The Hard Way

new bern nc, the hard way short story elaina m. avalos, the hard way elaina avalos, downtown new bern nc

 It is summer. Eastern Carolina is a sight to behold in the summer, even more so on the coast where the air is like a sultry, sexy Flamenco. It just seeps way down deep into your bones. The light in the early evening is like this living thing. It almost breathes. Deep. It wraps me up – safe and content.

He, the beautiful man of the hard way, is a challenge I am sometimes convinced I can’t meet. Even after all these years. Today, in a quiet moment in the midst of a busy day, I thought about the way his eyes hold mine. There has been fire and light for me in his eyes – for me, for as long as I can remember. Me. His fierceness lights me from the inside out with just one look. In the middle of an everyday moment, I look up to see his eyes on me. And there in that moment when I’m nothing special on my own and living in the mundane, I am all there is in his eyes. I am the only one in a room filled with people.

And then as quickly as he is fierce and passion, strength and fire, he is vulnerable. His tenderness for me still churns my insides like it did from the beginning. In those moments, I think I love him more than I knew was possible. On nights like these when the lightening bugs pop and flash in the approaching night, as we sit quietly on the porch, I’m overwhelmed by the beauty of it all. There is stillness and quiet between us just like it used to be in the beginning, when he said all he needed to without a word spoken. The heat surrounds us in spite of the encroaching darkness. The rising moon isn’t bringing relief from the swelter.

But somehow, in spite of the sweat that trickles, and the air thick, all I can think about is the way fire and heat burn off the dross. We have been tried and tested in the fire. In the quiet, he reaches over and takes my hand in his. Ten years and a handful of days after the first time he did that very thing, it lights me up inside. Still. I close my eyes, lay my head back, and breathe deeply of the contentment that comes from loving him above myself – even when we do it the hard way. Even when we are tested in the fire.

– Flash fiction by Elaina M. Avalos

*I wrote this in 2013. This is a repost from when I started this blog.*

The Wish

  Photo by Jenna Norman on Unsplash, baby, motherhood, elaina avalos
Photo by Jenna Norman on Unsplash

The Wish

Five years ago, on a weird and oddly tiring afternoon, Katie Chavez made a wish. It wasn’t really the first of its kind – the dream had been there all the years she could dream about her future. The wish though – the one that seemed to change everything, was weirdly specific. Instead of the generalized dream, this one named the man and their future life of beauty and chaos, with a specificity that surprised her.

In the years before that day, with a dream so long deferred, she had grown weary of hoping it was still possible. She held it in her hands more than once, only to have it slip away. You get to a point where you know you need to keep the hope alive, but you don’t know if you can do it anymore. That was Katie. Though outwardly she spoke of hope, inwardly, she was losing it. Even still, she made the wish that afternoon. She pulled herself up by her bootstraps and dared to hope again.

Society doesn’t do us any favors. It told her that her dream of being a wife and mom had a time limit. It told her it needed to look a certain way to truly be the dream. Five years later, Katie has never been so thankful she chose to ignore what society thinks.

Five years ago, she wished for this life of hers. In an odd moment, in the middle of a normal day – a mere minute of her life changed everything. She wished for the life she has now – with her husband Connor and their children. The two were nowhere near that phase of a relationship, which made it even weirder. But somehow it felt right. Their lives were never the same from that day forward.


After more than one flight delay, Katie pulls into the driveway, later than she’d intended. She quickly grabs her purse and carry-on bag – having stuffed her weekend’s worth of clothes into it. The girl’s trip this weekend was as weird as she expected. It’s always going to be this way, she knows. When you don’t have to fight as long and hard for the life you’ve always wanted, you tend to not appreciate the little things in quite the same way as those who have. She loves her friends, but they spent the whole time complaining about their husbands and kids. Katie spent the whole weekend wishing she was home with hers. “I hope the kids are still up,” she says, as she opens the door and drops her bag and purse inside the entry way of the home she shares with Connor, their kids, and more pets than she cares to admit.

The second the door clicks shut, chaos ensues. Connor sees her from the kitchen island where he stands holding the baby – their toddler son wrapped around his leg. Their eldest, a four-year-old girl, who thinks she runs the world, is on top of the island dancing to music playing on the TV. In typical Connor style, he announces her presence in the most obnoxious way possible – causing one of their three kids and their niece who is now living with them, to scream in excitement and run toward her. “Mommmmyyyyy!!!” Their three dogs join the kids. Amelia, their eldest, steps onto the barstool at the island and jumps to the floor. Note to self, she thinks – find a way to talk to Connor about the kid dancing on the island. She hates sounding like she’s correcting his parenting. He’s the best dad. He just does things differently than she would sometimes. Thankfully so. She shakes her head laughing at the mess of crazies racing toward her.

