General Fiction posted April 26, 2020


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His Woman

by Y. M. Roger


“. . . py birthday to you. Happy birthday to my Teddy Bear. Happy Birthday to you…”
 
Selene’s voice tickled its way into his dreams, making him crack one eye to find her standing near the window. So beautiful, his Selene. Her voice was always such a wonderful sound to wake up to… But Theo was tired, so very tired. Especially today. Oh God, he really did not want to get up!
 
“Come on Teddy, you can’t sleep in today.”
 
Theo rolled over, pulling the pillow over his head.
 
“I can sleep in any damn day I want, woman!” he retorted into the mattress.
 
Selene’s laughter echoed around the room. The melodic sound always made him smile, even though he fought to be surly about the early hour.
 
“Okay, Grumpy Gus,” she mused playfully, “that’s true most days, but the girls will be coming by today,” Selene continued as she flitted about the room busying herself with goodness knew what. “And you know we’ve some cleaning to do before they get here.”
 
Knowing she was right, Theo tossed the pillow aside and threw back the covers to stand. In the first few steps, the breeze from the ceiling fan stirred around him.
 
“Whew-wee, husband!” Selene’s exclamation would have been comical if he didn’t already know what she was going to say. “You need a shower! Get in that bathroom and wash and shave! You know Vicki and Tess will be asking questions if they see you like that!”
 
Theo grumbled under his breath, a smile ghosting across his lips. “You see me every day, woman, and I don’t hear you complaining.”
 
“Perhaps.” Selene chuckled as she stood almost statuesque next to the bedpost. “Or perhaps you should pay a little closer attention to things, my special Teddy Bear.”
 
Theo stopped short of the threshold to the bathroom and grabbed hold of the doorframe. He took a deep breath and let it out. Then he laughed softly and, looking over his shoulder, acknowledged Selene’s loving endearment.
 
“You know, woman, you keep sweet talking like that and you and I are gonna have to have a come to Jesus moment.” He tried to smile, but he wasn’t sure he pulled it off.
 
“Maybe.” Selene returned his veiled innuendo with gentle laughter as she breezed by him. “But not anytime soon.”
 
He could tell it was meant as reassurance; therefore, he’d take it as such. In doing so, he felt his smile become genuine as he watched her walk toward the bedroom door.
 
She stopped before heading out into the hallway, her entire demeanor becoming like the sunshine that she was.  Turning around, she matched his smile with a radiant one of her own.
 
“And especially not today because the girls are coming over and you know Vicki will bring the boys with her!”
 
That reminder was just the catalyst he needed to get moving on his morning routine.  Selene was right – the kitchen needed cleaning and probably the den, too. As the hot water sluiced over him, he ran over a brief list of things to do in his mind.
 
“Teddy!”
 
Selene’s voice startled him from his warm water revelry, but he couldn’t help but smile. She almost always interrupted him in the shower – had done so since their honeymoon fifty-eight years ago, it seemed.
 
“Yeah, woman?!”
 
Her laughter rolled over him along with the water.
 
“Don’t forget to make the bed today.” Her voice was filled with mirth, and it gave him a little extra energy. Of course, that could have simply been due to the fact that it was his first shower in a few days. “You know Tess will be checking to make sure things are going okay here!”
 
“I know. She’s a worrier.” Theo turned off the water and stood still for a few moments, the silence seeming to ring in his ears. “Just like her mama,” he whispered under his breath.
 
“Well, somebody’s gotta worry about you!”
 
How many times had he heard that one? He snickered as he reached for the towel.
 
Standing in front of the mirror, Theo reached for his razor, but he didn’t see it.
 
“Woman!” He reached toward that stupid basket Selene had set up neatly with his stuff. Crap! It was kindof a mess now, wasn’t it?
 
“Where in the he-ell…,” he trailed off as he searched for a replacement head for the razor handle he’d managed to locate. There was no way an electric razor was getting through this week of scruff he had going on. “Aha! Here it is!”
 
