Jennifer Blanchard — “In the Pouring Rain” (short story, romance)

AUTHOR: Jennifer Blanchard (www.procrastinatingwriters.com)

TITLE: “In the Pouring Rain”

GENRE: short story (romance)

SYNOPSIS:  What if you discovered your new girlfriend’s mom is a woman you not only dated in the past, but are actually still in love with her? 

AUTHOR QUESTIONS/ISSUES (how you can help): Do the flashbacks work or do they make it hard to follow the story? Is the plot believable?

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IN THE POURING RAIN
By Jennifer Blanchard

            Adam Pratt stood in the entranceway of his girlfriend, Elizabeth Greene’s mansion, unable to move. Beth’s mom; the woman standing 50 feet in front of him; the woman he was supposedly meeting for the so-called first time, was, in fact, the woman he’s been in love with for more than a year now.

         The night Adam first met Teresa Barnett, was the first night he had gotten up the guts to bring his band’s self-produced CD to a jazz club to see about playing a show there. When he walked into the club, the lights were dim, but he noticed her anyways. As she spun around from the bar, her curly, red hair brushed off her shoulders. Her deep, brown eyes caught the light and almost seemed to sparkle. She stood and made her way across the room. Adam couldn’t take his eyes off of her. She had the swagger and poise of a confident woman, and yet there was a hint of doubt written on her smile.

            After he spoke with the club’s owner, he found a seat at the bar. There was no way he was leaving without trying to talk to her. He sat across the bar from her and ordered a drink. Every few seconds he took a sip of his drink, and as he did, his eyes drifted over to her. She wasn’t talking to anyone. Just sitting there, sipping her drink and taking in the scene. Adam couldn’t help, but think she’d been stood up on a date. Or was still waiting, hoping he’d show up.

            Either way, he had to find out. He picked up his glass, drained it, then put it back on the bar. Taking a deep breath in, he stood up and walked toward her. He reminded himself on the way over that this could be a really bad idea.

            “Hi there,” he said. “Can I borrow a quarter?”

            She turned toward him, an odd look on her face. “What for?” she asked.

            “Well, my mom told me to call her when I met the woman of my dreams.”

            She looked at him with a straight face for a second and then reached into her clutch purse. “Why not just borrow my cell phone?”

            Adam laughed. Finally, a woman on his level. He was impressed. “I’m Adam,” he said, extending his hand. “And I apologize for that lame line.”

            “You look more like a Kevin then an Adam.”

            Adam wasn’t sure whether she was being serious or not. “OK, well then you can go ahead and call me Kevin.”

            “So, Kevin, do all young boys think it takes a line like that to get a woman to talk to you?”

            “GQ says a good way to pick up a woman is to make her laugh. It’s nice to know all my goofing off in school might actually pay off for me someday,” he said.

            “Well, you get an A for effort.”

            “Can I buy you another?” he asked, pointing toward her empty high-ball glass.

            “Vodka on the rocks, thanks, Kevin,” she said and smiled at him.

            Adam signaled the bartender to pour another for both of them. “Are you going to tell me your name now? Or should I make one up for you too?”

            She contemplated for a second. “Make one up.”

            “OK, let’s see. There are so many choices…Beautiful would be a good one. But so would sexy. Which do you prefer?”            Adam chuckled.

            “You’re sweet, Kevin. You can call me whatever you like. My name’s Teresa.”

            “Adam? Adam, are you OK?” Beth asked, walking back over to Adam from the other side of the entranceway. “Why are you just standing there? I want to introduce you to my mom.” She looped her arm through his and brought him face-to-face with Teresa.

            “Adam?” Teresa said to him, and extended a nervous hand. “It’s so nice to meet you. My daughter talks about you all the time.”

            “It’s nice to meet you, too, Mrs. Barnett,” Adam said, his mind reeling. He saw Beth give him an awkward glance.

            “Did I tell you my mom’s last name was different than mine?”

            Shit. How could Adam be so stupid? “You told me the other day that her last name was Barnett. Don’t you remember?”

            Beth thought about it for a second. “I don’t remember. But obviously I must have.”

            “And this is my husband, Robert,” Teresa said, interrupting Adam and Beth’s argument, and pointing to the grumpy-looking bald man sitting on the leather sectional watching Nancy Grace on CNN. Robert didn’t look up. “He’ll be joining us for dinner. He just has to watch the financial news. Why don’t we go into the dining room?”

            As Adam followed Beth and Teresa down a long hallway, too many thoughts were racing through his mind. How did this happen? Did Teresa plan this? Is it all a coincidence? What the fuck was going on?

            “Why are you being so quiet?” Beth asked him when they reached the dining room. “You’re usually so talkative.”

            “I have a lot on my mind right now. There’s so much going on. With my band, I mean. I’m just a little distracted. Sorry.” Adam couldn’t believe how different Beth and Teresa looked. For a mother-daughter duo, it was almost uncanny. When Adam met Beth at one of his shows a couple months ago, the biggest part of her appeal initially was that she was the exact opposite of Teresa. She had long, straight dark-brown hair and baby-blue eyes.

