Is this what poets call affairs of the heart?


cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Audringje

A humble attempt at flash fiction.
Honest critique most welcome!

Dear Diary, no, that sounded too childish.
Dear God, no, definitely not. This one was too Judy Blume.
Dear Friend. Yes, this one sounded right.

Her pen dashed across the page, filling it with words, feelings, emotions.
Everything she’d kept bottled inside for so long.
She felt good at finally being able to tell someone.
Even if this source was as much a secret as Damian.

Damian.

She inhaled deeply.

Why hadn’t she met him first?
Wait. She had.
Only at the time, he didn’t have the courage to meet her in person.

She continued to pen her thoughts.

Dear Friend,
I have a secret; a secret love I’ve never met.

She had only been acting on a dare when she sent him the first message.

His profile was perfect.
Tall, foreign, and handsome.
He was witty, intelligent, knowledgeable.
His line of work was exciting, daring, and dangerous.

Everything Wesley wasn’t.

In the beginning, she had pondered if any of it were true.
But after a few weeks, she stopped caring.
The anonymity of the Web allowed people to turn themselves into super heroes, and at this point, it didn’t matter.
She was lonely.
Very lonely.

Damian seemed the perfect gentleman.
And he listened
He really listened.
In a short time, she had managed to reveal more to Damian, than she had ever told anyone else.

He knew about her first crush, her first kiss, her first love.
He knew about her family’s dysfunctional habits, her mother’s need to control her, and how her parakeet kept her awake at night.
He knew how long her hair was, how many cups of coffee she drank, and how she hated to be called Lizzie.
But most of all, he knew of her feelings of entrapment; of how she awakened every day wondering if this was all there was to life.

Yet there was something Damian didn’t know.

He didn’t know how lonely she really felt.
He didn’t know he was the bright spot in her day; that his letters gave her hope.
Hope that life wasn’t as bad as it seemed; hope that perhaps she wasn’t destined to be lonely forever.

Her sister had accused her of having an affair; an “emotional affair,” she’d called it.
But she had refused to listen.
It wasn’t true.
She wasn’t really having an affair, or was she?
Perhaps this is what poets called an affair of the heart.
Because Damian surely was in her heart.
He was part of her alternate reality.
Thinking about him was what got her through most days.

Yet she knew she would never act on her feelings.
Wesley was a good man, even if he was boring, detached, and self-centered.
He had married her twelve years before, given her a new home, introduced her as his wife.
It was a shame that this sense of pride had lasted so little; that he’d put her on a shelf with the rest of his collectibles.

It was his fault that she had felt the need to reach out to Damian.
Wesley had pushed her out of his life with his detachment; with his apathy.

But she was past caring.
She knew he would never change and she had made peace with it.
She had accepted that he wasn’t a resource, emotional or otherwise.
Life had forced her to understand that you don’t always get what you want.

She smiled wistfully and carefully laid the pen on the desk.

Yes, life wasn’t fair.
That’s why you had to cheat and do whatever was necessary to make your circumstances better.
You had to chase after joy until you were breathless.
You had to cling to moments of love and laughter as if your life depended on it.
You had to have the courage to look at destiny in the eye and say, screw you.

She picked up the pen, took a deep breath, and exhaled.
Finally.

Dear Friend,
I have a secret. A secret lover I have yet to meet.

***************************************************

Do you feel that an emotional affair is ever justified?

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66 thoughts on “Is this what poets call affairs of the heart?

    1. I wonder why :(
      There must be something in the settings and I didn’t know how to do it. I tried to change and import the old post into wordpress, but the layout once you open the post wasn’t good at all. Maybe i can try over the week end to do something about it. Thank you for telling me.
      2:20 am! I will try to sleep and find a solution tomorrow!

  1. Well written, Bella!! And I love the new blog look as well. You always keep it fresh… I’m humbled in your presence (hangs her head). As for your question, this goes against the popular grain, but I’d say no. I believe in faithfulness and loyalty. However, I do want “Lizzie” to find a happy solution, so I’d be curious to see what she does.

