"The First Vision"
In this story by Hannah Orenstein, a 1950s heartbreaker meets her fated soulmate — and despises him.
Hello, and welcome to the very first installation of Heartbeat! Buckle up for weekly love stories from now until the sun explodes.
This week, I’m excited to introduce novelist/style queen/mah-jongg enthusiast/Heartbeat’s co-founder, Hannah Orenstein, and her short story, “The First Vision.” Prepare to be swept away to Mad Men-era Manhattan in this tale of what happens when feisty Gloria Bloom butts heads with the infuriating/intoxicating Raymond Meyer, on the day a strange prophecy has foretold she’ll meet her soulmate. Serving as a prequel to Hannah’s last book, Meant to Be Mine (in which Gloria has a vision about her granddaughter’s fated soulmate), this New York love story crackles with whip-sharp dialogue, perfect fifties details and wonderful chemistry between our strong-willed leads. Mix yourself a martini and enjoy.
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“The First Vision”
The doorbell of Janet and Gil Weisberger’s new apartment rings high and clear through the dinner party. Gloria Bloom, twenty-three, secretary at an ad agency on the corner of Madison Avenue and East 45th Street, is eager for an excuse to escape her conversation.
“Janet’s so busy, I should get that,” she tells her former coworker Shirley Kraus, who’d been firing off faux-concerned questions about why on Earth Gloria would have broken off her engagement—to a doctor! (“A podiatrist,” Gloria had corrected.) How, Shirley wondered, did Gloria expect to meet anyone now, especially after two broken engagements? Gloria didn’t have the energy to share the real reason she had left her ex-fiancé, which is that she feared spending one more minute with him would make her shrivel into someone as tiresome, narrow-minded, and dull as Shirley Kraus.
Gloria opens the door to an unfamiliar man in a summer-weight plaid dinner jacket and brown leather loafers dragging a large suitcase. His dark hair has a soft curl, like Tony Curtis.
“Raymond Meyer,” he says, shaking her hand. “Gil’s cousin.”
So this is the cousin Janet mentioned would be moving to the city. “Gloria Bloom. Janet and I worked together right up until her wedding. Did I see you there last month?”
She can’t imagine she did. She would’ve remembered a man this fetching.
“I’m afraid I couldn’t make it. I came down with the flu. I was terribly sad to miss it.”
He takes in the party: Dean Martin spinning on the record player, secretaries in taffeta dresses and their husbands in smart sports coats, an array of hors d’oeuvres spread pleasingly on the credenza: boiled grapefruit on a new crystal platter, pimento-stuffed olives and deviled eggs arranged on a three-tiered stand, a ceramic tray for rows of crackers and a matching dish for chopped liver. (Did Janet put out her entire wedding registry?)
“Raymond!” Gil booms. He shakes his cousin’s hand, then pulls him into a hug, slapping him on the back. “How’d you like a dirty martini? Gloria’s will knock your socks off.”
“I’ll whip one up for you,” she offers.
“That sounds swell.”
Gil sweeps Raymond away on a grand tour. Gloria joins Janet in the kitchen, where she’s painstakingly removing her Jell-O dish from the mold. Hunks of lamb and pineapple float in the quivering green mass.
“Just what every newlywed needs: house guests,” Gloria says.
Her friend steps back to admire her handiwork and lights a cigarette. “Only until he finds an apartment.”
Gloria borrows Janet’s Camel for a drag. “You didn’t tell me the cousin looked like that.”
Janet smirks in her cat-eye glasses. “Interested?”
“Can he converse about subjects other than metatarsals and plantar fasciitis?”
“We’ll see. I’m warning you, though — there’s some, er, baggage there.” Janet mouths “divorce.”
Janet would think of that as a dirty word. To Gloria, it sounded like freedom. After two broken engagements, she was starting to figure marriage just might not be in the cards for her. She was already looking forward to a future as an eccentric spinster aunt: maybe she’d pick up needlework or learn to sketch nudes, adopt a parakeet or study Italian. She couldn’t open a bank account without a husband, but she could funnel her paychecks toward her brother. He’d help.
