The ICU monitor had a steady pieps. She looked into his very blue eyes, remembering their first meeting and how mesmerized she had been, and still was. Holding hands, both of which were fragile and heavily veined, they had little to say to each other. It wasn’t necessary; of course, hopes were there for a cure to his ailment, but each of them knew that it would be only a matter of time. The hospital was a busy place, getting ready for the doctors' visitations, preparing the patients, nurses setting up their computers, pulling the curtains back so the entire room had a brightness to it. Thankfully, Sharon and Al were left alone.
Three days ago Al had been rushed to the emergency room. Sharon had found him slumped over his desk where he had been writing his memoirs. They had three lovely children, but all of their residences were far away. The six grandchildren had been to visit that past summer, but outdoors here now, a fresh layer of powder snow had covered the vast countryside once again. Al and Sharon planned to leave their heirs a concise story of their simple beginning. My goodness, Al reminiscing of his and Sharon’s past, thought - but at one time it had seemed that they’d lost track of each other. Now when was that? I fail to remember exactly.
His Sharon, only ever his alone, the whole village knew that they made a perfect match and that was way wayback. He grinned innerly, not even their parents could separate them. He threw Sharon a look and saw her clearly then, maybe she was 12, can't really remember - dark reddish hair, how it used to gleam! and those green eyes, portraying her Irish ancestry down to a T. Oh she could really flash those eyes whenever she sensed something was amiss. Naturally, it always involved me. I hope to God, she'll manage without me. I'm pretty sure I'll never go home again. We had a good life. With a silent look towards her, his eyes spoke to her, Sharon, love, give me one of your lovely smiles before the doctors appear.
And Sharon heard him, squeezed his hand and smiled at him. The doctors were approaching the bed so she moved to a seat out of their way. She could wait for their bit of news as well as he could. When the reports were adverse, they both tended to leave the scene and tiptoe back through their past. They knew each other so well. To ease his anxiety, Sharon would softly hum him a little tune.
Huffing and puffing, as usual, pressed for time, he spotted her anxious face as if ironed against the living room window as he ran up the front steps. Spotting him "Baniger" as she threw open the front door, "what's been keeping you? We're supposed to be at Jullie's to pick her up at 5 p.m. It's 5.30 p.m. And it takes us 20 minutes to cycle there! No excuses from you, my ears are closed. Let's move!" Sharon about to climb on her bike suddenly looks to him and exclaims: "Where's your guitar? You know I can't sing without your back-up."
"Well, I guess I'll have to hum the keys for you, won't I?" he retorted.
The years sped by – graduation for both in 2008. A beautiful ceremony outside encased in a blue sky and white fluffy clouds. You saw a class of 63 students twirling between parents, friends and relatives, a cacophony of friendly, jocular catcalls as such as names were called, carefully managing the walk up the steps in their flowing robes to gracefully take their diploma in hand. But then - grand smile – hand thrown in the air – the action implying 'Yeah! Life begins!' Their mayor spoke heartrendering words to reinforce that expression. Al and Sharon knew after their summer break each would move onto their path of choice: Al chose School of Commerce only five miles from home and Sharon decided on Madds' Secretarial School twenty miles away.
Their plan was to finish school, get a job, then marry. They never reckoned with any controversy to their plan. Their families fully supported them. Three months later, Al and Sharon were in the throes of school preparation.
"Sharon," she turned around and found herself facing a head taller than herself, a trim and sporty young man. "Oh, your name's Randy, isn't it?"
"Right on! Glad I caught up to you. I want to ask you if you'd like to join our little group on Friday after class, you know we get together to start the weekend off at Sandy’s Bar."
"Randy, I'd love to - I believe I can manage this Friday but I'll need to check it out with my boyfriend. Tell you for sure tomorrow. Thanks. Have a good evening."
"Al, honey, you don't mind if I go out with the clique from school on Friday evening, do you?"
