Category Archives: Romance

Scenes From a Country Church (A Story)

Josh drove along the country road, the smile on his face wrinkling its way up to his eyes. Next to him, Susie sang with abandon, her voice exuberantly mouthing the words to the Billy Joel song on the car’s media center. It was a song Josh knew well. He once disliked the song but loved hearing Susie sing it. She didn’t know that he hadn’t been a fan. Josh wanted her to sing it every time she heard it. He didn’t need to appreciate the song to love the person accompanying it. Susie didn’t know that the song was Billy’s favorite of all his songs.

Before their second date, Josh spent hours learning everything he could about Billy Joel. Susie shared a fascination with trivia and details about people’s lives. Susie listened in wonder as Josh recited all the facts that he’d learned about Billy Joel: that he had been a boxer and quit after his nose got brutally broken, that his ancestors were Jewish but that he had attended a Catholic school, only to end up as an atheist. Susie was horrified to learn that Billy also suffered from depression and attempted suicide by drinking furniture polish. She laughed in delight when Josh told her that Billy’s success came after failing to end his life.

“I learned to play the piano when I was very young, just like Billy,” he had told Susie. She raised her eyebrows in dubious surprise. “I hated it then but learned that music was as much a part of me as breathing. My mom told me that music would keep me sane. She was right. I can’t sing to save my life, though.”

Susie laughed. “We will see about that,” she mysteriously told him.


“Where are we going, Josh?” Susie laughed as she stopped singing long enough to utter the question.

“You’ll see. It’s a beautiful drive. Just sing a little more. We’ll be there in a couple of minutes.” Josh smiled and kept driving.

The road became less maintained as he drove. Fences that were previously metal became loose barbed wire, and the number of houses decreased precipitously.

As he neared the old country church, he slowed and turned between the narrow confines of the ditch on either side. The church stood against a backdrop of old trees. The white steeple looked brilliant against the intermittent sun that peeked through the clouds.

“It’s beautiful, Josh. I love old churches!” She almost squealed. Her enthusiasm always bubbled up.

“I know. That’s why we’re here.” He pulled up closer to the church and shut off the engine.

“Want to go inside? I have a key.” He grinned.

“You have a key? Wow. Of course I want to go in.” Susie immediately opened her door and jumped out of the car.

Josh scrambled to undo his seat belt and follow her. She was already walking up the few steps to the door by the time he exited the car.

As he walked up to her, Susie turned and gave him a light peck on the lips. Josh laughed. Her affection still caught him off guard. He’d spent a lot of his life imagining what such attention would evoke.

Josh unlocked the door with the large key in his jacket pocket. He pulled the door open, and Susie darted in ahead of him. He shook his head in amusement.

As he entered, he flipped on the lights. The inside of the church flooded with sudden illumination. The wooden pews shone with the proof that someone still took the time to polish them. The wood smelled divine.

Josh took Susie’s hand and led her to the front pew. Her fingers folded effortlessly around his.

“Sit here, Susie.” Josh gestured to the front pew. A single piece of dark chocolate lay on the bench. Susie looked at Josh in surprise, realizing he’d planned this. Her eyes grew wide, and she smiled. She said nothing as she sat on the pew. She picked up the piece of candy, unwrapped it, and savored the bitter flavor as she chewed it. She nodded.

Josh bowed toward her as he turned. Both of them smiled. The church was quiet as Josh’s feet echoed faintly on the wooden floorboards. He walked behind the small altar and to the right. He sat at the old organ and looked at Susie.

“Did you know that Billy Joel considered himself a better organist than a pianist, Susie?” Susie shook her head “no.”

“I do too. And this one is slightly out of tune. I love the way it sounds. Imperfect enough to give this song the new life it deserves.”

Josh’s fingers began to play. Instead of the expected four bars of notes to precede the lyrics, he played an improvised version, much like Billy loves to do at his concerts. He looked over at Susie as he began. He was delighted to see that she was slightly shocked. The sound of the old organ flooded the church with melody and life.

