The couple settled in to spooning as they had for 30 years, nestled in each others' arms in a way that only a long-married couple can. Some couples have faced the unthinkable, the untouchable, the unnameable foe. This was one such couple.
Romance blossomed early in their college days together. What began as a hard, fast friendship based on much in common, quickly progressed to a passionate love for one another. They met in August, had their first date on October 1, were making wedding plans by November and officially engaged with a beautiful 1/3 carat diamond by Christmas! They were married in July in a small church wedding with paper napkins and paper plates at a family-catered pot-luck reception, less than a year after they had met.
Finances were challenging for much of their married life, but finances were not the foe. They were the fruit of the foe . . .Small jobs -- many of them -- characterized their first couple of years of marriage. Mike worked days -- as an assistant at the school. Lily worked 4 part-time jobs, which oftentimes overlapped and made it challenging for them to spend much time together. She taught preschool 3 days a week from 9-12, substituted as a cafeteria worker and as a teacher in the local schools, and worked at a local grocery store -- often closing the store , which required her being out until 12 - 1:00. Mike was asleep before she ever got home. All of that, just to make ends meet -- and barely. Some days, she taught preschool in the morning, subbed at the school for an afternoon half -day session and then worked at the grocery store till late at night. It wasn't the greatest way to start a marriage, but the love was real and strong and so the marriage remained firm.
There was loss the first year, too. Mike's great-grandmother passed and just a short time later, his grandfather passed as well. The challenges changed throughout the years, but they were always present. . . and always gifts of the foe . . .
Finances were always one of the ones on the front burner, but there were many others. For most of their 30 years, one or the other (or both of them) had been in school . . .Bachelors degrees -- first for Lily, then Mike. Later, a Master's degree -- in education for Lily. Then, a Master's degree for Mike. When Mike wanted to pursue his doctorate, it was terrible timing. . . .they both knew it.
Three years into their marriage, they had bought an old farmhouse with some dreams of Victorian grandeur, which they had been remodeling as time and money had allowed (which meant, dang! it was slow and painful), but their blood, sweat, and tears were making it a home -- and it had a long way to go . .
They had struggled to have children -- there were hormonal difficulties for Lily -- and many years on birth control pills to help her hormones stay balanced. They had cried and prayed. They had medicated. They had counted cycles and egg white days and held her legs high in the air after making passionate love that they hoped would also make babies. They had tried and tried and tried and finally had mostly given up.
They had decided to try for adoption, but there were the financial issues -- and the old house -- both of which were going to be detrimental to their attempts to adopt. They had filled out paperwork. They had met with Dept. of social services personnel. They had written letters and friends had written letters . . . .
And then, Mike decides it's time for a doctorate. . . the house isn't finished; the financial goals are not met; they are in the middle of trying to adopt . . .
The foe was wicked, swift, and sure. He was on their heels, dogging their every step. They never saw him coming.
A doctorate it was. So Mike applied and was accepted. The program took money they didn't have and time that could have been spent fixing the house.
Not long after Mike started the doctorate, Lily heard about acupuncture treatment for infertility. She decided to try it, after hearing some amazing success stories -- including her own sister's! She would lay on a table with a heat lamp at her feet and needles dotting her body all over with hopes of getting pregnant.
Over time, and after a nervous breakdown or two, Lily began changing eating patterns and moving patterns. She lost 62 pounds in less than a year. She looked great, she felt great!
In the middle of the doctorate program of her husband, Lily found herself -- PREGNANT! They were surprised, shocked! They were ELATED! There were no words . . . there was no keeping this news a secret! They were far too excited! Nursery plans were made, shower plans were made, college and career plans were made . . . .names that had been chosen eons ago were dusted off and tried out. Doctor's appointments, ultrasounds, anxiety, elation, and soon, devastation as the fetus stopped growing as quickly and unexpectedly as it had begun. There was surgery and there were tears. There was work and blood and the doctorate looming . . .
The invisible foe had hit paydirt.
The doctorate continued. Lily grieved. Mike worked full time and attended school, with time for little else. They loved -- oh, how they loved, but they were tired and uncertain and busy . . . .
Then, a few months later came another missed period and news of another pregnancy -- this one lost again -- died inside of Lily -- along with pieces of herself . . .the foe had struck again.
Though they never saw this foe, this enemy, he seemed to thwart their every dream, their every hope.
As unbelievable as it seems, just a year after the first pregnancy, Lily found herself facing her third pregnancy in 12 months. . . oh, how they prayed! Oh! How careful they were! Oh! how they wished for their dreams to be fulfilled!!! But alas, this pregnancy ended badly as well. Not only did it end badly, but it was punctuated by another loss -- Mike's biological father had died -- and Mike had to be gone during this surgery to go retrieve his dead father's ashes . . .Dang, the foe . . .
So, Lily's mother dried the tears and took her for the surgery that removed the hopes and dreams from her body while Mike traveled halfway across the country to get Jack's ashes. . .
The grief was almost unbearable. Lily held it together on the outside, but was dying on the inside. Mike was so focused on the doctorate that he couldn't afford to grieve . . . and so, they lived -- together but separate -- bound by a great love and a great grief -- and the foe waited for more opportunities.
After 7 years, Mike achieved his doctorate.
Life continued to change and challenge. The foe used every weapon he had, but to no avail. The love was strong, constant, and committed. In spite of age, loss, grief, bad decisions, doctorates, sickness, jobs, and finances, the foe failed in his attempt. His goals were divorce, hate, apathy -- but instead he met with constance, forgiveness, passion, love, quiet fortitude, friendship, consistency, resilience, love, love, love.
And so they spoon in quiet contentment -- just the two of them in the house that still needs work, that is full of empty bedrooms. Their love is stronger than the foe. He will never win.
Who is this foe? He goes by many names -- Complacency, lack of commitment. His goal was to destroy this passionate love, but commitment -- being the enemy of this foe -- has won as they rest in each other's arms.
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This is a brilliant take on the prompt. The entries I've read mostly have a supernatural take to it and this is like a breath of fresh air. It's like a music piece, at some parts I could feel the story speed up and in the others slow down and yet I was never lost. In fact it just accentuated the tale all the more for me! Thank you for the amazing read!
Thanks, Agnes, for your positive feedback! I'm so glad you enjoyed it!
Hi.. I like how you weave in realistic tragedies, dilemmas and realities of life in this story. And the abstract unseen foe was such a thoughtful idea. In the paragraph in which you introduce Mike's doctorate, I felt the switch from past tense to present tense a bit jolty. The story seemed to be biographical, and I felt would make a good movie ;)
Hi, Nivedita, Thanks so much for the constructive feedback! That's exactly what we need! I appreciate your thoughtful reply and glad you enjoyed my take on the unseen foe :-)!
Hi Tonnye.. I'm always wary about giving feedback. I'm always scared someone will say, "So you think you're better than me?" And I'm definitely not better.. LOL.. But as you pointed out, constructive feedback is exactly what we need. It's such a blessing that we are part of a writing community that helps us grow.