    1. Lori, I’m so pleased you like the new look! I thought that with the initiation of spring, it was time to renew the look of this wee blog. I am quite pleased with the white, clean lines. Hey, you can make some changes of your own now that you’ve moved to WordPress! Although I quite enjoy the theme you have now. Poor Lizzie. Life is quite complicated and she’s struggling to find happiness while not deviating too much from her principles. What’s a woman to do, right? :)

  2. I was left just a little confused as to timeline – has she “met” Damian, online, before marrying Wesley? Take a look at that in the beginning, see if you can clarify.

    I’d like Lizzie to face more of a challenge than just being bored by a nice guy.

    “But she was past caring.
    She knew he would never change and she had made peace with it.” This comes right after she has been blaming him. Obviously she *does* care, so this makes her sound disingenuous – which is perhaps what you what, an unreliable narrator. I think if you want to go in that direction, you need to push that a bit more in other places; if you *don’t*, make sure she is consistent in her POV/justification for her affair from beginning to end of this piece.

    As always, gorgeous writing, Bella. IMO there can be justification for an emotional affair. Ideally, you’d rekindle the love with your partner, but what if s/he can’t/won’t, for whatever reason; physical or mental illness, say? So you don’t feel justified leaving, yet aren’t getting “fed” emotionally by your partner.

    1. Beverly, first of all, thank you for your detailed critique! I’m very grateful. Lizzie met Damian before Wesley but their relationship was only based on their correspondence. He never quite mustered the courage to come and meet her in person. In that interim, she meets Wesley, who in the beginning cherishes her but quickly puts her on a shelf after the novelty has worn off. Lizzie faces many challenges but loneliness is taking center stage since it’s consuming her existence. She shares a home with a “roommate.” The intimacy and connection have long disappeared. I was going for the unreliable narrator; one that experiences mixed emotions that seem to cloud her judgement from day to day. I shall revise it and see where I can stress it better. Any suggestions? I have to say I agree with you. In my opinion, an emotional fix can help save a marriage just as long as the person never physically acts on it. Others might think the betrayal is still there but then fantasies, and anything not involving one’s spouse could be seen in the same way. Once again, thank you for the feedback, lady! :)

  3. Bella, I love the new look! Sorry I have been MIA; lots of stuff happening on the homefront! :)

    And personally, I think affairs of the heart are a slippery slope; maybe an exciting temporary diversion, but ultimately not real or completely satisfying.

    1. Heidi, no worries, sister. I’ve been trying to play catch up with my blog reading and it’s been hard now that I have less time with the laptop. I understand you’ve got a lot going on–I was reading your blog and realize just how much! You are a brave woman, Ms. Heidi. I don’t know where you get your energy! I think you’ve perfectly defined the outcome of most emotional affairs. (Ahem, not that I know too much on the subject) hee hee! :)

  4. Bella, two words: Love it.
    Five words: Your New Look, Amazingly Fresh!
    But Wesley? The name alone says, “Dump me.” I’m already feeling like I want her to pursue Damian. So, tell me, are you going to continue this story? I see a series in the works! :)

    1. Monica, you like the new look? I thought with spring already here it was time for a new clean look! And I’m over the moon you like the story! I know, poor Wesley. He makes me yawn just thinking about him. I think this is where the story ends. You know I’m not one for continuations. I don’t have your gift, amiga. When’s The Road Taken coming back??? :)

  5. I don’t think that an emotional affair is justified – it’s still cheating. If it’s not working with the guy you’re with (I don’t mean you personally :) ), either work on that relationship or end it, but don’t cheat. And besides, such an affair doesn’t seem all that satisfying.

    Then again, I’m the kind of girl who doesn’t even like flirting.

    As for the story, it’s lovely written. I couldn’t make myself care all that much for the main character, though, because she’s way too passive. She expects her happiness to come from others (either her husband or this Damian), she’s acting as if she’s nothing but her husband’s possession (as far as i can tell from such a short story, she doesn’t work, doesn’t have a hobby or any interests, she’s her husband’s unhappy wife and that’s about it), and yet she complains that he treats her as a collectible.

