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Fiction Inspirational

   Howard braced his arm to support her for the last few inches as she shuffled across the floor. A blindfold obscured much of her face. Her thinning white hair wisped over the dark cloth. With a smile, he bent and pecked a kiss onto her forehead.

    They were in the middle of a bland windowless room. One that could almost be found in hospitals, schools, prisons or offices across the country. The blank walls were lit by several dim lights reflecting on the disk on the ceiling and her pale terry cloth robe. A small keypad next to the door showed two glowing lights on its dark surface.

    “Can I look?” Addie asked with a giggle, one fragile hand reaching toward the blindfold covering her eyes.

    “Almost,” Howard said as he glanced around the empty space. With a satisfied nod, he then said, “Begin.” He pulled the cloth from her face and put it in his pocket.

    As her eyes adjusted to the sight in front of her, they opened wide. An oak tree with its spreading branches and heavy rope tire swing stood at the side of the North Road School # 3. Its red brick walls and simple windows reflected the sound of laughter from the school children running around the dirt area outside.

    “Howard,” Addie exclaimed, as she stared in delight. She turned slowly, her face brightened as she saw him come into view. The young boy in a faded red flannel shirt and dark pants who so captivated her attention when she moved to this new town. His black hair slicked down across his head contrasting with the sparkling blue eyes shining at her.

    Addie glanced down at herself, she saw her favorite blue gingham dress. The one which made her feel like Dorothy in the ‘Wizard of Oz’. As she laughed with wonder, she looked back at her husband of seventy-two years. “I don’t know how you did this.”

    Reaching out his hand, Howard grasped hers. His grip strong, his calluses rough against her soft skin. She marveled at the lack of pain in her arthritic joints, her hands showed tanned and smooth.

    “Magic,” he said. “I wanted to celebrate our life together.” He brought her hand to his lips. “We met here. I was struck dumb the day you arrived. So beautiful and full of laughter.” He moved his other hand to push one of her golden curls behind her ear in a familiar gesture.

    “You were so handsome,” Addie said staring back. “Still are. But you were a boy, so I certainly couldn’t tell you that.”

    “I know, instead you beat me in every school competition. The spelling bee, geography bee, essay contest.” Howard shook his head, “You never gave me a chance to shine.”

    “What are you talking about?” she huffed. “I was always the first one you took out at dodge ball or tag. I don’t think I ever won a game.”

    “How else was I supposed to attract your attention?” he asked.

    “My attention was never in question.” Addie glanced around as the scene faded and changed.

    Now wearing their Sunday best, the pair stood at the front of the Congregational Church. Its simple white walls and clear windows streaming sunlight over the audience of family and friends filling the polished dark wooden pews. A scent of lavender and herbs rose from her bouquet.

     It was the moment when the minister introduced them as man and wife.

    “The happiest day of my life,” Howard said as he kissed the hand he was holding again. He rubbed his thumb across the plain gold wedding band. In the present, it was resting behind a swollen knuckle. She refused to have it removed without cause.

    “Not true,” Addie replied. “The day you met your son filled that bill.”

    “Only because he was an extension of you, my sweet.” Howard chuckled, “All of our kids were because of you.”

    “Both of us,” she corrected. “And every day is the happiest of my life. How can you separate the moments?”

    Howard put his arm around her. “I want to apologize for not being the best husband I could’ve been.”

    “What do you mean?” Addie asked shocked, unable to catch a breath. Was he about to reveal a secret he managed to hide for years? Something that would make a mockery of their life together?

    “I wasn’t there for you,” he said. “When Alice died, I lost my faith in God and couldn’t be the man you needed. I was filled with rage at the unfairness of it.” He shook his head as a tear slid down his barely weathered cheek and whispered, “I’m sorry.”

    “How can you say that?” Addie began to weep as the scene morphed into the old barn at their homestead. It was the site of their biggest fight. “You retreated into that cave. Your hidey-hole. I understood but we had three other little ones who needed their father.”

    “I know and I’m sorry you had to carry the load.”

    “But that is what we do.” Addie looked up at him as she pulled his hands up to her face, pressing his fingers to her cheeks. “Sometimes you carry it. Sometimes it’s mine and lots of times, it’s all of us on a handle. The point is to simply to keep it moving.”

    As Howard pulled her into his arms, they stood in the middle of a sun filled meadow. The smell of grass and wildflowers drifted through the air. A cricket chirped in the distance. It was a view they enjoyed thousands of times over the years as the end of the day approached. “Happy anniversary, my love.”

    “Same to you, my dearest,” Addie replied as she pressed against his lips. “And remember, each day is the happiest of our lives.”

    Together they turned back toward the door and the keypad. The memory scenes fading out of sight. Howard pulled the smaller yellow walker over to her so she could grip it easily. Leaning on his matching walker, he opened the door.

    Side by side, the two robed figures shuffled down the tiled corridor. As they ignored the smell of antiseptic cleaners, they forged slowly ahead bending the flow of humanity around them like a pair of rocks in a stream.

February 20, 2021 04:05

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1 comment

Arwen Dove
05:11 May 12, 2021

Wonderful story! I enjoyed reading!


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