romance isn’t always very romantic

I am a sucker for a good romance.  I almost always lean in that direction when I’m writing.  I tend to favor romance when I pick a book to read.  And there is little better than a good romantic comedy on a girls night out.  So why does romance always look a lot easier than it actually is?  Why don’t writers tell you about morning breath and bodily functions?  I write my characters with bladders, and toothbrushes, and lots and lots of showers and baths.  I think it adds to the comedy of it all, because at its core romance isn’t always all that romantic.  Sometimes it’s a Three Stooges skit, and often times the third character is an inanimate object.  I know that’s the case in my life.

Despite my draw toward grand romance, my husband would not normally be considered an overly romantic person.  He was never big on the flowers and candy, definitely not prone to burst into spontaneous poetry, and absolutely never planned secret getaway weekends for just the two of us.

Until our last anniversary. 

After five years of marriage, my husband went through a miraculous transformation and became a romantic.  I didn’t ask questions, I just went with it. 

It started with a single hint.  And a potentially disastrous scheduling conflict.  My husband had arranged a three day getaway somewhere outside of Atlanta for our anniversary, and I was scheduled to work on the second day of the trip. 

He forgets sometimes that my day job as a banker requires me to work alternating Saturdays, so it never occurred to him to check.  Luckily, after a long round of begging and pleading, I was able to swap the day with someone else and the trip was set!

In the weeks leading up to the getaway, my husband sent me emailed messages with subtle hints about where we were going.  I say subtle, but they were really very blatant.  He sent pictures. 

The first picture was of a bear in the woods.  The second picture was of a mountain view.  The third was of a cabin.  I don’t think men do subtle very well.  I knew where we were going by the end of day three.  I didn’t have all the details, but I was very excited all the same.

Our anniversary was on a Friday.  We were scheduled to leave right after work.  This was December, so by five that evening, it had gotten very dark. 

And cold. 

And raining. 

And we had a two hour drive ahead of us. 

We met up back at home to pack the car with all the supplies we would need for our weekend in the mountains.  The brochure stated that the cabin was fully stocked with everything we would need outside of the actual food or drinks.  So my newly minted romantic had packed a beautiful basket filled with fruit, fancy cheeses, crackers, microwave popcorn and a nice bottle of champagne for our first night, and juice, bread, jelly, cereal and milk for the following morning.  He had thought of just about everything.

So after a few frantic moments making sure we hadn’t forgotten anything, we packed the car with our bags and laptops (because even on a weekend getaway, writers must write) and we were off.

We didn’t get more than three miles away when we realized that Mike had forgotten his BlackBerry.  He was prepared to leave it behind, but ever the thinker, I insisted we go back for the phone in the event of an emergency.  I had mine, but one just can’t be too careful when trekking into the mountains in the dead of winter. 

We made a hasty U-turn at the closest gas station, and after several minutes we had retrieved the phone, secured the house, and we were back on the road.

Ten or so minutes down the dark, rain soaked road and we realized that we had left the basket of food.  We were almost to the interstate, so again, Mike was willing to leave the food behind, but I was thinking more practically.  The food in that basket was expensive, and the time to replace it on the way would be longer than the time required to just double back and get the basket.  After a moment of quick contemplation, my husband agreed and we spun around again. 

Thirty minutes after our first departure, we were again on our way out of the driveway for our mountain getaway. 

Most of the drive was uneventful.  We took the interstate for a large portion of the trip, but once we had arrived in the little mountain village, we were searching for an obscure turn off to the mountain road that would take us to our little home away from home. 

To preface the part where we took the mountain road it is important to say that I cannot see well at night.  And I am absolutely terrified of heights.  When these two things are combined in any increment, the terror is magnified tenfold. 

The mountain road was paved where we turned from the main road.  There were no street lights once we cleared the highway, so it was pitch black.  The rain seemed to soak up the only light that was coming from the headlights of our Honda Accord.  As we climbed, the road narrowed to barely one car length, and the pavement was replaced with gravel.  According to the directions, we had to wind our way more than two miles up the narrow gravel road. 

Did I mention the cliff with the creek below?  No?  As I peered out the window into the black night, I could barely see where the road on my side crumbled away and there was a glint of rushing water far below.  I opened my window to listen as we inched our way up the mountain.  The water was deep and running fast.  It is a wonder that I could hear it over the sound of my screaming.

That was when my wonderful, romantic husband told me to shut up.  It was right about the same time he had to back up in the road because we missed our sharp, corkscrew turn to go further up the mountain.  I was certain we were just moments from plunging to our deaths over the cliff into the rushing dark water below.  My begging and screaming that we were about to die was apparently freaking him out.  He said I should close my eyes along with my mouth until we reached the top.  I was not about to close my eyes (or my mouth as I was now breathing exclusively through my mouth in quick panting breaths that were making my head spin.)  I was determined to navigate the rough terrain with my eyes if nothing else as my husband raced up the narrow gravel path.  He was going WAY too fast!

“I’m only going fifteen miles per hour!” He growled when I demanded he slow down.  “You really need to stop talking to me.” He added calmly.  I almost couldn’t see the foam at the corner of his lips, or the vein pulsating in his neck. 

“How much further?” I shrieked back.

The new road was dotted with cabins on either side.  They weren’t close together, and they were separated by trees, but we wouldn’t be completely alone in the woods.  I wasn’t sure if that was comforting or not.  If we went off the road somewhere, at least someone would notice.

“Start looking for the sign.” He ordered.

That was funny.  I couldn’t see anything outside of the wash of light coming from the headlights, and the faint lighted windows in the occupied cabins.  I would never be able to see a sign off to the side. 

That was when I pulled out the Mag-light flashlight from under my seat and began to shine the bright spotlight across my husband to the side of the road. 

“You’re blinding me!”  He complained.

I clicked the light off again and sat quietly as the car crawled its way up the slippery gravel.  Our tires spun a few times, and I was sure we were done for, but then out of the blue he spotted the sign.

The Brown Bear Cabin.

We pulled in the drive and I pulled my shaking legs from the car to stand on solid ground.  My only thought at that moment in time was, “we have to go back down again tomorrow!”

Until the next time…I’ll be writing about the second day of the romantic weekend!

Copyright © 2000-2018, Erica Lucke Dean. All rights reserved. Any retranscription or reproduction is prohibited and illegal.
Posted on March 9, 2010 .