Olivia held the phone and stared out at the falling snow. She was silent as Suzanna casually mentioned that she was going to bring a friend along to dinner that night – Mark, her husband’s old college friend, who was in town for a few days.
“Just to make it an even six.”
Olivia resented the intrusion. “You know I hate to be set up.”
“It’s not a set up. But you might like him. He’s very nice. And good-looking.”
“It was supposed to be just you and Janet and your husbands. I hate cooking for strangers.”
“I’m sorry, it was an impulse. He’s here on business and I thought, he’s single, you’re single...”
“Because I want to be.”
“Come on, Olivia. It’s been over five years. It’s time you –”
“See you at seven.” She hung up.
Olivia picked up the framed photograph on the desk. A handsome man laughed into the camera, shielding his eyes from the sun. She was used to speaking out loud to him. She lived alone and didn’t have to worry about what anyone thought.
“How can they know that I still feel you here? That after I first saw you, it was too late for anyone else. With all our faults, all our long years of trying, I would not have traded it for anything.”
She kissed the photograph and put it back on the desk. The snow lightly piled up on the window ledge.
Later in the day, Olivia set the table, and carefully arranged the flowers she had bought earlier. Some branches with bright red berries had caught her eye at the florist’s down the street. She now mixed them with white tulips and pine boughs – perfect for the season.
It was just yesterday that he had brought her flowers. Yesterday, thirty years ago. She loved the way flowers mattered to him, how he took his choices seriously, trying to please her with something new. She smiled as she remembered how he once brought her a bouquet of beautiful mixed roses, and shook his head.
“No,” he said. “I’m not satisfied. There’s no fragrance.”
And the birthday he couldn’t be there. When she arrived home, she followed a trail of pink and red roses that led to the bedroom. On their bed, spelled in petals, Happy Birthday, My Love. She left them on the bed that night. She still had a few of them in her jewelry box. Dry, brown petals now.
Olivia looked at the long skirt and emerald blouse that she had earlier laid out on her bed. She put them back in the closet, and decided on a black turtleneck sweater and black pants. She was looking forward to seeing her friends. And they wouldn’t stay long.
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