In an instant, she is covered in kids and dogs. The kids are all talking at the same time and everyone but the baby is repeating the name she used to think she’d never hear – mommy. Mommy, guess what? Mommy did daddy tell you where we went? Mommy, did you bring us anything?

There’s this funny bit from a cartoon about a weird family. The mom is laying on the bed. The kid is saying mom’s name and then switches to various forms of mom. It’s nearly 30 seconds of him calling out to his mom. She lays on the bed, motionless – likely exhausted and overstimulated. He keeps going and then she finally yells, “WHAT?” He replies, “Hi,” and then laughs and runs away. Katie thinks about that scene when the days are long and the kids are sick or her husband is traveling for work again. When she’s tempted to roll her eyes, respond in frustration, or question her sanity for having little ones at her age – she reminds herself of the wish she made five years ago, alongside of the man she loved. She reminds herself that the two of them are their kid’s whole entire world. Every moment of chaos and craziness is a gift and they’re raising these wild little people to be strong, capable adults who will go on to do great things and maybe raise their own crazies.

The fatigue from her drive, after a long weekend away from her family, melts away in that instant. “One at a time,” she says patiently. Connor reaches her with their youngest, kissing her and handing her their mama’s boy, who just survived his first weekend without his mama. Oliver’s arms hug her neck tightly and she kisses his cheek. “One at a time,” she says again, when all the kids start talking at the same time as if she hadn’t said it the first time.

“They missed you,” Connor says. “I missed you.” He slips his arm around her waist. “Why don’t we let mom get in the house and sit down?” he says. The kids race back to the other room, the music still playing on the television. Connor pulls her close, Oliver between them. He kisses her again. He still turns her inside out and while they have their moments as everyone does, they are and always will be, designed for each other.

“I missed you, too,” she says. They pull apart though she wants to stand there in his arms a moment longer. “Can you grab my bag? I have stuff for the kids.” Katie walks into the family room to the kids turning somersaults and dancing – an hour past their bedtime. She watches the shenanigans of their overly stimulated, long past tired children and is already dreading getting them up in the morning.

Connor sets the bag on their coffee table and stands next to her, his hand resting on the small of her back. “It’s just one night,” he says, reading her mind as always. He has always known exactly what was on her mind. He smiles that smile that has been her obsession for the last five years. She smiles back because she cannot help herself when it comes to her husband.

“You’re right – as per the usual.” Katie sits down on the floor, sets Oliver in her lap, and reaches for the bag. Connor sits on the couch and turns down the music. Tears rise in Katie’s eyes. They’ll pay for this tomorrow. But for now, this man, the one she knows she was made for, and their family – are everything she ever wanted.

And this man and their family are precisely what she wished for.

Short Fiction by Elaina M. Avalos

I Miss You Today

I miss you today. I miss you often. Some days hit a little different though. Today it’s the sound of your voice and how I feel when you look at me – in that way you do – that I’m missing. The way you look at me always knocks me a little off center. Mostly because I equally long for it and fear it, at the same time. Fear it because I love you through this wild, alone.

If there’s one thing I need now, it would be to hear you say my name – to hear your voice. That and having this thing that stands between us, a distant memory.

When I was a kid, we camped on the beach. The waves crashed against the course sand – endlessly through the night. They were an ever present reminder of how something so wild and unruly can also be stable and predictable. How weird is that? Loving you is like that. Deeply comforting. Wildly unpredictable. And on days like today, as needed as the breath that fills my lungs.

I miss you today.

This Canyon Between Us

Photo by Mark Neal from Pexels

Your words can sting. I don’t always know why. Today, they stung. More often than not – you are soulful, profound, and you have this way with words that I adore. But today? Your words were harsh. I still don’t know why.

I’ve tried to talk myself out of this. I succeed for a few days – screwing my head back on straight. I shake free of you. And then in an instant, I lose the ground I’ve gained.

When we are together, when we talk – I lose all track of time. I always want more – more of you. I want more of you. But I love you through this wild, alone.

This canyon between us – seems impassable today. I’m out here on the edge, hoping for some clarity, some sign that there’s hope. It eludes me, tonight.

We could quickly cross this divide to each other. If only you would reach out.

It’s the Way You Say my Name

I’ve tried a million times to tell you.

There’s a deep canyon between us. We could meet each other halfway – to bridge this divide. But until one of us starts the journey, the words I don’t say, outnumber the ones I speak.

I told a friend recently that I was waiting for the man that felt like home. I neglected to mention I’d already met you. It’s the way you say my name. Each time, I grow a little more certain. You’re the most home I’ve ever felt.

I write these words on slips of paper or type them out in quick paragraphs, storing them up for a day that may never come.

I am not ready to give up just yet though. Not when I’m finally home.