'cause honey your soul could never grow old, it's evergreen
and, baby, your smile's forever in my mind and memory
i'm thinking 'bout how people fall in love in mysterious ways
maybe it's all part of a plan."thinking out loud" / / ed sheeran
"That's enough, Willa."
She stopped herself before the cream had a chance to run over the lip of her brimming cup. A monotonous lethargy in her eyes creaked and settled back into place. As she raised the china to her lips, her teeth chattered and her hand shook so that the hot liquid splashed down the front of her blouse.
"Here, allow me."
She flinched as he gently dabbed at the stains.
"They won't come out without hard scrubbing."
"It's been five years, Michael."
A pause. "I know."
"Then there's no need to treat me like a child."
When he sighed, it was progressive, layered, as if it had been building up over many years. Five years. More than that, actually, if you counted the heavy days that came before, the days when the troubles began, but she was never one for particulars. All she knew was that he had sat in the same chair each evening for five years, read the same chapter of the same book for five years, and never had an edge of bitterness crept into his tone.
"You must eat something with your coffee," he reminded her. He'd been doing that for five years, too. Always making sure she ate and drank. Perhaps it was a helpful thing; her mind was so far beyond the physical and well into the depths of the ethereal that she often forgot mealtimes. Willa wondered what would have happened to her if Michael were not as sensitive to the particulars as she was ignorant of them.
"I'm not hungry."
"I don't care. You're going to eat something."
"Oh, mind Dickens and leave me be."
"Here." Michael reached over and snatched a pear from the fruit bowl on the wobbly-legged coffee table. "Have a bit of fruit."
"I can't stand pears and you know that."
"I thought perhaps you'd changed your mind?" The corner of his mouth tilted upwards in the ghost of a smile.
"I'm too set in my ways for change now." She was amazed how refreshing it was to admit it, and smiled faintly.
"Ah. That I do know." He winked briefly, but as her smile strained, snapped, and caved in on itself once more, the merriment left his expression.
"Come, Willa. We must go one night without bringing this up. It's been—"
"You think I don't know how long it's been since his death?" Her eyes may be dry now, but the tears would come soon, as they always did. Like clockwork, her life came in the same row of dull stitches that she forced herself to yank out and redo, yank out and redo, day in and day out, through each blinding sunrise and each wearying sunset. "Won't someone give me relief?" Time had lost its medicinal power.
She crawled close under his arm, sniffling against his shirt and feeling all of six years old. He held her as she wept through the familiar storm that seemed to lighten with each passing day. It was getting better. Willa no longer shook like a sapling when he brought up the incident. Still, she was only human, and a fragile one at that. He remembered his father's warning when he'd asked the pale girl to be his wife. He could still hear those words echoing through his head: Don't marry her, son. She's the kind that'll require too much of you.
She required great things of him, to be sure. Her tears at odd hours. Her periods of spontaneous melancholy followed by periods of spontaneous joy. The aches only she understood that made her cry out at night and the shaking that only slowed when she eventually slept again. She was the beam of light that slanted across his life, but she brought shadows with her.
She'd never required too much of him.
Bits of splintered wood crackled in the dying fire. Michael drew his wife closer and felt her cold frame grow warmer. Her lashes fluttered like damp-winged butterflies against the violet-hued skin ringing below her eyes. She sniffed one last time and then looked up into his face.
"I think—" her voice shook. "I think—I'll have a pear now."
It was no longer just a ghost of a smile that danced across his features.