Friday, October 3, 2008

A Little Extra Note

You asked for it, you got it! Here's one of my short stories. Hope you enjoy it!


DESERT BLOOMS


© 2006 Delia Latham


Sam was bellowing into the phone again. Ever since his hearing went bad, we’d fought about his loud mouth – especially on the phone.

I rushed into the kitchen and motioned for my husband to lower his voice. He impatiently waved me away and turned his back, increasing his volume just enough to be obvious.

“Oh, grow up!” I spat, stomping from the room in total disgust.

In my office, I slammed the door, fighting back tears. After thirty years, you’d think our relationship would be a little smoother than this!

A miserable glance at the calendar told me it actually wouldn’t be thirty years for another couple of days. Jodi had been hounding me to plan something special, but I simply could not work up any enthusiasm.

“Mom, it’s your thirtieth anniversary – you have to do something! Do you realize how few couples make it that far?”

“I know, I know, it’s a huge accomplishment,” I replied, rolling my eyes even though my voice dripped with more than enough sarcasm to get the point across. “Jodi, that’s only true if it’s working – and you know what kind of relationship your dad and I have.”

“Well, you always told me a good marriage takes a lot of work. What have you put into yours recently?”

Not much, I had to admit. Neither had Sam. For years, raising Jodi and Jamie had been our primary focus. Then Jodi got married, and Jamie was halfway across the country in college. Alone in our empty nest, Sam and I seemed to have forgotten how to be a couple.

“Sindie?” Sam cracked the door open.

“What?” I snapped.

Sam’s large bulk dwarfed my tiny office. Standing six feet three in his stocking feet, he still cut an impressive figure. Thick dark waves swept back from a high forehead. In my opinion, the smattering of gray at his temples lent a touch of sophistication.

As long as he keeps his mouth shut. I was instantly ashamed of the sour thought but helpless to prevent it.

“Do you have plans for the weekend?” His volume, as always, was two notches above acceptable.

Wincing, I bit back a biting comment. “Why?”

“I’d like to go see Jimmy.”

I smothered a sigh. The dreaded 10-hour drive through the desert. Yet how could I say no? My husband’s only brother was in such poor health, and Sam got to see him too seldom.

“I suppose we could,” I reluctantly conceded, forcing a small smile. “When did you want to leave?”

“Well, Monday’s a holiday. If I take tomorrow off, we’ll have four days.” He glanced at my disbelieving face, and quickly added, “But we can wait and leave tomorrow night, if you’d rather.”

“No, it’s okay,” I told him, feeling an unwelcome rush of guilt. When did I become so hard to get along with? “I’ll get things together tonight. We can leave in the morning.”

Sam smiled, and I found myself smiling back – just a little – in spite of myself. The man still possessed the sexiest smile I had ever seen.

* * *

Four hours into the trip, I was actually enjoying the drive. So far we had even managed to avoid any arguments.

“Just look at those wildflowers!” Sam drew a deep breath, enjoying their sweet fragrance. It wafted through the open vents that provided all the cool air we needed, given the mild weather. His blue eyes gleamed with appreciation for the desert in which he had grown up.

Even I could not deny its beauty. Yellow daisy-like blossoms and tall, purple blooms on graceful stems lined the highway and spilled over into the median. A few large bushes, heavy with vivid orange flowers whose name was beyond my slim horticultural knowledge, dotted the landscape. Further out, small patches of red burst into occasional view, like indecipherable splashes of bold paint on a muted canvas.

A myriad of other growing things created a backdrop for that stunning view. Yet I found myself struck by the miracle of those four blooming plants, humbled by their ability to exist side by side in this harsh, unforgiving environment. Granted, they each possessed a certain appeal, even alone. Together, however, they lent a dramatic, regal beauty to the desert floor, snuggled cozily beneath a soft green blanket.

I sent up a silent prayer of gratitude for the recent wave of generous rainfall. It had worked a spectacular magic on the arid Mojave, allowing me to see this erstwhile unappreciated part of the terrain in a different light.

“They’re gorgeous,” I replied. “I never realized the desert could be this pretty.”