            “That’s OK. I’m just glad you came to dinner tonight.”

            “Let’s sit down,” Teresa said. “The cook will be in any minute with the first course.”

            Teresa sat directly across from Adam at the long, cherry wood dining room table. Beth sat next to him. Adam felt trapped. Why did Teresa have to sit across from him? Didn’t she know how torturous it would be for him to look at her all night? Or did she know and not care? Robert sat at the head of the table, two seats away from Adam, talking on his cell phone while everyone ate the first course.

            “Mom, what did you do to your arm?” Beth asked while taking a bite of the baby spinach and gorgonzola salad the cook prepared. She pointed to the deep-purple bruise on the upper-part of Teresa’s left arm.

            “Oh, that? I…um bumped it last night.” She gave a quick glance at Adam, who looked down at his plate. “I’m such a klutz. I got up to use the bathroom in the dark and whacked it.”

            Adam reached across the table for the wine bottle and poured himself a glass. He couldn’t sit here and listen to this nonsense and not be drunk. He took a long chug of his Merlot and closed his eyes as he did.

            Teresa used to park her Mercedes across the street and wait for Adam to signal her from the window of his second-floor apartment. She never called to say she was coming over, just showed up and hoped he’d be around. He usually was. Especially once he knew her schedule a little better.

            He always met her at the door, rather than buzzing her up. It was hard for him to wait to see her once he knew she was there.

            “I’ve missed you Kevin. It’s been too many days since the last time,” she said, walking into his building and following him up the stairs.

            “It has been too many days. I never get tired of seeing you, beautiful.”

            Once they were safely inside his apartment, he wrapped his arms around her tightly and squeezed. Holding her was such a satisfying feeling. He had become protective of her, almost to the point of jealousy, but not quite.

             “I’m so happy to see you,” she said, and looked into his eyes. “Seeing you makes my life better.”

            Hearing those words made Adam unable to control himself. He kissed her with the passion of a Marine who just came back from a year overseas. It felt like that long every time she was gone. He ran his hands all over her body as he kissed her. Wanting more, but being content with the moment.

            “Ouch…” Teresa said and backed away from him.

            “What happened?”

            “It’s nothing, it’s nothing. Don’t worry about it.”

            He noticed she was softly rubbing her upper-arm and looking away from him. “What’s going on? Tell me the truth.”

            “It’s nothing. No big deal. Seriously.”

            Adam didn’t buy it. He took her arm and raised her sleeve until he saw it—a large, deep-purple bruise. “What the fuck happened?”

            “I bumped it last night and when you rubbed against it, it hurt. That’s all.” She looked away again.

            “Did your husband do this to you? Did he?”

            “He didn’t mean it. He was just angry and he grabbed my arm a little too hard.” She moved in close to Adam and tried to kiss him again. He pushed her away.

            “How often does this happen? Tell me.”

            “I don’t know, every so often. But he doesn’t mean it. He’s just an angry guy. He’s stressed from his job and from traveling all the time. And he doesn’t get a lot of sleep.”

            Adam looked at Teresa and pitied her. Such a beautiful, beautiful woman—inside and out—and yet here she was defending someone who wronged her. “Teresa, this is not OK. How long has this been going on?”

            She walked away from him and sat on the couch. He could see tears in her eyes. He didn’t want to pry, but he cared about her. Adam walked over and knelt in front of her on the couch. “I want you to know that you are not alone. If you ever want to talk about this, just know I’m here to listen.”

            She started to cry. “Kevin, you are so amazing and I can’t thank you enough for being understanding and sweet. I don’t know how I’d survive without you in my life.”

        Adam had finished half the bottle of wine by the time the cook placed the next course in front of him—lasagna with greens, goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes and a sweet basil sauce. Although the food smelled out-of-this-world, he had no appetite. Seeing that fresh bruise took away his hunger.

       “So Adam, tell my mom all about your band,” Beth said, taking a bite of her lasagna. “She loves jazz music. I’m going to bring her to your next show.”

            Adam darted his eyes at Teresa. She was staring at Beth, her face taut with anxiety. He could sense how uncomfortable she was with the whole situation. He just hoped that Beth didn’t sense it.

       When they were seeing each other, Teresa never told him she had a daughter. Everything about her marriage and family was pretty much an off-limit topic. Adam hadn’t minded. He didn’t want to hear about her husband and her life with him. He tried to put the fact that she was married out of his head whenever they were together.

            “I hear you’re very talented, Adam,” she said after a short pause. “Very talented indeed.”

            “I aim to please,” he said, looking directly at her. Teresa blushed slightly. She was so different from all the girls he dated in the past. She was smart, sophisticated and easy to talk to. Plus she turned him on in ways that girls his age just couldn’t.

            During the main course, Robert hung up the phone and started to eat. He ate bite-after-bite, never putting down his fork or taking a minute to breathe.

