Lucas let out a soft yawn and sat up slowly, swinging his legs over the side of the bed. His lower back ached slightly as he did so, and he couldn’t help but wince at the pain. I’m getting so damn old… He thought to himself, almost amused as he sat on the edge of the bed, allowing his weary eyes to adjust to the morning light.
Not even bothering to put on his glasses, he pulled himself out of bed at last and slowly headed down the stairs. What time is it? Lucas wondered. Mel must have left without me… He shook his head. She could have at least woken me up…
As he crossed through the dining room and into the kitchen, Lucas’ eyes fell on the trio of wedding pictures that hung on the wall across from him. As he so often did, Lucas smiled wistfully at the sight of them. Even without his glasses, he could make out his and Mel’s faces easily enough. It was almost surreal to look at those old pictures, and realize just how much things had changed… He was so young back then, and pretty easy on the eyes, if he said so himself…
What happened? The old man chuckled softly, his eyes now lingering on his wife’s face beside his. And then there’s Mel… Still just as gorgeous as she was back then. He thought to himself as his smile widened.
It was hard to believe that they’d be celebrating 43 years of marriage in just a few weeks. Where had the time gone? Before too long it’ll be 45… He thought in amazement. And then… Lucas shook his head, not allowing himself to finish the careless thought.
No. He told himself firmly as he fought back the unpleasant twisting sensation that had creeped into his stomach. One day at a time, remember? Lucas turned away and crossed the threshold into the kitchen.
He headed straight for the coffeemaker, just as he did every morning, and found a small notepad lying open beside it.
Good Morning, Sleepyhead!
I didn’t want to wake you, so I drove myself. I’ll be back in a few hours. The coffee should be all ready to go, just turn it on!
See you soon.
Coffee in hand, Lucas passed by the fridge and opened one of the cabinets above the sink. He rummaged around the many variously-shaped bottles bearing his wife’s name before finally finding the small brown bottle that contained his heart medication. He opened the container and retrieved one of the large blue and white capsules inside, swallowed it with a large swig of his coffee, and returned the pill bottle back to the cabinet.
As he turned away to head back into the dining room and finish his coffee, Lucas’ gaze fell upon the large glass bowl that sat on the corner of the counter. He could not help but sigh at the sight of it. Day after day the fish sat there, swimming endlessly in circles around its tiny bowl. He always tried to avoid looking at it whenever possible, but some days, he could not help it.
Lucas hated that fish more than anything. He could not count the number of times he’d considered flushing it down the toilet, or throwing it down the garbage disposal, or frying it up for dinner… Anything to stop it from sitting there day after day, mocking him.
You failed. It seemed to say every time it looked at him with its big, yellow eyes. You let her down.
Lucas turned away, his stomach in knots.
A few minutes later, he stood beneath the hot, steady stream of the shower, staring down thoughtfully as he watched the soapy water swirl and disappear down the drain. His mind was very far away as he thought back to how much simpler things had been when he’d first found that fish over five years ago.
He’d been so confident, so sure of himself… So foolish.
And Evelyn had been foolish too, for believing in him.
As he stepped out into the sunlight a short while later, his eyes glanced briefly over the hedge toward Evelyn’s grave. He wondered what she could be thinking of right now as she sat alone in the darkness. It was a question he’d thought of often over the past few years, but Lucas was much too afraid to learn the answer. On the nights they would see each other, both he and Evelyn had stopped talking about the fish or the cure entirely. It was simply too painful, too upsetting…
With a heavy sigh, he crossed through the yard to his garden, where he began tending to his plants. Lucas glanced bitterly down at the death flower bush as he passed over it with the watering can. After all these years it was still growing and thriving, producing more flowers than Lucas knew what to do with. If only that were the case with the angelfish…
Lucas had been so naïve to believe he could go back and find more… Like he had some sort of unlimited supply at his disposal. But with each failure, their amount of angelfish meat dwindled more and more. Until finally…
There was only one left.
And without knowing for certain what to do with it, it was simply too risky to try anything else. Not until they were sure.