    Just my 2 cents, I could’ve read it all wrong. :)

    1. Ivana, I understand your arguments and I agree–if a person is dissatisfied in a relationship, it’s better that they move on. Lizzie may seem a bit shallow, but I don’t think she’s passive. This is a time in her life where she’s sick and tired of being sick and tired. Loneliness has invaded and corroded her life. I don’t think she expects for others to provide her with happiness but instead, years to be admired, wanted, treated like in the beginning of the relationship. I haven’t delved too much into her work status but in this story, I meant to provide readers with a look into the aspect of her life that makes her reach out to another for love and recognition. She’s tired of feeling invisible with Wesley and Damian makes her feel alive and young again. :)

  6. Oh, Bella… I had a Damian, once upon a time. But that’s beside the point!

    I loved your flash fiction. It read almost like a poem because of the formatting, and I felt like it pulled me gently and insistently along because of that, in part. It also pulled me along because I wanted to know what Elizabeth (?) was going to do about the affair that seemed much like a l life preserver. Poignant and lovely.

    As for your question regarding emotional affairs being justified…The girlish, idealistic romantic in me says, “yes,” and the womanly, worldly romantic in me says, “no” in a much, much louder (and stronger) voice.

    If a relationship one is in is so void of what one needs on such a basic emotional level, then it’s time to pull up the big-girl panties, take a deep breath, and extricate oneself from said relationship in order to get what is needed.

    Love. :-) xoxo

    1. Ellen, I think most women have had a Damian. Damian speaks to the naughty side of women and come on, aren’t we all a little bad at some point or another in life? ha! I am so pleased you were able to establish a rapport with the story. My intention was that readers would be moved by Lizzie’s plight; that they would feel the waves of indecision, doubt, and uncertainty. Your kind words of “poignant and lovely” have me doing the happy dance this Friday eve! Thank you! I second your notion that if a woman’s needs aren’t being met, she needs to move on. Seriously. Life is too short to spend next to someone who doesn’t make you feel like the queen you are. I’m just sayin’. Much love back to you, friend! XOXO :)

  7. Dear Bella,
    I know we are tight and all girlfriend, but next time you decide to write about me (not to mention in such an articulate fashion) could you check with me FIRST? It may not have occurred to you that I would like to keep my secret love secret, but now the secret is out and everyone knows! Ah well, what are friends for? Love you,
    Elizabeth.

    1. Elizabeth!! You naughty girl, you! hahaha! I loved, loved your comment! I promptly read it to the Significant Other as we sat at the table enjoying our cup of evening java. I said, “Now this is a woman after my own heart!” He smiled and said, “Birds of a feather, perhaps?” hee hee! I’m delighted you were able to see a part of you in this story! :)

  8. Beautiful writing, as always, Bella! You really should write a book some day. I don’t have the time to read too many blogs, but I never miss yours.
    I’m going to refrain from commenting on how I feel about affairs of the heart for fear that it may incriminate me!
    Nina
    over50andhappy.com

    1. Nina, thank you for your beautiful words. You’ve truly made my day! I wish I had the know how to write a book. I’ve always yearned to be a writer, you know. “I’m going to refrain from commenting on how I feel about affairs of the heart for fear that it may incriminate me!”—bwhahahaha! I love it! You are so wise. We have much to learn from you, lady! :)

    1. Ariana, love, you never said why you think they’re more dangerous! Do tell! I think our girl Lizzie could be putting herself at risk–at risk of losing her heart to the likes of Damian! :)

  9. I loved the feel of your story. She’s writing with a pen and talking about writing letters which gives it an old-fashioned vibe and made it a little dreamy. (Now we’re so electronic – it’s all iPads and e-mail instead of journals and letters.) I also liked the format, how it read like free verse.

    1. Shary, if you were able to sense that in this piece of writing, then my work here is done! Thank you! Your comment has made me super happy! I was aiming for a free verse style as well as providing an “old school” feel where even though Lizzie and Damian communicate via the Web, she still pens her thoughts in a journal. Oh, how I love writing in a journal as well! :)

  10. I, too felt a longing to know Lizzie a little better… how she got to being ‘past caring’.

    As for emotional affairs? Is a Bromance not an emotional affair of sorts? My spa weekend with my Soul Sistahs? The pen pal I had in the ’70’s? If we’re talking about an emotional connection between two people who are otherwise pledged to others – it’s still an affair even if never acted up (unrequited love?).