“Not every relationship is meant to last,” Gloria says. “Wait, what’s today’s date?”
“The first?” Gloria whips around. “It can’t be!”
“What’s the big deal?” Janet asks.
The big deal is this: Three months ago, Gloria was at the deli when the most peculiar sensation washed over her. She felt warm and dizzy, like she stood up too quickly after a long, hot bath. Then, she heard crackling static, like a radio tuned to the wrong frequency. She would’ve passed it off as a strange fluke, but an image drifted into her mind: her, radiating with bliss, holding hands with a man whose face was just out of view. A disembodied voice intoned, “June 1, 1958.” She couldn’t articulate why, but she felt certain that was the day she’d meet this man — her soulmate, her bashert, the true love of her life. (Not that she even believes in any of that hogwash.) She blinked and the vision was gone, the voice silent. She never mentioned the episode to anyone. What could she say? Any way you slice it, she’d seem loony.
Now, Gloria gathers herself, attempting to sound casual. “Forgot about rent, that’s all. I’ll drop it off first thing tomorrow morning.”
Janet refocuses on the party. “I better get back out there. If cocktail hour goes on any longer before dinner, we’ll have to carry Shirley out of here at the end of the night.”
“We can’t do it now?” Gloria asks innocently.
Janet stifles a laugh, shushes her, and carries dinner out to the dining room. Raymond enters the kitchen.
“So, you’re new to New York?” Gloria says, twisting the cap off a bottle of gin.
He checks his watch. “I touched down on the runway about ninety minutes ago.”
“How’s the Big Apple treating you so far?”
“The subway ride from the airport wasn’t so bad. The accommodations, though?” Raymond’s eyes flick over the new appliances, the gleaming cherry wood hope chest, an elegant landscape painting framed in gold. “The place I’m staying in is a real dump.”
Gloria laughs. “And what brings you to this dump?”
“A job. I’ve been living in this tiny Pennsylvania town, but I finally landed a job at a law firm here. I start on Monday.”
“So what about you? Always been a city girl?”
“More or less. I grew up in Brooklyn but hightailed it to Manhattan before the ink on my high school diploma fully dried. I’ve been here ever since.”
“You like it?”
“They’ll have to carry me out in a coffin.”
He laughs. She strains the martini into two chilled glasses, then garnishes each one with a toothpick spearing three fat olives.
“Did you always know you wanted to live here?” he asks.
“Ever since I was a little girl.” The memory makes her smile. “My parents took me to see the ballet. I thought it was all so glamorous, so exciting — the dancers, the yellow taxis, the tall buildings. That was it for me.”
He nods toward the living room. “Which one’s your husband?”
As if she couldn’t possibly be here on her own.
She snorts. “Oh, please. None of them.” Gesturing to Janet’s white toy poodle curled up at her feet, she adds, “My date is little Sandy here.”
He apologizes, then adds, “I shouldn’t have presumed.”
She’s used to it by now. “Nothing to get your panties in a twist over.”
He flushes scarlet. She hands him his glass. The surface of the drink trembles as their fingers brush on the stem.
“Cheers,” she says, clinking her drink to his.
Believing her soulmate will show up today — or ever — would be as preposterous as a woman in the White House. But even so, as her eyes meet Raymond’s over their cocktails, the vision nags her. What if it’s true?
Baggage or no baggage, Janet seats Gloria and Raymond across from each other at dinner. Shirley is playing matchmaker, asking Raymond inane questions and then, regardless of his answers, crowing, “Oh, Gloria said the same thing to me last week!” or, “Gloria, aren’t you also a fan of pineapple upside-down cake?” Gloria, hardly a famous pineapple upside-down cake enthusiast, presses the pointy end of the toothpick into her finger hard. As far as she can tell, people get married when they find a few things in common with a person they can stand, or when they go cross-eyed from endless necking without sealing the deal — whichever comes first. (And she has a few pieces of advice for the latter group.)
