His crossed arms answered her question before he spoke. Of course it was no. It would always be no. He opened his mouth. Spoke the one word.
“Why?” She felt her face redden. “You make me feel like a child.”
“I don’t make you feel anything.”
She met his eye. Crossed her own arms. “About time you figured that out.”
“Oh, I figured that out years ago, Deb. You make it obvious enough.”
“I do nothing of the sort.”
“Oh yeah?” He gave her that lazy smile, revealing the tiny chip on his front tooth. “You think I don’t see you looking around when you walk down the sidewalk, always three steps ahead of me?”
“You walk too slowly.”
“You would too, with one of these.” He uncrossed his arm and jabbed a thumb at his cane hooked on the back of his chair. He leaned forward. “You have no idea, Deb. None. What it’s like to be old.”
She grinned. “I don’t have to. And neither do you.” She looked out the window. “They say Malibu is nice.”
She whirled around. “Moving’s an adventure!”
“We don’t move. We run away. As soon as someone starts to question, we pack up. We can’t even see our own children, for God’s sake.”
“It upsets them.”
“Mrs. Dubinski asked me the other day why I married someone twice my age.”
“Did you tell her you’re my elder?”
She giggled. “Didn’t want to give her a heart attack.”
He allowed himself a smile. “This wasn’t the way I envisioned our marriage to be. You were supposed to heal the sick.”
“Aging is a completely preventable disease.”
“What happens if someone gets hold of these pills?”
“I only made two.” She held out her hand. “One is all it takes. I don’t want to be alone.”
The dog came up and nosed her in the crotch.
She swatted at him. “I hate your damn dog.”
Her eyes widened. “You mean it?”
He nodded. He tucked the pill into his cheek and made a show of swallowing.
She beamed. “Tomorrow, you’ll be good as new.”
He smiled back. “Malibu?”
She clapped her hands. “Malibu. Oh, I’ve got so much to do!” She ran from the room, humming softly.
He extracted the pill from his cheek. Fed it to the dog.
He woke to her screams. “You fed the pill to the damn dog, Frederick?”
He grinned. “Now you’ll never be alone.” He eased himself up, reached for his cane. “I want a divorce, Deb.” He rose and shuffled into the kitchen and picked up the telephone to call his children.
Darkness settles around me. The snow falls heavy and cold. I long for the white blanket Grandmother knitted years ago. People pass: people in fast cars coming home from work and heading into warm kitchens and soup bubbling upon the stove; people walking dogs that pause and sniff at me and occasionally even lift their legs. Occasionally someone slows and glances at me.
Mostly, I am ignored.
I am thin. I am faded. I am dull.
I remember how the children used to jump upon my ample lap, eyes shining. There was always enough room for all of them. They would spend hours with me, constructing ornate forts out of cushions and quilts or just curled up reading thick books, the cat always close at hand, stretching out lazily in the sunshine slanting through lace curtains.
We watched movies together, while the father read his newspaper, the dog parked beside me. The dog and I shared a secret: when everyone was out of the house, he, too, jumped upon my lap and curled up with me.
I remember listening to their games and their stories and their silliness.
All these years, I absorbed their spills and their tears and their stories.
And this is the thanks I get.
Someone slows. Pulls up to the curb. Stops.
A man and a woman get out of a pickup truck. “Look at that,” the woman says, shaking her head.
They go to either side of me. They take hold of me gently and lift me up. They carry me to the truck.
“That’s a real shame,” the woman says. “Throwing away a perfectly good couch.”
This was written in response to a prompt from Write On Edge prompt: This week, tell a piece of your story from the point of view of an object who bore witness.