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12+

Real

by Lael


Yenna opened her eyes to a blinding light that immediately gave her the beginning pinpricks of a headache. The ceiling was stark white, and so were the walls. She shivered at the chill in the air, then her breath hitched as she glanced down at herself.

She was lying on a table, dressed in a thin, white hospital gown. On her right side, there was a metal stand with a glass of water and a small green pill beside it. Eyes trailing next down her left arm, her gaze stopped at the needle inserted into the back of her hand. She followed the thin tube connected to it upwards till it led to a hanging pouch of clear fluid, dripping in time with every heartbeat. Printed prominently in green on the front of the package was a spider, its front legs extended as if reaching out of the plastic.

Yenna shrieked. She ripped the needle out and flung it away in one swift motion, sending the IV stand crashing to the ground. Slipping off the bed, she staggered forward, legs weak. Spotting a large mirror in the wall, she stumbled towards it, falling against it with her palms. In its reflection, she saw her brown eyes, crazed and bordered by dark circles. Her long hair had been cropped into a short, dark disarray around her seventeen-year-old face.

So it was all a dream. She pressed her forehead against the mirror and let out a long breath. The warmth fogged up the surface, obscuring her vision. All of it, seeing him again, being free . . . of course it wasn’t real.

The mirror cleared, but it was no longer a mirror. Instead of seeing herself, there was another room beyond the glass, this one dim inside. Yenna stared through the window, trying to make out the dark shape a short distance away. Suddenly, the lights came on, illuminating another austere, white room, this one with an unconscious boy strapped to a hospital bed.

“Marcus!” screamed Yenna. She pounded against the glass with as much strength as she could muster. “Marcus, wake up!”

Dressed in a gown like hers, his body was thin, almost skeletal. His long, dark eyelashes fluttered weakly as he stirred, then his eyes opened to meet hers. His mouth seemed to struggle to form words, but no sound came out. Then he coughed violently, blood dribbling over his lips. His tired eyes grew moist, but they never wavered from her.

He was losing his radiance, that spark of life and joy that had always filled him for as long as they’d known each other. It was one of the things she thought was most beautiful about him, and it was being stolen with every shallow rise and fall of his chest.

“This isn’t what you promised,” Yenna shouted at the ceiling, continuing to pummel the glass, which was beginning to crack with every hit. “You said you’d cure him. Let him go!”

Marcus shuddered, fighting for breath, and then he grew still. His eyes closed, tears trickling from the corners of his eyes.

“No, no. Marcus!” With one last strike, the window shattered.

Yenna gasped and her eyes snapped open. Heart racing, she rolled over to see the man in bed beside her and let out a whimper of relief. As she touched his face, the band on her left ring finger winked in the weak sunrays peeking through the blinds.

“Marcus, you’re okay,” she whispered. “You’re real.” Alive. Healthy. With me.

He opened his eyes, blinking in drowsy confusion like a puppy woken from a nap. His black hair was standing up in every direction and his nose wrinkled slightly as he stretched and then shifted to his side to face her. “Yeah?” he mumbled, his voice raspy with sleep. He reached up to catch Yenna’s hand resting on his cheek and he lightly kissed the center of her palm. “Morning, Nana.”

Yenna teared up at the sound of his nickname for her.

Marcus’s eyes widened and he grew alert as he noticed her expression. He wrapped his arms around her, rubbing circles on her back to soothe her. “H-hey, I’m here. What’s wrong?”

She took a long breath and swiped the tears away. At last, she said, “It was just a bad dream. I was seventeen again and in Eranea’s lab, and you were there too. They didn’t keep their promise to leave you alone and cure your illness, so you—you were dying.” She averted her eyes. “You know, sometimes I still blame myself. If it weren’t for me, you wouldn’t have been used as an experiment since birth.”

“It’s not your fault—it never was. You were a victim of the organization too.” Marcus put his forehead against hers. “And besides, I got better because of you. Eranea kept us apart for a while but we helped take them down. So no one can separate us or use us like that anymore. That’s all that matters.” He stared into her eyes as though trying to transmit his sincerity through his gaze. “But I’m always open to, um, giving you hugs if you need emotional support, or anytime really. Kisses are good too.”

“Thanks, Marcus. Sorry I woke you up early,” said Yenna. It felt like her heartbeat was finally slowing down to an even pace. She pulled back and studied his face. “You look tired. Did you stay up late again working on your song?”

He grinned sheepishly. “Yeah, but it’s okay. I was actually having a bad dream just now too. In my dream, I was sick again and couldn’t leave my house or even my bed, like before I met you. Man, my immune system was so weak back then, and my body was too. Sometimes I wonder how I—anyways, it just reminded me of how stifling it was, feeling like I wouldn’t ever be able to do anything with my life. At least Percy was there in the dream. He was such a loyal dog.”

“Quarantine must be finally getting to us, huh? Giving us two already sentimental people an extra sentimental type of cabin fever,” joked Yenna, patting Marcus’s cheek to comfort him. “But, of course,” she continued, sighing, “it’s important to stay inside as much as possible right now. We know that better than anyone else.”

“For ourselves and for the sake of the immunocompromised, like I used to be,” finished Marcus. “There are so many things I still want to experience with you outside. But I think it’s selfish to act like there’s not a pandemic going on. The good thing for us is, I like our home dates the most.”

“Me too,” said Yenna, giving him a peck on the lips. At that moment, her phone chimed her morning alarm, and she groaned. “Time to get out of bed, I guess.”

