It was 10 am on a Sunday morning when Ada came to the conclusion that Sam didn’t love her anymore. She realized it as she waved to him from their porch holding a freshly poured cup of coffee she had meant to hand to him on his way out the door. She stood there wrapped in her purple fuzzy robe and matching slippers, willing him to turn around and wave back, but he never did. He simply got into his rumbling, red truck and drove away, only glancing slightly through his rearview mirror at her. And in that glance, all of the guilt came tumbling in. He had forgotten to kiss his wife goodbye.
Both of them couldn’t remember how they had gotten here. Neither one of them could pinpoint the moment when the cracks started forming. It just seemed that years of always having made them believe they could never lose. Neither of them spoke about their realizations, They each held them close to their hearts like a locket that couldn’t be opened from rusting through the years.
Later that morning, Ada sat at her vanity and stared at her reflection. She was by no means an ugly woman, but she didn’t feel beautiful. She opened her makeup drawer and looked for her favorite shade of red lipstick. She held it inches away from her lips and debated whether or not it would even make a difference. He won’t even notice. And despite her thoughts, she put it on. It was then she noticed something strange. There were lines forming around her mouth and eyes. As she tried to smooth her skin, a silver glint caught her eye and that was when she saw the silver strands at her temples. How was this possible? The last time she had looked in the mirror she was only thirty years old.
Sam stared at the flowers in his hand and sucked in a deep breath. He gazed at the rest of the selections and wondered if it was even worth it to make this effort. She probably wouldn’t even notice that he was trying to apologize for leaving the way he did. He took the bouquet of bright yellow sunflowers and made his way to the registers. But as he made his way towards the exit, his legs suddenly felt strange. He stopped to rub his knees and that’s when he noticed that his hands were hurting too. He looked at his hands and realized they looked strange to him like they were aging before his very eyes. He squeezed them and watched as wrinkles and age spots started forming. How could this be happening? He stopped and gazed at his reflection in the window of his truck. His face had changed and he was staring into the face of a white-haired old man.
He drove home quickly, wincing with every movement he made. How was he going to explain this to Ada? Surely they would have to call Dr. Clark as soon he reached the house. As he drove home, he noticed that the trees had changed too. When he had left, the sky was clear and the trees were green, but as he drove through the Tennessee hills, the trees were now varying shades of red, orange, yellow, and brown. Sam was sure he was losing his mind.
Ada was on the front porch waiting for him when he pulled into the driveway. There she was in that blue dress that had always made him catch his breath. She was wearing lipstick too and that always did him in just a little. For a moment, he didn’t notice that she looked different too. He only saw the woman that he loved so much for so long. He slowly got down from the truck with the flowers in his hand and made his way towards her. He kept his head low, but when he made it to the porch steps, he looked up and saw that she had changed too. There were lines next to her eyes and her raven hair was peppered with silver.
They stared at each other for a moment. And despite their changed appearances and the insanity of this moment, they both understood.
“What’s happening to us?” Ada asked, her voice cracking just a little as tears filled her pale eyes.
“I don’t know..” Sam whispered. “But I think…I think we’re running out of time.”
He reached for her and she fell into him, embracing him without hesitation.
“These are for you.”, he said as he placed the sunflowers on the porch swing.
“What are we going to do, Sam? No one will recognize us like this.”
“I don’t know…” He rubbed his temples.
As they made their way into the house, Sam noticed the cardboard boxes neatly stacked near the front door. He raised his eyebrow and looked at Ada, waiting for her explanation.
“I was going to leave you today.” Ada looked away and Sam stumbled a little at her words.
“Why?” He asked.
“Because you stopped loving me.”
He stood there wide-eyed and broken. He had woken up as a healthy thirty-two-year-old man with a wife he loved and now found himself broken and old.
“Okay.” He stared at the floor, regret was flooding him, and like saltwater to a wound; it burned.
“What if today is our last chance? Will you give me one more chance?” he pleaded.
She locked eyes with him and understood that this could be their last chance. What if it was all over after this.
“Okay.” She said, “One more chance.”
He took her to an Italian restaurant that evening. The very one he had taken her on their first date as teenagers. They sat outdoors under a cool crisp autumn sky. Ada shifted nervously in her chair. Their bodies both felt strange and foreign with unexpected and unexplainable aches and pains they’d never felt before. The waiters came and went but the silence between them was unbreakable. Neither of them knew where to start, both afraid that breaking the silence would leave more pieces to pick up.
Ada’s mind wandered and she remembered who they were before the years caught up and they became these ghosts that no longer talked over dinner.
Suddenly, she wasn’t hungry anymore. She squeezed her hands into fists and tried to hold it all back. It felt like the dam was finally breaking. The cracks were growing. And it was all she could do not to let it all fall apart. Sam looked up slowly and gazed at the indigo sky. Memories were playing in his mind like his father’s old jazz records that had brought him so much comfort as a child.
The world was spinning slowly. They would never know, but their hearts were in sync and just for a moment it didn’t matter that they were only pieces of who they used to be. They were alone in a world of uncertainty and only time would tell of their survival. Sam wanted to survive this. He wanted to feel that candlelit glow of belonging. He wanted to love her again, but did she want the same?
He reached across the table and held out a hand. Ada stared and raised an eyebrow. Her gaze was questioning, but she took his hand anyway. Her heart was racing. She bit her lip nervously as he stood, still holding her hand, and helped her out of her chair. She stood, quickly assessing the tables around them then glancing nervously down at her feet. He pulled her in close to him and began to sway slowly to the music, never even bothering to apologize to the waiters who worked around them. They held each other and remembered. He still smelled the same, but his arms and shoulders felt slightly thinner, his sways a little slower and slightly offbeat. She was still as elegant as ever, only her hips were slightly more rounded and her hair had earned its silver tinge. She was still as beautiful to him as the day he’d met her.
But as they swayed to the soft crooning of Frank Sinatra, they could feel small changes occurring. Suddenly his gate was smoother and his arms a little firmer. Her silver strands became just a little darker and the lines around her eyes smoothed over just a little. As they held each other, they became their own memories. Just two teenagers who had finally found a home. She hummed along with the melody. Her voice was sweet as honey and he leaned in closer to hear the subtle vibrato in her song. For just a moment, they were not lost.
They had finally found their way home again.