This story is by Anita Meiszies and was part of our 10th Anniversary Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
She glanced in the hallway mirror on her way out. Butterflies had been rampaging in her stomach all morning. Her breakfast sat untouched in the dining nook. Her dark sapphire eyes sparkled, so different from the washed-out look of the previous year. Her hair was a little darker and short. She looked good, smiling into the mirror, her usual grimace absent she gave herself a wink and walked out the door.
The picnic basket bumped into her thigh as she walked through the park. The sun smiled down on her bare head. Her boots crunched on the pebbled paths. Trees swayed, their leaves rustling in the late morning breeze.
She’d cooked everything he loved the night before. Roast chicken basted in his favourite ranch sauce, garden salad from the veggie patch and a raspberry and cream tart. She remembered the first time she made the tart. She’d placed a morsel in his mouth. Oh, the smile that lit his face when the flavours washed over his tongue and what it led to when he shared the cream with her in a mind blowing kiss. Her grin grew wide. The one exception to his favourites was a bottle of chilled prosecco.
The butterflies took up flight in her stomach once again and her steps faltered as she approached him. She set down the picnic basket and opened it. Taking the blanket out, she spread it out over the newly cut grass, drops of dew still clinging to some of the shortened blades. She placed the dishes around, putting small portions of everything onto their plates, and opened the bottle, filling her glass to the brim. She took a sip, raising her glass in the air.
‘Happy 10th Anniversary, my love.’ she took another sip. ‘Ten years since that first day. Do you remember?’ she laughed. ‘I was so excited. My mum ended up giving me one of her precious Valium to stop my bouncing so the hairdresser could do my hair. No amount of Valium could wipe the grin off my face.’
She brushed away the leaves that had gathered near his plate from the breeze chasing them through the park.
‘Do you remember when I walked down the aisle to you, the nervous smile on your face, your hands trembling slightly as they engulfed mine? Both of us giggling quietly as we turned to the celebrant so he could start the ceremony and marry us. Giggling more when I went to put your wedding ring on the wrong hand, all our relatives in the front row whispering loudly–Wrong Hand.’ she snickered.
‘Oh, and remember our first disagreement when we bought our first house so close to Christmas. You told me we couldn’t afford a tree, but I really wanted a tree. I was so annoyed but finally agreed we’d buy one the next year. I came home from work on Christmas Eve and, sitting in the corner twinkling merrily, was a store bought Christmas tree with all the trimmings. I shrieked and jumped into your arms. We knocked the tree over bending the star, how we laughed.’
She twirled the glass absently in her fingers.
‘I remember the look in your eyes when we met our son for the first time, your tears flowing freely, and you thanked me for such a special gift and placed kisses of reverence on both our heads. It seemed our love just grew and grew. I remember it all so vividly, like it was yesterday, and yet, ten years have gone by.’
She knelt closer to him, feeling the love that radiated from him all those years ago.
‘How I’ve missed you.’ she whispered. Her hand reached out and softly touched his name. Tears kept in check until now, brimmed and fell, running forgotten down her cheeks as she remembered the last morning of their lives four and a half years ago.
It was a chilly spring morning. The alarm sounded, as it did every working morning. He turned over and slapped the snooze button, then rolled back and snuggled up. His warm body enveloped hers. His breath gently lifted her hair as he nuzzled into her neck. His soft laughter when she stuck her elbow in his ribs as he tried to push her out of bed so he could capture her warmth. The alarm intruding once again, and with a sigh, brushing a kiss goodbye in her hair, groaning as his feet hit the cold floor, then walking out of her life never to return.
The roads were slick with patches of ice and morning dew. A kangaroo bounded out of the thick bush and into the path of his vehicle. He braked, but his wheels locked and he skidded down an embankment into a tree. Passers-by found him a few hours later, but it was too late. They couldn’t save him.
The day of his funeral had been warm, and the sun had shone. She remembered scowling at the sun so bright and alive when the love of her life lay in the dark and cold, never again to be touched by the sun or her.
He promised on their wedding day they’d be together forever. She believed him. But he’d lied and hadn’t taken her with him when he left. She’d been angry with him for that. But enough, that’s not why she was here. She wiped the tears from her face with the palms of her hands.
‘I have news.’ she said.
The butterflies were back in full flutter. More had flown in while she’d been remembering. She paced the length of his resting place, discarding the dead roses from the last time she came in the urn left at the foot of his grave for such a purpose.
‘I didn’t know if I should tell you or not, being our tenth anniversary. Then I thought you’d want me to be happy. I knew you wouldn’t mind as long as I’m happy.’
She picked up her glass, draining it, and took a deep breath.
‘I’ve met someone.’ she rushed the words out, heaving a sigh of relief.
‘After what we had, we shared. I thought there wouldn’t be anyone else but you for me. My heart died with you. I thought I would bring up our son on my own and live out my life with the two cats and the dog.’ she sighed.
‘But then, I met him.’ she flushed.
‘We went for the same dinner for one in the freezer aisle of the local supermarket. We laughed, but then I noticed my nails had gouged a chunk of skin from his hand. It horrified me when I saw his hand well up with blood. He laughed and told me not to worry about it. I couldn’t leave him with blood running down his hand. I grabbed him and went into the health aisle and pulled out antiseptic and bandages. I made such a mess. I nattered to him the entire time. You would’ve laughed.’
She refilled her glass and took a mouthful.
‘To thank me, he asked me to have coffee with him. I’d already formed the no on my lips when I looked up into the warmth of his chocolate brown eyes and felt my heart give a jolt, and so-I said yes.’
She placed everything back into the picnic basket, more to have something to do with her hands than to clear up the picnic lunch. Looking back at the well-cared for grave, she kept talking.
‘Coffee led to lunch and lunch to long dinners. We’d talk for hours, unaware of the passing of time. He’s not so different from you. He makes me laugh as you once did. I needed to laugh, to feel. I’ve missed the warmth of a pair of powerful arms cocooning me, touching me, loving me. We are to marry soon. He loves me and he loves our son, and yes–I love him too.’
She feathered her hand across the top of the marble slab bearing his name.
‘You were and always will be my first love. A part of me will always love you and what we had. It feels good to love again. It’s not the same or better, it’s different. Be happy for me.’
She blew a kiss towards him and picked up the picnic basket. As she turned to walk away, she thought she heard the echo of his laughter in the sighing of the wind, and grinned.
Those pesky butterflies finally stilled their flight.