StarGazing; Award-winning romance short story by Elise Brooke.

This is the story that won an award in the "Writing Sparks" local Gisborne writing competition. It is loosely based on how I meet my husband to be and moved here to Gisborne, New Zealand. I hope you enjoy it. Please let me know in the comments.


By Elise Brooke

Anthony gazed out the window into the night sky, his eyes set on that same star he’d always looked upon for the last twenty years. The star that gave him hope, the brightest. It was her he knew deep down, he could feel her presence. Anthony had had the same face in his dream for the last twenty years.

Anthony is a free spirit, a handsome man with wild curly dark blonde locks and eyes of cool blue. Work had become his life. It was all he knew these days. He was isolated and alone here on the rural Gisborne farm his parents had owned. The farm was the only place he had known as home, but he knew there was more out there. He desired in his heart to find companionship. Today had been Anthony’s 37th birthday, and still, his heart was empty. He was waiting for the one, waiting for her. He had almost given up the search.

His fear of leaving the farm and traveling has kept him restrained from this loneliness. Ever since the car accident he was in when he was four years old, anxiety has prevented him from traveling in a car.

Anthony scrolled through his mobile phone. His heart raced. It was her the face in his dreams! Her name was Samantha. She had golden amber-colored eyes, chocolate brown long wavy hair, rose-red lips, and pink blushed cheeks. He had to do something. For once in his life, he knew he could not let her go and sent her a message. Like an epic explosion, their energy connects. She recognizes him from her dreams, too. Without haste, she messages him back.

Anthony sat starring at his phone. It had been over a month now since he and Samantha had been messaging. They sent photos to each other, romantic poems, spoke on the phone and now video call each other every night. There was no doubt in his mind she was real. She told him she had fallen in love with him, and he was head of heels in love with her.

“What have I got to lose?” He told himself.

Anthony steps outside, looking over at the garage where his car was parked.

“All I need to do is jump in the car and drive. Four hours later she will be in my arms.” He tries to convince himself.

The car had been sitting in the garage untouched. Ever since his mother had passed away over a year ago it had been left it there, Anthony had never even opened the garage door since.

“Ok, are you a man or a mouse?” “Come on, mate, you can do this, one foot in front of the other,” Anthony mutters in his head as he approaches the garage door.

Samantha lay on her bed, gazing at the ceiling, thinking of him. He was on her mind, the first thing she thought about upon waking and the last thing at night.

“Maybe I could borrow some money, fill the car with petrol, and leave now. I could be there by mid-day if I did.”

The words swam around her head. Samantha, too, had a dilemma. Her health was not good, long travel would take a big toll on her body. She was diagnosed with a terrible pain condition ten years ago, called fibromyalgia.

“I can handle the pain. I have pain killers, they help a little.” Samantha tries to reason with herself.

“Once I see him all my stress and pain will melt away, it will all be worth it!” She yells out loud.

“I want this so bad, I’ve been searching for him all my life.” She sobs.

Frustrated as she knew her body would not cope well, angry as this seems so unfair and desperate for his touch. She threw herself on the bed and cried.

Anthony stands outside the garage door, closer than he’d ever been in months. His heart pounds hard, his hands are moist and shaky, his throat becomes dry, making it hard to swallow. Anthony places his hand on the garage door, freezing in fear. His mind is cast back to the day of the accident. Driving in the car, the rolling country hills, the smell of fresh-cut grass in the air. The huge trailer truck coming towards them, the truck crossing the centerline, the screeching of breaks. The look of horror on his mother’s face, her blood-curdling scream. The car swerving hard as his father tried to miss the hit, the sound of breaking glass, the crushing of metal, and the deathly silence that followed. His mother was killed that day. The memory has replayed ever since, haunting him.

Samantha stood in front of the mirror and dries her tears, her face tear-stained and red.

“It won’t hurt forever. I could do it, leave now, take the trip and suffer the consequences later.”

“At least I’d be in his arms!” She thought,

Anthony took out his phone, scrolling through messages and pictures of Samantha. He decides to overcome his demons, face his fears for the sake of true love, he refuses to lose her. He grasps his necklace tight, holding it close to his chest. He squeezes the pendant, inhaling deep. He ran his fingers across the turtle shape as a sense of calm came over him; the necklace gave him strength when he was low; it helps him feel her presence everywhere he went. She had brought it for him on her trip to Vanuatu, carved from a real turtle shell. All he had to do was rub the turtle, and he could feel the warm energy of her closeness. He never took this necklace off, even in the shower, keeping it close to his heart.

