Loves Me, Loves Me Not …

A successful Winterfest was winding down. Presents had been opened, food had been eaten, and family pictures had been taken, so Adelise suggested her husband put the camera away. They were the only ones left in the room and she was tired of posing for pictures. She reached for the camera.


Adelise: What are you doing?

Asher: You’re tired of posing, so I’m taking candid shots.

Adelise: But we don’t need any more pictures and everyone’s left us.

Asher: We never “needed” any pictures.


Adelise: Stop messing around.

Asher: Why? I’m having fun.

Adelise: These are going to look awkward. You’re randomly pressing the shutter button.

Asher: I’m not and the pictures aren’t awkward. As long as you’re in the frame, they always turn out fine. But I have something to show you. Follow me.

He set the camera down and leisurely walked to the other side of the tree while playfully gesturing for his wife to follow him.

He’d been patiently waiting for the right moment to dangle mistletoe above her. The plant was said to bring peace, healing and love. They had peace and their relationship was healing, but love? It was hard to say. Feelings were complicated.

At least, it was clear that they had “like,” a lot of it.

Adelise had no problem with surprise mistletoe. If mistletoe were easy to comfortably conceal in a dress without pockets, she might have pulled a similar trick.

Asher: Let’s go up the tower.

Adelise: My room is closer.

Asher: The tower is quieter and its view is better. We’ll be able to—to talk with a view of snow falling over the river and city lights twinkling in the distance. It’ll be nice.  

Adelise agreed to meet him up there.

The tower was Asher’s personal sanctuary. With windows on all sides and without any clear entrances, the tower had an unearthly quality that made it feel as though it existed outside of space and time. The soft candlelight, the way the windows framed the picturesque view of snow blanketing the city, and the near perfect silence added to the ethereal atmosphere.

But Asher and Adelise were preoccupied at the moment and neither gave any thought to the atmosphere.

Unearthly, unnatural, unsettling—Adelise didn’t feel, and hadn’t felt for a while, that Asher’s room was any of those things. Instead, it felt safe and warm. So when he gestured towards his “bed” that resembled a final resting place, she didn’t hesitate.

She might have hesitated if she’d known that his “bed” levitated and spun and that she’d be hurled from it along with Asher, but sometimes fun things get a bit wild.

Adelise and Asher are thrown from his coffin. He lands on her, but keeps his weight off.
Asher helps Adelise up.

They laughed and straightened themselves out. Adelise remembered the drink she’d brought for him to try. She’d experimented until she’d come up with something salty and metallic that she thought would appeal to his unique palate.

He was impressed. It was delicious, considering it didn’t contain any actual blood. He loved how clever she was, how she could converse with him knowledgably about pretty much anything, and while he had her to himself without any distractions, he wanted to hear about her latest interests.

Adelise found his enthusiasm for conversation cute and told him as much, “When you’re enthusiastic about something and you smile, your ears perk up slightly and it’s cute. I like it.” She paused before flirtily asking him, “What do you like?”

Asher: What do I find attractive?

Adelise: Yeah.

Asher: Brown hair.

Adelise: Brown hair?

Asher: Yes, like Lavender’s.

Adelise: I see—I’m tired. I’m going to bed.

Asher: But it’s still early?

Adelise: I’m tired.

She wasn’t that mad at him. She was angrier at herself. Despite knowing what he was like (and who he liked), she’d delusionally fished for compliments.

She shuddered at her earlier intentions of opening up to him. There would have been little worse than standing in that tower desperately emptying her heart, exposing all her feelings, to try to drag certain words out of him when he would never say what she wanted to hear. Instead, he would probably say what she never wanted to hear. He’d confess to how much he had loved, still loved, and would forever love his dead girlfriend and her brown hair. If Adelise lost it and cried, he’d be shocked and she’d be forced to explain to him in unbearably torturous detail why she was upset.

She really wanted to return to cool indifference, something like friends with benefits. Being angry because he said he liked brown hair, being so upset that her chest physically hurt—it was awful and childish. She tried to get a grip by using the mirror to talk herself into a better mood.

Everything was fine! She had children who were happy and who loved her, a husband who worked hard, and all her material wants were satisfied. There were no problems. Her pragmatic teenage self would have been thrilled with this and would have only shrugged, “So what? I don’t care.” at the idea of her husband favoring someone else, especially someone dead.

