Card Day 74: A bare tree with an anchor tattoo on its branches, holding flowers and standing by a stone path.
Sunlight streamed through the large windows of the diner, painting everything with cheery tones of late spring. It was too hot to sit outside today, but Edwin was sweating nonetheless. He had a date. Checking his watch yet again—he had taken an extended lunch break, but was hoping to get as much time as possible with the lucky woman—he watched the door like a hawk from his vantage point. His fingers tapped along the Formica table, yet another sign of his impatience,
Finally, the bell over the door rang and two women walked in. The younger one placed her hand on the older woman’s arm, whispered something, and then found an empty booth sitting along the windows. The older woman smiled widely and scanned the room. Edwin gave her a wave, and she brightened with recognition.
She was beautiful. Her hair was pale gold, edging on white but still holding onto the last glimmers of its radiance. Bright blue eyes that danced within the wrinkled, yet stunning architecture of her face. She was dressed casually, but with the air of a woman who valued looking put together and proper. Edwin’s heart caught in his throat as he stood to greet her.
“Are you my date?” she asked, and Edwin deflated at the sound of confusion and disappointment in her voice.
“Yes,” he stumbled, trying to retain his smiling exuberance even as her words struck him a crucial blow. “I’m Edwin.”
She extended her hand with a sunny smile, putting on a happy face to cover the disenchantment he saw in her eyes. “I’m Louisa. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
Edwin covered up the pain and shook her dainty hand, feeling it warm and fragile in his ungainly paws. They sat down at the table, Louisa carefully placing the white napkin across her lap and looking about with a polite smile.
“I must say, I usually do not date such older men. You could be my father!”
She appeared oblivious at the embarrassment and irritation that flashed across Edwin’s face. Suddenly, he knew this had been a terrible idea. It was just going to end in more heartache. “I’m not so sure we’re that far apart,” he said.
She gave a polite chuckle. “Perhaps not,” though it was clear she did not believe it. At least she had the tact to change the subject. “Either way, my friend” there was a pause as her mind rattled on for the name and then gave up, “over there set us up, so I might as well trust her on you.” Edwin followed her hand to the table with the young woman and offered a restrained smile and wave. The woman’s face was questioning and concerned, but his smile seemed to put her at ease.
The waiter swooped in then to take their orders, breaking up the awkward tension Edwin found himself trapped in. Edwin had grilled chicken, and Louisa ordered the fish and chips. That done, the two returned to their conversation.
“So, what do you do Edwin?”
“Same thing I’ve done for 40 years,” he said with a disgruntled edge to his voice. As if realizing the tone that had crept in, he brightened up. “I run accounts down at Lewer Manufacturing.”
“Oh, that’s quite a job. Did they just move into town recently? I don’t think I’ve heard much about them.”
“No, they’ve been here a while, Lou. Just not one of the big dogs.”
She giggled and blushed. “No one but my parents call me Lou.”
Edwin appeared embarrassed and flustered. “I’m sorry, I won’t if you—“
She waved away his apology. “No, it’s okay. I actually quite like the way it sounds when you say it.”
“So, what do you do with yourself?” he asked as he regained his composure.
He saw her come alive at that question, having tapped a deep passion. “Oh, I work as an assistant down at a little flower shop on Governors Street. I’ve been there a while, and I hope that someday I might be able to start my own little shop. Pass it down to my children, maybe.”
“Tell me about your children,” he said with a smile, eager to engage the smiling woman.
She instead looked confused. “Oh, I don’t have any children. One day, maybe, but not today.” There was a storm cloud brewing in her next question. “Do you have any children?”
His smile was sad and drawn. “Yes, I have three. Two daughters and a son.”
Her displeasure was clear. “So you’ve been married before?”
“Yes. Best decision I ever made,” he said with a soft and wistful smile.
The waiter brought back their food, once again breaking the tension between the diners. Louisa daintily dove into her dish, eating with relish and reserved dignity. “The food here is the best,” she confided in between mouthfuls. “I’m very glad you could join me for lunch today—?” her eyebrow rose in the question.
“Edwin,” he supplied, fatigue in his voice.
“That’s right. Sorry, I’m just a bit out of sorts today. My friend told me she was setting me up on a date, and that’s just gotten me all confused. I’m not sure I like the whole blind-date idea. It certainly doesn’t sound very proper, does it?”
“It’s a different time, I suppose.” His eyes watched her carefully, full of nostalgia and grief. She did not seem to notice.
“I suppose you’re right. So, tell me Edwin, what do you do?”
“Accounting,” he said with a nod. “And I hear you’re quite the florist.”
She blushed again. “Well, I have put together a few arrangements, but I don’t know if I’d going calling myself ‘quite’ the florist.” She laughed at the thought and munched happily on a French fry doused in ketchup. “I really must thank you for joining me for lunch. I always hate eating at a table alone. Do you come here often?”