            “Dad, don’t eat so quickly. It’s not good for your indigestion,” Beth said, passing Robert a glass of water.

            “Beth, don’t tell your father what to do.”

            “Was Beth talking to you?” Robert said, glaring at Teresa. His voice was deep and gruff. And each word cut Adam like a knife.

            “I just don’t want her interrupting you while you eat…”

            “If I wanted your opinion, I’d ask for it. Mind your own business. This is a conversation between me and Beth. Not you, me and Beth. Got it?”

            “Got it,” Teresa said and took another small bite of her lasagna, not daring to look Adam in the eyes.

            Adam held his wine glass so tight it almost shattered. What an asshole. How could he treat someone like that? Especially his wife. He reached for the wine bottle, filled his glass to the brim and drank it down. Although feeding his anger with wine wasn’t the answer, Adam knew it was the only way he’d manage to stay quiet until he could finally leave.

            By the time they finished their dinner, they had run out of wine, and Adam was seeing double.

            “Hey Adam, will you please go get some dessert wine from the cellar?” Beth asked.

            “Sure, if you can tell me where it is.” Adam stood and walked toward Beth’s voice in the kitchen.

            “I’ll go with you,” Teresa piped in. “You’ll never find it down there.”

            “Well if you’re going to go, then you don’t need me.”

             “I wanted to bring a case of it up for the wine fridge. Cases are very heavy and I don’t want to hurt my back.”He looked over and saw her wink at him. Even though it had been almost six months since he last saw her, he still loved her. He still wanted her more than anything.

            Beth went back to the dining room and Adam followed Teresa down to the cellar. When they were far enough away, Teresa stopped and turned to Adam.

            “I bet you think I knew about this all along, don’t you?” she asked, her brown eyes looking deeply into his.

            “I don’t know what I think right now,” he said, a slight anger in his voice. “I’m just wondering if it’s coincidence, or if you had something to do with it.”

            “You think I would intentionally have this happen?”

            “I don’t know,” he said and moved away from her.

            “I swear I didn’t know. When Beth talked about you, I never even made the connection that her ‘Adam’ was my ‘Kevin.’ Until I saw you standing in my entranceway today.” She moved in closer to him and tried to take his hand, but he stepped back again.

            “This is the weirdest situation I’ve ever been in.”

            “Why’s that?”

             “Why? Let’s see, you break things off with me, even though you and I both know you didn’t want to. And then I start to date again so I can try to get over you, and the girl I pick turns out to be your daughter. Seems to be a little more than an accident.” He ran his hand through his hair and took a deep breath.

            “Maybe it’s fate.”

            “And maybe you’ve seen one too many movies.”

            Teresa turned away and continued walking in the direction of the dessert wine.

            “Teresa, I’m sorry. I’m not trying to hurt you. If it is a coincidence or if you did have something to do with it, it all brings me back to the same thing: we should still be seeing each other. I know you still want to see me.” He stroked the side of her face lightly with the back of his hand. She closed her eyes and leaned into it. Then he brushed his thumb over her lips, leaned in and kissed her. She kissed him back. And they dropped to the floor, tearing at each other’s clothes, and falling into the moment.

            During the peach cobbler, Adam couldn’t stop staring at Teresa. She looked beautiful; her hair was slightly messed and her cheeks were flush. Seeing her again brought back all his feelings; the alcohol wasn’t suppressing them like he had hoped. He wanted to be with her again, no matter what that meant for him and Beth.

            “Mom, are you feeling alright?” Beth asked. “You look a little red.”

            “I’m fine. Just a little warm in here is all.”

            Beth looked like she was contemplating Teresa’s response for a second, and then said, “Adam, will you please hit the temperature button on the thermostat behind you so the AC goes on?”

            Adam got up, bumping his knee on the chair as he did, and lowered the temperature until he heard the AC turn on. He worried the entire time that Beth knew what had just happened in the cellar.

            Once everyone finished their dessert, Robert told Teresa to go pack his things for the trip he had in the morning. She left the room and he went back to watch TV. Adam needed to get out of there pronto, before he made a big mistake.

            “Hey Beth, I’m not feeling very good right now. I drank too much. You think you could give me a ride home?” Adam had a song brewing in his mind. A song about loving someone and wanting someone so much you would do anything to see them, even if it meant waiting outside in the pouring rain just to get a glimpse of her face.  He had to get home to work on it right now, even if that meant leaving his car behind and getting a ride.

            “Sure, but what about your car?”

            “I’ll have one of the guys drop me off to get it tomorrow.”

            “Well I have class all day, but my mom will be here to buzz open the gate for you.”

            On the drive home, Adam tried to hold his tongue, but couldn’t.

            “So what’s up with your mom and dad? They don’t seem to get along very well.”

            “No, they get along fine. My mom always feels the need to put her nose where it doesn’t belong. That’s what gets her in trouble,” Beth said, turning the car onto Adam’s street.

