CANCER: Fantasy Romance Edition
We could be anyone.
“Temptation in Rosé”
Fantasy Romance by L.J. Longo
Content Warning: Mild Language
Read time: 5 minutes
All your dreams shine in a glass of sweet rosé that the bartender puts in front of you.
The bartender said something before he set the glass down, but you weren’t paying attention and now …
There sits the glass, and the wine, and all your dreams.
Who sent it?
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A glance around the hotel lounge doesn’t tell you much. The people are mostly paired off. Friends, or at least co-workers, lean in and whisper in each other’s ears, laugh at each other’s jokes, touch each other’s thighs.
Could it be that cowboy in the blue suit with diamond studs? He’s older, dignified, with an easy grin. He’s come here to gamble, traveling the country for fun. He thinks he can pay for love as easily as he pays for wine. And maybe he can.
Or maybe it’s that man over there with eyes like water? He looks like he’s alone on a business trip and one that isn't going well. Maybe he sent this glass to waste the credit the company gave him, because what else could go wrong in this shitty little Four-Star hotel. But maybe, just maybe, the love of a stranger—or at least the warm conversation of a woman who owes him for a glass of wine, at least—could save him.
But what if it’s all a mistake? The bartender is having words with a sunburned tourist at the other corner of the bar, right now. Maybe his rosé was meant not for you, but for the woman in the red dress. Why is she wearing that kind of a dress in a hotel anyway?
Or maybe it was a rosé that had been opened last week for a bachelorette party and it was about to go bad, and the bartender didn't want to throw it out. So, he poured it into small glasses and divided them among lonely women who wouldn’t know any better.
The bartender floats by again—they're always so busy—but he pauses to wink and repeats what he said before.
“Oh. You mean the one in green? With the couple in the booth?”
He’s a gentle-looking man, this third wheel in what’s probably a date going terribly awkwardly. Smiling lips that are wide and soft like a woman's, deep-set eyes that shine in a face a little too round for the sharpness of his glasses. He looks nervous when you make eye contact and smile.
With a tip of the glass in his direction, you sip the sweetness of something new. Then stand and walk over.
The couple—a slightly older man and woman, actually it’s pretty clear they’re married—look more excited than he is.
Do they do this to him often? Well-meaning friends who give a woman an opportunity to meet their adult adopted son in the far-flung hopes that such a meeting will bring them a new partner for game night.
And so what if they do? This is exciting.
Who is this man? He hasn't been vetted by your dating site or astrological chart. Not even the most casual strings connect you. He’s not the friend of your brother. Not a single guy who goes to your civic club. You aren’t meeting in your aunt’s community garden or at the corner shop around the corner from your workplace.
He could be anyone.
You could be anyone.
When you reach the table, you might smile down at him and pour the wine on his head. Splash it on his grey trousers.
You could tell him you’re a missionary from Mars to spread the news about our Lord and Savior the great Star Turtle. You could tell him you are a country girl who moved to the big city on her way home for Christmas, but she hopes to avoid seeing and inevitably falling for her childhood boyfriend which will sabotage all her life plans. You could tell him you’re going to find the cure for cancer or that you research aliens.
You could tell him the truth and learn it yourself at the same time.
Admit you are scared that you don’t know who you are, or that you settled for ease instead of passion in your life, or that you don’t know if you want to be who you are becoming—which might be someone who doesn’t even like rosé.
But what if you like rosé, too much? What if this drink, this meeting, this man changes your life forever? What if you fall in love, but lose his phone number, or friend the wrong person on Facebook, or find out he lives across the country?
But … what if you find he does live near you? What if your future happens somewhere between here and home and this is the hotel lounge you tell your children and grandchildren about someday. What if he loves your aunt’s community garden and game night and walking to the corner store with you and listening as you ask too many questions and find dreams in glasses of pink wine.
Either way, you’re standing at the booth and the answer to all your racing thoughts begins with one word.
I was too stunned—by the fact that she was looking directly at me—to look away. I was so used to being invisible, like a ghost people look at but don’t see, that her direct calm gaze startled me, and modesty didn’t kick in right away.
Excerpt from LJ’s romantic story, “Soup and Sugar” featured in the 2022 Cancer issue of Dharma Direction.
L.J. Longo is an award-winning Romance author, a queer geek, and feminist writing a medley of dark romance (which can be found through Evernight Publishing), magical realism, weird sci-fi/fantasy, and very implausible creative non-fiction. She recently received Third Place recognition for her submission to the Writer’s Digest Annual Short Story Fiction Contest with her entry titled, "To Harvest Lavender." Coming Soon: LJs queer fiction, “The Stranded Sky Castle” will be featured in the Alpha Male anthologies from Evernight Publishing.
Scenes for the Senses… audio/visual art
Each month, Read Gallo treats us to a mesmerizing few minutes in the dreamy world of a free-flowing watercolor brush. Relax and let your mind wander as our artist-in-residence captures a moment from “Temptation in Rosé,” this edition’s Fantasy Romance by LJ Longo.
Dharma Direction is thrilled to have our Substack neighbor, Hattie Jean Hayes, sharing another one of her poems in this Cancer Romance edition. We’re going to save the backstory about this one for our free bonus issue in August when Dharma publisher/editor Debbie Abbott chats with Hattie about the way random events inspire her whimsical heart.
Read time: Under 2 minutes
“Wrestle With Jimmy”
My worth is hamburger: hot and understood on sight. Shrink-wrapped mustard at a Vegas taxi stand, serrated edge of feminine mystique blistering beneath satiny plastic. Immediate recognition of the premeditated edible. Playing brave in the front seat, I wished for any other face: to be an actress immobilized, free to be uncomedic, maybe restrained. I wish I were easy and plain like the pages of a short book If I needed to leave, I knew, I could go. I could open the door and walk backwards through traffic sluggish and unimpressed, take my time and my chances, but no, I sat frozen like vodka bottles, ice blue in a black Lexus, stroked and coddled by a man my age — isn’t that what everyone wants for me? After an hour I’ve got my bounty. After an hour I stride through crowds hundreds strong, three boxes of cheeseburgers balanced on my forearms, blue silk straddling my boniest parts, and a song I know by heart heralding my return. This battlefield, my wry habitat, as good a place as any to take a life
~ Original poem by Hattie Jean Hayes
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Next up: Leo, the Lion
July 23 - August 22
Coming next week … The Angel Edition by Debbie Abbott
Verchiel, the Angel of Leo and Affection—aka the Angel of Ego and Pleasures—encourages us to indulge our passions, enjoy our achievements, and remain humble in the process.
What if … we really could be anyone?
In this edition’s romance story, LJ Longo touches on the topic of knowing who we are … and if we ever truly know who anyone is. This made me think of people who “switch gears” at a time in their lives when others look at them with pity and think: Oh sweetie, you’re too old to make that kind of change now.
Maybe people who think like that have never heard of Grandma Moses. At the age of 78, this woman (real name: Anna Mary Robertson Moses) decided to become a painter. In 1953, at the age of 93 she was featured on the cover of Time magazine. In 2006 (long after she died in 1961 at the age of 101), Grandma Moses’ painting, Sugaring Off, was sold in New York at a Christie’s auction for 1.2 million dollars (U.S.).
I don’t know what you think, but the snake charmer in the lower left corner is certainly unexpected. As unexpected as starting a new career when you’re almost 80!
The moral here being:
We can be anyone we want to be … Time has no say in the matter.
Thanks for reading/subscribing; we appreciate your support. Watch for our contributors’ posts on their social media platforms throughout Cancer season as they share their stories and visions of the Dharma motto:
~ Debbie Abbott, publisher/editor