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 When A Man Loves A Woman (And Moves For Her)
by Matt McAllister

My wife Stacey and I had been married for exactly two months when she got an offer that would change our lives.

At the time, we were like any newlyweds, trying to settle into our new lives together as husband and wife. We’d dated for over five years before tying the knot, and for the first few weeks in the wake of our wedding we were asked by practically everyone we knew if it felt any different to be married. We quickly grew accustomed to answering that, no, not much had changed between us.

Before long, however, we were admitting at least to each other that perhaps marriage did make us feel slightly different about things. It was like we were being pulled by something larger than either of us, as if we’d been entered into some sort of competition to which someone had neglected to tell us the rules. Still, we were proud to be married to each other and excited to wake up with one another for the rest of our lives. Anything else was peripheral.

When the offer was presented, the first real challenge in our lives together as husband and wife came with it.

They’d called her at work to explain the position and say that they wanted to fly her down to L.A. to discuss the possibilities. When Stacey came home that night and told me about it, my initial reaction was less than supportive. “I am NOT moving to Los Angeles,” I told her, although as far as stances go mine sounded a bit halfhearted, even to me.

The truth was, as much as we loved the Bay Area, we’d never intended to stay there for as long as we had. A year turned into four, and although we’d been in our current, tiny apartment in Sausalito for only ten months, already it was beginning to feel restrictive and tiresome. In fact we’d been talking about moving anyway; it’s just that at that point we were only considering a move back into the City or up a little farther north to Mill Valley.

She came back from L.A. feeling and looking inspired. They wanted to make her a vice president, and the job was doing something she’d always wanted to do. “It just sucks that it’s in La La Land,” she said.

“That really does suck,” I agreed stupidly.

Now, it did eventually dawn on my thick brain that what I should’ve said—like anyone who’d ever read a single Dear Abby column knows—was that if she really wanted to take the job, then the city it was in shouldn’t make that big of a difference. When at last I realized this, I said something to that effect.

“But you’re still in school,” she said. To be exact, I was nine credits short of receiving my M.A. at San Francisco State.

“I could always transfer,” I countered.

“What about your business?” she asked, referring to my modest roster of clients for whom I offer marketing and writing services.

“I can pretty much work from anywhere. And there are plenty of Internet companies down there,” I said.

And so the seed had been planted. For the next week or two we argued the pros and cons of staying and going, weighing each point with care and precision and trying to assign values for each of our reasons. We flip-flopped back and forth, thinking on numerous occasions that at last we’d made a decision, only to change our minds again an hour or a day later. What compounded the dilemma further was the fact that Stacey’s old employer was making a comeback offer in an attempt to keep her.

Throughout all of it we argued a little, drank lots of wine, reminded each other that it was a win-win scenario for Stacey’s career, and like any newlyweds had tons of really great sex.

We told some of our friends and family that we were considering moving to L.A., and were greeted with reactions that ranged from supportive to derisive and everything in between. My parents and in-laws of course were proud of Stacey come what may and proud of me for being so supportive of my new bride as to move to L.A. for what was ostensibly her benefit. Most of my close friends, on the other hand, (especially those in San Fran, where there is a general snobbery towards Los Angeles) all thought I was crazy. Some swore up and down that I’d hate it there. Even the ones who understood my reasons—or at least that I must have reasons, of some sort—all seemed to look at me as if I'd just lost a little bit of my manhood.

“You're letting your wife's career dictate your life!” they said, if not with their mouths then at least with their eyes.

They may have had a point there, but I tried to look at it more like I was enabling my wife to dictate her own career without my meddling. And wasn’t that admirable?

Finally, a decision was made, and this time the resolution that came with it seemed to stick. I think that after a point all the reasons we had for staying in San Francisco seemed less and less important. It wasn’t like we had a house that we’d have to put on the market or any kids to pull out of a school system. (I felt fairly certain that our dog would adjust to a new dog park without much trouble.) Of course, some of our closest friends were up in Northern California, but we looked forward to getting reacquainted with some old friends in Southern California, and we could always make new ones.

But what I think ultimately proved to be the deciding factor for us was simple. For Stacey, she always would’ve wondered “what if?” had she not taken the job in L.A. In my case, it wasn’t so much that I worried she might someday ask herself what would’ve happened if she had taken that job; I simply couldn’t live knowing that her question might be, “What if Matt hadn’t made me stay in San Francisco?”

