When the doctor declared Rose in remission, they celebrated with a second honeymoon.
Avery sat up in the hotel bed, squinting at the light streaming in from the open balcony. Rose, naked except for a towel she held to her chest, stood at the open sliding door, her back to him.
He reached for his glasses and felt a morning erection coming on. What was once automatic, had now became a pleasant surprise.
“What are you doing? Someone will see you.”
“No one can see from up here, except the moon. Come see how beautiful it looks.”
“Yes, beautiful. The moon in the sky, too.”
“You need your glasses, old man.”
“I’m wearing them. I also need my sleep. What is it? Six-thirty?”
“I showered and made coffee with those horrible little packets the hotel provides. You want some?”
“You bet I want some.” He patted her side of the bed.
Rose laughed and climbed back into bed, letting the damp towel drop to the floor as soon as she got under the covers. “You’re really taking this second honeymoon seriously, aren’t you?”
After making love, Rose rested her head on Avery’s chest and ran her hand over his white chest hairs. He reached under the covers to caress her hip. Her flesh felt voluptuous, reminding him of a Rubens’ nude. He tried recalling what she felt like when they had first married.
“You’re thinking about something,” she said.
“You can hear me think?”
“Loud and clear.”
“Then why ask?”
“You’re thinking about the young woman you married, the one with long hair and breasts that bounced when she walked.”
“Actually, I was thinking how much more beautiful you are now.”
Avery knew she didn’t believe him. He propped himself up on his elbow. “I love you more than ever. Don’t forget that.” He kissed her lips. “I’d show you, but at my age twice in such a short period of time could be dangerous.”
“You still make me laugh.” Rose kissed her husband. “Thank you for that.”
“I have an idea. Let’s take a bath together.”
“A bath? This is your big idea? Maybe you are getting old. I just showered.”
“So this time you’ll bathe.”
It took some cajoling and a compromise, but they agreed to share a shower. Getting in and out of a tub was too much effort.
“I just washed my hair,” Rose said. “Try not to get it wet.”
Avery arranged the showerhead so it would hit his wife on her chest. Using a hand towel, he soaped her body from the neck down. She started to cry.
He kissed her tears. “What’s wrong?”
“I’m sorry. You put up a good front, but how could you love me the way I look?”
He washed some of the soapsuds from her newly healed mastectomy scars and kissed them. “This is your most beautiful part. It means there’s no cancer.” He looked up at her with tears in his own eyes. “It means you’re still with me.”
In a torrent, it all came back to him: the lump in her breast, the doctor informing them it was malignant, the operation, the radiation treatments, her hair falling out in clumps. Through it all, Avery kept his sense of humor, trying not to let her see what he knew she was feeling.
“This is what love is,” Avery whispered as he patted her with a dry towel. “But I need coffee.”
Rose kissed him, slipped into a nightgown and poured two cups of leftover coffee, handing one to him.
Avery took a sip and wrinkled his nose. “This is terrible.” He put down the cup, called room service and ordered a fresh pot, orange juice and rolls.
Rose tried to wrestle the receiver from him. “Do you know what that costs? We could go downstairs and have a full breakfast for that.”
“I don’t want a full breakfast. I want to sit with my wife in our hotel room, sip good coffee, and enjoy the view.”
Rose returned to the balcony. In the morning light, her nightgown became transparent.
Staring at his wife, Avery recalled her fifty years earlier, standing before the moon in a peignoir her sister had given her for their honeymoon. He remembered how he squinted then to see through her garment, excited by his new wife’s body, not knowing if he were capable of loving her forever.
Wayne Scheer has been locked in a room with his computer and turtle since his retirement. (Wayne’s, not the turtle’s.) To keep from going back to work, he’s published hundreds of short stories, essays and poems, including, Revealing Moments, a collection of twenty-four flash stories, available at http://www.pearnoir.com/thumbscrews.htm. He’s been nominated for four Pushcart Prizes and a Best of the Net. Wayne can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.