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(copyright 2002, Rev. Cotton Mather)
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THE YEARS LIKE PEARLS ON VELVET
They met on the first day of school, and it was dislike at first
sight. On that first morning, the early-grades teacher, Mrs. Wells,
called the class of 15 kids to pay attention, and she spent the next
several minutes learning each child's name. The class spent the next
hour or so repeating names, matching names with faces in the combined
class, the second-grade kids helping the kindergarteners with the
Later that day, after lunch and after recess, the kids were
scattered around the room. Some were playing with clay, others were
drawing with pencils, and Mrs. Wells had the kids at the
blackboard, working on addition and subtraction. Harold, or Harry as
he was known then, was just walking toward the closet where there was
a big box of wooden blocks, intending to build a bridge or a town or
something. Just as he reached the door of the closet, he saw a -
he thought her name might be Mary Lou - hanging from the edge of the
big cardboard box that held the blocks, either trying to pull the box
over, or else climb into the box to get the blocks. Suddenly, the
side gave way. There was a loud crash, followed immediately by a cry
of anguish from underneath the torn side of the cardboard box and a
big pile of wooden blocks.
"Oh, no! Owwwww!"
Don't start crying, thought Harry. It was your own darn fault.
Mary Lou started crying.
What a stupid girl, thought Harry.
"What a stupid BOX!" wailed Mary Lou between howls of pain and
Mrs. Wells came bustling over to lend aid and comfort to the
slightly injured little girl. Meanwhile, most of the rest of the
class came over to watch the entertainment, and to see who was stupid
enough to pull an entire box of wooden blocks over onto themself.
To Mrs. Wells, Mary Lou was an unfortunate child, needing little
more than a bandage and a soothing word.
To the rest of the children, Mary Lou seemed to instantly become the
teacher's pet, and so was immediately considered an outcast.
To Harold, she was, additionally, without doubt, the stupidest he had ever known.
It was an inauspicious start to the school year for Mary Lou, who
was reluctantly allowing Mrs. Wells to minister to her cuts and
scrapes. At six years of age, she was the youngest child in a of eight, so she was well aware that this accident put her in a
difficult position in the classroom. She just fervently hoped that
the rest of first grade went better than the first day did.
"Do you remember that time in first grade when you tried to climb
into that box of blocks?" Harold wheezed as he laughed. He was
gazing down, unseeing, at the jumbled stack of dog-eared playing
cards that had tumbled to the table, triggering the memory of an
incident from their childhood so long ago. "I think it was the first
day of school, too." He started laughing, a breathy, gasping sound
that quickly deteriorated into a series of raspy coughs as he sat on
the sagging couch in the small room. His face turned a mottled as he coughed, and he reached for a tumbler of water on the end table
with one hand, and struggled to extricate a linen handkerchief from
his back pocket with the other as his coughing eased down. He was
wearing an pair of trousers that may have been part of a suit at
one time, held up by suspenders stretched to accommodated his large
belly. He wore a stained sleeveless t-shirt that might have once
been white, the cotton fibers struggling to stay together across his
middle. He was almost completely bald, with just a fringe of steel
gray hair horseshoeing around his head.
Mary Lou just looked at him, her eyes following everything he did.
Her frail, worn body was slumped in her wheelchair, leaning to one
side like a worn piling of an seaside dock. She had some use of
her arms and hands, but she needed help with even the seemingly small
tasks, like eating or adjusting the tattered blanket that covered her
weak and horribly thin legs. Her white hair was thin enough to see
her scalp as she leaned against the support post of the back of her
chair. Her brain was muddled and confused, but only part of the
blame could be from the drugs and painkillers her doctor had her on.
She was, after all, 85 years old, and slowly, too slowly, dying.
Old age is not for the faint of heart, she thought for about the
She remembered the blocks falling on her. She remembered Mrs. Wells
as if she had seen her just yesterday. Why couldn't she remember
what she had for breakfast that morning? Or had she not eaten
breakfast that morning? She brushed a strand of hair off her
forehead with a hand veined and twisted from rheumatoid arthritis,
the knuckles large and bony, the fingers bent and misshapen into
nearly useless appendages.
