Katherine looked into her daughter’s dark eyes. She loved the face with its smile and the blonde hair under the white bonnet. “The King of Wands is coming home,” she said.
Darla went into a little dance, her face all lit up like a Christmas tree trimmed in lights. She was a whirling dervish dancing before her mother, excitement pouring from her ten-year-old body, singing, “The King of Wands is coming home.” So much joy for a sailor who never stayed home. Then Darla stopped her dancing. “Will he stay this time?”
“Probably not,” Katherine answered.
Darla’s shoulders dropped. “Just like the King of Wands.”
Katherine was not happy. But she did not share her unhappiness with Darla. She was tired of the man who checked in for a couple of weeks, then was off for months. For fifteen years, Katherine endured. Each time he came home she hoped this was the last time he went away.
She tired of the life she lived, so she met another man a few days earlier. Horace was an older man, a widower of ten years. They were shopping for vegetables. Her hand went for the potatoes. His hand went for the potatoes. It was an absent-minded, accidental thing for the both of them.
“Sorry.” Horace drew back his hand.
Katherine managed to get out, “’S’okay.”
Neither knew what to say. So they said nothing for the next few minutes. They just stared into each other’s eyes.
Then Horace broke the silence. “You come here often?”
“Most everyday,” the words stumbled out of Katherine. “I like our vegetables fresh. And you?”
“Only occasionally. It’s on my way from the doctor’s.”
“Are you okay?” Concern entered Katherine’s voice, concern for the tall, white-haired man standing in front of her.
“It’s just my semi-annual physical.”
Relieved, Katherine let out a sigh.
“Would you like to get a glass of wine?” Horace let out. “I hear they have very good wines at the café next door.”
Katherine’s face blushed. No man had asked her out for years. Or perhaps they had tried. She ignored them because of her devotion to the King of Wands. Then she smiled. “Why not.”
At the café, the two laid their lives out on the table. At the end of the conversation, Horace asked, “Would you like to go to see a film? One afternoon, that is?”
Katherine’s pulse was racing. Her thoughts were “When?” But she did not let on to this. She simply said, “Maybe. What did you have in mind?”
“There’s a movie theater that shows classics and foreign films nearby.”
“I know the place.” She didn’t but she would find it.
“Next week they are showing ‘Jules and Jim’. It’s Truffaut.”
“I love Truffaut.”
“Then next Wednesday we can meet here at noon, have lunch, then see the film.”
“You’re not a sailor, are you?” she asked.
“I’m afraid not. I get seasick.”
As they readied to part, she let the older man kiss her on the cheek. Then she returned to the grocer for her vegetables. Darla would be home from school soon.
And so would the King of Wands. For the last time.