Eye Contact (fiction) – Speakeasy #166

Terrace view (taken at Monticello)
Terrace view (photo taken at Monticello)

He taught me how to read people’s eyes. He, a student of non-verbal cues, became my teacher. Without him, I might not have noticed the visual embrace of lovers’ extended stare, the broken contact guarding a secret, or the lie harbored in a sideways glance.

As I pinned his laundered shirt on the clothesline, I hoped I had been a good student. But could the student interpret the teacher?

“You know how to tell if someone is into you?” He’d asked on our first date over twenty years ago. He twirled spaghetti around his fork, never shifting his gaze from me.

“Not really.” I glanced away, unwilling to surrender to vulnerability. I focused an inordinate amount of attention on my iced tea, poking the lemon wedge with my straw and swirling sugar sediment to watch it settle like flakes in a shaken snow globe.

He leaned forward, elbows on the table. “Eye contact.”

“Hmmm. “ Realizing my preoccupation with the straw, I let go.

“Aren’t you going to ask how much?”

I shrugged. “I presume the look would be longer than one given to a panhandler and less than a rush hour car crash.”

He laughed. “Eight seconds.”

“Is that a fact?” I tied knots in the paper straw wrapper. I couldn’t let my eyes betray me.

He leaned back in his chair. “From my experience.”

I lifted my gaze to him. “And what do you surmise from our eye contact?” My boldness surprised me.

“If I told you right now, you’d run and never turn back.”

His lopsided grin made my stomach quiver. I tilted my head to the side, wordlessly asking for elaboration.

His hand covered my fidgety hands. “I’ll wait. I know what I want, but I sense you’re scared.”

He had me at I’ll wait.

Over the clothesline, I spied him leaning on the wall of a nearby terrace. Uncertainty crept over me. I feared he’d become bored, or worse, had already found comfort in another’s arms. Until a few months ago, he would tend to laundry with me. He’d shake the clothes and hand them to me to pin, our hands brushing in the exchange. Maybe I should have said how much the intimacy of an ordinary moment meant to me? I thought he knew.

He rubbed his chin stubble with his right hand, thoughts obviously absent from the action. He shook his head. I knew frustration when I saw it. Then he ducked out of sight.

I stared, hoping he would sense my need. He didn’t. I clipped the last white shirt to the line and grabbed the empty basket. I contemplated heading to the garden to read; to avoid him because my fears might be confirmed. Instead, I took to the stairs, following the labyrinth that led to the other terrace.

Before I crossed the threshold, I took a deep breath and imagined courage inflating my lungs. “We need to talk.”

He jerked his head up, obviously startled. “Addy, I didn’t expect you…”

I wanted to cry. Everyone called me Adele. The familiar, intimate ‘Addy’ was reserved only for him. He rose to his feet, standing in front of what he’d been fiddling with. I tried to peek around him, but his legs blocked my view. “Do you still love me?”

His eyes widened, as if my words had lashed him across the cheek. “More than ever. Why do you ask?” He moved toward me.

I averted my gaze to the ground. “You’ve been distant lately and I worried you’d found someone else.”

With his index finger, he nudged my chin. I focused on the flecks of amber amongst the green. “I only love you. Come here.” He took my hand and led me further onto the terrace. “We’ll be married twenty-one years…”

“Tomorrow,” I finished.

He smiled. “Yes. I’ve been working on something special. It’s not quite done, but I think it’s time you see it.” He stopped in front of a stone structure, about two feet tall.

“Oh. It’s nice.”

He knelt. “Look closer.” He pulled me beside him.

I took in the peaks and valleys as my fingertips brushed the intricate details. I gasped when I realized the sculpture was of us in an embrace. “It’s beautiful,” I managed through threatened tears.

“As are you, my dear.”

Our visual connection held for much longer than eight seconds. In his eyes, I read everything I needed to know.

He loves me.


This is my response to the Speakeasy weekly writing prompt, which is to write a piece in 750 words or less (I’m at 740) and (1) use the sentence ““He taught me how to read people’s eyes.” as the first sentence, AND (2) make some sort of reference to the art prompt, Waterfall, a lithograph by the master of impossible constructions, M.C. Escher.

