HIS FIRST WIFE • by Von Rupert

“Will you marry me?” Ken whispered, his breath warm against my forehead.

“All aboard!”

Even if I’d had an answer, I couldn’t give it as we boarded the train. I followed Ken through two train cars until he found our seats. He lifted our bags on to the overhead rack as I slid into the seat next to the window.

Our first journey together on a train, but — I smiled to think of it — his second time proposing marriage to me. We were only eight the first time. Ken’s best friend had married us on the last day of school in a shady corner of the playground.

The train lurched forward and Ken sat down. “I’m sorry I blurted it like that. I just couldn’t keep it to myself any longer.” He took my hands in his. “Laura, you’re so cold. Do you want my gloves?” Before I could answer he pushed the soft leather over my trembling fingers. Was I cold?

No, just scared. Would they like me?

The conductor arrived and asked for our tickets. Ken chatted with him as if they were old friends, but I turned away and stared out the window. Evergreen trees blurred together as we picked up speed. Fear clutched at my chest and I implored the train to slow down. Too much was waiting on the other side. I’m not ready.

But I should be ready. All I had ever wanted was Ken, even during high school when he couldn’t see me at all with my flat chest and fierce blushes. Strong and handsome, he was the boy all the girls had wanted.

Senior prom changed everything for us. My date, a quiet boy I thought I could trust, began groping me in a dark hallway at the hotel. No boy had ever touched me there, and no boy had ever ignored my “no.” But this one did. I was too scared to scream, too scared I’d get in trouble. Was I ever so young that being raped was preferable to getting in trouble?

Ken rescued me that night. He had watched me leave the ballroom and, not trusting my date, he had followed. When he found us in the hallway, he yanked the boy off and punched him until I begged him to stop.

“Honey, you’re making me nervous. It’s never a good sign when your favorite girl won’t look at you.”

I turned away from the window.

The conductor had moved on and Ken sat stiffly in his seat with his hands knotted together in his lap, a smile hesitating on the corners of his mouth. “What’s going on in that complicated brain of yours?” he said.

I gave him a half-smile of my own. “Prom.”

My answer must have reassured him because his shoulders relaxed and he began unwrapping the scarf from around his neck. “That was a long time ago, honey. It all worked out.” Ken stood and removed his coat. “What’s brought this on?”

“I don’t know. Your proposal, I guess. High school suddenly feels like it was yesterday.”

Prom night had been our new beginning. We became friends again. And then more. The night before I left for college, while his parents were at the movies, we had given ourselves to each other, his first and mine.

Tradition sent me to my mother’s school in upstate New York. Finances sent him to state college in the same city where we were raised — the same city our train was barreling toward now.

“I wish I’d never gone away to college,” I whispered. Each week of freshman year, we had written long letters to each other and phoned on Saturday nights. Everything changed the next year when my body finally caught up with my age. I’d never been attractive before, not to anyone but Ken. When a graduate student asked me for a date, I had said “yes.”

“Laura, come on, honey, let’s not go through this again.”

I swiped at my cheeks as Ken sat back down. He lowered his chin until his eyes were even with mine. “I forgave you a long time ago. You know that.” He touched his forehead to mine.

“I regretted it immediately.”

“And I regretted what I did.” This time, it was Ken who pulled away. He leaned back in his seat and, for the first time since we’d met again, the years settled into his face. “I should have forgiven you for sleeping with him. I shouldn’t have slept with Tammy.”

“But it was too late.” I leaned back, too, and slowly pulled off his gloves.

“I wanted to hurt you…” — he pressed his lips together and shook his head — “But, I hurt myself more. Tammy was pregnant. What could I do?”

What could he do?

I reached over and pulled his face back to mine. “You could do exactly what you did. You could marry your child’s mother. You could spend your life being a loyal husband, doting father, and,” I ruffled the thick white hair on his head, “an outstanding grandfather.”

“So much time lost.”

“It wasn’t lost. You had a wonderful marriage with Tammy. It just wasn’t our turn yet.” I took a deep breath. “Ken, do you think your kids will like me?”

“Laura, they’ll love you.”

I leaned forward and kissed his mouth, pushing my hands through his hair, then closed my eyes and kissed him harder. His lips parted. My insides quivered and warmed just like 45 years ago.

“Ask me again.”

His hand trembled as it stroked my cheek. “Will you marry me?”

“Yes.”


