From the edge of the bed, he could just see her sitting in front of the vanity mirror. Shirt and tie on, untightened and untucked, and just his boxer briefs. He was lagging on purpose. The socks went on one at a time. Getting ready had always been we. But it would still be a while until she was ready to go. He missed how they used be ready at the same time.
“We don’t have to go, you know,” Eric said, fiddling with his wedding ring. It took much less time to put on a sock than he remembered. Unhearing, she continued to brush the long dark hair resting on her knee, smoothing it down with the palm of her hand after each stroke. The bathroom fan was on, but he thought he could almost hear her humming, or the ghost of humming. He decided to drop it.
After several tens of minutes, she finally stood. The vanity had not been used in a long time and all her pill bottles were pushed to the back by the pile of powders and glosses brought out from their drawer. Like cheerful Post-it notes, the makeup colored her pale face. Then she bent over the table and whisked the hair behind her shoulders. And so, so delicately she adjusted her new wig over the crown of her peach fuzz hair. Eric sat transfixed. He’d finally gotten around to putting on pants and a belt. His hands were in his pockets, waiting.
“Do I look alright?” Margery asked, tentative, but happy. There was a pause. Though Eric knew, never pause after this question. But he could not help it. It was the most alive he’d seen her look in a long, long time.
“You look wonderful,” he answered. There was really no other way to see her. She wanted to go out tonight. It was the first time in months she had had the energy. She forgave the pause and smiled.
“Alright then, what’s keeping you so long?” she teased.
The ride was quiet, almost anxious. The radio turned down low with soft melodies circling the speakers. When he pulled to stop outside their friend’s house, though, she pulled down the visor, peering at herself in sections in the tiny mirror. He watched her bob her head this way and that, sighing.
“We can still go home, if you’re not up for it,” he said, head down. She set an arm on his shoulder.
“It’s okay,” she said, “I told them I would go. They’d only worry if I didn’t show.”
“Okay,” Eric nodded, tight lipped.
Walking down the path to the door, though, he nearly turned around. They would all be looking up from their drinks the moment they walked through the door. She slipped an arm through his elbow and squeezed it tight to her side. And then the door opened and a field of smiles and cheers greeted them hello.
Away from her now, in the corner of the room, Eric sat alone, with a drink in his hand waiting to be of use. Every other minute she’d turn to see him there. Eric would perk up his head and look to her to see if she might need anything. But then she’d smile and he’d crouch down again, shoulders hunched, and tap the bottom of his glass with the straw.
The time on his watch read eleven, and he felt a yawn come on. It was understandable; they’d flock to her all night. He tried to remember they hadn’t seen her in quite a while. But it was getting late. Suddenly she raised her eyes and signaled for him to come. Easily he got off his seat and walked to her side. Perspiration gathered by the corners of her eyes. A strand of hair was sticking to the side of her neck. Her face turned to him, cheeks gleaming, and whispered.
“Do you feel alright?” she asked. Despite the flushed look on her face, she didn’t seem to be in pain. He tried not to tear, and kissed her on the cheek.
“I feel wonderful, tonight,” he said.
As they said their goodbyes around midnight, the clack of her heels sounded comfortingly familiar. He could almost imagine they’d travelled back in time, to when they’d first got married. The car ride home was solemn, not unlike before. It was the quiet of a good night. Once under the covers, the peach fuzz back in sight, he kissed her on the forehead and helped her unzip her dress.
“My head aches a bit,” she admitted, sliding in beside him. Her arm wrapped easily around his shoulder and hugged him to her chest. And finally he could let out the breath that was building in his chest.
“Thank you, darling,” she mumbled, “I needed one last party.”
“You were wonderful tonight,” Eric whispered back.
This week’s super challenge “Wonderful Tonight” by Eric Clapton was a loving endeavor for me. Check out the post by Dylan Hughes here.