Dancing With Ted

By Bonnie L. Phillips

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snow-driftsThe blizzard created mountainous snow drifts and partially covered Sarah’s farm house. It was Sarah and Ted’s retirement gift to each other, their escape from New York City. After many years of renovation it was completed a week before their fiftieth anniversary, the week Ted had died.

Icy winds turned fence posts and antique farm implements into Arctic-white sculptures. Gusts of wind moaned and outbuildings creaked. It had been several hours since Sarah’s power had gone out. She shivered and felt cold to the bone.

She looked longingly at the empty hearth, unused because of her smoke-induced asthma and sat huddled on the couch, wrapped in blankets. She was surrounded by loose photos; paper coated light-sensitive, chemical memories of long ago vacations with Ted. They’d hiked, canoed, explored jungles and fished great rivers. Tracing-paper thin skin covered her blue-veined hand as it surfaced above the blankets. She tried to pick up photos but her fingers were numb.

Still bundled in blankets, with several photos trapped in the folds, Sarah shuffled into the bedroom and plopped down in the rocker. One photo fell to the floor; it was their last vacation and captured the moment Ted and Sarah laughed as they tried, in an awkward manner, to display her forty pound King Salmon—Chinook. She laughed out loud. “Ted, remember our trip to Alaska and the grizzly bears running off with your fish?” Ted didn’t answer; he never did, but she spoke to him anyway.

She used both hands to cradle and pick up her favorite photo. They were on a beach in Hawaii. Her hair was in a long, thick braid that reached almost to her waist. Ted had scooped her up in his strong arms. “God, we must have been in our twenties.”

Sarah heard the wind howling. Again she shivered, and felt a little confused. She was not sure if it was nighttime or if storm clouds had brought on the darkness; she pulled two votive candles from her pocket, lit them and set them on the bureau. She opened the middle drawer, pulled out Ted’s favorite sweater and smelled it. “I miss you,” she said.

Every evening, just as she had before he’d died, she’d say, “What shall we have for dinner tonight?” Then she’d set the table for two and cook enough for each of them. Each day, she’d make her way down the long driveway to the mailbox and say, “Look Ted, we’ve got mail today.” Every night, before she went to bed, she’d splash his cologne on pillows that lay where he used to, cuddle up next to them, and say, “Good night, Ted.”

Sarah struggled to her feet, pulled the blankets tighter around her neck and shoulders, and closed her eyes. She remembered the last time she and Ted had danced; she saw his silver hair and laughing green eyes. She hummed, felt her body swaying, almost felt his arms holding her, and she danced with him again.

Sarah stopped dancing, opened her eyes and saw one of the candles sputter and go out. Most of the room was wrapped in darkness. Her heart pounded. Her breath exited in ragged wisps of brief visible cloudlets; warm air meeting cold.

“Ted,” she said. “I’m not cold anymore, Look, I’ve even stopped shivering. I don’t need all this, this stuff.” She threw off blankets, coats and clothing, down to her slip. “I’m kind of tired, though. Perhaps it’s time we go to bed. Thank you for my dance.”

Sarah lay on top of the bed, curled up next to Ted’s pillows, and slept.

______________

She heard ocean waves and opened her eyes. She and Ted were on the Hawaiian beach; they were young again. She looked into his eyes. “I’ve missed you so much, but this can’t be true.”

He smiled at her. “Yes, Sarah,” he said. “It’s true.” Ted scooped her up in his arms. “I’ve been waiting for you.”

Sarah threw her arms around his neck and kissed him. Ted carried her into the ocean; the pounding surf drowned out their laughter.

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