The prompt for R.B. Wood’s FIRST Word Count Podcast of 2017 asked that we use January in the setting AND the picture below:
And … I didn’t write the story on my own.
You may recall I collaborated with Bill Kirton, the esteemed Scottish author for a story titled: “The Wrong Shoes.” That was already two years ago!
Since then, Bill and I have wanted to write together again, and we’ve done it. Hopefully, we will do it again this year.
This story is written in two different voices as an e-mail exchange. Bill started it, and we went from there. Neither of us knew where the other was going. It was both fun and a challenge to write this saucy tale. You can learn more about the process on Bill’s blog.
I’m excited to write for R.B. Wood’s podcast again. The new year brings with it many creative opportunities, and I look forward to sharing my writing with you.
Enjoy “Selfie Love.” You can listen to Bill and me reading the story on episode 62 of R.B. Wood’s podcast.
Sorry, Laura, I don’t get it. I mean, it’s been, what, 2 months? And not a word. Then suddenly, you send this. The photo. I know, I know, we said no commitment, no follow-ups. And that was right. I knew there’d be hell to pay with Alice if she knew. I mean, wives get understandably pissed off with that sort of thing. You made it pretty clear it’d be the same with your Tom. They wouldn’t understand. Of course they wouldn’t. I get all that, but I don’t know, I thought we’d at least keep in touch somehow. But not like this. An email, no words, just this attachment. What the hell’s it mean?
At first, I thought it was maybe just your way of saying you remembered a great night, a great way to start the year. Just the two of us, the house by the water. But I don’t remember us taking a shot like this. There were much better views. I mean, when the tide’s out like that, the estuary’s… well, just mud. Then I remembered, we did take some shots from here, but we were just fooling around. They were all selfies. So I looked through them. Great memories, certainly. You look as gorgeous as ever. And we’re both grinning like idiots. But then it struck me that one of them was taken from exactly that point on the road, the same point as the one you sent. Not just approximately, but exactly there. The single phone wire top right, the rail bottom left, the angle… If it was just a shot of the view, it’s a helluva coincidence.
But it’s not a coincidence, is it? It’s the selfie. You’ve just photoshopped us out of it. Used bits of the other shots to paste over us. And you’ve done a helluva good job. But why? Is it a fancy way of saying it won’t happen again? No more nights or weekends? I want to believe you sent it for good reasons, not scary ones. So humour me, will you? Remember, I have a very small brain, so I need things spelled out for me. What’s it mean? Please.
Love and lots of our kisses
You’re right. This is a strange way to reconnect … and I’m sorry.
I had this email in my “Drafts” for days. Frustration, more than anything made me finally hit the send button. Now, I wish I hadn’t. I wish I’d had the courage not to follow up as we’d agreed. I hate myself for my weakness.
This cryptic photo is the umpteenth iteration of this email, started more than a week ago. I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent trying to find the right words, and in the end, there were no words. I thought the picture would explain it better.
I had hoped you would understand. You were always in tune with my moods, even in the beginning when we were only speaking through emails and messaging. It’s why I originally agreed to Skype. What we had is something I’ve never had with any other man.
I’m saying this not because I blame you. Our time together brought me more happiness than I’ve had in my marriage in years, but now … I’m being punished. How fucking selfish of me for pursuing my own needs!
Oh Ross, don’t you see? If only I could erase us from that freezing day in January as easily as I photo-shopped us out of the picture, I would.
Forget about me. Forget about us.
Be the stronger one, and don’t contact me again. Please.
I’m sorry if you thought the long gap meant that asking me to be strong had worked. No chance, I’m afraid. No, it’s the same as it was for you. Different versions of this email have come and gone. The first one came out of panic, anger, said all sorts of despicable things that would have guaranteed it was over – you and me, I mean. Then the pathetic self-pity kicked in and I was pleading, begging – a completely unlovable, cowardly wimp. Thank God I didn’t send them. I hope I’ll be able to keep all that in check this time because I need to understand why. I can’t get past that word. Why? Why? Why? It just keeps on eating at me.
I’ve re-read your note so many times I could probably recite it from memory, but there’s so much of it I don’t understand. That January night seems decades away so maybe my recollections are skewed, but I don’t remember agreeing that there wouldn’t be any more. We were a bit quiet at the end but I thought that was because the weekend was over and we’d be going our separate ways – but not forever. I’m obviously not always in tune with your moods as much as you say. I certainly didn’t pick up on that one. Maybe I only ever saw what I wanted to see. You said yourself that us being together brought you happiness. It did. That’s what I saw.
