Lori Smith’s alarm clock buzzed at precisely five thirty a.m. She heard running water coming from the bathroom, knowing her husband of thirty years, Dan, was already up and shaving. Lori rose grudgingly from the bed and padded towards the kitchen to put up a pot of coffee.
Her routine was the same every morning…just like her marriage.
Dan appeared dressed in a suit and tie. “Morning,” he said.
Lori sighed. His usual greeting, didn’t anything ever change, she wondered? She glanced at Dan’s strong profile. Was it her imagination, or did he suddenly seem older? A little more…jowly? No, she thought. To think otherwise meant she was probably looking jowly, too!
“How about a good morning kiss?” he asked softly.
Lori looked up into his dark eyes. When had their marriage turned stale, she wondered? They did the same things…day in and day out. Get up. Go to work. Come home – and start all over again.
She reached up and pecked him on the cheek.
“Not good enough,” he drawled softly. He leaned down and kissed her soundly. “That’s better,” he grinned.
Lori began her chores with Dan’s eyes on her as he poured his coffee. She fed the cat, gathered up yesterday’s newspapers and assorted cups and plates from the den. Marching angrily into the kitchen, she deposited the cups and saucers in the sink and tied up the newspapers.
Dan cocked his head. “What’s got you so uptight this morning?”
“This,” she began angrily, “is how I get to start my morning!”
“I’ll remind the kids to be a little neater.”
She stuck her chin out. “Try reminding yourself, too!” She picked up his sneakers, which he had left in the den the night before, and strode towards the bedroom. Lori deposited them in their usual spot next to their bed.
Dan was standing at the door with his arms folded across his wide chest. “Excuse me for wanting to relax in my own home,” he said testily.
“It would be nice to wake up one morning and not have to clean up after you,” she retorted. “Particularly those darn sneakers of yours. Why can’t you just put them away?”
“Because I’m tired, Lori.”
“Like I’m not? I work, too, you know.”
“I know,” he said quietly. “And I wish it wasn’t so. You know that. But the company’s not doing so good and…”
“Save it,” she snapped. She looked down at her slippers. “Besides, this is all we seem to do lately.”
Dan moved so he stood a scant few inches from her. In the early morning dimness she noticed a shock of dark hair brushing his forehead, making him seem boyish for just a second.
“You’re right; we do seem to snap at each other lately.”
“Just…clean up after yourself, okay? I’m tired of picking up your shoes, your socks, your…”
He held up a staying hand. “Say no more. It’s done.”
“That’s what you always say,” she replied peevishly.
He leaned down and brushed a stray curl from her cheek. Lori pulled back. As if on instinct, he did, too. Dan glanced at his watch. “I’ve got to get going.”
“Go on then,” she replied as she hauled the pillows off the bed and began to straighten it. “I’ll see you later.”
He was silent for a moment. “Right. See you later then.”
Before he walked out of the bedroom, he turned and gave her one last look.
Then he was gone.
Lori was at her desk the next afternoon when her co-worker, Sally, said, “There’s a call for you on line two.”
Lori picked up the phone.
It was Dan, but he sounded…strange.
“Lori, I’m in the emergency room of Central General.”
“Now, I don’t want you to worry, but I wasn’t feeling good…my chest…well, it felt funny and I thought it best if I went to the emergency room…”
She didn’t hear another word he said. Lori’s mind was spinning. Hadn’t Dan been shoveling snow the previous day?
“I’ll be right there,” she told him.
“Don’t rush here, please. I-I couldn’t bear it if…”
“I’ll be there in ten minutes.”
She hung up and grabbed her coat and purse.
“Where are you going?” her friend Sally cried out.
“To the hospital! Dan said...” She suddenly couldn’t get out another word. The next thing she knew, Sally had her coat on, too.
“I’ll drive you,” she said.
Ten minutes later, they pulled up by the hospital’s emergency room entrance. Lori found Dan sitting alone in a cubicle, wearing a hospital gown.
She couldn’t speak. Neither did he. Lori wrapped her arms around him and cried.
The doctor walked in. “We’re going to give you some nitroglycerine, Mr. Smith. Let’s see if it doesn’t ease things up a bit for you.”
Lori watched Dan swallow the tiny white pill. A few minutes later he turned pale. “My head aches,” he moaned. “I feel nauseous.”
“It can cause both,” the doctor replied then looked at him. “How’s the chest pain?”
“Better, it’s not so bad.”
“All right then.” He looked at Lori. “We’re going to keep him here tonight to run some tests.”
She was trying to be brave, but felt herself quake inside.
It was going to be a long night.
Lori told the kids that Dan was in the hospital that evening. They were teenagers, but it didn’t make it any easier. Lori couldn’t sleep. She paced restlessly, feeling as though she were in a dream.
She was finally able to get some time alone after seeing the kids to school and called the hospital to check on Dan. Lori glanced at her watch. Visiting hours didn’t start until nine a.m.
She proceeded to do her chores, but stopped cold when she saw Dan’s size twelve sneakers on the den floor, next to his favorite chair. Stifling a sob, she picked them up reverently, running her hands over the worn blue and white leather. Lori felt tears well. She took them and laid them gently next to his side of the bed.
Later, at the hospital, the doctor spoke to her and Dan.
“It appears as though you’ve had a heart attack, Mr. Smith.”
Lori grabbed Dan’s hand.
“You may need a stent. It will help keep the artery open and allow blood to flow. We’re going to transfer you to Northern Shore Hospital – they’re experts at this sort of thing.”
“All right,” Lori said.
The doctor left.
Dan looked haggard and pale.
“It’s going to be all right,” Lori grabbed his hand.
She only wished she felt as certain as she sounded.
Two days later, Dan lay in his hospital room. He had come through the stent surgery with flying colors.
“Hi,” Lori said as she entered, leaning over to kiss him. She moved to get up, but Dan deepened the kiss, making her feel it to the very soles of her feet.
“Dan…” she whispered, “I…”
He placed two fingers over her lips.
“I haven’t been the easiest person to get along with lately,” he told her. “I’m sorry.”
She suddenly thought of his well-worn but definitely loved sneakers. She picked them up hundreds of times, but these past few days, she had grown to appreciate the sight of them. Dan might be a little frayed around the edges, too, but he was, like his sneakers, a perfect fit…for her!
Lori smiled, her first in a long time.
“It’s okay. I’m not perfect either, but I do know one thing…”
“What?” he asked.
“We’re a perfect fit.”
Then she leaned down and kissed him.
About the Author: Catherine Chernow is a multi-published author of contemporary, sensual, fast-paced romance - stories laced with passion, a bit of mystery, and sexy heroes you'll always remember. She currently writes for www.ResplendencePublishing.com and www.total-e-bound.com. Her latest book, "Krazy for Your Kiss", is a soon-to-be released title from Resplendence Publishing. Check out her website at www.CatherineChernow.com