Her eyes fluttered as the drugs took another circuit around her
body, sending her brain into swirls of semi-consciousness.
...they were on a cruise ship, unpacking in their stateroom. (This
really happened, her subconscious self insisted. We were on this
cruise.) Mary Lou looked over at Harold and laughed.
"What's so funny?" he grumbled.
She sat down on one of the small beds in the tiny cabin. There were
two single beds, perpendicular to each other, taking up about 70
percent of the room available. The rest was cabinets, a tiny desk
and chair, and floor. They had been bumping into each other almost
constantly, getting in each other's way as they unpacked their
"You are," she said with a smile. She admired her husband's
backside as he took a pile of shirts out of his suitcase. "And
you're cute, too," she added.
"Huh," he grunted. "Cute. Since when is a 47-year-old grandfather
"Maybe I just like 47-year-old grandfathers," she said, still
He looked over at her in unconcealed surprise. "Really? I would
have thought you were more of the younger gigolo type of granny," he
"Come here," she said, a gleam in her eye as she patted the bed
beside her. "I'll show you how much I like grandpa types."
Harold raised his eyebrows at her, then glanced at the cabin door to
make sure it was securely locked. He sat down next to her and leaned
back, propping himself on his arms. Mary Lou leaned into him,
reaching up to play with his ear as she closed her eyes and softly
kissed his lips.
She pressed against him a little harder, opening her mouth just
enough to moisten their connection, and ended up pushing him down
onto the tiny bed and draping herself across him. He put his arms
around her, quite naturally reaching down to her butt and pulling her
lower body harder against his swelling cock.
Keeping her lips against his mouth, she murmured, "Is that a present
for me I feel?"
"Might be," he replied, still clutching at her bottom. Her dress
was starting to hitch up her legs.
"When do I get it?" she asked, still connected to his lips.
"You can have it any time you want it," he said with a smile. "Just
reach down and take it."
"Oh, like this?" she asked. She reached down.
Harold groaned. "Yeah, just like that," he mumbled.
She squeezed him a little harder.
"Or like that, too," he said.
"But not like this?" she asked teasingly as she pulled his zipper
down and snaked her fingers into the opening. She had lifted up and
was looking at his face by now, gauging his reaction to what she was
doing to him. She wanted to be careful not to set him off too early.
It was her vacation, too, after all, and she wanted to have her fun.
"Like that is good, too," he said with a struggle. It seemed like
all the blood was rushing south, leaving his brain a little starved
for oxygen. He was having some trouble putting two coherent thoughts
together. Even his hands had stopped their clutching and grabbing as
he concentrated on the sensations running up and down his nervous
When she saw the look in his eyes that told her she had taken him
far enough for the moment, she stopped what she was doing and began
unbuttoning her blouse. She pulled it out of her skirt and shrugged
out of it, reached behind her and undid her bra, discarded that
alongside her blouse. She leaned down, rubbing her swollen nipple
along his cheek, tempting him. He turned his head and captured the
swollen nub between his teeth, biting down softly before suckling at
It was Mary Lou's turn to moan. Her had always been very
sensitive, and she loved having them on and played with. She
gazed down at her husband of 25 years with love and desire as he
worshipped at her body for perhaps the 3,000th time, and she closed
her eyes and remembered the first time he had kissed her naked
...Mary Lou and her best friend, Loretta, had planned to go to the
Saturday evening show. A brand-new with a brand-new
star had just come out, and both were dying to see James Cagney
in "The Public Enemy". Their had consented (after all, they
were 14 years old, certainly enough to go to a moving show by themselves, they argued), but what their didn't know
is that Mary Lou and Loretta were meeting two at the theater.
Harold and Albert were both in the same classes as Mary Lou and
Loretta. The both thought Harold was the cuter of the two.