You know, I thought I was joking about having a small brain but trying to decipher your email makes me think it’s probably true. In different circumstances, we’d have thought the symbolism of erasing a couple from a selfie was brilliant, but not when it’s us. God, we’ve been so careful, even with one another. Remember how we resisted that word ‘love’ for so long. Joked about it only being lust. Love was dangerous, threatened everything. But we were just fooling ourselves. In the end, it had to be said. And it was true. Still is. And part of the deal was that we’d only let ourselves say it as long as no one else was hurt by it. It’s been hard sometimes to hide it, but we’ve managed it. None of our friends suspect anything. It’s not going to be nearly as easy hiding the ache there’ll be if we do stop.
I’m just rambling. I don’t know what to say, how to convince you. You say you’re being punished – how? What’s punishing you? Who’s punishing you?
Sweet Laura, I don’t want to be the one who makes you miserable. If the problem is things I’ve said or done, tell me please. If the only way to take away the hurt is to say goodbye, I’ll say it. I won’t like it, but I’ll say it. Remember when I told you about that bit from Byron? I wasn’t being a pseud or pretentious. I meant it. It was something I read at school. I must have been 16, maybe 17, and it summed up exactly what I wanted. And it’s what I had, have with you.
Oh that the desert were my dwelling place
With one fair spirit for my minister.
Then I could quite forget the human race
And, hating no one, love but only her.
Corny? Maybe. Melodramatic, yeah, probably. But that’s what you are – my one fair spirit.
If you don’t reply, I’ll know it’s finished. I won’t write again, won’t ask any more questions or be so bloody needy. But I’ll never forget you.
All, yes, all my love.
Oh Ross …
I haven’t been able to stop crying since I got your note. I’ve told my husband I’ve come down with a bad cold. Thankfully, he doesn’t suspect otherwise. Truth is, I can’t dislodge you from my heart, no matter how hard I’ve tried. Until I read your email, I was barely functioning.
When I wrote to you, I was so confused. I didn’t see another option but to end it with us. I’m in a difficult place, but my tears haven’t all been sad ones. Reading your words gave me joy as well, especially the part where you said you still love me. Secretly, I must’ve hoped you would write back even though I asked you not to. I also love the piece from Byron. You see Ross, you do know me, even better than I know myself these days.
I’m so sorry I caused you pain. I never intended to. I just hurt so much after coming back from our weekend. With you, I discovered what it was like to feel true happiness. Our time together was bliss, and I’m still shocked that we managed to meet. We went from emailing one another to Skype to finally spending the night together. How many people get such an opportunity, and how many actually take it?
And though I’ve always believed that we should want what we have, I couldn’t resist you … so here we are.
You once asked me why I never called your wife by her name. I don’t think I ever responded, but I’d like to tell you now. The reason is because she and I don’t have a relationship. She’s your wife. If I were to use her name, it would bring her to life in my head, as if she were connected to me somehow, which she isn’t. And that goes for my husband as well. I never mention his name when I talk to you.
We’ve been so careful to keep our spouses and friends outside the world we’ve created. It’s just been the two of us … until now.
I waited as long as I did before I sent my first email because I had to be sure.
Ross, I’m pregnant with our child.
OK darling, I haven’t given it enough time to think this through but I can imagine how anxious you are to know my reaction. Don’t worry, it’s good. More than good, it’s bloody brilliant. But that’s just the beginning. We can’t do this through emails. We need to be together to talk about it, back at the house by the river. Now, or as soon as you can make it.
You didn’t say what you thought about it. Hard to, really, there are so many obstacles in the way now. I think there might have been a time, when I was a lot younger, when this would’ve scared the hell out of me. I don’t like to think of what I might have done. Now, though… Well, I just hope we want the same thing, but I’ll go along with whatever you decide. It’s your body.
It won’t be easy, untangling ourselves from the lives we’ve lived so far, but we can do it. We have to. I feel bad, very bad, about how it’ll hit Alice and Tom. There’s no way round that. It’s not like erasing them from a selfie. So much for not hurting anybody. But we’ll make it as easy as we can for them. In the end, love’s such a selfish thing, but it’s also a gift, the best thing in the world. And we have it, and now there’s a chance I’ll have not just one, but two fair spirits. We can make it. We can make it.
Thank you for reading and/or listening. Feel free to leave a comment or question. Feedback, whether good or bad is always welcome.