pity party. Rushing to the door, she opened it to find an awkward delivery boy, probably barely out of high school, grinning at her.

    “Erica Roberts?” he asked.

    “Yes, thank you.” She plastered on her best smile, hefting the vase of roses into her apartment. A dozen red roses. Their fragrance filled the room. Reaching for the card, she had no doubt Derek sent them as a consolation prize for his not being there. Pulling the card from the envelope, she turned it over. Nothing. Hearing her cell phone buzz, she reached to answer it. r.

    A Facetime call blipped on her phone. Accepting the call, Derek’s face appeared on her screen. “Derek?”

    “The one and only.” His smile sheepish, he pulled a bouquet from behind his back.

    “Why are you holding red roses?”

    “Because I bought them for just such a moment as this. I can’t give you flowers in person – I do hope you like the ones I sent you – but I can give them to you virtually.” With an expression wielding all his charm, he asked, “Will you please forgive me? I wanted to be there for your birthday and had every intention of doing so. Please believe me when I tell you I tried everything I could to get back in time. You know I love you.”

    Giggling, she blew a kiss at the phone. Maybe this wasn’t such a bad birthday, after all.

    • Katie Gowrie

      Wendy, what an incredibly sweet gesture! I love the humour you’ve introduced here and that the hero was able to think outside the box to be there for the heroine’s birthday. Nice job!

  24. Renee Nurek

    Kate was headed to her treadmill at crowded LA gym, scrolling through her app when she noticed the 80s fun run. This will keep me motivated she thought. She cranked up the volume and hopped on the treadmill. The warm up jog was to the song “I Melt with You” by Modern English. Wow, this is a blast from the past, thought Kate. Her mind began to wander back to that summer when Tony was all she could think about.
    Tony was from Long Island, she was from rural New York. He was blonde and tan, she was pale and brunette. He was tall and lean where she was short and solid. They were opposites in looks but the same in every other way. He was so sweet, always smiling, always excited to see her. It was the best 5 weeks of her life. When their camp jobs ended they had sent so many letters. Always promising to visit each other and never doing it. Eventually the letters stopped coming and they had to move on.
    Kate wondered whatever happened to that boy. She picked up her phone and clicked Facebook. After typing in his name his profile popped up showing that he was still blonde and smiling even if he was a lot older. She clicked add friend before she could think about it and switched back to the run app.
    In St. Thomas Tony picked up his phone when he heard the ding. Kate May requesting him as a friend. He clicked her profile and let out a low whistle. That summer was 30 years ago and Kate still looked the same. Her big smile and her dark brown eyes took him on a trip down memory lane.
    Tony remembered all the letters and pictures they had sent. He still had them tucked away in a drawer somewhere. He always wanted to visit but something had gotten in the way. Holding on to a summer romance in his first year of college was just too hard. Kate had been so sweet, so honest and so much fun. He sometimes thought of her when he heard 80s music and wondered where she had ended up. Maybe it’s time to find out, could their timing be better this time or was she happily married and just wanting to catch up? He hit accept friend and started typing a message.

    • Katie Gowrie

      Renee, I love how you’ve brought in aspects of modern dating here. So many people reconnect over social media, why not write a scene about it? 🙂 You’ve brought in lots of great details about the couple’s past–I’m curious to know what happens next. Thanks for participating!

  25. Marcella was busy adding the last touches to her all black ensemble when in the corner of her eye, she noticed the familiar pulsating blue glow of her hand mirror on her vanity. She smiled to herself, knowing who would be on the other end. She picked up the intricately designed gold object and with a soft tap on the glass, ripples revealed the person on the other end—her elf boyfriend, Ellsworth.

    “I was beginning to wonder if you had forgotten about me,” Marcella joked.

    “Of course not,” he chuckled. “Had to find a new hiding spot.”

