Love conquers all

This started out as a flash fiction for the Flash Fiction Faction prompt by Quil Shiv. But it ended up being longer than anticipated. I present to you, a love short story instead. As usual I welcome all feedback to help me improve my writing.

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Alan stroked the silky strand of hair; bundled together in a pink ribbon. It was a beautiful black, as dark as a cloudy and [added after edit] starless night in the outback. As he looked out of the aeroplane he imagined running his fingers through masses of soft, black tresses. Only this time they were still attached to their owner – Inthira. From the photographs she had sent him and their countless video chats via Skype, he knew that she had long straight hair. A quick glance at his watch told him that he would be seeing his love for the first time in less than an hour. After months of communicating over the internet, he was impatient to hold her in his arms; to touch her, to smell her, to taste her. If it had been up to him, he would have visited her earlier. However his only financial resource was his pay, plus tips, as a waiter at The Steakhouse. Nowadays, people were extremely stingy with their tips, which is why it has taken him months to save money for this trip.

Eyes scanning the crowd gathered in the waiting area after he cleared immigration, Alan felt a lump forming in his stomach. What if she did not come? What if it was all a lie? Before he could think another destructive thought, he caught sight of her waving enthusiastically at him. He was overjoyed to see her. She looked the same as she did in the photographs. There was no mistaking it. He walked over to her. Standing in front of her, he was unsure what to do next. He knew he was in a conservative country but a handshake felt inadequate to express his joy and love. Inthira smiled at him and stood on her toes to give him a big hug. It felt good. He would have loved to kiss her but a hug was definitely better than a handshake.

“Is that backpack all the luggage you have?”

“Yes.”

“Then follow me. I will drive you to the hostel.”

The ride to the hostel was pleasant. They talked about her plans to show him her country. They spoke about the weather, about the food in Thailand. She smiled at him a lot but he couldn’t help feeling disappointed. He had felt closer to her in their hour-long phone calls compared to the present; within the confines of a car, where a slight stretch of his arm could result in physical contact. He wondered if his expectations for the first meeting had been too high. Remarks made by his friends echoed in his mind.

You are practically strangers!

She only wants you for your money. To them all white people are rich.

You’ll see that long distance relationships cannot succeed.

It is not a relationship, as long as you don’t do what normal couples do.

“We’re there! This is your home for the next 2 weeks. Are you tired? If yes, we can call it a night and I’ll meet you for breakfast tomorrow.”

Alan snapped out of his brooding.

“I’m not tired.”

“I was hoping you’d say that.”

Alan checked into a single bedroom with shared bathroom. He couldn’t afford anything better but he hadn’t wanted to stay in a dorm either; not when he was there to visit his girlfriend. Maybe it had been a bad idea to come here. Maybe his friends were right. So stupid of him to be such a hopeless romantic.

Inthira walked him to his room, entered it after him and closed the door behind her. She let out an audible sigh, which caused him to turn to her.

“Finally! No more prying eyes. Now for a proper ‘Hello’.”

With that she embraced him in a hug and planted her inviting lips on his. Alan required no further encouragement to return the greeting in kind.

*****************************************************************

The following days passed by in a blur, as if he was caught in a sensory whirlwind. One moment he was in a temple, where hundreds of tiny golden bells hung from every accessible corner. Even in his dreams he could hear their chiming sounds as they swung in the wind. The sound was comparable to the clinking of champagne glasses; the sound set to repeat mode as long as there was enough wind to provide the necessary push.

The next moment he was walking through a market selling multi-coloured produce. The mere thought of the salty, sour taste of a preserve caused the saliva to collect in his mouth and cringe his eyes. He did not believe Inthira that a plum could taste like that and it was one experience he was sure never to repeat.

Today they were watching the farmers harvest the rice fields. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath of the wonderful earthy smell of freshly cut grass. Inthira was standing next to him, holding his hand. He realised all of these experiences did not cause his senses to short circuit. But Inthira did. Being with Inthira in reality was better than in his dreams. He loved watching her mimic while she talked; the soft tones caressing him softly. He loved the jasmine smell of her hair and the way it slipped through his fingers. He loved the strawberry taste of her lips; enticing him to bite them. He loved her mind as much as he did her body. Inthira was clever, witty and humourous. She was kind and cared for others; especially those less fortunate. She had gotten under his skin and he wanted her to stay there. They needed to find a way to overcome the physical distance separating them and they needed to do it soon. He could not imagine a life deprived of these senses.

Alan felt Inthira stiffen slightly before withdrawing her hand from his. He opened his eyes and saw the worried look on her face. He turned around to identify the cause for her sudden change of behaviour. A man was approaching them with angry strides.

