Little love stories: ‘It all started so innocently’

It all started so innocently: snow falling at dusk, a crackling fire, a hug between three old friends. Soon I was floating on a river of love with my husband and our friend. Both men insisted that everything was sincere, open and non-possessive. Still, I worried: What would our friend’s girlfriend say about our ménage à trois? “How could you do something so stupid?” she said when she got home later. “We just fell into bed,” she stammered. “Did you fall on that bed?” she shouted, pointing to the staircase that led to the high loft. Oops. — Pamela Jane

My husband takes me camping near Yosemite after I lost my twelfth pregnancy. Feeling empty, I think about the New Year’s Eve we celebrated at the beginning of our relationship: we were half-drunk, giddy, full of possibilities. My husband doesn’t know that lately I’ve been trying to find a reason to exist in the world if I can’t be a mother. But here, in the shadow of ancient mountains, he turns, smiles, and I remember how loved I felt that New Year’s when he reached out to me. “Don’t leave me now,” he said as the crowd counted down. I will not leave. — Hanna Bartels

My wife orders takeout with her iPhone, but her card declines. She yells at me as I try to help. I collapse into silence, a protective shield. When we are hurt, our tendency is to become small. Insolent. Of mean spirit. Right now I wonder how the world’s conflicts will be resolved when the two of us, who have committed to loving each other, would rather find fault than repair relatively minor transgressions. She asks for a hug, so I hug her. I make two cups of tea. Place a blanket over your shoulders. Small gestures, perhaps. But my heart feels huge. — Nicole R. Zimmerman

My husband and I never had children. However, when we were 60 years old, we inherited a teenager. He is my friend’s son, conceived through IVF. When she, the single mother of this 17-year-old girl, died unexpectedly during cancer treatment, he asked to live with us. We said yes to this life-changing tsunami for all of us. Together with his extended biological family, we navigate these deep and uncertain waters. Now we are a new kind of family: the one he never wanted to come true, the one we never expected, the one we all mourn and celebrate. Together, from this day on. — Bev Mondillo Wright

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