#FridayFlash: Romance... With Lasers

Romance... With Lasers

by Tony Noland

She ran her fingernails across his chest, idly playing with the stands of gray among the black. Well, no, she thought, not idly. Janine wanted to let Skip rest a bit, but also to stay awake. He was the best man in the world, but he was a man after all, and liable to fall asleep after sex. Neither of them were as young as they used to be. She knew that he needed to pace himself, especially these last few years.

Gently, she tugged his chest hair and dragged the edge of a fingernail across one of his nipples. Under her hand, she felt his goosebumps rise, and his hips twitch, just a bit. No, she smiled, this was just a breather, not the end of the evening. She wanted him, needed him to be ready for a third round. It was their last night together for a long time, and she wanted as much of him as her body could hold. Everything about him was precious to her and if she could, she would be saturated with him. His laughter, his enthusiastic (if not terribly graceful) dancing, the way he had always been so patient with the kids...

The tears started again. No, goddamn it, no! She'd sworn to herself that she wouldn't ruin the evening this way, that she'd be strong. Her eyes closed tight as she fought to hold them back. She felt his arm shift on her back as he pulled her into a closer hug. When he lifted his other hand from her arm to stroke her hair, she lost the fight and wept. She took her hand from his chest and covered her face, shaking with her sobs. Tears ran down her nose, matting his chest hair. It brought out the smell of him, the smell of his skin that she knew so well and would miss so much.

She knew he was making comforting noises, shushings and murmurings of love and kindness that she could hear through the sound of the blood pounding in her ears and her own hoarse breathing. After a bit, he shifted under her, twisting away from her. She sat up to let him go, then realized that he was only reaching for the box of tissues on the bedside table. He turned back with not just one tissue for her, but had brought the whole box.

"I thought you might need more than one," he said.

A fresh flood of tears made her double over and she clutched at his hand, pressing it between hers. She kissed his fingers, held them against her cheeks and kissed them again and again. After a bit, she let go so she could wipe her eyes and blow her nose. It took half a dozen tissues. When she finished, he leaned forward and cupped her cheek with his hand, tilting her face up towards his.

"Now, then," he said softly, "I know you have a lot on your mind. But if you're interested, I believe I might have strength left for another trip 'round the park. What do you say?" She laughed and the tears started again. "Ah, nope, sorry," he said, "no crying allowed during sex. Unless it's cries of passion. I'd take that as a compliment to my technique."

Janine leaned forward and locked both hands behind his head, crushing her lips against his in a bruising, primal, lover's connection. He hugged her in close and they fell back on the bed.

It was the tingling of her bruised lips that she focused on all the next day. The drive to the hospital, the paperwork, the ill-fitting gown, the endless delays. Throughout it all, the only thing that seemed real was the diffuse ache in her lips, the feeling of puffy soreness. She clung to the feeling as though it was a shield.

Six separate times they'd had the procedure explained to them, by the resident, the surgeon, the neurologist, and others whom she didn't know. Shave the scalp, peel back the skin, remove the top of the skull, use scalpels to slice out the big chunks of cancer, use lasers to burn out the tiny chunks of cancer, replace the skull and scalp and then... wait.

During the surgeon's explanation, Skip told him to be sure to change the oil and the timing belt while he was in there. Skip smiled. Janine smiled. The surgeon didn't.

And, to be strong, Janine focused again on the dull pain of her bruised lips.

===== Feel free to comment on this or any other post.


  1. Very sad and bittersweet. But I found this so profoundly wonderful and moving. Thanks for posting it.

  2. That's a cool story, very neatly told. Nicely done Tony!

  3. Nicely done there, Tony. You sucked me right in with the idea this was a romance, only to blindside me with a great sucker-punch at the end.

  4. Tony, this is absolutely beautiful! I am near tears myself, you did such a great job of describing their emotions - just wonderful!

  5. Struck me as more warped than sad, though that may also go as a description of myself.

  6. Tony,

    The title really threw me off. I was waiting for some sort of Dr. Evil sharks with frickin laser beams attached to their heads thing to bust in at any moment...but no. It was a real emotional romance (a really well done one I might add)

  7. I liked how they keep their sense of humor about what's a really serious situation. If only all couples could handle this kind of thing so well!

    I'm not much for reading romance, but from my POV you did a pretty good job at it.

  8. This is a wonderful expression of full-bodied mature love. Great work.

    At the end, I didn't know if the surgery was on him or on her (maybe I missed a clue) but ya know, it doesn't matter for the story.

  9. @ Monica: You're very welcome, Monica. Thanks for reading!

    @ Sam Pennington: I'm glad you liked it!

    @ Sam: The twist at the end... a classic. 8-)

    @ deanna: Why, thank you! I hope they're a good kind of tears.

    @ John: Struck me as more warped than sad Ah well, can't win them all. Thanks for reading, John.