            “In trouble?”

            “That’s why he gets mad at her all the time, I mean. She doesn’t know when to quit. She doesn’t know when to butt out and leave things as they are.”

            “Do you think she was being truthful about that bruise on her arm?” he asked, loosening up his seatbelt.

            “Of course. Why would she lie?”

            “You don’t think it’s even remotely possible that it could’ve been caused by something else?” Adam didn’t know how far he could push Beth, but he knew he wanted to try.

            “Are you suggesting my dad did this to her? That he’s abusive?” Beth snapped back at him so suddenly it surprised him.

            “I’m not suggesting anything. It was only a question.”

            “My parents might not have the perfect marriage, but my dad would never hit my mom. Never.” She parked the car on the side of the road across from his apartment.

            As Adam climbed out of the car and shut the door, his phone began to ring in his pocket. He glanced down at the caller ID. When he saw the “T” pop up on the screen, he shoved the phone back into his pocket.

            “Sorry I brought it up. Thanks for the ride, Beth. I know it was out of your way to drop me off.”

            “Do you want me to come up?” she asked and winked at him.

            “Not tonight,” he said and noticed that Beth was disappointed. “I’m going right to sleep. I feel awful right now. Rain check?”

            “Sure, sounds good. I’ll talk to you later.”

            He watched Beth drive off and immediately pulled his phone back out to call Teresa. He let it ring until it went to her voicemail, then he hung up. He waited until he got up to his apartment, then he called her again. It rang five times, then went to her voicemail. This time, he held the phone up to his iPod stereo and played the chorus from, “I’ll Be There For You,” by the Rembrandts, into her mailbox.  She called him back ten minutes later.

            “Oh Kevin, you’re the sweetest, most amazing man I have ever known. You always know exactly what I need.”

            “What I need right now is you,” he said, dead-pan. “And I know you need me too.”

            “I can’t. Not after what happened tonight.” Her voice was barely a whisper.

            “You mean because of Beth? What about the wine cellar?” Adam tried to hold back the anger he was feeling, but it was difficult for him. He didn’t want to lose her again.

            “That was a momentary lapse in judgment. A bad idea that shouldn’t be repeated.”

            “I don’t believe you.”

            “Believe what you want; this is how it has to be.”

            He could hear her sniffling on the other end. Why did she keep torturing them like this? “Teresa, I’m breaking up with Beth. I can’t see her anymore.”

            “No, don’t! You can’t break up with her. She’ll be devastated.”

            “I don’t care. I can’t continue to date her and think about you the whole time. It’s not right.”

            “You were doing that anyways.”

            Adam was taken aback for a second. Teresa really cuts to the chase. “If you must know, yes, I was rebounding with her, but now that I know she’s your daughter, it’s wrong. Rebounds are wrong anyhow, but it would be especially wrong in this case.” He began to pace back and forth.

            “I have to go. For what it’s worth, I’m sorry. I never meant for any of this to happen.”

            It had been a week since Adam broke things off with Beth. She didn’t seem nearly as devastated as Teresa predicted she’d be. He was happy for that. His heart was tied in knots right now. He had a beautiful, amazing woman who made life perfect, and he couldn’t have her. He couldn’t be with her, even though that’s all he could think about. It was all that he wanted.

            Beth called him that morning and said she needed to pick up her iPod. He should’ve just dropped it off to her, but he felt bad about the whole situation, so he told her she could come get it. He had a feeling that might be a bad idea, but he still told her to come over.

            He wasn’t expecting Beth until after three, but there was a knock on his door at a quarter ‘til. When he answered it, Teresa was standing on his front porch. She was wearing a little too much makeup for day time, and Adam could see right away why—she had a slight bruise along her cheekbone on the left-side of her face.

            “What are you doing here? Beth is on her way over in like thirty minutes. You have to leave.” He tried to close the door, but she put her hand up and stopped him.

            “I need you, Kevin. Please.”

            Adam couldn’t resist Teresa. It didn’t matter that Beth was thirty minutes from showing up at his place. If Teresa wanted to see him, he was seeing her. No matter what the consequences might be. “Better make this quick,” he said.

            He pulled Teresa into his apartment and was barely able to get the door closed before they were kissing each other over and over again. Every kiss seemed to take the pain away. Every kiss seemed to make the giant hole in his heart mend. She was like a drug. He was helpless.

            “Stop, stop. You have to go. Right now,” Adam said and tried to push her toward the door. “Beth is going to be here soon.”

            Teresa ignored him and continued kissing him—his lips, his neck, his shoulders. She could be very persistent.

            “Teresa, I’m serious…” he trailed off. “Oh fuck it.” He kissed her again and began to slip her dress off of her, one arm at a time.

            “Oh my God! Mom? Adam? What are you doing?”

            Teresa and Adam both turned toward the doorway where Beth was standing. Her arms were folded across her chest and she had turned a light shade of pink. Adam realized he hadn’t closed the door all the way.

