The Last Card

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The Last CardThe Last CardCopyright Oggbashan January 2019The author asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work.This is a work of fiction. The events described here are imaginary; the settings and characters are fictitious and are not intended to represent specific places or living persons.Sixty-one years ago I had given Margaret a Valentine Card. It had ‘With All My Love’ written above my name.I had been inspired to buy her a card after her bicycle tyres were punctured. One Friday evening late in January we were on the same commuter train. As usual she would ride her bicycle from the station to her parents’ house but this day was different. She was leaving her old office and starting at another one on Monday, so she was carrying her personal items from the old office. I helped her carry some things from the train to the bicycle. It had a front basket and panniers so she could stow it all. I watched as she put some things in the basket, removed the bike lock, and wheeled it out from the rack.Then she noticed that both tyres were completely flat. She nearly cried. She lived about two miles from the station and couldn’t ride with flat tyres.“Bob? Can I store my bike at your house tonight?” Margaret asked.“Of course,” I replied. “But I might be able to sort the punctures out,” I said.“Punctures! Look. Someone has unscrewed and removed the valves.”She looked at the other dozen or so bikes left on the rack. The valves had been removed from all of them. We couldn’t inform the station staff. It was unmanned except for the morning rush hour.“OK, Margaret. I think I have spare valves. If not, I can take the valves off my bike. I rarely use it. Come on. It isn’t far to my house.”It wasn’t. I was buying a small Victorian end of terrace house about two hundred yards from the station. There was space alongside for the garage and off-road parking for my ancient car.I continued carrying the bags Margaret had given me. She pushed her bicycle. At the house we went in with her possessions. She made tea while I ferreted around in the garage for the cycle repair bits.I had one spare valve, and I took one from my elderly gent’s roadster that I had used before I bought the car. Margaret brought me a mug of tea while I pumped up her tyres. She put the mug down on the bench while I finished.“There. It’s done,” I said. “But I think you will be overloaded. I could run your things up to your parents’ house while you cycle. OK?”“You’re bahis firmaları sure, Bob?” She queried.“Yes. I was going to fill the car up later. Your parents’ house is on the way to the filling station.”“I accept. Thank you. I hadn’t appreciated how much I had accumulated in three years. I won’t need so much on Monday.”She handed me the cup of tea, exactly as I like it. Why not? We had known each other for years since we first started school in the same class. My parents had lived three doors from hers. We were in and out of each other’s houses frequently as neighbours and friends until a couple of years ago when my parents had decided to move to a smaller bungalow. That move had helped to finance my house purchase.Her parents and mine had been very involved in community activities and we had been dragged in as soon as we were old enough. We met frequently at community events and committee meetings. Robert, known as Bob, and Margaret had always been friends but nothing more. Repairing her bike was just one of the things I could do for her, and she could do things for me like helping with the house decoration. She was better at painting than I am.As I put the empty mug down Margaret hugged and kissed me, a proper kiss, unlike the friendly peck on the cheek that had been the greatest acknowledgement she had given me – until now. That was a shock.It took me a couple of days to realise how much that hug and kiss had changed our relationship. Margaret was an attractive adult woman that I had been too close to for too long to appreciate. I had had girlfriends but none had lasted more than a few months. Margaret’s boyfriends had tended to been ‘bad boys’ that her parents disapproved of, as did I. I thought she deserved better than some of the assholes she had attracted.Monday lunchtime I went to a card shop near my office and bought the first ever Valentine card for Margaret.I had intended to post it but she was away on a residential training course until Valentine’s Day, so I gave it to her in person just before a boring committee meeting in my parents’ bungalow. Her reaction startled me. She pushed me into an armchair, sat on me, and kissed me furiously. She stayed sitting on me throughout the meeting. That was a public declaration that amused the other committee members. From that evening onwards, Margaret and Robert were an item.The following year I gave Margaret another Valentine Card, three weeks before our wedding date. Her reaction kaçak iddaa was nearly as marked as for the original card.I loved Margaret. She