    @ Michael: Several people have commented on the title being a bait-and-switch. It wasn't intended that way. I'm glad you stuck with it.

    @ FARfetched: I'm glad this resonated with a non-reader of romance. It gives me hope about how broadly I can make my writing appeal.

    @ Mike: Thanks for the great comment, Mike!

  10. Bloody hell, man. You know how to script a perfect moment. Touching, poignant, wonderfully done...you've heard it all, and will be told so again. And you know love.

  11. very touching and also incisive as to how we cling on to diminishing life through attempting to assert our continued potency

    marc nash

  12. Nice pacing and a great choice of which scene in this story to focus on.
    The hardest part, I find, is deciding on what to write about. Why did you pick this one?

  13. @ Raven: Bloody hell, man. You know how to script a perfect moment. Well, thank you! Let's just say that I've been through the mill of love.

    @ Marc: Yep, the connection of physical love is an essential part of their relationship, as a life-affirming act.

    @ ibc4: I'm glad you liked it! The hardest part, I find, is deciding on what to write about. Why did you pick this one? This could be a blog post all by itself, but essentially it went like this:
    "What should I write my Friday Flash about? The birthers? The tornadoes? The royal wedding? The royal wedding, but with zombie Mossad snipers from an alternate future Earth? A zombie royal wedding? A zombie romance (again)? A regular romance? A romance with guns? With lasers? Yes, a romance with lasers." After that, it was pretty straightforward, actually.

  14. I can see how your thought process unravels like that.

    Which, in part, is scary.

    For my next #FridayFlash I might steal the royal wedding but with zombie Mossad snipers from an alternate future Earth idea.

    But then again, they're so overdone these days ;o)

  15. Very well done! The emotion was captured so well and balanced by the bits of humor.

  16. Busy little hamsters guiding that thought train. 8P

  17. I think this piece expressed the intense feelings two people have for each other over a period of time. It also expressed the need to be with the one you love for one last time just in case.

    Very nice story!

  18. I enjoyed this. Very touching, and the ending took me by complete surprise.

  19. The relationship and the moment very well described, especially the sensations and memories held onto at the hospital.

    At first the title did make me think it was a sort of sci fi and that she was going to have to kill him later or something so I think the title was just a starting point for you and it took you somewhere, maybe you didn't know you were going at first.? But a wonderful job of a very human moment.

  20. @ ibc4: For my next #FridayFlash I might steal the royal wedding but with zombie Mossad snipers from an alternate future Earth idea.
    But then again, they're so overdone these days ;o)
    Yeah, I thought the same thing. 8-)

    @ Chuck: Thank you! It's always best to balance the bitter and the sweet - that's the only way real people can get through life in one piece.

    @ Raven: I feed my hamsters caffeine at the same dosage I take it myself. Makes them productive little buggers.

    @ Helen: I'm glad you liked it, Helen!

    @ a.m.harte: I reworked the ending half a dozen times. I'm glad it worked for you!

    @ alisonwells: To be honest, I did think about a overt involvement of the lasers, but in the end, I decided that having something as unusual as that intruding in on an ordinary loving relationship would have more impact. I imagined the reader saying, "Where do the lasers come in?... Oh. Oh, dear."

  21. Aw, this is sad but there's such strength to it...I like to think that she'll recover and they'll be stronger than ever.

  22. Great job. The emotion was tangible and I'll admit to being a bit verklempt at the end. I did see where it was going but I don't think the story any less for it.

  23. Beautifully done. Sad and lovely.

  24. This was a brilliant piece of flash fiction. Very well-written. You make me want to participate in the flash fiction challenge.

  25. Great story, Tony. I loved the twist at the end which really pulled my emotional strings.

  26. Nice hold out of the grim details till the end. The suspense made you want to know why she was so darn upset. Nice touches of emotion, humor and love.

  27. Lovely stuff.Thought she was having an affair at first, liked the way the story turned. Really emotional.

  28. Nice work Tony - a romance like no other you could say. Nice descriptions and the emotions were captured brilliantly - well done

  29. As always, so many nice comments, and then I come along. I just really think that the cancer angle is not necessary. You paint a beautiful portrait of two people, deeply in love, and clearly there is going to be separation between them. There is a heavy emotional burden that they are both sharing in addition to their love. Why narrow that down to cancer? And cancer is, in a lot of ways, a cliched heart tug. Why not leave unknown. They burden that they carry might be cancer, it might be her deploying, him going to prison, maybe both back to their own spouses, or maybe the giant meteroite hits tomorrow.

    The point is, the reader doesn't know, so, in coding terms, they assign their own emotional baggage to the story's variable. It doesn't make it any less deep or poignant or powerful, and it makes the reader commit emotionally to the situation.

    Just my $.02 and, since I read ll the comments, I know I am very much outnumbered ;-)

  30. Poetically evocative.
    Adam B @revhappiness

  31. You almost had me in tears. That wsa great.


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