Once I thought about it that way, there was nothing else to consider.


Notes From The Author:
You may e-mail me with any comments about my love story.

Matt McAllister is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. Writing mostly for the web, his work has spanned topics ranging from sports and outdoor life to business and marketing. His wife, Stacey, has been the topic of more articles than she would've liked.

End

Forever With You In My Heart by Kristian

Dear Ray,

My dearest love, today I sat and thought, with every breath I took, of only you. I remember when we first got together like it was yesterday. Two people in two different worlds, I just had my son and was all alone, not knowing what life had in store for me or him. And then an opening of the door and there you stand, a man with a heart the size of the heavens above. One day lead to the next, and then days turned into months and months turned into years and three years later with our love, we made a family.

Today, you are so far away and I'm not being able to hold you, kiss you, or even able to tell you I love you every day, as we go through the hardest thing we have ever had to go through in the three years we have been together. Yes, I miss you and can't wait till you come home to be able to wrap my arms around you and hold you close to my heart. Days go by and nights get longer. It makes me stronger and stronger. I just want you to know that I will be here as long as it will take; one thing I want you to know is I love you and you will forever be in my heart.

Love you forever,

Kristian                                End

Sometimes
by Reinushini Chandrasegaram

Sometimes
in the heavy stillness
between sleep and waking,
when I am yet unsure
of conscious thought,
you creep into the secret corners
I have sealed from day,
coaxing dormant memories awake:

I do not want to remember.

Sometimes
faded photographs and picture frames
form inside my head;
unbidden moments tease,
and I can hear you laugh
as you once did,
knotting jasmine in my hair,
tucking the petals in my braid:

I do not want to smell its fragrance.

Sometimes
I feel your fingertips
lightly touch my face
when words were lost
in soft sighs, and caresses;
in salt streaks, and red stains,
blotting the sheet:

The bitter aftertaste
of your sweetness
lingers still on my tongue.
End

Our Love
by Jessica Monique

This Story is to my ex boyfriend Steven. We met eachother at our old High school, he was a senior and I was a Junior. He had transferred to my school in the middle of the year. He showed up at the table I sat at with one of my friends. He looked at me and I looked at him and we talked a bit. One day he asked me if I would like to go out to have lunch together with the other girls.Even though he lied about that, no other girls were going. I said that I would ask and tell him tomorrow. I asked and it was fine if I went, I just had to be home by 4. The next day we went through a normal school day.The end of the day we met and walked to his car. He drove us to this center called the Tustin Market Place. He asked me If I would like to have lunch and I told him no thank you I wasnt that hungrey. So we ended up going to get a coffee and this little coffee place called The Coffee Bean. 

After that we were on our way to take me home and I gave him a kiss on the cheek for such a wonderful day. He told me that I had missed and I turned to give him another one and he turned his head and we kissed on the lips. I gave him my number and hoped we could go out together tonight. I went home and my dad called me and told me I was going to his house tonight. I had to find a way to get ahold of Steven so I called his friends Mike. Mike gave me his number and I called him and told him I was going to my dads tonight and that I would call him when I got there. That night I called him and he asked him I would like to go out and I said yes. He picked me up and we went to The Block to watch a movie. We watched The Haunted Mansion starring Eddie Murphey. After the movie we went back to my house to drop me off and I asked him If he would like to go in for a little, he said he didnt mind and we went in. We sat on my couch and started kissing.He asked me if I would be his Girl and I said yes. 

The first month went by great and on Christmas I gave my most precious gift. I gave him my virginity. We made love and it was magical. After that it seemed like sex was all that mattered to our relationship.I hated it but I wanted him to be happy.We started fighting all the time over stupid things too. We loved eachother very much but it seemed like our relationship was going all down hill. We broke up after we had fought over my cell phone and other personal problems we had. I loved him I truley did but it was to much to bare anymore. We split up and ended up getting back together. He said he would change and I believed him. It was still the same nothing but fights and arguements and when we did make up it ended up with us having sex. I broke it off again and I know he was hurt but it was to much to handle. I have moved on and have a boyfriend. We still talk but I dont know if we can do it anymore. I call and his friends hate me because of what happened but our relationship wasnt perfect. I just want to say that I am so sorry Steven for putting you through so much. I truley am.       End

Notes From The Author:
You may e-mail me with any comments about my love story.

