Seeing You Again
After twenty-five years with Sam, their lives revolving in circles that barely touched let alone overlapped, was it time Margie consigned their marriage to an album of faded photographs? The Christmas ball at her mother-in-law's retirement home would either be the final straw for their failing marriage or the perfect chance to reignite the old flame. Can the happy-go-lucky shenanigans of the retirement community remind Margie and Sam that falling in love has no age limit?
CHAPERONING? HIS WIFE didn’t know him at all. Sam flicked a speck of dust off the charcoal suit hanging from the bathroom door. He could be settled in his easy chair with a bowl of popcorn and a college football game on the television instead of stuffed into his Sunday suit, making sure his mother didn’t take another ride in a police car.
His son and daughter were in college; he thought he was done with curtailing another generations’ shenanigans. His daughter’s Christmas balls were bad enough, why did he have to suffer through his mother’s?
Margie hummed as she primped her hair and touched up her make-up in the master bathroom. She hadn’t donned her dress, yet she scolded, “You better get dressed, honey. We’re going to be late.”
Sam grunted as he eased the jacket off the hanger. The suit hadn’t seen sunlight in more than a year. Margie hadn’t made him try the pants on. What if they didn’t fit? Just another level of misery to add to the evening. He couldn’t even say when he’d last worn a tie. Church didn’t require formality anymore, so his suit gathered dust in the closet.
Business suits at the office had been dropped for business casual. Instead of a dress shirt and pants, he opted for khakis and a golf shirt. In the rare event that he had to meet with customers at the small engineering firm, he wore a button-down shirt.
Margie swept out of the bathroom, leaving a breeze of perfume behind her. Her auburn hair was clipped in a twist at her neck so only a few wisps of hair curled around her face. Delicately applied make-up magnified and brightened her blue eyes. A new red-sequined dress stood out against the snow white coverlet on the bed. A show-stopper like that wouldn’t have fallen into one of his memory lapses. Margie didn’t wear dresses much anymore either. Bulky sweaters and square jeans were more her style.
He stuck his legs in his pants and sucked in his gut to do up the zipper and button. A little tight. “Are you sure we have to go to this shindig?”
“It’ll mean so much to Gladys.”
Yes, his mother always found a way to make his life difficult. Whether it was kissing him in front of his friends at school or chaperoning every scout camping trip in middle school, she had made sure his embarrassment level was maxed out. After fifty years, it was payback time. The evening might not be the torture event he imagined.
Margie unzipped the dress and stepped in then shimmied it up over her hips.
Sam raised an eyebrow. He hadn’t seen that move in awhile. The same undulation had captivated his attention at their own Christmas dance… when she was with another guy. He hadn’t been able to keep his eyes off her. It was a good thing he’d attended stag or his date would have showered him with her soda for ogling another girl.
Sam smiled to himself. Boy, he and Margie had been a couple of sparks back then. Couldn’t keep their hands off each other. All the sweet little touches in passing, brushing his hand across her back, lingering a moment longer than necessary when he needed to squeeze by her just to enjoy the warmth of her body along the length of his. Couldn’t spend more than an hour apart back then.
He couldn’t describe their marriage that way now. Consciously or unconsciously, they seemed to avoid physical contact. Their fingers didn’t brush when they passed the butter. They didn’t even share a bowl of popcorn while watching television.
Now Margie had a calendar full of charity events, library board meetings, and Bible studies. She was gone all the time with this or that. She seemed happy, and he didn’t begrudge her that. But he missed her.
Margie spun and faced him, smoothing the red-sequined dress over her hips and stomach. The liquid sparkle cascaded over her curves and swooped down her arms. Sam was speechless. Either all those diets Margie talked about had taken hold, or she’d been body snatched. Marilyn Monroe would be jealous of her silhouette. His wife would twist heads so hard she’d give men whiplash. A roll in the hay with that dress would burn down the barn.
As he moved up the ladder at work, more responsibility also meant more hours, more late nights, and the occasional weekend. When he did get home at a decent hour, his brain was fried. He didn’t want to think or do anything. He rarely summoned the energy for more than an hour of T.V. before it was an acceptable time to hit the sack. A roll in the hay barely crossed his mind.
