Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: RESOLUTION (01/07/16)
TITLE: The Demise of Henri Eis
By Leola Ogle
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Cold – as unmerciful as the Grim Reaper – sank its talons into Henri’s flesh despite his thick coat, gloves and hat. Shivering, he let his thoughts drift to the day he first saw Alaina. He was thirty years old – ten years her senior. She walked into his family’s small, struggling florist shop. Henri loved her the moment she smiled.
“My family owns a small dress shop over there.” Alaina pointed towards the garment district. “Father forgot today is Mother’s birthday, and he’s in a bit of hot water. He sent me to get a dozen roses.” Alaina’s eyes twinkled with merriment.
After arranging a bouquet, Henri walked her home – the beginning of secret meetings in Central Park. It was a romance doomed from the beginning. Alaina was to marry Gerard, joining her poor family to Gerard’s prosperous family.
“But that is the way in the old country. You don’t love Gerard. You love me and I love you.”
“I do love you, but my parents need this. And Gerard’s good to me.”
Several months later on New Year’s Eve, they met in Central Park. Alaina told him she would marry Gerard. Henri begged. Alaina sobbed.
“It’s you I love, Henri, but my family is counting on me. I can’t disappoint them.”
Fireworks signaled midnight as they held each other. Choked with emotion, Henri declared, “I will be here at noon tomorrow, and every New Year’s Day until you come back to me.”
“I vow that I will always love you, my Henri.”
Henri kept his promise. Years later he heard Gerard became a well-known designer. He and Alaina moved to Hollywood where Gerard designed clothes for celebrities.
The florist shop eventually belonged to Henri. He sold it and opened another shop in a nicer part of the city. At forty-five, loneliness drove him to marry the widow, Beatrice. He not only got a wife, but four bratty children. Well, the youngest, Melinda, was a sweet girl. Melinda and Henri bonded, but the three boys’ constant trouble with the law sent Beatrice to an early grave.
Henri never truly loved Beatrice, but he grieved her passing. He and Melinda remained close. She still checked on him frequently. She thought Henri’s resolution to wait for Alaina every New Year’s day was romantic.
Noise brought Henri’s thoughts back to the present. He stared at four sets of young, angry eyes. A switchblade knife clicked open. “Got any money, old man?”
Exhaustion hit Henri with a force that knocked the breath out of him. Why not? He ached with weariness of life. He stretched out his arms. “You may kill me. Make it swift, please.”
“Let’s get outta here, Jimmy. The old man’s crazy.”
“Yeah, well, I’m takin’ his fancy hat and gloves.”
Within seconds of their departure, Henri’s hands and head numbed with cold. The hat and gloves were gifts from Melinda.
Henri’s head jerked up when he heard his name. He must’ve dozed. That’s when he saw her and knew he was dead. Through the swirling snow, she approached like an angel – his young, beautiful Alaina. She sat next to him and took his cold hands.
“Alaina, my love. I’ve waited for so long.”
She kissed his cold cheek. “I’m Alaina’s granddaughter, Lisa. Grandma said she knew you’d be here. She’s in the hospital and sent me for you.”
Confusion swam through Henri’s thoughts. “But I thought I was in heaven. Hospital? Alaina? Is she…?”
“Dying? We hope not. She has pneumonia. Grandpa died two months ago, and Grandma returned to New York. She told me about you, Henri. She’ll be so happy to see you.”
Lisa and her husband, standing beside her all along, drove Henri to the hospital. He kissed Alaina’s fingers, cheeks, lips. The next ten days were the happiest of Henri’s life. He visited Alaina – so frail, yet still beautiful – in the hospital every day, their love still passionate and deep.
But Alaina didn’t make it. Her heart gave out while Henri held her hand. It was Melinda who drove him home.
Some say you can’t die from a broken heart, but two weeks later Henri died peacefully in his sleep.
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