Gloria’s ghost seeped out from underneath the covers and tiptoed her way to her husband’s bedside.
“Wake up,” she whispered, shoving Barney’s ghost awake. “Come on, wake up!”
“Calm your horses.” Barney’s ghost leaned over the side of the bed and exhaled. “You’re going to give yourself a heart attack.”
“Oh hush.” She giggled, heading through the door. She waved for him to follow and they made their way to the staircase. Barney was slower than Gloria, who took the metal railing as an expressway down the winding stairs.
“Not too fast. You know I have a plastic hip,” Barney barked, limping his way to the bottom step.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Gloria said reaching out to help. “You don’t even have bones.”
Barney shooed away her hand, plopping down from the last step with a grunt. “You could still slow down,” he mumbled.
“Oh lighten up,” Gloria said spinning around as if in a ballet. She stopped and stared through the living room window, watching the snow drifting in the wind. “What a night.”
Barney sighed as he took a seat at the kitchen table.
“Barn,” she said with a hint of enthusiasm. “Do you know what day it is?”
“Wednesday?” he sounded unsure.
Gloria snickered, shaking her head. “And how long have we been married?”
Barney felt a tight grip his chest from the dangerous question.
“Sixty-one years,” he said.
There was silence.
If ghosts could blush. She grinned and started for the living room. Barney glanced over at the calendar that was hanging on the refrigerator door. It was Wednesday, December 16th.
“You see,” he cried out but by then Gloria wasn’t paying attention. She reappeared in front of the kitchen a few seconds later holding two records.
“What’ll it be tonight, honey?”
Barney stared at them for a moment, then shrugged.
“You know my head is still a bit foggy.” He rubbed his temples to support his case. It was a feeble attempt to save face, even though he knew that somehow, the damage had already been done.
“Come on,” she said dashing back towards the living room in the direction of their record player.
The record player was from the 1940s and was still in working condition. They just don’t make things like they used to, Barney would stubbornly say to her. While spinning the old Sinatra record, she smiled, imagining him saying that again.
“It’s been such a long time,” she said to herself.
Barney walked in and took a seat on the couch.
“So, how’s about it?” Gloria said holding out her hand as Sinatra’s crooning voice permeated the room.
Barney shook his head. “I’m no good honey, you know that.”
“Come on, Barn,” she said pointing at the clock on the wall. “We don’t have a lot of time.”
He looked over at the clock that read 1:34 AM
“What are you talking about?” he said.
Gloria sighed. “Stop playing dumb.”
Barney suddenly felt cold. There was a part of him that understood. A bigger part of him wanted to deny it. He looked into Gloria’s eyes. Even now they glistened with promise.
“So?” she said reaching out again. Barney took her hand.
“I’ll go slowly,” she said as they rose together. “Because of your hip.” She winked.
“Hey now,” Barney said smiling.
The two of them danced to the slow rhythm and a golden voice. Gloria rested her head on Barney’s chest. There was no heart there, but she swore she could hear something beating, feel something warm.
“I love you, Gloria,” Barney said as if reading her mind. Gloria smiled. It didn’t matter how many times he said it because it always felt like the first.
“I love you too, dear. So much.”
The two danced almost the entire album before she suddenly stopped and cut the record.
“What’s wrong?” Barney was swaying side to side. “I was just getting in the groove.”
Gloria stood with her hands clasping the record. She squeezed nearly hard enough to shatter it. Then, setting the record down on the wall, she turned to her husband.
“Gloria,” he said. “Tell me.”
“Barney,” she said softly, barely able to get the words out. “This is it. It’s really it.”
He looked at the clock. It was a quarter past six. When he looked back at Gloria, she was standing with her arms crossed over her chest. He felt her pain. She was right. There was no denying it anymore. Still, he admired her. Her hair was gray and her skin shriveled, but he loved her all the same, maybe even more.
“Gloria,” he said, walking over and putting his arm around her waist. Their bodies touched and they remembered.
He remembered that their first dance was to a Sinatra record in her father’s basement. She remembered their honeymoon in Palm Springs and their long walks along the coast at twilight. They remembered their first house, and their children and grandchildren.
She also remembered their eviction from their first apartment and living on the streets for a week because neither parents supported their marriage. He remembered the fights and sleeping in separate beds. Everything was a projection. The good memories and the bad, together, they relived it all.
He felt a hand touch his face. She was looking at him, the only man she ever loved.
“Are you happy?” he said, losing himself in her eyes like he always had. Their hands soon clasped tightly together.
Laying her head on his chest, she whispered, “Barn, can we take a walk?”
It snowed heavily that night, leaving the streets as white as milk. They left no footprints behind and headed east towards the sunrise, their destination was somewhere over the horizon.
“Barn,” she said leaning close to him. “You do know what today is, don’t you?”
“Of course. It’s our anniversary.”
Gloria gave him a light shove. “Sixty-three years, by the way.”
He turned to her with a smile. “I knew that.”
Uriel B. Harper is a responsible adult by day, but recklessly spews words at night. He dwells in what enough people call reality and somehow manages to survive the madness of everyday bustle. He loves to read and write and sometimes humors his friends by stepping out of his writer cave. His dream is to live off of his words, his goal is to inspire with them.