How do you write about love?

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Members of Rugby Cafe Writers were challenged to produce a piece of writing under 500 words, beginning with – or including – the question, Do you still love me? Here are some of the contributions. All are copyright to the individual writers. Find out more about the contributors here.

Do you still love me? by Ruth Hughes

Do you still love me
after all these years?
Or is it just familiarity now?
I do love you,
not with the passion of our youth, 
but for always, 
and sometimes with affection that creeps up on me.

But you how do you feel? 
It’s been such a long time together.
I know you need me around 
and are lonely when I am not around. 
But love – 
is there still love?

I need you now I am old and arthritic. 
You are strong and can reach things and undo jars and mend things, 
and I rely on you.
But is that love, or need, I wonder?
We are of the generation of men being strong and silent,  
showing no emotion. 
Softness was not allowed.
You cover yours by going in your man-cave shed with beer and music: 
you love to remember 
and to cry.

Do You Still Love Me? by E.E.Blythe

Why did you stop loving me
When did you stop loving me
When did you realise it
I knew straight away
It was 2006

Do you still love me, I’d ask
You would hedge, with weasely words
You would look me in the eyes
And lie to me
It was 2007

Don’t tell me she’s your boss
Don’t make out she’s just a friend
I’ve seen that look before
You forget, I KNOW you
It was 2008

Do you still love me? by Madalyn Morgan

“Do you still love me?”

‘I can’t watch this rubbish.’ Nick hauled himself off the settee and threw the television remote into Maddy’s lap. ‘I’m going to the pub.’

 ‘But it’s Friday night; our night. Nick, please don’t go.’ Maddy jumped up and followed him into the hall. ‘We can watch Match Of The Day if you’d rather.’

 ‘Don’t wait up,’ Nick said, grabbed his jacket and left.  

 Fighting back her tears, Maddy returned to the lounge. She clicked the television to stand-by, the old movie had lost its appeal.

 ‘I work full time, do the housework, the washing and ironing, cook dinner every night. Is spending one night at home too much to ask?’ She switched off the light and went to the bathroom. ‘Another night on my own,’ she said to her reflection in the mirror. Tears filled her eyes. ‘No!’ she shouted. I will not lay awake another night thinking about Nick with her.’  

Maddy had closed her ears to the showers Nick took when he came home in the early hours; when he thought she was asleep. ‘Enough!’ She lashed out, swiped his cologne off the shelf, the bottle shattered against the wall and the expensive liquid spilt onto the toilet seat. She laughed. ‘Childish? Yes!’ she said aloud, ‘but satisfying.’

She dressed quickly, threw a clean set of clothes into a bag and grabbed her jewellery box from the dressing table. She looked at her wedding ring. Would taking it off be going too far? No. She needed to make it clear to Nick that she would no longer put up with his angry outbursts. She hoped that by leaving her wedding ring – and the home she loved so much – it would shock Nick into loving her.

‘Hello, mum.’

‘Good Lord, love, what’s happened?’

‘Can I stay here tonight?’ Maddy was unable to stop her tears.

‘Of course.’ She followed her mother into the sitting room.

‘Now,’ her mother said, ‘What’s poor Nick supposed to have done?’

Poor Nick?  Your precious son-in-law bullies me, criticises me, he’s out every night, and he’s having an affair. We haven’t had sex for months.’Her mother gasped. ‘There’s more to marriage than– that. Nick works hard, I expect he’s tired when he gets home. 

‘He’s not too tired to bonk his secretary.’  

‘I’m going to bed. Telephone Nick tomorrow, say you’re sorry for leaving and everything will be fine, you’ll see.’

The following morning, Maddy put her mobile on loudspeaker and rang Nick.

A sleepy voice answered, ‘Nick Barclay!’

‘Nick, it’s Maddy.’

Nick groaned.

Maddy put her hand over the mouthpiece, looked at her mother and raised her eyebrows.

‘What do you expect?’ her mother said, ‘you’ve woken him up.’

‘Nick, I’ve been thinking. We’ve had some happy times. Shall we give our marriage another go?’ She waited for what felt like an age. ‘Nick, shall I come home? Do you want to try again?’

‘I don’t know.’

‘Well, I think you would know if you still loved me.’

Nick didn’t answer.

‘Do you still love me?’

 After a short silence, the line went dead.

The End.

An Afternoon in Autumn by David J Boulton

“Do you still love me?”

Always the same question in those big brown eyes, although there’d never been any doubt on either side since they first met. Across the years she would come and watch as he worked and then lay her head on his lap as he slaked his thirst after a tiring Sunday afternoon in the garden. They’d always repaired to this tree, he with his back against it, would survey his handiwork, she content to be close to him in repose.

Today was different. True they were by the tree, but he was digging, as she looked on.

“You alright there, old girl?”

A slight movement of the head acknowledged the question. She would never be better. He put down the spade and bent to caress her. 

“Yes, you look comfortable enough.”

