Fiction Friday: Heartbreak

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I talk often enough about being a fiction writer, but with the rare exception, I don’t give you any fiction to read. Fiction is my soul food as a writer…my guilty pleasure…my dream. So I’m going to start sharing. This first attempt, a woman whose marriage is in trouble reflecting back on her first heartbreak, is rougher than I’d like, but…man, you have no idea the day I had yesterday.

I’m deep in the process of writing one novel, but I have another one brewing in the background: the story of a marriage in trouble, and the beauty of what can result when people stick out the bad times. In the interest of character developing that upcoming project, I introduce you to Alison.

***

Broken Heart symbol

As Carlo strode down the gravel walkway toward the winery grounds proper, Alison stood in the living room, listening to her little boy crying. The pain within her seemed oddly familiar. She was accustomed to feeling her child’s pain, but this…this was different. It seemed to expand without limit; she had no idea there was room enough inside her for so much hurt.

In her mind’s eye, she saw a golden-haired boy in a letter sweater, standing with his back to her in the warm sunlight of a day much like this one. She saw herself as she had been then, an awkward girl in a pink cardigan softened by too much wear, a strand of dime store pearls at her throat, pulling the chapel veil off her head after SundayMass. Her parents chatted while her little brothers played tag, weaving in and out of the adults’ legs with an uncanny knack for avoiding restraint.

Over by the flower-crowned statue of the Blessed Mother stood Jerry. Jerry, with his hands shoved in his pockets, scuffing the sidewalk with soft leather soles as he talked to a group of kids from school. It was a beautiful day, but he was the most beautiful part by far.

Alison felt a flash of warmth, remembering the day he’d appeared on the parkway beside her on the way home from school, his hair like a halo in the sunlight. He always seemed to overtake her by chance, there along the path, and walked with her, listening as no one else did, talking with her about music, books—anything, really. Their conversations ended only when they reached the long wrought-iron fence and took opposite paths to their very different homes.

She fingered the envelope tucked inside her waistband. If the boys knew she was carrying Jerry’s birthday dinner invitation like a talisman, they would mock her. If Mama knew…she shivered. But how could she not keep the proof of his regard close, right against her skin? And now that he had made it official, did she have the courage to speak to him in public? In front of God and everyone?

She took a tentative step, and another. The knot of well-dressed high schoolers were so close now, she could hear them laughing and talking. “…turning your birthday into a charity project.” Mary Clare batted cheerleader eyes at Jerry. “Didn’t your mother make you invite the groundskeeper’s daughter?”

Laughter swelled. Jerry mussed his golden hair, shrugging. “It’s okay. She’s a nice little girl.”

Alison felt her body catch fire, burning rivers that tore through her body, melting the connective tissue that kept her together. She kept walking, veering away from them one slow step at a time. In a moment, he’d see her and call out, put his arm around her as he had just yesterday in the park and smile at her with that way of his. He’d invite her for a ride in his shiny convertible and take her away from all this.

“Allie!”

Not Jerry’s voice. Her father. Alison clutched the fractured pieces together and walked toward the beat-up station wagon. She squeezed in the back seat beside the boys and pulled the door shut with a deafening metallic groan. As the car pulled away, she saw Jerry laughing in the sunlight.                                                                                                    

Alison shook her head. Ludicrous to remember that at a time like this. How could the drama of eighth grade possibly compete with the present pain? Yet in the echo of the past, she recognized the sensation shattering her insides.

She watched her husband disappear through the row of arborvitae and whispered, “Heartbreak.”

***

(Critiques welcome!)

15 thoughts on “Fiction Friday: Heartbreak

  1. Kate,

    You did a great job of capturing the emotion of betrayal and the heartbreak that comes with it. I liked how your character descriptions — they painted a very good word picture of both Allison and Jerry. That’s not easy to do.

    I also thought you did a good job of presenting emotions via the senses, for example, “Alison felt her body catch fire, burning rivers that tore through her body, melting the connective tissue that kept her together.” I could feel this in my own body.

