Kellie McBride observed her sleeping husband with tears in her eyes. She never thought she’d ever be so lucky. As a plain, chubby teenager, she remembered writing a list of all the attributes she wanted in a husband. Thinking back, she could see herself writing in her pink diary, worrying her pen with her teeth as she lay on her belly, feet up and crossed. She wrote: “Must be kind and sweet, with a wicked sense of humor. Must love animals and compassionate to others. And above all, must love me with all his heart and soul.” She remembered feeling envious of her peers with their skinny jeans and belly shirts. Cheerleaders flaunting lithe, tight bodies as she could barely run around the gym without feeling the strain. God sure smiled down when He gave her John.
When she met John, she knew right away that he was one. His green eyes sparkled with humor and kindness as he walked his dogs; two very stubborn bulldogs. Bulldogs, known for their laid back demeanor and John’s were the epitome of laziness. Suddenly deciding they’d had enough of walking, both abruptly sat on the trail surrounding St. Jude’s Park, refusing to budge an inch. After coaxing and pleading, Kellie watched from a park bench as the man sat down with his dogs and shared his water with them, acting like it was the most normal thing in the world to do, like they did this everyday. She laughed at loud, getting the attention of each of the lazy hounds and John himself. As they talked, it felt like they’d known each other for years and six months later, they were married. Now, unparalleled, her heart was shattering in slow motion. Cancer simmering softly and fiercely inside his bones, he was given a year to cram in a lifetime. Laying beside him, resenting sleep, she fell into a troubled dream, hair damp with sorrow.
The dream was rich, resplendent with vivid color and illumination. Mountains lay like slumbering, white-capped giants to the north, nestled between lush green forests. Tucked between the mountains and the Great Plains, a small Indian village bustled with activity in the early morning mist. As if she were watching as a spectator, Kellie saw a lone Indian woman come out of the mist carrying a handwoven basket brilliant with reds and blues. Walking quickly for the shelter of the trees, her face was a study of concern and sorrow. She walked for many hours, until finally, she stopped, raising her hands to the sky in exaltation. Bowing her head in prayer, she picked the plant she’d walked so far for with great reverence, placing it gently in the basket. When she stood, she looked directly at Kellie, as if seeing her and said,
“Let the plant grow.”
Kellie woke feeling refreshed for the first time in weeks. After showering, she checked her still sleeping husband, noticing for the first time how frail he looked beneath the covers. He was dropping weight rapidly, his skin jaundiced and dry. His compromised body making his liver work overtime, the toxins having nowhere to go but out through the skin. Kissing his papery cheek, she headed down to the kitchen, greeted by Jack’s bulldogs, their little stubs wagging overtime.
“Hey, you guys!” she bent to hug and kiss them, a morning ritual they loved. Mushing their abundantly wrinkled muzzles, she picked up their bowls to prepare a breakfast of kibbles and bacon. Kellie stared out of the kitchen window into her beautiful garden as she mixed the dog’s meals. Noticing weeds slowly taking over, she fed the hungry boys and headed outside with a pair of gardening gloves. She’d neglected her garden for too long. Time to get her hands dirty. Kellie loved her yard. Filled with dogwood and cherry trees, spring was a cornucopia of delicious odors and a carpet of pink and white blossoms. Her garden was a mixture of flowering perennials and herbs. Bee Balm to make sweet smelling satchels and delicious Hummingbird bread, Yarrow for teas, fever and rashes, Lemon Balm for flavoring, tea, and flowers for eye candy. Handpicked rocks and stones littered the garden, standing out for their individual colors, shapes, and uniqueness, each stone handpicked. Last year’s project, a path of mosaic design with colored stones and sea glass. It was her proudest garden accomplishment. Taking most of the summer to complete, it was truly a masterpiece, gaining the attention of passerby’s much to Kelly’s delight.
As she admired the garden, she noticed a plant she’d never seen before. Tall, almost three feet, she knew it wasn’t there yesterday. It looked like a weed and just as she was going to pull it out, she remembered her dream.
“Let the plant grow.”
Chills raced up her spine at the memory. Pulling her hand back as if burned, she stared at its fleshy stems and thickly veined leaves in clumps of six. She stood quickly, stepping back in shock as flowers appeared to grow right in front of her. The start of fiery orange buds were prevalent up and down the stem and little spiny fruits peeped between the flowers shyly. With her phone, she took several pictures as the woman in her dreams’ words ‘Let the plant grow’, echoed over and over in her mind. She decided to listen.
At ten o’clock, Kellie went upstairs to help John with his morning routine of bathing, shaving, and dressing. He could still do all of these things for himself, but this was their time together. She told him about the plant in the garden as she smoothed warm lotion in slow, lazy circles on his back, going over each protruding vertebrae with tender, loving care.
“Maybe fairies planted it there,” he teased, “fairies and wood nymphs.”
Kellie playfully rumpled his chestnut colored curls. “Oh, stop, you, before I use COLD lotion!”
“Kell, did I ever tell you about the time our family dog killed a mama rabbit?” he asked softly.
“No, baby, how awful!” she answered, kneeling on the floor down next to him, face to face, “What happened?”
“Well, when I was about six, we found babies she’d left behind. Four little babies, Kell, so freaking cute,” he went on, “and we took them home where my mother lovingly placed them in in a box with a soft blanket and tried feeding them with an eyedropper. But then one died and like a chain reaction, each little bunny died one right after the other. I remember crying my eyes out thinking that mom could make them live again. But she couldn’t. She couldn’t make them breathe again. It was my very first experience with death.”
“Oh, baby,” Kellie cried softly, moving in closer, wrapping her arms around him. “Are you scared?”
“Not of dying,” he said, “Of being without you after I just found you.”
They clung to one another, weeping, falling asleep in one another’s arms.
© 2017, RissRyker518. All rights reserved.
The author has granted WritersCarnival.ca, its affiliates and syndicates non-exclusive rights to display this work.