This story is by Phyllis Chubb and was part of our 2017 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
When I looked at Tom, my heart fills with joy. The mere sight of him makes me happy. To think I denied the possibility of love in my life! Now I wear a permanent smile. Being an older widow, it’s been years since the glow of satisfaction and I were acquainted, but things have changed, thanks to my niece.
I have a fall birthday. October to be exact. To mark the occasion, my niece Carol, took me to a tea-cup reader she and her friends regularly visit. The reading was a source of humor for me. The things the woman said were impossible in my life, at that time. Love rarely comes to widows, especially widows as stand offish as I am. Besides, I’d been alone for a while and had no desire to look for another love. I raised three: children and married a man who forgot to grow up. It was the third one who wore me out. The kids are gone to tend their own lives and my husband went to his reward.
Many times, when I look at Tom, I remember the words of the tea cup reader and shake my head. How in heaven’s name could she have known? I have a new respect for their calling, but on that day, to me, her words were definitely nonsense.
The reader told Carol and I what she saw in my tea leaves. According to her a strong, independent male figure would be coming into my life, very soon. Smiling at me she described him, “The fellow will have the most beautiful eyes you’ve ever seen and grey hair. I see he’ll have difficulty speaking for some reason”. Then winking at me she said, “But, there’s no problem, your communication will be superb”.
I was chuckling as we left the café. Carol looked over at me and said, “I don’t get it. I’ve never known her to be so far off on a reading”, while holding my arm as we walked to the car. Carol’s words warmed my heart,she too thought the reader was out to lunch.
A few days passed and the prediction was forgotten.
I have a habit of going for a walk, before having coffee each morning. If I don’t get the walk in first thing it often gets neglected and then my body hurts. Besides, taking the walk keeps me up to date on any changes in the neighbourhood. For instance, new neighbours had moved in across the street. I hadn’t met them yet so I didn’t slow down, or stop walking, when I saw the new resident come into view.
When I returned home from my walk my neighbor called me over and told me the new resident’s name was Tom. She couldn’t remember the last name. The next morning the fellow walked right behind me! Again, I ignored him, pretending he wasn’t following me, even though his presence made me feel uncomfortable. I’m not accustomed to being followed.
The third morning he was nowhere to be seen. I had made up my mind to ignore him if he had shown up. But I found myself looking for him anyway. To my surprise I was disappointed he wasn’t there. I chastised myself out loud. “Make up your mind. Listen, you old bat, you either want him here or you don’t”! Having to admit to myself I liked someone walking with me was a bit of a shock, given I’ve always been a loner.
Next morning, to my pleasant surprise, there he was standing by the hedge on his property. I knew he was waiting for me because the moment I stepped onto the sidewalk he started across the street, heading in my direction. I took a deep breath in the hopes I would be brave enough to look him in the face. The deep breath did the trick and I was able to turn, and see the most beautiful eyes I have ever seen. As I looked at him he said nothing. His actions told me he had no words. Just as the tea-cup reader had predicted, our communication was limited, but his eyes and actions toward me, spoke volumes.
We met daily for nearly a month before I invited him home. We sat on the couch together. I didn’t know how much to tell him or what to keep to myself. I’d never been in a situation where personal information traveled only one way. In an hour or so, after I told him I was a widow and a few other things about myself, my concern proved unnecessary. His body language confirmed his total understanding and that words weren’t necessary.
It took a while but he finally had to leave. After he left I became aware of how empty the house was. Not only was the house empty but so was I. I made another cup of coffee before sitting down to examine where I was and what I felt. By the time my coffee was gone I was ready to make a declaration, to myself: against all expectations, I had fallen in love. But, it was too early to declare this situation to him, I had to wait and see what he did.
On our morning walks over the next week I started telling him the things I had done in my life and what my marriage had been like. I know it’s not good to speak poorly about the dead. Yet I shared the reality of my marriage to Mike, my husband. The marriage had not been made in heaven. Had my husband not drunk so heavily he might still be here. I told him about my girls. I shared how well both girls were doing and how proud I am of them. I constantly assured Tom the girls would love him. The twinkle in his eyes told me he was happy about that.
It wasn’t long before the habitual morning walks were joined with longer, and longer lasting, after-walk-visits. I had to admit to myself I didn’t want him to leave, at any time. He certainly didn’t give any impression of wanting to leave either. I remember deciding today to make my declaration. I was nervous but spoke each word with a strong voice. My only surprise was how quickly he responded.
I started by sitting beside him on the couch, sort of on an angle, so I could see his beautiful eyes. I told him how much I appreciated the time we had spent together and said, “I want more time with you”. I stretched out my arms and without a moment’s hesitation he moved into them. There was no doubt in my heart or mind, he wanted to be with me as much as I wanted to keep him close. Every fiber of my body was happy and feeling complete with the sharing of our love. With him resting in my arms I didn’t feel like moving, even when his grey fur tickled my nose as he purred in my ear. It wasn’t long before he jumped down, waving his fluffy tail on his way to his dish. Yes, we were in love, in the fall of our lives.