    Marcella took note of the sadness in Ellsworth’s eyes, despite him trying to mask it. He was back in Caligora with his people—the Iron Warriors—much to her dismay but it was for the best for now. They had to keep their relationship a secret from them and these mirror calls were the only way for her and Ellsworth to remain in touch. She was fortunate that Mother Simone, her adoptive mother, was the only one who knew and despite her dislike for Ellsworth’s people, she had come to see him as different and accepted their relationship.

    “Do they suspect anything?” Marcella chose to ask, her voice a mixture of curiosity and worry.

    Ellsworth shook his head. “I try not to use the same spot twice in a row.”

    Relief washed over her. The last thing she wanted was for his people, especially his mother—the current Chieftess—to find out and execute him. They were known to be ruthless even to their own kin.

    “However,” Ellsworth started, “Enough about me. Tonight is the Meridian Ball, yes?”

    Marcella nodded. “But I wish Mother Simone would let me remain home. Keeping up with the pleasantries can be quite tiresome.”

    “I can imagine. I wish I could be there to keep you company…” His voice suddenly lowered to that seductive and lustful tone she enjoyed. “In more ways than one.”

    Marcella felt her cheeks get warm and she was sure Ellsworth could see how red they were. She looked behind her, making sure her bedroom door was closed, then checked the time on her golden pocket watch beside her. She moved to sit on her bed, unzipped her dress, revealing her black lace lingerie. Marcella returned her focus to Ellsworth and smiled as she told him, “We have time.”

    • Evan Yeong

      Hi Nikki! What a refreshing change of pace, not only due to the fantasy setting, but also because the long distance relationship being featured has to be kept a secret! This runs on the steamier side, but cuts off right before things get too risqué. I really liked that choice, as it keeps readers wondering what happens next (and wanting to know more, I’m sure).

      Lastly, I’m impressed that you were able to communicate some of the backstory with the Iron Warriors, etc, without getting too bogged down and losing the scene itself. Great job all around!

  26. Anna Logue

    Molly look out her bedroom window looking out at the sun rising over her parents farm making her smile. She wondered “What are you doing right now Mark drinking coffee, or chasing the sun as you call it”. Molly heard a quiet knock on her door “ Are you up dear?” asked her mother . “Come in” said Molly . how did you do it with dad during the Great War”? she asked. “Well Molly I took one day at a time and I had your brothers and you along with the farm to keep me occupied .she said.
    You have us and that little baby, sweetie you’re not alone.. “ I know mom the last letter I received from Mark was two months ago , he said he was doing good and was looking forward to coming home to me and to meet little Mark .” she said. They heard the baby start to cry. “ Good Morning , my little one. “ I will see you downstairs Molly breakfast will be ready when you come down.” said Molly’s mom. “Thanks Mom” said Molly.
    Molly came down to the kitchen “ Good Morning Dad.” said Molly “Good Morning Sweetie” said Molly’s dad. Amanda the boys are staying for lunch” he said. “ Well it is Tuesday after all I would be more surprised if they didn’t stay for lunch Jack.” said Amanda. One of Molly’s brothers John came running into the kitchen “Molly come outside and look at the sky” he said “ John I really do not want to fall for your trick you have been doing this for two weeks now.” she said . “ What if it is Mark coming home?” he said.
    “ Thank you for trying to cheer me up , John she said. Later that day she was outside snapping green beans when she looked up. “ Oh my. Am I dreaming this” she said. “ No you’re not dreaming Molly I am home” said Mark. Molly ran into his arms and hugged him. “ I am so glad you are home” said Molly . “ So am I Molly” said Mark kissing her. “ Come on that’s go inside so you can meet your son. He will be up from his nap now” said Molly. “ Yes that sounds great.” Said Mark. They walked into the house holding hands.

    • Evan Yeong

      Hi Anna! My first piece of advice would be to work on better formatting your writing. This submission only has four paragraphs, and to you should never have two different speakers in the same one. I would also recommending watching your punctuation, as it could be difficult at times to tell if dialogue was starting or ending.

      I liked Molly not believing John, but also not being upset with him. That revealed a lot about the relationship they share as older sister and younger brother.

