Stone: A Short Story

This is a work of creative fiction.

That morning, the sky was a clear cut blue, like her daughter’s eyes or the sapphire she wore on her right hand. The right hand was for family, she thought, and the left was… she figured that was obvious. The day was perfect for the meeting the doctor set up with her husband in the park. There was no particular reason behind the meeting. She just wanted to talk.

It had been nearly forty years since they met, but that didn’t change a thing. Every time they were going to be together, it became the new finest moment of her life. She laughed to herself upon the realization and remembered how girlish it was. She didn’t care. When she was with him, the one person who did see the pilgrim’s soul in her, she could put everything on hold. The injuries, the sicknesses, the prescriptions, the sound of her infant granddaughter screaming to be fed on babysitting day… all of it calmly faded into the backdrop when they were alone together.

Alone together. That was a conundrum she always liked to ponder, and she did so that morning. Back in junior high, when it was still called junior high and not middle school or purgatory or whatever it’s called now, a teacher asked her if you could ever be alone with someone else. No, she thought, it states the impossible. And then, there was him. And when it was just the two of them, she felt joined with someone else, but she could speak all her thoughts at liberty, exactly as she thought them when she was totally alone. He was the only one who could hear her alone thoughts.

Sometimes it bothered her -- what it took to get there. For years, it seemed like he was all she thought about, dreamt about, but not all that she wanted. Still, she recalled days past when she wore clothes as bright as a no vacancy sign, headed the biology club, and fended off “You’d be so beautiful if you pulled back that hair!” comments. She did not want to believe her memory, but she tried not to regret it now.

On her walk, she did not call out his name. She knew where he was and that he was already there.

I've got to pick up the baby at five, she remembered as she walked. Her parents have to work tonight. I wonder if they'll put her in that purple getup I like so much.

Instantly, she turned off those thoughts. They were the thoughts of business, and that morning was supposed to be a calm meeting, the first of those she’d had in years.

She called in sick to work that morning and chuckled at the irony. It wasn’t like she hadn’t missed work before. Years ago, she had to miss two weeks, and if they understood then, they’d understand now. She could now see the man in clarity.

Why did I park so far away? she asked herself, momentarily annoyed. She knew exactly where he was going to be, but she loved the walk. It made her feel powerful, and it wasn’t clear why. Long walks, shooting a .22, the day she became a doctor all made her feel like a better woman. It didn’t make sense, but if she hadn’t applied her logic to it yet, she was never meant to.

That was when she reached him. A smile crept across her red lips, and eyes flickered to her husband. He was aging somehow, but she could only see him right at the threshold of fifty. That once ebony hair of his was now mostly gray and thinning. She could see that. His formerly Charles Atlas build was breaking down little by little, and she hated to think she’d ever see him as bones.

And she could feel. Standing there, under a perfect sky and among the trees, she could feel. This was where she wanted to be. She was beginning again.

She thought she could see his mouth open slightly to say something, but she allowed for no pause.

“Hey,” she said and instantly regretted sounding so young.

“I just wanted to tell you something, and it’s that I don’t love you. I thought it over and that’s overused and starting not to mean anything. So, I adore you. I adored you in third grade when you brought in a coin collection for show and tell and the chunky kid stole them to buy four ice cream sandwiches -- the weird kind that never melt.

“I’m mad for you. I was mad for you when you held back my hair that night I told you, on our third anniversary when you bought me a gramophone, when you forgot my birthday and bought me a shower curtain, and when you tried to convince me that dragons exist in China. I must really have a problem.”

She knelt to the ground and reached out to him. All she felt was the stone. She traced the C in his name, remembering what life had been like since the day he left. He was still there, behind the stone.

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