Little Love Stories Romance Short Story Contest
Congratulations to our winners!
Read the winning entries from our contest.
Coffee Date by Karen S. (Shoreline Library)
Maya Angelou says when she’s older she will wear purple. Good for her. I can wear pretty near anything -, it doesn’t matter once you get to be 76. I could walk down the street in hip waders and a sports bra and no one would take a second look. I’m invisible now. I like it that way. No need to waste time fixin’ my hair - once it goes white you turn into Casper the ghost along with it. I’d like to think I’ve still got it. I still have plenty, it’s just moved around some. Once I hit the 70’s though, gravity started in double time. No stopping the cellulite now in its bid to conquer.
The reason I’m tellin’ you all this, is that it’s what makes what happened to me last month so strange. I was picking out green beans one by one in the produce department when it happened. I was reaching for a nice fat one when a hand brushed mine. I pulled back. Having not been touched for a good many years, it was an odd sensation. By a stranger yet.
The hand was brown, chalky on the knuckles, with a few hairs sticking out. I stepped back to let the interloper get his bean at the same time he stepped back - both of us staring at each other. He saw an old woman in a sweat shirt with frayed cuffs, her mouth agape, and I saw an old man with his shirt buttoned crooked and a coffee stain. Doesn’t get any better than that. Both of us at the same time: “Oh, sorry, I didn’t see…..” Again: “Sorry, I …” Then a pause followed by a laugh. I left him to his beans and headed for Romanian lettuce. Doctor says it’s better. Not sure about better but costs more.
When I rounded the corner by the dairy case, who do I see but Mr. Coffee Stain. He looked at me, smiled and said, “you the gal plays the mandolin”. I shook my head. I haven’t touched that mandolin in months. “Nah, I heard you play at the senior center. It was the harvest fest. You’re good.” Well, I’ll be. A fan. What passed for a smile crossed my lips, usually pursed, so it hurt a bit. I burbled out an unaccustomed thank you to a compliment and nodded my head, being on my way.
As I passed he said, “I was goin’ to get me a coffee. I could get you one too, if you’d like to join me”. Frozen, I took quick stock. I had on walking shoes, leggings, a frayed sweatshirt but with a Seahawks logo so that might count for something. Did I comb my hair? I was pretty sure I showered that day or the day before? Did I look like someone who needed someone to buy me a coffee? While I processed, the man squinted at me. “I asked you to join me for coffee, it’s not a lifetime commitment”. We both looked at each other knowing that a life time commitment at our age might be only a short time longer than it took fo have coffee. I relented and even went so far as to go through the same grocery line one after another, like we were friends or something.
Coffee tastes good when someone else buys. He threw in a snickerdoodle and that won me over enough to get me to talk about my music. No one’s been interested in my music, or anything else about me for that matter, for years.
Coffee. It’s a euphemism for let’s talk to each other. Let’s spend some time. We did that. It was fine. And when we left, we smiled at each other. He reached out to shake my hand but held it instead, and as I looked at his gnarled brown hand in my age spotted white one I felt something. He felt it, too. We looked into each other’s eyes. Something was starting.
“See you here tomorrow,”” he said. Not a question. “My treat,” I said. I picked up my bag of groceries and walked through the door. I waited until I walked around the corner of the building, then I stopped, put down my groceries, and touched the hand he had held.
The Prince and the Pirate by Bailey G. (Kent Library)
“Oh good, you’re awake,” said a woman’s voice. “Now I have someone to talk to.”
Augustus grimaced and rolled onto his side. The ceaseless rocking and groan of wood timbers made him open his eyes. He was lying in semi-darkness on a very dirty floor. Looking about, he could see he was enclosed by wood and metal bars. A lone bucket sat empty in the corner along with a lantern.
“Where am I?” he rasped, gripping his head.
“Blimey, I hope you’re not this slow all the time. We’re in the brig.”
Augustus sat upright, flinching at the wave of pain, and turned toward the voice. In the cell next to his sat a woman. He couldn’t see her face, but she sat with her back against the wall, trousered legs crisscrossed in the most unladylike manner. Her leather boots, excessive rings, and scarf tied around her head made it obvious to him: Pirate.