When Raymond finishes telling Shirley what he hopes to “accomplish in New York” — hear jazz in Harlem, try the pizza in Little Italy, make partner someday — she adds, “And find a nice girl to settle down with already?”
The briefest shadow slips over his face. “I’d like that very much,” he says.
Gloria glumly pushes a deviled egg around her plate. “Another one bites the dust.”
She only meant to mutter it to herself, but Raymond apparently hears her.
“Excuse me?” he asks.
“Oh, ignore me,” she demurs.
“I’m curious,” he presses.
“It was nothing,” Shirley says, glaring at Gloria.
“I bet it was something,” Raymond counters.
Heads swivel to Gloria. If she really is supposed to meet her other half today, well, Raymond and Sandy the dog are the only two eligible bachelors around. It wouldn’t do to say something brash and push Raymond away. But she’s not the kind of gal who can sit around biting her tongue.
“With no offense to our present company,” she says, “I have a hard time believing marriage is really as hunky-dory as everyone says it is.”
Raymond looks intrigued. “Tell me more.”
Gloria fortifies herself with a sip of her martini. “Well, frankly, men get the better end of the deal: a lover, a cook, a maid, a mother to raise their children. For women, marriage seems like a terrible bore.”
She doesn’t blame her married friends for wanting the lovely wedding, the Kitchen-Aid off their registry, financial security, the possibility of children one day. Gloria does, too. She just wants freedom and respect even more.
He shakes his head. “You paint marriage like a business transaction. What about feelings? Attraction? Love?”
She’s not immune to men’s charms — and unfortunately, she finds Raymond quite fetching — but in her twenty-three years, she’s never met a man worth the rest of the kit and caboodle.
"Love doesn’t always last," she says.
"Gloria, no need to be snippy," Janet warns her, picking up a platter. "Meatloaf?"
"I’m not being snippy," Gloria insists.
Just honest. Just the only woman around who dares say any of this out loud. She can’t be the only one who thinks this way.
"Maybe you just haven’t met the right one yet," Raymond suggests.
Gloria rolls her eyes. "Trust me, I’ve dated them all."
He tries again. "But what about —"
She’s had it. "Your marriage ended. Wasn’t that enough to prove it’s not for everyone?”
Raymond blanches. The temperature in the room drops fifty degrees. She’d have gotten a warmer reception if she’d thrown her drink in his irritatingly handsome face.
After a heavy silence, he raises an eyebrow and speaks. “I take it someone filled you in on my failed marriage.”
That comment hadn’t sounded quite so harsh in her head. Normally, dropping punchlines gives her a thrill. This one, she wishes she could take back.
He leans forward onto his elbows, dark eyes flashing. “Have you ever been married?”
"So how do you know you’re not missing out?"
The vision of her and that faceless man flashes through her mind. It leaves her cold. She turns a pleading look to the head of the table.
"Janet, I’d love to try some of that meatloaf."
Three days later, Janet calls Gloria. “Raymond has some apartment viewings on Saturday and wants me and Gil to go with him to make sure he gets a good deal. But we’re going to the Nevele this weekend. Can you go?”
“Why, what’s going on?”
“I might have to organize my spice cabinet.”
“Was he that awful at dinner?”
Clashing with Raymond made Gloria certain her vision was nothing more than a feverish daydream.
“No, he was far more pleasant than Mussolini.”
“Please? I’ll get you those fancy olives you like from Zabar’s.”
Gloria sighs. “Fine. But I won’t like it.”
“I wasn’t sure you’d show,” Raymond tells Gloria when she arrives at the first apartment building on Saturday.
Gloria ignores how nice his hand feels when it grazes her upper arm. “Janet will make it up to me.”
The realtor watches this exchange, puzzled. “Ready to find your dream home, lovebirds?”
"We’re not together,"Gloria and Raymond say, unfortunately in sync, crossing their arms tightly across their chests.
For a divorcé living out of a suitcase and sleeping on his cousin’s couch, Raymond sure is picky about each of the apartments he’s lined up to see: Too cramped. Too smelly. Too expensive. Too ugly. Too much of a bachelor pad.
