The New Generation of Classic Short Stories

Vol. 17, No. 4

Steve and Lauren: Three Love Stories

by Deborah Willis


They had been living in the house for three years when Lauren noticed it. While vacuuming the living room, she moved the coffee table and saw a hole in the floor, big enough that she'd almost caught her foot in it. She turned off the vacuum—a Kenmore Gentle Sweep they'd received as a wedding gift—and sank to her hands and knees. She touched the frayed carpet and splintered floorboards. She peered down and saw blackness.
     It struck her as strange that there was a hole in the floor, because the house didn't have a basement. One reason they'd purchased this property was that the foundation was built on solid rock. The city sat on a fault line, and Steve said that houses built on rock would fare better in an earthquake. He had done research.
     She returned the coffee table to its place, careful to set each leg in its divot. She would mention the hole to Steve that evening.
     But when he came home from the science fair he'd been judging all weekend—as a new teacher, he was expected to participate in many extracurricular activities—he told her he'd run into Amanda and Quinn, who'd just returned from a month in Honduras.
     "I'm surprised they could afford it," Lauren said as she helped unload groceries from a cloth bag. She thought about Honduras and pictured colorful houses, beaches with bright water, guerrilla soldiers in fatigues. "Was there a coup there recently? Was that Honduras?"
     "I invited them over sometime. Thought we could barbecue."
     Could it have been Nicaragua? Nicaragua—such a nice word, full of pleasing sounds.
     She worked as a rep for a condo developer, which was more than a full-time job, but one day she planned to register for a night class and learn Spanish or French, one of those elegant European languages. She had so many ambitions, so many resolutions unfulfilled. She'd once taken up sewing, and now bolts of fabric sat unused in a closet. And there was a whole list of books she'd meant to read: The Master and Margarita, Anna Karenina. For years A Brief History of Time had been gathering dust on her bedside table.
     "Maybe you can make that cake thing," said Steve. "The chocolate-orange one."
     "Sounds good." She poured them each a glass of wine. "We haven't seen those two in forever."

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