If you’re diabetic, I hope you have insulin handy.  It’s funny, but I find it much easier to write fear, tragedy and heartbreak than to write a sweet and sentimental love story.  I’m not sure what that says about me!  At any rate, I resisted the urge to twist this into a sad ending and left it on a high note (you know, to really throw you off 🙂 )

The prompt is open to anyone, so if you’re interested in joining the fun, click the badge below!

63 thoughts on “Eye Contact (fiction) – Speakeasy #166

  1. nrhatch June 15, 2014 / 1:08 PM

    Gorgeous. And perfect timing . . . tomorrow is our 30th Anniversary! I’m going to time our visual connection.

    One quick fix needed: “We’ll been married twenty-one years…”

    • jannatwrites June 15, 2014 / 1:22 PM

      Congrats on your anniversary! Weird that it’s the same in the story. I swear I’m not stalking you 🙂
      Thanks for the note about the typo. I read this a dozen times and missed it!

  2. shirleyjdietz June 15, 2014 / 2:33 PM

    Ha, I sensed your discomfort with the sweetness but you did a great job.
    Imagination is a lovely thing.

    • jannatwrites June 15, 2014 / 3:41 PM

      Uh-oh. You weren’t supposed to see that 🙂

      I’ll have to read again later to see if it feels awkward at all. Thanks so much for reading, Shirley!

  3. Deborah June 15, 2014 / 4:09 PM

    I love how you weave in the elements of the prompts and make it seem so natural. If I had to guess what the prompts were, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to do so. You did surprise me with the ending. But you wear it well. 🙂

    • jannatwrites June 16, 2014 / 10:31 PM

      I appreciate you reading, Deborah! I’m glad the prompts don’t seem too obvious – of course, that’s what I always hope when I write the responses 🙂

  4. Tessa June 15, 2014 / 5:12 PM

    Good story, but I so love your twists at the end. 🙂

    • jannatwrites June 16, 2014 / 10:32 PM

      Haha, thanks, Tessa! (But this kind of is a twist… she was so close to falling off the balcony 😛 )

  5. Debbie June 16, 2014 / 10:41 AM

    I’m more accustomed to reading edgier pieces with twists at the end from you, Janna, but honestly — this is nice! A bit saccharine, of course, but warm and fuzzy, too. Though, knowing who’d written it, I couldn’t help waiting for the other shoe to drop, ha!

    • jannatwrites June 16, 2014 / 10:34 PM

      Hehe, I almost dropped the other shoe, too. I figured I’d switch it up and write a ‘nice’ story. That probably won’t happen again for a really long time, Debbie 🙂

  6. philosophermouseofthehedge June 16, 2014 / 4:15 PM

    Oh, changing it up on us, eh? Well, we’ll just be keeping an eye out for that from now on.
    Like the clothesline paragraph.

    • jannatwrites June 16, 2014 / 10:35 PM

      Thanks for reading, Phil! Yeah, I figured a sweet little story where no one suffers or dies would be a little unexpected 🙂

  7. Eric Alagan June 16, 2014 / 5:17 PM

    One of your best, if not your best, I reckon, Janna.

    You weaved in all the non verbal cues throughout the story and lent weight and credence to the theme of ‘eye contact’.

    I think you could compile all your short stories and publish a book – many readers would devour it.

    Keep entertaining us 🙂

    • jannatwrites June 16, 2014 / 10:39 PM

      Oh wow, thanks, Eric! I’m glad you enjoyed the story. I think I might look into taking several stories and expand them a little. I’m working on saving my stories into categories right now so I can see what I have to work with. My writing is all over the place 🙂

      As always, thanks for reading and for your support!

  8. mbarkersimpson June 17, 2014 / 1:57 AM

    It brought tears to my eyes. It’s beautiful, Janna, really beautiful. I could feel the connection, the tension, and the power in their gaze when they saw each other.