I want to dedicate this to my ex love Steven Moses. I will always love you and charish the love that we had together.

 

Never fading love...
by Sophie 

I met this guy named Immanuel. He was my friends boyfriend at the time and they had been together for 3years. When I first saw him my heart jumped and we made eye contact. I never made a move because of my friend. THings went bad between my friend and her boyfriend and me and my friend. So a week later her ex-boyfriend, Immanuel came to me. We were sitting with a couple of friends when he said he had to tell me something. He grabbed my hand and took me aside, but a girl who liked him, my best friend, kept following us and wouldn't let him say what he needed to. So he wasn't able to tell me. Later I found out that he had had his eye on me since the first time he saw me, but he didn't do anything because of the same reason, he had a girlfriend. So time passed and through the times we grew closer, we began to hang out and talk on the phone all the time. 

We were dating for like two weeks, then he cheated on me with his ex, so I broke up with hime. It had been like 3 months since we talked, I really wanted to talk to him and see what he was up to, I was going to call him, I had the phone in my hand, but was too scared and nervous about how things would go. When I was about to put the phone down, I got a call, it was one of his friends that pretended to be his cousin. They said they just wanted to say hi and if I remembered him. Then he said he would call me back, he never did, so I called back, Immanuel answered. We got to talking and kept talking. So then we started hanging out again and I waited a couple months before I let anything happen again. Then he asked me out again, I never let things get physical because I wanted to test him, to see what he really wanted from me. We stayed together and 6 months later he asked me to marry him over the phone, I thought he was joking, so I was like yeah whatever. He sounded really nervous and I said if you are really serious, you can say it to my face, he said he couldn't because he was too scared about what my reaction would be. He knows I'm not afraid to say what I have to say to him. So the next time I saw him, we were sitting in the car and he asked me again, he looked me in the eyes for a little while then looked away. He was really nervous, he looked like he was shaking. I said are you serious and he said he had never been so serious before and I said of course. So we have been engaged for almost a year now. 

Things are great, but my parents don't like him, even though they have never met him or talked to him. They hate him so much because he had a bad past in Chicago, he dropped out of school, doesnt' have a job or drivers license, lives around with friends. The biggest reason is that when I was 17 I got pregnant by accident, my parents made me get an abortion and they blamed the whole thing on Immanuel, that he did it on purpose. He was really hard on himself, because he took what my parents said about him to heart, believing them. At one point he got close to suicidal. I stuck with him and reasurred him. Since the first day we met, I felt something, that has grown into love and that love has never faded, it only get's stronger. He's bettering himself. He's getting his diploma, a job, licence. We are moving in together soon which my parents hate. I will never give up on him, because he has never given up on me. I truly beleive in what we have and so does he. I hope one day my parents will except him.    End

 Small Kindness by Elizabeth Real

 

Are your parents proud of you?"

It is dark and quiet in his bedroom and he takes a minute to answer. I hear him breathe, feel the mattress give underneath him as he turns toward me. He says, "Yeah. Sometimes."

I am lying on my side with my back to him, staring straight ahead into his closet. His shirts hang there in a uniformity that surprises me here in this apartment, in this life of his that otherwise seems to languish in disorder.

"They wish I'd get a job more like their jobs," he says.

I know what he means, though I don't know what his parents do. He plays the bass, writes music, bags groceries at an organic market in the West Village and, though this work eats sixteen hours of his day, it is not enough.

I have an office and a secretary, clients who respect me and a boss who tells me I make him look good. I make more money than my mother ever has, take vacations to places she's never been, and this is not enough, either.

My right arm dangles over the side of his mattress and my fingers toy with the soft cotton underpants pulled from his body in moments not long past.

"You are lovely," he whispers now, as he did when our friend Sophie first left us alone at the table furthest from the bar.

"Lovely?" I'd asked then, smiling down into the melting ice of my fourth gin and tonic. "Is that all?"

He'd looked away from me as he brought a bottle of beer to his lips and said, "For some girls, lovely is enough."

It was past closing and there were fewer than a dozen of us left in the bar. The staff and our friends were winding down all around us, stripping away their stiff, nighttime personas to relax in the comfort of their own personalities.

