SMITTEN • by Nicholas Lee Huff

You wished out loud to see the moon again. So I waited for night to come, then gathered you in my arms.

I took you from the bed, took you from the glowing amber monitors, the oxygen tubes and IV.

I took you from the doctor who spoke in maddeningly neutral tones as he reported your internal systems were shutting down, one by one, as if you were a machine that had broken.

I took you from your two sisters, come from California to be beside you in your final hours. Who lovingly fluffed your pillows and held your hand, while behind your back they fought over who will get which trinkets and knick-knacks in your home.

I spirited you from the room, from the oncology ward, from the hospital. Bundled you in the front seat of my ancient dusty pickup, wrapping you in blankets and my heavy work jacket — the one you once loved to wear because you said it smelled like me in winter and always made you feel safe and warm.

We drove from the city lights and out into the night, ending up at the lake, at the place where, as teenagers, we first made love. Turning off the engine, I slid across the seat and held you. You felt delicate and so small; white parchment flesh, hardly more than skin and bones.

Thirty-one years ago, I asked you to marry me here. You said no. You said we were too young.

We were never married. But in the weeks and months that followed, I asked again and again, until it became a joke between us. Remember? I’d wait until you were good and angry with me, as angry as you could possibly be, then I’d pop the question. Each time, every time, you would spit fury with a different excuse for shutting me down. No two ever the same and each one better than the last.

“Because you are too stubborn.”

“Because you are impossible.”

“Because you have no taste in music or art, and you snore.”

“Because you never listen to a word I say. Whenever I speak, it seems like you’re a thousand miles away.”

“Because there’s nothing about you that isn’t wrong.”

Resting your head against my chest, you watch through the windshield as the moonlight breaks above the treetops, shining a contrail of silver across the dark water of the lake. I breathe in the scent of your hair and listen to your own breath that comes in ragged fits and starts.

“Caroline, will you marry me?”

“No,” your answer comes as a sigh.


“Because you sneak into hospitals at night and kidnap helpless women from their beds. My mother was right, you can’t be trusted.”

Then you turn and gaze at me with those eyes of yours, tiny flickers of gold in pale blue, “A woman would have to be crazy to fall in love with you.”

Your lips touch mine for the last time; as brittle as a leaf in Autumn and so, so cold. You are silent then.

The moon rises and is brighter now, casting the world outside in a ghostly veil of light. Shadows draw back beneath the trees and all is still.

Caroline, I am a shadow and you are the moon. When you are gone, I will disappear in this world. All that is left of me will be lost.

But for now, you are here and I am by your side. I will be with you until the end.

Because I am stubborn.

Because I am impossible.

Because I will love you always.

Nicholas Lee Huff is a writer and small business owner living near Seattle, Washington. He cannot be trusted.

Rate this story:
 average 4.3 stars • 14 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • I love this! I’m not even quite sure why (I mean, it’s well-written, but I love it more than just as a nice bit of writing). Actually gave me goosebumps and I’m quite hard to please! Thanks for sharing.

  • Johanna Miklos

    It touches my heart – and probably every other heart – because we all hope that someone loves us enough to grant us our last wish.

  • Jane Roop

    Beautiful done.

  • Louise Michelle

    Because this is unique, because this is a joy to read, because you used surprising language, because you managed to explore a sad situation with style and grace, you received a five. Thank you for this wonderful story -it will stay with me.

  • Fi


  • ajcap

    Well. What to say. Agree with everyone who commented before me and also give it five stars.

    How you managed to keep this flash from being cloying is an accomplishment in itself. I will scrutinize and learn.

  • What Louise Michelle (#4) said. Absolutely. Five stars from me, too.

  • Joanne

    Last night I was having a conversation about love and marriage—-not mine, just the general idea of why people need each other and what makes a good relationship and why some people settle for less. I found it difficult to discuss. This morning, reading this story, I feel like I understand so much more than I did last night. The person I was talking to? My daughter, age 26…I think I’ll send her this story. I feel like the secret of life is in this story. Agree with Chloe that I’m not even quite sure why I like it so much. Agree with AJ that it isn’t cloying, and with this subject it sure could’ve been. Ok. Enough chatter from me. But thanks for this story, Mr. Huff.

  • scwiller

    This is a beautiful story and I agree with ajcap; I’m not sure how you’ve managed to avoid over sentimentality, but you have. It captures the depth of feeling without the sugary sweetness of a made for tv movie. It feels real. Really lovely.

  • JenM

    Five stars. Perfect.

  • Simone

    This is the first story in a long time at EDF that’s moved me so deeply. Superb!

  • Elizabeth

    Five stars. Thank you for this lovely story.

  • Excellent story, very moving, but I felt it needed another edit.

    Fourth paragraph should be a single sentence, ‘ancient dusty pickup’ needs an adjective removed and ‘autumn’ doesn’t take a capital letter.

    Sorry for being the fly in the ointment of universal praise. However, as I said at the beginning, an excellent story.

  • joannab.

    5 stars from me.

  • Susie

    This was so incredibly lovely, thank you for helping me remember what’s the most important.

  • Somebody said to bring a box of tissues to this reading; they were right. This is a special story, a story to add to favourites.

  • Not cloying? It teetered on the edge of that, but then fell right into it in the last few paragraphs because the repetition there brought out the gloss placed over the events. Instead of reinforcing the gloss, it exposed it – leaving the banal events emphasised and the gloss revealed as cloying icing.

  • Jane

    The comments above have said everything I intended to say, this story moved me so much, the topic handled so well, the tenderness, the everything about it, thank you.

  • Beautiful. Perfect. Thank you.

  • Loveliest love story I’ve read since, well, (okay, go ahead and laugh) “Love Story”.

  • Gretchen Bassier

    Loved it! You conveyed their relationship perfectly, and the descriptions were breathtaking. Beautiful story.

  • Just beautiful – the prose, the story, the relationship, everything.

  • So sweet. Really a nice job, Nicholas.

  • cueball

    Beautiful. So many tears. So few words.

  • Pingback: Interview: Nicholas Lee Huff Has EDF’s Top Story for July « Flash Fiction Chronicles()

  • Joe Gurvis

    It’s short, but it should be shorter. I think you should reconsider the last 5 paragraphs. Not sure they’re necessary.

    The first few paragraphs threaten bathetic — perhaps you could get to the meat of the story faster, which is their funny interplay. (That is the thing that saves it from overweening sentimentality.) In fact, you could use that funny interplay to REVEAL that he stole her from the oncology ward, thus obviating much of the leadup.

    Hope these comments are useful. Either way, even if you do nothing, it’s still good. 🙂

  • Five stars. Loved it so much. Thank you.

  • This story has been nominated in the Short Stories: Romance category of the Preditors & Editors Readers’ Poll.

  • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

    I’m probably congenitally indisposed to stories with lines like “resting your head against my chest” and “your lips touch mine.”

    But worse than that–this story, intended I guess to express eternally enduring love, struck me as utterly self-obsessed, and in that reminds me of another EDF story that many readers felt represented deathless love and the anguish of imminent loss. In each instance the beloved really serves only to reflect the MC back upon himself. She has no value as an independent human being.

    Sorry–but I don’t call that love. Two stars.