Augustus stared in disbelief. “What is the meaning of this?”
“You’re gonna have to be a little more specific,” she drawled. “Do you mean why you are here or why I am here?”
Augustus sputtered. “Yes, all of it. Where am I? What ship is this? For God’s sake, what happened?! And yes, why are you here?”
“I knew you’d be fine company. To start,” she said, ticking off her fingers, “your crew was woefully unprepared for a pirate attack. Your ship is well on its way to the bottom of the ocean. And you, Your Highness, are currently aboard the Drowned Kraken – on your way to the colonies in the Caribbean, where we hope to collect a hefty ransom. Oh, and I am here because I refused to kill you.”
Augustus reeled from the flood of information. His memories were fragmented, struggling to remember the battle. 'His entire crew...his ship...gone?! Father will be furious. Wait!'
“Why didn’t you kill me?” he asked, shifting closer to the bars. “How did you know I was the prince? We were traveling in secret.”
She flushed and looked pointedly at the straw floor.
She shrugged. “I got tired of it, the killin’. I love being on the sea and I do enjoy the spoils,” she said, waggling her ringed fingers. “But I’m done takin’ an honest man’s life for no damned reason.”
'Huh,' thought Augustus, 'a pirate with morals.'
“That still doesn’t explain how you knew I was the prince,” he said.
She crossed her arms. “I didn’t, at first. I snuck into your cabin plannin’ on lootin’ it while my crew took care of yours. You were in there, dead asleep in your bed. I just about had your ring off your hand when you started to wake up. You looked so...weary – like some huge weight was livin’ on your back,'' her voice softened.
“I could hear my mates breakin’ into the cabin, so I knocked you out hoping they’d think you were already dead. But they saw I didn’t have the stones to kill you and they hauled me in front of the captain. I was still holdin’ your ring; and when he saw the insignia, he knew you were the prince. Kings don’t pay as much for dead sons, so they’re keepin’ you alive and keepin’ me down here for treason.”
Augustus gripped the bars of his cell, his heart pounding. It all came back. He remembered her. He remembered seeing a beautiful woman looking down on him as he woke in the cabin. Her dark hair fell over her shoulders, and he could smell saltwater on her. She had smiled sadly, hesitated, then stroked his hair. Gently, like his mother used to.
He had felt peace for the first time in weeks ever since he received the letter from his father. His eldest brother had died, and Augustus was now next in line for the throne. Any dreams of having a life of his own evaporated with the final flourish of the King’s Royal Seal – the same insignia on Augustus’ ring.
“You saved me,” he whispered.
The woman scoffed. “I didn’t save you; I just didn’t kill you. You still got captured by pirates.”
“Please,” Augustus said, “come closer.”
The woman sighed, then scooted over to the shared bars. The lantern shone on her and Augustus’ stomach flipped. It was her face, even under the grime and dried blood. He didn’t dream it. He smiled, and to his surprise, she smiled back. His stomach jumped again.
“What is your name?” he asked.
“Maggie. Maggie Reed. And yours? I’m not callin’ you, Your Highness, this whole voyage.”
“Well,” he said, “technically my name is Prince Augustus Frederick Henry Flanders, but you can just call me Augustus.”
Maggie blinked. “Right, I’m callin’ you Gus. You pull that mouthful out again and I’ll kick you through these bars.”
“Fair enough,” he chuckled. “I’m being held captive in a filthy brig with an ex-pirate for a cellmate. Decorum does seem a bit moot.”
Maggie tilted her head and studied him intently. He felt his ears warm and hoped he didn’t look as grimy as he felt.
Finally, she broke the silence. “How badly do you want to be king?” she asked.
“What? Well, of course, I mean, it’s my duty as–”
“–Because if I were to get us out, would you still go back?”
Augustus gazed into her face and felt that same peaceful feeling. He could leave it all behind; begin to have his own life, maybe even with this strange woman.
“No,” he breathed out.
Looking satisfied, Maggie reached through the bars and held out her hand. Augustus grasped it and shook – an unspoken agreement that they were now in this together. Their eyes locked and he knew then he would go wherever she went.