            “I can’t believe what I’m seeing right now. This is why you dumped me, Adam? So you could sleep with my fucking mom?!”

             “No, it wasn’t like that…” he started, but Beth cut him off.

              “Please, spare me.”

               Then all of a sudden, like a bolt of lightning, it seemed to hit her. Adam held his breath and waited for the explosion.

              “So that’s how you knew her last name was Barnett! I knew I didn’t tell you she had a different last name then me. All along you were just using me to get to my mom. I was just a pawn in your sick and twisted game, wasn’t I?”

Adam didn’t know what to say.

“You sicken me.” Beth turned to walk out the door.

“Beth, wait a second,” Teresa said.

“You knew about this all along, didn’t you, mom? Didn’t you?!”

“Beth, it’s a complicated situation…”

“Yeah, complicated by the fact that you’re a two-timing slut.”

Teresa turned toward Adam. She looked like she’d been slapped in the face again.

“You know what, Beth, you sicken me,” Adam said, pushing past Teresa and staring Beth straight in the face.

“Excuse me?” she said. There was an anger in her eyes Adam had never seen before.

          “That’s right. You sit around and pretend not to notice the way your father treats your mom. You act like it’s OK and you take his side. But you’re wrong. Your mom doesn’t deserve to be treated that way. She’s a good person. A beautiful person. And she deserves to be loved and cared for. Not abused and talked down to.”

“Adam, please…” Teresa grabbed his arm and tried to pull him away from Beth, but he shook her off.

“No, I’m tired of keeping quiet. I’m tired of watching the people in your life treat you poorly.” He turned back to Beth. “You’re her daughter. She’s your mom. You’re supposed to be on her side. But you’re not. You’re on his side.”

“I am on her side. Or I was, until I saw you undressing her.”

“Look, I’m not going to sit here and pretend I’m some angel. I’m not. I love your mother. I love her more than anything. I’ve loved her for the last year of my life and…”

“You’ve been using me all along, you asshole. I should’ve known.”

         “When I met you, I was in a bad place, I’ll give you that. I was trying to get over your mom and it wasn’t happening. But I promise you, I had no idea you were her daughter. If I did, I wouldn’t have even gone near you. I’m not like that.”

“Please. Like I’m going to believe that.”

           “Well what do you believe, Beth? That your parent’s marriage is perfect? That your father doesn’t give your mom the bruises that mysteriously show up on her body over and over again?”

Beth stops in her tracks and looks at Teresa. “Mom, is that true? Does dad hurt you?”

          Teresa doesn’t speak for several minutes. “Yes, it’s true. It’s true that your father is abusive and it’s true that Kevin, I mean, Adam, has been my savior. He’s shown me more love in the last year than a person can ever expect to be shown over the course of a lifetime. I don’t know how to live without him.”

“But you’re cheating on my father. How could you do this?”

           “I can’t explain my actions. I know that I’m wrong. Believe me, the guilt I’ve held inside all this time has not been easy.”

          “I need some air,” Beth said and walked out of Adam’s apartment.

Teresa turned to Adam. “I have to go. I didn’t mean for any of this to happen. I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry.”

He caressed her cheek. “It’s not your fault. You can’t help what your heart wants.”

She gave him a half-smile and walked out the door.

 

            Later that night, Adam couldn’t sleep. He got out of bed to retrieve his guitar when he noticed headlights on the street. He peered out the window and saw a familiar sight: Teresa, sitting in her Mercedes, looking up at his window. He signaled to her and she turned off the car. Slowly, she opened the door and crossed the street to Adam’s apartment building. He met her at the door.

            “I didn’t know if I’d ever see you again,” he said.

            “I didn’t know if I’d ever come here again, but I needed to tell you something.”

            He looked deep into her eyes and saw that they might actually have a chance someday.

            “We might say goodbye a thousand times,” she began, “but with me and you, goodbye means nothing at all. I just wanted to make sure you knew that.”

20 Responses to Jennifer Blanchard — “In the Pouring Rain” (short story, romance)

  1. I feel like the flashbacks work, but I’m just not sure when I’m in one? Maybe they should be indented more, or italicized to make it obvious. Then I know I’m stepping back into the past for that moment and I am back when the prose returns to normal. Flashbacks are really difficult, but unless you do them, I think, it will be a whole lot of telling and not enough showing.

    The only other thing I noted was a flip from past to present tense. I do this ALL THE TIME, which is why I noticed it.

    I adore the last line. It says so much, and gives you sort of an insight into the future.

  2. @MJones Thank you so much for your feedback. Yes, flipping from past to present tense and back again has always been an issue of mine. I’m hoping this time I’m only doing it because of the flashbacks… but it’s likely that I’m doing it at other points too. And I’m so glad to hear you like the ending! I’ve fought for years with this story’s ending. I’ve gotten feedback ranging from “the last line makes her sound like some crazy psycho who’s going to stalk him/never leave him alone” to how you felt about it. I’m glad I decided to keep it 🙂

  3. Good hook. It kept me reading. The flashbacks worked for me, and I agree with MJones, they need to be delineated better. I don’t like italic: It’s difficult to read in large chunks and it tends to bump me right out of a story. I suggest an additional indent with an empty line above and below the flashback. Also, inserting an empty line ahead of [It had been a week since Adam broke things off with Beth.] just as you did ahead of [It had been a week since Adam broke things off with Beth.] makes the time transition smoother to read.

