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 Birthday Sentiments

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Petaljumper
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PostSubject: Birthday Sentiments   Tue Sep 27, 2011 6:51 pm

He slowly opened the gnarled, mahogany door; trying to avoid the inevitable "creak" it had begun making lately. Tiptoeing across the wooden floor, he crept to the edge of the bed and set the breakfast tray on a large cedar chest. As he watched her sleep, his memory drifted back to the first day they had met.

It had been a rainy, gloomy day, and he had barely entered the library before another downpour began. As he stood in the doorway, water dripped from his coat, causing a small puddle to appear. Looking up, he caught the disapproving glare of the librarian. Smiling back sheepishly, he hoped to avoid a request to leave. Her expression softened only slightly upon seeing his smile, but it was a step in the right direction.

Sitting at the nearest table full of day-old newspapers, he caught himself staring at her more than once. Her long, brown hair pinned back on one side, her skin seemed to glow with a rosy sheen. Alert to everything around her, her sharp eyes had warmth to them that she turned on and off. Her knee-length skirt and cream-colored blouse were alluring and accentuated her long legs, even without her leather boots. He guessed her age between thirty and thirty-five, and he liked her easy manner with the library patrons. Deciding he had waited long enough, he walked to the counter with a brave front. Whether out of pure shock or disbelief he never knew, but she said yes to his dinner invitation, sparking a lifetime relationship.

Watching her now with her silver hair and beautiful skin, she still held the same allure for him as all those years ago. As she slept, a sweet peace surrounded her. He bent down to fill a china cup with her favorite tea, to continue a tradition he had begun long ago. Softly tapping a silver spoon against the gold rim of her favorite cup, he began to sing, "Happy Birthday to You, Happy Birthday to You, Happy Birthday my Darling.” He kissed her on the cheek. “Happy Birthday to you."

Not responding with her usual smile, he kissed her cheek once more. Something was different, not right. She lay there peaceful but unresponsive. Caressing her warm cheeks, he thought back to when he left the room only ten minutes before.

Awakening, he turned towards her to find her watching him with a soft expression in her eyes. Greeting him with a morning smile, she quietly told him she loved him and could not imagine waking up to a lovelier man. Telling her he would be back in a few minutes, he slipped out of bed to make her birthday tea.

Softly crying, he realized she had slipped away while he was gone, and had given him her final loving sentiments. As he lay there holding her, he felt her peace and was thankful for the way she left. She had been with him for fifty-five years, and would be with him for the rest of his life as well.

Three years later…

She sat by the bed watching him sleep, fitful as it was. With each groan or sudden jerk of his hand, she instinctively reached to comfort him. It had been a long illness, but her father began needing twenty-four hour care only a couple months before. Since the live-in nurse took every Saturday off, Alicia cared for her father on those days.

She wistfully looked at the pictures beside his bed, one framed in gold and the other in silver. The gold frame held a beautiful portrait of her late mother, painted by a village artist several years before. The silver-framed picture held a picture taken only six months before of her and her father in a nearby park. Before losing his mobility, they walked there every Sunday. One day as they rested on their favorite bench, a local photographer had requested their picture. They agreed, and after receiving a copy, it had become her favorite. The photographer caught the sunset behind them as perfect as a movie screen background. As she rested her head on her father’s shoulder, her long, blonde hair nestled close to the few silver streaks he had remaining. A quiet happiness showed itself through the photo, and she glowed inside just looking at it.

Her father stirred under the covers. “Dad,” she stood at his side, “Can I get you some water?”

Opening his large, blue eyes he declined, “No thank you, sweetheart, but it is cold in here.”

She covered him with another blanket, tucking it lovingly under his feet. He had not slept well for some time. His body grew tired of fighting itself. The doctor told her on his last visit that time was short, and he would be comfortable at home.

“I love you, Dad,” she said, gently kissing him on the cheek.

Sitting down once again to read her book, she was startled by a ‘clink’ to her left. Looking around and seeing nothing, she glanced at her father checking if the noise had caught his attention as well. Not only had he heard the noise, but he was staring in wide-eyed amazement at the foot of the bed—at nothing.

“Dad, Are you all right?” she asked warily. Clink.

“You got your tea,” her father said, still staring into empty space.

A little frightened, Alicia was unsure of what was happening. Her father’s face now held a magical glow and his expression more peaceful than it had been in months. His body had lost its tension, and he was completely relaxed. “Dad?”

Finally, he turned to look at her, “Alicia, honey, it’s all right. Your mother has come for me. Don’t be frightened. I love you very much and I’m proud of you. Thank you, honey, for everything.”

“What do you mean Mom has come for you? Dad, I don’t understand—are you okay?” she asked again.

“Don’t worry sweetheart,” he repeated with love in his eyes, “Everything is okay—your mother is here.”

Suddenly she remembered. She had heard that noise before. It was the sound of her mother’s favorite silver spoon tapping on the gold rim of her china teacup—could her mother really be here with them, right now?

“I love you, Dad. I love you very much. If you can see Mom, please tell her I love her too, ok?”

Just as naturally as could be, her father leaned back on his pillow, smiled deeply and was gone.

Overcome with emotion, Alicia buried her head on his chest and began to weep. Barely noticed at first, a warm presence slowly wrapped itself around her shoulders. The faintest breeze blew upon her cheek, and a soft kiss grazed her skin. With one final ‘clink’ to her left, she lifted her head, and there on the bed beside her, sat her mother’s favorite silver spoon and gold-rimmed china teacup.
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Lora
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PostSubject: Re: Birthday Sentiments   Tue Sep 27, 2011 8:47 pm

I'm a big sap, because I cried nearly through the whole thing. What an endearing story. You are obviously a very talented writer. For those who don't like to spend a lot of time on an entire novel, it's just the right length and packs in plenty of drama. I loved it. Great work.

There were only a couple of things that I caught that you might consider:

This sentence tripped my tongue up, because I think it could use a couple of commas:
The silver-framed picture held a picture, taken only six months before, of her and her father in a nearby park.

In this sentence, I think you were trying to say that he didn't have much hair left, but it could be misconstrued as him only having a few streaks of gray in his hair:
As she rested her head on her father’s shoulder, her long, blonde hair
nestled close to the few silver streaks he had remaining.

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Petaljumper
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PostSubject: Re: Birthday Sentiments   Tue Sep 27, 2011 9:20 pm

Thank you, Lora, I love it! The helps are great too, and I will change my story with those as soon as I get time. Love your feedback, because I love stories like this--where I get goose bumps on my arms as I'm writing them--such a great feeling. :)

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chele
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PostSubject: Re: Birthday Sentiments   Wed Sep 28, 2011 1:36 am

Great story! I had a lump in my throat the whole time.
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PatsyDyer
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PostSubject: Re: Birthday Sentiments   Tue Oct 18, 2011 12:06 pm

I think this is the best short story I've read here yet. Just beautiful.

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