Who says love is only for the young and handsome? Everett Peterson and his life partner Charles would beg to disagree. After meeting in 1947, they are now in their twilight years, still together and still very much in love.
However, on this particular night, Everett is agitated. He has discovered Charles lying still on the carpet beside the bed. The nurse on duty at the retirement village has been called. She in turn has called an ambulance. In the anxious moment before help arrives, the nurse tries to calm Everett, but he cannot be pacified. He knows well that at their age, anything could happen. And that thought terrifies him.
Will the ambulance arrive in time? And if not, how will Everett cope with being alone after a life-time with Charles.
Note: This short story was originally published in the charity collection, Love Is Proud.
“Hello, Mr Peterson,” she said.
Everett looked at her blankly. It took a moment for him to recognise her.
“Have they finished?” he asked. “Has he woken up? Can I see him?”
Susie sat down next to Everett and took his hand. “I don’t know, Mr Peterson. I’ve just got here. I can find out if you like.”
Everett looked at her with milky eyes, his eyebrows raised at the centre. “Would you do that?”
Susie patted the back of his hand and released it. “I’ll be right back.”
She knocked on the door and poked her head around the corner. She could see the nurse had cleaned up the blood and was just finishing the cast on Charles’s broken arm. The doctor had attached a heart monitor.
“I have an anxious partner out here,” she said, her voice low.
“Give us another ten to fifteen,” said the doctor. “Then he can come in.”
Susie returned to Everett, sitting down beside him and, once more, taking his hand in hers.
“They said it will be just a few more minutes before you can go in.”
Everett nodded. “You see, we haven’t been apart in many years. I don’t know what I’d do if anything ...”
His eyes filled with tears.
“He’s going to be all right,” said Susie, her mind racing to think of something that might take his mind off his injured partner. “How long have you known Mr Overton?”
Everett stared at the wall opposite and Susie wondered if he’d even heard her, perhaps because he was too preoccupied with the condition of his partner.
“I met him in 1947. I was twenty years old and he was twenty-four.” He paused. “Almost seventy years.”
Susie raised her eyebrows in surprise. “That is a long time.”
“You see ...” He turned to Susie, his body stiff and his movements slow and jerky. “I’ve forgotten your name.”
Everett nodded and returned his gaze to the wall opposite. “That’s right. Susie. You see, Susie, in all that time, I can’t remember many occasions when we weren’t together. I suppose there might have been a few instances, when we were younger, but since we’ve retired, there hasn’t been a day gone by when we haven’t been together. That’s why it’s so frightening ...”
His shaking started becoming more pronounced. His eyes welled with tears.
Susie gently squeezed his hand. When she thought of how much in love they must still be, and the idea that one of them should be permanently separated from the other, she had to fight back tears of her own.
She forced a smile. “Tell me how you met him.”