    Yes, your tenses need attention. And your punctuation could be improved, but a good editor can take care of that.

    One more suggestion. In your last line, swap “you and me” for “me and you.” Points out Adam’s importance to Teresa, imo.

    Thanks for being brave enough to share. 🙂

  4. Correction to my previous comment:
    Also, inserting an empty line ahead of [It had been a week since Adam broke things off with Beth.] just as you did ahead of [Later that night, Adam couldn’t sleep.] makes the time transition smoother to read.

    Ah, the perils of cut and paste!

  5. Hello.
    Good story! On the flashbacks, I think just adding a little more white space between them would be enough, or just a short hint, something like “he was distracted from his memories” as a tag after the speech in the dialogue. That’s just my opinion.

    Keep it up!

    And thanks again for the good read!

  6. @Nann Dunne Thank you! I will do as you suggested and add more spaces before and after the flashbacks so it’s easier to tell that Adam is going back into his memories. And yea, switching tenses has always been a problem for me. I will definitely work on that.

    @Elmer Escoto Putting this story “out there” was a HUGE push out of my comfort zone, so I appreciate the kind words 🙂

  7. William Marsh

    I really liked it Jenn, you should leave your comfort zone more often and share more!

    I felt a little sad on the last line. Like MJones said, it gives you insight to the future, but what a future that would be having to continuously hide an affair with the woman you love so much, having to be told goodbye over and over and not knowing if this goodbye will be the final one, longing for her company whenever shes gone and not knowing if she’ll return, only knowing that she is being abused and unappreciated in her life.

    UGH!! I have to be honest, I like romance and I love these types that give me a kind of sad perspective on love. I love ’em, but I hate ’em too cause I so WANT it to be happy, but the feeling that I get when it’s not a fairy tale ending is so… REAL.

    Thanks for letting me read this.

  8. Donna Lodge

    Jennifer@ Congrats on posting your story and moving outside of your comfort zone. Not easy to do!

    I think you have the beginning of interesting romantic short story. And I agree with Nann that you have a good hook. In terms of the flashback, I think it’s introduced too soon, and there’s a lot of information in it. The rule-of-thumb I’ve learned is to wait – and then wait longer – before going to a flashback. Your dialogue is good, so maybe you could get some of the flashback information into dialogue? Just a thought. Ditto the others who commented on switching from past to present tense. I reread parts of your story because I wasn’t sure if you had gone into flashback or switched tenses. But that’s an easy fix.

    You have good dialogue and the potential for a lot of conflict with the mother-daughter-boyfriend triangle, the abusive husband with a bad attitude and temper-control issues, and then the dynamics between the daughter and the father. Gives you lots to play with. There’s a good amount of setup in the pages you’ve posted, and I’m interested in seeing where you take your story.

  9. Laureli Illoura

    Hi Jennifer, I applaud your courage in sharing (I haven’t such courage). I think it reads very close to the romance stories I’ve read, so your dialogue and action scenes, and the tense underlying situation seems to work. I think something that caught my attention and made me ‘stop’ was the common use of the word ‘fuck’ by the protagonist. It made him seem immature, and then all I could do was wonder how old he was. It seemed like one of those cougar type things going on but I wasn’t too sure. Along those lines, (not meaning to criticize, just a little critique?), was that he loves her, but the passion seems less deep than I think true love requires. The wine cellar scene clinched that for me, and so I kept wondering if I would find out what they have in common that bonded them -aside from a sexual passion (which he might miss but certainly wouldn’t pine for after a year). Maybe give a little more depth to that aspect so we know why he’s fighting so hard to relinquish that forbidden love (versus why he can’t move on, if it’s more about passion).
    The flashbacks do work, and are not confusing – but I like Elmer’s suggestion of a short lead-in or tag line to help adjust to it. Space works too, but that can interrupt the reading instead of the flow you want since you’ve got a couple of them within a short span of time.
    I like that you’re adding some of the flashbacks as thoughts just before or after he answers/talks to Beth or Teresa. Especially while drinking the wine he has trouble separating the thoughts from the small talk and outright lying to cover up. I think you got really close to showing how hard it is for him to be in that situation, but ramping up his stress a little more could really make it pop!
    Good luck with this!

  10. MJ Carlson

    Jennifer,

    First, congratulations on writing and especially on submitting. I know how scary that can be (I belonged to a critique group for five years before a job transfer moved me away). A good effort, overall and you’ve picked a potentially tension-rich story idea. Wow.

