It had rained during the night. The black pavement of the driveway was wet. She was standing at the window, looking out. Her eyes were deep green puddles. From the bottom of the stairway, in the dim early morning light, he could see her reflection in the window.
“Are you ready?” he asked.
She dabbed at her eyes with her shirt sleeve, turned to him and, trying to smile, nodded yes. He shuffled across the room to her.
“Let’s go, then,” he said, barely louder than a whisper. He reached out his arms and she slid between them and buried her head in his chest, her right hand coming to rest on his left shoulder. His hands around her waist, he pulled her close. Outside it was clear to the east and the sky was lighting up, but they both knew that more rain was on the way. She started to cry.
“I’m so sorry,” she said, each word punctuated by harsh and loud sobs. She could feel his body shaking. “I never dreamed it’d come to this …”
“Now, now, we’ll have none of that.” He was still taller than her, that hadn’t changed. That may have been the only thing that hadn’t changed.
He held her tight. Finally, she pulled back, still in his arms but not as tight. She looked up at his face. His eyes were staring at the hallway behind her, urgent and unblinking.
“Is it …” she started.
He nodded yes, his gaze never leaving the hallway.
She slowly and carefully pulled back, and he released her from their embrace, his eyes still fixated on the hallway. She looked at the hallway, even though she knew it was empty. She couldn’t help it, every time he saw him, she had to look, even though she knew he wasn’t there. Maybe it’s because every time, something deep inside her, against all logic and reason, made her hope that this time he’d be there, that she would see him, too. But she never would, and each time she felt foolish for having looked.
“We’d better get going,” he finally said, his eyes still fixed on the empty hallway.
“Okay,” she said, as she picked up his bag and moved toward the front door. He remained in the same spot in the living room, still staring at the empty hallway. Her hand on the doorknob, she turned to him.
“How does he look today?” she asked.
“He looks good,” he replied. “He looks good.”
He turned his head and looked at the door, at his wife, and forced a feeble smile around his mouth. His eyes didn’t participate. They remained empty. Then, with a sudden jerk, he became unfrozen, and turned and shuffled across the living room to the door. As she opened it, he took one last look towards the hallway, then he took her hand, and they walked out to the driveway, to the parked car. She put his bag in the trunk, then she opened the passenger door. As he folded up his stiff and creaking body and got in, it started to rain, a slight drizzle. Tiny drops of water bounced off of the pavement.
Her eyes were deep green puddles.