But not us, not yet. He said, "I think I should take you to dinner sometime."

He seemed braced for whatever small rejection might come next. And for a moment I thought of all the reasons I might say no: an inner incompatibility that would not be long assuaged by a mutual liking of Nina Simone, or by childhood memories set along the same strip of Maine's coastline; of the moment sure to come at the end of the dinner he proposed when my credit card would be the obvious choice. But there, at the end of a not-very-good day, was a man who called me 'lovely'.

I said 'yes' to dinner.

"And what about now?" he asked, emboldened by early success. He motioned toward the bar and our friends with a flick of his shaved head. "We could go someplace… quieter."

He was asking me back to his apartment. I knew that accepting this invitation meant refusing the invitation to dinner. By going home with him, I agreed that we would not have a relationship full of walks in the rain and grocery shopping, fraught with expectation and hard feelings. Going home with him meant we would have a dynamic, an arrangement, a scenario, at best.

"I don't know," I said. I had not anticipated this when Sophie invited me out to hear the band play. I'd showered and left my dark hair curly, slipped into a pair of gray cotton panties and shapeless jeans, expecting a couple hours of semi-rowdy fun with a crowd I hardly knew.

He looked over his shoulder at the bar, saw our friends busy in conversation, and leaned across the table. He touched his lips to mine in a plush, wet kiss that made my heels dig into the floor, searching for solid footing. He whispered, "You do know."

I knew that I liked the way he looked, that I liked the way his faded t-shirt clung to his shoulders and upper arms. I liked the way he moved and the way he moved in on me.

He went to collect his bass, an upright clothed in a space-age suit, while I went to kiss Sophie goodnight. I caught his eye as I headed for the door and watched his pace slow, a silent agreement that our exits should be staggered by as many minutes as possible.

When I pushed into the cool, late-night air a taxi slowed, its driver gauging my interest. I considered getting in, naming my own corner and speeding away. I could go home, get back to my quiet, ordered life and never blush when Sophie mentioned his name. Instead, I asked the driver to open the trunk.

"Perfect timing," he said, leaning the bass against the side of the cab while expertly lifting the amplifier into the trunk. He nodded toward the backseat and said, "You first. The bass will sit on our laps."

I moved across the seat and he slid the bass and himself in after me. He spoke over the instrument to give the driver his address, then sat back with a loud, dissatisfied groan that I knew had nothing to do with me.

The cab turned right on Canal, headed for the East Side, and he maneuvered around the bass to put an arm around my shoulders, to pull me into the calm inlet of his body.

I let my eyelids flutter closed and was caught, then, in a place somewhere between memory and dream. I was floating on my back in tranquil waters on a sunny day. There was a body there, too, on my right, her eyes shut, her hands supine, spread outward from her body. My mother exhaled in a melodic, telling sigh, and I felt my face pour into the widening gap of a guileless, unplanned smile. She and I were enjoying a rare slice of peace, a moment spent without expectation. My mother and I drifted in quiet certainty, in ripe acceptance of each other and whatever the sea might bring.

His lips were moving against the top of my head when he brought me back. He was saying, "We're almost home."

"Did I sleep?" I asked, though it seemed unlikely in the back of a taxi with an upright bass pinning me to my seat. Still, I could not account for the thirty blocks between the bar and East Twelfth Street, and the soothing lap of waves that still echoed in my ears.

The taxi stopped in front of his building and I fumbled over the bills we owed the driver while he played out the choreography of maneuvering his equipment out of the cab and into the building. When we arrived on the fifth floor he unlocked his door and we were welcomed by a nightlight that covered the familiar shapes of a kitchen in a soft yellow glow.

He released the bass and amplifier into an alcove behind a small, scarred table, and asked in a hushed tone, "Can I get you anything?"

I shook my head 'no' and he led me through the kitchen and down the hallway, past his roommates' closed doors to his bedroom at the far end of the hall.

His bed was unmade, sheet music and coins were scattered on top of a cheap chest of drawers, and piles of discarded clothes lay across the hardwood floor. He kicked off his battered Doc Martens and stood on the mattress in order to raise the blinds over his single window to let in a nick of moonlight. I let my purse and jacket fall someplace near my feet, but otherwise stood still, two steps inside the room, and watched him move around me, pushing piles of clothes away from me, then closing his door with a hard-worn click.