    I’ll be the nay-sayer. I’m not a big fan of extensive flashbacks, especially in short stories. They tend to slow the tension. Even more so is the technique of trying to hook the reader by starting a story with the ending. If I know the end, for me it diffuses the fun of discovering the characters. I see this technique used in screenplays and some novels, and I’ve discussed it with several professionals who agree it’s useful if the opening is weak. This story has the potential for a killer opening without any gimmick. My suggestion: start the story with Beth introducing Adam to Teresa, and give me an internal look at Adam’s shock: confusion, rapid, pounding heart beat, dry mouth, you know, stomach turning over and grabbing his heart as it goes kind of description. Then slip in bits of back story through dinner to dig me into the story and intellectualize his shock and flesh out his character.

    I don’t know if you’ve been keeping up with Larry’s blog, but two recent ones dealt with “ten common newbie errors.” Specifically: Proper Names Within Dialogue, Chit-Chat, Too Much Description of Food, Overwritten Sequential Time Fillers, Invisible Scene Transitions, and Belaboring the backstory. ‘Nuff said. I enjoy discovering characters bit by bit, based on their actions and the emotional responses of the POV character. I felt Adam could’ve used more emotional context throughout. I would have preferred to have his feelings painted in a vivid wash instead of my being told how he felt, and his five senses might have helped (Teresa’s perfume, the sound of her voice, the touch of her hand in his when they greet, etc. These are the things that tie me to my one-and-only).

    As I said, great plot idea, and it has the potential for an avalanche of conflict/tension, both internal to the POV character, and externally between characters. The characters behave/speak differently enough to be distinguishable, and the setting is adequate. Just bring me into the story late (as the tension ramps up), tease me with tiny bits of necessary back story to heighten the tension (especially if the main character’s internal conflict mirrors the external, as this one’s does), and plunge me into the ectasty of the story’s climax, and I’m your friend for life.

    Thanks for sharing the fruits of your efforts. Excellent start.
    MJ

  11. Ian M. Pagan

    Jennifer,

    Others have noted their preference for distinguishing the flashback/backstory by indenting or line space, so I’ll move on to another topic. I admit these are my own issue. No one else has commented on them, so it must be me.
    I feel I missing something in the timeline of the bruise Teresa suffered. A bruise is noticed by Beth at the dinner. Adam has a flashback of embracing Teresa. During the embrace he touches a bruise and Teresa notes pain. So far so good.
    Then, there’s this line, “Even though it had been almost six months since he last saw her, he still loved her.”
    My question, is this the same bruise as the one Adam touched while embracing Teresa six months earlier? Or is this a new bruise and he’s reflecting on a similar discovery? Maybe you made it clear but forgive my slowness. Help me here.
    Another issue concerns the requests to go down to the wine cellar and to adjust the thermostat for the air conditioning. If the setting was a low to middle class home, I could accept the possibility that a “guest” might be requested to do those tasks, especially if the homeowner is predisposed (e.g. fixing meals or an invalid and needs help). But these people live in mansion. They have a cook serving the meal. I found the requests a tad incredulous. Upper middle to upper class people don’t ask guests, especially first time guests, to do those things. They have servants to look after those matters or do them themselves.
    A work around with the air conditioning it is have the mother requested the daughter to do those tasks (instead of the daughter assuming that Adam will do it) and Adam leaps to volunteer, saving Beth the trouble. That one is simple.
    The trip to the wine cellar requires more thought. What you eventually did regarding the wine request (the mother asking for help with a case) could pass as believable. So why not start with that instead of the trip to the cellar for desert wine in a mansion which probably has more alcoves and narthexes than Carter has pills.
    Another alternative is to change the setting to a different class (low-middle) so the expectations will be lower. Or make a side story where you have a family who has lots of money but live day-to-day like they don’t. The husband in the story seems to be a frugal sort of guy anyway.

    Ian Michael Pagan

  12. Donna Lodge

    Jennifer and Everyone @ I just read two articles on flashbacks and backfill (backstory) by Nancy Kress. One is in the current issue (October 2011) of Writer’s Digest magazine. The second is a link to an older article by Kress in Writer’s Digest online. http://www.writersdigest.com/qp7-migration-all-articles/qp7-migration-fiction/3_tips_for_writing_successful_flashbacks

  13. Olga Oliver

    Hi Jennifer – I’ve read your story several time. Your structure, particularly slipping into and out of flashback creates confusion in following the plot for me, but that’s easily fixed. I hope you will not take my critique of the story as too critical, but I want to offer my opinion in the same way I want my writing critiqued (and my novel partial will be up in a day or two – please tell me exactly what you think – it stinks, or whatever – what does my story say to you at the first 16 pages) .

    I asked myself what can I take away from Jennifer’s story? And that is: Teresa is a weakling, not grown up yet, whining in her bruises, and looking for someone to set her world in order, instead of putting her world in order herself. Poor Adam has not grown up either; he still needs a mother figure who needs taking care of, to make his world full of love. Teresa even refers to ‘young boys’ at their first meeting. Beth is the character who has her head on straight, in my opinion. So perhaps Beth should be the protagonist and witness all this stuff going on and finds a way to help both her mother and Adam.