“What say you to bein’ my first mate?” she asked.
Augustus shook his head in bemusement. “Aye, captain.”
She grinned. She stuck her hand in her vest and pulled out a ring with a single iron key.
This Is a True Love Story by Chelsi G. (Redmond Library)
Once upon a time, I met the love of my life. Only I did not know it yet. He was tall and his shaggy dark blonde hair, lanky frame, and perpetual exuberance reminded me of a golden retriever; I would later learn how much he loved his dog Thor, who was a golden and surely developed his enduring puppy personality from Michael’s influence. Michael. His name was Michael, and sometimes went by Wizzowsky. His name was Michael, and he played saxophone and I played clarinet in our college marching band.
Once upon a time, I met the love of my life but he had just met someone else. That first week of band camp he hit it off with another bandmate, and a relationship was the last thing on my mind. I was here for one reason and one reason only: to earn my degree. For four years, we floated in each other’s periphery. We had a few classes together, ran around at band events together, and hung out now and then with mutual friends. We weren't close, but each of us thought the other was alright.
Once upon a time, I met the love of my life and we learned how to assemble XLR cables. On Tuesday evenings, we gathered with our department head and a few other students and built a patch bay for the music building’s new live recording studio. Four years later and four years wiser we sat side by side, learned how to solder, and puzzled through the design of a studio space that future generations would use for a long time after we graduated. Late into the night, we geeked out about our favorite microphones and tried not to burn our fingers on the hot irons. We cracked jokes, told stories, shared our dreams, and discovered more of each other. I learned that he had broken up with bandcamp girlfriend after three and a half years and that he was happier now; that he was making friends now. I invited him to wing night at the bar with some of my regular crowd, and we went out a few times in groups. We lived in the same building so we often found ourselves walking back to campus together in soft midnight snowfalls; we traced individual flakes as they drifted around us and caught them on our tongues.
Once upon a time, I met the love of my life and we laughed about how we were broke. Wing night was starting to add up! His bright laughter decrescendoed, and he suggested “What do you think of skipping wing night this week and watching Doctor Who instead?”
“Sounds like fun!” I agreed with a little spring in my step.
So we grabbed a six pack and took it back to our dorm where we lived on the same floor, two doors apart. We watched Doctor Who together for weeks and sipped on sweet hazelnut ale. We hung out and grew ever closer, our minds intertwining as we unravelled more of our common interests. Before I knew it, Michael had become my best friend.
Once upon a time, I met the love of my life and I never saw it coming. One night while we sat side by side on his bed, I tried to wipe my glasses on my cotton t-shirt with little success. “Can I clean those for you?” He offered “I promise they’ll be the cleanest they’ve ever been.”
I smiled “Sure.” and handed them over.
He bounded from the bed and hurried to gather his eyeglass cleaner and a soft cloth. My vision fuzzy like an impressionist painting, I watched as he gently and meticulously cleaned each lens, peering into them in the light from his desk lamp to check for any spots he might have missed. He presented them back to me, folded neatly in his palm. I unfolded my glasses and returned them to their place and as I pushed them up the bridge of my nose, Michael's cheerful face came into sharp clarity. His beautiful, bright blue eyes which could put oceans to shame gazed into my brown, bespeckled ones, soft as tree bark after rain and his pliant, easy smile melted my heart. “What do you think?”
“Just perfect.” I kissed him on the cheek “Thank you.”
He blushed, his expression content at having pleased me. In the enormity of that little moment I knew that this was something different. This was something special, something extraordinary. He settled in next to me on his black comforter, propped against his pillows. I leaned my head on his shoulder, he rested his head on top of mine, and we continued to watch while David Tennant defeated Daleks and saved the day. Our hands found one anothers, and our fingers twined together in my lap.
Once upon a time, I met the love of my life and my heart felt no doubt about it. Michael. As I left his room that night he stood at the threshold, held the door open with his elbow and tousled his tawny blonde hair with his free hand. He looked toward the ground and back up at me nervous and hopeful when he asked “So...this thing? You and me?" He gestured between us, pointed at my chest and back at his own, "Do you think this is a thing?” My stomach did a somersault in my abdomen; my breath escaped me. My heart glowed bright as the sun and I couldn’t have hidden my joyful grin, even if I wanted to.
