Immortals By Theresa Miller
The First Day
“I am so sorry!” Arthur cried as he frantically scrambled around the bridge, picking up the items that had fallen. He had been in such a hurry that he had never seen the poor girl walking across. Her purse had tumbled from her arms, cascading its contents across the boards of the bridge and into the river below. Arthur cringed as he heard the soft plop of various items descending into the water.
Arthur stood himself straight to return the items he had been able to get to her, and as he did, he found himself breath-taken by her beauty. Almond shaped eyes stared at him blankly, an earthy sort of brown, almost green around the edges, outlined by the lightest touch of mascara and adorned with gold eye-shadow. Her delicate wrists and neck were encircled with gold jewelry, a sign that she was indeed a noble-woman, and her long hair, dark as a moonless night, was ornately braided and looped atop her head.
His appraisal of her was cut short, however, as she adjusted the sleeves of her long, red dress, the gold trimmings shimmering as her hands moved to her hips and she cleared her throat. “May I have my things please?” she inquired of him. Her voice was smooth as caramel, ringing softly in his ears like a bell, and he found his mouth too dry to speak. His heart beat a mile a minute as his ears were once again graced by the beauty of her voice, this time in the form of a laugh, and she gathered her things from him, placing them back into the small purse she carried.
“It was an accident,” she told him comfortingly, hand resting against his arm to reassure him, “don’t let it concern you too much.” And just like that, the angelic woman was gone, off to whatever sophisticated events or noble lifestyle awaited her, and Arthur was left feeling incredibly aware of the holes in his coat and the scuffs on his shoes. “Goodbye,” he mumbled to no one in particular, as the mysterious woman was now gone.
The Last Day
“I am so sorry,” Arthur wept as he sat beside his dying wife. So long ago had been the day when they had met on that bridge, the day that he had so clumsily knocked the contents of a gorgeous woman’s purse into the current below. Now here he sat, 60 years later, watching that same woman be washed away by the tides of death, so like the river that had washed away the items from her purse.
The beauty she had the day he had first met her was still very much alive within her. Beneath the wrinkles, the almond shape of her eyes could still be found. Beneath the clouded cataracts, that beautiful, chocolate brown could still be seen, with the gorgeous tint of spring green around the edges. Her fragile wrists retained the delicate appearance they had so long ago had, and he could almost see the smooth, milky skin she had once possessed beneath the dry, papery wrinkles coating her body.
Over the sound of her oxygen tank, he could barely here her whisper, “May I have my things, please?” Her voice came out in a rasp, so quiet he would’ve thought it to be nothing more than the shifting of the bed-sheets had he not seen her lips moving.
Arthur stood, taking his cane and hobbling to their dresser across the room. His eyes wandered of the pictures capturing their time together. Valentine’s day, Christmas, their wedding. All those happy events mixed with the tinge of pain at not being able to have a child, of having to run from her sophisticated life in order to marry a poor boy. And this was where it had led them. 60 years later, an old man praying for God to take him in place of his dying wife. An old man being denied his only prayer.
“It was an accident,” she breathed out once more. Her illness was preventable, but they had not been able to afford a doctor. Arthur had tried so hard to care for her himself, and it had all but failed. Her illness progressed twice as fast. She knew he blamed himself, and she knew that she never could a day in her life. “Don’t let it concern you too much.”
Arthur found tears welling in his eyes as he turned back to her, shuffling himself to her bedside and handing her that infamous purse that had started it all. She spoke not a word as she dug into it, a soft smile gracing her paled and cracked lips as she remembered back to the day they met.
After what seemed an eternity to Arthur, she finally pulled a picture from the purse, taking his hands and placing it into them. Tears glided slowly from her eyes and down her withered cheeks as she closed her eyes. There was no strength left in her to fight. She breathed her last breath, and all was silent.
Arthur blinked away the tears as he opened his hands, peering down at the picture she had placed between them. It showed a young, rather scrawny and anxious looking man. He was half turned away from the camera, on a bridge at sunset. There were holes in his coat and scuffs on his shoes, and he looked as though he had just decided to suck on a lemon, lips puckered in irritation.
As Arthur saw himself on that first day when they had met, as he saw that she had stopped to take a picture of the man she would some day married, his dams broke and the tears poured down his face. “Goodbye,” he sobbed to no one in particular, as the mysterious woman was now gone.