Von Rupert is a wife, mother, writer, and podcast producer. You can follow her on twitter @VonRupert. She mentors other writers at Bob Hembree’s Writer’s Village University.


Rate this story:
 average 4.1 stars • 15 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • Very nice! The twist of time-frame really made this standout.

  • Rob

    Nicely done.

  • My eyes are stinging a bit here…Tears? No, no, of course not. Awesome twist, solid characterization. 5 stars!

  • Von, that was beautiful! The time-switch came as a surprise.

  • Roberta SchulbergGoro

    What happened to Tammy?

  • Lovely story, Von! I adore the twist. That really took it up a level. Well done!

  • Thanks, Kent. I’m so glad the twist worked. ?

  • Thanks for reading and commenting, Rob! Always appreciated.

  • Milo, those comments mean a ton coming from you. Thank you so much.

  • I wasn’t expecting the twist at all. Lovely and sweet. Thanks.

  • Yay, Leo, I’m so glad you liked this story. I thought about you as I wrote it, picturing your response to it. (I almost shared it with you early because I couldn’t wait.)

  • Roberta, Tammy died. I think it was cancer. I hope I managed to convey that Ken and Tammy had a good life together.

  • Thank you, Charity. I’m so glad the twist worked. I didn’t want the reader to feel tricked. I wanted it to be a pleasant surprise.

  • Debs! Thanks for reading my story. I’m so happy the twist is working for readers. I did worry about it. 🙂

  • Tom Britz

    Von, the time switch was handled flawlessly. Your characters were realistic. The sentiment was human frailty at its most tender. I loved this! It damn near brought a tear.

  • The ‘white hair’; ‘So much time lost’. That was a perfectly handled transition.

    My only quibble would be the final word of the story. It’s totally superfluous – which is a great compliment to the strength of the story.

  • Gwen

    Love the twist at the end. Great story!

  • Roberta SchulbergGoro

    Von Rupert – I’m relieved that ken didn’t have to do a walk-out a second time. There’s a word for “walk-out” but it slipped my mind.

  • Simone

    Superb!

  • Sandy

    Love the story, Von! Great twist at the end. Wasn’t expected at all. 🙂

  • Very nice work, Von.

  • Great story, beautifully executed. Well done, Von!

  • Thank YOU so much, Tom. Your help in the 11th hour made it better. Your honesty and advice is always appreciated.

  • Paul! I look for your comment every single time because you’re tough and fair. Thank you so much.

  • Thanks for taking the time to read my story and comment on it, Gwen. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  • Me too, Roberta! I was so attached to these two characters. I wanted them to have a happily ever after.

  • Simone, what an excellent comment. Thank you!

  • Sandy, I’ve laughed at myself over and over again since this story posted yesterday. I was most worried about the twist at the end. And that seems to be the most popular aspect. LOL!

  • Thank you, Stephen. Your stories are always an inspiration to me.

  • Michelle, I couldn’t have done it without W1S1. I sent it out on a Sunday morning because I couldn’t face telling you guys that I hadn’t submitted that week. 🙂

  • A beautiful story, beautifully written. This really is a heart warming way to get playful with time and I was taken entirely, though very pleasantly, by surprise by that twist. Thank you Von, for such a touching read.

  • Very very nice. I’d say more but it’s after midnight here. I did focus sufficiently to hit the 5th star though 🙂

  • JJ

    Great twist Von!

  • Josh Thornbrugh

    Beautiful story, Von 🙂

  • Debra Lobel

    I love this story. It is so moving and beautifully written.

  • Kevin!! You’re stalking ME now–that’s my job. 🙂 Thank you very much for your comments. I was so worried that this was more of a woman’s story than a man’s, but I’m pleased to see that it works for both.

  • Suzanne, your comment made me laugh. Thanks for your 5 star accuracy. 🙂

  • JJ! Wow, I’m so pleased that you stopped by, and I’m glad the twist worked for you.

  • Thank you, Josh. 🙂 One of these days maybe I’ll even follow in your footsteps and try a serial.

  • Thank you, Debra! Taking the time to read and comment means so much.

  • Pingback: Podcast EDF145: His First Wife • by Von Rupert • read by Folly Blaine | Every Day Fiction - The once a day flash fiction magazine.()

  • joyfulkira

    Very nice! I enjoyed!

  • joyfulkira

    Very nice! I enjoyed!