“A bottle of red, a bottle of white, perhaps a bottle of rosé instead,” Josh sang, his voice cracking with emotion. Susie clapped in delight.

Josh continued to play and sing, his audience of one feeling the emotion he brought to the song. Time stopped as the wood structure of the church filled with melody and vibrated.

He played an improvised closing melody that faded into a hum as he finished the lyrics. “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant” had never been played with so much love by someone who once thought it was a terrible song.

Susie had tears across her face as she sat in the pew in front of Josh. She smiled.

“Look under the pew, Susie. I left another surprise for you.”

As Susie locked eyes with Josh, she already knew what awaited.

I won’t tell you what happened next. If you’re full of life, you already know. You can smell the wood, feel the melody as it dissipates. And you can imagine Josh and Susie and the life that followed them out of the church.

Ice Cream Smile (A Story)

“What’s for dinner?” he asked, knowing the answer.

She was already wrist-deep in her bowl of ice cream, her legs tucked carelessly under one another in her favorite chair.

She smiled, letting a gush of liquid ice cream run across her lips. She tried to slurp it back inside but the ice cream dripped across her shirt. She looked up at him, sheepishly, then smiled all the way across her face.

He shook his head. “What am I supposed to eat?”

“Duh!” she half-hollered. “Get over here.” She winked.

He walked across the floor and sat next to her chair, his arm draped across her legs. As she spooned another bite of ice cream, he closed his eyes and opened his mouth wide. She airplaned the spoon toward his face and put the spoon inside his mouth.

He opened his eyes and laughed, savoring the ice cream.

He said, “Yum” in a gravelly voice at least fifteen times, knowing she would playfully object to his exaggerated enthusiasm.

“Here, have another bite of MY ice cream, then.” She airplaned another bite into his mouth.

They both laughed.

As he stood up and gave her a peck across the top of her head, he said seriously, “What’s for dessert, though?”

She threw her head back and laughed, her voice dropping an octave.

He gave her the look.

The evening melted away.

I Can Work With That

I love this phrase.

It belies humor, deprecation, affection, and in the right context, a bit of risque.

It’s going to be harder to use it so freely for a while.

You can use it exactly like “That’s what she said.” Or you can use it to circumspectly say something under the radar of the obvious conversation.

“I need five minutes.” Yes. “I can work with that.”

“I’m getting dressed.” Yes! “I can work with that.”

“I need someone to tell me it’s going to be okay.” Definitely. “I can work with that.”

Words and context continuously morph in life. Sometimes, they take on a tinge of remorse. Sometimes, happiness.

I need a minute.

I can work with that.

Love, X

A Very Busy Life (A Story)

A Very Busy Life (A Story)

The shadows were long across the living room floor, the early afternoon light approaching and creating diagonal tapestries across the wood. The to-do list went untouched since yesterday afternoon. None of their movies or shows in the queue had been noticed. They both put their books down simultaneously, looked at each other, and laughed.

“We should really do something today,” she said.

“Yes, there’s a lot to do,” he acknowledged.

They both shrugged and laughed again.

He stood up and placed his book on the cushion of the green sofa. She did the same.

He walked into the bedroom and pulled the comforter back and jumped into bed like an amateur gymnast. Without a word, she followed him and dived onto the bed next to him, her arms wrapping around him as she laid her head on his chest. He yanked the comforter over them both, creating a cocoon around them.

And they lay there for an hour, just letting the bed warm them and each other. Their arms adjusted as they cuddled.

For an hour, they accomplished nothing.

It was the perfect afternoon. Nothing done, yet everything they needed.

The Melody Of A Banjo (A Story)

They sat in Adirondack chairs away from the illumination of the back patio light, their faces covered in faint shadows. The firepit nearby threw orange glints of color across their faces as the breeze passed over them. They didn’t need to see one another to know that each of them had a half-revealed smile dancing across their lips.