“Absolutely not,” Raymond protests at the last offender.
It’s actually the nicest one they’ve seen yet.
“You want to be at the office eight hours a day and out enjoying the city for another eight. This isn’t good enough to sleep in?” Gloria asks.
“I could live in a shoebox. But this is no place to bring a lady. The bathroom is microscopic.”
The realtor nods vigorously. “Let’s find you a place fit for a queen.”
“Oh, yes, let’s,” Gloria deadpans.
No olives are worth wasting her Saturday afternoon with a gooey-hearted schmuck. Not even the fancy ones from Zabar’s.
As Gloria follows the men out of the bachelor pad, she gets a whiff of Raymond’s spicy aftershave. She pictures herself with him in the bathroom of a beautiful apartment: him shaving at the sink, his cheeks lathered in white; her rolling her stockings up with one foot balanced on the lip of the tub. In a huff, she speeds forward into the elevator.
In the lobby, as the realtor searches his briefcase for the next address, Raymond and Gloria sink into a pair of armchairs by the door.
“You know, I’m starting to get the sense you don’t like me very much,” Raymond says, bemused.
“What impressive powers of observation.”
“All this because of our squabble at dinner? Because I can agree to disagree.”
She finds him intoxicating — no, infuriating. Or perhaps that’s the same thing?
“No, it’s because I feel bad for you. You landed this big job — clearly you’re a smart man. And yet, you’re still clinging to this juvenile idea that fairytale happily-ever-afters are real.”
To his credit, he doesn’t flinch. Instead, he looks her straight in the eye and asks, “Why do you care so much about what I think?”
"Because — because..." Her vision in the deli felt so real. Not that she can ever tell him that. Not that it even matters. "Because you should know better than that! You’re divorced — wasn’t that enough of a lesson for you?”
"I learned a lot after she left me. For another man. Did Janet not tell you that part?”
Gloria trips over an uneven bit of sidewalk. “What?”
Raymond holds her gaze; she can’t look away.
“She didn’t. I’m so sorry.” Gloria feels even more awful for bringing up his divorce. Twice.
“I remember what love felt like, before everything went south. I want to feel that way again — this time, with someone who’s gonna stick around.”
For once, Gloria doesn’t know what to say.
The realtor straightens up, address in hand. "Shall we?"
It takes three more hours of searching but Gloria and Raymond finally find a real gem of an apartment: there’s a part-time doorman, an alcove for a study, even a refrigerator. The bathroom was nicely sized, with plenty of room for both aftershave and nylons. Not that it matters. Except…
When they accidentally both reached for the closet door handle at the same time, his hand brushed hers. The warmth of his skin still lingered on hers ten minutes later.
When the realtor kept blowing past Gloria’s eagle-eyed inquiries about utility payments, Raymond cleared his throat and said, “Pardon, but did you hear what she had to say? She asked a question.”
And then, after Raymond put in his application, he gave her a tight hug. “Thank you,” he said into her hair. She could feel the puff of his breath on her ear. And she liked it.
The next month, at Raymond’s housewarming party, Gloria pretends not to notice how Raymond stiffens when his new colleague touches Gloria’s arm.
Raymond butts in. “Gloria, can I freshen your drink?”
The colleague asks for a refill, too, but Raymond appears to not hear him.
At mah jongg the following Thursday, Janet says, “You and Raymond seemed awfully friendly at the party.”
Gloria wrinkles her brow and plucks a tile. “Did we?”
“I was wondering if maybe there was something between you two.”
Gloria discards the tile. “Janet, please. It’s your turn, let’s not dally.”
Gloria is rolling her hair one night the next week when Raymond calls.
“A client gave me a pair of tickets to the ballet this Saturday night and I thought of you. The choreographer is supposed to be good — Bala-something?”
“Would you like to join me?”
Gloria wonders if this is a date. But it couldn’t be. She’s been a raging terror around him. He’s not her soulmate — that is, if they even exist, which they don’t. He’s only repaying her for helping him find an apartment. And she adores the ballet.