    1. Astra, you bring up a good point. Should we consider these emotional affairs? After all, they are providing us, or you, in this case, with an emotional fix; a zap of energy, if you will. I believe Lizzie sees Damian as a fix to the lonely state she’s in. He’s who she turns to for emotional comfort without the strings attached portion of typical affairs. She’s tired of trying to bond with Wesley. Her attempts have proven futile and she’s already said enough. And for the record, I think a bromance is most definitely an emotional affair! :)

  11. Bella, love your new digs, Lady! And your post is well done, but I’m afraid I fall in the minority. I can’t justify an emotional affair. Yes, we all need love. And understanding. And connection with someone special. But poor Lizzie needs to weigh this one very carefully — whether the stability of life with Wesley is more important than the “flash-in-the-pan” excitement and possibility of life with Damian. It’s not an easy choice — usually, life doesn’t give us easy choices. Do tell — is this going to become a series? Or the beginning of a novel? Don’t leave us hanging in suspense!!

    1. Debbie, your kind words have worked their magic and you have me grinning like a Cheshire cat! I wish I could say, what other bloggers do, that this is a work in progress. But alas, I’m afraid this is it. I really wanted to give readers a feel for the unconventional side of many relationships today–why lack of attention by their spouses makes many women reach out to someone else. I understand your viewpoint and I agree–this is a decision that has to be weighed carefully. However, I don’t think Lizzie’s ready to jump ship to sail across the ocean to Damian just yet. For the moment, he fills her emotional void and gives her life the spark it’s missing. I know many might think that Lizzie needs to get over herself, yet, she’s being denied human interaction and sadly, not many of us survive when placed in this situation. I admire Lizzie’s resolve to look for another outlet given the one at home is defective. Whether she’s right to do so or not, that’s another story! Thank you for your support and encouragement, friend! :)

  12. Hi. I know this blog is about writing. But i have endured being the betrayed in an emotional affair and let me tell you that is has been the most painful experience of my life. There is no panacea, no balm for the searing gouges in my heart at knowing that my husband of 25 years has fallen in love with another woman.
    Hearing the words actually made me retch. Feeling disposible, used up, tossed aside, like nothing more than a pair of old socks. Fantasy is wonderful, but just that. Reality is the dog shit on your new JImmy Choos

    1. Jewel, hello and welcome! First of all, I’m sorry that you went through what you did. I think it’s easy to express how we would feel when we, as women, are the ones having the emotional affair versus being on the receiving end of the betrayal. Hence, we would first have to determine if we view an emotional affair as an act of infidelity or not. Some people, although they engage in conversation and exchange of correspondence with another person, will never take it to a physical level, while others will. Some might see any exchange that doesn’t involve one’s spouse as infidelity. Finally, others might view this as a fantasy they carry out to a certain point. The latter might help the person get through a rut in their marriage or may fill a void if the spouse is emotionally absent or detached. I believe each person’s circumstances are different. Thus, we can’t judge the actions of others without knowing what lead to the emotional affair in the first place. In this case, the fictional character is tired of being lonely; of being ignored. As a result, she looks for another outlet to channel her frustration and insecurities. Is this part of a fantasy? Perhaps. Does it validate her on some level? I believe so. However, whether she chooses to act on her desires is another question all together. Thank you for chiming in!

  13. Bella, I just kept reading and reading and didn’t put my editor’s hat on … but Beverly’s critique sounds good. I was a little confused by whether or not Damian was imaginary (since she mentioned she hadn’t met him, yet he knew so much about her) … but upon the second reading, figured out their relationship was through written correspondence. :) To me, Betrayals can’t be justified. But making mistakes like this just sometimes seems inevitable, too, huh? (Especially since Wesley is ‘detached and self-centered …’)

    1. Claudine, thanks so much for the feedback, lady! I think emotional affairs are something a lot of people indulge in. That said, I realize that they’re not free of guilt or remorse. (Not that I speak from experience. Ahem. hee hee!) I believe it depends on the person and his or her personal circumstances. I can see why someone would indulge in one if there are strong reasons. No judgement here. :)

  14. Bella,
    So lyrical! It reads beautifully.

    I can empathize with Lizzie’s predicament. I can also say that an emotional affair is a dangerous business; even if it goes undiscovered, it can still wreak havoc. The hiding, the white lies and not-so-white lies, the living of two lives. It can take on a life of its own. I haven’t experienced it, but I’ve seen it. The devastation was terrible.

