Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Write in the ROMANCE genre (04/19/07)
By Ann Grover
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Two straws leaned in the cherry soda on the table, and they bent forward until their foreheads almost touched to take a sip. The activity in the soda shop faded as their gazes held. Hal twined his fingers with Rosemary’s.
Hal thought it had been a perfect day. The sun had shone with an almost holy golden glow, the sky had been more blue. Had there ever been a day like today? But then, had there ever been a girl like Rosemary?
Mr. Martin was locking up his hardware store.
“Evening, Mr. Martin.” Even the people were friendlier.
“Take care, kids.”
Rosemary and Hal passed the end of the block - passed the grocer, where Mr. Dean was wheeling the carts of watermelon and potatoes back into the store, and the gas station, where Norm was taking in the cans of motor oil.
The florist was rearranging bundles of cut flowers into smaller lots, the bright blooms an explosion of colour in the fading light.
“May I?” Hal asked. The florist nodded. Hal reached for a bouquet of flowers and paid for them.
“My love.” He presented them to Rosemary with a flourish and a bow.
“Thank you, Hal.” Rosemary hid her face in the fragrant blossoms.
“Anything for my girl.”
Rosemary carried the flowers in the crook of her arm, and laid her head on Hal’s shoulder as they walked. Other couples were strolling in the dusk, holding hands, speaking quietly.
“Look at that elderly couple. Aren’t they lovely? Do you think we’ll be like them one day?” Rosemary looked up into Hal’s eyes.
“I’m sure we will.”
They reached the beach, and the sinking sun was setting the sea aflame in a fiery blaze. They walked down to the shore, where the surf was washing the sand, rhythmically lapping against the land, sibilant, sighing.
Rosemary and Hal slipped off their shoes and waded into the waves, and the froth rose around their ankles and receded. Again and again, the current swirled and eddied. Hal and Rosemary moved together, held each other, then swayed, slow dancing to the cadence of the sea.
The sun vanished into the water.
Finally, they drew apart and silently watched the swells rising and falling.
“Did you see that light shining in the water?” Rosemary whispered.
“It’s beautiful. Look, there it is again. What is it?”
“It’s dinoflagellates, unicelled organisms. Like plankton. They give off light when they’re disturbed. They cause... Rosemary, does it matter?”
“No, I suppose not. It’s amazing.”
“It’s nothing compared to the light shining in your eyes.”
They walked back to the beach, and Hal pulled Rosemary down onto the warm sand. She snuggled into the crook of his arm. Hal thought how blessed he was, how very blessed.
* * *
Hal could hear the rhythmic sound of waves sighing, murmuring, receding. He stretched and opened his eyes to brightness.
Her soft hand in his.
Her greyed hair against the pillow.
As if it were sand in his hair, Hal shook the confusion from his mind.
Rosemary’s laboured breathing pained him; he drew every breath with her, leaned close until their foreheads almost touched. Rosemary stirred, moaned, and the measured rhythm was broken.
“My love,” he whispered.
After a long pause, she inhaled again, and Hal matched his breathing to hers, shallow, irregular. The sound of waves cresting on the shore, surf caressing the sand, soft, gentle.
Hal lifted his head.
It was a long time before Rosemary spoke again, her voice weak and tremulous.
Hal carefully lowered the rail and eased himself into the hospital bed beside Rosemary’s thin body. He wrapped his arm around the top of the pillow, and she weakly nestled into the crook of his shoulder as he pulled the blanket over them both. The oxygen hissed softly.
Rosemary’s lashes flickered open briefly in response, and Hal’s heart contracted as her brown eyes closed again, the light gone. He stroked her hand, tenderly touched each gnarled finger, held them to his lips.
“How did we get here so soon?”
Rosemary struggled to speak, the words coming in gasps and pauses.
“Does... it... matter? Forever...”
The nurse found them like that, lying together, fingers intertwined, breathing stilled. A bouquet of spring flowers drooped on the window sill.
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