“I’d love to.”
At six o’clock on Saturday, Raymond takes Gloria to dinner before the show. The maitre’d leads them to a tiny two-top with seats side by side. Raymond pulls out her chair, and as she turns to sit, she catches him admiring the way she looks in her new blue dress. In the corner, a four-piece band plays. It’s loud enough that they have to lean in to hear each other talk.
“See, this is one of the reasons I was excited to move here.” Raymond drums his fingers to the beat.
“You don’t mean to tell me you’ve never had live music at dinner back home in that podunk little town of yours?”
“No,” he says, standing and offering her his hand. His eyes glimmer. “Dance with me?”
Her heart does a pas-de-bourée. “But nobody’s dancing.”
She squeals in delight as he pulls her up. He twirls her right here, with his hand steady around her waist. She gets another hint of the spicy aftershave. Desire flares through her, shimmering at every place their skin touches, building heat beneath her cheeks.
“I’m just waiting for your feedback on how I can improve my dancing.” This close, his voice is low and mischievous. “I’m sure it’s coming.”
For the first time in weeks, Gloria lets herself indulge in the crazy notion that soulmates very well might be real. He likes her feisty wit. He’s just as particular as she is, and yet still, he sought out her opinion on everything from crown molding to cockroaches on the apartment hunt. He sees that she’s strong and still lets her be soft, opening doors and pulling out chairs in that classic way even Gloria can’t help but like.
All she can do is lightly smack him on the arm and say, “Oh, hush. You dance well enough. No feedback necessary.”
She turns her cheek to his shoulder to hide her widening smile.
The ballet was magnificent. Afterward, Raymond slips his hand into hers and leads her away from the crowd.
“Where are we going?” she asks.
She’s conscious of the press of their palms together. “Sneaking out the back door for a faster exit?”
They turn a corner to find a long hallway.
“Is there some kind of secret party going on? A speakeasy?”
He stops short in front of a door. “Go ahead. Knock.”
With a suspicious, sidelong look, Gloria raps on the door.
It’s opened by Maria Tallchief, the prima ballerina who was once married to Balanchine. Her features are magnified with heavy stage makeup.
“Raymond? Gloria? Come on in.”
Gloria turns back to look at Raymond. Her jaw is slack. “How did you…?”
He beams. “My new firm? It turns out they do the ballet company’s contracts. I knew you were a fan — I had to ask.”
She could swoon. To the ballerina, she says, “This is such an honor. You were fabulous out there.”
“Oh, thank you. I need a second to get out of these pointe shoes and I’ll take you on a tour of the joint.”
As Maria dips back into her room to change, Gloria hisses compliments at Raymond in the hallway. "You’re so sneaky! And thoughtful. And brilliant! And sneaky."
He grins. "You said that one already."
"Ready?" Maria asks.
She walks Gloria and Raymond through it all: the dressing room with mirrored vanities lining the perimeter, reflecting tulle to infinity; the wings draped in sumptuous velvet curtains; the great expanse of the stage, which makes Gloria feel so small in the best way possible. They see dancers shrugging on street clothes and orchestra members folding flutes into carrying cases and the night maids sweeping up an ocean of stray bobby pins. Gloria savors every step.
Afterward, on the sidewalk, she says to Raymond, “I can’t believe you arranged this all for me.”
Taxis sail by. Neither notice. Gently, slowly, Raymond steps closer and places his hands around her waist. But this time, the only music comes from the honks and hum of traffic. She inhales, filling her lungs with sweet, tantalizing anticipation. She bets he can feel the thump of her pulse. Raymond watches her place one hand carefully on his chest. She likes the solidity of him, warm beneath her fingers.
His eyes crinkle at the corners as a smile dances on his lips. “Can I kiss you?”
