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Strawberry Mint

by Elyssa Burd 3 months ago in Love

Forgetful Love

A box of strawberry short cake and a platter littered with homemade mint cookies sits so quietly, scrutinized by my misplaced glare, a worn pot once a vibrant lime green, the only audience in my frustration. A slow afternoon tea once again tarnished by red and smooth cream over my sharp cooling taste of mint.

I can’t bring myself to take out one or the other. To bring out the cookies makes me feel childish and petty, he won’t make a fuss if I bring them out instead of the cake. The feeling however will sink into tingling guilt as he only eats one or two. To take out the cake however, he’ll have three slices and yet I’ll sit and quietly ponder with every bite why a store can make something so much better then my stagnating cookies on the kitchen’s counter. The treats mock me with glistening icing fresh and clean or beep right chocolate coat that must keep the heat in just a few more moments.

It’s funny how after 40 years of marriage, you know every quirk of the person, every fear and they know yours. It still doesn’t help ease the rolling breathing pit that burrows into your chest. The thought of him sitting there, his eyes closed to the warm sun streaming in through the large ceiling to floor window, as he waits still flutters my spider web heart. I can feel them as it moves scurrying over veins and bones tingling down clasped arms as i hold myself tight to keep from rushing to him.

The years have been kind to him. He’s not a withered old grandfather, he’s still the onyx haired young man I married. I look in even the kitchen’s small decorative mirror and I no longer see the fiery red hair I was born with. The hair he would stare at for hours and curl around his finger just to press lightly to his lips and softly smile at me with the hair he loved. It’s harder to hold the lime green tea pot steady or carry the grey stained flower pots out of the shed every spring. He stays the same in my eyes and I, I just keep getting older and it makes me wonder, how does he see me?

When we were younger he would sit on the couch with me for hours just reading and being close. Now more and more often I find myself staring into the couch indent then the words in my lap, a ghost of a hand trailing over my shoulder. I find less frequently that I am smiling down at the small lingering touches on my hands he’d leave as he would walk by. I don’t catch him looking my way as much. Passionate lengthy debates turn to rushed murmurs between shows and flipped pages of old paling books. Why do I not have morning walks framed in the reds and golds of autumn leaves? The ones where we would sit on a park bench for hours watching the people. Whispering into each other's ears, lips brushing as we made up fantastical stories for lives we know nothing about.

What happened to the timeless moments where he’d hold me without looking away, or the moments where we were so in sync we could catch our boys and dress them in seconds? It feels so ridiculous but they were drowned in strawberries and sweet cream. One single change and my wonderful world slipped away in a faded light before I’d had the chance to catch it.

My eyes no longer slow my world to a stop as I watch him work on a sculpted piece, a steadfast feeling in my heart that whatever was to come we could survive the end of the world, with a paper clip and rubber band. What happened to the feelings I dug and clawed to find and keep locked myself in? Where? What happened to it?Just tell me damn it.

I tried so hard to crystalize it, to stay in the glittering bright moments where I trusted myself to be enough. Hushing that nagging cynical voice that used to be so small to keep it from crumbling the strength I had built through raised voices and contagious giggles. With trembling hands creaking like our home’s floor boards, why did I think I could hold on as strong as the love I have for that man sitting on the chair waiting for his tea. I don’t even have to see him to know, the wall blocks his lounging from saw dust and sun beams draped over coveralls I’ve washed a thousand hours before because I know him with all my heart. Yet it is always so much nicer to look at him. The small window frames him in a timeless picture that great grand babies will look at years to come and smile at. Until his rolling foot moves the chair in slow rocks as he watches the window there quietly waiting for his tea his mind hidden from me behind curled cut hair.

Even after I backed his truck into a pole on our third anniversary his voice never raised in malice. I could remember my thin smooth hands shaking no matter how much I held them to myself as I watched in the rearview mirror as he made his way down the drive. His face, so perfect and handsome in all its flaws, distorted and tight. That truck was where he spent all his spare time. My memory still held the moments I’d sit and watch him clean it every day in my garden, Willie Nelson playing between us.

When I crashed it, his foot falls were so defining over and cooling aor ticking metal it was deafening when he stopped. He looked at me, then the truck then he turned and his shoulders shook, with a laugh. When he turned that broad face back to me the sun caught his eyes and they sparkled, a small crooked smile flushing his lips, his words ringing in my ears, “You always did have a lead foot.”

I remember being so shocked I stumbled my way out of the car, caressing breezes rolling over flushed skin and glaring at him huffing off calling about leaving such an insufferable man before he caught up to me a few feet down the road. He wrapped his strong arms around my waist, planting me there. The wind blew my baby blue pleated skirt and his hair tickled my cheek as he swayed back and forth. I wonder what would he do if I crashed his car now? Would he wrap me in his strong arms like he did so long ago, or would he simply sigh and turn away?

