a short story by Sarah Smith

Love Notes

“Once upon a time” is how all of the good stories start, so that’s how I’m gonna start mine. Once upon a time, I’m not sure about happily ever after. Right now, in this moment, I’m actually pretty sure there’s no such thing. In life or in love there is no happily ever after.”

I wrote that two months ago in the notes on my phone. If you’re worried that I’ve been eating ice cream in my pajamas in typical rom-com fashion for the past two months, worry not. It has been confirmed that there is no such thing as happily ever after, but I’ve accepted it. And a lot of good stories do start with “once upon a time” and end with “happily ever after,” but the jewels and the princes in between are metaphors for things-you-will-learn-you-don’t-need-to-be-happy.

I tried to be chill, but you’re so hot that I melted.
He was so hot he made steam look cool.

Those are the lyrics that are in the notes on my phone from six or so months ago. I was optimistic that I would be able to use them for an Instagram caption. My vision was of a picture of him sitting across from me at a coffee shop or walking in front of me to the other side of the street or waiting for me in his truck parked outside my door. None of those pictures happened, but they were nice thoughts when I had them. 

Dark chocolate
Green tea

That’s a grocery list of food that helps to reduce blood pressure. He sent it to me one night after I went home early with the excuse that my blood pressure was too high. It would have been sweet if my blood pressure weren’t directly related to how often he would talk about his 5 year plan to travel the world and not have a job. He’d talk about the people he’d meet, not the people he’d take with him.

Things no one will ever say about me    

She’s so chill
Her quick thinking saved us
I am amazed at how laid back she is
Wow she really flies by the seat of her pants
She said “just wing it”

I wrote that note on the way back from a day trip with our friends to the beach six hours away. He made it sound so fun and exciting. And it was fun and exciting. I was at home doing homework in the afternoon, and by the next morning, my feet were covered in sand and salt water. Spontaneous, adventurous, carefree. But none of those words have ever been used to describe me. I didn’t know what we were going to eat or if we had enough money for gas or how I was going to get my assignments turned in on time. He didn’t either, but he doesn’t bite his nails or bounce his right leg involuntarily or have to buy prescription strength deodorant. He is spontaneous and adventurous and carefree, and I couldn’t be.

I use exclamation points because I know you.

I saved this thought the day that I realized that we would not be together forever. He hadn’t done anything wrong. He sent me a text that said “I am driving!” And I responded, “Okay! Be safe!” He was always so excited to be going wherever he was going. I wasn’t usually excited about anything, and I wanted to remember that I started using exclamation points when I met him. It was a simple change in myself, but now that I don’t talk to him anymore, I’m glad I wrote it down. He did make a difference to me.

Outfit options

Little black dress
LuLaRoe leggings
Roommate’s long flowy vest
The flannel shirt he left

That was a brainstorm as I was falling asleep planning how I wanted people to perceive me after it was official that we wouldn’t be official. I normally wear earth tones and clothes that don’t draw much attention to me. But this was a breakup, right? I had to do something drastic, and I didn’t think this was big enough deal to chop my hair off. The next day, I wore a tan sweater with a navy scarf and dark green skinny jeans. I decided that staying the same was an act of rebellion. (And I couldn’t wear his flannel because I was trying to forget the way the green stripes made his eyes shine brighter and the blue boxes made his skin look darker and the cuffed sleeves made his muscles very apparent.)

Fold laundry
Watch the new NCIS
Prep meals for the week
Cancel subscription to Audible
Go through the notes on phone

That’s my to do list for Friday night. I can’t wait to get home and start on it. I feel content. I feel like I have a plan. I feel as if life moves on, and I’ve moved on with it. I don’t feel angry or hurt or hopeless. I don’t feel particularly happy. But life isn’t about happily ever afters.


Sarah Smith was raised in New Market, Tennessee. She is graduating from University of the Cumberlands in May 2018, earning a degree in Middle School Education with a concentration in science and English. She loves teaching the children of Appalachia, and she is excited to start a career in her own classroom. She writes creatively when the mood strikes and is looking forward to the opportunity to influence her students to love writing so they can be successful citizens who know how to use their voices well.