The tension is delicious. Speechless, she nods. He leans in. The first light graze of his lips floods her with adrenaline. Raymond kisses her again more deeply this time; one hand slides up the exposed nape of her neck, leaving tingles in its wake. Each of his movements is breathtakingly tender. The earnest way he presses his heart to hers and the tantalizing spread of his fingers across the small of her back make her forget her prickly outlook on romance. She might as well dump it in the trash. Incinerate the can. Toss the flamethrower off a cliff.
“I thought you didn’t believe in this kind of thing,” he teases in a low voice.
“And I didn’t know softies could kiss like that,” she retorts.
He smirks and hails her a cab.
“Get home safe,” he says.
After one more kiss, he opens the door and she glides into the back seat, feeling as light and pretty as a ballerina.
July brings more dancing, more cab rides, more stomach-flipping kisses. They go to Coney Island to ride the Ferris wheel and wiggle their toes in the sand. They double-date with Janet and Gil, playing croquet in Central Park and making up half the rules as they go. They see a standup comedy show, a musical, a foreign film.
Every once in a while, he nudges her and says, “So, love, huh? That’s still off the table?”
And she quips, “As long as women have to clean the table, yes.”
He mentions a darling ski resort he’d like to take her to this winter — months away! It has suites decked out with moose heads and an outdoor hot tub and complimentary cocoa.
And she replies, “I’m not sure I’m available. You can check with my secretary.”
Beneath the sass, there’s fear. She likes Raymond an awful lot, and she knows that whatever bubble of delight they’re currently floating along in, it’s going to pop. This bliss can’t last forever — it hasn’t held up for her in the past, and it certainly hasn’t worked for Raymond, either.
Feelings, she admits to herself, might be real. But love? No. It’s a fleeting chemical reaction in the brain — she just heard something about this on the radio. And marriage? No, she isn’t interested in a lifelong march of staid domesticity.
She ignores her fear for as long as she can. But eventually, the dam breaks.
They’re out dancing (it’s become their favorite regular date night activity), doing the jitterbug when the words slip out.
“You like me,” she says sharply. “A lot.”
He laughs. “You make that sound like an accusation.”
“Why me?” she asks.
“Mmm?” He pecks a kiss to her temple.
“I mean it — you want to fall in love again. And you could have anyone. Any Barnard girl, any secretary on Madison Avenue, any single gal you like. Why pick the one woman who swears love is for fools? ”
They’ve stopped dancing entirely. Her hands bracket her hips and she’s breathing hard. The other couples have all slipped further away on the dance floor as if whatever argument Raymond and Gloria are having is catching.
“You said it yourself: I like you. I don’t want any of those other women,” he says.
“Maybe you haven’t met the right one yet.”
His voice fades to a pained whisper. “But I have.”
His eyes bore into hers, searching for understanding. She sees that. She knows that. It kills her to look away, but she can’t let him waste any more time on her.
“I told you the night we met,” she says softly. “I don’t believe in any of this.”
She turns, sniffs back a sob, and walks fast. The farther she gets away from Raymond, the more crushed she becomes. She didn’t used to believe in love. But now? With every searing step, she realizes what it’s like to lose it.
The next day, Gloria calls in sick at work and goes to Bergdorf Goodman to distract herself by sampling half the perfume department. She nearly crumples when a nearby spritz of cologne reminds her of Raymond’s scent. She’s no good at heartbreak. She’s never felt it before — not like this. Even if she hadn’t conjured up that harebrained mirage, she’d still be devastated.
Janet goes over to Gloria’s apartment that night, brandishing a frightening new Jell-O mold intended to cheer her up. (Someday, Gloria will have the heart to tell Janet her culinary skills are best expressed in other ways, but today is not that day.) Janet listens as Gloria recounts their fight — and how royally she messed up.
Janet’s eyes soften with sympathy. “You’re scared.”
Gloria’s about to deny the heck out of that, but the pang in her chest stops her. She blinks back tears.
“Yeah,” she says.
“I don’t blame you,” Janet says.
“Come on. You practically skipped down the aisle to marry Gil. You were never worried about any of this.”
Janet bites her lip. “That’s not true. I just didn’t show it. I didn’t think questioning marriage was an option.”
