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Hello all! My name is Ri’An Jackson and currently I am a second- year student majoring in Journalism with minors in Creative Writing and Public Relations. I tend to write fiction mostly, but in terms of journalistic writing, I like to write feature articles. This is a piece I wrote in my Intro to Creative Writing class about fading romance.

A couple walked through a park on a bright day. The woman, with long hair and light eyes, had her arm swung loosely about the man’s arm, who was leading the two through the delicacy of the trees, the lush grass, and the spirited voices of children freed from school within the optimistic air that the newness of summer promised. 

         The man couldn’t keep his gaze from the woman, he found himself stuck on how beautiful her skin looked as the sun danced off her cheekbones. He let his arm down so they were no longer connected and dangled his fingers near the woman’s, as an indicator that he would like to hold hands. With the first feeling of his skin upon hers, the women stiffened and quickly folded her arms across her chest, denying his request. 

         “What, you don’t want me to hold your hand?” the man questioned, a tone in his voice as though the woman were acting humorously.

         “ It is not that, I just don’t think we are thatcouple is all”

         “What couple?”

         “That couple that litters the world with PDA-“ she said, “well, we have not been that couple for a while”

         The man let his arms dangle loosely to his sides and now the couple walked with an obvious diversion. The woman glanced upon the sidewalk and watched their shadows move, she felt the warmth from the sun but could not shake the shivers she had deep in her body. They were the kind of shivers that demanded control, the kind that had the ability to ruin a perfectly good day, the kind that crept its way slowly into your head and spread about like an infection until it consumes you in a way that makes it the only thing that you are allowed to think about. This shiver went undetected at first, but the woman finally felt all of its curse earlier in that morning, when she had first woken up next to the man. She had awoken in a daze, a sweat that would not allow her to drift back into peaceful sleep. After wasting 20 minutes fidgeting around in her sheets in hopes that sleep would creep its way back to her, she rose up and propped a pillow upon the wall to support her back. Her shift in position caused the arm that was slung about her waist to glide across the sheets back to its owner and she directed her eyes to follow it; starting from the stubby finger tips, and working their way to meet the relaxed face of the man, her sleeping lover. His mouth slightly parted, a soft snore leaving his lips; he was in complete bliss and she wanted nothing more than for him to be out of her bed and out of her presence. But, just the previous night, she was overwhelmed with the flush of warmth and content she had felt next to the man; falling asleep to the sound his deep exhales against her neck as their hands were interlocked underneath the blanket. Now, she felt lost and cold and confused and uneasy, as if the wind had just blown away the flame of a candle in her hand she used to wander through a dark cave. She wiggled out of the man’s embrace, and watched as he slept in complete ignorance; his arms laid flat along each of his sides and his head tilted in her direction. She finally knew this coldness was not going to let her be. She knew there were nothing she could do to reignite this flame that once scorched through her entire body. The window was cracked, allowing small bursts of summer air into the room but, even with this external warmth, she still felt winter in her veins; snow on her skin and ice down her legs when she looked at the man she once thought she was in love with.

         A few hours later,  the man had awoken with a clear mind, wanting to take the woman on a stroll through the park like they had always done. She couldn’t shake her shiver as they walked through the park and although she craved to be able to be ignorant of her feelings for a moment, the coldness held her body hostage and she knew she had to act on what she was feeling. 

The man took the woman’s distance from him as a sign she was simply hungry, or hadn’t gotten enough sleep. He walked her to a well-lit diner that wasn’t too far away and they sat across from one another as they consumed their lunch. He chatted her up with the current issues in his life and she listened to these issues with deaf ears. He gushed about his brother who had just gotten married and confessed that he didn’t enjoy his new job that had nothing to do with his college degree. He had car problems and work problems and sleep problems and apartment problems and oh so many debt problems. He talked of being unsure of his life after they had graduated college and paused to look at the woman’s face for comment. She had been staring down at her plate, twirling her food around as a child trying to avoid eating their vegetables. She wondered what had changed in him that made him have so many worries, so many stressors. When had he stopped being the free spirit she remembered him as? She thought about their lives in college together, how lovely and lively their love was, how it seemed the world treated them to every one of its pleasures every day, how perfectly liberating things were. She caught a glimpse of his patient gaze that shook her from her thoughts and she began nodding her head slowly as if she had been hanging onto every word and agreeing with every bit of it. She continued nodding until he felt comfortable to continue talking again and she fake listened and nodded and probed concerned questions here and there to make him believe she was still interested, and he believed it. 

