A short love story
The woman tore from the sidewalk the instant the red hand turned into a white walking figure. Oblivious to the screeching tires and the gentleman, who, a moment before, had her elbow in his hand, she crossed the street, her face radiant.
The man careened after her, windmilling his arms. “Dolores!”
“You’re too uptight, Honey.” She gleamed at him. “You’re supposed to enjoy our outing too. Please, don’t hold my arm so tight—you know how easily I bruise.” She chuckled. “Must be all those medicines.”
“I just saved your life!”
“I know—making me come on our daily walk. I’ve become a Lazy Lizzie. Aren’t the leaves lovely, sweetheart? It’s such a blessing. There are more shades of red and ochre on these trees than in the setting sun. A pity we have lost our view of the mountains.” Dolores inhaled deeply. “Do you smell the earth, my love?”
The man muttered under his breath until they reached the opposite sidewalk where he made her stop. “Lores, look at me.” He folded up her jacket’s collar and then his own. A gust, in no particular hurry, twirled trampled leaves around their legs.
“You haven’t called me that in a while.”
“I need your full attention, Lores, that’s why. Didn’t you hear the brakes? You walked right in front of those—”
“Now you’re upset with me, Marvin.” Her eyes brimmed.
“The cars could have killed—” He cupped her cheek as if cradling a live, glass butterfly. His thumb caught the single tear and wiped it dry. “No need to cry, sweet Lores . . . I had you by the arm, savoring the moment, patting myself on the back for getting you that far, and, for a split- second, stopped paying attention.”
She sniffled and crinkled her eyes. “Aren’t you lucky you’ve got me? While you were daydreaming, I watched the pedestrian lights. I walked when we had the right of way.”
“I am lucky. But you know you have to wait for me.”
“I had the light.”
“You have to wait. Make certain it’s safe.”
“I hate waiting.”
Her lower lip trembled. “I forget. You keep telling me my mind is slipping.”
“I never say that.”
“You think that.”
Dolores allowed Marvin to steer her across the second set of lights, where he took her arm until they reached the cast iron fence of the park. Here he let go of her, shrugging the fear off his former broad shoulders—here she’d be safe. Here he could let the caged bird out. The once imposing gates stood askew, gaping wide, never to be closed again. Lady winter had been gracious to the gnarled old ivy snaking through the blackened skeleton of fence and gate. As if in a special welcome, clusters of copper, ochre, and sienna leaves decorated the dilapidated arch.
The couple followed the winding path deep into the park until the woman pulled the man by the sleeve toward a solitary bench on the south side of the duck pond. To get the bench vacant, one had to come before the sun was a hand-width above the tree line. Dolores plopped down, not letting go of his hands. With her elbow, she wiped the tiny brass plate to read the inscription better. Her laugh bubbled over them. “What a smart man Samuel Coleridge was. Thank you for being my oak tree, honey.”
Marvin kissed her pale lips and then squinted at the tiny plate. Shaking his head, he took glasses from his jacket pocket and read out loud. “Love is flower like; friendship’s like a sheltering tree.”
Clutching his arm, Dolores rested her silver head on his shoulder, closing her eyes. Marvin’s arm, as was his habit, sneaked around her hollow shoulders, pulling her into his side. And so, the couple sat, contended, warming each other, feeling each other’s heartbeat through their snuggling ribcages; waiting on the morning sun to inch out from behind the row of rusted elms and warm their troubled hearts, thaw the fear that had crawled into their bones.
“What’s happening to me, Marvin?”
“I’m here. Don’t fret.”
Dolores laughed. Her laugh had changed. No longer was it mountain bells echoing across Alpenrose and jasmine-covered foothills, but tolling bells, weighted down by inexplicable sorrow.
“Nonsense. You’ve only lost a few pounds.”
“When last have you seen me naked, Marvin?”
She gave his arm a gentle slap. “Exactly. I need to switch back to training bras. There’s so little left.”
“You’re still beautiful—”
“My memory is following the path of my boobs—melting like ice sculptures. My mind is slipping too, Marvin.”
Marvin laughed and took her face in his hands, kissing first her eyelids, then her nose and lingered on her lips. “You’re exaggerating.”
She pulled away. “I see the fear in your eyes, mirroring mine.”
“Lorelei . . .”
“Don’t call me that. That was the woman you fell in love with. Sitting next to you is a stranger. Only a shell of my former—”
“Don’t say that.”
“Then what happened at the traffic light when I stepped in front of those cars?”
Marvin’s shoulders drooped for a moment before he straightened up and faced her, kissing her again. “We will win this—with faith and love.”
“Do you believe that?”
“My faith is faltering . . .”
They sat in silence until the sun turned their shadow spot into blinding light.
Dolores took Marvin’s hand, pulling him to his feet. “Let’s go home. Will you make love to me, Marvin?”
She giggled like a schoolgirl; rose crept up her neck. “You can take your time, my love. Kiss me from head to toes. We have all day. And you have to call me Lorelei . . .”
“Come, let’s hurry, while I still remember your name.”
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This story was also published on Medium.com.
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