‘That white one in the tube. Is it real?’
It needed to be white and real to symbolize how pure and genuine his love for her was.
The lanky, pimply assistant took it down and dusted off the top.’
‘Sure it’s real. Look, it’s even got a drop of water on it.’
The way he saw it just then, it was the most perfect, beautiful bud rose in the shop. If he’d been thinking right he’d have known straight up it was a fake.
It was the memory of her voice on the phone that distracted him.
‘I killed it. I’m sorry. I didn’t see the other car coming and I killed it.’
‘Are you and the kids OK?’
‘After all your work fixing it up and I killed it.’
‘Where are you now?’
‘What? Oh, home. I’m so sorry. I just want the earth to swallow me up. I feel so terrible. How will we survive without it?’
Sam’s heart beat faster as he listened to the panic that edged his wife’s voice.
‘We’ll never be able to afford another car.’
‘Annie, are the kids with you?’
‘No. I feel so cold and…’
‘Where are the kids?’
‘School. It was after I dropped them off. I feel so alone.’
He leant his head against the train window, watching his own sad reflection. He should have prayed for her when she was on the phone, she would have liked that, but he hadn’t thought about it back in the office. He longed to model Christ to her and grieved that he rarely seemed to get it right.
Thank you that Annie and the kids are all right. Wrap your love around her like a blanket, Lord. Help her to see it was only a car; a thing that can be replaced eventually. She feels things so deeply, Lord. That’s one of the reasons why I love her and, he sighed, why she frustrates me so much. Please keep her safe for me.
‘Nice rose. Done something wrong did you?’
Sam sat up straight, resigning himself to the unwelcome conversation.
‘No. My wife’s just written off the car.’
‘And you’re giving her a rose!’
‘She’s upset. I want to show her that it’s all right; that nothing will stop me loving her.’
‘You’re a nutter. Nothing would stop you loving her?’
Sam shuffled in his seat. He never felt comfortable speaking to strangers.
‘I made a promise when we were married, you know for better or for worse, and…’
He wished he’d never said and. He didn’t want to go on - not in this crowded and suddenly silent train carriage, with everyone surreptitiously listening. He blew his nose and sat up straight.
‘There’s was this guy called Paul, I think it was Paul, might have been Peter. I’m hopeless with names. Anyway, he said husbands should love their wives like Jesus loves the church.’ Sam’s voice dropped to a hoarse whisper. ‘That’s how I want to love my Annie.’
The man laughed sarcastically. ‘Sure one artificial rose’ll get the message across.’
Artificial? Will I never get it right?
There was a scrawled note on the table near the door. P and S will pick kids up from schools.
He made a quick turn into the bedroom. Annie was curled up under the quilt, a blue jeaned leg dangling out.
Oh, God, please.
He checked her pulse. Her grey eyes fluttered open.
‘You’re early. I didn’t mean to be in bed when you got home. But it seemed the right thing to do – going to bed – I felt so secure. So safe. Like the bed loved me. Silly me. I just needed to forget for a while.’ Tears poured down her cheeks and he pulled her into his arms. ‘Will you forgive me?’
‘There’s nothing to forgive, love. It was just a car.’
After a while they separated and he handed her the tube.
‘I’m sorry. I thought it was a real one. I wanted to get a real one. The kid said it was real and then on the train...’ He squirmed, remembering the uncomfortable conversation and how he’d opened himself to ridicule.
Annie pulled him down onto the bed and snuggled up.
‘It’s an excellent copy. I can see how you were fooled. But I love it anyway. It will last forever, Sam. A forever reminder that you love me.’
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