As the man continued to talk about his problems, the woman found herself gazing out of the window, embracing the beauty of the warm summer day. She watched as a young, new couple sat at a table outside the diner, enjoying their breakfast with complimentary messy hair and flushed cheeks. There was a girl in her late teens with blonde hair and a boy sat across from her of the same age with shaggy hair and dark eyes that the woman knew had caused so much careless passion between the two. She gazed at the couple. The blonde girl laughed until her cheeks reddened and the shaggy boy placed his hand atop her thigh underneath the table. The two laughed with an incessant roar and the sun seemed to kiss the tops of both of their heads as they did, offering its blessings as they enjoyed such an intimate moment.

The woman’s gaze remained fixed on the couple, and she felt her body warm with the burn of longing. The universe must be against her, she thought, that had to be the only explanation of why she could not be having a moment like the young couple, that is why she must be cursed with her shivers instead of flourishing under the strength of the sunlight with her lover. She was eventually able to pry her eyes off the couple and turned back toward the man, continuing to nod her head to indicate that she was accepting everything he was saying. 

The man had paused in the middle of telling his story about how he had awoken 15 minutes late for work one morning and in turn had an awful time attempting to rush with a fierce passion, and he noticed the woman’s gaze wandering about the room. He abruptly stopped his story and noted how the woman had not noticed he wasn’t talking. 

He cleared his throat. 

“It’s a beautiful day out” he remarked, looking at her face until she actually looked back at him. 

“It’s the first day of summer” she replied, in a quiet fit of sadness.

“Oh yeah?”

She nodded. “I love summer”

“We met over the summer” he smiled, watching her face to see if it would flush as newly grown roses.

“We did… 3 long years ago” 

“It doesn’t feel like it has been that long,” he said.

“For me it does,” she tucked her hair behind her ear, “ I don’t remember who I was that long ago”

“ The same person. Perhaps just a little younger,” he tried to force a laugh.

“And maybe a lot more fun,” she interrupted.

“Oh don’t say that”

“I’m being truthful is all,” she dragged the side of her lip with her teeth, “do you remember the day we met?”

“Of course I do”

“Do you remember how much fun we used to have when we were first dating”

“Certainly,” he blushed

“It is all I have been thinking about since this morning”

“It is fun to reminisce isn’t it?”

“It would be fun to reminisce if the present did not make me feel dreary,” she admitted

The man looked at the woman with squinted eyes and a raised eyebrow, he thought for a moment, then relaxed. This was merely a character flaw in his lover, he thought. He fully knew the kinds of moods she got in sometimes, and because they had been together for so long, he certainly thought he knew how to handle them. It were these moods he had become accustomed to throughout college, and these moods that he grew to love along with everything else about her. Her soft hair, her caring eyes, the way she always viewed life with the ease of a 16 year-old, it all brought a light to his otherwise boring and stressful life, it changed him into a more well-rounded person, he thought. And since the day he realized he began to morph into this new person all because of a woman with such beautiful eyes, he told himself he was going to marry her.

“Why does the present make you feel dreary, darling? Have you not gotten enough sleep last night?”

“ I fear that I’m unlovable”

“Oh, nonsense! You know I love you”

“I feel like I’ve changed,” she said, pronouncing the letters of each word as if to paint her feelings out for him, “as though I am not the person you fell in love with 3 years ago.”

