Somehow the flowers looked out of place. Marty had been positive they were appropriate. Yet now….
Four summers ago had been the seventh year they had made the long trek to the beach house. Shortly after unloading the car she said she was tired and wanted to lie down for a while; the first walk along the shoreline of summer would have to “wait a few.” At the time Marty thought minutes; twenty at the most. That was before he discovered her an hour later in a deep sleep on the couch. “Well, she needs the rest,” he whispered to Chucky, their Golden Retriever who had taken up guard duty. Two hours later the realization that something was amiss had taken root. Three weeks, four days, six hours, eighteen minutes, and six seconds later she died.
Now Marty looks at the fresh cut flowers on the dining room table, his obsession. A constant reminder that she was no longer here with him physically; mentally, her presence was memorialized by the void in his heart.
Nancy would be arriving soon for dinner. They had met the previous May at a local charity social, she a widow, as he. Their first date was several weeks later. It had taken all of his willpower to summon up the courage to ask her out. He had tossed and turned night after night, struggling with his need to feel a woman in his arms again and his undying love for the woman he had sat next to day after day in the hospital until her heart rhythm stopped. But he never stopped bringing home fresh cut flowers for her; he just could not stop waiting for her to come home.
People had given words of support, but no words could erase the emptiness he felt. What did support him was the knowledge that she would have wanted him to continue with life. His first pleasure trip was to the Blenko glass works in West Virginia. He watched the artisan make the hand blown vase; its birth, his rebirth. Maybe the flowers were really from her to him.
Chucky brushed his leg, trance broken; the hour was ticking away and he had much to do to get dinner ready.
When Nancy arrived he kissed her hello, took her hand, and led her into the living room. At the sofa he hesitated letting go of her hand. She smiled, laughed, told him that he could hold it all night, but it was her right hand and she would not be able to use the silverware. He laughed. They felt comfortable together.
When it was time for Nancy to head home, it was she who reached out for his hand. At the door Marty hesitantly took Nancy into his arms for the first time. Their slightly more than a quick kiss, not yet a minuet of simmering desire, seemed to ease them beyond friendship.
At her car there was no hesitation in pulling her close to him. No hesitation in a kiss that bespoke of desire. Maybe he was not ready for intimacy, but there was no doubt in his mind that Nancy had the gift of life he was searching for.
As she started her car, Nancy still felt the kiss. Momentarily distracted from backing out of the driveway, she thought about how wonderful the dinner was; he had made her feel so wanted. The house was clean, cared for; a good sign. The fresh cut daffodils in the cobalt blue glass vase reflected the vibrant, yet soft nature of the house. The sheer contradiction between the yellow, green stemmed flowers and the deepness of the cobalt blue was striking. She thought how some would call this opposite arrangement a decorating cliché. Not here. Marty knew what he was doing.
Nancy realized he was watching her. She smiled, not so much at him, but more at herself. For she suddenly felt like a schoolgirl secretly pleased, knowing the boy was stealing looks at her. How cute, Marty trying to remain so nonchalant, yet so sincere and nervous. She liked the feel of his hand.
Marty watched the car ease out of the driveway, then slowly disappear down the street.
Her experience with death was not one of sudden disorder, but slowly over time as the cancer took hold and eventually robbed them of quiet Sunday strolls, warmth of bodies on winter nights, and the look of the other’s eyes that bespoke of unswerving love. She had grown cold, withdrawn, and despondent. Then, one Christmas morning, the holiday that should be joyous, for that reason alone experiences a dramatic rise in depressive, retrospective disillusionment, Nancy cried. And when her crying was done, she changed her clothes and went for a walk. After too many days, years of blindness, she saw birds, flowers, and a sunset that filled the sky with bright orange.
Her car slowed about half way home, and Nancy looked in the rearview mirror. She saw the road behind her, and knew it was the road ahead.
She approached from behind Marty. Chucky sat in front of him, looking up with a ‘let’s get this over with’ Golden’s expression. Marty was lecturing. When Nancy approached, Chucky’s ears perked, tail wagged, and, with a ‘sure dad’ flick of the head, leaped to his feet and bounded to Nancy. Marty, startled at the dog’s actions, turns and sees Nancy and instantly thinks something has happened to her.
Scratching Chucky behind the ear, “Poor thing. Is the mean man being stern?”
“He trampled Ed’s new grass.”
“Yards are made for running barefoot under sprinklers.”
“Marty, I should blush.” Looking at Chucky, “Have dinner at his house and he takes such liberties!” Chucky agreed and moved to Nancy’s side as she walked over to Marty. “Nothing is wrong, so stop thinking so hard.” They kissed.
Taking his arm, “Mind if I walk with you?”
They walked together. Nancy asked about the blue vase. Marty asked about tomorrows. Nancy said yes.
(The Blue Vase is a work of fiction. Copyright Steven S. Walsky, 2009, all rights reserved.)