Charles swirled a spoon idly around his increasingly cold cup of coffee as a young couple passed behind him. The boy was telling a story. He could tell by the look in the girl’s eyes. It reminded him a lot of he and his wife years ago when they first started dating.
In those days, her blonde hair was the color of the morning sun and he was still playing shinny at the pond behind Joey Clayton’s house. He was very shy then and never had the nerve to go up and strike up a conversation on his own. What struck, finally, was a stray slap shot just above his left eye. She had rushed to him and somewhere in his delirium, he asked her out. The rest, as they say, was history.
They dated for a couple of years before finally deciding to marry in the summer of ’72. In the fall of ’75, their daughter, Lauren, was born. For years, they scraped and sacrificed to give her the best possible life. One morning soon after Lauren had gone off to college, over coffee as black as the one in front of him now, his wife told him she wasn’t sure she was still in love with him. Much to his dismay, he found he wasn’t sure either. It was a sacrifice that neither had expected.
What followed were many awkwardly silent breakfasts and lots of long quiet nights. Sometimes, they argued. But sometimes . . . sometimes, there were moments when something about her — her eyes or her voice or her now-infrequent smile – reminded him of how much he loved her and how he hoped they would find that feeling again.
One day, he came home from work with a bandage over his left eye. In what seemed like a replay of years, she rushed to him to see if he was all right. He said it was nothing that couldn’t be fixed. And as she peeled away the bandage to see his hurt, there was another band-aid underneath. This one, however, was cut and colored in the shape of a small red heart.
And she smiled.
It wasn’t perfect after that but it was better. Sometimes, they were quiet. Sometimes, they argued. But mostly, they loved.
He set his money for the coffee on the counter and went home.