    So interested to see what happens next – looking forward to the next installment!

    Do love your new look! Inspires me to redo mine.

    1. Eloise, your words give wings to my writer’s heart! Thank you! I do know people who have engaged in emotional affairs, some have progressed, others have died quietly (the affairs, not the people! ha!) and like you say, more often that not, the outcome is not likely to be a good one. And we do have to admit that there’s always at least one person who gets hurt. I would definitely have to give this more thought.How are you? I dropped by your blog the other day to see if you had posted an update of your surgery but saw you hadn’t done so yet. I hope everything turned out perfectly! :)

    2. Hi Bella,
      You are wonderful with words – “wings to my writer’s heart”. Again, so lyrical.

      Emotional affairs are a treacherous journey. The official relationship becomes a desiccated thing, while the emotional one is a bud picked too quickly and so can never bloom. My personal opinion is that these things are more common than anyone realizes.

      I’m mending – still with cast and stitches, with pain meds at the ready. I did update my blog with the latest info just yesterday – had to wait for fingers to cooperate.

      I must say that I love your new site design. First thing I thought, of all things, was that it would go so well in my kitchen, which is blue and white. Very crisp, just lovely!

      Thanks for checking on me!

    3. Eloise, I’m so glad you’re on the mend! You have to exercise caution post-surgery, lady! Methinks you should not be typing at all! I love the blue and white combo–quite “springish,” if I say so myself! hee hee! Affairs of the heart are not for the faint of heart, I’m afraid. Sometimes it takes unbearable circumstances to go down this path and once on it, it’s hard to go back. I’m dropping by your blog to read your update! Get better soon, lady! :)

  15. I love it. Your writing flows so crisp and true.
    The question you posed at the end? No. I think that love affairs that last are the ones you invest everything into. Now that doesn’t mean you can’t flirt. Flirting is just plain fun. ;)

  16. Ohhh, Bella–you left us dangling!!! Wanting more! And Damian is the PERFECT name for a soul mate, no???

    ( BTW, I stopped getting emails for your new posts. WordPress has made some changes and is driving me nuts!)

    1. Jann, don’t you love the name Damian? I’ve always had a crush on that name! I’m doing the happy dance that this story managed to pique your curiosity, lady! And what do you mean you’re not longer getting emails for my new posts? We must fix that STAT! :) Let me know if you’re up and running again or if I can help in any way!

  17. I agree with everyone else…loved it! Very well written, but I wouldn’t expect anything else from you, Bella! :D

  18. Bella,
    You continually blow my sandles off. ( that is what I’m wearing right now)

    & you always continually make me “Feel.”

    this is the greatest thing a writer can do. Xx Love Love Love. Kiss Kiss Kiss for Rox.

    1. Kim, I hope by now you realize the feeling’s mutual! Your last post was truly poignant and once again made me wonder where you get your strength, your resolve. I think visiting your blog has been an excellent influence on making my words more feeling. And that’s cause no one writes blog posts that allow a reader to feel like you, lady! Hugs and kisses to you from Rox the fox and me! :)

    1. Lyosha, hello and welcome! How great that you enjoyed the post! Thank you! Roxy Lee and I send our greetings to your JRT Raidho! :)

    1. Laura, thank you for your kind words. I’m so happy the story managed to hook you. When I wrote the ending, I thought, yes, this fosters the possibility that Lizzie will meet her secret love. Never say never, right? :)

  19. Writing is supposed to pull one in. Make them want to continue reading. Devour every syllable, every letter. Make them care about the characters. Sympathize, empathize, love, hate. This little story did all of those. I did care. I wanted Lizzy to be happy. I was interested. Engaged. Concerned. You did this. With your writing. Very, very well done! I like Lizzy’s ambivalence. Self-doubt. Expression. Keep writing, my friend. It’s something you do very, very well!