“Yeah, I think it is.” I stretched out my hand for his, and we brushed fingertips as I turned to walk back to my room. The point where our skin made contact ignited the air with pure electricity and the thread between our souls was palpable, woven deep into the fabric of the universe.
Once upon a time, I met the love of my life and we have lived happily ever after ever since.
A Parents’ Bond by Jasmine Z. (Redmond Library)
“And you’re sure you don’t need anything?” asked Claire, her brow creased with concern as she peered into the open car window.
“Do you need us to do anything?” replied her mom absent-mindedly.
Smiling to herself, Claire leaned closer into the window, fixing a gaze on her parents.
“Be careful. I love you.”
“We love you too,” her parents said in unison. And with that, they backed out of the empty university parking lot, leaving Claire standing on the sidewalk, staring out into the emptiness.
The rest of the ride was silent, the two sitting side by side as they drove down the road. The air lacked a familiar essence, a Claire-shaped hole that now filled the empty void. As Mom and Dad passed building after building, park after park, and traffic light after traffic light, it seemed like Claire was following them home. There was a big blue slide, just like the one Claire had slid down at her very first visit to the playground. Through the sunroof, Dad spotted a towering brick apartment building, fire escapes weaving down its backside, and thought of Claire and the plants she used to grow outside their apartment. Even as the car halted at each red light, the impish giggle of toddler Claire from the backseat rang in Mom’s ears.
It had been nearly four hours when the car skidded to an abrupt stop. Outside, a quiet shhh sighed, as if the car had been exhausted and needed a break.
“It’s flat, all right,” Dad grimaced as he climbed out of the car. “That, or we just ran over an inflatable.”
Mom chuckled softly. The joke was unexpected but oddly comfortable. Usually, they were followed by a laugh or eye roll from Claire, but this one was for Mom, Mom, and Mom only, and the thought of that made her heart skip a beat.
As Dad attempted to replace the tire (he had never been a handy sort of guy), he started to morph in Mom's eyes. His dulled, grey hair suddenly turned a luscious jet-black as his creased, slightly splotchy face smoothed out to widen his deep, chestnut eyes- the same eyes Mom had fallen in love with all those years ago. Dad was still fixing the tire without much luck, but the real world seemed to slip away, like wet paint on a canvas. Suddenly, all Mom could see and hear was Dad's cheery chuckle, his callused, well-loved hands, and the smile that beckoned her home.
"Here is where you belong," a voice in her head reminded her. "In the arms of who you love."
It isn't his eyes or his laugh or even his touch, she knew then. It is his soul.
"Honey. Honey? Hello?"
Reality faded back into view as Mr. Shao waved his hands in front of his wife's face.
"I said, I fixed the tire. We can get going now."
"Oh, tire. Yes. Let's go."
Mrs. Shao walked back to the car, her mind suddenly clear and her heart now full.
The next hours were spent playing word games, something the two used to do on the long bus rides to the university when they were first dating as a way to pass time and improve their English.
They were silly, but it lifted the mood, and by the time they pulled into the purple-lit parking lot, the space and time that was trapped between them didn't seem so heavy anymore.
"Where in the..." Mrs. Shao looked up at the building standing before them. The neon billboard read, "MAGIC LOVE SUSHI" but the lightbulbs in a few letters were out, so instead, it said, "MA IC LO SUS I".
"Magic Love Sushi. Thought we'd stop by before heading home."
Mrs. Shao laughed and rolled her eyes at her husband.
"Hey, blame Google Maps! Let's go inside."
And so the two, hand in hand for the first time in forever, opened the door and stepped into the restaurant.The sushi was bad. In fact, bad might even be an understatement. The fish was slimy, the rice undercooked, and the Shaos couldn't find a single pair of chopsticks in sight. If only Claire had been there to see the disgust on her parents' faces as they picked at their wasabi with a plastic fork. Worst of all, the other families in the restaurant thought they were Japanese and kept asking them if this sushi was "authentic", to which they replied with nervous smiles. But after the dishes had been cleared and the check had been paid, the lights suddenly dimmed and a scratchy voice over the intercom said, "Ladies and gentleman, it is that time."