It had been a mistake to start so close to the tree he realised. The roots of the ugly old sycamore impeded every thrust of the spade and progress was painfully slow, but that particular spot meant so much to both of them that he had no option. And he’d better hurry; a visitor was due in half an hour and he really needed everything in order by the time the man arrived.

And half an hour wasn’t much of a substitute for the eternity that he really wanted; for it to never end; this special time together. For them to share it for ever. All too soon reality broke into his reverie. The new arrival came into the garden without formal invitation,

“Anyone about?”

“By the tree; we’re over here?”

The two men were not friends exactly, but knew each other, and shared a mutual respect. As ever, he carried a black bag, battered by many forays more arduous than today’s.

“So how are things?”

The newcomer was bending down and it wasn’t clear who he was addressing. The brown eyes must have recognised the stranger; they’d met on occasion over the years, but this time they showed no suspicion. This time he was accepted as a friend.

“Much the same, but we managed to get out here. This is our special place.” 

“That wouldn’t have been easy. Those old legs can’t have got her far, they were bad enough when I saw here earlier.”

“I carried her.”

“That would have been heavy going, she must be quite a weight, even now.”

“We coped.”

As they talked the outsider was busy with the tools of his trade and the other sat down so her head could lie on his lap, and the brown eyes could see into his. Slowly as they looked lovingly at each other for the last time, the light went out of her’s and he closed her lids.

“If you’re ok here I’d better get on.”

The black bag was repacked and he nodded towards the result of his handiwork.

“Never easy.” 

No, not easy he thought as he placed her gently in the grave, covering her first, with  earth, and then with a paver. 

“That’ll keep you safe from the foxes.”

Do you still love me? by Fran Neatherway

“Do you still love me?” He was standing in the doorway, watching her get ready.

The question caught her off guard and she froze, lipstick in hand. It was one of those questions that has no good answer, like “Have you stopped beating your wife?” 

“Of course I do, darling,” sounded insincere, a reflex response, and “Yes,” was so blunt, as if she didn’t care.

She said quickly, “That’s a strange thing to ask on our anniversary.”

“Sometimes it seems as if you’re just going through the motions.”

She went on the attack. “Is that how you feel?”

“What? No, of course not.” He was defensive. “Lately you’ve become so distant. We don’t talk any more, or do things together like we used to.”

“We’re doing something together now.” She put the lipstick down and stood up. 

“Only because I organised it. You didn’t want a fuss, you said.”

“And I still don’t. You know I don’t like parties. There’ll be people all over my house, invading my space, judging me.” She knew she was whining but she couldn’t stop herself.

“We’re going to have dinner and drinks with our family and friends. It’ll be fine,” he said wearily. 

They’d been having this discussion for weeks now. “I’ll have to talk to everyone.” She sighed. “And you know I don’t drink.”

“I know,” he said. “You don’t like the taste.”

At the same time, she said, “I don’t like the taste.”

Their eyes met and they laughed. “See, we are doing something together!” she said.

“Come on, my angel. Be brave.” He took her hand and they went downstairs.

The living room was empty. “Where is everyone?” He led her into the dining room. The table was laid with their best china and cutlery; the wine glasses her parents gave them when they married. In the centre was a beautiful bouquet of flowers.

“I thought we’d have dinner by ourselves, like it used to be when we first met. Remember how we used to talk the night away?”

She smiled. “Yes, we did, didn’t we? When did that stop?”

“Children, work, life,” he said. “We always said we’d make time for us, but somehow things got in the way.”

She remembered how they used to be, when everything was new and exciting. Life was a rut now, a comfortable rut, but still a rut. “You’re right,” she said. “But we can change.” She leant across the table and kissed him.

They ate and talked and laughed, and the time flew away from them.

“What time is everyone arriving?” she said eventually.

“They’re not,” he said. “Just us.” He raised his glass of sparkling water. “To my beautiful wife. Happy silver anniversary.”

There were tears in her eyes. She knew he’d wanted a big party and so she had agreed, because that’s what marriage is about. But he knew she’d hate it, and he had done this for her.  

“Yes,” she said. “yes, I still love you.” And she meant it.

Do you still love me? by Christine Hancock

“Do you still love me?”

What a strange question. Of course, I did. I picked up my glass of champagne and leaned back in my chair. Although, come to think of it, when was the last time I’d told her? I looked out at the last remnants of the sunset. On this day of looking back, I tried to remember the first time.

It hadn’t been when we were courting. No that’s not the right phrase, we’re not that old; when we were going out. Young men didn’t say that sort of thing to girls. It must have been when I proposed. What a muddle that had been. I wanted to do something romantic, but finding the right moment, getting down on one knee and producing a ring, all at the same time, ended in chaos. Had I told her I loved her? I think I forgot that, but she said yes.

It must have been when we married then. I remembered a long discussion with the vicar about whether she would promise to obey me, or not. What did we decide in the end? Everything else is a blur of flowers and dresses and relatives I never met again. But tell her I loved her? I don’t know.