    Your concept is good – the story situation is unsolvable – making for great conflict, and I know these types of situations occur that are seemingly unsolvable. But underneath, in the subtext, the real problems creating the unsolvable situation lie within Teresa and Adam, even though both are really trying to overcome them.

    Your last paragraph is a grabber, wonderful, carries a great truth for Teresa and Adam, and I hope that both will learn and use their experience wisely. But poor Beth. What happens to her? Any idea where you would submit this story?

    Donna Lodge’s information about Nancy Kress is right on. I’ve been studying her books for years.

    Olga

  14. Pingback: Update: New Fiction Posted on the Peer Review Page

  15. Hi Jennifer,
    You’ve created an impossible situation on so many levels! I couldn’t help but feel a little creeped out by the whole lovin’ up on the mom and daughter thing, haha, but it’s an interesting premise, and it lets the reader know right out of the gate that there is no easy way out here. I like how you paint the initial reaction Adam-Kevin has to Teresa, but I wonder if you can make it even more intense, primal, etc. And the wine cellar badda-bing badda-bang, too. Not that they just “want” to get it on, but that they can’t possibly “not” get it on. Does that make sense? I want to feel like this is more than just the usual urge people get…

    You’re brave to tackle such an icky topic, and you do it with believability!

  16. Good one Jenniger 🙂 You got some interesting tips from Melinda Jones & Nann Dunne. I must say that the last line is awesome – it’s true for all the lovers in the world… Keep it up!

  17. sorry for misspelling your name Jennifer 🙁

  18. @Laureli Illoura I’ve actually been told that by several romance readers and am re-thinking my use of it. Although in my head I find it really hard to believe that a person wouldn’t use that word when they walk in on their mom making out with their ex-boyfriend. But that’s just me. 🙂

    @MJ Carlson I like your opening idea. I will play with that and see what happens. And thanks for pointing out the newbie errors… when I read Larry’s post I was like “whoops!” haha

    @Donna Lodge Thanks for the link, I will check it out.

    @Ian M. Pagan The bruise is fresh and Adam recalling the memory of the first time he found a bruise on her was just me trying to show that it had happened before and that it would most likely continue to happen unless something changed. I wasn’t trying to say it was the same bruise. Maybe to avoid confusion I can change the bruise’s location for one of the scenes. Also, great points on the upper class stuff. I always forget that rich people live differently that middle-class people. I guess I was trying to show that even thou they have money, they are still fine doing things for themselves. But your point is dead-on–WHY would they ask a guest to do the things I have Adam doing, as that is not very likely.

    @Olga Oliver Appreciate you reading it several times and really thinking about it. When I originally wrote this story I didn’t know very much about writing fiction so I just sort of winged it. It’s been thru a lot of rewrites and will surely go thru several more.

    THANK YOU EVERYONE for all of your suggestions. I’ve never had any plans to do anything with this story, but now that I have so many great suggestions to revise it I may just have to.

  19. Dawn Peterson

    The time jumping is too confusing for me. May I make a couple of suggestions? Your characters are flat. I can’t see them clearly. In that first paragraph, I didn’t know if this was a goth-like kid with a purple Mohawk or if he wore dockers with Tommy H knit shirts. This is easier to get across by physical actions of the character, such as “His fingers brushed across gelled spikes of hair.”
    The number one thought I had is to open this story with a sensual spark. What’s a man’s reaction when he sees a woman he wants to bed???? You can take it to another level by presenting it from Adams’ first person perspective. “I’ve got a hard-on for my girlfriend’s mother…..”

  20. Bob Milrad

    Hi Jennifer –
    This read was my first on this site. Happy I found it! I live in a small town in Oregon and finding writers’ groups for support is a tough one! Now, to find the courage – as you did – to put a bit of my novel under the critical spotlight.

    I read all the criticism above – and agree with addressing the switch of tenses, but disagree regarding your flashbacks.
    I found the style fresh and fun to follow. Sort of like a movie that intercuts present with past. It’s a challenge at first, but enhances the pacing. You might even try to play with the technique even more in the story. I think white space or italics would dumb it all down. Readers are capable of being challenged! I also agree that changing the family to middle-class will allow more readers to resonate with the situation and solve some of those pesky problems mentioned above.

    As a former English teacher, I feel compelled to mention a usage error I found: “You look more like a Kevin then an Adam.” (change “then” to “than”).

    Also re your line “… so you could sleep with my fucking mom?” … You might consider instead: “… so you could fucking sleep with my mom?” (Beth seems more incensed at the “sleeping with” than her mother at this point.) Toss it around a bit. 🙂

    Glad I chose your story as a first read. It’s a story fraught with conflict and certainly worth your time in rewrites. You’ll know when it’s ready to submit … and I certainly hope you do!

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