The bench was a favourite. Set back a little from the estuarine shore, its weathered grey timbers forming a gently sloped seat with a high curve for the back, it was surprisingly comfortable.
He sat there, looking across the bay. Bright afternoon light glistened diamonds from every ripple on the sapphire sea. He took a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped desultorily at the moisture pooling in his eyes. Perhaps it was the brilliance of the sun.
She was beside him. “You look so handsome sitting there …”
He smiled gently. She always called him handsome and he responded as ever with, “How could it be different, married to the most beautiful girl in the world …?”
Elizabeth smiled, an inner light illuminating eyes as green as the Scottish fens from whence she came. Beautiful in youth, beautiful while carrying the fruit of their loins, beautiful through her middle age, the prime years of her life, then maintaining a radiant beauty even as she entered the evening of her existence, he had loved her for all time, or so it seemed. He’d known from the very first moment of meeting they were meant to be. For him, there had never been anyone else, never a sideways glance. And it had been the case with her.
He spoke gently, “Our Isla’s about to present us with a great-grandchild …”
“Yes, Darling, I know.”
“You do …?” He seemed surprised.
“Gosh yes. Don’t you remember we talked about it? That they’ve had a peek and know she’s a little girl?” She paused a moment, a smile of recollection passing fleetingly across her face, tempered by her concern at his failing memory. “It’s so different to the way it was in our day.”
The glare of the sun must have been especially bright today. He fumbled a little with the hankie as he wiped again at the moisture welling in his eyes.
His thoughts, too, were on the decades they’d shared. “It was a wonderful time: Our life … our family …” His face creased in happy memory. “Even the bumpy ride we had at times with David, I guess.”
“Yes,” she chuckled, “and look at him now, head of an iconic organisation that does so much good. Darling, he really is like you. Don’t forget, I knew from your mother that you, too, were a bit of a wild hawk as a child!”
He gave her a look of mock annoyance before chuckling softly at the memory.
They were at peace in the sun; warm in the mild spring weather; warm, too, with the pleasure of their own company. They had married half a century earlier, lived their life and raised their family in this lovely bayside village.
“This was always our favourite place.” His face glowed with pleasure.
He proposed here, so formal, on bended knee, intent on doing it right. But it all came unstuck when she squealed, “Yes!” and threw herself at him. Picking themselves up again from the tangled heap in which they found themselves, he’d chuckled and then managed, “Well, I hope our life together is a bit less dramatic!”
They laughed together at the memory. A wee drop crept down one cheek and once more he wiped it away with his hankie. The glare of the sun …!
They chatted away for a while. He had no idea how long, but then she turned to him and looked deep into his eyes. “It’s time to go.”
He made to respond but already her shape was fading, ephemeral. He thought he heard her words, “I love you …,” although could not be entirely sure. Perhaps it was a whisper of memory or wishful thinking or the wash of the sea against the pier. Then he knew: He could hear her voice, quietly yet firmly, “Darling, you only have to think of me …”
“Oh Elizabeth, I know. I know.”
The moisture swelled and welled over, runnels tracking down his cheeks. On this occasion, he allowed it to happen. He didn’t think, ever before, the glare of the sun had such an effect on him.