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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Empty Nester/Retirement (from work) (09/10/09)

TITLE: Fanning All the Right Flames
By Chely Roach


Lynette woke up drenched in sweat. That actually wasn’t a rare occurrence for her, but the why of it was. She had that dream again.

The dream where she is fifteen again, out behind the basketball gym leaning against the brick wall. The air is brisk, so he puts his leather jacket around her shoulders, and smiles. She smiles back. He reaches his left hand up to her face, stroking her cheek with the back of his fingers. He whispered to her…

“Doubt thou the stars are fire,
Doubt the sun doth move,
Doubt truth to be a liar
but never doubt thy love.”

The words were gentle, and with a passion that seemed to echo his own heart, not that of a long dead poet. He put his fingers in her hair, right below the ears, with his thumbs resting on her cheeks. She knew it was coming…and she never had wanted anything more in all her life. The tips of his little fingers grazing the nape of her neck sent a thousand electric butterflies cascading through every fiber of her being. With her face cupped like it was a delicate, fragrant bloom, he leaned down toward her, and brushed his warm lips against her trembling ones. She sighed…

And then the blasted alarm woke her. Teleporting to…to whatever this was. Life as she knew it. She sighed again.

Pulling herself out of bed, she trudged to the bathroom. Her husband, Martin, left a note for her in the bathroom: Sorry, I think I used the last of the toilet tissue. Next to the post-it was a stack of McDonald’s napkins. “How sacrificially romantic of you, honey.”

She showered and dressed with the door wide open, a much coveted benefit of finally having the boys out of the house. Twenty five years of family dinners, ball games, PTA meetings, and stern lectures, and here she was; bored and a little depressed.

She loved Martin, but their marriage was built on an untimely pregnancy in college. Now, with the kids gone, it had become pretty obvious to Lynette that they had very little in common. She loved classic literature and the theater, and he preferred baseball and The Fishing Channel. Occasionally, they would participate in each other’s interests for the sake of appeasement, but the lack of mutual passion made it a struggle.

And lately, he had become clingy. They had fights about her going out with her friends; he wanted her home. With him. Watching replays of the day game. It was killing her. And when she would go out without him, he would pout…

“Fine, just leave me here all by myself…”

“What about all those years that you went out with the guys from work, and I stayed home helping the kids with their homework?”

“I was wrong.”

“And will you be wrong when you spend half of November in a tree deer hunting?”

“Well, maybe I won’t go this year.”

Oh, Lord, please make him go this year…

“Yeah, right.”

“You don’t love me anymore, do you?”

“For Pete’s sake! Are you taking my hormone replacement pills, or what?”

Lynette struggled through the morning thinking about that dream. Her first love. She couldn’t stop herself from wondering where he was.

It started as a simple Google search. She discovered that he was an English Professor in Springfield. She imagined that he was married with kids. This started an internal argument for Lynette…

I hope he’s not married…

YOU are married, you ninny…

Well, maybe he’s divorced…

Like you’re gonna be, you idiot…

At that moment she had an epiphany; Facebook.

Her heart pounded as she typed his name into the search. Jackpot. Oh, and he had one hundred and twelve friends. Perhaps he’d like one more...

Do it…


Do it!

You’re crossing a line…

Do it already!

The chat box popped up in the bottom right corner of the screen, and Lynette screamed. Her face flushed, and she was awash with guilt. Martin’s message appeared…

Roses are red,

Violets are blue.

Les Mis is playing in the city tonight,

Do me the honor of accompanying you?

She giggled, He is certainly not Shakespeare…

Lynette typed back:

Love sought is good, but given unsought, is better...




Never mind. Sounds lovely.

How about taking your lunch hour at home?


I’ll be there in twenty.


I’ll leave the bedroom door open…


I’ll be there in ten.


