Still Loving Her by Mike McNeff

We are comfortable sitting in the car looking out over the Strait of Juan de Fuca, holding hands, our conversation a private murmur.

I felt it the first time I saw her. I just didn’t know it. But as time meandered on its way I realized I loved her.

“You have peanut butter on your shirt,” she said one day at work.

“Oh,” I chuckled, feeling my shoulder. “My daughter needed to be held for a while this morning.”

She says that’s when she knew she loved me, so long ago.

© Copyright 2016 Mike McNeff. All rights reserved.
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Mike McNeff is a retired cop and lawyer who has had two action novels published by Amazon Encore and a western published bv Booktrope. He is a member of Whidbey Writers Group on Whidbey Island.

My Heart—Your Soul by Pat Kelley Brunjes

I watch a raindrop slide slowly down the pane. On one side a rainbow arcs over the mountains. On the other side I see your reflection like a mirror into my soul and know you will always grace the pages of my life. A tear beads down my cheek keeping pace with the droplet.

I know it’s time because your father finally lifts himself from the car. When we talk to you, I hold your flag to my breast. Our love affair with you will never end.

© Copyright 2016 Pat Kelley Brunjes. All rights reserved.
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Pat Kelley Brunjes is a member of the Whidbey Writers Group.

First Love by Ross Baxter

Jon sat on the couch and waited in the silent apartment. He expected it to be quiet; the Pasadena City College semester had finished the previous week and everyone was away on holiday, but not this quiet. He had only returned for a night to attend a one-off lecture on psychic potential, and it was there that he met her.

For the first time in his life he fell hopelessly and completely in love.

Continue reading First Love by Ross Baxter

From Kingergarten, with Love by Ronni Gordon

Carly Weisman was a New Yorker through and through. She knew where to get her bagels and lox, where to find the perfect Reuben and how to grab the best parking places. She disliked winter, but the change of seasons made up for it.

How, then, had she ended up in Pasadena, and why had she stayed so long?

It all began in kindergarten at the 92nd Street Y, where the rooftop playground overlooked busy Lexington Avenue. She always chose Mikey Miller first for her teams, and he always chose her.

They were in love. She was a pretty little girl with a pear-shaped face, deep brown eyes and a head of dark curly hair. He was a cute little boy with short bangs, striking green eyes and a dimple in his right cheek.

They sat side by side in the toy closet, their knobby knees touching, and made a pact that they would someday marry.

They lost touch when they went their separate ways in first grade. But there he was again in college, calling her name in an elevator. “Carly Weisman, is that you?” he said. “You look just the same as in kindergarten.”

The spark was re-ignited. They dated for a while, but again, they went their separate ways. She settled on the upper east side of New York, got a job teaching high school and married an advertising executive. They had two children, a boy and a girl. Their marriage was bumpy, and when the kids went to college, they called it quits.

After she had tried and failed at the dating game, she got a Facebook friend request asking, “Are you the Carly Weisman from the 92nd Street Y?” She wrote that indeed she was. “Remember me, Mikey? I’m a little ticked off. You and I had a pact that we made in the Y closets,” he wrote.

He lived in Pasadena, writing screenplays. “You should come visit. I have plenty of free time,” he said.

It was winter break, and before she knew it, she was on a plane taking her to the other side of the continent.

Mikey, now Mike and on the way to getting divorced, met her at the airport carrying a rose, the city’s official flower. They hugged and then took a good look at each other. When he smiled, she remembered the cute dimple.

“You look the same!” he said. They both laughed.

He had arranged for her to stay at the apartment of a friend who was out of town. After they brought her bags over, they had dinner in Old Pasadena at DISH, where they updated each other over Oysters Deanna and Lobster Ravioli. She told him that she was afraid to trust again. He told her that although he was not divorced yet, “I’m never going back to her.”

“We’re meant to be together,” he said, putting his hand on top of hers. “You can trust me.”

They discovered that each had developed a passion for tennis, so on the second day he gave her one of his extra racquets and they went the Rose Bowl Tennis Center. He brought two bottles of Gatorade, and when they went up to the net to get a drink, they kissed, a gentle kiss that held the promise of more to come.

He called her every morning, and they made plans to see the sights. Their wanderings included Devil’s Gate Dam and Hahamongna Watershed Park, where they walked hand-in-hand.

One night after they had seen a performance of the Pasadena Dance Theatre, they kissed long and harder in the parking lot. “I think I’m falling in love with you…all over again,” he said.

That night she stayed at his place.

She went “home” in the morning so he could write for a few hours, and their days continued pleasantly, with the promise of more to come.

But about half way through her visit, she noticed that he was calling her later and later in the day. She called him and got his voice mail. “Wonder where you are,” she said. She called again. He didn’t pick up.

When he surfaced, he apologized. “I had a deadline, and then my son called with a problem, and I just couldn’t get away. How about I pick you up for tennis?”

He had brought only one Gatorade, and it wasn’t for her.

One day he didn’t call at all.