      The focus of this prompt was meant to be a relationship at a distance, so having Mark and Molly reunite at the end unfortunately disregards that. I would have liked to have seen more of how she is coping with him being away, especially since she doesn’t know exactly when his return will be.

  27. The dirty socks were what got me.

    I’d moved into the new place in Minto on the first of August, but Gillian wouldn’t be joining me for another month while she finished up in Antigonish. I didn’t really mind, because we’d be getting married on the Labour Day weekend and have the rest of our lives together. I could handle a month.

    On August 15, a courier truck pulled into our dooryard. Now, Minto is tiny and you don’t see very many couriers. I had no idea what one was doing at our place. “Probably something for the last people who lived here,” I muttered as I opened the door.

    Surprise! The huge box was for me. I signed for it and set it on the coffee table. Dongle and Scuzz, Gill’s cats who had moved with me, came over to investigate. I cut the tape with my pocketknife.

    Inside were sixteen boxes, each with a date on it. I opened the one for August 15. Dongle and Scuzz shoved their faces into it almost before I had the flaps folded back. Inside was a can of Vienna sausages. I love Vienna sausages. Gillian hates them.

    August 16’s box contained two catnip mice. The cats ignored them, but they seemed happy now that they each had a box. A couple of days later, there was a candle in my favourite scent. A new pack of playing cards. Sardines in tomato sauce, something else that I love and she hates. Every day, a trifle that she knew that either the cats or I would enjoy.

    Maddeningly, I couldn’t thank her. All month she was out finishing the fieldwork for her Master’s, with no cell service. They were supposed to have a satellite phone, but it was for emergencies. Fiancés don’t constitute an emergency.

    Like I said earlier, the dirty socks were what got me. They were in the last box, the one I opened the day before she was set to arrive. Heavens, did they stink! They’d been triple-wrapped, so I didn’t smell anything until I unwrapped them. They looked like she’d walked through a swamp in them, without gumboots. There was a spot of blood on one of them, probably from a blackfly bite.

    I started to cry, then, and not from the smell. Gill knows how much I enjoy doing laundry.

    • Evan Yeong

      Hi Faith! I have to say, your opening and closing lines are amazing. Some of the chronology could have been better established, such as clearly stating what day it is the packages arrive, and with how quickly the proceeding days pass by, but that’s not a huge deal.

      The twist is beautifully executed, and speaks volumes about the couple, no small feat in just under 400 pages. As a (very) short story this could honestly stand on its own. It draws you in from the first line, keeps you wondering in the middle, and then blindsides you with a heartwarming reveal.

    • Thank you very much, Evan. I’m glad you enjoyed it. It’s true that my husband has always enjoyed doing the laundry, but I’m not sure that he’d really think a stinky sock was a sign of love. A woman can hope, though.

  28. “What tha?” This flippin’ phone won’t do what I need. I’m practically growling now as I fumble its tiny body, almost dropping it for the fourth time since trying to dial Tara. Man-fingers shouldn’t hold tiny phones. That should be a goddamn rule!
    On attempt number five, the jangle of Hooked on a Feeling startles the daylights out of me, nearly causing another drop of this tiny new phone of mine. But that ringtone was set by one person and when I see her picture staring back from the screen, I can’t hide the smile on my face.
    “Ahh, my favorite woman.” I answer, clicking the little video camera like she showed me. I would be happy to hear her voice, but this new facing thing that she taught me how to do is even better. I’m man enough to admit when I miss someone and even though I’m only one week into a three-week fishing trip. I’m feeling the torture.
    “Were you missing me?” The laughter in her voice gets me, warming the heart I sealed off decades ago when my wife died.
    “Of course, darlin.’ How’d you know I was thinking of you?” Her face lights up as she wipes tears from those crystal eyes I love. Making Tara laugh is magical. Her sunshine to my shadow.
    “Well, my sweet, technology-challenged friend… you just texted me a photo of that very sexy, sweaty chest of yours.” Heat spreads through my face, but I refuse to admit a fifty-five-year-old man can blush. Although her gorgeous smile eases some embarrassment as I glance down to my naked chest, self-consciously rubbing the ridges of my stomach.
    “What can I say? It was a hot morning.” My chest hair may be shining with sweat but it’s just us stinky boys on the boat. We don’t bother with shirts, counting it lucky if we shave or eat more than a bowl of cereal in the morning.
    Still, embarrassment makes me chuckle that a woman only a few years my junior can school me so hard on a phone so small. I certainly didn’t mean to send a half-naked picture of myself to a woman I’m courting, I wanted to call her. I’m not one of these millennials, boasting about a dick-pic, I hear all over the locker room. I shut that crap down the moment I hear my boys spewing that nonsense.

