Cecil was still irresistible. Gray streaked his beard, and his laugh lines were deeper, but he was as handsome now as he was twenty-five years ago. Cheryl smiled seeing his reaction to the tub filled with bubbles. Candlelight flickered shadows on the walls and filled the air with Eucalyptus. Moet & Chandon chilled in the ice-filled sink.
“Now I know I messed up.” Cecil turned, and then gathered Cheryl in his arms. “It’s not my birthday.”
She kissed him.
“And, it’s not your birthday.” He cocked an eyebrow. “Right?”
She kissed him harder and sucked on his bottom lip. The knot in her stomach tightened. How could he not remember? She needed him to.
“I have another surprise.” Cheryl pulled away reluctantly, already missing the warmth of his skin. “Get in the tub.”
“Ho, boy.” Cecil grinned. “I come home to steak diane and my favorite chocolate fudge cake, now this. Damn, I’m lucky.” He unbuttoned his shirt and dropped it to the bathroom floor. Pants were next. The belt buckle clinked on the tiles.
Cheryl strolled out of the master bathroom and into the walk-in-closet where a frilly pink teddy set she had dieted for five months to fit into waited. Her hands shook as she unfastened her blouse. “Do you remember the first time I made you steak diane?” she yelled from the bedroom.
She heard splashes as Cecil settled into the tub.
“Um…was it our first date?”
She grimaced. “How about the fudge cake? Remember when we first had it?”
The memory flooded back to her, bringing a blush of color to her cheeks. They were true empty nesters now, with his granddaughter away at the University of Michigan completing her second year.
“Who cares, babe? I’m ready for my surprise.”
Cheryl inhaled a deep breath, whispered a prayer to Saint Christina, then checked her reflection in the floor length mirror. Sometimes she didn’t recognize the woman staring back at her. Despite years of sweating to Jazzercise and nightly cold compress masks, that person was all lumps and sags and bags under her eyes.
She retrieved a red box wrapped with a white ribbon from the nightstand that was cluttered with prescription pill bottles. If anything jogged his memory, it would be this.
Cecil wolf-whistled when she strutted into the bathroom. “Ho, ho, boy.”
Cheryl sauntered to the tub, feeling his gaze traverse her body. She sat on the edge of the tub with the gift behind her back. “We had Tunnel of Fudge cake on the day you proposed.”
Cecil’s brow furrowed.
“Then, on our one year anniversary, the freezer broke, and the top tier of our wedding cake was inedible.”
He drew back from her. “Wha—?”
“So, I made us Tunnel of Fudge cake. We’ve had it every year…on our anniversary.”
“No.” He shook his head, his eyes widening. “That’s not…no.”
Tears welled in Cheryl’s eyes. “Please, Cecil. Please think.”
He shook his head frantically and waved his hand in dismissal. “We went to Hawaii for our anniversary every year ‘cause your brother has a timeshare and, and…I…”
“That was not me,” she snapped, hating the whiney, desperate pitch that took over her voice. “It’s me, Cheryl.”
Cecil fidgeted, splashing water over the side of the tub. “I…I have work tomorrow.”
“You haven’t worked in thirteen years.”
“Susan, you’re going crazy on me again. You need your pills.”
She dropped the box and then grabbed his shoulders. “I need you to remember us.”
“Susan, take your pills.”
Cheryl snatched the box from the floor and shoved it at him. “Open it.”
He pushed it away and tried to stand.
“Open it.” She shoved him down. “Open it.” Water cascaded onto the tiles, soaking the fuzzy bath mat and the front of her teddy. “Open it! Open it! Open it!” she shrieked. “Open it!”
Cecil pressed his body to the farthest side of the tub. He wrapped his arms around his knees.
Cheryl was breathing hard, and her hands were curled into fists. The look of terror on his face forced her to calm down. “I’m sorry. Sorry. Please, open it for me.”
Hesitantly, he took the box and untied the bow. Her heart skipped beats as she waited. Inside was a 1935 Peace Dollar. The silver gleamed in the fluorescent lighting.
“Wha…what is this?” Cecil’s voice quivered.
Tears spilled from her eyes.
“Damn it, Cecil.” Cheryl slapped the box out of his hands and sent it and the coin plopping into the sudsy water. “Remember? You started collecting silver Peace dollars when you found your father’s collection after the funeral.”
A low moan escaped his lips. “My father lives in West Palm Beach. Susan, what’s wrong with you?”
Cheryl screamed, “Susan is your damn ex-wife’s name. I’m Cheryl. Cheryl!” Her face burned with heat. “Today is our anniversary.” She grabbed his arm, digging her nails into his soft muscle. “I’m Cheryl. Cecil, I need you to remember us. Someone has too.”
She pulled her hand away when she noticed drops of blood staining the water. “I’m so sorry.”
Cecil rocked himself in the tub, tears streaming down his cheeks. He gaped at her as if she had lost her mind.
Cheryl wondered the same. She ran out of the bathroom to the kitchen and picked up the phone receiver. For a few seconds, she stared at it, unable to remember who she was supposed to call in times like this. The dial tone buzzed in her ear.
She looked around the kitchen and out into the great room, not recognizing anything or her life anymore. An overwhelming sense of confusion and fear shook through her. Cheryl couldn’t think. What was she supposed to feel? The phone slipped from her fingers.
She wobbled to the living room and then flopped onto the couch. The dial tone changed to an electronic voice that said, “If you’d like to make a call, please hang up and try again… If you’d like to make a call, please hang up and try again.”
Cheryl woke to the sound of unfamiliar voices.
“Daddy could have died sitting in that tub all night. This is unacceptable.”
“I apologize, Miss. Johnson. I didn’t realize she was this forgone or I wouldn’t have left them alone.”
The voices lowered to a murmur.
“Cecil?” Cheryl pushed off the blanket that covered her and sat up.
A woman wearing blue nurse’s scrubs walked towards her from the kitchen holding a steaming mug. The aroma of coffee relaxed Cheryl.
“Good morning, Miss Cheryl,” the nurse said. A Caribbean accent tinged her voice, and a sunny disposition painted her face. She handed the mug to Cheryl. “Breakfast will be ready in fifteen minutes.”
Another woman in a green A-line dress stalked past them to the master bedroom without so much as a sideways glance. Cheryl wondered who she was.
“I’m paying you to take care of daddy,” the woman barked over her shoulder.
The nurse hustled to catch up. “Miss, what am I supposed to do? She’s sick too.”
“Not my mother. Not my problem. Homewreckers get what they deserve. Call her brother’s family to take her.”
Cheryl listened to the rustling in the other room. What’s going on, she wondered. She gripped the mug tight as if to strangle answers out of the warm porcelain.
“I’m taking daddy for the weekend. When we get back, I want her gone and her shit gone from his house. Clear?”
Cheryl couldn’t decipher the nurse’s mumbled reply.
The woman in the green dress stormed into the living room dragging a large rolling suitcase in one hand and Cecil with the other.
“Cecil?” Cheryl smiled and reached out to tug on his sleeve. “Where are you going? It’s our anniversary today. I’m making steak diane and fudge cake. Remember? Your favorite?”
He blinked owlishly at her with his mouth slightly open.
“Finish your coffee, Miss Cheryl,” chirped the nurse. “I’m making waffles for breakfast.”
The woman in the green dress pulled Cecil out the front door. Cheryl hoped he’d be finished with his client early so he’d be home in time for dinner. She had a surprise planned.
I hope you liked this week’s flash fiction post.
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Forget Me Not Copyrighted by Stacy Benedict 2018