He heard Selene giggle, and he glanced up to look in the mirror. Her beautiful smile was mesmerizing as she stood right behind him in the reflection.
 
“See? Right where you left it, Teddy Bear!”
 
Theo smiled as he turned on the faucet to let the water heat up. He winked at her and let the water fill his cupped hands.
 
“Yep.” He nodded and threw the first handfuls of water on his face. “Right where I left it.”
 
When he looked up to lather his face, he stopped and examined his beard. Damn, there was a helluvalot more gray than the last time he’d let it grow this long. He shrugged and continued lathering, still going over that list in his head. He heard her voice from the other room.
 
“You know, it’d probably be a good idea to mow the lawn if there’s time.”
 
He tried not to shake his head and cut himself, although he couldn’t help the chuckle that escaped.
 
“That woman thinks everything always has to be just so.” It was mumbled more than spoken, but the amusement was there in his voice.
 
Selene’s laughter carried through the air again.
 
“Just so what?”
 
He lowered the razor and braced both hands on the sink, letting his head fall to watch the water flow from the faucet and spiral down the drain. It was the same word banter they’d always played, and it was his turn.
 
He took a deep breath and felt the smile creep across his face. “So whatever it is makes you happy, woman!”
 
The familiarity was always comforting to him. Theo hummed as he finished shaving, rinsed the razor and rinsed his face.
 
“Look at that,” he muttered, turning his head side to side. “Didn’t cut myself even once this time.”
 
He knew Selene would be impressed – he was never that good with the manual razors. Electric razors were usually his go-to. He smiled with a bit of self-satisfaction and walked to the closet.
 
He pulled on a pair of worn blue jeans and reached for one of his old, comfortable t-shirts.
 
“Why don’t you wear the blue button-down today.” Selene’s voice was so close it almost startled him, but he shook his head at his own actions. “You know, the one with the sailboats on it that Vicki said little Andrew helped pick out for you for Christmas.”
 
“Yep - haven’t worn that enough,” he said, smiling as he pulled it off the hangar. “Good idea, woman.”
 
She was already headed toward the door again, tsk-tsking as she went.
 
“Well, yeah! Those are the only kind I have, Teddy Bear!”
 
Theo laughed as he buttoned his shirt and started to look for his shoes. Now, where had he…
 
“They’re in the shoe box, silly!”
 
He grunted. Yep, if there was one thing Selene loved to do, it was organize him. Well, okay, she tried to organize him:  the basket on the bathroom vanity, the hall tree by the front door, the box for his shoes that she had picked up at a rummage sale over a decade ago. And he had tried to use all of the contraptions, such as they were.
 
“Would you look at that!” His voice dripped with sarcasm even though it made him smile. “They’re right where they’re supposed to be – I must be well-trained, huh, woman?”
 
Selene’s laughter once again carried in the air.
 
“Come on, husband! Get that bed made so we can start on this kitchen!”
 
******
 
Theo picked up the last t-shirt that had somehow come to lite on the back of a kitchen chair. With all of the clothing items he’d retrieved from around the house, he had enough to make a full load of laundry. He tossed them all into the washing machine and started the cycle. He glanced at the clock – nearly eleven.
 
“Well, that took longer than we thought,” Selene said as she stood beside him looking through the kitchen and into the den area. “But it really looks good, Teddy. You even mopped the floor – impressive!”
 
Theo laughed at her favorite exclamation when he went above and beyond. He looked out the window at the front lawn – it wasn’t that bad…
 
“Tess will notice, you know.”
 
Theo harrumphed. But Selene was right: their oldest daughter would probably notice the lawn was a bit overdue ‘for a haircut’ as she used to say when she was little.
 
“I’ll cut it just as soon as they go home, woman,” he said as he walked to the refrigerator to pour himself a glass of ice water. “Might as well get everything all cleaned up at once, right?”
 
Selene clapped. “Ye-e-es! That’s my Teddy Bear!”
 