Mary Lou had a huge crush on him, and, since she was her very best
friend, Loretta was going to let Mary Lou sit next to Harold at the
They were practically giddy by the time they got to the theater, and
they had to wait in line to purchase their tickets. They each had a
whole dollar with them, more than enough to see the show, get some
popcorn, and maybe stop at the corner drug store for an ice-cream
The was just fantastic, but what Mary Lou would always
remember was how Harold, just after the newsreels but before the
opening credits of the feature appeared, managed to wiggle the little
finger of his left hand against her own right little finger, and they
weaved into each other, one finger at a time, until they sat there,
hands clasped together, paying as much attention to their own sweaty
palms as they did to Cagney growling on the giant screen.
Afterwards, the four friends trooped down to the corner drug store,
chattering and replaying scenes in the movie. Albert tried to talk
like Cagney and failed miserably, creating howls of laughter at their
table as they delved into strawberry sundaes and ice-cream sodas.
Before too long, it became a Saturday ritual for the four friends.
It was the Depression, but they each had a little spending money,
enough for a trip to the theater and an ice-cream afterwards.
By the fourth date (Mary Lou certainly considered it a date; she
wasn't sure if Harold thought of it as a date, though), the two
couples would up after leaving the soda fountain. Albert and
Loretta usually walked down Main Street, window shopping on their way
home. Mary Lou and Harold walked through the park, past the band
shell, sometimes finding a park bench and sitting and talking for a
few minutes before walking back to Mary Lou's house.
The second time they walked through the park, Harold was brave
enough to hold Mary Lou's hand; the third time, as they sat on a park
bench, she even let him kiss her, a quick and soft brushing of his
lips on hers.
Each week after that, Mary Lou allowed slightly more liberties,
until finally, toward the end of summer, she got tired of waiting for
Harold to be brave enough to get really serious. As they walked hand
in hand through the park toward the band shell, she deliberately
steered their steps toward the deep shadows inside the shell. They
sat on the wooden floor, leaning against the wall, and kissed each
other passionately. Finally, nervously, Mary Lou took Harold's hand
and guided it to her breast, pressing his palm firmly against her.
He was quite startled when she did that, she noted with a certain
amount of satisfaction, but he didn't jerk his hand away. In fact,
he seemed a little frantic as he squeezed her boob.
She was wearing a dress that buttoned down the front to her waist,
and she began to unbutton it. Harold was still involved in their
kiss, as well as distracted by where his hand was, and didn't notice
what she was doing until she grasped him by the wrist, pulling his
hand away from her chest.
He must have thought he had done something wrong when she did that.
He was all set to apologize for taking too many liberties with her,
when he realized that her dress was unbuttoned, and she had placed
his hand on the bare skin of her chest. He could feel the heat
radiating off her body through his hand, and her chest rose and fell
as she breathed deeply. She held her breath, and gently pushed his
hand down, so that his fingers slipped beneath the cottony fabric of
her slip and the cup of her brassiere, until he was holding her
breast, her swollen nipple searing a spot on the palm of his hand.
"Oh, Mary Lou," he moaned, as he bent to kiss her throat and neck.
In his passion, he shoved his hand further down her dress, and her
straps slipped off her shoulder, exposing her to the night air as he
rubbed and pinched her.
Mary Lou couldn't believe how good it felt to have Harold do this to
her. She was very hot, nearly sweating, and there was definitely a
lot of moisture all of a sudden in her underpants. Almost
subconsciously, she pressed on Harold's head as she played with his
hair, willing him to kiss her lower than her throat.
He took the hint, and worked his way down her body, covering her
bare skin with kisses and nibbles. His lips followed the natural
curve of her, taking in the way her tissues softened and spread as he
nibbled his way to her and the small mound of her breast. They found the bumpier skin of the areola and instinctively
latched onto the swollen nub of her tender nipple.
