Sarah’s Always

“What do you want to do this weekend, Sarah?” David asked from a firing stove. He raised his head so his voice would carry though the kitchen to their living room, but Sarah was already hovering at the doorway. And of course she was. Even though David had put her favorite Saturday morning program on the television while he prepared breakfast, you could never be in Sarah’s kitchen without her floating behind you. That’s how it had always been. That’s how it was even these days.

David needed the support anyway. At a ripe and even youthful sixty-seven years, David had long since made enough mistakes to know how to take care of himself in a kitchen if he needed to. But he’d never needed to.

“How about we go for a drive?” David supplied her words.

For the past six years, this is how every summer weekend started. David would ask Sarah what she wanted to do each weekend while he prepared breakfast, and she sometimes responded with an enthusiastic “Drive!” Today was not one of those times.

At least today is another beautiful day, David thought to himself.

The clear, brilliant blue skies, which always put Sarah in a good mood, would see her smiling through sunset. And seeing her smile warmed David, though not usually to the point searing flesh. As he gazed out the window, David’s grip on the wooden spoon shuffling shredded potatoes in circles around the skillet slackened, unwittingly. When the pain in his hand resting on the edge of the skillet finally registered, he whipped it up and away with a growl, rousing a most playful chortle from Sarah. He cradled his hand, meeting his wife’s wry smile with animated confusion.

Sarah hummed while she ate. She almost always did this now. When it first started a couple years ago it annoyed David. She was like the child they never had — a sixty-five year old child, mind you — humming some made up tune while she played with her food between bites. Except, she wasn’t making up these tunes. It took David some time and a lot of “Sarah, please”s, but eventually he realized that all of the songs she filled their kitchen with were songs from her childhood. They were songs her mother sang to her at bedtime, or anytime she asked mommy to sing. They were songs Sarah sang to David himself even, at times when he had fallen ill or was otherwise asleep and she thought he could not hear her. The songs soothed her mind, put her at ease, and this was something Sarah was in need of more and more these days.

They grabbed their jackets and headed for the door, sink still full of dishes.

David used to wash the dishes immediately after eating back when Sarah used to cook their meals. Now that he was the one cooking and cleaning, he fully understood why she always left the dirty dishes for him to sort out and return to the cabinets.

“My wrists are too weak,” Sarah would say when David asked why the dishes were still set on the rack, long since dried. “I can’t put them back.”

David would catch his eyes rolling away and laugh, sighing a resigned, “But you had no problem getting them down, did you?” The question was more for himself and his sanity than Sarah. Never did she supply more than an unseen smirk.

The sun’s kiss immediately warmed his skin. The day, this day, was more brilliant and beautiful than David had initially witnessed. There was a standard weekend routine for Sarah and David these days, but today’s weather forbade it. Though Sarah might not like it at first, they simply had to break with their routine. For the first time in a while, they had to — and would — live a little more.

They’d made it just halfway down the block after David made a right turn they almost never made before Sarah was frowning at her husband.

“It’s,” she stuttered. “It’s — ”

David knew what she was trying to say. For very many years their first stop after leaving the house had been the city’s park. Sarah loved feeding the ducks in the pond. She liked to think they waited for her to return each Saturday afternoon.

“No,” David stepped in. “We aren’t going to the pond today, but I promise we’ll be going somewhere special. Is that okay?”

“It’s okay.” Pleased for the time being, Sarah turned back to look out the window as they continued down the not-too-familiar street.

Ahead of them, growing in the distance, was situated a large, even proud, Ferris wheel. David turned to his wife with hope-filled eyes. Would Sarah remember the fair? Would she remember this was where it all began fifty some odd years ago?

Please, David pled within. Please.

In the time it took for Sarah to register where they were headed, and for the excitement to light her still classically beautiful face, David was forced to return his attention to the road. His spirit sunk just enough to manifest this small loss of hope. He saw it set upon his worn and expressive face as he caught his own eyes checking traffic in the rearview mirror.

Something between a gasp and a yelp escaped Sarah, shocking, it appeared, even herself. But David, whose instincts fortunately forced him to re-grip the steering wheel, was more surprised. He put his left hand out the car window to apologize to the cars around him. He beamed.

“The fair,” he began. “Do you remember the fair, Sarah?”

As vigorously as she could, Sarah nodded an ecstatic yes.

They made a day of it. David tried his best to recreate their very first date. He took Sarah on all the rides they could now, at their age, comfortably ride, and he bought all of the junk food he knew they had absolutely no business eating. They walked with their own clouds of cotton candy, and when their legs tired they found an easy ride to take a break.

It wasn’t until the sun began to set, painting beautifully cool hues of violets and oranges, that David gathered their day was all but spent. Still, he made Sarah one last promise.

“If you come up with me,” he pointed to the Ferris wheel, “I’ll let you hold my arm as tightly as you want.”

Sarah cast her eyes upward to the glowing wheel and moved in closer to David.

“Not too fast, if you don’t mind,” David asked of the conductor.

The sun was now nowhere to be seen and time, it seemed, was standing still, waiting for them. Around and around Sarah and David went. They spent what must have been twenty minutes holding each other and gazing out at the fair grounds and their city. Maybe, David thought, he could even spot their house.

“One more,” Sarah would say as they approached the conductor. And, to extend their happiness just a few minutes more, David would hold up a single finger.

It worked about five times before David was told, “This is going to have to be the last one.”

As they approached the wheel’s highest point, it began to slow until it stopped completely. Sarah picked her head up from David’s shoulder, met his eyes and kissed him. With a knowing smile, she pulled back, held his face and spoke the clearest words with the clearest meaning she’d uttered in six years.

“I will always love you, David. Always.”

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