Very short story, inspired by a PSA on loneliness in senior citizens. Open to criticism..
| She woke up to his eyes, blue, and warm, gazing at her from the mantelpiece.
“Happy Birthday!” She smiled and rose slowly, propping herself up on the headboard. Her white hair fanned over her face, and she swept it into a bun atop her head. Groaning at the pains in her back, her swollen ankles, her creaky knees , she made her way to the dresser, and dressed in her favorite flowered skirt and brown shawl. She twisted her wedding ring on - it bothered her too much to sleep in - nodded at her reflection. The cat mrowled.
“I’m coming!” She called.
In the kitchen, he watched her from the refrigerator as she emptied a can of tuna into the cracked blue bowl, and set the water on for coffee.
"What should we have for breakfast?” She asked him. “How about toast? Toast and eggs sound fine.”
He didn’t need to answer. They’d had toast and eggs for the past twenty years and he hadn’t complained - well, not since a long, long time ago, when he fell ill and had porridge every morning for a few months. Then it was back to toast and eggs, toast and eggs, toast and eggs.
She would have them sunny side up today. It was promising outside, with the sky blue pink and the birds already carrying on out the window. Today chickadees jousted for position on the ledge, and a sparrow dove in and out among them. There had been a cardinal two days ago, and a dove before him. She should fill the bird feeder. It was almost out, and she so loved to watch the birds with him.
In the living room, with the toast and egg in her lap, and coffee on the side table, he watched her from over the fireplace.
“What should we do today?” She asked him. “It being your birthday and all.”
“How about a game of cards? A game of cards would be fine.”
But the cards weren’t in the drawer under the side table - they hadn’t been for years- so he watched her as she tottered to the bookshelf, fingering the spines of Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, The Old Man and the Sea. Her fingertips rested on the familiar leather binding, but she could not make out the title anymore, as the gilded letters had faded into the material.
“How about this one? Yes, this one will be fine.” She smiled up at him, and returned to the chair, where her soft voice lost itself in the heavy folds of the curtains and the empty spaces between the walls and the furniture. His many frames - stoic, gentle, laughing, tender - listened attentively, and soon watched her head droop, and her glasses fall lopsided onto the crook of her nose.
It was past lunch when she awoke.
“I’ve been sleeping for a while now, haven’t I?” She asked him, and laughed at herself. “We’re getting old, huh? Sleeping in the middle of the day.”
But he didn’t need to answer. She knew the many winters it had taken to coax her raven hair white and silken. She knew the ages of silence it took for her to no longer wait, expectantly, for his reply.
No, just his gaze, watching her as she went from room to room, day to day, was enough.
“Happy Birthday” She said that evening, the candles and flowers in the center of the table blocking him from view. She took a bite of his birthday cake, and wiped the frosting from her lips.
“And many more.”