“So this is where your lecture is? I don’t believe you had the nerve to lie to me and meet him after I told you not to!” He looked at Alan wagging a finger at him.

“Stay away from my daughter. She is not a whore for you to play around with. If you see her again, I’d…”

Unfortunately Alan was not one for keeping a cool head.

“Did you just threaten me?”

“Yes, what are you going to do? Beat me up? You have a great taste in men, Inthira. I knew he was not good for you.”

Alan did not like where this conversation was heading. He looked at Inthira’s teary face and realised this was not the time for pride.

“I am sorry sir. I didn’t mean to be rude. I love your daughter a lot and I would never do anything to hurt her. My intentions are honest, I promise.”

“Inthira, you drive back home now.”

“But Pa, I love him!

By then a crowd of farmers had formed around them, curious to find out what was going on. Inthira’s dad cleared his throat.

“This is not the place to talk about family matters. Everyone is watching. Take him to our place. We will talk there. If you both are serious, then it is time he is introduced to the family.”

Alan swallowed in relieve. He would move mountains, just to be with Inthira. Meeting the family should be a much easier endeavour.

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12 thoughts on “Love conquers all

  1. I have a couple of minor points you could consider. A night in the outback is likely to be full of stars, not devoid of them. With few artificial lights about, the stars will shine thicker and more brightly than they will in most places on Earth.

    The dialogue is a bit stilted. I can see the girl’s father being more formal, coming from a traditional culture. But maybe Alan should be thinking and speaking with more contractions and “casual” speech than he does. Dialogue is so difficult to get right. I struggle with it all the time. Most experienced writers will tell you to speak what you’ve written out loud. Do you trip over your tongue? Does it feel awkward? If so, it probably needs revision.

    As an example, I would look at one of Alan’s lines near the end, when he tells the father, “I love your daughter a lot.” He might be more likely to say something like “I love your daughter more than anything.” “A lot” doesn’t carry the conviction you want to express.

    But the story arc is good. The reader wonders if Alan’s being set up for something. Or maybe he’ll be disappointed. You seem to like happy endings, so I’m thinking you’re interested in writing romance? If so, it’s good that you still work conflict and difficulties into the story! Readers need that tension to keep them interested in the outcome.

    Again, these are just suggestions for thought. Feel free to disagree!

  2. I appreciate your feedback. Thank you so much for taking the time and giving so many details.
    I read the piece so often and it still slipped through. I actually wanted to write “like a cloudy night in the outback” because once the stars are blocked there is seldom artificial around to brighten the sky. We were camping in the outback and you are right, I have never seen more stars in my life. 😦 Once more the importance of taking time to edit.
    I get what you mean with the dialogue. Hoping practice makes perfect.
    You are right, I do want to write romance novels. I have to cry when I read or watch something sad, so I want to write happy stories.

  3. Nice…it’s kind of fun when an assignment turns out differently than we planned. I like the story. You know, just reading the comments up above (yours and the first one.) I like happy stories, too, but there is a certain special tension that develops in a story when you can kind of work both aspects in. I don’t always succeed in this, but am learning how to evermore. Good job, Irene!

    • Thanks Kathy. My mom taught me how to cook. She told me to add a pinch of salt when cooking a sweet dish or a pinch of sugar when cooking a spicy dish. She said that would help balance the flavours. She is right. I guess it is the same way with storytelling too. A little sadness makes one appreciate the happiness even more. 🙂

  4. Hola Irene, I like this story, I have one friend that is actually living this distant romance situation, hope her end will be happier….I’m looking forward for more stories…….just GREAT 🙂

  5. Hi Irene,

    Sorry it took me so long to get here. I think the story arc is wonderful. I agree that the dialogue needs a little work. I’d consider thinking about what part of the world you want your main character to come from and base his speech on the dialect of that region. Really start to LISTEN to the way people speak. It is an eye-opener when it comes to creating realistic dialogue.

    You’ll like the prompt going live on April 1st–it’s all about romance!

  6. This is a beautiful effort though could do with minor personifications of the characters’ dialogue…explore the prying community background you started with further…i liked it as it reminds me of the Soviet country and i guess the audience might enjoy your pinch of salt there…lovely work!

  7. Somehow I am thinking that meeting the family might be harder than moving mountains. 🙂 Nice start, Irene, you’ve laid the groudwork for something much longer. And while romance is certainly a happy read, it’s alwasy good to put a few obstacles in the way – make them have to work for it a bit. Her dad sounds like plenty of work!

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