Eligible Bachelor

A lady in white, who used to be my lady, sits silently upon a marble bench in the churchyard of my youth, a silver ladle lying in the wet grass at her feet, stale frosting and cake crumbs dusting her lips and her breasts.
It was an anxious, tormented love, she felt, for me, like a cold rain chastening her heart. She had defined it so often, justified it more often than that.
She had ventured into the churchyard that cold and clammy November morn, had walked a mile of grey shadows and stone. It was a misstep, once made, and she couldn’t help but look up at me as she tumbled down, down, and down the moonlit shaft into a crypt below, white orchids clenched tightly in her hands.
In this quiet place, she could forget, could forget the loneliness and time. Could forget me, and I her. Or so she thought. You see, the churchyard was filled with the wounded, and she belonged there, certainly, but there was no place for her, not while she still felt alive.
And so I would wait, six months, a year, until the screaming stopped, then I would come back to her, when she had lost all hope, when the chill had set permanently into her bones. She would want me then, and I would have forgiven her her refusals.
You think me odd, but a woman needs time to come to her senses. In the gloaming, she was not without her loveliness. The grey slag of her skin shimmering in the torch light, she seemed less bitter now, less brittle than a day without rain ago.
“I brought champagne, my dear.”
Her lips said yes.
Her whole body said yes. The lace in her bodice disintegrated, the blue veins in her breasts flushed with moonlight as she stared into the distance she knew only as me.
She begged me take her, begged like she’d never had before as the shadows, spun from cobwebs and tears, collected in the damp corners and empty spaces around us.
They would bear witness, finally, to our love and to our only moment of wedded bliss.
I hated to leave her. Hated to deceive her, but I desired another. So fickle are the passions of a man, and eventually, she, too, would find herself here — waiting. They all do. Waiting for me to touch them, to love them just a little.

By Cheryl Anne Gardner


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