Sam chuckled. “Well, I’m probably a bit biased, since I was raised out here, but I think it’s one of God’s most beautiful creations.”

As darkness approached, I sat spellbound, drinking in a glorious desert sunset. The distant mountains, in stark silhouette against a red and purple horizon, presented a breathtaking vista.

“Wow.”

“Nice, huh?”

“Incredible,” I said.

Sam reached across the console to run a gentle finger down my cheek. His eyes softened as they met mine, and he winked. My heart did an odd little somersault in unexpected response.

“Why, Mr. Mallory,” I teased. “Are you flirting with me?”

He raised a dark brow and shot me one of those heart-stopping crooked smiles. “Could be,” he said, and I didn’t even mind that his voice was a bit too loud in the confines of the car.

“Well, I never!” I said in my best Southern drawl.

“Darling, perhaps you should!” Sam shot back, and we both burst out laughing. How long has it been since we’ve laughed together like this?

A few moments later, he decelerated and took the exit toward Bullhead City, Arizona, a resort town separated from Laughlin, Nevada by the Colorado River. I knew enough about western geography to be aware that this was the X that marks the spot where California’s state line meets up with the other two.

“What’s up?” I questioned. “Are you getting tired?”

“Nope.”

In the dying light of day, with an impish grin splitting his face, my husband bore a startling resemblance to a certain boy I had dated over thirty years ago.

I couldn’t help grinning back. “What then?”

“I thought we’d spend the night here.”

“No way!” Not once in thirty years had we ever stayed overnight between our house and Jimmy’s. “Are you kidding me?”

“Of course, if you don’t want to – aww, you’re right. I’ll just cancel our reservations.” He fumbled around the center console for his cell phone, but I got to it first.

“Don’t you dare! Uh … what reservations?”

“For a room,” he drawled. “And for the Colin Raye show; I seem to recall you enjoying an occasional country tune. But if you’d rather not –”

“Sam!” I broke in, bewildered. “What’s going on?”

His cocky grin melted into a sheepish smile. “Well, someone gave me a rather broad hint that a thirtieth anniversary should not be overlooked – and that if I didn’t get my rear in gear I might not see a thirty-first.”

Jodi!” I laughed, feeling the weight of many unhappy months starting to ease away.

“She’s right, you know,” Sam said, suddenly serious. “We hardly know each other anymore, Sin, and I don’t much like it.”

I swallowed hard and lowered my gaze. “We’re not going to Jimmy’s?”

“Sure, we’ll visit him tomorrow; it’s only a few hours further. We’ll head back here Sunday morning.”

My head snapped back up. “Here? To Bullhead City?” Who are you and what have you done with my husband?

Sam nodded. “Yep. Sunday night we’ve got a moonlight dinner date on the Colorado River.”

I gasped. My husband on a dinner cruise? “You didn’t!”

“I did,” Sam said, with a rueful twist of his lips.

Impulsively, I leaned across the console to kiss his cheek. “Oh, Sam! I was so sure our marriage was over, that there was nothing left.”

“It’s not over.” The husky timbre of his voice somehow mattered more than its excessive volume. “It’s just been put on the back burner too long. But we’re going to change that.”

“We are?” I had a feeling my rather hum-drum brown eyes were as star-studded as any love-struck teenager’s, and I could not tear them away from my husband’s face.

Sam squeezed my hand and winked again. “I will,” he promised. “If you will.”

A tear streaked its way down my cheek, and Sam gently brushed it away. “You know, Sweetheart, I really meant it all those years ago, when I said ‘I do.’ And just for the record,” he added, touching a fingertip to his own lips and then – oh-so-softly – to mine, “I still do.”

Silently bemoaning the console between us, I leaned close to my big, loud husband and kissed his cheek, then placed my lips against his ear. He’s a little hard of hearing, after all, and I wanted to be certain he heard me.

“Guess what, Samuel Mallory? I still do, too!”

2 comments:

penney said...

This was great I loved it. Thank you
All the best

Penney

Delia Latham said...

So glad you liked Desert Blooms, Penney! I enjoyed writing it, too.