by Erudessa Gentian

Thin, wrinkled fingers turned the faded pages of her well-loved book with a strength that hadn’t failed for over sixty years. Frowning slightly, Rose glared toward the whirring machines in the room that would not stop their infernal beeping. At least the steady rhythm assured her worrywart niece that everything but her blasted leg was in top shape.

Sighing, Rose tried again to focus on the story set in her beloved Paris. Pushing a stray lock of silver hair behind her ear, she squinted. Her strength may not have deserted her all this time, but her eyesight was a different matter altogether. Adjusting her reading glasses with a sharp tweak, the blurred words cleared just in time to be obscured by a large orange rose that suddenly covered half the page.

Jerking her head up, Rose wondered who would be here at this hour. Her niece had gone to get dinner only twenty minutes ago. Her green eyes collided with a pair so dark and full of passion that a long-forgotten feeling, like a tornado of butterflies trying to escape her stomach, rose.

The angular face of her memories had softened with age, now framed by wavy grey hair. His long fingers clenched the fragrant bouquet of orange roses in his hands.

“Mon amour.” He breathed, more than said, the words.

“Mon amour…I finally found you.”

“John,” Rose sighed and reached for the roses with hands sun-kissed by a Paris spring, no longer blue-veined and pale with a protruding IV line.

The accelerated beeping of the heart rate monitor melted away along with the whitewashed walls and disinfectant smells. They were replaced by the aroma of street vendors mixed with roses. Sunlight broke through the trees to glint on the river Seine.

Memories continued to swirl around the long-lost couple: glances stolen across pieces of art in the Louvre; passionate kisses in the shade of Notre Dame; mouthwatering picnics under an endless spring sky; early morning tea and coffee at their favorite cafes.

The thud of her book falling off the bed pulled them back to the present. John blinked unfocused eyes before time again stilled as he slowly lowered to one knee, pulling Rose’s hand to his lips.

“Mon amour,” he said again. “I finally found you.”

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