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Red with exertion, he smiled at her with the kindest eyes she had ever seen. And she thought, maybe this new city wasn’t so bad after all.
Love at 5 is when you share your cookie with the new kid at the playground. And when she leaves to go play on the big scary slide that makes you dizzy, you stand up and yell, “Hey. Hey! I’m coming too!”
Love at 10 is rushing to the library, every day of summer break. Borrowing books you’ll never read. Just to catch a glimpse of her blushing and turning pages a few tables away.
Love at 15 is arguing intensely about colleges and career paths. The future eclipsed by the warmth of his hands intertwined with yours under the table.
Love at 20 is seeing him at the store with his new girlfriend. Walking by them without so much as a glance, head held high and heart beating too fast. Hoping he doesn’t call out to you (please call out, I miss you).
Love at 25 is speeding to her apartment in the city. Grinning and hoping madly as you look at the engagement ring on the seat next to you.
Love at 30 is wiping her tears as she leaves for work. Closing the door, you pick up the baby and whisper “let’s go bake mommy some cookies”.
Love at 35 is a maelstrom of sleepless nights and ugly fights. Work, children, taxes, friends. Love struggles hard to stay relevant- through small, tender touches and heartfelt apologies whispered in the middle of the night.
Love at 40 is almost typing divorce in the search bar. Then hitting backspace and searching for local marriage counselors instead. After resentment, rage, betrayal, and grief, the only thing your heart is capable of now is Love.
Love at 50 is pumping weights religiously at the gym. “Slow down,” says your trainer. “Can’t! I’m getting married next month”. “To whom?” he asks. You giggle like a teenager and proclaim, “To my wife!”
Love at 60 is hugging him and crying wordlessly as you watch your youngest child leave the nest. After a good cleansing minute, you smile up at him and ask “Now that the house is empty, how about that 3rd honeymoon?”
Love at 70 is sitting at the back of the community college classroom and scribbling furiously on a piece of paper. Then passing it sneakily to the seat in front of you and beaming as she circles “yes I’ll go on a date with you”.
Love at 80 is getting matching tattoos on beautiful, wrinkled arms. “Foxy, Sexy and Cancer free”.
Love at 90 is lying down on the bed, a trembling hand on the empty space beside you. You close your eyes and see the little girl who came to your park. A million years ago. And just when the grief is finally too much, you fall asleep so you can meet her again.
Sometimes, it’s really that simple isn’t it?
It was a cold windy day at the playground. The little girl was new to the city. “I don’t like it here mamma. Can we go please?” Then as an afterthought, she added. “I’m hungry.”
“You can have my snack”, came a squeaky voice. She turned, pigtails smacking her in the cheek. A small hand offered her a cookie. A boy, not much older, looked at her curiously.
(Had she met him before? Would she see him ever again?)
After a pause, she took the cookie and bit into it. Gooey and delicious, it filled her mouth with an explosion of chocolatey warmth. She ran to the big, blue slide and heard him yell from behind- “Hey. Hey. I’m coming too!”
So she stood there and waited. Watched him hitch up his pants and come racing, a whirlwind of scrawny arms and legs. Red with exertion, he smiled at her with the kindest eyes she had ever seen. And she thought, maybe this new city wasn’t so bad after all.
Editor’s note: This story was shortlisted for the April 2019 Muse of the Month contest, even though it wasn’t one of the top 5 winners.
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