“I’ve been here from time to time. It is a town-fixture, after all.”
She gave him a puzzled smile and laughed. “Well, the food is certainly good, but they just opened up! I think you might be getting ahead of yourself there, Edwin!”
He could not help but laugh himself at the fiery woman across from him, the glimpse of her former wit and charm. “Just trust me on this one, Lou.”
“Lou,” she scoffed. “Nobody calls me Lou but my momma and daddy. Ooh, and daddy certainly won’t like to hear that I had dinner with an older gentleman!” She smiled at the impropriety and gave Edwin an exaggerated wink. “Then again, you seem like a rather nice fellow. No reason to, but I feel like I can really trust you, Ed.”
“My wife’s the only person who calls me Ed,” he added conspiratorially, sadness prickling at the back of his words.
Louisa looked happy as she pushed her plate away. “A fine lunch,” she began looking around her chair. “Now if I could only find my pocket book…”
“I’ve got this one, Lou. It’s the least I could do after the pleasure of your company.” He waved over the waiter and sent him away with his credit card, all while Louisa smiled at him from behind her thinning lashes.
“Are you sure your wife will be okay with you treating me?”
“I think she would understand, Lou. I had a lovely time.”
As if surprised by the thought herself, she responded “I did, too, Ed. It feels like it was special somehow.” For a moment, Edwin dared to believe that he might get her back for just an instant, but the moment was carried away by the ringing of the bell near the door.
“Well, I must get back to the shop. Have you seen my keys?”
Edwin waved the young woman over from the table, and she cut through the diner quickly.
“Ready to go, mom?”
“I can’t find my keys.” The young woman gave him a sympathetic smile.
“It’s okay, I’m driving.” The young woman squeezed Edwin’s hand with a smile. “Did it go well?”
She could read the sadness and joy mixed in his eyes. “It was perfect. Best lunch break I’ve had all week.”
“Ooh, now your wife certainly won’t like that, Ed!” laughed Louisa as she rose from the chair. She was chattering with the young woman as they left, oblivious to the sad smile the woman sent towards Edwin as they left. He remained at the table for a moment, just sitting in the stew of conflicting emotion.
Eventually, with a sad smile on his face, Edwin reached into his wallet for the tip. His eyes traced their habitual pattern across the cards, receipts, and finally photos in his wallet. The settled, as they always did, on the photo of himself and Louisa. They were younger then, smiling from ear to ear with youthful exuberance for a life that would use and abuse, but never break, them. He was in his suit and she was in her wedding dress, standing in the sunshine outside of the wood-paneled church building in their first moments as man and wife.
Edwin removed the crumpled dollar bills and placed them on the table, closing his wallet on the painful photo with a resolved snap. This was not the life he had envisioned, but he supposed they had at least found a moment of joy, even if it was joy drenched in sorrow.
This work by Katherine C is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Card Day 72: A smiling, gaping purse divulged of all its possessions. Its zippered mouth is a black hole.
The floor was a wasteland of cosmetics, keys, gum wrappers, and rewards cards. Unfortunately, none of the discarded items were the ones she was so desperately searching for. Keith swung the door open on the frantic scene, taken aback by the explosion of odds and ends now covering their apartment floor.
“Uh, Emmie?” Her head snapped up, taking him in for the first time. She scrambled off the floor and gave him a quick peck on the cheek before returning to her search. This time she tackled the bookcase in the entryway, shuffling the books from their appointed places.
He picked his way through the wreckage. “Lose something?”
She froze in her search, putting her hand on the bookshelf and sighing. “Yeah, I did again.”
“Can I help you look for it?” Keith dropped his messenger bag to the floor and one again surveyed the mess. It looked like, whatever it was, she had torn the house apart.
“That would be great, hon. I’ve taken care of most of out here,” she gave an exaggerated wave to the disarray, “but you could check the bedroom?”
He gave a smiling nod and made his way back into the bedroom, stretching and unbuttoning the stiff button down on his way.
Emily refocused her attention on the room, scanning it for any remaining hiding places. It was not in the bookcase, behind the desk, in her purse, in her jacket, crammed into couch cushions, or tucked underneath the coffee table. Her eyes fell on the coat closet—somewhere she had not opened for a couple months. Still, perhaps it had slipped through the gap between the door and the floor. In an instant she was upon the closet, digging through the rain boots and accumulated clutter in the floor.
“What am I looking for again?” asked Keith’s head from its spot jutting around the bedroom doorframe.
“I knew you were forgetting something!” Emily came up from air in her search, fixing him with a brilliant smile, eyes dancing with the shared joke between them. In a moment, she sombered up. “I am looking for—well, I am looking for a thing, but I’m not sure what it is.”
“That is going to make my help difficult then.”