For an hour they’d sat, bantering like every word needed to be uttered before the moon faded. He playfully strummed the banjo nestled across his knees, the notes elicited both discordant and comforting. Every once in a while, his fingers seemed to accidentally hit a lyrical chord. The banjo was a prank as well as a talisman for them, a joke that was taken so far that he had dared surprise her with one for her birthday.

They spoke simultaneously, the tumult of both extemporaneous and considered words tumbling from their respective lips. “You go first,” they said in unison, then laughed.

As their laughter faded, a young voice yelled from the confines of the house, “Geez, knock it off already! It’s time for bed.”

They looked at each other and snickered.

He picked up the banjo and pretended that he was going to play it.

She laughed.

And then his fingers melded with the banjo, his left hand structuring a chord.

“Surprise,” he whispered. “You have to make something new and surprising each day.”

As she watched in amazement, he played “Colour My World” by Chicago, a song she had not appreciated until that moment. He sang the few words contained in the song, his voice cracking with emotion. His voice was not trained, though his heart echoed in every enunciated syllable. Her mouth opened wide and in shock. Something broke inside her and the laughter transposed into warmth, an ocean of feeling. She closed her eyes and swayed, a smile playing across her face.

He let his fingers strum the melody one more time, a coda of promise, regret, and longing. He knew that the melody had somehow conveyed the optimism that filled him. The firepit cracked and spit sparks as the song faded.

He stood up and reached for her hand. Their fingers intertwined as they walked toward the house.

The world was indeed full of colors. And banjos.

P.S. I hope each of you has a metaphorical banjo, and someone who shares both laughter and their presence with you.

Love, X

Jasmine In A Sundress

The first time he saw her, she was walking quickly past him. She looked up briefly at him, her eyes glinting in the sun, her glasses perched precariously on her nose. And then she smiled. Josh almost tripped as he nervously returned her smile. He noted her black turquoise sundress billowing on her in the gentle breeze.

He wanted to turn and look as she passed him. He held his breath for three of four seconds before he turned to look. As he paused, she quickly turned in his direction and looked back at him. She smiled again. And then she waved, grabbed the edges of her sundress above her knees, and curtsied. Josh was frozen in place. He quickly gave her a quick wave and then walked away. A smile soon spread across his face.

Within seconds, he felt his lips go numb as he walked. She was pretty, of that there was no doubt. Probably eccentric. Her smile cycled through his head repeatedly. Forgetting his meeting in twenty minutes, he turned and ran back along the path. He didn’t consider catching up to her or what he might say.

As he turned the bend in the walking path along the business park, he didn’t have time to pretend he wasn’t running. She sat on one of the green and yellow park benches, leaning back nonchalantly, her left arm draped across the back of the bench. Josh slowed his run and kept walking toward her. The awkwardness almost overwhelmed him. Instinct took over. She wasn’t fleeing him.

As he neared her, he tried in vain to summon the right words.

She surprised him by speaking first. “Don’t you know you shouldn’t chase girls?” She smiled again. “Come sit here and introduce yourself.”

He numbly walked up to the bench and sat within two feet of her.

“Well,” she said, “Do you have a name?”

“Yes,” he answered. “Oh, it’s Josh.”

“Josh, I’m Jasmine. Pleasure to meet you.” She held out her right hand Josh took it. Her fingers curled around his and gently shook his hand.

She didn’t seem nervous or anxious about the moment of silence that fell between them.

“Why did you chase after me? This is your chance to do it right. I can guess, but I need to you say it.” She smiled and winked at him.

He’d never met anyone so confident or self-assured. Her black turquoise sundress lay against her legs. Her eyes sparkled behind her glasses.

“You smiled at me. It was like you saw me. You know what I mean. You’re a pretty lady. Pretty ladies don’t look at me.” Josh was stammering.