He lifts the roller door approaching the car. Cobwebs covered the exterior and dust cakes the paint job. Anthony gets out the bucket and hose. He works on the car all afternoon till she shone and purred like a kitten. He climbs inside. Glancing in the rearview mirror, he could see Samantha’s reflection, like she was right there with him, her presence pulling him to her. Remembering his father’s few lessons around the paddock, bravely he pressed his foot on the accelerator and rolled down the drive.

Samantha packs a small bag, emergency supplies, cigarettes, and painkillers with a large bottle of water. She opens her wallet, twenty dollars stares back at her,

“Well, it’s enough to get me halfway,” she sighs.

“Halfway is closer, I’ll go anyway, and worry about it later.”

As Anthony approaches the top of his long driveway, he thought to himself,

“I’ll ring and tell her I’m on my way.” As he dials Samantha too dials Anthony’s number, the phone rings at the same time.

“Hi babe, I was ringing you too.”

The connection they had built was unlike anything he had ever felt before. It was as though they could read each other’s minds. Typing the same message at the same time, feeling each other’s energy and emotions as if they were your own. Samantha and Anthony were very in sync with each other.

“My darling, I’m on my way to see you.” Gasps Anthony

“What!” I’m on my way to see you too!” Samantha cries.

“What about your health problem?” “Babe, it’s too much, I am concerned!”

“What about your fear of travel, the car, the accident?”

“I can do it, I can do it with you, I know you are here right beside me, you give me the strength and courage I need!”

“My darling, I have to meet you.” Anthony declares with vigor in his voice.

“I’ve already left. I’m on my way, I’ll deal with the pain later, I have to be with you.”

“I guess it’s too late now, look I’ll meet you halfway.”

“OK, it’s a deal, see you soon my love.”

The drive drags on for hours, much longer than it should have. Anthony has to pull over three times as the panic and flashbacks threaten his return home.

Samantha is suffering. Pain radiates down her legs, making her leg shake so badly she has to hold it tightly with one hand. Still, she drives on. Her neck is burning and her shoulders are heavy like two concrete blocks sat on top of her.

Four hours pass Samantha reaches the halfway mark, crawling into the petrol station, tank on empty. She messages Anthony right away.

“Babe, I’m here waiting for you.” She gushed.

“I am at the petrol station where we agreed to meet.”

“Are you ok?” “How far away are you?”

“I see you, I see your red car,” Anthony spoke with excitement.

“I’m pulling into the station now.”

“I see you too babe, wow you look so handsome.”

Samantha steps out of her car, standing in front of the bonnet, painfully pushing back all her hurt. She is in pain, but there was no way she was going to admit it, not to herself or anyone, especially today. Samantha had waited so long for this moment. Despite the throbbing and stabbing, relentless pains hitting her like arrows from a bow. Samantha refuses to let anything spoil this moment. Anthony has brought color into Samantha’s dark world. She has spent years alone, healing from a traumatic course of events, and her diagnosed condition.

Anthony parks and opens the door to his dark blue sedan. He takes in a deep gulp of air as his eyes lie on the incredibly stunning view of her beauty before him. Pinching himself in case he was in a dream, he steps out of the car. As he opens the car door and steps outside, his heart began to race again, his knees shaking as he wobbles to his feet. Anthony’s head is spinning, he thinks, what if Samantha does not like him after meeting face to face? Would this trip be one big fail? The fire burning in Anthony’s heart was not going out. Anthony had always been afraid to let anyone close, just like Samantha. Now he knew if he fell, it would be in her arms. He bravely walks towards her, heart jumping out of his chest.

Her gaze was only on him, the way he moves boldly stepping forward, yet his eyes show her he is just as scared as she. They stood in front of each other starring taking in every detail. For a brief moment now, no one spoke. Samantha reaches out her hands, taking his hands in hers, squeezing them tight. Even on their first touch, she could feel the difference, she had been plugged into her missing part, her conscious was merging with his. All the nerves and doubts melt away. This feels so natural, peaceful, and right. Samantha looks into Anthony’s eyes. Anthony squeezes her hands back. Her smile fills him with joy, lighting up her whole face. He cannot contain these feelings bubbling inside him. He pulls her towards him, wrapping his arm around her waist, looking into her eyes, back at her.