    • jannatwrites June 18, 2014 / 10:09 AM

      Thanks so much for reading and for your nice comment, Mel. I find human communication (or lack thereof) as fascinating as the mind itself.

  9. thewizardsword June 17, 2014 / 6:21 AM

    Oh, Janna. This is so lovely. You’ve captured the essence of love…and touched my heart.

    • jannatwrites June 18, 2014 / 10:10 AM

      Thanks, Susan. I’m glad you enjoyed the story!

  10. Suzanne June 17, 2014 / 8:37 AM

    This is lovely, Janna. You’ve captured that sense of intimacy and the fragility of relationship so well. I didn’t find it saccharine at all – I found it intense and romantic. 🙂

    • jannatwrites June 18, 2014 / 10:12 AM

      I’m glad it wasn’t overly sweet, Suzanne. I read it later and didn’t think I crossed that line… normally, the cynic in me catches that and makes it more ‘real’ (I don’t think a Disney happily-ever-after ending will ever happen… this is as close as it gets 🙂

  11. ranu802 June 17, 2014 / 2:41 PM

    Wonderful story, I enjoyed reading it.

    • jannatwrites June 18, 2014 / 10:13 AM

      Thanks, Ranu – I appreciate you stopping by!

  12. Silverleaf June 17, 2014 / 5:54 PM

    Really sweet and lovely – if I didn’t know better, I’d think you were practiced at beautiful love stories. I did wonder what the “bad” thing would be that was sure to happen but it was really nice that nothing did. Nice AND believable – like real life is sometimes 🙂

    • jannatwrites June 18, 2014 / 10:15 AM

      I’m glad it felt natural, Silverleaf! I’m glad I kept you on your toes and kept the ‘bad’ things at bay… for this one at least! (Tragedy was just a sentence away…)

  13. agjorgenson June 17, 2014 / 7:24 PM

    Lovely. I especially like the image of the intimacy of the ordinary.

    • jannatwrites June 18, 2014 / 10:16 AM

      Thanks, Allen. Intimacy is there… we just have to pay attention 🙂

  14. Meg June 17, 2014 / 7:51 PM

    Very romantic, Janna!

  15. Soulsong of Sharonlee June 17, 2014 / 10:26 PM

    How beautiful this is… I felt the uncertainty, the tremulous fear, the ultimate love. Elegantly emotive.

    • jannatwrites June 18, 2014 / 10:17 AM

      I appreciate you taking time to read it and offer your reaction, Soulsong 🙂

  16. zeudytigre June 18, 2014 / 12:58 AM

    I like the pace of this, and the details in the ordinary. Glad it had a happy ending.

    • jannatwrites June 18, 2014 / 10:17 AM

      Thanks, Zeudytigre! It’s a rare thing in my stories, but, yes, this one did end up nice for them 🙂

  17. Christina June 18, 2014 / 6:57 AM

    very sweet & happy ending. 🙂

  18. EagleAye June 18, 2014 / 3:02 PM

    Wow. So moving to me. At first I felt sympathy for her. I loved the flashback to their first date. So sweet. It made her loss so much worse. But then you turned it around in the end. Loved it! So well-written.

    • jannatwrites June 19, 2014 / 3:00 PM

      I’m glad the story stirred emotions, EagleAye. I’m happy the non-tragic ending was well-received, too!

  19. Patricia Rivera June 18, 2014 / 6:15 PM

    “His lopsided grin made my stomach quiver.” So been there, and completely related. ah! Lovely read.

    • jannatwrites June 19, 2014 / 3:01 PM

      Thanks, Patricia! It is a scary but wonderful feeling 🙂

  20. saroful June 18, 2014 / 8:28 PM

    Oh, phew. I had knots in my stomach the whole way through waiting for a sad ending.

    • jannatwrites June 19, 2014 / 3:02 PM

      Hehe, fooled you this time, Saroful 🙂 Hey, once in a while I have to let happiness reside!

  21. innatejames June 19, 2014 / 7:59 AM

    You’ve captured that special kind of insecurity between people who’ve been together a long time very well. And doesn’t it make it sweeter when you realize your insecurities were unwarranted?