    1. Diane, I love you! Thank you so much! Your kind words have made my day so much brighter! I’m so happy you find Lizzie’s ambivalence appealing. I wanted her to represent the uncertainty we’ve all felt at one point or another in our life; to demonstrate that loneliness can take a toll on one’s emotional state. I’m glad you like her! I like her too. Even if she’s not decisive as I wish she were. Thank you for your support and encouragement! :)

  20. For a second I thought I had gone to the wrong blog. I like the new background. Very spring-like! Call me old fashioned but yes, I think Lizzie was having an affair of sorts and no I don’t think it’s ever justified. That being said it made for juicy reading! Well, except I got really worried because you know there are some weirdos out there and who knew who she was REALLY talking to. You’ve got to be careful! :)

    1. Nora, it’s funny that you mention that it’s very “spring-like” cause that’s exactly what I thought when I chose the theme! I’m happy that Lizzie’s story made for an interesting read! Too right there are many weird characters trolling the net but I think it’s safe to say that Damian isn’t one of them. He is after all, her Don Quixote! I have to drop by your blog and see how those floors turned out, by the way! :)

  21. Dear dear Bella – Lizzie could be many of the women I know – you made her so real and the emotions are so palpable.
    I think Lizzie is going down a path that might result in her getting hurt real bad. Also I don’t think it’s doing her any good in the long run. Firstly, since Damian hasn’t the guts (did I get that right?) to meet her, who knows whether he is all that he’s making himself out to be. She might as well have an imaginary friend! Having been in an online relationship with someone (before I met Jose) who kept promising to meet and then kept giving excuses for not meeting – I can tell you how awful that feels. Secondly, is she really investing in her relationship with Wesley, if her heart is with Damian.
    Thirdly, and most importantly, how much is she investing in herself to equip herself to be happy? Or is she constantly seeking happiness outside herself.
    Fourthly, I’m really opinionated, aren’t I? ;)

    1. Corinne, that last line made me chuckle! You’ve brought some excellent points to the table. I think that Lizzie feels that while Damian seems to be the perfect alternate reality lover, he’s quite abstract. Hence, she’s able to explore a different side of love/romance that is made even more alluring by the element of mystery. As for Wesley, I believe she’s realized there’s not purpose in beating a dead horse. She’s sick and tired of hashing and rehashing and every conversation seems like a repetition of the one she had the day before. The need to try to create awareness has swiftly turned into nagging and this is very upsetting for her. What I believe Lizzie needs to do is, like you mention, devote more time to make herself happy. But alas, love really does need a lover. Yes, you can feel complete on your own but what about the times you yearn for companionship as well as wanting to share special times and make memories? It’s quite the tangled web, isn’t it, friend? Any suggestions on how Lizzie can come full circle in this triangle she finds herself in? :)

  22. This was powerful, powerful, powerful. It drew me in and made me care what happens to her – will she resolve this? Leave Wesley? Confront him? Stop the limbo?

    Is an emotional affair cheating? Yep. It means your attention in someone other than your spouse and that is never a good thing! Alpha Hubby and I have very strict rules about dealing with the opposite sex. It protects what we have!

    Write more!!!

    1. Nan, if anyone can dole out sensible relationship advice, it’s you! Hence, I think Lizzie should heed your words very carefully! So many questions, so little answers. And yet, isn’t this the very confusion women in this predicament experience? I think it’s tragic to reach this stage in a relationship. On one hand, you wish you still had the excitement and devotion you used to have when you first married, and on the other hand, you crave the adrenalin rush the emotional affair provides. Oh, dear. Thank you for your encouragement, friend! It is very much appreciated! :)

  23. Brings to mind all sorts of possibilities for new stories. I just wonder if a man were doing the same thing with a woman, would be viewed the same? Anyway, I enjoyed this greatly will be looking into more of your posts.

    1. Tim, hello and welcome! I’m always thrilled when a man puts in his two cents! :) I think if a man were doing the same thing, he’d still be viewed in the same light. I like to think of our actions as those committed by people; their gender is insignificant. These actions that could be undertaken by men and women and really, while the forces that motivate them may be different, aren’t they both seeking why they don’t feel they have with their mate? I’m not saying that justifies the situation. I’m just saying we’re only human. I’m looking forward to your dropping by and adding to the mix! :)

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