I’ve been thinking for a while about posting some of my short fiction to this blog. So here goes. I may do more. We’ll see what kind of feedback it gets.
“Do you think we’ll see them today?”
Elaine smiled, her cheeks a maze of creases. “Conditions have to be just right, you know.”
“I know.” Walter gave her hand a light squeeze, the skin so much softer than it used to be.
“But we don’t even know what the conditions are.”
She chuckled. “You’re always so optimistic.”
“I suppose. Sometimes, I’m actually right, though.”
They had seen the other couple perhaps a dozen times in the last two months. The first three or four times, neither Walter nor Elaine had dared ask the other about it, each fearing they would be thought insane by the other. But it had gotten to be too much, and when Walter finally broached the subject, Elaine had been so thrilled to know she hadn’t been alone in her thoughts. After that, they had kept a careful eye for the younger couple, never knowing when their paths would cross. And as to why they crossed…Walter had theories, but Elaine put it down to serendipity: the universe brought people together and set them apart. That was all there was to it.
They walked on. Trees lined the sidewalk, and this time of day it was like entering a different climate every time they stepped into the shade. Neither of them liked the feeling of the cold biting their bones, so they stuck to the sunny side of the street.
“Do you think we should put an end to this soon?” Elaine asked.
Walter hesitated before answering. “Why?”
“What if they recognize us?”
“Not likely to happen.”
“But still. They could.”
“I don’t think we have anything to worry about. It will never occur to them.”
She went on as though he hadn’t spoken. “Maybe you should shave your beard.”
“What on earth for?”
“It’s similar to his. Might start him thinking.”
“Ridiculous.” He hadn’t meant it as an insult, but the word hung in the air between them nevertheless. After a few more steps, he grew uncomfortable with the silence and said, “Besides, near as I can figure it, before too long we won’t be seeing them for a while.”
She gave him a quizzical look.
“The accident,” Walter said. “He’ll be hit by the car soon. That broken leg . . . They won’t be taking walks for months after that.”
Her silence prompted him to look at her face. Elaine’s expression was grimmer than he had expected it would be.
“We should warn him,” she said, her voice quavering. “About the accident. Before it happens.”
Walter let out half a sigh and then tried in vain to recall it, to turn the sigh into an exhalation before she could pick up on his reaction.
“You know we can’t,” he said quietly.
“But we wouldn’t have to tell them. We could leave a note, anonymous.”
“And what then? You think the accident wouldn’t happen?”
“Yes,” she said, a bit defiantly.
“And after that? Who knows what else would change?”
“Exactly,” she said, vehemence creeping into her voice. “Who knows? Maybe things would change for the better?”
“For them maybe. But what would it do to us?”
She didn’t take even a moment to think about it. “How can you be so selfish? They’re young; we’re old. What would it matter what it did to us?”
He nodded, unconvinced but lacking the words to express it. Instead, he stared ahead, letting her hand rest in his as they shuffled along with the sun on their left sides.
“Quiet now,” Walter said even though she’d remained silent since her question. He nodded ahead. “I think that’s them.”
She squeezed his hand now and drew a little closer to him, protectively.
The couple approached, moving quickly and with purpose. They didn’t hold hands, but pumped their arms vigorously instead. Both wore hats and sunglasses. The man had a mustache and goatee; the woman had pulled her hair into a ponytail that poked out the back of her hat and bobbed behind her as she walked. The man wore shorts and a sleeveless shirt, the woman a matching jogging outfit.
The younger couple moved fluidly to the left as the older pair moved to the right. The men nodded as they passed each other. Both women gave light waves.
Walter and Elaine listened as the heavier footsteps faded behind them. When the younger couple was long past, Elaine said, “You know what they’re thinking?”
“I do.” Walter smiled.
“They’re thinking we’re cute, holding hands as we go.”
“They’re hoping they’re just like us when they get to be this old.”
He chuckled. “Ironic.”
They went on in silence, their earlier conflict forgotten for now.
“I don’t think we’ll walk tomorrow.”
“Your leg?” she asked. She glanced down. His limp wasn’t as pronounced as she’d noticed at other times.
He nodded. “It’s going to rain.”
“You can always tell.”
“Well, not always.” He slowed his pace to give the leg a break. “Conditions have to be just right, you know.”
They kept going, a light breeze taking away some of the comfort they found in the warmth of the sun. Wordlessly and without any other signal, they drew closer to each other and walked on.