As always, thanks to Willow for her fabulous prompt and for catering to our muses. You're wonderful!
The Anniversary Cottage
Summer was declining. Marian clutched her mug of strong coffee, the aromatic steam wafting up to tickle her nose as it mingled with the early morning scent of fading roses and loamy earth. While the first frost was still weeks away, she could already feel the change in the air; the oppressive humidity had given way almost instantly to the pleasantly warm days and need-a-sweater nights that served as a harbinger for the coming autumnal season. Not that she minded. While she enjoyed the pleasures of the summer garden, she was truly a cold weather lover. Perhaps it was the hopeless romantic in her, preferring to sit curled by the fire with a fuzzy throw and a good book. Slathering on sunscreen and brushing sand out of every place imaginable held far less appeal.
Marian smiled to herself as she propped her forearms on the wrought iron railing. She’d arrived at the small cottage the day before, to open it up, air it out, and prepare for her husband’s anticipated arrival. By the time the crunch of automobile tires on gravel reached her ears at six o’clock, there would be steaks marinating for the grill, potatoes with sweet onion gravy and fresh corn-on-the-cob from the farmer’s market. Bill would climb the steps wearily, but with eyes only for her, his duffle bag in one hand and a bottle of Allegrini Palazzo della Torre clutched in the other.
“Happy anniversary, love,” he’d greet her, and she’d watch contentedly as the worry lines on his forehead would soften, his sagging shoulders would straighten, and he’d reclaim a bit of his forgotten youth.
She could see it all in her mind’s eye. Twenty-six times they’d put aside their everyday cares and responsibilities to spend a week in each other’s arms, to become reacquainted and to reaffirm the commitment they’d made all those years ago. No one knew exactly where they went on their annual holiday. Oh, she’d described the cottage in detail to her children many times when they’d begged for a “story,” or a reminiscence of how the couple had met and eloped, but its whereabouts were a secret shared only by husband and wife.
The cottage had been a happy accident, stumbled upon after becoming lost on their honeymoon. Traveling spontaneously, with no planned route or destination, they’d found themselves on roads not detailed on the map, taking pleasure in the adventure of the unknown. As the day’s shadows lengthened, they’d eventually grown tired of driving, but since they’d left the last motel miles behind, they’d motored on. It hadn’t been until the unpaved road had led them through the trees to the picturesque dwelling and Marian had clutched Bill’s forearm in wonder that they’d considered stopping and begging shelter for the night.
It had been love at first sight.
The elderly widow who’d lived in the cottage, eager for company, had been kind enough to offer them a hot meal and a clean bed, and they’d lain awake after retiring, plotting their future and sharing the dream of owning such a charming house someday.
In payment for her warm hospitality, Bill had kept in touch with the lonely widow, and then with her daughter when the elderly woman had been moved to a nursing home after a bad fall. The cottage had been put up for sale and Bill, seized with romantic urgency, had immediately bargained to buy it, wishing to present it to Marian as a first anniversary gift.
Now on the eve of their twenty-seventh anniversary, Marian thought of the elderly widow, and of all the intervening years since their fateful meeting: more weddings, funerals, births, first days of school and Little League and job loss, boyfriends and first cars, college and hair color and anti-hypertensives. And they were still together, she and her Bill, against the odds and despite the myriad joys and sorrows encountered on their journey through life together.
A yellow butterfly flitted past, playmate in tow as the gentle hum of a bee rose from the flower bed below. She smiled again and drained the last drop of coffee from her mug before reaching for the door. It was a glorious day, and there was much to do before her husband arrived. This year, as part of their week’s activities, they had additional arrangements to make. Their daughter and her husband would be celebrating their first anniversary a few weeks hence and, as a special gift, Marian and Bill planned to offer a share in the cottage with the newlyweds in hopes that this wondrous retreat, which they dearly cherished, would continue to be a place of comfort and renewal for the next generation.
For more great Magpie Tales, click => HERE!