For a while, Lucas had continued researching and looking desperately for an answer… But then when things got bad with Mel, his search for the recipe had to be put on the back-burner. And that was where it had been sitting for years.
Lucas returned to the house after finishing his gardening and took a seat on the couch, watching some mindless morning talk show on the TV. It was not particularly interesting, and Lucas was far too distracted to pay enough attention anyway.
I hope Mel gets back soon… He thought to himself. Lucas could use something to cheer him up right now, and he hoped that seeing her smile would do just that.
Lucas jumped slightly in surprise as his thoughts were interrupted by the sound of the front door opening. For a moment, he thought it was his wife, until another familiar voice reached his ears.
“Mom? Dad?” Krystina called out uncertainly.
“In here.” Lucas called back kindly, glancing over his shoulder.
She’d brought the whole family with her. And though it was an unexpected surprise, it was also a welcome one. Lucas smiled warmly as Krysti, Mitch, Alex, and Dani filed into the room.
“Papa!” Alex cried happily, practically throwing himself at his grandfather.
Lucas hugged him tightly. “Hey, kiddo!”
Danica’s greeting was much more subdued. “Hi Papa.” She smiled, waving at him over her brother’s shoulder.
Part of Lucas missed the days when she was so energetic and eager to see him, like Alex was now. But another part of him was so happy and proud to see her growing up so quickly. She was already 12 years old, and would be a teenager in just a couple of years. It was still hard to believe sometimes…
“Sorry to drop in like this.” Mitch said to his father-in-law, somewhat apologetically. “We probably should have called first.”
Lucas shook his head. “It’s fine.” He assured them, smiling. “You guys are always welcome, you know that.”
“Did mom have her appointment today?” Krystina asked uncertainly. “We weren’t even sure you guys would be home…”
Her father nodded. “I thought I was bringing her, but I guess she decided to go herself.” He shrugged.
“Is she feeling okay?” Danica asked. The young girl’s voice was cheerful, but Lucas could sense the genuine concern beneath her happy tone.
Behind him, Lucas heard the familiar creaking of the front door. “Why don’t you ask her yourself?” He said with a smile as Melanie walked into the room.
“Well this is a nice surprise!”
“Hey, honey.” Lucas rose to his feet to greet her. “I really could have driven, you know.” He said with a smile as she leaned in to kiss her cheek gently.
“I do know.” Melanie replied kindly. “But you’re always getting up so early for me… It was nice to let you sleep in for once.”
Lucas offered up his seat on the couch, which Mel gratefully accepted.
“How are you feeling, mom?” Krystina asked from beside her.
Melanie smiled. “Fit as a fiddle.”
“Are the doctors still makin’ you feel all better, Nana?” Alex asked hopefully.
The woman nodded. “They are.” She smiled warmly at her grandson. “Don’t worry.”
A little more than an hour later, Lucas and Melanie sat alone on the couch together, having just said their goodbyes to the rest of the family a few minutes before.
“That was nice.” Mel said, sighing happily.
“It was.” Lucas nodded in agreement before falling into silence for a few moments. “So, uh… Now that we’re alone…” He hesitated. “How did it go today? Is everything really okay? I mean, the doctors seemed so happy when we started this last cycle… Do they wanna try another round yet?”
Melanie just shrugged. “They wanna wait it out for a while… I need a little bit of a break every now and then, remember?”
Her husband smiled weakly. “Well, you’ve definitely earned one this time…”
Melanie laughed softly, then rose to her feet. “Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m starving. I can help you whip something up for us.” She suggested. “Or I could try making us something, but you know how well that usually ends…”
Lucas’ smile widened slightly. “I’m on it.” He assured her, rising from the couch as well. “But…” He bit his lip. After nearly four years of going through this, he still felt so terrified. “They really think you’re ok? I mean, for now, at least?”
“Yes.” Melanie assured him. “You worry too much, honey. I’m good. I’m fine. Okay?” She smiled as she wrapped her arms around him.
Lucas pressed his lips against her neck for a moment, sighing softly. “Okay.”