She looked briefly confused, almost as if she had not realized the absurdity of her request. Almost as if, in that moment, she realized that she did not know what she so earnestly sought. Emily, shook her head, her brows furrowing together as if they could uncover the lost information. Keith’s face transformed form the gentle joking smile to a look of honest concern.
“Emmie, is everything okay?” He watched his brilliant girlfriend struggle for the purpose of here quest, her mind spinning with its rapid pace and turning up nothing. She was distracted, her lips moving as she spoke softly to herself, but Keith could not hear her. In fact, he was certain she was not even speaking, merely moving her lips. Then, suddenly, her face brightened into a smile.
“Yeah, I’m fine. Just got to keep looking.” She turned back to her task with new zeal, but Keith remained confused.
“Yeah, but what are you looking for?”
There was a brief pause in the rustling as she turned to face him, half obscured by the closet. “It doesn’t matter what it is. You’ll know it when you find it. Just go check the bedroom.”
The power of the search took over, and Emily returned to her task, pulling out her old rain boots and peering into their musty depths. The thought of her ultimate goal flitted through her mind, an image half realized and ever elusive. It was the memory of a dream that was burned away by the morning sun, the terror of a nightmare clinging to sweaty bedsheets in those first gasping breaths. That half-glimpsed thought assured her that, once she found it, she would know. The world would fall back into place—as would their apartment after a while.
The rain boots were a dead end and she chucked them back into the black hole newly born in their living room. The back corners were dark and cluttered by knots of dust and forgotten receipts. She also found the glove she had lost last winter and diligently searched through the ends of the fingers, but returned nothing.
Keith had loyally drifted to the bedroom, but stood there scratching his head and looking around. Emily, consumed by her quest, did not take note of the silence coming from him. He flipped halfheartedly through the magazines stacked on Emily’s nightstand, lifted the pillows to examine underneath. His gaze drifted around the room as if hoping to miraculously pot the one item out of place, but it was hopeless. He felt like he was in one of those terrible I-Spy games, scanning for the one missing item but utterly baffled by the assortment of clutter surrounding him. If the missing item was hiding in the bedroom, there it would have to say. At least until Emily remembered what the missing item was.
Another thud sounded from the coat closet as Emily tossed aside an empty shoebox, satisfied that her treasure was not there. The closet floor was empty, and now she turned her attention to the top shelf, rifling through scarves and hats.
“Oh!” she exclaimed loudly. It was tucked within her favorite scarf, folded gently into the fabric along with the memories of the snowy afternoon she and Keith spent together. It had been a wonderful moment together, and she held it frozen in her hands. His face and hers smiling widely side by side. Her finger dazzled with the new diamond sitting there regally. Yes, the image was beautiful, suspended in a moment.
Keith escaped the bedroom and came to see what she held so gently in her hands. It seemed to emit a soft, cold light from between her laced fingers. “You found it?” he asked, more surprised that there had been a mystery item after all.
Emily laughed giddily and met his searching eyes. “I did! It’s just what I asked for.”
“Was it a delivery or something?” He drew closer, but she spun away, hiding her prize. “Aw, come on, let me see. You tore this place apart!”
“It was kind of like a delivery,” she taunted, her eyes flashing at him with a half-known secret. “But more like a dream come true.”
Now he truly was baffled. And beginning to suspect she had taken something before he got home, which made him frustrated that she had not shared. Whatever it was, she certainly was enjoying the discovery. “Come on, what is it?”
“Do you really want to know?” she asked, her voice taking on a serious quality. He rolled his eyes in exasperation.
“Yes, I really want to know.”
“Fine.” She turned towards him slowly, unweaving her fingers so that he could see the tiny, multicolored gem that danced in her hand. It seemed as if it spun with a hundred colors, a frame of a million moments crammed into a minute physical space. His mind reeled with an attempt at comprehending the bauble sitting in the palm of her hand.
There was wonder in his voice now. “What is it?”
Emily smiled, her eyes turning serious. “It’s the future, Keith.” Her lips pursed and she blew a sharp breath on strange artifact. It exploded into a cloud of particles, each cold and stinging, that bit at Keith’s face and eyes. He stumbled backward somehow dodging so many new obstacles and fell back onto the couch. It felt like something was chewing its way into his eyes, drilling back into his mind and thoughts.
And then, it was dark, and the stinging stopped. Keith opened his eyes on a spotless apartment and Emily humming to herself in the kitchen.
“Emmie?” came his groggy voice, and she appeared with a smile.
“Glad you’re up. Dinners almost ready and I did not want to wake you up. You fell asleep as soon as you got home, tired boy!”
His eyes stung and he felt exhausted, off balance, confused. But the memory was foggy and smothered by a dreamlike film. Watching her waltz back towards the kitchen, humming some song he could not recognize, Keith felt himself overwhelmed. In that moment, he knew that he had to marry her.
This work by Katherine C is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.