“They don’t? That’s too bad, Josh. You are an attractive man. Nervous, maybe, but we can work on that.” She waited for him to reply.

When no words came from Josh, Jasmine reached inside the small pocket of her sundress and pulled out a cellphone and little wallet holder. She extricated a business card and reached over to him.

He accepted it as if it were radioactive. He turned the card over. On the front, a silhouette of a woman and dark hair. Jasmine. Her phone number and email.

When he looked back up at her, she smiled again and said, “Call me. Don’t think about it. Just do it. I believe in this kind of capricious moment, Josh.”

Jasmine stood up and curtsied toward him again. She turned, her sundress twirling. Josh noted she wore white sneakers. He noted the gentle curve of her legs, too.

She walked away as if she had no care in the world.

Josh sat on the park bench, his eyes looking at the business card blindly. Suddenly, he realized he would be late for his meeting. He found himself running back in the opposite direction. When he arrived, he was panting and sat down at the conference table. Though the matter at hand required his attention, he discovered that he spent most of the meeting gazing out the window at the expanse of the park that ran parallel to the business park.

When the meeting concluded, Josh skipped the elevator and walked to the stairs, taking them two and three at a time. As he exited the building, he walked toward the small man-made creek next to the walking path. He took his phone from his pocket and nervously dialed Jasmine’s number before paralysis overtook him.

It rang three times. He decided she wouldn’t answer an unknown number. On the fourth ring, just as voicemail was about to engage, she answered.

Her voice sounded heavenly. “What took you so long, Josh?” She laughed.

“How did you know it was me?” he asked, a little confused.

“Fate told me you’d call.” She paused.

“I don’t get a lot of calls from fate,” he said.

She laughed.

“That’s a good start and a witty answer. We’re going to change that too.” He could hear the smile in her voice.

“Let’s talk about when we can meet and share some laughter. And whatever else percolates.” Her voice resonated with confidence.

“I’d like nothing better, Jasmine.”

They talked for twenty more minutes, their banter growing.

When he hung up, he stood by the creek, watching it flow.

Optimism gripped him for the first time in a long time.

Love, X


I wrote this story with another imaginative soul…



He heard her laugh from a couple of aisles over. He was about to place his six simple items on the belt by the cashier. He pushed his cart to the side when she laughed again and abandoned it. Whoever owned that laugh was someone he had to see. The hair on the back of his neck felt like an unseen hand had artfully brushed against it.

He kept looking for the person that laugh belonged to but couldn’t seem to pinpoint it. Then, he glimpsed her standing next to the spices and glancing up at the cinnamon placed unnecessarily and rudely high on the shelf, with one earbud in. It had to be her; the only other women in the vicinity were already collecting their pensions.

She was nodding to nobody as a smile cracked across her face under her mask.

Then another laugh.

Though he would not usually approach anyone, he felt his feet glide toward her. Though he had no expectations as to what she might look like, he felt an unfamiliar sense of familiarity when he looked at her. Just as he was about to speak, she turned halfway toward him, her eyes sparkling, the fading laugh leaving her eyes. He opened his mouth to speak but felt his throat clamp. He just nodded in silence.

She pulled her mask down to reveal a smile. “Well, hello there, stranger.”
The ‘hello’ he warmly and hesitantly uttered crept its way across his lips as they moved, creasing the corners of his eyes.

“Could you help me get the cinnamon? I’m trying to make the family cookie recipe for the Christmas celebration. I was warned not to get the cheap stuff,” she said, rambling to herself. He watched her face move with the words as his feet shot roots into the ground beneath him to keep his heart from soaring out of his chest.

He kept staring until she looked from side to side behind him and then back in his face. “umm…Frankie? Can you get the cinnamon, please? I still have to bake tonight.” He kept staring. There she was. His heart was beating rapidly; there was sweat on his brow. The clerk announced BBQ and 4th of July deals over the loudspeaker. He blinked and inhaled hard, and then she was gone again.

