Fiftieth Table For One

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
This is the first work I've produced in a while. I'm a little rusty and this definitely isn't my best work. This is a very emotional piece that touches into a lot of heartbreak and loss. Thanks for reading!

Submitted: June 23, 2016

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Submitted: June 23, 2016

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Henry slid his legs across the warm bed sheets until he felt his feet touch the cold hardwood floor. He wore his usual pyjamas consisting of only a white t-shirt with a pair of green plaid boxers. His feet slowly warmed the floor beneath him as he sat in silence on the edge of the bed. His hands braced his slightly overweight frame and the aches of old age began to settle in.

Oh, to be young again! The old man thought to himself, sighing at the pain in his knees, hips, and wrists. Instinctively, he looked over his shoulder at the other side of the bed. It was flat, empty and undisturbed. The sight made Henry's heart clench, skipping a beat. The skip made his chest feel hollow and dark. If he hadn't had the same feeling in his chest every morning for the past fifty years, Henry may have been concerned for his health. Unfortunately, it was nothing a pill in his bathroom could ever fix. The only treatment for a broken heart was time and Henry still required his daily dose for his case was chronic.

 Henry turned his head back forward and lifted his head the slightest bit to look out the window. The window was only about a foot from the ceiling and therefore barred no use other than a view of the sky and the small amount of light it shone through the room. Henry sighed again, his round belly heaving out then settling down in his lap.

 "Good morning," as the words came out of his mouth, a chill ran across his skin a bump settled in his throat. "I miss you," he paused. "I miss you so, so much, Emma."

 As Henry got off the bed to get dressed, he manoeuvred his way around the vanity that still held her various beauty products. They remained askew and untouched except for the few times they were nudged when Henry dusted. Hidden in the first two drawers of the dresser was more of her belongings. Brassieres, underwear, stockings, nylons, and socks that have been untouched for years. Henry opened the drawers which contained his belongings and put on fresh boxers and undershirt.

 Henry finished getting ready for the day, combing his hair, putting on slacks, belt, and dress shirt. When he finally emerged from the bedroom, he walked down the hall and memories instantly flew through his mind. Memories of her walking down the same hallway towards him, many years younger when she still had a bounce in her step. Her pale blue dress swishing against her pale thin legs as she walked. The pearls he gave her for her birthday one year settled lightly on her neck. She was the perfect image of beauty.

 He saw her in the kitchen, too, as he warmed up some porridge in the microwave. She was preparing breakfast at the old stove. She was in her comfort zone, singing and humming church hymns as she floated around the kitchen. Henry pressed his lips together, biting down on the inside of his top lip to stop a sob from escaping. It had been so long since he was able to actually wrap his arms around her, halting her from her graceful motions around the kitchen, and kiss her sweet lips.

 Henry sat down in his chair facing the television, the hot porridge in his lap

The smell of her had gone from the house years ago. Henry had cried the day he pressed his nose to her pillow and it produced no scent.  Once in a while, he would catch a whiff of her in the grocery store, or on the sidewalk as people passed. But each time he tracked down the scent, it was worn by someone not nearly as beautiful as his Emma. The thought of loving someone else was unbearable to Henry. How could he trust someone else to love and care for him in his entirety. He would never be comfortable with another woman lying next to him at night. They wouldn't get him like she did. They couldn't love him like she did. It didn't matter if they did anyway, he could never love another like he loved her.

As he ate his porridge, it stuck to his throat and took twice as many swallows to get it down. Today was an especially hard day for Henry, probably the worst. Their anniversary. The pictures on the wall tortured him every day, but the sight of her in a beautiful white gown was much harder to swallow today. It was possibly one of the happiest days of Henry's life. He cried when he saw her walk down the aisle to him and his hand shook as her father gave her away. He would do anything to be back in that moment, seeing the love in her eyes. Getting to kiss her as his bride after much anticipation.

A year after that day, he took her to a five-star hotel in the area complete with a king suite and dinner at the restaurant downstairs. In his mind, he saw the wine blush her beautiful cheeks, soft and light like ivory. Later in the night, he would slowly stroke those beautifully blushed cheeks and work his way down across her body.

It became a tradition for the two lovers. Each year on their anniversary, Henry would book the same room and book the same table at the restaurant. Emma wasn't high maintenance, but she loved the yearly lavishing attention she received. And Henry loved to see her so happy.

After she passed, Henry continued to go to the hotel. He kept his reservation and hotel room booked for the same day each year. He saw the looks of pity and sadness the staff gave him despite their best efforts to remain cheerful. They were the same looks he received from most of the young people he came in contact with. He was old and his movements were substantially slower. His hands shook no matter how much he wished to steady them, his skin had lost its elasticity, and his aching joints limited his mobility. Plus, he reeked of sadness and loss.

He couldn't blame them for the looks, though, he was young once too. He thought he was invincible and immune to anything that would slow him down. Henry never thought of how he would one day age and become one of the elderly he pitied. It was inevitable, old age that is, but he always thought she would be there to go through it with him. Together they would wake up with aching joints and put their false teeth in before slowly preparing for another day of retirement.

Those dreams were interrupted when she passed. It was a Monday, he woke up for work around six. She was still sleeping peacefully next to him. They were much younger fifty years ago. Her brown, curly hair was spread wildly across the pillow, her legs spread out under the covers while her arms huddled around her torso. She looked so peaceful and beautiful he didn't want to wake her up. But, like every other morning, he got dressed and woke her up before he left. He couldn't leave without saying goodbye to her.

But that morning, she never woke up. At first, Henry thought she was just in a really deep sleep. She was a heavy sleeper and never was much of a morning person. When he nudged her, he expected her to jolt out of her sleep and open her pretty brown eyes like she normally did. But she didn't. Henry remembered the panic that flashed through him as his brain reached the worst possible assumption. He tried to calm himself down by assuring himself she was still breathing but when he brought his hand to her nose, he felt no rush of air.

