Women and Love by Olive Riley

 Author’s Note:

These are fictional stories with themes form real people’s stories. Almost everything is made up, but the emotions are as real as I could make them. My goal is to make people feel less alone in their experiences, or at least somewhat understood.


She sat at her desk Thursday after school working on an assignment due the next day. Her spindly fingers urgently typing trying to get her assignment done so she could go to bed. It is 8:08 p.m. She has to wait two more hours until bed is a socially acceptable thing to commit to. Outside she hears laughter from people who are celebrating the end of their Thursdays a bit differently than she.

This happens most Thursdays through Saturdays, so she purposefully keeps her assignments unfinished until the last minute. This gives her a reason to tell herself why she is staying in. The door slams below her window and she hears laughter from the group of girls who had uncomfortably invited her to their “non-solidified” plans that evening in the dining hall. From the sounds of their laughter diminishing with the growing distance between them and her spot at the desk she concludes that their solidified plans did not include her as a detail.

Another hour passes and she is almost done with the homework that is due on Friday. Elizabeth decides she needs to procrastinate. Procrastination now meant less lonely feelings later.

She puts on her favorite show and snuggles into bed. It is 9:22pm. The nagging voice in her head decides it is going to remind her that everyone else is out having fun and no one had thought to invite her. She gets out of bed to go to the bathroom.

Twenty-three seconds later she is done peeing and washing her hands. Slowly the water filters over and through her fingers. The warmth feels comforting on her skin. She finishes up and walks back to her room.

She lays on the ground and stares at the ceiling comparing herself to the girls who had left her behind. Elizabeth wishes she were more personable.

Her phone begins to ring and she is startled upright. She checks the time before answering. It is 9:53pm. She doesn’t recognize the number, but she answers anyway.

On the line is a girl from one of the organizations she joined this year. This girl is a year older and has recently been working on a project for the organization with Elizabeth. The girl asks if Elizabeth wants to come over for an impromptu wine night with people from the club. A little too quickly Elizabeth says yes then awkwardly hangs up.

A smile pulls her lips upward and she giddily throws on jeans. She has a class at 8:00am tomorrow, but she decides she can be tired. She almost never gets asked to do things. Elizabeth knows that she has to start taking charge of her life and reaching out to people she wants to make friends with, but the thought of that cripples her. But hanging out with someone who went out of the way to invite her sounds more doable. Yes there would be people there that she didn’t know, but she made it her mission to work on her small talk. “Small steps,” she told herself as she filled with pride over being okay with the idea of talking with people she didn’t know.


When I was little I used to believe that I was the same as everyone else

We all had the same things we were working towards

We all had the same understanding of how life worked

We all had the same agreement to treat each other well


My mom once told me that I was different

That people were seldom going to see me the same

That people may treat me like I’m lesser

That people may speak to me poorly


It took me a while to understand that I was different

My skin became the center of attention

My skin was commented on by strangers

My skin was the problem


Now I understand

The slight brown color of my skin sets me apart

The slight brown color of my skin automatically made me appear less intelligent

The slight brown color of my skin defines me


Everyone sees me by the color of my skin

They do not see me as a woman

They do not see me as a survivor of sexual assault

They do not see me as a scholar


I’ve only met a few people who work to see all of my qualities

Jordan works to understand me as a woman

Jordan works to understand me as an avid fan of popular culture

Jordan works to understand me as a person of color


There’s something special about having my identities recognized together

It helps me to find myself

It helps me to speak up in a conversation

It helps me to not act as an educator but instead be a friend, daughter, peer


Ashley grew up in a town with a population of exactly one hundred and eight people, one grocery store if you don’t count the “super” gas station as you enter town, and two schools for grades K-12. She knew everything about what it took to be a great outdoorsman; in fact, she was so passionate about it that at the end of her senior year in high school she didn’t know if she should pursue her dream of becoming a mom or running her own campsite.

For the next five years, Ashley moved to a bigger town with two thousand people, failed out of college—the technical college and beauty school. Yes, she did fail one chemistry class purely because she didn’t understand the subject. But the main reason she failed out of all three was because she was working two jobs on top of her schoolwork. Her parents decided to buy a new RV, which meant they didn’t qualify to co-sign on her college loans. Not only did she not gain a degree in business or her last-ditch effort cosmetology license, but she didn’t even find a man interested in her along the way.  Her mom told her it was because she was too loose.

“If you give away the milk for free, then no one’s ever going to buy the cow,” her mother constantly reminded her.

Then one day she met Sam. He was the bartender at a new bar downtown, and he thought she was funny even when she was accidentally stupid. They started dating in early winter, and in the spring he started talking about moving away for school. Ashley couldn’t stand the thought of moving farther away from her parents, but she knew if she wanted to be with Sam she’d have to follow him. Then something miraculous happened. She missed two periods. She realized she had missed a few days of her birth control because of the stress from deciding what to do in the situation.

Her dreams of becoming a mom were coming true. She was at her mom’s house when she found out, and upon receiving the news her mother hopped out of her chair in joy and they danced around the kitchen. The rest of the afternoon was spent picking out names until it was time for Ashley to go back to her home with Sam. When she got home she was still filled with the praise and celebration her mother had given her. That all ended when she told Sam. He heard the news and his head sank as his eyes filled with tears of apprehension. Sam grimly told her that he had been accepted into a program in the fall that day, but he would defer it to stay back and help out. Ashley’s heart leapt and her eyes filled with tears too. She knew that her and Sam were going to be great parents together.


Four years, three break-ups and getting back together cycles, and four apartments later Sam and Ashley are sitting in Ashley’s living room playing with their daughter. They had broken up a couple months before, but are working to be civil about the situation for their daughter. This civility consists of Sam coming over every night after work, having a few beers and sitting on the couch. Most nights a few beers turns into too many, and he spends the night with Ashley.

Every night before bed he leans over and kisses her. With their daughter sleeping next door and Sam’s warmth in her bed her heart feels full. Her whole family under one roof, like it should be. The smell of hops fills her nose as he tells her he loves her and reaches his hands down her pants. Ashley knows he actually does love her, but is just going through a rough patch in his life and needs reminding. Her mom told her that she just needs to show him how loved he is there, and how their daughter can’t live in a home without two parents. She knows that giving in will remind him why he loves her, so she lets him take off her pants in hopes that this will be just another reason for him to stay.