    Constructively, it might be interesting to put this in a first person POV to really bring the reader into Alison pain and loss. This is just a suggestion. I can’t comment on grammar as I’m terrible at it.

    There are some places where you might include paragraph breaks, which would give more emphasis to the content. An example is the paragraph that begins with “Alison felt her body catch fire…” You could break this one at “In a moment, he’d see her…” This would give emphasis to this line, “She kept walking, veering away from them one slow step at a time.” I think this is a powerful visual, but it gets a bit lost because it’s in the middle of the paragraph.

    I enjoyed this story very much…well, as much as you enjoy a story about heartbreak. You did a good job. Thanks for sharing this:~)

  2. I, too, felt that shame. This line is especially memorable: Alison felt her body catch fire, burning rivers that tore through her body, melting the connective tissue that kept her together.

    It’s poetic, yet visceral.

    My favorite part was the whole world you’ve created. The veils for mass, the scuffing of the shoes, the station wagon. I really felt it.

  3. Oh this poor girl! History repeating itself is so not fair, is it?

    {But makes for a fab story line! Go you sharing your fiction!}

    Loved this: “clutched the fractured pieces together”- it reads like poetry!

  4. I really had sympathy for this poor girl espeically at her young age when its so imperative to fit in. The woman remembering that time in her life leaves me with a certain sadness. I want her to find joy in her world. Looking forward to reading more.

  5. Teen pain… some of the worst, because everything is so fresh and you can’t imagine that anyone else ever felt like that, and that you will never feel good again. That echoes in Alison as the adult, and leaves the question ‘Will it get better’? echoes of heartbreak down the decades — well done. And the vividness of the images! I was there, waiting with her, walking with her… Wonderful — I could see the colours 🙂

    • Andrea

      And isn’t it something how when we remember that teenage pain even decades later it can still feel so fresh?

  6. Lovely–in an agonizing way.

    It sounds like your fiction picks up where so much other fiction leaves off (happily ever after, yada, yada). I’m looking forward to reading the finished product!

    On a (related) side note–some time ago you discussed how hard it is to be both realistic and romantic in your dialogue–going without popcorn at the movies, for example, works much better in real life than in fiction. That kind of stuck in my head, and recently collided with a memory of a couple I knew when I was a child. At Sunday dinner they both declined desert–it turned out she had gestational diabetes, so he voluntarily limited himself to her diet as well. Not a big deal; just life as “we.” I couldn’t have been more than ten or so at the time, but even then I knew that was the kind of person I wanted to spend my life with someday. A brief moment that made a huge impression on me.

    And maybe this tension between the banal and the romantic is because novels so often focus on singles heading into marriage–not adults who are already there dealing with its mundane and exhausting realities as you apparently are doing. If narrative is real life without the boring bits, it seems as if the task you have laid out for yourself is enlivening the boring bits. A challenging, but deeply worthwhile, task.

    • I love a good love story, a good “happily ever after.” The problem I’m running into these days is that the tenor of public appetite for such things has shifted from “While You Were Sleeping” to “There’s Something About Mary” and “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past.” Much raunchier, much more about sex. It parallels the culture, but I’m well aware that my style of love story, nuanced and delving into reality, is not a hot commodity. So I’m trying to shift my focus into the real problems faced by real people in reality, and show the beauty in them. Which parallels *my* philosophy of life. 🙂 Whether that is marketable remains to be seen.

  7. I prefer your style of writing to today’s raunchy style any day! I think that’s why I gravitate toward love-inspired fiction (a.k.a. Amish fiction).

    Loved your vivid writing. I was immediately drawn into the story and keenly felt Allison’s pain. Can’t wait for more!

  8. so cool! and i love her name 🙂
    only when her dad calls her “allie!” it should be “ali!” or something with one L. no self-respecting “alison” would have a nickname with two L’s 😛 hehe.

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