Theo chortled. He smiled at her as she stood, practically aglow with happiness. He shook his head as he downed most of his water just as the doorbell interrupted his thoughts. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes to center himself.
 
When he opened his eyes, Selene wasn’t standing there anymore. But before he had time to take another breath, the doorbell started ringing again and again and again…
 
“I’m coming!” Theo shouted playfully as he strode quickly in that direction. The doorbell kept ringing and was joined by the sound of Andrew’s little four-year-old voice.
 
“Gwamps, Gwamps! Open up afore mama gets here! Gwamps!”
 
Theo flung the door open, taking care to plant himself in a firm, protect-your-manhood stance. He knew the moment the door was open wide enough… wham! Andrew flung himself at Theo, that little head covered in thick blonde curls hitting him off to the side just below waist-level.
 
“Andrew Theodore!” Vicki hollered as she mounted the steps with a smiling Jayden on her hip. Tess was right behind her, laughing, and carrying Jayden’s diaper bag.
 
“You okay there, Dad?” Tess asked as they all approached the doorway, Andrew remaining essentially glued to Theo’s side. Theo took care to reach down and take a firm hold of his little hand. He opened his mouth to answer but…
 
“This isn’t Dad, Auntie Tess,” Andrew corrected, innocently, “Dad’s at work! This is my Gwamps!”
 
They all laughed, and Vicki exchanged a quick peck on the cheek with him as they passed inside.
 
“Happy Birthday, Andrew’s Gramps,” she said, chuckling, as she paused to let Theo pinch Jayden’s fat cheek.
 
“Thank you, Baby,” Theo replied as he leaned a bit forward to kiss the approaching Tess on the cheek. “And how’s my new Vice-President of Marketing?”
 
Tess rolled her eyes. “She’s not talking about work on her Daddy’s Birthday!” She teased as she paused to take a quick visual sweep of the place.
 
“Wo-o-o-ow, Dad!” Tess put the diaper bag down near the multi-purpose hall tree and continued her unofficial walk-through inspection of the house. “You really have the place all cleaned up!” She hollered from down the hallway. Then she re-emerged. “I'll admit I was a little worried when I saw the lawn needed a haircut.” She raised her signature eyebrow in question as she approached him, and then grinned. “Mom would be so proud of you!”
 
She stepped in and hugged him tight. He held onto her for a while with his free arm until she pulled back to speak.
 
“You look good, Daddy.” Her voice was so much like Selene’s that he had to swallow past the lump in his throat. “I know it’s been almost a year now, but you still doing okay?”
 
Some movement in the den off to his right caught his attention. It was the image of his Selene, standing there smiling. He looked from her, down at Andrew’s little face looking up at him expectantly, and then back to Tess.
 
“I’m fine, Theresa,” The smile came easily as Andrew began to tug at him. “I have my good days and bad days, but your mama’s in my heart to keep me on track, you know?”
 
Tess’s smile was so much like Selene’s in that moment that he had to catch his breath.
 
“Auntie Te-e-esss! I need a hand with these candles or your nephew, take your pick!”
 
Rolling her eyes once again, Tess leaned up to kiss him on the cheek.
 
“Coming, Vic!”
 
Theo looked back over at Selene, her image flickering maybe a bit more than usual this time, but there was no mistaking the smile on her beautiful face.
 
“We’ll have our come to Jesus moment a lot later, my Teddy Bear,” she said as she blew him a kiss. “You have some family matters to attend to.” She turned to walk away, and her image faded further. “Happy birthday, husband.”
 
Theo smiled and murmured, “Thank you, my beautiful woman.”
 
Andrew tugged Theo toward the back door where the new sand box Theo had built for him awaited them.
 
“You know, Gwamps.” He was already sounding older than his years, just like his mama had so many years ago. “I’m not a woman.”
 
Theo’s laugh rolled up from the depth of his soul, and he let it out heartily. God, it felt good to be alive!

His Selene would always be a part of him, but today? Today he and his family were celebrating his birthday!

 



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