Gloria throws her a look.
“I mean, an option for people like me! We aren’t all as brave as you are, Gloria.”
Gloria doesn’t feel brave at all. She feels like a fool who threw away solid bricks of gold.
“You really left him there?” Janet asks.
If Gloria’s heart was already broken in two, the rest of it crumbles when she realizes what she’d done. “Just like his ex-wife did.”
It’s late. Gloria hustles twelve blocks uptown to the building she and Raymond picked out together. She surges toward the front door, but then her confidence falters. She hurt him — badly. Maybe it’d be kindest to leave him alone. Frazzled, she pivots to take one crushing step toward the street. Wrenching herself away from Raymond is the hardest thing she’s ever had to do.
But then the door whooshes open behind her.
“Gloria? What are you doing here?”
She whips around. It’s Raymond. He’s in a white button-down with the sleeves rolled up, and there’s a day’s worth of stubble shadowing his open jaw.
Her throat goes dry. Leaving him alone is no longer an option.
“What are you doing here?” she asks.
He tilts his head. “I was going to talk to you, actually.”
A shiver runs down her spine. “I needed to tell you I’m sorry,” she says. “I was wrong.”
He takes a hesitant step forward. “About what?”
“Running away. It was cruel. I know you want someone who will stay. You deserve someone who will stay.”
Raymond’s eyes are like saucers. He takes another step toward her.
“And also —“ But she’s too afraid to say anymore. “I’m sorry. That’s it.”
He furrows his brow. “And what else?”
She swallows. “Nothing.”
He gives her a look like he knows her. That splash of intimacy feels like a hug. “With you, there’s always one more thing.”
He could sound exasperated, but he doesn’t.
It takes her a moment to find her voice. “I thought I was brave, pushing away a conventional life. But what’s brave is being vulnerable, even after you’ve been hurt. Especially after you’ve been hurt. I admire you for being so open. And walking away from you made me realize… I want to be open, too.”
He inhales sharply. “What do you mean?”
“Let’s go skiing. This winter, next winter, whenever you want. I’m all in. Raymond, I love you.”
She steps forward, closing the gap between them, and kisses him hard on the mouth. It’s exhilarating. Terrifying. Perfect.
He pulls back an inch. “Gloria Bloom, you are a fiery rocket.” He kisses her. “With the tact of a pirate.” Another kiss. “You’re stubborn, maddening, impossible.” One more. “And I love everything about you.”
A glowing warmth fills her from head to toe. She beams and repeats those magical three words, savoring how liberated they make her feel: “I love you, I love you, I love you, Raymond Meyer.”
Someday soon, Gloria will find the courage to tell Raymond about her vision. She isn’t sure how he’ll react. But she believes that whatever happens during that conversation, it’ll be an adventure — one of many they’ll take together in all the years to come.
Gloria knows a lot of things: The exact day she met her soulmate. The secret ingredient for a perfect martini. The thrill that comes with speaking her mind. But what she doesn’t know is that in the near future, on a crisp December morning, after a day of skidding and sliding down sparkling slopes, Raymond will pull a black velvet ring box from the left pocket of his ski jacket. He’ll ask her to be his wife. She’ll say yes. And then, against all odds, the two of them will live happily ever after indeed.
This week, listen to Georgia read her short story “When We’re Forty” out loud.
Next week on Heartbeat, get ready for a short story from Alison Cochrun, author of The Charm Offensive.
Follow Heartbeat on Instagram at @storiesbyheartbeat for upcoming behind-the-scenes sneak peeks at Alison’s story!
Three quick things from Hannah:
I have approximately one billion questions about Anna Wintour setting up Bradley Cooper and Huma Abedin. He is reportedly “fascinated” and finds her “intriguing and challenging.” As he should!
The only thing I want to wear right now are PJs from Printfresh. The prints are so cute and the cotton really doesn’t wrinkle.
Want to try Scribd, a platform for e-books, audiobooks, podcasts, and more? Get 60 days free when you sign up here. (I just devoured The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave.)