As Edith rolled her suitcase through the airport terminal, she debated whether or not to take a Dramamine before boarding her flight. The box warned of dry mouth, which Edith worried would cause her to drink too much water, resulting in a frequent need for the bathroom. Seventy years and four pregnancies had taken a toll on her body and she feared her bladder would rebel against the “fasten seat belt” sign.
While Edith was preoccupied, her long-time friend, Zelda, snuck up and grabbed her from behind.
“Ahhhh!” Edith screamed, then quickly recognized her friend. Zelda giggled, but Edith clutched her racing heart. “I’m too old for those games.” She glanced around the terminal, relieved and disturbed her outcry hadn’t garnered attention.
“Edith, you were born old.” Zelda replied. “Lucky for you, I’m around to spice up your life.”
“Lucky my arthritic foot.” Edith gave Zelda a disapproving once over. Zelda wore a zebra-print top that ended just below her hips over hot pink leggings. Sparkling hoops dangled from her earlobes and gigantic rhinestone-lined sunglasses crowned her white, curly hair. “I can’t believe you convinced me to come on this cruise. You don’t look like a grieving widow who needs a ‘change of scenery and the comfort of a close friend,’” Edith stated while forming air quotes.
“I’ll take that as a compliment.”
Edith put her hands on her hips. “I’m here under false pretense.”
Zelda playfully slapped Edith with her airline tickets. “You can thank me later.” She lifted the handle to her leopard print suitcase. “Let’s roll!”
As Edith struggled to keep up with Zelda, she concluded her friend was in denial. Once they were seated on the plane, Edith confronted her. “Zelda, I’m worried about you. Charlie just died. Stop trying to mask your pain behind your granddaughter’s clothes.”
An expressionless Zelda looked up from her People magazine. “I loved Charlie with all my heart and look forward to our reunion in Heaven. But I’ve only got ten, twenty years tops, left on this earth. Instead of sitting around missing Charlie, I plan to have some fun.”
Edith knew Zelda’s words were meant to convict her. When her Frank died just before his retirement, her grief had eventually morphed into paralyzing resentment for their unfulfilled dreams. Rather than subside over the years, it had grown, leaking into other areas of her life.
Edith twisted her wedding band. “I thought when Charlie died, you’d finally understand my pain.”
Zelda sighed. “And I thought you’d finally listen to me when I said it’s okay to let go.”
“But....how?” Edith fought threatening tears.
Zelda reached for Edith’s hand. “For starters, I’ve booked us for every exciting excursion the cruise offers. You need to replace the bitterness. How ‘bout it?”
“I’ll try....” Edith said hesitantly.
True to her word, Zelda drug Edith to swim with sting rays on their first excursion day. “We’re starting slow,” Zelda explained. Edith was initially reluctant, but after much coaxing, waded into the water.
“That was okay,” A dripping Edith grudgingly admitted afterwards.
Zelda beamed. “We’re only getting started.”
The next three days were a whirl of activity. Between adventures, they delighted their stomachs upon an unending smorgasbord of delicacies, then indulged their tired muscles in luxurious massages.
On day four, Zelda led a blossoming Edith to a dock for parasailing. Despite her metamorphoses, Edith was terrified. “Are you sure about this?”
“Of co--,” Zelda began, but suddenly grabbed her chest and melted to the ground.
Edith yelled for help as she dropped down beside Zelda. Recognizing a heart attack, she dug in her purse for an Aspirin. “Chew this,” she commanded, shoving the pill into Zelda’s mouth.
Zelda reluctantly chewed the tablet. “Now I understand the expression ‘bitter pill to swallow,’” she complained weakly.
“You’ll be okay,” Edith pleaded through tears. “I can’t lose you now, just when I’m learning to let go and have fun.”
Zelda shook her head. “No, you were right. It’s too soon. I miss my Charlie. I thought the activity would distract me from the pain.”
“We were both right, then. It was time for me to move on.”
When help arrived, Zelda was resting her head in Edith’s lap. The medic assessed Zelda. “It’s just gas. It happens all the time when people overeat on cruises.”
Zelda blushed. “I ate that pill for nothing? I’ll never get rid of that awful taste.”
“There’s a sweet dessert on the buffet. You need to replace the bitterness.”
Zelda grinned. “I’ll try...”
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