Thistle (30 Stories — 8)

Thought I’d posted this one already.  Thanks to becoming a writing mentor, I have a backlog of short-shorts like this one from my sessions with my mentee.  I need to start typing them up and finishing this 30 stories thing already, eh?


Spike and Nora have been together long enough that when people ask they say, “Forever.”  Nora smiles then and says, “Really, it’s twenty years.  If that’s not forever, I don’t know what is.”

Spike stands by the side of the bed watching Nora sleep, his shadow pale and thin over her small, curved shape.  “Twenty yeas is hardly forever,” he thinks, as he walks to the closet and changes into his pajamas.  “I need at least another twenty to feel like we’ve really gotten started.”

Before going to bed, he sits at her desk and looks through her notecards of botanical drawings.  He slips the thistle card from the stack and studies it.  It was always a favorite of theirs, one they’d look for every year at the summit of Prisker’s Notch when they’d make their annual climb.  “The queen of weeds,” his mother had called it.  “Oh no,” Nora had corrected.  “That’s got to be Queen Anne’s Lace.  Thistle is more like the efficient, sharp-tongued little chatelaine.”

Spike put the card back in the box and slipped into bed beside her, fitting himself around her gently to give her his warmth without waking her.  He didn’t sleep for hours, breathing in her changing scent — no longer her soft gardenia soap, but slowly shifting to the chemicals of her medications.

In the morning, she is up before him — always stronger and more active in the morning.  She cooks breakfast, humming an old Calypso song and winks at him when he comes down bleary-eyed and groggy.

“Happy birthday, sleepy head,” she sings to him  Your gifts are on the table.”

He kisses her hair as he passes and pours a cup of coffee before sliding into his seat.  A long slender box sits beside his place setting, wrapped in dove grey paper dotted with gold-glitter jet planes.

He’ll wait until she sits to unwrap it.  He knows it’s a toy of some kind, maybe a model car or the Chrysler Building.  He has enough collections for her to choose from when buying his presents.  But he’ll wait to see it with her, wishing she could wait to grow old with him, knowing this birthday is likely the last they’ll have.  How many more times will he hear her laugh and say, “If that’s not forever, I don’t know what is?”


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