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by Tom Parsons 
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“They really look peaceful sleeping, don’t they?”

It was Jonathan who spoke these words to his wife, Anna, as they stood at the foot of the bed and listened to the soft breathing sounds that floated about the room only dimly lit by moonlight softly filtering through the curtains.

“Yes, they do,” Anna replied. “And now that they are asleep, I have a little surprise for you.”

“What?” he asked, his eyes reflecting the shadowed moonlight.

“Come with me,” she said and she began to walk toward the door. “And quietly, please. We don’t want to wake them.”

They moved quietly but quickly to the door and exited the room.

The room they entered was also softly lit, but brighter than the room where the sleeping ones rested. Jonathan noted how the soft light highlighted Anna’s hair and cast a glow which outlined her figure.

“So, what is this surprise?” he asked again. “Did you make my favorite pie? Did you buy me a new CD for my collection? Did you decide to accept my proposal for marriage?”

“Don’t be silly,” she said laughing the laugh he loved. “We’re already married.”

“Oh. Yes,” he joked. “How could I ever forget!”

“You’d better not forget,” she scolded. “You worked hard to get me to marry you, remember?”

“I remember,” he said, as years of seeking and not finding flashed through his mind. Then God gave him Anna, and everything changed.

“So, what’s the surprise?” he asked again, the hint of childish wonder in his otherwise mature voice.

“It’s right in here,” she said. “You wait here. I’ll show you.”

Anna entered another room and closed the door behind her. Jonathan waited, for what seemed like hours, but was actually only a few minutes.

As the door opened, Anna emerged , dressed in a long red evening gown with swirls of lace around the bodice and a flowing skirt that made it look as if she were floating instead of walking.

“Wow!” he said. “That’s the gown you wore for our first anniversary dinner.”

“You remembered,” she said.

‘How could I forget?” he said. “You were so beautiful, you really took my breath away. Just like now.”

“Oh, so you still find me attractive, do you?”

“You could say that,” he said.

“Then . . .” she said.

“Then, what?”

“Then, say it.”

He hesitated only for a moment as he breathed in the beauty of his wife in the special gown. “I find you very attractive,” he said.

She kissed him, briefly, and he reached for her to kiss her again, but she turned from him and walked a few steps, laughing quietly.

“Please, sir,” she said with a slightly mocking tone in her voice. “Please. I’m afraid you will make me forget that I am a lady.”

“A beautiful lady,” he said.

Again he looked at her steadily and basked in the youthful beauty of his wife.

“How did I ever deserve you?” he said. “What did I do to have you come into my life?”

“Just lucky, I guess,” she said, beginning to walk toward another door to another room. “Follow me,” she said, beckoning to him.

Soft candlelight filled the room they entered with gently moving shadows and cast its golden light on everything in the room, including them. Anna’s dress now seemed to be a darker red as she moved noiselessly toward the table. He stood and watched, the candle glow causing her blonde hair to appear silver in the dancing shadows of light. She stopped by the table and turned to look at him. Her skin was soft and young, and the even rows of whiteness caught the candlelight as she smiled at him.

“A gentleman would help a lady with her chair,” she suggested gently.

“Oh, forgive me, madam,” he said, quickly approaching and holding her chair while she glided into it. It was then he noticed the table. It was prepared to serve them a banquet, an anniversary dinner that would help them celebrate finding each other and the love and the lives they shared.

He quickly moved to his seat opposite her as she began serving the food she had prepared for their celebration. Steak tender and juicy. Potato slices cooked in their skins with dashes of spices and butter. Asparagus tender and smothered in sauce. Rolls that seemed to melt in their mouths. And a nice red wine.

“Wine?” he said as he held the glass to the light.

“Non-alcoholic,” she said.

“Oh,” he replied and tasted the sweetness of the liquid against his tongue.

As they ate, they talked of many things. The home they would build together. The children they would raise together. The joy of growing old together.

“A toast,” he said as he lifted his glass to hers. “To the most beautiful woman in the world and the man who loves her deeply.”

Their glasses clicked together and they sipped the wine.

“You forget, sir,” she said, “that in candlelight every woman is beautiful.”

“Perhaps,” he replied, “but the woman I married is beautiful in any light.”

Music began playing, the song they had declared to be their song. The song that was played at their wedding. The song they danced to in the quietness and privacy of their first night together as man and wife.

“May I have this dance?” he said, reaching his hand to hers.

“Why, yes,” she said, “I would be pleased.”

And once again they danced to the strains of the violins and gentle rhythms of their song. Her long gown wrapped itself around him as they moved closely together, each body swaying in time to the music, each heart beating in time with the other. It was almost as if they became one.

When the music ended, they sat side by side on a nearby sofa. He placed his arm around her bare shoulders and she cuddled up against him laying her head on his shoulder. He noticed a slight shiver of her body.

“Cold?” he said.

“Just a little,” she said. He reached for the throw that lay on the arm of the sofa and gently wrapped it around her shoulders.

“How’s that?” he said when he was satisfied the throw was in place to protect her from the night air.

“Perfect,” she said.

A silence followed. A stillness settled over the room as the candlelight began to weaken and shadows began to advance darkening the color of the red dress and their faces in deep shades of gray and black. But still the light shone in their eyes.

She broke the silence. “Will you love me when I am old and wrinkled and ugly?”

“You will never be ugly,” he said.

“But I will be old. And wrinkled. Will you still love me then?”

“As much as I do now,” he said, then quickly, “No. No. Not as much as I do now,” he said.

“What?” she said, lifting her head from his shoulder to look at his face deeply embedded in the shadows of the fading light.

“No,” he repeated. “I will not love you then as I do now. I will love you even more.”

“Why?” she said, the rows of white appearing again as she smiled.

“Because of all the life we have lived together, because of all the things we have shared, because of all the things that make us one.”

“Wow!” she said, laying her head back on his shoulder. “You’re quite a poet.”

“Was that poetry?” he said. “Why, it didn’t even rhyme.”

“Neither did Emily Dickinson’s,” she said.

“You mean that strange lady who never left her father’s home and wouldn’t even answer the door?”
“Yes,” she said, “I mean that lady. Her poetry didn’t rhyme, but she was one of the greatest of poets.”

“Well, I have news for you,” he said. “I’m no Emily Dickinson.”

“I, for one, am glad of that,” she chuckled.

Again silence settled over the room as the candles one by one flickered and went out. Jonathan kissed his wife, a passionate kiss not unlike all the other passionate kisses of their lifetime together. Then wife yielded her body once again to husband and joy flooded their souls. Once again it was as if they became one. One heart. One soul. One flesh.

They lay in each other’s arms for some time, breathing slowly and loving the presence of the other so close in the darkness of the night.

“Well,” he said, after some time in the darkness together. “I guess it’s time to go back.”

“Already?” she said. “It seems like our evening just started.”

“It’s nearly morning,” he said as he kissed her forehead. “They will be awake soon.”

Then the two rose, side by side and hand in hand, and walked back to the room where the sleepers still breathed gently into the stillness of the night. And young Jonathan walked to the side of the bed and carefully lay down in the body of old Jonathan and on the other side of the bed young Anna returned to the body of old Anna as the sleeping couple dreamed about the fifty years of marriage they had celebrated together this day.

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