Children came. I know I told my daughter I loved her, I’m not sure about my son. Everyone was happy. I bought her flowers, I might have shed the odd tear, but I don’t remember saying those words.

The years passed. I wrote it in every Christmas and birthday card: “with all my love”, I didn’t need to say it.

Now, here we were. It had been a busy day. So many people: friends, relatives; some of whom I needed to be reminded of who they were. Children and grandchildren and various other connections. All gone home now, leaving just the two of us.

I looked out over the now dark garden. It had looked perfect for the celebration, and the weather had stayed fine. We had been lucky. I had worked hard and we had a decent house, all paid for now. I had done it all for her. Didn’t that show how much I loved her?

I turned and looked at her. She was tired, I could tell, with a faint frown that told me that she was thinking of what she needed to do tomorrow. She looked old, but beneath it all she was still the same girl that I had fallen in love with all those years ago.

I was ashamed that I couldn’t remember ever telling her that I loved her. Surely, she knew? If I hadn’t said it before, what was the point of saying it now? I took another sip of champagne and the bubbles filled my head.

“Of course, I still love you. I always have and I always will. Happy anniversary.” I tilted my glass and we drank a toast. 

She didn’t say anything but the frown had turned to a smile.

Do you still love me? by Peter Maudsley

‘Do you still love me?’ She sounded hysterical.
‘Do you still love me?’ She sounded more hysterical.
‘Do you still love me?’ She sounded even more hysterical
Then she exploded.
Eric took a sip from his drink, and said, ‘Told you. This Robot is not built to cope with emotions.’
Gerald said, ‘But I did as you said. I flooded it with dramatic scenes from soaps.’
Rosa said, ‘That could be it. You may have overloaded it.’
Carol said, ‘I don’t think so. I think you made it too dramatic. I think you have made the first drama queen robot.’
Eric said, ‘Okay, let’s go with that.All we need to do is tone her down a bit, so she doesn’t explode.’

Gerald worked all week on the robot and the following Monday he presented the result.
The robot said, ‘Do you still love me?’ It seemed a bit hysterical.
It  said, again, ‘Do you still love me?’ It seemed more hysterical.
It said, again, ‘Do you still love me?’ It seemed even more hysterical.
But this time it sounded a bit slurred.
It said, again, ‘Do you still love me?’ It sounded very slurred.
Rosa said, ‘It’s melting. Look, in the middle.’
Eric took a sip from his drink, and said, ‘Told you. This robot is not built to be dramatic.’
Gerald said, ‘But I did as you said. I took her along to the ‘Writing for Therapy’ group’.
Rosa said, ‘That could be it. You may have overloaded it.’
Carol said, ‘I don’t think so. I think you made it very angry.’
Eric said, ‘Okay. Let’s go with that. All we need to do is tone her down a little, so she doesn’t get too angry.’

Gerald worked on the robot all week and the following Monday he presented the result.
The robot said, ‘Do you still love me?’ It sounded angry and hysterical.
It said, again, ‘Do you still love me?’ It sounded more angry and hysterical.
It said, ‘Did you ever love me?’ It sounded even more angry and hysterical.
Then, somehow, it both melted and exploded.
Eric took a sip from his drink, and said ‘Told you…’
Gerald stood up and shouted, ‘I’ve had enough of this. Make your own robot.’
Eric sat up in his chair. ‘That was perfect. Say that again. You got the expression just right for the robot. Now, if we…’
Gerald picked up part of an arm from the robot and threw it at Eric.
Eric said, ‘Why did you do that?’ He sounded hurt.
Gerald said, ‘That was perfect. Say that again…’
Carol interrupted, ‘It’s a robot. Why would anyone love a robot?’

Egg and Chips by John Howes

‘Do you still love me?’ asked Karen.

This was going to be awkward. I’d been seeing her for a couple of months. She was one of our receptionists and, after a bit of friendly banter, we’d started going out. Most lunchtimes, we would meet up and wander round town together. Until this one. I’d made an excuse about work overload and decided instead to go out for egg and chips with my mate, Roger. And very good the egg and chips were at the Shakespeare pub round the corner.

Trouble was, on the way back to the office, we ran into Karen by the pedestrian crossing. She’d spotted us a while back and came up to me in tears. 

‘We’ll talk about it later,’ I mumbled. Roger kept his silence. When things stopped for tea in the afternoon, Karen and I used our usual phone signal to meet in the office kitchen. I can’t remember what excuse I came up with, maybe something about discussing a project with Roger, but – deep down – the whole thing was just an example of me trying to exercise power in a relationship and my unfailing skill in self-destructing promising romances.

So, it was no surprise that, a few weeks later, Karen and I were standing in the early chill of the car park one summer evening. I wanted to discuss the decreasing frequency of her phone calls, the decline in our office banter, and my birthday outing when she hardly said a word in front of my friends and gave me a stilted peck on the cheek to say goodbye. 

After a few awkward silences, I could hardly believe it when I came up with, ‘Karen. Do you still love me?’ Well, you can probably guess the rest. John Howes

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