“Maybe I should’ve gone with the black one.” She stepped in front of the full length mirror on the closet door, angling in each direction and pointing her toe, accentuating the curve of her calf. “My hips look as wide as a bus. Too late to change now. Could you help me with the zipper?” She smoothed her hands over her stomach, which only emphasized the attraction for Sam.
Sam let his breath out slowly. When the button didn’t shoot off his pants, he relaxed. He might make it through the night without a wardrobe disaster, after all. After fastening his belt, he crossed the room and found the impossibly tiny zipper pull hidden in the sequins. Inching it up to her shoulder blades, he remembered sliding her zipper down for the first time. His fingers, more nimble then, had trembled so much the little metal piece had jumped out of his grasp. It had taken three tries to get the zipper all the way down to her bottom. Each inch had exposed a tantalizing expanse begging him to press his lips to her skin. This time it was with much regret that the final teeth on the zipper nipped together.
“Thank you, dear.” She patted his face. The touch held none of the sensual lingering he missed. It was perfunctory, all that was required for a well-trained dog. She bent to slip on a pair of matching red heels. His brain short-circuited. Fantasies sprang forward, but he squashed them down. Margie didn’t appreciate getting all mussed up when she’d spent so much time getting ready.
“Don’t forget to shave.”
Red nails, red dress, red shoes. Margie had gone all out with getting dressed up. There he was in a twenty-year-old suit, hoping the butt didn’t bust out if he was required to do the twist.
He ducked into the bathroom and found his shaver amid the pots of creams and compacts of shimmery purple powders. He buzzed off the peppery stubble then reached for the aftershave. Normally, he didn’t bother, but Margie was so dolled up…
The snap of the alcohol stung his freshly shaved skin, bracing him like a shot of moonshine in the old days. He raised his eyebrows and gave himself a quick once over. Silver and white had invaded his brown hair, and too many evenings at work had etched lines around his eyes. He smoothed down the grayish hairs poking up over his thinning crown and straightened his collar.
Returning to the bedroom, Sam dug in the closet for the hanger with his ties draped on it. Most of them were as old as his suit. His daughter would roll her eyes and tell him the styles were all wrong unless he wanted to look vintage or he was wearing them ironically, whatever those meant. He extracted the hanger and examined the lot. A blue paisley one was the newest of the bunch and modern enough for his mother’s retirement home.
“I got you a new one.” Margie waved from the mirror where she inserted silver hoops in her ears. “It’s in the box on the nightstand.”
“Oh.” Sam retrieved the box and opened it. The silk glinted enticingly against the black box. He picked it out and tossed the box on the bed. “Red.”
“I thought we could match.” She tapped her finger against the shoulder of her dress. “Christmasy.”
“Sure.” He laced the tie under his collar. It almost tied itself. Funny the motions his fingers remembered, even with the stiffness brought on by the beginnings of arthritis. Smoothing the tie and straightening his collar, he examined the combination in the full-length mirror. The bright color contrasted nicely against the white of his shirt and the charcoal of his trousers.
“You ready?” Margie called.
“Yeah. Gotta get my jacket.” Sam retrieved it from the hanger on the closet door and stopped in his tracks. Margie was fussing with her dress in front of the full-length mirror. His gaze traveled over her coiffed hair to the slinky dress that hugged curves and down shapely calves and into heels that had him wanting to lock her in the bedroom and throw away the key. In his younger days, he wouldn’t have given his doubts a second thought. The door would have been barred, and they would have been late for the event, if they made it at all.
His wife of thirty years, the wearer of baggy sweatshirts and weird pants, was stunning.
He stood there, gaping. Margie gave him a funny look then grabbed a useless black clutch and an equally useless black fur stole. The fur begged to be touched but would do little to protect her from the freezing temperature. The latter she swung around her shoulders then headed out of the room. Sam managed to close his mouth, grab his jacket, and scramble after her.
The thought that he was a lucky man crossed his mind. The fact that he had forgotten how special his wife was bothered him.