The sun cast long shadows in front of them, black as night and devoid of any peculiarities. A gentle wind stirred the summer leaves and his heavy breathing, hot on her hand as he gently kissed it before returning it to her lap. A band of sweat snaked across her forehead but it didn’t bother her. With a little tenacity he laid his hand on the aged garment bag to the right of him.
“He was very helpful,” he said.
“Quite helpful,” she said. As she talked the deep wrinkles in her face bounced, but in a sad way.
“I think you picked a very good suit.” His wrinkles did not bounce.
“And I think the tie will bring out my complexion.”
“Would you please stop?” She folded her arms and looked the other way, towards the bulging water tower rising in the distance. Its crimson insignia gleamed through the twilight: Asheboro County.
He sat looking slightly dejected, but then blinked twice and rose to his feet with care and a slight groan. Slowly he made his way to the end of the curb, scanning the farmland for a break in the monotony, settling on the horizon instead.
“Would you come sit down?” she said after a moment.
He did not respond.
“Fine then, but you’re not so young anymore and I can’t help you if you have a heat stroke.”
“That’s not funny,” he said without turning.
“It wasn’t supposed to be.”
The sun glinted off her cane and cast her face in a more favorable light. Her eyes glistened and she glanced at the suit before quickly looking away.
“You know I’m not afraid right?” he said into the sunset.
“I know,” she said delicately, her face softening. “Come drink your martini.”
He turned around and walked over to take his seat next to her. She handed him his drink and she gripped her glass of white wine with the spindly fingers of a piano player long since retired.
“Fifty seven years we’ve been married, and not once have we missed cocktail hour,” he remarked, raising his glass in a half toast.
“You know I know that,” When he didn’t respond, she added consolingly, “and every glass has tasted a little different.” He popped the olive into his mouth and chewed slowly, relishing the compliment it gave the gin, relishing the thought of fifty seven years of olives. His Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed.
“A little fresher,” he smiled at her.
People started to gather near the front of the restaurant. They, however, were removed from the crowds, trusting Alberto to come get them when their table was ready. The breeze picked up and tousled the wisps of white hair.
“You’re going to be all right.,” he said. “We knew this was coming. We’ve prepared for this. We’ve bought the suit, we’ve made the arrangements.”
“Oh yes, we’re very good at organizing these things,” she said, then, “how can you be so certain? How are you so certain of things?”
“Because I love you, and I know you, and you’re going to be all right.”
“You don’t know me like this,” she whispered.
“You’re not going to be anything, you’re going to be exactly the same person. You’ll always be my Misty,” and he interlocked his fingers with hers and softly began to hum.
“Look at me, I’m as helpless as a kitten up a tree
And I feel like I’m hanging from a cloud, I can’t understand
I get misty, just holding your hand…”
Her chin was touching her chest and her eyes were closed, strained. There wasn’t much she could say anymore, because there wasn’t much he could say.
“I don’t know how to make this journey alone.” Her voice was miniscule, nearly lost in the wind.
“Neither do I.”
“Just you tonight, Ms. Sullivan?” he said. She opened her eyes to the image of a grayscale sailor, smiling brightly at the camera and staring out with certainty. The sun dipped below the horizon and cast a dark outline around the olive skinned man standing over her. Instinctively she felt beside her for the run-down suit. The weathered picture was rough in her hands, its edges frayed, and she gazed at it for a second, her fingers quivering slightly. With a tender smile, she ran a finger across the handsome face and placed it in her pocket.
“Yes, just me,” she said, rising with his help.
“Signorina, your bag?” Alberto said.
The sun beat down on the Italian and the lady; the trees were silent and the restaurant seemed far away.
“That’s okay,” she said, clutching her cane for support. The restaurant was so far away and it was hot but her shadow was dark and it was cool in the shade, and they set out for the restaurant as their shadows disappeared to the cool purple world around them.