loved me. Every year I gave her a Valentine Card in person. Every year she reacted as if I had given her something special, but they were only cheap basic cards. My words were the same each year, a reminder of how special Margaret was for me. The c***dren found it amusing when they were young, and endearing when they were old enough to appreciate how much their parents loved each other that a simple card could produce so much response.Of course I told her that I loved her many times every year and always on the anniversary of our wedding day, on her birthday, and New Year. But Valentine’s Day was special for both of us.Why had she reacted so much to the first one? She had broken up with her previous boyfriend about six months earlier, not after an argument but because they had realised that their life priorities had been different. He wanted to travel, to see the world, and perhaps settle down in his thirties. Margaret wanted stability because her parents had dragged her around Europe as a youngster. She wanted a base, somewhere she could make her home, and someone with whom she could build a family. I was boring, conventional but secure. My card reminded her that I had been her friend and neighbour for years, helping whenever she needed me, no matter what her current relationship might be. My card stating ‘All My Love’ she recognised as a sincere declaration from me. She said, years later, that opening that card was like recognising what she had been overlooking for months – that I loved her for who she was, not as who she might be.Sixty plus years ago we were very decorous. Until we were engaged we didn’t go further than hugs and kisses. Even after I was her fiancé we kept everything above the waist, even in private. Margaret was a virgin on her wedding night. So was I. We soon learned how to please each other, in and out of bed. Sixty years later we still knew how and although slower and more measured, we enjoyed sex. She had faults; so did I. But we knew and accepted our flaws. She would push me outside my comfort zone where I was often too staid. She would have short-lived enthusiasms that didn’t last, such as making her own clothes despite her incompetence. I would support her endeavours and live with her disappointments – until the next new hobby.I sold my house. We bought our own larger kaçak bahis house with help from both sets of parents. We paid off the mortgage while we were both working. Margaret became pregnant with our first-born six months after our final repayment. She worked part-time for two years before she became pregnant again and became a full-time mother to the grandmother’s relief. My mother-in-law coped admirably with the first baby but admitted she would have struggled with a two year old and a baby. Even Margaret found that an ordeal. Sometimes I would come home from work to find a tearful wife and fractious c***dren.But I loved her; she loved me; we both loved the c***dren. The yearly Valentine Card brightened Margaret’s low point in early February. We had lost a baby late in a January and the anniversary was sad for both of us. She knew she would get it and that I really meant the words I wrote each year. I never understood why Margaret chose me. I knew she loved me, almost as much as I loved her. Each morning I had a brief sense of disbelief that she was in bed beside me. I hated leaving her to go to work but however busy she was she would kiss me as I left. I would be hugged as soon as I was home unless the c***dren were being demanding. If so, I’d get the hug and kiss when she could.I have been retired for decades. I was worried that being home all day would be boring and would upset Margaret’s routine. She didn’t let me be bored, dragging me out for various activities and showing that she wanted me, every day.But now it was time for me to say my last goodbye. At the end of January Margaret had a stroke. She lived barely long enough to get to the hospital with me holding her hand in the ambulance. She gave me a crooked smile, and then she was gone.I had already bought this year’s Valentine Card and had written ‘With All My Love’ inside it, ready to give it to her on Valentine’s Day which is now the date of her funeral. We didn’t make it to our sixtieth wedding anniversary. That didn’t matter. Last year we had celebrated the sixtieth anniversary of that first Valentine Card – in bed.Now I have to say a few words about Margaret to the assembled family and friends. As I walk to the pulpit I place the last Valentine Card on her coffin. It will be buried with her.I look around. Our son and daughter, their c***dren and our great-grandc***dren are all looking at me. All of them are reminders of how much Margaret and I shared our love for over sixty years.I’ll tell them about that first, and now the last Valentine Card. I won’t cry. I have had so much love for those sixty years that I need to celebrate, not regret.“Margaret – you still have all my love.”

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