"Whoa there, are we already going our separate ways?" looking quizzically at her. Then he abruptly pulled her close and whispered into her ear, "as long as you say you'll miss me. No problem, we talked this over and agreed on the matter halfway. We also agreed not to marry in haste. I’m sure, there's something similar happening in our class. We did agree to free each other in the dating section, didn't we? And it’s best for our participation at school, right?"
"Right," sighed Sharon, "and we are still near each other since we haven’t left home." She felt so secure wrapped in his arms. Neither could imagine anything or anyone pulling them apart.
Being engrossed in their studies and new classmates found both Al and Sharon seeing less of each other as a tendency to spend their time with their classmates grew.
Al rings Sharon: "Hey, honey, how about a movie this Saturday?"
"Oh, sorry Al, but I've a date already. How about setting a date for 2 weeks from now?"
"Tja, I've got a date for a wedding then – Tina's cousin is getting married and Tina is one of the bridesmaids."
"Tina? You've never mentioned her before. Is she my replacement?" Sharon's voice is a bit shrill.
"Well, look who's talking! You've got a date for Saturday!"
"Yes, but it's with the girls! And we've planned this weeks ago 'cause it's a new romantic comedy with Sandra Bullock." as she slams down the receiver.
Social life opened up for Sharon as she found she could manage her singing voice without Al. She even got an offer to join a country band, which she really could not resist. And dear Al was falling for the curvacous blondie, Tina, composing his own songs now on his guitar. Birthdays, holidays and school breaks came and went with brief interludes of the two of them getting together. While they clearly enjoyed meeting up together, you could literally feel the envy lurking undercover. It only took a few snide comments as to their chosen dating partners for the distance to grow between them. The last straw for Sharon though came with a sudden fall of tears as Valentine's Day appeared and no word, no SMS, no card, no flowers from Al arrived for her. Her invitation to have dinner together received no attention. Sharon felt adrift.
Each had gone their own way, as life goes, each had their ups and downs. Al tried to keep on top of events in both of their lives since his mother and Sharon’s were close friends. And his mother was quite a talkative and opinionated one. He might have been slow to notice Tina just wasn’t the right one for him. He'd go to Sandy’s Bar and sit in a dark corner observing for himself what Sharon was up to. He had called her out on her drunk behaviour once. He couldn’t help himself, she was just smooching it up with some fellow from the band. He paid his bill, walked up to her, said hello but she took no notice of him, she was just that drunk. So he paid her bill, then grabbing her and her coat, said goodbye to the band and drove her home. That row paved a greater distance between them.
One lonely weekend, Sharon reminisced how she and Al had planned their life together and their solemn promise to never interfere with their social distance. Nothing had ever been as serious for her as Al had had with this Tina. A bit of jealousy flared briefly. The glass of wine eased her slight feeling of pain. She was at least happy with her new job, which was a pure coincidence that she had met Randy’s parents. Due to his father’s partnership reorganizing themselves; this included enlarging it, making it an inherent need for new secretaries. Also, she reminded herself, making music was as thrilling as ever, if only .......... Yes, if only, I wonder what Al's up to. Mom said he had a good job working for a business consultant firm. Sipping her wine, she became thoughtful and tried to picture them in the easy comradeship they had enjoyed for so many years.
Months later after graduating and getting a good job, Al was driving to work while intently listening to a catchy tune on the radio, Al was surprised to hear Sharon's name. How long's it been? as he reflected on their past history. Well, I guess I'm to blame for having never answered her last mail. Right, time to rectify that mistake. As he drove home, he grinned, picturing her face when he presented her with their wedding rings they had bought long ago, in safe-keeping at home. Cheeky, he knew, but he also knew his Sharon had had her fling as well as he. It was now time to execute their life's plan: a summer wedding. His next stop was a flower shop where he ordered delivery, picking out a beautiful bouquet, which included blue ‚Forget-me-nots' and a message – Meet your one and only true love at Mario's at seven tonight. I promise not to be late! We are still the perfect match.