Between heartbeats, time dilated. Frankie watched his arm reach up and pick out a lovely brand of cinnamon. When he handed it to her, her nimble fingers brushed his. The jolt awakened him. She smiled and asked, “Are you okay?” He nodded. “Wait,” he said, his voice almost disembodied. “Do I know you? I feel like I do.” She laughed at him as if he’d asked the most ridiculous and amusing question possible. “Not really, no. But I think we’re going to know each other very well, depending on whether you can answer one simple question.”

Frankie nodded and swallowed as Amelia grinned mischievously and pulled out her earbuds. This was a big test. He didn’t even know it yet. There was only one acceptable answer, but a close second would allow him to have an opportunity to prove himself further. “Which Star Trek captain is the best?” she asked as she slipped the cinnamon into a place of prestige in her shopping cart. “Thank you, by the way.”

Frankie didn’t even pause to answer: “Picard. He’s brilliant, ethical, and emotional, perfectly blended. But you know that. If I can make you laugh before you turn and walk away, will you let me talk to you again? Anywhere or anywhen you want.”

Amelia wrinkled her nose, made a noise like a buzzer, and made a thumbs-down signal. She then laughed again. Frankie’s spine shivered again. “That is not correct, so I’m not sure about any sort of prize here.” The room seemed to pulse and fade in and out of Frankie’s vision as the Christmas music faded to summer-time special promotions again. He stood there, alone, in the spice aisle in his Birkenstocks. “Oh God, not again,” he thought to himself and choked back the tears creeping dangerously close to slipping from his eyes in the middle of the spices.

He was lost somewhere in time again, the memories of lost love flooding him. He picked out a container of cinnamon and held it in his hand. Even though people passed him, no one noted the single tear that slid along his cheek and down to his hand holding the bottle. “Amelia,” he whispered.

Cade (A Story)

Cade sat immobile at the computer. On the floor next to him was Junebug, his temperamental cocker spaniel, lazily looking up at him. For a couple of minutes, he stared at the picture he found of her, the woman he once loved. He wasn’t sure if it was serendipity or cursed look to see her face looking back at him. He’d inadvertently scrolled across the internet, looking for an inspiration for a story. He held his breath for quite a while, looking until he realized he wasn’t inhaling and that his stomach had tightened into a ball. A story indeed unfolded in his head, but it was one culled from his own hidden biography. The pages of that book of memory were salt-filled from desiccated tears.

Her hair was different, unkempt, and carefree. He hadn’t seen her for three years, seven months, and ten days, not that he was counting the intervening eternity since they posed for a picture. Before he left her that day, she asked for a picture. Cade excitedly agreed. They stood in front of the house, leaning against the swing, as Cade fumbled with the phone. Both of them were smiling broadly in that photo, their faces flushed with emotion and happiness. If someone had said, “Hold her tight, this is the last time you’ll ever see her again,” he would have either laughed or burst into tears. He might have also never left her, no matter what the cost.

Soon after, for reasons that were both explained and inscrutable, she jettisoned him from her life. The hole was a living void, one which he carried with him into unexpected places. It felt like an unseen and irritating tag on his jeans; he often thought little of it despite feeling the void just below his attention. Her absence brought such pain that he had to will himself to turn his mind elsewhere. So many things in her brought out the best of him, even as it devolved him into slivers of an individual. Knowing her taught him how addicts could chase the first high. To Cade, he compared it to eating a handful of the most delicious walnuts ever grown, only to find each one thereafter to be bitter and nutless. He would still chew a bathtub full of them, in hopes of finding that nugget of timelessness again.

Even after, as much as he realized how brazenly he’d acted, he wished her well. It’s hard to hate someone who opened a new portal inside of you, whether the portal was love or of an infatuation that defied parameters. The agony of knowing that someone chose another path or person instead of you is one of the most inconsolable bittersweet emotions in life. Because love is intensely personal, it’s impossible to express to another that you are truly at their mercy and capable of redefining whatever definition of love holds true. They’ve rejected the most authentic love they could have ever known; because of rejection, they’d never know. They’d careen off, in search of a more suitable you.