He on her, all the while holding the weight of her in
the palm of his hand. She looked down on him in love, wondering at
the feelings running through her. She knew she would never ever
forget this moment...
...and she hasn't. Even when Harold managed to roll her over and
insinuate his knee between her legs, her skirt riding up as his hands
scambled to find the elastic of her panties, she could recall that
first, tender touch of his lips on her flesh.
Later, after Harold finished and rolled off her, she lay there on
the tangled bed, allowing herself to be lulled into a dreamlike state
by the gentle rocking of the big ship as it headed out to open
...to awaken to the cruel reality of the present. The lazy roll of
the cruise ship shifted to the lolling of her head as she opened her
eyes, seeing her loving husband bent over her, struggling to lift her
out of her chair and into their queen-sized bed. Even at under 90
pounds, she was a burden nearly overwhelming for Harold. She
grimaced, knowing she no longer had the physical strength to assist
him, miserable that she had come to this helpless state.
Finally, though, he was able to hoist her into bed. Her useless leg
caught on the back of the chair, and it hit the side of the bed and
rolled away as he pulled her up to set her on the pillow. He was
breathing hard, and his face was from the exertion. He started
wheezing, and then the coughing began. He collapsed down onto the
bed beside her as his spasms abated. He fished his handkerchief out
of his pants pocket and wiped his eyes. He was breathing hard now,
waiting for his heart rate to slow down. He could feel the small
weight of his next to him, a feeble heat from the other side of
the bed as he lay there, catching his breath. Unbidden, his mind
cast back into the depths of memory to recapture another moment...
...Mary Lou was always a thin girl, he thought to himself as he lay
in bed on that Sunday morning. He was propped up on one elbow,
looking at his sleeping wife. His pregnant sleeping wife. Seven
months along with their second child, and she had gained nearly 40
pounds. He had never seen her so...round. His gaze took in the way
the covers mounded over her as she lay there. Her swollen belly, the
curve of her hip, were hinted at by the way the blanket covered her.
His eyes kept on returning, though, to her breasts. This second
pregnancy really made them get big, he thought to himself. He
reached over and gently touched one of her swollen boobs.
Mary Lou opened her eyes when she felt his touch. She smiled.
"What do you think you're doing?" she asked playfully.
"I'm just checking out the new you," he replied.
She slapped his hand away and struggled to get out of bed. "You are
incorrigible," she complained good-naturedly. She stepped toward the
bedroom door, and turned back. With a gleam in her eye, she said,
"Hold that thought." She slipped through the door and tiptoed down
the hall to the bathroom.
When she returned, she slid back into their queen-sized bed next to
him. She smelled of toothpaste.
"Randall's still asleep," she whispered as she shimmied up next to
him and wrapped her arms around him.
Harold couldn't resist playing with her new, larger boobs. He slid
his hands under her nightie to hold them both, taking care to be as
gentle as he could. He knew they must be very sensitive. He lifted
up her nightie and nuzzled her swollen tips with his lips. He heard
her moan in appreciation, and felt her reach down and snake her hand
through the gap in his boxers. The sudden sensation of feeling her
warm hand on his swelling cock reminded him of the first time he was
able to convince her to touch him...
"...right there," he whispered feverishly. He was holding Mary
Lou's hand against the hardness of his dick, hoping that she wouldn't
panic like the last time. He bent to kiss her swollen nipple again.
Now that he knew how sensitive they were, he figured that keeping her
heated up through her boob was the best way to keep her from taking
her hand away from him. As he nibbled on her distended nub, he felt
her fingers flex against him, timidly exploring. He moved his hand
up to rub her other breast, reasonably confident now that she would
continue to use her hand on him. His hips involuntarily hunched up
against her fingers, creating a delicious friction through his cotton
trousers. He could feel his swollen head trying to punch its way up
out of the top of his pants.
He loved feeling the weight of her in the palm of his hand.