“It is so wonderful to see you, to hold you and be with you.” Anthony gushed.

“We finally, did it, babe. I’m in your arms.” Samantha giggles.

“It feels so good being held by you, so right.” She whispers in his ear.

Samantha and Anthony rent a little beachside cottage for the next week. It had a beautiful ocean view and one could hear the waves at night. They were halfway between houses in their own little paradise.

Samantha’s walls crumbled as the days sped by. Hours seemed like minutes. Where ever they went together, lunch on the beach, coffee at the cafe, picnics or pancakes for breakfast, songs play that remind them of love, they had found their true love.

Anthony took Samantha shopping, spoiling her with gifts. He brought her an elegant red lace dress and told her to wear it tonight. Anthony became Samantha’s boyfriend, yes, but so much more. They were best friends first.

“This is the first time I have ever worn something so flash and been taken to a romantic dinner by candlelight,” Samantha told Anthony.

“I’m not used to being treated like this.”

“You deserve it, darling. I want to give you the world, every day I will show you how special you are to me, just to see you smile.”

“I’m not used to all this attention, people are looking babe.”

“People look because you are so beautiful darling, you are shining like a diamond.”

“I cannot believe how lucky I am.”

“Let them look. I only see you, Samantha.”

Samantha’s hurts and fears of her past still tried to haunt her, but with Anthony, he knew what to say and when.

Now a new dilemma enters Samantha’s head. Were things moving too fast? They had been together for three months now. Her heart convinces her this feels so right. Samantha had studies to return to what was she to do?

A dilemma was on Anthony’s mind, too. He would have to return to Gisborne soon for work. He did not want to be apart for a minute. Who knows when the next trip would be. Would it always be like this? Samantha and Anthony felt the same. The plans to merge their worlds began until these could be put in place it was sweet goodbyes for now.

Samantha and Anthony video called every night. Technology meant it was a little easier to keep close. To spice things up, they would send parcels to each other, containing things to treasure that were special to the other. Playlists of songs expressing their feelings for one another treats for her, and they would swap favorite books. Samantha’s best item was a t-shirt of his. It smelt like him. She slept with it under her pillow at night to feel like he was there with her. Samantha had sent Anthony her nightie. He could smell her on it and also slept with it. They kept each other’s voice recordings to play whenever they could not call. Samantha covered her screen saver with a collage of his face and smile.

Two months pass now as Anthony sat in his lonely single bed thinking of her. His bedroom and the rest of the house were in desperate need of a women’s touch, a new look, still bearing the seventies-era style. Bright orange and brown floral wallpaper, fluorescent yellow curtains, and dark green shaggy carpet. I want her here with me, in this house, in my bed, close to me. I need to be with her. Anthony masters a plan, no longer paralyzed with anxiety, driven by his belief in her, in them.

Samantha returns home from her best friend’s wedding this weekend, still adorning her gorgeous, purple lace bridesmaid's dress. The whole day had been emotional and romantic. She misses Anthony so much. Samantha’s tiny little flat was a dark cave, not many windows to let in light, a downstairs basement converted into a self-contained garage, dark and gloomy.

Anthony had planned this all week. Samantha’s daughter had helped him. Samantha enters the bedroom, turning on the lamp and there he was, laid out on her bed, covered in red rose petals, just rose petals.

“Oh, babe what a wonderful surprise, I missed you so much!”

Samantha walks with seduction over to the bed. She sat on the bed next to Anthony, removing her black high heels, revealing her lace top stockings. He sat leaning towards her, brushing her hair aside, placing tiny little kisses down the back of her neck with tender precision. He inhales her sweet perfume. She turns her face to him. They kiss slowly and intimately, each touch so thrilling. He unties the corset dress, unlacing each strand of ribbon bit by bit. Her skin rises in goosebumps as he exposes her back inch by inch until the dress slid from her shoulders. This night was overdue. They spent the whole night expressing in the physical their love for each other, till the morning sun peeped through the curtains.

The next morning as they share a buffet breakfast in Samantha’s backyard, they spoke of their dreams having come true, of falling like the star he’d gazed upon, deeper in love with each other, partners ready to face the battles of the world together.

