Only Time - 1 of 3

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Who can say
where the road goes
where the day flows
only time
And who can say
if your love grows
as your heart chose
only time

The diner saw few customers for a Thursday night; the late concert and fireworks in the borough park saw to entertaining the town for the evening. Still, the customers were as animated as usual. Dar looked around, noting familiar faces that evoked both pain and peace as friendships that had lapsed were sadly but fondly recalled.

“Excuse me, Miss?” The man waved and pointed to his wife’s plate. Dar walked quickly to the booth.

“What can I do for you?” She wanted to add, “Dave?” but thought better of it. She wasn’t hiding by any means, but neither did she want to stick out; the idea that anyone could recognize her came and went without much thought since she didn’t much care what anyone might think, even if she still cared for the people who frequented the place. It just didn’t seem to be the time.

“My wife’s burger is really undercooked. Would you mind?” He held up the plate. Medium isn’t supposed to bleed all over the plate, and the fries aren’t supposed to be colored red, no matter what seasoning, she thought with a grin. She received the proffered plate and walked back to the kitchen after nodding politely. Dave was a tad controlling, but he meant well, and really, Marge rarely complained if at all; such was her resolve to be a kind and gentle person. A few minutes later she came back with a substitute burger.

“I’ll take this off the check.” A marginally satisfying gesture for her, but still it was what she could do to make it up to him, even if he didn’t realize that even after sitting and looking up at someone who had been his best friend.

* * *

She tossed the uniform top onto her bed and quick stepped out of the slacks. A very long shift made even longer by some of the tenacious aches and pains that accompanied her not even yet middle age; never a terribly strong person, the last few years had seen a bit of a rally made even more satisfying in that the body that complained on a daily basis finally seemed satisfied after screams for change were met with a single if irrevocable decision to get the help her whole being had requested almost since she was able to talk.

She padded across the bedroom carpet and winced only slightly as her bare feet hit the cold tile of the bathroom floor. She looked in the mirror. Things never looked….never, ever looked the way she had hoped and dreamed they would. A bypassed adolescence and young adulthood followed by a middle age spent in satisfying the expectations of a marriage that ended too soon from the ravages of cancer. She looked again in the mirror, touching her face. Crow’s feet, often the bane of a mature woman, seemed to declare, ‘this is what a nicely aged woman looks like.’

Dar was still glad that at least she could say she was as pretty even if as old as some. Her fading ginger hair, normally the hue of rapidly thinning and fading tresses, seemed to hold on stubbornly; perhaps a ‘reward’ for being so patient.

“You’re really looking pretty good,” she said to her reflection; a joke she shared with herself. While not a glamorous or even terribly pretty woman, she was happy that she actually did look ‘pretty good’ on most days and actually didn’t look ‘half-bad’ on those days we’d all like to avoid. She touched her throat and recalled the only outward sign of who she had been other than a wee bit of down that traversed the distance between her wrist and her upper arm.

“Dear diary,” she said with a slight laugh. Never one for documenting the day on paper or even on pixel, she never the less chronicled the day’s events in a dialog before bedtime.

“Dave is looking tired; I’m wondering if things have gotten to that stage?” She remembered how worn both of them looked only hours before. Marge normally didn’t accompany Dave to the diner, but this evening things looked much worse than she could recently recall. She sighed, remembering the day that Dave took Marge’s hands in his and spoke vows that would be tested over and over across the years; ‘for better or for worse’ seemed to be a cruel tease, but paled in comparison to the sad taunting of ‘in sickness and in health.’ No two people deserved happiness more than those two and Dar shook her head and blinked out tears remembering that no two people seemed further away from happiness than Dave and Marge….

“No…” she thought to herself, “that’s not right at all.” It was in spite of all the tests they underwent that tempered the happiness they enjoyed in the love they shared; a daughter gone from an auto accident and a son lost in a sea of faces on a wall at a monument yet to be built for a day always to be remembered. The only child to survive blessed the two with a grandchild that would likely be born too late to meet his grandmother. The patience of Job tempered with an undying love for a woman soon to depart this earth. Yes. If anyone deserved happiness it was those two.

She reached in and turned on the shower. Pulling off her bra, she smiled at her reflection. Never to be remotely spoken as buxom, her slight frame seemed to recall Audrey Hepburn even if she reached five-ten in her stocking feet. Following quickly, she pulled off her panties and stepped into the shower. She looked down and recalled the past. Nothing was ever hated or despised; her life before and her life after marked by a necessary but oddly never urgent change. She nevertheless was happy; what was that expression they used to use? Ah, yes. Addition by subtraction.

She soaped up and began to cleanse herself from the cares of the day. Somehow there was nothing to be done about the pain and sadness she felt for her friends; even if they didn’t recall just how special they had always been to her. She remembered the look on Marge’s face at the restaurant. Never the one to complain at even the greatest of slights that was destroying her from the inside out, she was sadly and wrongly embarrassed when she spoke up. What was wrong with asking for her order to be fixed? Marge never felt that she deserved better than anyone else if that, and could almost never apprehend just how special a woman she was. Dar thought of the couple and how they seemed to ‘dovetail’ as two so superbly suited for each other. And she thought of how painful that conclusion had been.

“She loves you, Dave…. You and only you.” An admission that was both true and excruciating at the same time. A straightened tie followed by a hug and a kiss on the neck and a prayer. Two friends walking slowly into a very full gallery of people in a church filled with love. Marge walking down the aisle, escorted by a kind man while a woman in front beamed proudly at both of her children. The bride who gave her heart to her beloved. And the young man who stood by his best friend’s side. What’s that old verse say? ‘Greater love hath no man…no one…than to lay down his …their life for a friend?’

Dar thought again of that day; a smile softened by tears? Or was it a frown lightened by laughter. Two hearts beating gently and in time with each other…well one was wearing down and would soon cease to beat at all save in Dave’s own heart. Dar thought of Marge and put her hand to her face; her still soapy palm causing her eyes to sting. She began to weep at the loss that was yet to come. And she closed her eyes, remembering a time not so long ago when she stood next to her best friend wondering how things had been. If life had been cruel for them, how much more cruel had it been for her; wanting to tell Dave how much she…had loved Dave. How life could have been if she hadn’t waited so long to make the decision of a life time.

“It’s time,” she said to no one while still announcing it to the universe. She might never share her love with the man she cherished, but she would tell Dave and Marge who she was. Darien was going to celebrate two events in three days. The birth of Darren, who would have turned 44, and Darien, who would celebrate both her 44th and her 6th birthday. What separated her from being finally who she was? Only time.

To be continued...

Only Time
words and music by
Roma Ryan and
Eithne Ná­ Bhraoná¡in
Performed by
Eithne Ná­ Bhraoná¡in

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This story is 1562 words long.