by Eva Silverfine
Her eyes went from one express lane to the other. Meg wasn’t in a hurry, but out of habit she felt compelled to pick the lane she predicted would be faster. It was only once she had chosen that she regarded the man ahead of her: a lithe man, approaching thirty, a laborer with bare, muscular arms that were covered in elaborate tattoos. In one hand he held a twelve pack of cheap beer, in the other he clutched a bouquet of red roses. She looked down at her bag of bird food, package of toilet paper. Maybe tomorrow her cart might hold something more indulgent.
The young cashier smiled at the ornamented man as he dug for his wallet. Meg couldn’t fault the woman; she had felt his magnetism too. She wasn’t dead, yet.
As she wheeled her items to her car Meg wondered whether the roses and beer were intended for the same person — a girlfriend, a wife? I’ve brought you roses, honey, and your favorite cheap beer.
Pulling into the library parking lot, Meg grabbed her book to return. Of course, he could have more than one destination — dropping off the beer at home, cleaning up to go see someone special. Beer for later, well, maybe a few sooner. Meg dropped her book in the return slot. Should she get another? She’d probably regret it if she didn’t. What to choose — another mystery, one of the staff picks, some great work of fiction she read when too young to understand it?
She dropped the mystery in the passenger seat. She never read romance, but she wondered whether muscled, tattooed laborers ever were cast in the leading role. He knocks at the door. Her eyes light on the roses. Their silly argument of the night before is forgiven. Then they drink a few cheap beers.
As she passed the dry cleaners, she debated whether to stop and pick up the suit. She’d need it but not today. She’d rather not get out of the car again. The suit could wait.
Perhaps the young man cleaned up pretty nicely. Regardless, she hoped the roses were going to someone he loved, or at least genuinely cared for. It didn’t have to be a girlfriend or wife; it could be his mother, his grandmother, his aunt, even the woman next door who took care of his dog while he was away.
Meg nodded at the nurse before she entered the room. She put down her bag, adjusted the blinds to let in a bit more afternoon light. At the bedside table, she removed a few fading flowers from the bouquet.
She looked at his pale face, his sunken cheeks, as she straightened his blanket. She placed her hand on his and thought of him in his youth, and the years of tenderness since, but also the discord. She wouldn’t fool herself otherwise.
When the doctor arrived, he stood across the bed from her. She looked up, glanced at the ventilator beside him, and nodded.
Eva Silverfine left New York City at seventeen and arrived in semi-rural Texas two decades later. A biologist by training, she works as a freelance copyeditor for a variety of academic presses. Her fiction has appeared in Blue Lake Review, Everyday Fiction, Fiction on the Web, Flash Fiction Magazine, INfectiveINk, and Spank the Carp. Visit her at evasilverfine.com.