“Did you know it’s been a year since we last made love?”
Not exactly the most romantic opening line, is it? But when I wrote When Was the Last Time, I didn’t set out to tell the usual love story. Instead, I wanted to explore the chemistry between a couple who had been together for fifteen years…and had fallen into complacency.
There is no question Paul and Evan are in love. But as Paul struggles to reconnect with his partner, doubts arise. He begins to ask questions about the last time he and Evan did more than sleep in the same bed together. Were more intimate than a quick fondle in the shower. Used the couch for something other than watching a football game. Looked into one another’s eyes and saw that spark, the feeling that drew them together fifteen years ago.
Love changes. It grows with us, often maturing and spreading into something perhaps less intense but more encompassing. It might not make you absolutely breathless anymore, but after fifteen years of marriage, you can still experience a moment when you look at your partner and know, without a doubt, they are still the one. Love also becomes more forgiving the longer it ages. Paul and Evan are no longer the same people they were when they first met—and that’s okay. Life would be pretty boring if they were. But a comfortable routine can be deceptive. If no one complains, what’s the problem?
Lack of intimacy is a huge problem, especially in romance. It’s how we measure the connection between a couple. It doesn’t have to be all down and dirty sex. A lot is communicated in the small touches. Holding hands, kissing, lying together at the same end of the couch. Making time to just spend time together. It’s about priorities and remembering why you chose this person, why you love them and why you want to spend the rest of your life with them.
So when Evan tells Paul over breakfast one morning that it’s been a year since they’ve made love, it’s a wakeup call. It’s a gentle complaint—and it sends Paul into a whirl of panic. He adores Evan, and Evan is easygoing enough to let the little things slide. It’s why they work together, even after fifteen years. And perhaps Evan is partly to blame. He waited a year to point to the space in the middle of the bed and say “we haven’t used this for a while.” He got comfortable too.
I really enjoyed writing about an older couple traveling through a hiccup in their relationship. I loved exploring Paul’s thoughts on marriage and intimacy. Whether we’re burning up the sheets regularly or not, I think all of us who have been partnered for a while know about complacency—or what I like to call comfortable forgetting. This story speaks to that, and shows how difficult it can be to take the first step back when you’ve drifted farther than you thought.
I like to think When Was the Last Time also celebrates love and marriage. It’s a shout out to all those partners who stood by, steadfast and true. Who remember that love is patient, love is kind. Love changes and love grows.
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When Was the Last Time
Paul Summerfield is stunned by the gentle reminder it has been over a year since he and his partner, Evan, have made love. He vows to take Evan out for Valentine’s Day. Dinner and sex. Lots of sex. There’s only one catch—he’s supposed to be in San Francisco that week cataloging the art collection of an important new client. No problem, he’ll just change his schedule and cut his trip short by a day.
In San Francisco, Paul struggles with regrets and the fear his love is slipping away from him. Every call to Evan seems only to prove the distance between them is increasing. All this, and a key piece of his client’s catalog is caught up in customs. To keep their Valentine’s date, Paul will have to choose between the career he’s built over fifteen years and the man he’s loved for just as long.
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About Kelly Jensen
If aliens ever do land on Earth, Kelly will not be prepared, despite having read over a hundred stories of the apocalypse. Still, she will pack her precious books into a box and carry them with her as she strives to survive. It’s what bibliophiles do.
Kelly is the author of a number of novels, novellas and short stories, including the Chaos Station series, co-written with Jenn Burke. At lot of what she writes is speculative in nature, but sometimes it’s just about a guy losing his socks and/or burning dinner. Because life isn’t all conquering aliens and mountain peaks. Sometimes finding a happy ever after is all the adventure we need.
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