Ever since she first allowed him to touch her there, just a few weeks
ago, he had fallen more and more in love with her. And now, it
seemed as if she was willing to touch his organ, cementing their
feelings for each other. Was 15 years too early to consider
Almost without volition, he whispered, "Oh, Mary Lou, I love you!"
He was rewarded with an almost frantic squeezing of his hard cock.
She moaned, and held his head closer to her as she answered
softly, "I love you, too."
He abandoned holding her for a moment, so he could loosen the
fly of his trousers. Mary Lou, having done the laundry for her
family for years now, understood the functions of boxer shorts, and
with only a slight hesitation managed to work her fingers through the
seam of his underwear, and touched a boy's actual erect penis for the
first time. Harold grunted, immediately losing control, and
...his seed as he stroked into her, mindful of the treasure she
carried inside her swollen belly. He sighed in satisfaction,
extracted his shrinking member and climbed over her bent knees to lie
next to her, draping his arm across her and idly fondling her breast.
Mary Lou lifted his arm off her and slid out of bed. She stood and
put her warm fuzzy robe on, clutching it closed around her.
"I think I hear Randall," she said. "I'll be right back."
He closed his eyes in post-coital laziness. A few minutes later, he
felt her presence again as she lay back down. He could feel her body
heat against his back as he lay there...
...and he wondered how they could get along, with her condition
deteriorating as it had. Her first stroke, 18 months ago, had put
her in the wheelchair. Another small stroke 6 months ago took away
her ability to speak. Her limited mobility and communication was
worsened by her arthritis. She couldn't even grab anything to help
him move her around. Their oldest son, Randall, had arranged to have
safety bars installed in their bathroom, but if her hands didn't
work, what good were they? Randall was 1,000 miles away, with his
own to worry about. Their second son, Joseph, was not close
to them, and was no help. So it was up to Harold to care for Mary
Lou. He was willing to do it. After all, she meant everything to
him. Willingness, however, did not always translate into
effectiveness. Harold was 85 years old, too, overweight and with a
heart condition, besides. There was only so much he could
accomplish, under the circumstances.
It had been three weeks since he had the strength to get Mary Lou in
and out of the bathtub. It was five days since he had the strength
to even take a shower himself. How did we come to such a pass?
Harold thought to himself. We were doing so well together. When did
we get so old? There was a time when I didn't think I would make it
...Harold ducked his head down as the mortar flew overhead. He was
at the bottom of a muddy trench, somewhere in northern France. A few
hundred yards away, there was another trench, this one with German
soldiers in it. I hope they're as cold and wet and miserable as I
am, he thought for perhaps the thousandth time.
"Hey, Lenny!" he shouted. His radio operator was only about fifteen
feet away, but the noise made it impossible to talk in normal tones.
"Lenny! What date is it today?"
Lenny looked up from trying to get his radio working and looked at
Harold as if he was crazy.
"I dunno. Tuesday?"
"Not the day. The date. What's the date today?"
"Aw, fer chrissakes, Harry, I don't know. May something. Maybe the
14th? Why? What does it matter?"
"You're right," muttered Harold, but Lenny wasn't listening, or even
paying any attention to him anymore. "It doesn't really matter. I
can't be with Mary Lou for our anniversary, anyway."
I'll count myself very lucky if I even make it out of France alive,
he thought. He unconsciously reached into an inside pocket, feeling
for the last letter he got from his wife. She had included a of herself with the letter, taken by her dad in the back yard. She
was wearing a printed floral sundress with a big, wide-brimmed staw
hat, standing with her hands on her hips. On the back of the photo,
she had written "Easter, 1943. Hurry home soon!" in her flowing
handwriting. Her was fluffed and curled, resting on her
shoulders like Rita Hayworth's, and Harold thought she was the
loveliest creature he had ever laid eyes on, Rita Hayworth included.
If I only get out of here alive, he promised himself, I will kneel
down at her feet and tell her over and over again that I love her and
will never ever leave her again.