“I fell in love with you 3 summers ago and I am still in love with you now, 3 summers later” he pleaded. 

“But the person you fell in love with is not the same person you are sat across from.”

“But I do love them both!”

The woman stirred in her seat and turned her head once again to look at the young couple sitting outside, staring at the shaggy boys’ thumb that caressed the blonde girls thigh and noting how the blonde girls’ face immediately flushed with a blooming lust. The wind caressed the blonde girls hair, making it flow perfectly away from her and the sun beamed off every angle of her face, of which the woman was sure put the shaggy boy in a daze. 

“Age curses everything,” she sighed, slowly returning her gaze back to the man.

“I do not believe that” he scoffed. “Age makes things sweeter, think of a banana!”

She shook her head. “Think of how our lives are changing each day, getting more complicated each day, it is only going to get worse from here”

“What’s going to get worse?”

“Everything. Nothing will ever be like it was. Think about how things were while we were in college, about how we will never be that young ever again” she tucked her hair behind one of her ears

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, darling” he says, searching in her face for some insight into her behavior

She rolled her eyes.

“You just spoke about all of your stressors for a half hour,” she says, “you’ve never been this stressed out about your life before”

“Yes, these are just the growing pangs of life my dear, I won’t always be this stressed, it’ll pass” 

“And what will happen after it passes?”

“I ,we are going to be happy, fulfilled; living a normal and happy adult life”

“A normal, quite boring and stressful, adult life”

“Oh, that’s nonsense! I am going to continue growing and maturing until everything is stable, and so will you, you will continue growing and maturing and we will together continue growing and maturing until our lives together are perfectly stable”

 “Sure, and I will continue growing and maturinguntil my hair is as grey as an old newspaper and I have wrinkles resembling raisins all over my face and- ”

The man dropped his fork and it made a loud noise as it landed on his empty plate and he examined his lovers’ face with an air of question, searching for an answer to her abrupt dejection. The sun bounced off the window and beamed on the woman’s skin, forcing the man to appreciate how radiant she was despite her tough mood. The sun delivered its warmth to her face; but, she still looked as if her body were covered in thick glacier, unable to be freed from the cold by the sweet love of the light. She searched for the one she once felt she loved in the man’s face. He once was the one who would hold her hand as they strolled through the park 3 summers ago, the one who would tell her stories of the universe over an empty bottle of vodka, the one who seemed to never be able to keep his eyes nor his hands off her body, the one who she would spend countless nights with in fogged cars parked under moonlight.

It all hit her in one swift motion, a tidal wave to her brain. From the first day they met, that innocent little day she met him in such an unsuspecting way, to all of the moments they laughed together, and cared for one another. She had felt like she had everything life could offer, like the universe was on her side. She had been blessed enough to be able to fall in love with a man whom she also believed to be her best friend. All of this changed the moment the two graduated college, when they had traded their restless nights with friends and alcohol with the routine of going to sleep every weeknight at 10:30 so neither one of them would be too tired in the morning for their jobs. No longer were their talks about weekend parties or studying for exams but about the confusing and unforgiving nature of living in the adult world, one that sucked the very life out of the both of them.

“Everything dies as it gets old” she said with a low voice. Tears began to dwell in her eyes, and she tilted her head back to prevent them from falling.

His face lowered as he listened to his lover, hanging onto every word she said. He hadn’t known the proper way to respond, he decided that silence would be his best option.

“Like the trees in winter,” she reiterated, her eyes focused on her plate,  “everything’s lost its meaning”

“My darling, I assure you that feeling is not permanent. I can help you in seeing the meaning in everything again,” the man grabbed her hand, slowly rubbing his thumb along the outsides of her fingers.

The man looked at the woman with pleading eyes as silence filled the air around them. He felt himself stiffen as he watched his lover pack her things from the table. She walked to the opposite side of the diner and opened the glass door, being coated in a wave of warm summer air. She sighed, gave one last look to the man who was sitting with both elbows on the table and both hands tugging at his hair, and she left.

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