By S.R. Jenkins
Artie breathed deeply and turned the dial on his watch.
It was time to meet Cathy.
He pushed through the flyer covered door to Cafe Au Latte and looked around for a burst of hazelnut curls in a sea of cotton
candy colors. He spotted her at the bar reading a copy of Sunshine by Robin McKinley. A vision in blue jeans and a Corpse Bride tee.
Cathy looked up from her book, scanning the room until her eyes met his. She smiled.
Artie lived for her smiles.
Cathy ordered a Carnival cappuccino. Artie an Americano.
The minutes turned into hours as someone strummed a guitar upon a dimly lit stage and sang about lost loves. Cathy laughed at
his joke about mice on roller skates. He laughed at her’s about a dinosaur under the bed.
As the sun set the sky aflame, they strolled toward the riverside. She agreed to meet him the next day as the first stars poked
through the atmosphere.
The days turned into weeks, weeks into months, and Artie never tired of her smile.
They joked about possible superhero overload as they purchased tickets to the latest Marvel movie. Giggling over handfuls of
buttered popcorn and Junior Mints as the lights went down.
Artie watched Cathy as Starlord danced his way through the opening credits and slowly put his arm around her. He smiled as
she snuggled close. Breathed in the moment. He never wanted this to end.
Spring came and multiple music festivals. The pair sang along loudly and proudly though neither of them could carry a tune in
a bucket; Cathy because she lived for the music, Artie because he lived for Cathy.
To commemorate their first year together, they ate their way across the country hitting every Top Chef contestant owned
restaurant along the way. Artie thought he must have gained twenty pounds on the adventure, but Cathy managed to not change at all.
At roughly the two year mark the following Halloween, Cathy’s favorite holiday, Artie proposed. The engagement ring read
“Simply Meant to Be.” Their friends toasted and cheered as a vampire faerie and the Phantom of the Opera kissed like the couples in every romantic comedy she had ever cajoled him into watching. “Yes. A thousand times, yes!”
In the spring, as the daffodils bloomed, all of their friends, for neither had any family left, gathered to witness their Nightmare
Before Christmas themed wedding.
Cathy promised to love and honor but, in true Cathy fashion, refused to obey.
Artie promised anything as long as she remained by his side.
“I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss the bride.”
The reception was a lively affair. Cathy’s best friend Lynn caught the bouquet and Artie’s friend Steve the garter. They all
danced and sang karaoke and smiled until the wee small hours of the morning. It was perfect and them to the nth degree.
Always five years before it all fell apart.
Cathy knew her genetic history. Took every precaution the doctors recommended.
“In sickness” came all too soon.
Artie held her hand through the double mastectomy. Assured she was still beautiful to him. The ticking time bombs weren’t
worth peace of mind.
The hysterectomy was the hardest. Knowing she would never have kids always killed her, but he told her they could adopt
when the time was right. He held her tight as she wept for dreams unfulfilled.
When they told her it hadn’t been enough, Artie reassured her that she could beat this even though he knew the odds. He held
her close as they pumped the ice water into her veins. Stroked her head as she tossed up what her stomach refused to hold. Watched as she wasted away to skin and bones.
“I love you, my beauty,” he said and meant it with every fiber of his being.
But Cathy looked at the photos from the beginning. The smiling carefree faces. “We’ll never be those kids again.”
“Yes we will. We’ll always be those kids. No matter what. Because I will always love you.”
Cathy smiled. It was weak but it still lit up the room. He kissed her and held her hand as she drifted off to sleep. Her breathing
slowed and finally stopped.
Artie kissed her forehead, wiped a tear from his eye, and turned the dial on his watch.
Once again, he stood in front of Cafe Au Latte.
It was time to meet Cathy.
He walked through the flyer covered door and looked around for a burst of hazelnut curls in the sea of cotton candy colors.
Cathy looked up and smiled.
They would always be those kids.