Anthony told Samantha in detail about the day of the crash and his mother’s death. He opens up to her as no one else had ever done. It was emotional with a lot of tears. Samantha held him close while he told her how she helps him, without even knowing it to overcome his anxiety and to leave the farm and even drive. Samantha, too, opens up to Anthony. She told him why she remained guarded for so long, the effects of having been in an abusive past relationship, how this had almost caused her to give up on love. He looked her straight in the eye. With solemn sincerity, he declared his promise to always and forever treat her right. They completed each other, no longer alone, bringing out the best in each other, united as friends, bonded in love.

It was another four months before Samantha finishes her writing degree and is looking for writing work. This would be much better for her health than her nursing job. Samantha got a perfect job offer, working for a local magazine, writing romance stories. This was her forte at present, Anthony had become her muse too. The best part was the job was in Gisborne! Samantha decides to wait for Anthony’s visit this weekend before she would tell him the news as a surprise.

Anthony too had been working on a surprise of his own, a big surprise, the biggest surprise of his life. This weekend would mark the beginning of the rest of his life, the rest of her life, and their life. Anthony was calm but scared he knew this was the right thing to do, the right time to do it and there was no way he was letting her go. He scrolls through her pictures on his phone when a notification pops up. Samantha has changed her cover photo on Facebook. Anthony was curious as previously the picture was of them on the beach. Why would she change it? As he clicks on the notification, the screen reveals the photo. He inhales sharply. The picture was of a distinct dark blue evening dress, with glitter and jewels, the kind Cinderella wore in the fairy tale with the sweetheart neckline and flowing skirt, but dark blue. Anthony messages Samantha right away.

“Where did you see that dress?”

“Oh, I spotted it on a site. It is my dream dress,” Samantha told him.

“Well, babe, the dress is the exact same dress you wore in my dreams when I’d dream of you before we meet!”

“Oh, wow isn’t that amazing, Hun.”

Taking this as another sign the universe was pulling them together, Anthony was ready now more than ever to move ahead.

The weekend finally arrived, Samantha arrives in Gisborne, as the evening came on. Anthony and Samantha stop at the chip shop before heading to the beach. Anthony unbuttons his shirt, removes it, and began rolling it. Samantha looks at him with excitement and interest in her eyes.

“I want to surprise you, you are going to love this spot, babe.”

He ties the shirt around her head, covering her eyes tight. They drove for a good ten minutes before the car came to a stop and the engine switches off.

“Babe, are you ready?”

“I’m ready.” Samantha giggles.

Anthony leans over, untying the shirt. Pulling it away, he took her hand in his.

“Open your eye darling.”

Samantha’s mouth drops open. She stares in awe at the glorious beauty. The sun in its amber hue was setting over turquoise waters, deep purples and blues danced across the water's rippled surface. The moon was peeping from behind distant hilltop views, its golden glow warming the light.

“This is “Golden Sands beach,” darling.”

“It is gorgeous, I can see why it is your favorite spot.”

Taking the chips wrapped in newspaper with them, they sat on the sand dunes, eating their dinner.

Anthony reaches into his pocket. Is now a good time he thought? He pats the pocket with love.

“I cannot wait any longer!” Exclaims Samantha.

“I have to tell you my good news.”

Anthony pushed the small box back into his pocket.

“Tell me, darling, I’m listening.”

“I have been offered a job!”

“Really, that’s wonderful babe.”

“Yes but, you haven’t heard the best part!”

“It’s right here in Gisborne, babe!”

“You’re kidding, what, are you for real?!”

Anthony grabs Samantha in his arms pulling her towards him. He took her face in his hands and kisses her with passion on the lips. They roll over in the sand laughing, so happy, kissing and hugging each other. Anthony stops looking at Samantha with a serious look on his face.

“What is it, Hun?”

Anthony stood. He held his hand out, pulling Samantha to her feet, holding her hands in his.

“Samantha, ever since I’ve met you, it is like the stars have aligned. There is no doubt in my heart or mind you are my true love.”

“You are my place of refuge, my strength darling.”

Samantha watches him, her heart beating out of her chest. She could feel it coming, and he knew it. Anthony got on one knee. He pulls out the velvet box from his pocket and opens it. The gemstones sparkle in the moonlight as he spoke.

“My darling Samantha, I love you with everything I am. Will you please spend the rest of your life with me?”

“Will you marry me?”

Without hesitation, Samantha drops to her knees too, wrapping him in a tight embrace

“Yes, yes, yes! I’ll marry you.”

By Elise Brooke

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