"What?" Mrs. Shao looked around, bewildered.
"Oh, shoot. This is that 80s slow dance hour all the people on Yelp were talking about," Mr. Shao muttered to himself.
"Please join your partner on the dance floor," said the voice from the intercom.
Mr. Shao pulled Mrs. Shao onto the slippery wood tiles and when the music started, they stepped awkwardly in time to the music. Surprisingly, the two had never been slow-dance types of people. So when the music picked up and all the other couples took their seats, the Shaos began to dance- really dance. Mrs. Shao could feel the music in her veins as Mr. Shao pulled her in and out, left and right, feet moving in a fantastic frenzy. They circled the dance floor with unknown confidence, and when the final beat struck and Mr. Shao pulled Mrs. Shao in close, they knew that Claire wasn't the one that had been holding them together all these years. It hadn't been eaten time or lost space or even that feeling of "supposed to". It had been them. Myra and Wilson. Mrs. Shao and Mr. Shao. Mom and Dad. It was hard to describe what either of them felt in that instant, but both knew one thing: this beautiful, messy, dampened, exhilarating thing was what they called love.
When Rosebuds Flatline by Hannah D. (Newport Way Library)
With a pair of rusted trimmers and packaged popcorn, Issac waited for the apocalypse. Valentine’s Day fallout stripped him of his strongest supply and spared the stragglers anyways, so he kept his early afternoon busy by clipping wilting leaves and dripping ink into the water to supplement vibrance. Issac could perfume and polish the leftover roses but the rosebuds weighed on his mind.
Long overdue their fruition, a pile of rosebuds laid discarded on the floorboards. The petals still clustered together, perhaps from exposure to pesticides or other toxins, and thus the bouquet was likely destined for nothing but rot. After all, no amount of cosmetics could mimic the blossoming that his customers’ desired. Issac studied the premature plant like a coroner when the dreaded text notification ensnared his attention.
Cass: It’s time.
Issac: I know
Issac swept the rosebuds into the trashcan before he flipped on the mounted television, fingers numb and throat strangled.
“Welcome to America’s favorite romance!” The host winked as his stomach kneaded itself like dough. “Tonight, ten couples battle to be crowned Cupid’s Choice and for one million dollars!” Depictions of Cupid often misled lovers into believing the deity was an angel but looks deceived, especially when the demon hosted television. “Let’s meet the competitors!”
Posing couples flashed on the screen and a single glance choked his lungs. “Team Rose: Cassidy Morales and Issac Davis.” On-screen Issac leaned Cass into a dip, laughing. They looked happy as mannequins. Goosebumps prickled along his skin. Exuberant comments flooded the shop’s social media page so he closed the app. Issac already knew how the story ended.
The marathon began, interviews of contestants weaved into footage of couples' games, lunch dates, and surprise gifts. Points were subtracted for forgetfulness, jealousy, disconnection, etc., and points were awarded for perfection. Their months of saccharine warfare and chocolate-dipped drama had been edited and spliced, folded like origami. And from the very beginning, the leaderboard was their throne.
“I’d look out for Team Rose.”
“Someone has to stop the roses.”
“It’s disgustingly perfect. A florist and a heart doctor dating? OMG, I can’t even . . .” Cardiologist, he thought. Cass despised being called anything else. He glanced at his messages, but even after Team Surf called her a nurse for a second time, he received nothing.
The knocking started after Episode 8. Issac jolted, gaze snapping to the door. He’d already shut the blinds and taped an explanation to the door, yet the pounding persisted. “Cass?”
He was greeted with the slurred jeers of a stranger. “You’re disgusting! All you TV stars think you’re better than the rest of us?! You can’t hide, ya dirty—”
Issac had survived worse before and this was petty so why couldn’t it just stay small? Suppressed panic swelled and finally burst. His empty stomach crawled up his throat, the floor beneath him swayed. Issac bowed his head between his knees and swallowed a gasping heave. Fingers, numb and sloppy, stumbled across the screen before his phone slipped through his trembling grasp. His heart was still sputtering like an exhaust engine.
