Years ago, in a single bed with Ivy, their bodies curled around each other beneath the limp blanket, Albert Carter had contemplated death. He’d told Ivy there and then that she made him feel like he’d live forever, and she’d smiled giddily into his chest. They’d been so young once, and with this youth came their great invincibility, and with their great invincibility came the great impossibility that one day this would all be over, that one day this precious, simple moment would be a precious piece of their entwined history that could never again be recreated. But of course, one day this moment would be just that. For sixty years later, Ivy Carter had breathed her last breath, and Albert felt the kind of heartbreak that he never knew existed until he knew that he would never hold the love of his life in his arms again.
For so many years he had carried this heartbreak with him like a badge of honour; as if to lose his pain, in its most raw and suffocating state, would be to lose all that he had left of her. It was stupid, he knew that, but somehow he had lived the past three years of his life like this, and it was only now that he himself were dying, that the realisation of how much time he had wasted had thrust itself upon him like an unruly stranger at a party; irritating and vaguely satisfying all at once.
'You see Sophia, I've realised something,' he said tenderly, 'you can spend a whole lifetime looking forward, only to one day look in the mirror and see creased skin and tired eyes and terminal cancer and realise that looking forward isn't so appealing anymore. So suddenly we look backwards, and suddenly all those things we contemplated doing are the things we desperately wish we'd done. What if this one decision had the power to change your entire life for the better, and yet this decision was one you chose not to make?'
'Oh Albert, you really think I should do this, don't you?' Sophia groaned, 'you want me to be stupid and wreckless. You want me to lose all inhibition and just go with him, don't you? What if it's all a facade? What if he murders me?'
'What if it isn't? What if he doesn't?' Albert winked, a playful smile teetering on the corners of his cracked lips, 'my point is Soph, is that love, or whatever it may or may not be, isn't really that complicated. You light up when he's around. That's raw and it's rare, and it should be celebrated with passionate, sleepy, awkward sex at silly o'clock in the morning and sunrise chasing at dawn. Go out there and give it a chance, my dear, I dare you. If he gets all those little quirks of yours, and he makes your life better just by existing, and better still, he's mad enough to actually feel the same way about you, then you take that. And you hold onto it.' He paused, as if to collect his thoughts, 'and you occasionally bribe him, with beer and bosom of course.'
'Ah fuck,' Sophia said quietly, laughing into the fresh, autumnal air, 'I really hate it when you sound like you could possibly be right. Quite the wise old owl, aren't we Sir?'
'Oh please,' Albert snorted, 'I haven't been called Sir since I was chained to a bed naked in 1956.'
'What was she like Albert, your wife? Apart from being clearly ravenous in the bedroom?'
'Ivy? Yes, she was quite something. Big, bright eyes, doe-like almost. Self-depreciating, funny, disgracefully sexy, sarcastic, beautiful. There wasn't a single bad bone in that woman's body. A tiny part of you reminds me of her. Perhaps that's why I'm so fond of you.'
'Oh gosh,' Sophia sighed, playfully nudging away from him on the bench, 'you did promise me you weren't a raging pervert when I moved in. Please don't tell me this has all been a secret ploy to get me to chain you to a bed naked and recreate your wild, married youth."
Copyright; 2013, Kathy Brown.