“Are you coming to bed?”, Eva heard her husband call out to her from the bedroom.
“In a minute!”, she replied to him from the kitchen.
She was only halfway done with loading the dishwasher. A few other chores were left before she could call it a night. It had been a long day of baby-sitting her grandchildren, cooking and cleaning, and most importantly, pursuing her new-found hobby of painting.
Today she had spent a good part of the afternoon painting in the backyard. The spring sun gave her garden the perfect light and she wanted to capture that on her empty canvas. Smears of pink oil paint were still on the pants she wore. Retired life was suiting Eva and her husband very well. The days began with long walks followed by breakfast at her daughter’s home. The grandchildren had become their life. They kept them busy. They made them tired at the end of the day. The little time they got from the kids, Eva took to her paint brush. Her husband, to the pillow. Naps were his favourite thing in the world.
“Finally!”, she whistled as she got done with all her chores for the night. She walked towards the bedroom while switching off the kitchen lights on her way out. Eva chuckled thinking about his love for sleep and how easy it was for him to sweep away so quickly, almost anywhere and anytime.
After getting into her night clothes, she sat on her side of the bed with her back to him. He always slept on the right side of the bed. His breathing got louder as he slipped deeper into his slumber, as she indulged in her daily routines with several lotions. One for her hands, and three for her eyes.
At 67, Eva was alluring. Her body was slender and tall. Her face gleamed without makeup and she prefered it that way. Streaks of silver crowned her head. Her collection of traditional jewelry and simple yet sophisticated clothing, added to her grace. “Elegant!”, her friends pointed out.
Her husband was now snoring lightly. She looked over her shoulder in his direction. His back was facing her. She thought about their younger days as she continued dabbing her eye bags with the second lotion. Most days, it was hard to believe that they were married more than three decades. The last thirty years were full of highs and lows. Financial struggles and family problems had engulfed a good part of their married life. But hard work and perseverance had brought in all the sunshine. Hard work had also aged her husband rather quickly. However, they were happy. The birth of their two children, their weddings, the birth of their grandchildren were the highs of their life. But the past few years were truly their honeymoon years! Seeing new places, tasting new foods, meeting new people, learning about other cultures and exploring unknown parts of the world.
One such trip was coming up. Eva and her husband would be flying west. Pristine white sands, serene blue waters, spirited flea markets, smell of new kinds of breads, taste buds exploding with unique desserts and endless artifact shopping would soon follow.
“Only three weeks to go!”, she reminded herself. Her heart racing with excitement, she tugged herself in the blanket and drifted off to sleep.
Eva woke up to a shaking bed. “Earthquake”, she exclaimed. She turned to hold her husband’s hand.
His hands were trembling. In fact, his entire body was trembling. And his tremble shook the bed. She didn’t know what was happening to him. For a few seconds, Eva felt paralysed. Her husband was clearly in pain, holding his chest. He couldn’t talk. Tears rolled down her eyes as she was trying to hold and comfort him. His eyes were wide open and blood shot. His body was going cold. After the first wave of shock passed, her shaky hands gathered the courage to pick up the phone and dial 911.
“I will call you in a couple of days. Take care. Bye!”, said Eva’s friend, as she hung up. She was very apologetic. Bad weather had prompted all airlines to cancel flights. She couldn’t make it to the funeral.
What she couldn’t fathom was that her husband was gone. Her partner, her best friend… her reason to live. She was prepared for both their deaths, but not so soon. Her hands were shaking. Eva wanted to scream. She wanted to cry. Relieve her heart from the pain that it was weighed down with. But she couldn’t. Her mind told her to, but her body felt numb. She could barely even speak to anyone.
There was enough sound around her, but the world felt silent. She could hear sounds of dishes in the kitchen. Her daughter and daughter-in-law were clearing up after the string of guests and well wishers that had shown up. Her son was pacing on the front patio while on his phone. He seemed to be making payments and arranging for other formalities that needed to be taken care of. Nobody had had the time to grieve yet.
Eva’s grandchildren were sitting in the same room as her. The younger one was busy playing with some wooden cars. The older one was sitting propped up against the side table, crayons spread all over it. She was pressing hard onto the paper that she seemed to be coloring on. The two children probably understood nothing of what had just happened. They probably thought their grandpa was at the store.
On the same side table, Eva’s eyes traced a photo frame nestling a picture of her and her husband. The two of them were poised up against a bed of blooming dahlias, distant mountains traced the horizon and a few fluffy clouds were floating in the blue skies. It was one of those pictures they had captured when they were traveling through the valleys that had rare blooming flowers, once a year.
“Oh, the trip!”, Eva remembered. She held her head thinking about all the bookings and agencies she would need to contact to cancel everything. She hurriedly got up from her chair and started walking towards the study.
As she passed the hallway to the study, she glanced over to all the photo frames covering the walls and the artifacts, sculptures, and memorabilia she and her husband had collected over the years from their travels.
The people in the pictures seemed to be staring at her. She felt the eyes of the statues, masks, and idols affixed on her as she walked the length of that hallway — judging her.
Feeling a little intimidated, she made it to the computer and turned it on. There, on the desktop, was a folder labeled so perfectly well with the name of the trip. Eva felt thankful about her husband’s organizational skills. He was always so particular. She spent a few minutes understanding the details, collecting information on who she needed to call and what she needed to take care of.
She was so immersed in the information, that she was startled by her granddaughter calling out, “Hey, grandma!”. Eva looked up from her computer to find her granddaughter standing at the other end of the hallway. She held a large sheet of paper in her hands.
“I want to show you something!”, she exclaimed as she ran down the hallway to the study. Before Eva knew it, her granddaughter was standing by her side, in her arms and displaying her artwork.
The paper in front of her was the stick figure replica of the picture on the side table. The only difference in this was, stick figure Eva was standing alone against a bed of four petal flowers, two-dimensional mountains floated over the flowers, the sky was made of rough swooping strokes of blue and the cotton-like white clouds glided on it.
On one of the clouds sat a stick figure of her husband with a big smile on his face.
“Maa told me that grandpa will not be around anymore, which made me sad. But I think he is flying around and wherever you will be, he will be looking after you from up above. And I think he is going to smile when he sees you happy.”
“Oh! Sweetheart…”, Eva started crying and smiling at the same time. She held her granddaughter in a tight embrace.
She wiped her tears and turned the computer off. She walked back through the hallway, holding her granddaughter’s hand. She looked at the pictures and artifacts as she crossed the hallway.
This time, she only saw smiles.
Everyone had now gathered in the living room.
“I will be taking that trip, after all”, she announced.