“Look, I don’t want to—” Issac seized another breath at the familiar voice. “Issac? What’s going on?”
“So-sorry. I-I’m fine—”
“I’ll be there in fifteen. Inhale, exhale, remember?” She took an exaggerated breath. “Just follow me.” So he did.
“So . . . are your attacks frequent?” “Not anymore,” Issac rubbed the back of his neck tenderly. “This was . . .”
“Yeah. You . . . don’t have to stay though.”
“Yes, I do. In case there are more . . . visitors.”
It was their first conversation since Cass arrived. No grateful exchange or questions about the last few months. Just stale popcorn. A medical drama advertisement aired and Cass wrinkled her nose. “Idiots. If the heart’s asystole, why shock it?” she muttered under her breath.
“What do you do instead?” “Chest compressions to strengthen the heart’s rhythm. There’s usually a chance to revive from asystole but no miracle shocks with the eye-fluttering.” Issac wasn’t surprised; reality was often erased from televised scripts.
“Then . . . the heart’s normal?” His eyes drifted to the garbage can, a silent coffin.
“Maybe . . . not really.”
Any seedlings of conversation were smothered by the return of Cupid’s Choice. “Tonight, Team Sweethearts and Team Rose will face off one last time!” They had been sitting together on stage, Issac with a rose-patterned tie and Cass with one in her hair (synthetic, of course). Issac glanced at Cass beside him now, her eyes shut.
They knew what happened next.
Fingers trembling, he reached for the remote but remained entranced, trapped. The show continued untouched and the country witnessed the host’s pause as the producers alerted him that off-set footage had just been released. Of all their hidden disputes, an off-duty cameraman snagged a glimpse of their bitterest argument and airing that stolen fragment of truth cost their fraud fairy tale its happily-ever-after. Notifications barraged their phones, demanding to know how they jeopardized their perfection over one heated argument. Cass silenced their phones. Issac laid the television to rest.
Spotlights constructed perfection and in the shadows, faults festered. Cupid’s Choice was a graveyard, a spectacle of hollow specters drifting through filmed fantasies, and even now, their quiet was haunted.
“How did we fall so hard?” Issac murmured.
“Cupid.” A thorn-laden arrow shattered them and all that was left was a scrapbook of scars and half-truths. Fans demanded to know what happened to their idolized couple. The truth was simple: mirages only survived so long.
Cass finally whispered, “What happens when rosebuds flatline?”
“You trim . . . water. Pray?”
“What if the rosebuds never bloom?”
Issac released a breath he hadn’t known he had been holding. “Blooming is . . . overrated. Petals are always missing or discolored. Rosebuds will grow . . . if you let them.” Even with tangled roots and intoxicated water, flowers were resilient.
“And will you let them?” He nodded, slowly, and smiled.
Rosebuds didn’t fit a romantic’s vision. Buds were unique, complex, unconventionally beautiful, and just as their name suggested . . . when only given time, they rose.
I think that I like you by Anisha V. (Kingsgate Library)
“Today, I have to go to the new school,” Rishi thought in Hindi. He walked to the kitchen, where his mother had left breakfast for him. His parents had already gone to work in the new city. He half-heartedly ate as he reviewed a map for school directions since he couldn’t read the road signs in Chinese.
The walk to school was short but nerve-wracking as he received curious gazes, which intensified as he entered the classroom. He couldn’t understand any of the lessons which were taught in Chinese. As he walked out of school, he felt a light tap on his shoulder and turned around.
“Hello,” said a girl in a heavy Chinese accent. Rishi recognized her from class because of her unique ponytail and face, “My name is Yanli. Please ask me anything. See you tomorrow!” the girl smiled, waved, and left.
“Well, that was nice! I wonder if I could make friends with her…” Rishi thought as he walked home.
The next day in school, Rishi once again only understood math.
“I don’t know how to pronounce this…” Rishi thought, looking at his beginning Chinese book. Looking up, he saw a familiar face and ponytail.
