Short Stories: Gerda Strobl

Flapper Press is proud to present short story submissions from readers and writers from around the world. This month we feature Gerda Strobl from Austria.

THE LOVERS

It was strange. When they said they had freshened up their love, it sounded . . . well, strange. They said it in a tone like you'd say, "I watched this movie and remembered how much I love it all over again." No, that is not right. It was worse than that. It sounded like they'd rediscovered a newspaper they'd liked in their student days. Where was the passion? Where was the feeling of something fresh?


Granted, it's perhaps asking a bit much that a relationship of over 20 years should have the fresh smell of teenage love. And who am I to judge them for trying to believe that their mutual respect and liking is somehow blossoming again into romance?


Yeah, only that's just it. I don't want them to just believe; I want to see it happen, I kept thinking. You see, I love them both dearly, they are the kindest and sweetest people out there. They never complained about my stand-offish manner. They embraced even my disappearing for a week or two on occasion, knowing that there are just times when I can't abide more human contact than I have to stand at work. Our friendship was perfect, and watching their love at work was always a treat. It was kind of my substitute for a lover of my own. I'm not that good with humans. I have a canary, and sometimes that is about as much company as I can take. It's not that I don't care. It's that I'd just live for that other person, and I would be infinitely hurt every time they don't seem to care about me in equal measure.


With Harry and Barbara it was different. I could warm myself in the glow of their feelings for each other, and yet I was never in danger of feeling insult or injury. It was like a safe haven, and it was perfect. Equally, I was never a danger to them, as it must have been pretty obvious how much I enjoyed helping them take care of their relationship. I mean, sometimes I even took care of their kids, and they know I don't care too much for kids. Taking them to the cinema was OK, especially since I knew that it gave them time to do whatever it was they needed. I did it because they were perfect model lovers, and I needed them in my life as just that. A substitute for something I cannot attain myself. It was, no, it is perfect.


Yes, it's pretty perfect. Anyhow, we could all feel that they were drifting apart incrementally. And then they went on this weekend with some sort of love guru, and after that they kept saying they had freshened up their love. And I knew right away they were both lying for each other's sake. It was both sweet and pathetic.


And then I watched this romance movie—not the whole thing, only the second half, so I don't even know the title. Doesn't matter, anyway. At any rate, I watched it, and something clicked. I did a lot of thinking after that. Was it possible? I mean, really? How? Well, I had helped them before. Perhaps I could use the position? I went to their kids. They all lived their own lives by now, and they clearly had no eyes to see what I saw, but they trusted me and agreed to help.


So, it all started with Paulette asking her father one day how he had conquered Barbara. Harry embarked on a lengthy story on how she had not really been interested at first, interspersed with Barbara's comments that she had really only been shy, and so on and so forth. I knew the story by heart, and so did the kids. The idea was just to remind them of the time when they had still surprised each other with little things on a regular basis.


And then the little surprises started. It was just a little flower, and once a week, only for a month. A small dandeli