So why was she so seemingly immature now? At her age! Exposure to others’ incredibly loving relationships had expanded her desires and given her hope that she could have that too, that such relationships were normal… and now her heart was breaking because her husband wouldn’t put her first.

She imagined her younger self yelling, “This is ridiculous! You’re acting as if he hates you. He likes you. You’re friends. If you care so much about such stupid things, then leave him and see how that works out. I can’t believe I became as ‘entitled’ as everyone said I was.”

But logic wasn’t helping. She didn’t feel better. She still wanted to hear her husband say he loved her so badly that it hurt.


  • MonaSolstraale
    January 10, 2023 at 4:33 am

    I will praise your pictures. The images are so beautiful, almost poetic at the beginning of the chapter and emphasize the flirtatious and playful mood 💖
    Then the tone of the images changes and they become gloomy and dark like Adelise’s mind. I almost feel a lump in my stomach. Poor woman 💔

    • Haneul
      January 11, 2023 at 9:55 am

      Thank you! That’s very kind. I tried to present and edit the images so that there was that kind of change from warm and playful/romantic to less warm and less playful, but I couldn’t edit all of the images as I imagined because some of the colors were becoming really distorted – so I’m glad that you were able to notice a change in the images even though I was unable to carry out my plan.

  • Yimiki
    January 13, 2023 at 4:08 am

    Ooooof, Asher… talk about the worst possible thing to say in that moment. He was doing so well, too. Lavishing her with compliments, being sweet and attentive, gentle loving followed by horizontal tango. And then that comment. Oh my actual gods. I actually hissed out loud on that one.

    I… kind of can understand the logic behind him reacting like that? Maybe? He’s still fond of his late wife’s memory and he’ll always carry that with him… but dear lord, right after she gave him a compliment and while she’s actively trying to bond with him is just… my gods. What a horrific slap to the face. Poor Adelise. I wouldn’t fault her if she checks out of the relationship completely at this point.

    You know what, yes. Asher doesn’t deserve her. He can pine after his dead first wife for the rest of his un-life and Adelise can go be truly happy. Her relationship with Asher is like that giant, marble, gleaming palace. Incredible and majestic and perfect at first glance but so, so cold and hollow at its core.

    • Haneul
      January 13, 2023 at 11:03 am

      Thank you for always leaving such thoughtful comments.

      I had thought that Asher and Adelise were doing acceptably well and that they were going to have interactions with each other that were fairly sweet, but then he made that comment (when I anticipated him saying something nice or at worst silly), making things difficult for me, and I felt about as done as Adelise.

      I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being fond of the mother of one of your children even after her passing, but his comment was definitely crossing the line and inappropriate. It wouldn’t be so bad if it were just a one-off mistake, but he’s consistently not great.

      I want to clarify that Asher has only ever had one wife: Adelise. He was never married before. He proposed and was rejected twice by Aster’s mother. I guess he seems great at first (as you said like a marble palace), but then as his romantic interests get to know him better, his coldness is revealed and things fall to pieces (as seen here). Aster’s mother didn’t want to deal with it. Adelise has bad taste and really likes him, so … idk. But she has limits too. We’ll see if he can sort it out or if Adelise is also finished with him. On the other hand, Adelise does know Asher well (everyone knows that he struggles socially and that his logic is different) so asking such an open-ended question was perhaps unwise/dangerous and maybe she can extend him some undeserved grace because everything he did except for that was okay and he’s been making an effort to be kind. Regardless, I don’t think a relationship can be good if one partner can’t relax and let down their guard because the other randomly says mean stuff unintentionally.

      • Yimiki
        January 13, 2023 at 10:24 pm

        Of course! I’m nothing if not ridiculously vocal about my while-reading emotions 😁 I thought they were doing pretty well, too. They had some great moments lately and Asher had that entire conversation with Aster about how he was treating those around him. I agree with you 100% – a relationship where one side can never fully let down their guard and constantly has to anticipate hurt from their spouse is not a stable, healthy relationship.

        Oooh, I completely misremembered that. That somehow makes it even worse – he wasn’t even married to her. And while Adelise did go all the way and is bending over backwards to accommodate him, Asher keeps focusing on Aster’s mother instead. Poor Adelise.


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