Word count: 1,420 words
A May-December Romance
Winnie, in her 50’s, was out walking in the park with her younger husband Luke. It was February, 2020. There was a cold breeze and they both shivered a little in their jackets.
“Look, Luke - is that a crocus?” she asked, pointing towards the base of a nearby tree. “First sign of spring!”
“Maybe, but do crocuses really come out in winter?” Luke stared carelessly at his Smart phone. He wore a motorcycle jacket and had longish hair.
“Oh, well. Hope springs eternal in a woman’s breast.” Pausing together in their walk, they sat on a bench. “Know who you're going to vote for?”
“Our state has primaries early,” Winnie answered persistently.
“I like Warren,” said Luke. But Winnie fretted for a moment.
“I never wanted to be married to a Liberal. I like Republicans. And why do you have to wear a ball cap every time we walk in the park? You look like a Barbarian.”
“Barbarians are uncivilized. And I’m civilized.”
“Not to me,” said Winnie tersely.
“Baloney,” answered Luke.
“I never wanted to marry a guy who thought he had ADHD.” Winnie twisted the ends of the scarf around her neck in her hands.
“Maybe I do have it,” said Luke.
“I never wanted to marry someone who answers in monosyllables. Guess that’s how your generation talks,” said Winnie, annoyed and petulant.
“Five years together should have taught you that.” Luke adjusted his ball cap on his head.
“The ADHD is your imagination.” Winnie sighed. “Happy Valentine’s Day. It’s almost the Equinox.”
“Hmph. Valentine’s Day,” commented Luke with resignation, playing with his cell phone. “Rich just texted me.”
“About what?” Winnie didn’t want to be nosy, but she was curious.
“Wants to play pool tonight.”
Winnie rolled her eyes.
“A young man’s game. Can’t we think of something more fun to do tonight? It’s almost spring! Flowers coming out soon, green grass, sunshine…” Winnie paused. “Well? Did you answer Rich?”
“Yes. We’re gonna play pool. You’re coming, right?” Luke peered at her from under his ball cap.
“On Valentine’s Day?? I never wanted to marry someone who played pool with his buddies every week.”
“That’s what guys my age do. It’s spring, like you said. Let’s be happy.”
“Happy? I’m in my fifties! It’s not like I can keep you happy by having a kid or anything.”
“I never wanted a kid. You knew that.”
“But what if you change your mind? And what is this love affair you have with Elizabeth Warren, anyway?”
“A good woman,” said Luke. “Speaks for the people.”
“I would think a man as young as you would have a crush on Angelina Jolie.”
Luke cleared his throat.
“She’s too young for me. Actually, I like Ginny."
“Ginny’s my best friend! What’s this ‘thing’ you have for older women?”
“I wouldn’t have married you if I didn’t have one.”
“And she’s happily married to Carl.” Winnie smiled in satisfaction.
“She doesn’t complain 24 hours a day,” answered Luke.
“What has Ginny got that I don’t have?”
“Nicer. Not prettier. Just nicer,” responded Luke.
“I never wanted to marry a man who ogled my friends,” said Winnie hotly.
“I don’t ogle,” said Luke with indignation.
Winnie rose off her seat and exclaimed.
“GINNY DYES HER HAIR!! AND SHE HAS DENTAL IMPLANTS!!” She took his ball cap off. “There. You look so much better without that baseball cap. And couldn’t you stop wearing those black shirts you pick up at Urban Outfitters? What’s this fascination you have with black?”
Luke stared at her.
“It didn’t bother you before we got married. It’s a good shirt. It’s a good hat.” He took the hat back from her and placed it back on his head.
“I try and I try, but I just can’t make you a better man. Seems like no matter how hard a person tries, they can’t change a jackass.”
“I’m a jackass?” Luke was angry. “You - you take me for granted. You whine about me to your friends.”
“But I love you!” wailed Winnie. Then Luke stood, too.
“I’m only 30, for God’s sake! What did you expect when you married me, anyway? I’m still practically a kid!” He walked away from her and paused. He stood there, staring off into the distance, then slowly turned around and looked at her with disdain.
Winnie suddenly ran to him, got down on her knees, and wrapped her arms around his legs.
“Oh, Luke - it’s just – I had a bad deal with my first husband. He was a real rat. And you’re not! I don’t know why I complain so much. It’s only that – sometimes I can’t figure out what you’re doing with me! And every day is the same, we go out for breakfast, we walk in the park, you pay no attention to me. Is it because I’m old?”
“I’d pay more attention if you stopped complaining. When we got married I liked your maturity. I liked the fact you’re a social worker. It’s responsible. I liked the way you made love. You weren’t some 25-year old bimbo.”
Winnie stood up and regained her confidence.
“Why do you like Elizabeth Warren?”
“Solid as concrete,” said Luke smugly. “Smart. A woman who understands the impact of bankruptcy is a woman I like.”
Winnie felt a little intimidated but kept her faith.
“And – older?”
“If you want to know the truth, she’s kind of cute, too.” Luke walked back to the bench and sat down. “Can’t you just be happy?”
“I’ll try,” answered Winnie thoughtfully. “You’re more forgiving than I am. Much more tolerant. Must be your youth. Guess I can still learn from that. Hey - think we could go on a vacation?”
“Charleston, South Carolina? It's historic and I’ve never been there.”
“Too middle-of-the-road,” said Luke. He looked a little wistful. “I’d like to take a vacation with Rich. Out in the woods. Do some hunting.”
Winnie was aghast.
“You want that?”
“I never wanted to marry a man who shot helpless animals. Those sweet little deer, with those big brown eyes.” Winnie gave him a sweet look. The wind was blowing harder now, and she pulled her jacket tighter around her.
“There you go complaining again.” Luke looked at her and grinned. “You’ve got big brown eyes.”
Winnie smiled in the coldness of the wind.
“I do? Aw. I don’t think you have ADHD.”
“I do,” said Luke insistently.
Winnie sat down again next to him.
“Hey! How about if when we get home I redecorate? Get rid of that thrift shop sofa and hang some new wallpaper.”
“Fine by me.”
“You’re a talented handyman but you never get around to throwing things away,” Winnie continued. “We’ve got too much crap in the house.”
Luke shrugged again.
“All right.” He shivered from the cold.
“And I have a Valentine’s Day present for you!” Winnie pulled out a small paper bag from her purse and handed it to him. Luke opened the bag with icy hands.
“Tulip bulbs? I thought you were supposed to plant them in the fall.”
“Whatever,” said Winnie. “I remember when Mama planted them. They came up like fireworks in the spring!”
Luke put his arm around her.
“Just re-decorate,” he said. “That’ll solve a lot. You know, I like that you know how to drive a stick shift -- some people never learn. And I love the way you apply Retin-A every night. Sweet. Makes me feel like you’re doing it ‘cause you’re worried about getting old. Silly.”
“I am old.”
Luke shook his head in disagreement.
“I love the way you taught me how to drive a stick shift,” Winnie went on. “And you follow the news. And even though you’re a Liberal you don’t give me a hard time about voting for Trump. Opposites attract. I will re-decorate, then. Can we finish our walk?”
Luke put the bag of bulbs in his pocket and took her arm solicitously.
“Glad you married me now?“
“Oh, you’re just too cool for words,” said Winnie blissfully. “That motorcycle jacket and your long hair. And you’re kind. And young. And green grass is coming, flowers, sunshine…the truth is - I always wanted to marry a man like you.”
And the winter breeze blew, and they tugged their jackets closer around themselves and walked off together, in love, to look at the statues in the park.
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