"What a shitty day," he said, more to himself than to me. He rubbed a flat palm against the length of my back. He put his arms around me and drew me into a hug, seemingly heartfelt and healthy. Without his shoes he was only a few inches taller than I, and manageable.

I turned my head into his neck and breathed deeply, taking in the Mick Jagger smell of him, all residual sweat and cigarette smoke.

He said, "Do you know how sexy you are?"

This was how it would begin. There would be guttural compliments, rough, impatient kisses, then his hand, unstoppable and uncaring, in my pants.

"I watched you come in and sit with Sophie," he said. "I got so hard just watching you take off your jacket."

I pulled my body away from his, uncertain if I'd be able to listen to all he might say. It was not too late, then. I might have held him off with fast-spoken apologies before hurrying out of the apartment, down all five flights of stairs, to feel freedom in the first waft of the night's air on my face.

He took advantage of the space between us to begin his assault on my mouth, so coarse, so rash, that I began to kiss him back, just to slow him down.

He moved us toward the mattress and I fell backward onto it, my legs angled so my polished oxfords hung politely over the side.

He looked at me in a new way. It was an evaluation, I was sure, crass and comprehensive now in a way his first glances at me were not. He was looking at my body sprawled on his bed and certainly enumerating all the ways he might fuck me.

"Look at you," he said, dropping to his knees at the side of the mattress to run a flat hand from my thigh up over the fly of my jeans, past my belt buckle, up the placket of buttons on my shirt to cup my left breast in his hand.

It was too late to run now. So I propped myself up on one elbow, moving closer to the kiss I felt sure would crack open a bout of pounding, of squeezing and taking. I offered myself with a small nod, sure he would move fast, working clumsy fingers at my belt to push my jeans down to my ankles, to push himself into me.

But he didn't. He sat at the foot of the bed, brought my feet into his lap and unlaced first one of my shoes, then the next. His eyes met mine, his face full of something near tenderness, and while he pulled off my oxfords and set them on the floor I began working at the buttons of my own shirt.

The sex came slowly. Bumpy and unfamiliar, but kind.

He is kissing me, now, just underneath my ear, his body curved around mine. And he asks, "What about your parents?"

"It's just my mom," I say. My father hollered and hit and has been gone so long that I don't think of him as a parent. He is a man we once knew. "It shouldn't matter."

"What?" he asks. "Her approval?"

I move my head against his pillow in what I hope he will take as a 'yes'.

I don't tell him that I have long since given up on attaining my mother's approval. It is a feat I will never achieve, that I have half-convinced myself is unnecessary, even irrelevant. And while I know the totality of my life is unacceptable to her, I continue to hope she feels an inkling of parental pride in something I am, in just one thing that I do.

It will not be this, I know; it will not be pride that I am lying with a man I hardly know on a single mattress tucked into the corner of a tiny room. It will not be pride that I will face his roommates in the morning, hungover and swollen, but unblinking. She wants more for me than this, than him, than a solitary, early morning taxi ride in last night's clothes. And that is why I feel like less, in these moments between motion and sleep.

He is moving, tugging at covers, and then I feel him pressing himself against my backside, pulling the thin sheet over the curve of my shoulder and touching a scratchy kiss just above my temple.

He has faced disappointment today at the hands of a music industry executive, has assigned and been assigned blame by the men in his band. He has checked aisle six for the price of hearts-of-palm, played two sets for a disinterested crowd packed into a filthy bar, and he has complimented and cajoled me away from our mutual friends and back to his bed.

My day was marginally softer, all mislaid files and misunderstandings among people who now think a little less of me. It was one more day in a lifetime full of whole-milk yogurt and Egyptian cotton, of hurried, unhappy phone calls with friends and the gentle demands of a post-abusive family. It was one day not unlike a hundred others, cluttered with bright bubbles of self-importance, alight with the glare of self-pity.

I close my eyes, eager to sink into sleep, to feel my mother nearby and quiet waters beneath me again. And just as I am set adrift, I hear him ask, "Pancakes or eggs?"

"Hmm?" I turn my head, away from his closet, away from the door, to look at him.

And though the first light of morning is already staining the world outside his window, he says, "In the morning. Do you want pancakes or eggs?"      End

 
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