A writing group challenge from January of 2016. There were a series of Photoshopped photos offered. I chose the one above and wrote a story about it.
Over The Threshold
I met Sue on the playground when I was in second grade. People might argue that children don’t understand love, but I was smitten at first sight. She was in first grade and small for her age. She stood on the edge of the group dressed in a pair of hand-me-down overalls with her hair in pigtails and her eyes as big and dark as a fawn’s.
Her father owned the dairy farm that supplied us and a neighboring town with milk and cream. They didn’t get into town much and Sue was shy. I’d never met a stranger and, with some persistence, I got her to talk to me.
All through elementary and middle school, I carried Sue’s books home for her. Sure, I got ribbed by some of my pals, but that didn’t bother me none. Not when I could stand, touching shoulders, and listen to her quietly recount the names of the newborn kittens that climbed over their mother in the warm, afternoon sunlight. I missed games of relievo and stickball to join Sue at the pond and let tadpoles swim in the bowl of our hands. I once suggested we keep them in a jar, but Sue wouldn’t hear of it. They would miss their mothers, she reasoned. On days when we both were set loose from chores, we’d trek across the fields until the grass gave way to sand and the wind grew sharp with salt. We’d laugh into the bright blue sky and throw bread scraps to the gulls.
In high school, everyone knew Sue was my girl. It wasn’t any surprise when we announced at the end of her senior year we were going to marry. Sue helped her father with the farm most days after school, but most nights she owned she’d been working on her wedding dress. Sue could sew so straight and small, people swore it was neater than any machine. I knew she’d be a vision.
The day we stood up together, Sue carried white and pink roses. The white matched the pure brilliance of her dress and the pink matched the blush in her beautiful cheeks. My brother snapped our photo outside the church. In it, Sue’s captured smile was the small, self-contained curve she shared with the public. It was only when we were alone she allowed her demure smiles to bloom into laughter. I was looking forward to getting her alone. To making her laugh and to kissing her smiling mouth.
We couldn’t afford much. I was working for my father in the family’s general store and he said we could have the small space above it if we moved the stock out. It seemed like paradise to us. So did the overnight honeymoon we were taking. It was only to a bed and breakfast a half hour away on the coast, but we were giddy at the idea.
I borrowed my father’s car for the trip. It was old and rusted with piebald tires and an engine that started with a croupy cough. With Sue in it, it was transformed like Cinderella’s coach into something magical. I could barely keep my eyes off of her, she was that radiant.
I could blame the tires and the sand. I could blame Sue’s musical laughter and the flash of her bright smile, but the fact remains that it was my fault. I was too relaxed. I strayed too close to the edge of the road. The front, passenger side tire mired in the soft, sandy shoulder and ripped the wheel from my hand. Before I could react, we were rolling down the embankment.
The sky. Scrub grass. The ocean. They spun outside the car windows in a confusing blur. Sue flew into me and then tumbled past me. I reached for her, but her veil swept across my palm and was gone. When the car hit the water I remember thinking the sound was like a baseball hitting a bat, then my world went dark.
They never found Sue. They think the weight of her dress and veil would have tangled her up and dragged her under. That the current carried her away.
There hasn’t been a night since that I haven’t dreamt of her. Beautiful and ethereal on the ocean floor. Her gown swaying around her. Cupping her hands to allow tiny fish to swim into the bowl of her palms. Waiting patiently for me to carry her over the threshold.
I don’t think she’ll have to wait much longer.