His friend had left a car, so she drove to Jameson Brown, got a dark roast coffee and spread out the Los Angeles Times. But her head was spinning, and it was hard to read.

Two women wandered over. Mary, a professor at Caltech, and Rebecca, a freelance writer, asked if they could join her.

She felt like they were old friends, and the story poured out of her. “I feel like I’m being hung out to dry,” she said, her eyes filling up.

“You should ask him what’s going on,” Mary said.

So that night she emailed him.

“I trusted you to be up front with me,” she wrote. “I will not go crazy if you changed your mind. I just need to know.”

The next morning, silence.

She dialed her new friends, who met her at the café. Carly’s stomach ached, and her head hurt.

“I wonder if he went back to his wife,” she said. “I wonder if I said something. I wonder if he hated my backhand. How can someone just disappear?”

“It’s nothing personal,” Rebecca said. “There’s a book called ‘He’s Just Not That Into You.’ You should read it.”

Carly was leaving in three days. The three friends linked arms and went for a long walk, the warm breeze soothing her. She had lost a chance at love, but she had gained two friends.

“I’m sure he’ll show up again,” Carly said. “Next time I’m going to hit him over the head with a tennis racquet.”

They laughed until they cried.

© Copyright 2010 Ronni Gordon. All rights reserved.

Ronni Gordon is a freelance journalist living in Western Massachusetts. She spent most of her career writing arts and features for The Republican, a regional daily in Springfield, Mass. She is also published in the New York Times magazine and on the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s website. She is the proud mother of three children and owner of a Labrador retriever, Maddie, short for Madison, as in Madison Ave., in honor of her hometown, New York City.

Manifesto of a Neglected Chipmunk by Kelly I. Hitchcock

I got played with more when I was on the shelf at Target. Toddlers would pick me up and whack me against the other toys until their mommies forcibly extracted me from their tiny vice grip fingers. They’d say “that’s not for babies” and then smear more Germ-X on their miniature hands. Those were the good old days, “the before-time”, as I like to call it. Then I got stuck with you. When we first met, you didn’t even give me the sniff test or the slobbery-tongued lick test you enjoying giving to finer objects like the laundry room floor and the concrete slab on the back patio. No, you just cocked your scruffy head at me, trying to be all cute and then looked at your owners—no, I’m sorry, I forgot we’re all PC now and you call them “human companions”—like what is this rubbish? and pranced away with your shiny black nose up in the air and your long prissy tail fur all fanned out, swaying meticulously with each calculated stride.

As undignified as it is, my life’s purpose is to be covered with your nasty droolies, get batted around like a kitten’s ball of string, and be shaken until my stuffing brains burst through their flimsy seams. It is not to lie unplayed with in the same spot, day after day, until it’s time to vacuum. They bought me to help you deal with your sissypants separation anxiety. I was supposed to be the friend you got to play with while mommy and daddy were at work all day. After they finally accepted that you weren’t interested, they didn’t even bother to put me up on the fridge, where the view is better and the air cooler, when they came home. From up there, I could see you in the backyard whenever one of the real life versions of me decided to cheat death and cut through the lawn to the Bellefontaine Nursery across the street, where they have all the unshelved 20-pound sacks of birdseed stacked up in the parking lot.

I don’t blame the real chipmunks. It’s like taking candy from a baby, and it’s not like they can’t outrun you, fatty. Yeah, I know all about the eight pounds you gained last year. Eight more and you’re in the pricier tier of pet meds. That’s why they want you in the back yard where you can get some exercise chasing the real me’s. It’s like someone puts speed in your kibble. And yet, just because I don’t have the inner architecture for locomoting through the house, you won’t even give me the time of day. Hello? We have the same tail, the same stripes, the same beautiful snowy white belly. Who needs motion when you’ve got a squeaker?

Oh, that’s right. You probably didn’t even remember that I had a squeaker. You spend too much time playing with your other friend, that filthy, ratty old penguin Mr. Tuxedo. He’s told me his side of the story. He was the twelfth stuffed animal penguin Christmas gift from your Grandhuman, given to you so she’d get the hint that your mommy didn’t want penguin paraphernalia as gifts anymore. How come he gets the cool name, and I get stuck with the unimaginative moniker “Chip Monk”? He certainly doesn’t have a squeaker. I am an American Kennel Club 100% polyester faux fur canine companion. My label even reads perfect for dogs. Harrumph. Perfect for normal dogs.

Then again, you’re the dog who didn’t even like the Kong. Oh yeah. Mr. Tuxedo told me all about it. When you don’t like the toy Dr. Mears recommends to all pet owners—sorry, human companions—there’s something objectively wrong with you. You’re like a kid that doesn’t like candy, a man that doesn’t like beer, a hardwood floor that doesn’t like Murphy’s Oil Soap. Ahem. Forgive my specificity on that last menu item. The living room floor and I have been spending a lot of time together. We really hit it off that first day your human companions left you home with me and Mr. Tuxedo, the day after you tried to eat your way through the door of your room and peed on the floor during that horrible thunderstorm. Yeah, Mr. Tuxedo told me about that, too. The floor got to look at my clean alabaster tummy all day long, because I was in the same all-fours position they put me in when they left for the day: poised for chasing, alert, ready to take on the world. You were supposed to love me.