That’s better…

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This article has been read 745 times
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Laury Hubrich 09/17/09
So glad the husband got romantic all of a sudden. Was hoping the woman wouldn't find the old boyfriend on FB.
Gregory Kane09/19/09
What a fantastic entry. I loved the slushy dream sequence and the contrast it made with the down to earth reality of a tired marriage. The Internet temptation was agonisingly realistic and the playfulness in the conclusion was spot on. Loved it.
Charla Diehl 09/19/09
So glad you chose to keep your characters together. Retirement takes getting used to for most of us--and like all the phases of marriage, it must be worked on and worked through TOGETHER.
Catrina Bradley 09/19/09
I loved this, your MC is so real - and the ending is delicious!
Dana Rudding09/19/09
Oh my goodness! This article is so much like the life I'm lived 8 years ago. The wife should leave him and never look back. His sudden romantic gestures are nothing more than a ploy to postpone the inevitable. Just from reading this, I can almost profile the poor excuse of a husband. He's lazy, verbally and physically abusive, and he does something that he thinks is "good" once in a great while to make up for his shortcomings as a husband. I found my first love and we are celebrating our 6th wedding anniversary in two weeks. The person you speak of in your article needs to stop punishing herself and move on to a better life where she's not supporting someone that obviously doesn't care about her or her feelings. He's all about himself and nothing else. He's a loser, he's evil, and the quicker she rids herself of him, the better. Take it from someone that has been there and done that!
Sheri Gordon09/19/09
You did a great job of summarizing what so many marriages go through when the house is "empty." (And you did it all in 750 words!) So glad your MC made the choice to work on her marriage, and that you let the husband have a bit of a clue.
Joy Faire Stewart09/20/09
I enjoyed everything about the story: characters are realistic, right touch of humor, suspense, romance, and the ending it perfect!
Diana Dart 09/21/09
Cheers for happy endings! Loved the internal dialogue and of course, the "chat box' ending.
Beth LaBuff 09/21/09
I had to laugh at the McDonald's napkins when the tissue ran out. :) Your ending made me smile. I like this.
Jan Ackerson 09/21/09
Love the little Shakespeare (I think?) quatrain setting the mood early in the piece, and the contrast with modern-day "chat" at the end. A great ending without being platitudinious (is that a word?)
Mona Purvis09/21/09
Come on. you have to love a man who leaves McDonald's napkins for toilet paper and a note.
Good entry.

Leah Nichols 09/22/09
It takes work to obey God when it's tough....I pray that she continues to fight for her marriage. A very real picture of modern society - very poignant piece!
Leah Nichols 09/22/09
It takes work to obey God when it's tough....I pray that she continues to fight for her marriage. A very real picture of modern society - very poignant piece!
Betty Castleberry09/22/09
Not much to say that hasn't already been said, except maybe that I personally enjoyed reading this.

Love your MC's honest emotions. Well done.
Verna Cole Mitchell 09/22/09
You did a great job with this "rescued from temptation" story. The way you showed how marriage becomes routine and mundane (running out of TP and substituting McDonalds napkins) was priceless.
Bryan Ridenour09/22/09
Superbly written, and I love to see restoration in a marriage. As others have commented, the McDonald's napkins made me laugh. Heck, he could have left her with sand paper, so he's not all bad :) Well done!
Pamela Kliewer09/22/09
Very realistic! I am in a very happy marriage, but found myself looking for someone from my past the other day, I am ashamed to say. I love the ending - and your story is NOT fluff. I love that the marriage was restored and the playfulness at the end. Great job.
Carol Slider 09/22/09
I think Martin is a romantic at heart, but is just beginning to discover it. Thankfully, he managed it at just the right moment. Loved the "chat"... a perfect ending! Well done!
Mariane Holbrook 09/23/09
I loved this! You're such a good writer you don't need me to tell you but this is another great example of the extraordinary work you put out. I'm glad you saved the marriage. I've been married so long I've run out of digits but it's one of the best arrangements God ever dreamed up. Great entry! If I were a judge this week, I know where I'd put my top marks.
Shilo Goodson09/23/09
I was a little worried about what she was going to do. I was worried that she might regret it. Great ending, though. I hope things work out for them.