Eventually, of course, he did get out of there alive. And, on the
troop transport back across the Atlantic, the sawbones on board gave
him 100,000 units of penicillin to cure the "gift" he got from that
cute little French in Orleans. He wasn't quite sure how he was
going to tell Mary Lou about that...
...but Mary Lou had war of her own she was not looking
forward to relating to Harold when he got home. She held his letter
in her hands as she sat on the porch swing and fretted. Should she
tell him? Should she just try to forget about it? She was in agony,
trying to make a decision that could affect the rest of her life. If
she told Harold about her foreman at the telephone company, he was
likely to go looking for him before he even unpacked.
She shuddered at the memory of Mr. Holdman's grimy office, being
called back there for her "performance evaluation". Yeah, right.
She found out, too late, what sort of "performance" he wanted to
evaluate. During shift change, when she would least likely be
missed, what with going in and out of the exchange building,
Mary Lou found herself on her knees, her blouse undone and her bra
shoved down and out of the way, with Mr. Holdman's dick in her mouth
and his hands on her tits.
She could only be glad of two things over the whole sordid mess: she
managed to keep her job, and she didn't give Holdman the additional
satisfaction of seeing her his load. Instead, after he had
erupted into her mouth, she grimaced, turned her head aside, and spit
it all out on the floor next to his desk. As she straightened her
ripped nylons and rearranged her clothes, she wondered how many other
of the who worked in her department were trying to get the
taste of their boss out of their mouths...
...She was awake now, looking at him. She had a look in her eyes
that he had noticed before. She was trying to tell him something,
something he didn't want to recognize. It was a look he had seen
many times before during the past couple of months.
Their doctor was an idiot, thought Harold. Damn Medicare, and damn
the VA hospital, and damn every goddamn HMO that ever was spawned for
forcing us into this unspeakable situation. My Mary Lou a crippled
shadow of the woman I've known, me with a heart condition and
diabetes that will probably kill me even slower than the strokes are
killing my wife, and I don't have the strength to care for myself,
much less give Mary Lou the help she needs.
"Go to sleep, Louie," he said softly, tenderly, as he gently
caressed her shoulder. A tear slipped down her seamed cheek as she
looked imploringly at Harold. He stared back at her, unwilling to
acknowledge her unspoken request. He finally tore his gaze away,
feeling slightly ashamed. He looked back at her, but she had closed
her eyes. Before long, he could tell she was drifting off into the
only place she had left to go where she was once again whole and
young and pain-free. Harold rolled over and scrunched his pillow
into a ball beneath his head. But this night, sleep was eluding him.
He couldn't find a comfortable position. He got cold, so he slipped
under the blanket. Then he got too warm, and threw the covers off.
His pillowcase was damp, so he turned his pillow over, punching it to
fluff it back up. Even that small exertion caused some shortness of
breath, so he had to spend the next several minutes trying to force
more oxygen into his system, which elevated his heart rate, heating
him up and making him sweat again. When the sweat dried, he would
get chilled, crawl beneath the covers, and the cycle would start
Around dawn he managed to fall into a light, troubled sleep, until
the light coming in through the broken blinds hit the bed. Streaks
of and yellow against his closed eyelids colored his jumbled
...of the bouquets of roses on the head table in the VFW hall.
Harold watched as his best friend, Albert, raised his glass of pale
champagne. Harold glanced at his bride, his arm draped around her
shoulder, and Mary Lou smiled at him, the brightest, happiest smile
he had ever seen.
Albert tapped his knife against the glass, until the ringing halted
the buzz of conversation coming from the wedding guests.
"Quiet, please. If I may just say a few words. Thank you."
Finally, the room quieted, and everyone turned to hear what the best
man had to say.
