The breeze played with my hair, sending a strand over my eyes. I pulled it away and frowned. The once midnight-black mane had now some white strands. I flipped my head to the side, looking at the waterfall of salt and pepper.
When did this happen?
I reached to brush my fingers through it, but a veiny hand came in sight.
It’s my hand?
My mouth hung low when I brought both hands in front of me, turning them back and forth. They were wrinkly. A deep chuckle caused me to drop them on my lap.
“Fascinated by your hands, beautiful?”
A man with the brightest smile walked my way. The closer he got to me, the more familiar he seemed, but I couldn’t know for sure who he was. The sun shone through the white clouds, enhancing his tanned skin and golden locks. I looked away, heat crawling up my cheeks. I’d always had a weakness for blond men.
The garden in front of me extended to no end.
How I wish I had a garden like this.
I loved flowers and tending to them. This garden was well taken care of. Trees were trimmed, and plants were watered, for there wasn’t a yellow leaf in sight. A shadow blocked the warmth of the sun. I shivered while the breeze flipped some leaves and the hem of my pink dress. I never liked pink. Straightening the fabric of its skirt, my hand brushed over the white buttons.
I like those, though.
“Do you mind if we walked together around the garden, love?”
I snapped my head to the man, who I forgot was standing there.
What’s wrong with me?
He smiled again, and I couldn’t look away.
I know this smile. His name is on the tip of my tongue, but I can’t find it.
huffed in frustration. His smile turned into a laugh. Nothing was funny, but I didn’t mind seeing his dimples. He gave me his hand in a silent question. I took it because I couldn’t say no to a blond man with dimples. He pulled me up. Snaking his arm around my waist, he kissed my cheek, a quick peck that sent my heart into a frenzy. I pulled away, staring at his face. These blue eyes were familiar.
“Do I know you?” I asked, breathless.
A hint of his perfume teased my brain, but the memories were veiled with a semi-transparent curtain. They seemed within my reach, but I couldn’t see them. He smiled at me. His eyes crinkled, adding ages to his handsome face. It was then that I saw the white hair filtering at the sides of his head.
“Yes, we know each other quite well, actually.”
I tensed instead of relaxing.
There goes my chance to ask him who he is. I should’ve asked that instead.
I smiled at him while I crumbled inside, dreading that he’d ask something, and I wouldn’t know how to answer.
Is he an old friend? A family? An ex?
I looked away, my eyes widening at the possibility.
That’d be awkward.
I allowed myself a second to freak out. I shook my hands to ease my nerves, but a larger hand covered mine. I flinched.
Get a grip.
I took a deep breath and smiled at him.
“This is a beautiful garden.”
He beamed at the compliment, and I sagged in relief.
“It is.” He nodded, gaze fixed on the house at the end of the path. It was a cozy home with stone walls and dark brown door and windows. The swing next to it compelled me. It reminded me of my childhood, of the swing my father made for me and my sister, Lucy. The wind on my face and the butterflies in my stomach whenever the swing went high never faded in my mind.
“Come on. I know you want to play in the swing.”
I stopped in my tracks, looking between him, the house and the vast garden that surrounded us.
“Is this your house?”
He stopped as well, still holding my hand.
“Yes, it is.”
Something contracted in my chest. This was everything I dreamed of. I almost wished all this was mine, the man included.
“I can’t take credit for it though. My wife did the whole job.”
A bang hit me hard in my chest.
How lucky she is.
“She has good taste. Not everyone chooses the traditional cozy style anymore.”
I fixed my eyes on the house, waiting for the lump in my throat to ease.
“That’s what you always say, ‘people have no taste nowadays’.”
It sounded like something I’d say. The pain increased in my chest.
Was his wife my friend? Or worse, my sister?
“Where’s your wife?”
He stopped, clutching the chain of the swing. He looked at me with a sad smile, then walked around to face me. He stopped when the only thing separating us were my fidgeting arms.
“You are my wife.”
Heat veiled my cheeks when he cupped my face. I couldn’t breath.
I’m his wife?
Like a stubborn blank page, my brain refused to cooperate, so I stared at him, blinking.
I searched his face for a trace of humor, but all I found was sadness. He stroked my cheeks with his thumbs, lost in his own world. I tried to pull away, but he tightened his hands around my face. He looked in my eyes and smiled his disarming smile.
“You’ve been my wife for thirty years,” he said, eyes shining with a pride I wished I could feel.
“You’re my lover, my friend, and I’ll cherish you till the end of my life.”
My eyes welled with tears. I wanted to believe him, but I didn’t remember him.
Who forgets their spouse?
I took a ragged breath, as if the pain in his eyes was crushing my ribs. He rested his forehead against mine and whispered for himself more than for me, “You don’t remember me, but I know you love me, and I love you more, Amelia.”