    • jannatwrites June 19, 2014 / 3:05 PM

      From experience, it is a relief when security is restored. (The mind let loose can wreak havoc on a person’s sense of balance 🙂 ) Thanks for reading, Innatejames!

  22. Justice June 19, 2014 / 8:59 AM

    Really glad this ended on a happy note! I was so worried…

    • jannatwrites June 19, 2014 / 3:08 PM

      Sometimes it’s nice when things work out 🙂 Thanks for reading, Justice!

  23. rcprice June 19, 2014 / 9:04 AM

    Wow, this is really good. One of the best stories I’ve read in a while.

    • jannatwrites June 19, 2014 / 3:10 PM

      Oh my, thanks for the compliment, RC…. (Unless, of course, this means you haven’t read anything for a long time, haha 🙂 )

  24. Splendid Empress June 19, 2014 / 9:15 AM

    Lovely story – and you inhabited the Escher world so well while doing it.

    • jannatwrites June 19, 2014 / 3:11 PM

      Thanks so much, SE – I’m glad you stopped by to read it!

  25. imab00kworm June 19, 2014 / 11:12 AM

    Knowing you I was expecting him to lock her up somewhere and cut her up or turn into a giant bug screaming “you are mine!” Or like, just be a ghost or something but it was nice to see a happy ending (for once 😉 ) that was really sweet and well done 😀

    • jannatwrites June 19, 2014 / 3:17 PM

      Haha, when you put it like that, I sound pretty twisted, Imab00kworm.

      Yeah, I guess I am 🙂

      Your comment cracked me up – glad you liked the happy ending. I must’ve been in a good mood when I wrote this, I don’t know!

      • imab00kworm June 20, 2014 / 12:02 AM

        Ah no you’re not twisted… your writing tends to be though, I don’t think I’ve seen many happy endings from you 😉 glad I made you laugh ^^

  26. BCIJo (aka Joanne Edith) June 19, 2014 / 12:12 PM

    I’m glad it was a happy (not sappy) ending, and I loved the way you worked in the labyrinth and clothesline. Very clever, indeed!

    • jannatwrites June 19, 2014 / 3:18 PM

      I’m glad you liked the ending, Joanne! I was relieved that the clothesline wasn’t a common theme among responses… it’s always disappointing to find out an idea wasn’t so unique after all, haha 🙂

  27. Michael June 19, 2014 / 3:28 PM

    To paraphrase a favorite quote of line from Doctor Who, “Everyone lives! Finally, just once, everyone lives!” 😀

    • jannatwrites June 19, 2014 / 8:27 PM

      Haha, yes, today is good. Next prompt? Who knows 🙂

  28. Imelda June 19, 2014 / 5:13 PM

    Aw, I love this. At first, I thought they were just courting courting. So there was suspense there. I was taken aback, nicely, by the twist. Yeah, even couples married for 21 years should still be courting and keep the romance. I like the little details that made this piece a rich reading experience. 🙂

    • jannatwrites June 19, 2014 / 8:28 PM

      Thanks, Imelda! I’m glad you enjoyed the story. I don’t think romance should be reserved for new love 🙂

  29. EditMoi June 19, 2014 / 6:53 PM

    Great job, Janna! This one really got my attention and I thought you did an excellent job of conveying the complicated emotions of old love. I particularly liked the laundry descriptions; I think that’s what gave the story an ever-so-slight realistic edginess.

    • jannatwrites June 19, 2014 / 8:29 PM

      Thanks, EditMoi – I’m happy you enjoyed the story! I wanted it to feel ‘real’ and from the comments, I think it worked on this one. *Whew!* 🙂

  30. Sarah Ann August 14, 2014 / 11:41 AM

    Hooray for a happy ending. This is so tender. It’s sad though that his keeping a good secret caused her to doubt.

    • jannatwrites August 14, 2014 / 10:37 PM

      I’m glad you enjoyed the happy ending on this one, Sara Ann!

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