“That’s the girl from yesterday! I’ll ask her. Hopefully, she won’t mind,” Rishi thought as he briskly walked to catch up to her.
“E-excuse me?” he said cautiously as he tapped on her shoulder. The girl whipped around with a look of mild confusion, which was quickly replaced by a smile.
“Can I help you?” she said with an unfamiliar but comforting accent.
“Um, how to pronounce please?” Rishi asked in broken English, flushing red.
“Aah, it is pronounced this way,” she said, breaking the words up into syllables.
“Uh, this way?” Rishi said and tried to mimic her. The girl laughed.
“See you later!” Yanli exclaimed and raced home. Rishi waved awkwardly at her retreating figure.
The highlight of the subsequent days was the few minutes of conversation between Yanli and him. Days turned into weeks as their communication grew into broken conversations on random topics, often filled with laughter. They even started to sit next to each other during lunch.
“See you tomorrow!” exclaimed Yanli as she turned and walked homeward, succeeding in making Rishi’s cheeks blush red again. His cheeks had developed an annoying habit of reddening whenever Yanli laughed or smiled, and his heart would start racing faster. He shook his head to clear his thoughts then walked home contemplating the feelings he had developed for the girl. How could one blame him for developing a crush? She was nice, kind, and unfairly got prettier every single day.
Rishi had been so swept up by his friendship with Yanli he didn’t realize his last month in China had already arrived.
“Um, I have one-month he-re left,” he mumbled shyly.
“Um, sorry, I did not understand?” Yanli said. Rishi turned red as a beet, and his eyes darted back and forth like dragonflies on lilies.
“Um, I am um, only he-” Rishi choked on his words as his throat tightened in embarrassment. He could feel tears starting to bubble in his eyes and quickly said, “nothing,” then ran away.
Yanli stood confused for a couple of seconds before half shrugging it off. She didn’t see his distressed state because his head hung low, and his hair fell before his eyes, covering his long-lashed and reddened face. Rishi tried to calm himself down on his way home, sad that he was too shy to communicate.
“Good morning, class,” the teacher said, “This is Rishi’s last day with us.”
Yanli whipped her head around to face Rishi in shock and disbelief. Rishi quickly averted eye contact. As soon as classes finished, Yanli darted out of the school and saw him shuffling out of the school gates, gripping his bag tightly, shoulders tensed. She pushed her way through the students and eventually caught up with Rishi, who was headed down an empty street.
“Wait!” she cried, “Why didn’t you tell me you were leaving?” she said, a little hurt. Rishi turned his head so she couldn’t see his face and mumbled:
“I was shy,” he said, nearly inaudible.
“I think that I like you,” he said in Hindi and left. Yanli was left confused, wishing that she could have understood what he had said.
~ Seven years later ~
Yanli sipped on iced coffee and listened to music on her headphones in a café in her hometown. Every now and then, that boy with whom she lost contact seven years ago would dart into her mind without warning.
“Rishi,” she said aloud as she continued distractedly grading her student’s homework. She had known the boy for only six months. He had been shy and cute, but why was she still remembering him?
“Rishi…” she sighed aloud, continuing her thoughts which brought her back to the final words she heard the boy speak. She had been studying Hindi over the last four years.
“I think that I like you.”
A blush of embarrassment dusted her cheeks as she translated what he had said. Other small bits of conversation with the boy started to come back. A strange feeling swelled inside her as she began to gain a new understanding. The memories made her laugh but also sad; in retrospect, the boy seemed much more lonely.
“Rishi,” she repeated again and again. Her words were not falling on deaf ears. Someone in the café was confused; he was in China for a business meeting. He kept hearing his name over and over. Following the voice led him to a girl, hair tied back in a ponytail, facing away from him. He closed the distance between them and tapped on her shoulder.
The girl jumped up from her seat and turned to face him. When their eyes met, they both gasped, and the man’s face turned red. Yanli regained her composure and said in Hindi:
“Rishi, I think that I like you too.”
Prizes courtesy of the Friends of the Fairwood Library and the Friends of the Renton Library.