Copyright is held by the author.
“I’M GOING now.”
Merritt Rainford placed her teacup on the coffee table a little harder than intended and noticed her carelessness had caused two perfectly formed drops on the highly polished mahogany surface. The brown liquid in the saucer covered the pattern of pretty blue periwinkles giving the illusion they were drowning.
Standing, she made her way to the man at the doorway. He was wearing her favourite of his suits — the grey one that made his eyes appear almost silver in colour. The crisp white shirt beneath would smell of starch and bergamot. He was freshly shaven and his hair was still damp where it met his collar.
Merritt let her eyes roam over her husband’s face studying his laugh lines and greying temples. How unfair that the years had been so kind to him and so ruthless to herself.
She thought about the arsenal of makeup and lotions in her upstairs bathroom, the bimonthly appointment to cover her roots and the ice cream in the freezer that she couldn’t eat. Somehow the mirror, direct sunlight and younger women had become her enemy in this war on aging. With no hope of victory, the effort and responsibility of maintaining something so intangible was as exhausting as trying to capture a rare butterfly.
In her finer moments she wanted to say “Fuck it” and see what nature really intended for her. Scream to the heavens that the history they had together should allow for sagging breasts, a thicker midsection and weak eyes. The mirage was to grow old together, forgive and accept the ravages of a lifetime. When did she become the last soul standing with her finger in the dam? What would happen if she just let go?
What do you see John when you look at me? Can I compare to her?
When she reached him, she put her hands gently on his tie. It didn’t need straightening but it had become a habit of hers. A reason and purpose perhaps to give herself permission to touch him.
He gently wrapped his arms around her, holding her as if she were a delicate teacake fresh from the oven. “I’ll be home Friday at the latest,” he murmured, placing a light kiss on her lips. A ghostly touch, warm and dry that left behind no trace of ever being there.
She knew the dance, and her next move was to take a step back as he picked up his valise and made his way to the door.
“Call me when you get to the hotel.”
He glanced at his reflection in the hall mirror, “It’ll be late Merritt. Maybe after midnight.”
“That’s fine. I just want to make sure you arrived safely.”
As he made his way down the walkway he stopped and looked out onto the lawn. “Make sure Flynn gets this cleaned up. Honestly Merritt, I don’t know why you wanted this bloody tree in the first place.”
She gazed at the Magnolia. Its petals were falling like snow onto the grass. Their pretty pink satin already turning into decay, defining a fragile fleeting moment when splendor turns back into ordinary. No matter the season, from budding, full glory or losing its colour, it owned its grace and mess without explanation.
As the town car pulled away from the curb, she waved knowing he would not return the gesture.