By Tess Niland Kimber
Love is not just for the young and Derek’s love for his wife has never dimmed, his devotion knows no bounds
The pavement is hectic with swirling cherry blossom as Derek waits at the bus stop by the post office. The number fifteen will be heading up here from the town centre, soon, he thinks. Under his right arm, he cradles a giant Easter egg. It’s covered in gold foil and the box has a huge, yellow ribbon tied around the centre. It shouts spring, happiness, hope…
Swinging in his other hand is a Tesco carrier bag with lavender soap and those biscuits Margaret likes – you know, the ginger ones she dunks in her tea. Well, used to, when she could hold a cup…
The breeze whistles the last tune of a fading winter around him. Don’t cast a clout ’til May is out, he imagines Margaret warning. He shivers in the Fair Isle jumper she’d knitted, but smiles as he remembers the warmth of her voice.
“For snooker,” she’d said, presenting the jumper to him for their anniversary. What one was that? Their forty-third… forty-fourth? Margaret would remember. Well, she would have done.
He does recall, though, sitting in the armchair by the log fire, rolling wool into balls as her needles clacked, sounding like a pair of joke shop false teeth. What he’d give for an evening like that now.
Six stops and he’ll be with her
The bus – a single decker – lolls drunkenly around the corner before pulling up beside him with a hiss.
Hips stiff from standing, Derek clambers aboard, flashing his bus pass like an American cop in a TV show, then shuffles to the nearest empty seat. He lurches as the bus pulls away before he gets seated, but holds tightly to the egg.
Six more stops and he’ll arrive at the convalescent home. Six stops and he’ll be with her. Hurry! He checks his watch. Twenty past one – a minute earlier than yesterday, two minutes later than Thursday. Excitement flutters in his tummy. He can’t wait to see Margaret.
Even now, he still feels the same rush of love for her that he first felt when they met. In his eyes she’s hardly changed. She still has the same dark eyes, small and sharp as pencil points, and her hair, admittedly more grey than black now, still curls even though it’s cut short.
Yes, even after the stroke she’s still his Margaret.
They’ve not spent a day apart in 40 years
He glances out of the window. Lambs are playing in the fields. It had been spring when they’d married; when he’d finally caught her. Pain sears through him. Would she remember that day of sunshine? He’ll ask her later although she can’t answer in full sentences just yet.
Tired, Derek rubs a hand over his face.
“Have a day to yourself,” his neighbour has been urging. Sarah thinks he’s mad to visit every single day; he can see it in her eyes. But she doesn’t understand that he has to go. They’ve not spent a day apart in over forty years. Besides, Margaret will be home soon. The doctor said.
Eventually the bus stops outside the convalescent home. Holding onto the metal pole, he hauls himself upright.
Derek used to catch the bus when they were courting. Margaret would wait at the town centre stop, wearing pink lipstick and a scarf knotted to one side of her neck. He was mad keen to catch her, hold her, keep her…
He wipes away a single tear
The Easter egg under his arm, he trudges up the path to the front door.
“Cor, someone’s in for a treat,” the carer teases. Derek smiles as he follows, feeling as nervous as he had the afternoon he’d first met her parents.
“Margaret’s better… chatting a bit more,” the carer adds.
Ridiculously pleased, Derek grins as they reach her bedroom door. She’s sitting in the chair by the window, a blanket over her knees.
“Derek… you came.” Her smile is a little lop-sided.
“How could I stay away? I told you – many years ago – now I’ve caught you, I’m not letting go. Ever.”
She points to the egg.
“For you. I had to bring it today. There’s no buses tomorrow, you see. But it’s Easter, so…”
She smiles as he lays the box on her lap.
“Home… next week.”
She nods and he thinks this feels more like Christmas than Easter. In fact, it’s all his Christmases rolled into one.
“I can’t wait,” he says. “Let’s open the egg to celebrate.”
As she nods happily, he wipes away a single tear. Easter is his favourite time of the year.
Read more Easter stories in this week’s bumper issue, on sale Tuesday March 27 to Monday, April 9, 2018
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