Cade powered off his computer and sat in darkness for a minute. His heart slowed and her presence slowly evaporated from him. He got up to make a cup of coffee. Life would go on. The sparkler of her remembered presence would continue, too. It was a part of him now and forever, wherever she might be. He thought of “The Prince of Tides,” and smiled. He didn’t cross a bridge as he whispered it; his feet carried him across the house to a cup of coffee. He imagined he could hear the river somewhere nearby, though, and the marshy smell of the water. He imagined the luxury of living two disparate lives. Junebug nuzzled his leg as he walked.

Out there in the world, she lived her life. And Cade was happy for her.

Sample Advice Column

(Note: recently, I was asked to write some sample advice columns. Here’s an off-the-cuff one for you to read…)

Question: “My girlfriend doesn’t reply to my texts for a long time but answers other people constantly. What should I do?”

Well, because it’s important, what kind of shoes do you wear? I hope you say Nike or Adidas because they’ll pay me the most for mentioning them. #payme

I hope running shoes is your answer. You need to buy a nice, comfortable pair. Put them on – and then run. Away.

I’m not going to ask you what you mean by “a long time.” I am assuming you’re not obsessive or crazy. I could be wrong. If you’re writing me for advice, you might need to reconsider your life choices.

Another assumption is that if you’re writing me for advice, that it’s a deal-breaker sort of problem if it isn’t addressed to your satisfaction.

Her failing to answer you (her person) isn’t a question of boundaries. It is of course her right to answer when and if she chooses. But if she chooses to ignore yours while texting other randos, she also is free to face the consequences of failing to appreciate that’s she in a relationship that requires open communication and time.

I am assuming you’ve already discussed expectations, reciprocity, and feelings about this? If you haven’t, you’re part of the problem. No matter how scary it is, you must be able to reveal what’s on your mind and in your heart – even if it might initially sound needy or negative. If you can’t risk doing so, you need to practice. You’ll never be happy with anyone if you can’t. Ms. No-Reply can find someone who will tolerate being treated as lesser.

There are a lot of fancy words for that kind of behavior. She’s clearly showing you she doesn’t prioritize you with her time. We all have a limited amount of time in our day. If she’s choosing to ignore the closest person in her life, there’s a reason. No matter how she explains it away, it’s just that she’s not that into you. This is especially true if she’s being funny, witty, or exchanging multiple long messages with other people. She’s investing her time and energy elsewhere. You should do the same.

Being honest with her again about your feelings isn’t going to help. She’s going to be defensive and gaslight you about your totally understandable reaction. And probably make a snarky TikTok to poke fun at you. If she does, laugh if you can. Someone else will appreciate your earnest desire to share your life and thoughts with them.

Adults answer their lovers with at least the same frequency and enthusiasm as they do others. The Enthusiasm Rule dictates that they should.

The no-texting is a clear starting gun.

You’ve already got your running shoes on. Use them.*

*And if you don’t have running shoes, remember: Nike or Adidas, please.#paymetwice .


Apricot Sun (A Story From a Stolen Picture)

He left one day, never to return. I kissed him goodbye, not knowing it would be the last time I would do so. Each morning since, I walk outside to observe the beauty of the morning in the place we once shared. The sunrise fills my eyes but falls short of my heart.

I feel him around me. His presence follows me through the house, his shadow beckons me in the half-asleep moments of the pre-dawn early morning.

I whisper his name. Sometimes, I hear him whisper mine.

I feel his embrace, even now, so many months later.

Absence. Presence. Through love’s filter, they are indistinguishable.

The apricot sun brings him to me.

Love remembered is love born anew, I tell myself.

But I crave the hands that once delivered me into the abyss.

For now, I will stand here and love the apricot sun.