The keys were hanging there right by the front door, glittering with small charms from the boys and every key he needed and a few he no longer did. My hand twitched and gripped my thumb like it was those keys, like I could just rip them off the wall, drive down the street to the phone poll and have that memory play out for me again. To see if he would still hold someone as useless as myself, worn and sarcastic raw with fear and adrenaline in his arms again and forgive me.

“Poppy, Poppy!” Our granddaughter ran from the hall out of sight from the little window I was looking through. I did see him turn his head and smile at her across the living room from the hall I knew she was running from.

“Over here, Sugar.” She scampered over to him like the long furred little bunny toy she held clasped in her tiny hands. Her curled pigtails bounced over thin shoulders the same color as her grandfather’s and her pretty blue eyes the same as her mother’s. She doesn’t have any of me in her but that’s good, she’s so adorable like her father was at that age, my little boy.

“Who’s this?” she held an old yellowed paper up to him, the edges torn in a familiar way. I would recognize the back of that paper anywhere. There are only two. One is stashed with many other photos under the TV in an old red white and blue shoe box buried under pictures of the boys' lives and friends who’ve long since left our lives. The other had been tucked away under my pillow. He glanced at it, taking the picture between his finger and thumb, rubbing the corner in circles.

“Well, that lumpy unkempt young man” I could only partially make out as he pointed to the picture. “Is myself and this vibrant young woman is your grandma at our wedding. Where did you find this?” His voice was sweet like the cakes he so loved to scarf down with a younger man’s vigor.

“Under grandma’s pillow!” a smile spread over her tiny face, a perfect little cherub in flesh and blood. He chuckled slowly only twice, was it only worth two? His hand curled around our granddaughter tighter, his eyes never leaving the photo “Grandpa, will you marry Sarah’s mommy?” My heart sank, I know it shouldn’t, that she’s only a child left with some funny reason in her mind, but I couldn’t help it. My heart sank and a lump formed in my throat, I fought back. Frustration and pride fuelled a glare piercing the wall over his shoulder as I listened.

“What?”

“Well Sarah’s sad because her mommy’s sad,” Our precious little girl’s hand came up and tugged on her grandpa’s overalls. “ because Sarah’s daddy went away and when I saw how happy you and grandma are I thought you could make Sarah’s mommy happy!” her voice raised with excitement of her master plan, like I thought, some childish notion. She’s adorable for it and I’m horrible for feeding this gnawing, petty fear.

I have to stop thinking about this. It will only crack my dusty wrinkled heart more. I forced my eyes to the mint and cake again. Picturing the small sweep of his shoulders weighted with age and wisdom. To the little girl watching him expectantly. A grin holding up her cheeks and hands wringing in her grandpa’s straps. How he looked at her and smiled such a honey type it sweetened my stuttering breath a bit, but the fear wriggled back up to the surface like the maggot it is.

“Sugar,” his voice was soft and warm like taffy, molding in the air around us both, “The only woman I will ever love is already my wife and I am one lucky man to have such an effervescent spitfire as her.” Even with my withered veins those words warmed my body so much. I was blushing like when I was a teen after our first good kiss behind my father’s shed. The tears sprang down my cheeks, rippled by the smile that tore through my glare and put to rest my fears for a few months, maybe even years. My hands shook and lifted to my face as silent tears glided from my eyes without me feeling them. Their tracks ice on my heated cheeks and the block in my throat cleared as I calmed myself, wiping the tears away. Silence had seeped into our home, only being cut with the sharp whistle of the tea pot, its shrill call knocking me out of place. I scurried along the dingy tile going from place to place, collecting the tea cups and saucers, setting them on the tea tray and stopped in front of the treats before smiling and placing the treat on a plate and taking it out.

The cups clattered and the pot steam swirled, dissipating above our heads as I set the tray on the table and turned to my husband. His eyes widened a fraction of a second glancing at the plate then to our granddaughter who had taken up one of the other seats as I did my work in the kitchen.

“What’s the occasion?”

“None, just deciding on a compromise,” I smiled, mold colored eyes following him to the plate half covered in strawberry shortcake and the other blanketed in homemade mint cookies. I leaned down and kissed the top of his head, hair tickling my nose. As I went to pull away he clasped his hand around my wrist and turned it, kissing the underside. His lips pressed warm and solid on my skin, eyes looking up at mine the whole time before letting it go to get his cup of tea. We sat all three of us to our tea and treats for as long as we could before her father arrived.

Love

Elyssa Burd

A person that likes to delve into too many things and over thinks many aspects of life real or fake.

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Elyssa Burd
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