18 May, 2013

Heroes - A Short Story

His wrinkled, weathered hand softly fell on hers. His calloused thumb gently traced the dancing lines of her aged palm, time hiding her scars, a dozen times broken and bruised from the job.

She sat on the armchair next to his, sleeping silently, her body not able to handle even the lazy days anymore. She couldn’t make it through a sunny and warm Spring Tuesday without dozing off, her mind trying in vain to repair the damage done many times over, so long ago.

A docile smile sat on her gentle face while she slept; she looked so peaceful – so happy. He sat in his chair, thumb grazing her hand as a single tear welled in the crease of his eye and slid down his cheek, navigating the moguls that were his permanent scars and lines.

He brandished a handkerchief with his free hand and pressed it into the tear, salt-water soaked into the thread-worn linen as he saw his beautiful wife sleeping beside him. He saw her scars and wounds, far from pink – now a faded purple – and he couldn’t believe how lucky he was to have her, how lucky he was to have such a beautiful creature. It made his heart weep.

It wasn’t that long ago she wielded her golden blades, armour-clad bodice hugged her tall frame and muscled body as she gracefully fought under the glow of street lamps  She fought like a dancer, beautifully deadly, and moved like a prima ballerina. Every step focused and with purpose, she was one of the most powerful heroes of their time. Her confident face was highlighted by the moon as she smiled and laughed, sparring and dodging villains like she was a leaf caught in the wind.

He could still see the joy in her sparkling green eyes, wiping the blood that trickled down her brow, unaffected by pain.

It had been decades since they fought side by side as partners and lovers. His knees were the first to go; the super-human strength really wore down his joints. Twice the doctors told him he would need to get surgery if he intended to keep up his routine. Stabs of guilt had ripped through him like talons every time he thought he wouldn’t be unable to keep up with his omnipotent wife. Twice he declined, and his position grew worse as the years went by.

Other Heroes came and went, all having eyes for her. But she only had eyes for him. He remembered her smiling, the sides of her mouth sliding up and the corners of her eyes crinkling as she shot him a shy smile when they met. They were being awarded the key to the city – he and a few other heroes – and she kept glancing his way, catching his golden eyes.

They were young then, and they’ve been together ever since. They day after his knees gave out she collapsed. Over the years of fighting, her head set with beautiful flowing blonde hair took so many blows she had lost count. So many times she had blacked out in alleys, home, or hospitals. Doctors warned her too many concussions could be dangerous but she had people who depended on her so she pressed on. He was so proud of her then. Now he felt that familiar guilt – searing through his body, coursing through his veins. He shouldn’t have let her continue.

She had a brain aneurysm that had burst, caused by the constant trauma to her head and neck. She recovered but was never quite the same.

They retired (they were in their late 40’s at the time after all) and had lived out their golden years in a cottage by the lake that was skittled with homes occupied by other retired heroes. Most days he gardened in the warm caress of the sun, wiping sweat and dirt off his brow as he took iced glasses of sweet tea from his wife, the condensation of the glass pooling onto his fingertips as he kissed her first. The tea could wait.

She read on the porch, stories of heroes gone by, tales of might and magic; she always secretly wished she could go back. Go back to when her mind was as sharp as her blades, and his body was as taught and hard as his physical love for her. She would reminisce on the porch as she watched him garden, and on some days she would sit and read by their fountain in the grass. The water spouting up and onto itself, the content gurgle of the streams relaxed her as she dipped in her hands, water misting her skin.

She smiled slightly as she slept on the chair beside him; her dreamscape was as coloured and wonderful as her memories. His love would be just as coloured and wonderful, until the last of his days.

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