This story is by Mike Van Horn and was part of our 2022 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“Once upon a time . . .”
[I’m having trouble with this middle part. Where did the years go?]
. . . and they lived happily ever after.”
Ever after? You mean, forever? Like, eternally, immortally forever?
The problem with immortality is that it goes on and on. And we’d be stuck together, just him and me. I get the forever part, but happily?
When Gramma was dying, we all clustered around her bed, trying to make her feel good. “Just think, you’ll be reunited with Grampa again.”
She sat bolt upright, pulling her oxygen tube loose. “That son of a bitch! I gave him sixty years of my life. I never want to see him again!”
See, that’s how I feel.
We’ve had some good times. Yes we have. Let’s see if I can remember any.
Okay yes, the wedding. That was happy. Our mothers got their heads together and planned the whole thing, determined that we were finally going to get hitched.
After the I-do’s, this strange woman approached us as we walked back down the aisle. She touched both our hands and said, “Happy. Ever. After.” Gold sparkles swirled around us. She turned and walked away and then she was gone. “See?” he said to me, “It will all be hunky-dory.”
We did start out hunky-dory. We were two lovebirds, hardly ever out of each other’s sight, doing everything together, making mad passionate love everywhere we went, including outside in the park. I brushed aside the vile rumors of him with my bridesmaid.
When we weren’t working, we traveled. Over the next bunch of years, we poked around in most of the continents of the world. Beautiful places and cranky people. But they gladly took our money.
The years kept stacking up. That’s good news and bad news. The good news was, we didn’t seem to be aging much. On our 50th anniversary I finally found a grey hair. The bad news: maybe forever after was real. I kept thinking back to the old lady at our wedding and her gold pixie dust. Maybe for ever after really was forever. I was beginning to get tired of this guy. How could I get out of this? Well, I could die, but what’s the fun of that? Or I could murder him. Poison maybe. But I was chicken. I decided to stick it out and see where it went.
After the first century I was really getting bored. And irritated. And so was he; I could tell. All our friends were long dead—even my old bridesmaid, who hadn’t aged nearly as well as I had. So even if he’d had an affair with her, he must be sorry now. Her great granddaughter had kicked him in the you-know-where when he made a pass at her.
Yep, too much of a good thing is boring. Remember the Greek gods on Mt. Olympus? Up there for eternity—yeah, ever after—and they got bored drinking ambrosia and hanging out with each other. Squabbles ensued, and some of them began fooling around with mortals down on Earth, thus producing some weird offspring.
Speaking of getting knocked up, more years slid by, and I wondered why I couldn’t get pregnant. Having kids would give me something to occupy my time. He hinted that it was my fault. But finally he admitted, “I knew you didn’t want any kids (not true), so I got a vasectomy. A vasectomy means you never have to say you’re sorry.”
When you live for a very long time, the world changes out from under you. We got tired of wars and revolutions, but there were plenty of new things to do. We went flying, and scuba diving, and auto racing.
One day he sprang this on me. “Our 250th anniversary is coming up!” he said excitedly. “Let’s go skiing!” “But I’ve never skied,” I whimpered. “I’ll teach you.” So we went. I did okay on the baby slopes—except for falling on my butt when I got off the chair lift. He kept pushing me to go on higher slopes. “Are we having fun yet?” he laughed. I grinned with teeth clenched.
I got better at it. It was kinda fun! Then he took off down a steeper slope, leaving me standing at the top. I had to follow him. Whoosh! Yikes! I failed to make a turn and ran headlong into this bush. It took two guys—the big hunky one had a gorgeous smile—plus the ski patrol, to extricate me and my skis. What’s-his-face eventually showed up. “I had to go to the bottom, then ride back up.” He looked at my scratched-up face and burst into a loud guffaw. He smirked, “I’m not laughing with you; I’m laughing at you.” This did not endear him to me.
Was it Loverboy who helped me get back up on my skis? No, it was Mr. Big Smile. I smiled back. Would he have grinned so engagingly if he knew I was well into my third century? I was still young at heart though, and he made it go pitter pat.
One night when I was sitting at home alone, I thought back to the old lady at our wedding, and all the gold swirls. I wondered once again, how long does “ever after” last? Had she hexed us? Was this a blessing or a curse? I was beginning to have my suspicions. Was I going to have to spend forever together with this jerk?
Wait. Nowhere in there did it say “together.” It’s not “happily ever after together.” How did it take me so long to figure this out? I’d be a lot happier on my own. An hour later I was all packed and outta there!
I caught a flight to a Caribbean beach resort. I still looked pretty dang good in a bikini. And what do you know? Guess who I just happened to run into. The skier with the gorgeous grin. Mr. Big Smile. He was staying in a penthouse right on the beach.
“Ahh. Happy ever after, for sure.”