“Remember that,” she asks Mark.
He looks at the page she’s pointing to. “I do.”
“Isn’t it funny? The things we agree to on our wedding day?”
“It was so hot there. And I know you wanted to go there, but I didn’t understand it. Still don’t. What’s the draw? The Grand Canyon is nothing but a big hole in the ground. It was so hot.”
“To have and to hold. For richer and poorer. Till death do us part,” she recited.
They sat in silence, both looking at the photo album. Susan was the first to speak.
“You never told me you didn’t want to go.”
Mark shrugged. “You didn’t ask.”
“Do you think it’s funny? The things we say on our wedding day?”
“Maybe some of it. What about the things we don’t say?”
He laughed. “The obvious stuff.” He stood up and pulled her up beside him. The photo album tumbled to the floor.
“What are you doing, Mark?”
“I’m answering your question.” Putting on a solemn face, he began to recite the ‘obvious’ stuff.
“I, Mark, take thee Susan as my lawfully wedded wife. I will not sleep with anyone else. I will take out the trash every week. I will share with her my money, my germs, my thoughts, and my bed.”
The sound of his voice sent a shiver through her despite the heat in the attic. Did she want this? Was he serious? She thought about the divorce papers sitting on the kitchen table.
“Go on. It’s your turn now.” He told her.
“I, Susan, take thee Mark as my lawfully wedded husband.” Her voice faltered at first grew stronger, more confident. “I will support you through law school. When you have to work late to provide for our family, I will bring you dinner instead of complaining about the late hours. I will share with you my thoughts, my closet space, and the goings on of our children.”
It was the closest she could get to giving him an apology. She was sorry for those things, those past mistakes.
He clasped her hands between his. “I will make a point of working less and taking you on picnics more.”
A tear rolled down her cheek. “I will learn new activities with you instead of playing the martyred wife.”
“I will share my feelings with you instead of shutting you out.” He caressed her face.
“Instead of making all the decisions for our family, I will ask your opinion. I will give more than I take.”
She nudged the photo album out of her way and took a step closer to him. He slipped his arm around her waist.
“We haven’t taken a trip in ages,” he whispered.
Her heart fluttered. “Where would you like to go?”
“What about the Grand Canyon?”
Susan shrugged. “I’ve seen it. Are you sure there isn’t anywhere else you’d rather go?”
He kissed her softly. “No. There’s nowhere else. As long as I’m with you.”
She stepped away from him. “It’s hot there, you know. And it wouldn’t be the same.”
“Is that a bad thing? If things were different this time around?”
Susan shook her head. “We’ve come too far, Mark.”
“That’s what I mean. Why couldn’t we just keep going? We have a lot of life left in us, left in this marriage. Why not chuck the divorce papers and try harder?”
“Because I’m tired. All we’re doing here is looking at old memories. Yes, we had some good times, but not lately.”
“Then, why?” He pulled her close, tried to nuzzle her neck. “Why would you say all those things just now? You wouldn’t say it if you didn’t mean it.”
“Wouldn’t I?” Susan took his hands off her shoulders, placed them at his sides. “And who says I don’t want those things? I want the newness of love, the excitement of a trip to some exotic place.”
“Okay then. Let’s make it work, Susan. Until death do us part, we both said it and meant it all those years ago. I’m here. I’m ready to say all those things I didn’t say the first time around.”
She took a step down the attic stairs, careful to keep her balance on the rickety contraption. “I do want all those things. Just not with you. Not anymore.”
“You can’t mean that,” he choked.
“All those things you didn’t say on our wedding day? Remember them…for the next time you fall in love, Mark. It’ll be with someone, but it won’t be with me. I’m not that girl anymore. This,” she gestured her hands toward the mementos of a long marriage, “this is just us saying goodbye. Nothing more…nothing less.”
He watched as she disappeared out of the attic. It hurt more than he thought it would.
“And Mark,” she said, poking her head back through the attic access door.
“Yeah?” He wiped away a tear.
“Those vows you said just now? Remember those for the next woman. She may not give you as long as I did to try and turn things around.”
Vickie S. Miller writes for the misfits, the misunderstood, and the underdogs of life. Whether she’s blogging to encourage others or working on her latest work in progress, she is intent on empowering people through the written word. Although the topics she writes about aren’t always light, Vickie sprinkles healthy doses of humor and motivation into them. She lives in remote Alaska where she continues to raise her litter of children into young adulthood.