“You’re my husband? What’s—” Embarrassment tied my tongue.
“Ask away. It’s okay.”
“What’s your name?” I croaked the question, wishing the ground to swallow me.
“I’m sorry I can’t remember you.”
“I know. It’s okay.”
He hugged me, even though he was the one who needed a hug.
How horrible it is for me not to remember him. My husband.
“You’re my husband for real?”
“Yes, for real.” He chuckled.
“I have good taste—” I gasped, looking at the house. “Does that mean—”
“This is our home, Amelia.”
This is my home. This is my husband. And I can’t remember anything.
Tears rolled down my cheeks.
“Tell me more.”
He sat me on the swing and stood behind me. He didn’t push as I expected. He collected my hair in his hand, brushing it with his fingers, and weaving it into a French braid,
He said, “What do you want to know?”
“Were we happy?”
“How did we meet?”
“In your sister’s house. She set us up on a blind date.”
I nodded, taking everything in.
“You were late,” he said, a smile in his voice. “But when you came, you took my breath away. I couldn’t say a word the whole evening.”
“No.” I laughed. “You’re kidding.”
“It’s true. I glued my eyes on the News channel like my life depended on it.”
I turned my head to him, still not believing. The way he looked at me, smiling with the sun shining through the leaves of the tree was familiar.
“I can’t imagine you as a shy person.”
“I’m not. I don’t know what happened that day. You bewitched me or something, but you thought I wasn’t interested.”
“Can you blame me?”
We laughed like the old friends we must’ve been.
“What happened next?”
“Nothing. I couldn’t approach you, but I couldn’t forget you either. It wasn’t until I was searching for a house that we met again. You were the real estate agent, and, boy, I made you show me tens of houses.”
I turned to sit facing him. “Tell me more. What was your job?”
“I was an associate professor at the time, but I came from a business background. I had my own company.”
“I passed it to your kids, beautiful.” He tapped my nose while I hung on every word he said.
“I’m a passive associate now. Sometimes they ask for my expertise, but other than that, I just collect my money at the end of the year.”
“My son David.” I nodded.
His eyes lit up, confirming my words.
“David and Anna. They lead the company together.”
“My daughter Anna?”
I loved the life he said was mine.
He pushed the swing, and I flew in the air my baby hair tickling my cheeks. Warmth spread in my chest, and I couldn’t stop smiling. The swing brought me back down towards him, and a picture flashed in my head–Edgar in a black Tuxedo while I walked towards him in my white dress.
He sent the swing to the sky again, and I felt like I was at the top of the world. The pride I once saw in his eyes blossomed in my chest. I loved this life he described. I planted my feet on the ground to stop the swing. I stood up and hugged him. His heart drummed against my ear.
“Thank you for everything,” I whispered.
He hugged me hard, and I heard him…sniffle? I peeked at him. He was smiling, but the red lines in his eyes weren’t there earlier.
A silver car revved past us and halted in front of the house. The woman who came out of it was someone I couldn’t forget. I smiled, waving at her.
My sister’s gaze lingered on Edgar, asking him something with her eyes.
“Amelia, this is Anna, our daughter.”
“Oh, Anna. My daughter. You look exactly like my sister Lucy.”
The resemblance is fascinating.
“How are you, Mom?”
“I’m happy. I’ve you all in my life.”
Edgar took my hand. He motioned to the house and said, “How about you go inside. I’ll be right behind you, sweetheart.”
“Ok.” I didn’t look at him. The front door was open, and I couldn’t hold my excitement to see the inside.
I hope there’s a fireplace made of stones like these walls.
I trailed my hand over the edgy surface.
I like the earthy look it gives.
“How is she today?”
“She’s great, actually. She even remembered David.”
The porch was paved with large stones. It gave the house a rustic look.
“That’s a good thing. It kills me to see what dementia is doing to her.”
I entered the house, and there it was–A magnificent fireplace, right where it should be.
Whoever designed this place is a genius.
It was well placed. It drew all the attention to it.
There was no fire in it, though. I needed to light a fire before my kids came from school. It was freezing outside. I crouched next to it. There weren’t many logs.
I’ll use these, then I’ll get more.
“What are you doing, beautiful?”
I jumped and turned towards the door. There was a handsome blond man, leaning against the wall. His smile was familiar, but I couldn’t remember where I saw it.
“I should light the fireplace,” I told him, turning back to my task.
“It’s August, Amelia.”
“There isn’t enough logs here.” I threw in the few I found.
“Let’s go grab a bite, then we’ll see about these logs, shall we?”
He gave me his hand in a silent question. I took it because I couldn’t say no to a blond man with dimples.