Dancing with My Best Friend
By Sharon Cupp Pennington
My husband and I were alone in the den of our Texas home. I don't recall the program, but Christmas music emanated from the television: a familiar standard, slow and foolishly nostalgic. It seemed only a few years ago our house bustled with energetic teenagers — the three of them grown now and nurturing families of their own.
Years of healing had passed since my hit and run accident, but I still waddled like a duck. Or as my physical therapist used to laugh and say, a Weeble-Wobble.
I'd spent the afternoon puttering around the house, dusting shelves of family photographs and books, my collection of decorative boxes and knick-knacks. The grandkids' homemade stockings were hung above the fireplace, and "Mr. and Mrs. Snowman" positioned on the mantle. Like so many tasks I took for granted before my accident, little chores like these had become immensely satisfying.
I was grateful to be alive.
I'm not sure when Wayne entered the room, or how long he watched me. He was supposed to be getting ready for work. I do recall the warmth of his hands when they reached for mine, his blunt-tipped fingers long and rough, palms callused. A working man's hands.
"What are you doing?" I leaned back and looked into his beautiful eyes, a faded celestial blue I'd always found enchanting and he had passed on to our grandson, Jacob.
He pulled me close, slipped his arms around my waist so his hands rested on my hips and whispered into my hair, "I'm dancing with my best friend."
For a woman fond of words, he left me speechless. We had met at a dance at the Brazoria County Fairgrounds in October, 1966 and married five months later. I smiled into his shirt as tears filled my eyes, and I tried to swallow the goose egg forming in my throat.
Silly, I know.
Married four decades now, it wasn't as though we hadn't danced many times like this, holding tight to one another, swaying to an easygoing rhythm. Nor was this the first time he called me his best friend. Usually he did it as a reference point in conversations: "My best friend once told me." or "I asked my best friend about that just the other day and she said."
I always knew he meant me. He made sure I knew, with a look or a wink, or that disarming smile.
But spontaneity had never been Wayne's strong suit. And this dance, this sweet and tender moment was his way of reassuring me that in spite of the broken bones, misshapen knees and scarred forehead, the permanent limp, I was okay. We were okay.
And for that fleeting moment, nothing else mattered. Just the two of us — and our dance.
For a man who never embraced romance (except in his favorite movies), the man who usually bah-humbugged his way through Christmas, who often forgot birthdays and anniversaries and valentines, this brief twirl on an imaginary dance floor was the single most romantic gift he could give me. Better than the perfect poinsettia or a balloon-filled luxury liner or a gazillion delectable slices of carrot cake.
The music ended, and we stood there, souls and hearts linked, as they had been almost from the moment we met at that hokey county fair so many years ago. His big working man's hands moved from my hips to the middle of my back. "I've never been so scared as I was that night," he said. "I thought I'd lost you."
I answered simply, "I know, sweetie, I know."
But I didn't know. I couldn't begin to fathom the pain he'd suffered or the horror he must have felt the night of the accident. Realizing, as we walked through the parking lot, a speeding car was going to hit me and he was powerless to prevent it. He'd told me how he hated that he wasn't standing next to me that night, protecting me, instead of walking a few yards ahead as he habitually did.
I thanked God he wasn't standing close to me. I never want to imagine that kind of hopelessness, the infinite helplessness, or ever experience it. I'd heard enough from our children. At the hospital, they had seen their dad, this rock of a man, cry for the first time in their lives. And his tears shook them.
What I do know, what I've never been more sure of, is that there's more romance in my handsome Santa than he would ever admit — and I'm the luckiest woman in the world.
Let other women have their bouquets and trinkets, their holiday cruises and schmaltzy cards.
I'll have my dance.
Sharon Cupp Pennington’s short stories have appeared in numerous online and print venues, with anthology contributions to The Rocking Chair Reader in the "Coming Home" edition (2004) and "Family Gatherings" (2005), A Cup of Comfort for Weddings: Something Old, Something New (2007), and Good Old Days magazine (March, 2007). Draumr Publishing released her debut romantic suspense novel, Hoodoo Money, in May 2008 and the sequel, Mangroves and Monsters, in November 2009. She resides in Texas with her husband, where she is currently working on her next project. To learn more about Sharon, visit her website.
Photo courtesy of mrs.maxmakes.com.