The panic returned in another wave through his body, but instead of washing away, it stayed and crashed through every nerve and artery in his body. Instinctively, he turned her onto her back, trying to perform CPR on her limp body. He knew the second she didn't wake at his nudge, she was gone. He didn't want to admit it, he still had some faith that she would come back to him. She couldn't leave him. They had just started their life together.

What felt like hours after his futile attempts at reviving his love, Henry called the local doctor. The rest felt like a blur, he hardly remembered making his way to the hospital in the ambulance with his wife's dead body on a gurney. All he could think was I lost her, I lost my wife. The word lost never really meant anything to Henry before now. If you lose an item, there's a chance you may find another or find something that will work in the objects' absence. But, when you lose a person you love, you can't reproduce or replace that love. Later on, Henry would find his greatest wish to be that he could have had the chance to say goodbye. If the universe was going to take her away from him, he wanted the chance to kiss her lips one last time, knowing it would be the last and tell her goodbye like he did every other morning.

 

* * *

 

In fifty-five years, the hotel had hardly changed. Of course, some renovations and upgrades were done to the place over the years. Change of ownership and colour schemes happened a few times, but Henry liked how the place still felt like it did when he and Emma walked in on their first anniversary.

The hostess sat Henry down at his reserved table. The two chairs sat facing each other, but the setting was taken from the one side. Henry's heart dropped the slightest bit at the sight. For fifty years, he sat in the chair across from the empty setting.

He ordered a bottle of wine and his entrée without having to look at the menu. As he waited for his meal, he sat sipping his wine. His thoughts travelled to each year Emma joined him. For each of the five years they came here, he could remember precisely what she wore and how stunningly radiant she looked under the soft glow of the lights. Henry couldn't help but wonder what she would have worn had she been there tonight. As much as he tried, he couldn't imagine her ageing at all. They had only been married five years when she passed, so young and so full of life. It seemed unfit for an older version of Emma to appear in this place.

Henry had already finished two glasses of his wine by the time his entrée arrived. He got the prime rib every time he came here. Not only was it a tradition, Henry couldn't deny that there was still a part of him that hoped if nothing changed, he could somehow change the fact that she wasn't there anymore. Maybe the universe would realise she's the missing piece to the puzzle and bring her back to complete it. It was a stupid theory, he knew. But he needed some hope in the fifty years of darkness he's endured.

By the time the dessert menu was offered, three-quarters of the bottle of wine were gone. Henry noticed the concerned look on the waitress' face as she cleared the plate of food he hardly touched. Despite this, he held his wine glass firmly in his hand, not letting it stay empty for more than a few seconds before refilling.

He was starting to feel good. Numbness started to settle in, his aching body became slack. Henry could feel the warmth rushing to his cheeks. For a moment, his mind cleared of her and he felt the slightest bit of relief. The pain, returned again still dull, but there nonetheless. Henry took another sip of the wine hoping to experience another slight bought of relief from her haunting.

It seemed to work, a bit longer this time. He was at peace for a few more seconds than the last. Henry could feel the corners of his lips curling up slightly at the slow release of tension. He did not, could not, would not ever forget her. He knew that. But he had suffered through this broken heart for fifty years, time had not healed it and he longed for something that would.

Not being a very regular or heavy drinker, by the time Henry left the restaurant, things became unclear. He focused intently on walking, putting one foot in front of the other. He began to find it was extremely difficult to focus on more than one thing. The noise around him came into focus as he stopped at the elevator, no longer needing to focus on walking.

Henry could feel himself swaying as he stood there. He could feel the hot eyes of the hotel staff, watching him. He could feel himself losing his balance as he focused on the sounds of the elevator. The sounds disappeared the moment he began focusing on his balance. Normally, being this drunk would make Henry ashamed and he would try to hide the fact. But, the old man was relishing in the semi-permanent numb feeling he got from the drink.

Why haven't I thought of this before?! He asked himself. He chuckled to himself because he already knew it wouldn't have helped. Somewhere, somehow, someone was looking out for him. For just this one night, they showed him mercy. They let him feel the blood rushing through his veins without the aching in his heart as it longed for her. Tonight he was free.

The memory of how he made it to the hotel room was erased from Henry's mind. It was almost completely blank. He flopped himself down on the bed, looking up at the ceiling. He hadn't done that in years, he couldn't remember the last time he could do something like that and not have his body scream out at him in pain.

"Getting old sucks," Henry giggled as he slurred out the words.

His giggles faded eventually and he lay silently on the bed. Next, he closed his eyes, the numbness feeling so good, so relieving, and also so terrifying. The pain had almost replaced Emma's presence and it had started to become a part of it. This numb, happy, giggling Henry was not who he had become. That was a Henry that she took with him when she passed.

As Henry drifted in and out of consciousness he could feel something strange in the pit of his stomach. He couldn't describe it but it mixed his happy mood with dread, anxiety, gloom, and anticipation. He could no longer feel his body sinking into the bed. His mind was still focusing in and out of the situation. Henry felt as if he were far away. He couldn't remember where he was, what time it was, or even who he was. The moments of darkness grew longer and came faster after each minute that passed.

Henry had lived with a broken heart for fifty years and today, he died with one. Today would have been their fifty-fifth wedding anniversary. Emma would have turned seventy-three this November. They're both gone now. A housekeeper will find Henry's body in the morning laying on the bed, facing the ceiling. Just as he had found her. They will lay together, side by side in the dirt. Together again, may he find his love again wherever she may be, wherever he may have gone.


© Copyright 2017 SuzanneE. All rights reserved.

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