It’s a good thing they leave the TV on for you because of your shelter dog separation anxiety. It gives me something to do while you play with Mr. Tuxedo in plain sight to make me jealous. I’m not jealous. Mr. Tuxedo thinks that maybe it’s my bad attitude that makes you less likely to play with me. I think Mr. Tuxedo got dropped on his head on that trip from the sweatshop to the Wal-Mart clearance aisle one too many times. That or his bow tie is cutting off circulation to his brain. Besides, I like watching that Jerry Springer. His final thoughts are really insightful. And I’m convinced that one of these days Brooke will remember that she and Ridge are soul mates and figure out that Taylor gave her amnesia and that Whit is not her real son. Yes, I know you’re more of a Y&R fan, you overgrown fleabag.
© Copyright 2010 Kelly I. Hitchcock. All rights reserved.

Kelly I. Hitchcock is a novelist, poet, and blogger from a poor stretch of the Ozarks in Southwest Missouri. A graduate of the creative writing program at Missouri State University, Kelly’s poems have been featured in Clackamas Literary Review and Foliate Oak Literary Journal. Her last story for this blog was “Ad Hominem.” She lives in Kansas City and is an avid volunteer and fundraiser for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Learn more about the author and her work by visiting her website and following her on Twitter.

Conclusion by Windi Padia

“I swear myself away, which is what I do every time I come to you, and what you want me to do because you also are an addict of impossible relationships and theatrical scenes.”
—John Le Carré   

Amanda proposed to Sam when they both were fifty-one years old, under the desert stars, the same old song playing. He stood behind her and held her waist, and kissed her ear and said yes. It felt to her that marriage had become the only conclusion.The church was tiny, white reflective stone in the glare of the desert heat, although its stark beauty was tempered by surrounding yellow cactus flowers and blooming sage bushes. Like all the buildings on the street, stone steps led up to the entrance. The town hugged the afternoon shade of a large mesa, as if the buildings themselves were climbing out of the baked clay and making their way toward the flash flood-carved canyons of tall rock in the distance.

Warm light poured in from the stained glass window to blend with the pink in Amanda’s dress and the auburn rust of her hair, forming a visual cacophony of color that wanted to be red. She was nodding at the priest by her side, one flip-flopped foot balanced on her big toe. She yelled to an old man taking bets in the corner, “Oliver, what are we up to now?” and gave a thumbs up to his answer of three hundred twenty dollars. In the daylight when the songs weren’t playing and the stars weren’t out, it all seemed rather ridiculous.

Her dress was beginning to get sticky under the arms and she was tired of standing on her feet in front of everyone. It should never have gotten this far. Their love was supposed to be untested; that’s the only way it held any magic over her. The disappointments that came over and over again always held hope, but this was the biggest disappointment of them all. The number one way a guy could reject a woman, his lover, his friend. Not show up to the church on time. Not show up to the church at all. It was surely, definitively, over. There was no more at the end of this.

It was more than that. Always she had known that it was love. It wasn’t love that could make it through times of contentment, or stability, but love that could thrive only when they both were seeking. Seeking change, seeking uncertainty, seeking to upset their worlds just so that something interesting would happen. A marriage contract added a foundation to this love, and thus nullified it. He knew that, which is why he didn’t show.

She knew it now.

All that was left for them was to seek contentment separately, and come back together when their lives demanded it of them. Finding men for her was easy. Maybe she would find one she could tolerate for a long time and who would forgive her impulsive emotions. Was it hope to also know that Sam would appear in her life again, and then disappear, and leave a void for a short while that would burn and twist its way through her body? Would the short times with him—like that hotel in Pasadena a couple of years ago—be worth their twisted escapes from each other? Was it hope or just knowledge of her addiction?

She stepped onto the platform by the altar and raised her hands sticky with sweat. “He’s not coming,” she said. And then louder, “He’s not coming. Let’s eat.”

And everyone tucked into their food like it was what they’d been expecting all along, and then after the food, the bets were settled and everyone went home. In the tiny bathroom off the church kitchen, Amanda took off her wedding dress and changed into jeans, alone. The sadness didn’t come right away, like she’d expected. She went home that night, and turned the fans on, and dreamed about her sister. Not Sam, like she’d expected.

The sadness never set in heavy and pressing like it always had before. She’d think of him at times and there would be a halting moment where she forgot what she was doing. But that was it.

© Copyright 2010 Windi Padia. All rights reserved.

Windi Padia grew up wanting to be a biologist and is now in the Human Resources section of a state wildlife agency, where humans make much more fascinating subjects. She is currently writing human-interest articles for Colorado Outdoors Magazine. Her blog, Crazy Coppertop, is the diary of a crazy redhead.