The series of stories under the title 1000 Words comes from the book, A Picture is Worth 1000 Words by Phillip Sexton. There are no limits with these story prompts and they are all picture driven (hence the title). The photo for this one is of a rumpled bed. Sorry, I can’t provide the picture for you this time. I’m supposed to write two different stories based on the picture. This is the first of those. I’ll post the second one another time. Now, on to the story.
Mariele arrived home in the worst mood any woman can ever be in. Clouds on the horizon this morning had materialized into a summer storm in the afternoon and, as a result, her right shoulder, arthritic for eight years now, was screaming bloody murder. Some time, during her weekly art class, she’d stubbed her toe against someone else’s heavy art supply case. Who carried so many supplies to an art class, anyway? On the way home she’d been cut off in traffic no less than seven different times. She’d stopped at the grocery store on the way home to pick up something for dinner and, not only were they out of her favorite brand but the lines at the store were so long as to make buying the brand she eventually settled on moot. Then, to top it all off, not once during the day had Dan, her husband of twenty-five years today, wished her a happy anniversary. Not once! The spectacular sun-set as she pulled into her driveway, ordinarily so inspiring to her, now failed even to get her attention.
Dan, you jerk, she thought irritably as she pulled into the garage, In twenty-five years you’ve never once forgotten our anniversary. Why, of all days, did you have to forget it today? Getting out of the car, she slammed the door shut, and her shoulder shrieked with new pain. New tears running down her face, Mariele jammed her key into the lock of the trunk and yanked it open with her left hand. She then tried to pick up her own art supplies. The bag was nothing and she easily picked it out and slung it over her shoulder, which protested a bit. The easel, however, was far too heavy. When she was calmer, she’d have to get Dan to bring it in. Stalking around the car to the garage door, she pushed the button to close it and it seemed to shut almost smugly. One more thing you can’t do anymore, Mariele, it seemed to say. Mariele had to resist the urge to kick it.
As she entered the house, carefully setting her bag of supplies in their usual corner of the laundry room, her anger was temporarily forgotten. The whole house was dark. Hadn’t Dan come home from work, yet? He was usually home by now, reading his paper with his feet up on the sofa. A chill ran through Mariele’s body. She wondered briefly if she should have insisted he retire. After all, sixty was a reasonable time to want to do that. The last time she’d suggested that, he’d smiled and said, “Mary, if I have my way, I expect to die working.” They’d been joking around then, but what if he was serious? Quickly, she hung her purse on its hook by the laundry room door and walked into the dining room.
Here, the room was softly lit by the glow from a single long candle set in the center of the dining table. A group of three lavender balloons bobbed, beckoning to her from the table top, a card attached to them with cellophane tape. To Mariele, it said. Taking the card, she opened it and read, Meet me in the bedroom. Love, Dan. What on earth? she thought, then suspicion set back in as her shoulder cried out anew. If he thinks he’s going to make it up to me with a few balloons and sex, he has another think coming. Hanging her set of keys on the hook beside her husband’s set, Mariele walked to the bedroom door, which hung ever so slightly ajar. She gave it a push.
As the door swung aside, Mariele couldn’t help but gasp. Candle flames sparkled at her from every possible surface in the room, with the exception of a four-foot area around the bed.
The bed. It had been neatly remade using sheets and a coverlet that matched, almost exactly, the ones that had been in the hotel he’d taken her to for their honeymoon in Palm Beach. The covers had even been turned down slightly on her side and a small green rectangle, a chocolate mint, rested in easy state on her fluffy pillow.
“Oh, my,” Mariele gasped, all her earlier emotions dissolving as she took in the scene.
“Like it?” said a wonderfully familiar voice from behind her. She turned and, in answer, kissed his waiting lips. “I’ll take that as a ‘yes,’” Dan laughed when she stopped for breath. Smiling, she leaned in for a second helping, but Dan held her away. “This isn’t what you think. At least, not yet. There’s a surprise waiting for you in the bed.”
“More surprises?” Mariele said, “Isn’t this enough?” She gestured to the sea of flickering candles.
“Just go look,” Dan laughed again. He gave her a gentle push toward the bed.
Trepidation suddenly assailed her as Mariele moved cautiously forward. She looked back at Dan, who smiled, gesturing her forward again. Seizing the turned-down cover, she threw it aside, inadvertantly pulling the pillow out of position and knocking the mint onto the floor. Peeking from beneath the white sheet was an envelope. Mariele shoved the covers out of the way and grabbed the envelope, ripping it open. Inside the envelope were two airplane tickets.
“Check the destination,” suggested Dan, smiling in delight from the doorway.
Mariele looked. “Oahu? Really?” she squealed, sounding more like the twenty-two-year-old she’d been when she first got married. “Oh, Dan! I’ve always wanted to go there!”
“I know,” he grinned. “We’re leaving tomorrow morning. The kids all know. I e-mailed them our itinerary yesterday. I put a hold on the newspaper and our neighbor is going to get our mail for us until we come back next month.”
“But, Dan,” Mariele objected, “What about your job?”
“I’ve been accumulating vacation time for years,” Dan replied, smiling with confidence. “All those weekend car trips we took while the kids were still in the house are finally going to pay off.”
“And to think that I thought for a minute that you’d forgotten our anniversary,” Mariele laughed.