“Why not have a lazy morning for once?” yawned Marcus. “It’s Saturday. We could get up in a few hours and cook a nice breakfast together. Then we could play board games—oh, or we could have a Mario Kart tournament. We haven’t done that in a while.”

“I like the sound of that. But really, I have to get up now,” said Yenna. She kicked off her side of the blankets and reached over to turn off her alarm.

Marcus didn’t let go and only embraced her tighter. “Baobei,” he whined, nuzzling into her neck. Immediately, he giggled self-consciously, ears turning red. “I can’t believe I just said that.”

Yenna snickered, blushing half out of secondhand embarrassment. “Aiya, that sounded so weird coming out of your mouth, even if we’re married. I almost dropped my phone because of you.”

His whole face began to resemble a tomato as he laughed harder. “I know.” After he calmed down, he said, “I love you, Nana. You really changed my life.”

Yenna pulled out of his grasp and held onto his hand, planting a light kiss on his knuckles. “I love you too. And you changed my life. After all we’ve been through together, I wouldn’t want to grow old with anyone else but my best friend.”

“And high school sweetheart?”

“Boy, we weren’t even a thing back then. We even agreed we weren’t ready for that yet, so sadly, it doesn’t really count.” Yenna grinned, swatting him lightly on the shoulder. “Well, I’d love to continue this conversation, but I really should get up now. I need to go to the bathroom, but don’t worry, I’m planning on sleeping in.”

“Oh, why didn’t you say so? Go ahead.”

Marcus watched her close the door, then murmured, “Thank God I’m alive.” He closed his eyes, content.

Yenna soon came out of the bathroom, saying, “You know, I was thinking, wouldn’t it be nice if we adopted a dog? We could get another golden retriever like Percy if you want . . .” She trailed off as she approached the bed. Marcus was breathing deeply and evenly, asleep again. Slowly, she got back under the covers and snuggled up close to him.

“Sweet dreams,” she whispered, then closed her own eyes. I’m so glad this is real.

--

Author's note: This short is set after a much longer story that I'm currently working on, so I apologize if there's a lot of context that doesn't make sense. I just felt that this couple would be cute to write about in a quarantine setting and it's helpful to me anyhow. Thanks for reading!

--

baobei - literally “treasure” in Chinese, but mostly used nowadays to call a significant other “baby”

aiya - a versatile Chinese word/sound that can convey a wide variety of emotions based on the way you say it


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63 Reviews


Points: 4947
Reviews: 63

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Thu Jul 09, 2020 1:47 pm
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Andrewknorpp wrote a review...



Hey, Andrew here reporting for duty to review your work. This was really well written, and I enjoyed the couples dynamic, definitely loving and realistic, but not to lovey Dovey just to make one uncomfortable. The nightmare at the beginning really drew me in, and actually made the rest of the story feel even brighter by comparison. I liked its confusing dream logic, like the mirror becoming a window, it felt very much like a dream but still terrifying. I especially like the line:
“Eyes trailing next down her left arm, her gaze stopped at the needle inserted into the back of her hand. She followed the thin tube connected to it upwards till it led to a hanging pouch of clear fluid”
I can really see out if the character eyes there, but, I would change a couple things,
A, you you say The words both down and next, only one would make sense.
B. I think the transition between her eyes tracing down her arm and seeing the needle could be a little smother, something like “Eyes trailing next down left arm, stopping at the needle inserted into the back of her hand.” Or “her eyes trailed down her left arm and stopped at the needle inserted back of her hand”
C. The words usage in “She followed the thin tube connected to it upwards till it led to a hanging pouch of clear fluid” seems a bit inefficient, “connected to it upwards” particularly, I would go with “her gaize followed up the thin tube, until it connected to a pouch of clear fluid” Or something along those lines

“You know, sometimes I still blame myself. If it weren’t for me, you wouldn’t have been used as an experiment since birth.”
The exposition here feels a little forced, it brought me out of it and made me think about the author wanting me to know that.

But that’s all just my two cents, hope this helped m, and I really did enjoy this story.
Have a good day!

P.S. Marcus well and truest seems to love her, and he’s really likable and realistic. That’s hard to pull off, congrats.




Lael says...


Thanks for the review! I%u2019m glad you liked it.



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99 Reviews


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Thu Jul 09, 2020 7:27 am
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Tawsif wrote a review...



Hey, there!

This was a smooth romantic piece, even though it started off in a really dark setting. You mentioned you are writing based on the context of a longer story, so I won't ask the questions I had about the story's plot.

Here's a few suggestions:

"It was one of the things she thought was most beautiful about him,"

Why not write it like this: "It was one of the most beautiful things about him, she thought...." To me, that makes the sentence flow better.

"His black hair was standing up in every direction....."

I think I understand what you tried to mean here, but maybe you could just reword this a little bit. Maybe "His hair was dishevelled in every direction" sounds better? Because 'standing up' is something we use to describe hairs standing on end in our skin, when we are surprised or shocked. But this is just a personal suggestion; you can keep it as it is.

I'm guessing this story must have some kind of background with elements of 'science fiction', and that might be the reason why the dialogue between the couple seemed slightly 'formal' as oppsed to casual everyday chats. But that should be ok with this genre.

Overall, I like the romantic vibe in this story. Would love to read more from you.

KEEP WRITING.




Lael says...


Thanks for the review, I appreciate it!



Tawsif says...


You%u2019re welcome.




Wicked people never have time for reading. It's one of the reasons for their wickedness.
— Lemony Snicket