"I don't know how many of the guests here know the of how we
all met," Albert continued. "I actually was one of the later
arrivals to this rag-tag group of and gals." He waved his arm
to indicate the wedding party seated at the head table. "I didn't
meet Harold or Mary Lou until the third grade, and by then they had
already developed quite an active dislike for each other, it seemed
to me at the time. Harold was constantly picking on Mary Lou during
recess, and it bothered me so much that by the second week of school,
I had decided that I needed to save this pretty little from her
tormenter. So one day, when Harold was being his usual obnoxious
self..." Albert ducked out of the way of a dinner roll headed for
him, courtesy of a grinning Harold. "As I was saying, Harold was
being his usual obnoxious self, and I stepped in to save Mary Lou.
Mary Lou, bless her heart, practically knocked my block off for
interfering. She knew, even back then, that Harold was participating
in an early courtship ritual, even if Harold and I didn't realize it.
"And today," he continued, now looking at the couple, "we see the
culmination of that courtship ritual. Congratulations to both of
you, Harold and Mary Lou. May the joys of the day carry through for
the rest of your lives."
Later that night, when they were finally alone in the small hotel
room, the nervousness of their first night as husband and was
setting in on both of them. Mary Lou retreated to the tiny bathroom
to ready herself, and Harold undressed next to the closet.
When they had opened the door and looked in, the bed looked like it
was huge in the room, and their focus automatically went to it. They
had been going together for such a long time, and had done their
share of fooling around, but they were entering this marriage as
virgins together. The enormity of the day was suddenly upon them.
Harold stripped down to his boxers, turned out the light by the door
and switched on the table lamp on the bedstand, and jumped between
the sheets to await his bride.
Finally, the bathroom door opened, and Mary Lou stepped nervously
out. The vision took Harold's breath away. She was wearing a filmy,
frilly nightie that somehow both hid and accentuated her curves. The
light from behind her turned the material almost transparent, her
body a darker shadow within. She put a hand to her throat, and
glided to her side of the bed as Harold, as if awaking from a dream,
pulled the covers back for her, holding his arms open as she melted
They were both anxious, much too anxious to be any good for each
other this night, but it didn't really matter. After some
preliminary kissing and fumbling, it was obvious that they were both
ready. Mary Lou encouraged him to roll over and cover her, holding
him and guiding him into her for the first time. She cried out in
pain, in joy, as he pierced her maidenhead, and they became, at that
moment, truly husband and wife.
Later, they lay together, arms and legs entwined, naked and sweaty
atop the covers. Harold looked into the face of the only he had
ever loved, searching for confirmation that this was, indeed, real.
She gazed back at him, eyes shining, unshed tears of happiness making
her eyes sparkle in the dim light...
...of mid-morning. He hated to see her crying like this, unable to
communicate to him what was wrong. The tears were starting to
trickle down her cheeks now, and that look was back in her eyes.
"No, Lou. I can't." He turned away, so that he couldn't see the
disappointment on her face.
He got up and made his way to the bathroom. He ran his fingers
across his bald head as he looked in the mirror, looking into the
mirror to see what knowledge was in his own eyes.
He came back to the bedroom and wheeled the chair over next to the
"Come on, girl. Time to get up," he said. He bent down and grabbed
Mary Lou under her arms and tried to pick her up, when he felt
something give in his back. In pain, he dropped her, falling to his
knees beside the bed. His chin hit the edge of the bed as he fell,
and he bit his tongue hard enough to bleed.
"Ah, damn," he muttered. He tried to pull himself up, struggling to
his feet. He couldn't straighten up. He shuffled around the bed and
crawled onto his side, curling up into a less painful position. Mary
Lou struggled to turn over so she could see him. There was so much
she wanted to tell him, how much she loved him, and how he made all
her dreams come true, even when they were little kids. As she looked
at him, the tears started once again.
He knew what that look was conveying, and he was so tired, and
frustrated, and sick, and, damn it all, so old, that he knew he had
to follow through with the promise he had made her so many years ago,
in the church that no longer existed, in front of so many friends and
relatives now gone: to love, to honor, to obey, on and on, to the end
of their days.
To love. To honor. To obey. Slowly, reluctantly, he reached for
The last expression that he saw on Mary Lou's face was a mixture of
love and thanks, relief and forgiveness.