    • Evan Yeong

      Hi Renee! A three-week fishing trip is a wonderfully innocuous reason for two people to be apart, and its normalcy makes it stand out from many of these other submissions.

      While I enjoyed your hero’s difficulties with technology, I did think that his age and manliness were overstated here. It’s hard to imagine a present-day phone that’s so small someone might fumble with it, and him mentioning his “man-fingers” felt unnecessary. I feel the same way about him denigrating millennials near the end.

      Similar to my comment to Jenny, below, there are good ideas here that simply need to be tied together a bit more. When he mentions the locker room does this mean he’s a school coach? Is his team who he’s referring to when he says “my boys”? It’s never mentioned who he’s on the fishing trip with, and I think having him off with men who are much younger than he is creates a really great contrast that easily justifies his internal dialogue about being an older man.

  29. Jenny Long

    Keith Miles knew what he wanted since he was in kindergarten and he got stuck sitting behind Cassie Smith. Back then he resorted to expressing his feelings by tugging on one of her black pigtail braids. Hard. She didn’t react the way he hoped she would but it at least caught her attention.
    In third grade he drew her a gigantic valentine’s day card that compared her smell to Sadie, his new golden retriever puppy that he loved more than anything except perhaps Cassie herself. But she’d turned beet red after she opened it, quickly folded it and tucked it in her desk drawer and kept her head down the rest of class. They didn’t speak a whole lot in elementary school after the Valentine’s Day card. But that wasn’t too unusual. Keith didn’t speak a lot to anyone at that time in his life and Cassie was constantly surrounded by other girls that never stopped yapping.
    He tried to get her attention every once in a while, by doing such things as lobbing a dodge ball at her head during gym class or sticking a foot out to trip her when she walked by. But even Keith had almost given up when the third attempt at tripping resulted in Cassie spilling chocolate milk in her hair and all over a nice white t-shirt.
    Keith clicked the button to accept the incoming video call and couldn’t help but smile as Cassie’s face lit up the screen.
    “Hey, Babe” she waved.
    “Hey.” Nobody was more surprised than he was that despite their rocky start, she had somehow eventually seen through all his awkwardness and decided that he liked. No, she loved, as she repeatedly told him, the person inside.
    She blew an air kiss. Keith laughed.
    “How was your day?”
    “It would have been better if you were here.” She frowned then pouted a moment. “But really I can’t complain, everyone has been great. Just a few more weeks.”
    “I don’t know how you do it.” After college, Cassie had gone to work for a large global corporation and quickly risen up the ranks to be a senior operations program manager. Part of her responsibilities involved traveling to other countries and assisting in setting up new offices. She was often gone for weeks, one time a full month at a time.
    Cassie winked. “I think about you. A LOT.”

    • Evan Yeong

      Hi Jenny! I really enjoyed the little snapshot you provided of how Keith and Cassie’s relationship developed from an awkward, immature puppy love into an adult relationship. That being said, you dedicated more time to that than the long distance relationship the prompt was asking for.

      I want to know more about how the two of them were navigating their time apart. It also would have helped to have a smoother transition from him tripping her to them being on a video call. What changed, and when? As one final note, I think you could’ve kept the first half if you had more closely tied it into the second, juxtaposing them being close and him pulling her hair with them being apart and not being able to touch one another-