For Better, For Worse

by Elizabeth McGinn


Portfolio


heart in an envelope
photo courtesy of pexels.com

by Ellie Forster ’24

Margaret never liked when people made a fuss about her anniversary. Harold had been gone for almost a year now, and they hadn’t been a festive pair when he was alive. To act like that day was any different now just seemed silly. All she wanted was for Tim and June to come over, to have lunch like they always did, and be alone. It was just a Wednesday. That was all. Old friends would call, and she’d let the phone ring. Didn’t need reminders of a day fifty years ago, a day that no one else even understood. Only the ones who stood up on that altar could understand. Them, and them alone. 

June and Tim rang the bell at 1:15, same as they always did. They let themselves in, and Tim went to the bathroom. June stood in the kitchen, the light surrounding her, touching her figure so gently it was like it was afraid of her. She wore a blue button-down tucked into an old pair of jeans. Her hair curled softly, and she had a yellow bandana holding it back. She turned to see Margaret standing there, a dish towel in her hand. The old friends smiled at each other, and when Margaret walked over, June took her hand and squeezed it.  

The two couples had been best friends for 60 years, since middle school. They were each other’s best men and maids of honor. They bought houses on the same street, and the houses were one another’s. So much of the furniture in Margaret’s house had been picked out by Tim, they had just given him his own room to decorate. That parlor was the best room in the house, everyone agreed. Neither couple had ever had children, and nothing else could’ve possibly severed the bond they shared. They were inseparable. 

June and Margaret sat in the parlor when Tim came in. He sank into a chair and smiled. 

“I miss him.” 

The women smiled and each took one of Tim’s hands.  

“So do I,” said Margaret quietly. 

Tim’s eyes shone, and his chest rose. “He’d be so embarrassed of me right now. He’d hate this.” 

“Well, he’d definitely have some remark, I’m sure we can all agree about that,” June said with a laugh. Margaret looked at her, and her face flushed still, the same it had when they were kids. That laugh shattered her chest into a million pieces and offered her heart up, praying it would be taken. 

Tim wiped his face and smiled. “That he would.” Then the old man took an envelope out of his jacket pocket and slid it across the table.  

The women looked at it and saw the letter M written in elegant script.  

Margaret looked up at Tim. “No.” 

“It’s from him.” 

Her heart sank. “For me?” 

“Yes.” 

She sighed. She lightly took the letter and a knife from the table. She took out the small piece of paper and saw seven words in a familiar, soft handwriting. 

Margaret, 

I can’t thank you enough. 

   H 

Margaret felt the tears come, and she felt her friends come to her side, Tim’s hand on her back as he, too, wept, and June pulling Margaret’s head to her chest, running her hands through her hair. 

Fifty years earlier, four people stood on an altar as Harold and Margaret held hands. They said the words the priest told them to, and they were pronounced man and wife. Behind her new husband, Margaret saw Tim smile, and Harold turned to him as the crowd cheered. The men met eyes and grinned. Harold grabbed Tim’s hand and turned to face his wife. A hand squeezed Margaret’s shoulder from behind her, and Margaret turned to see June standing there, the sun intimidated by her glow. She hugged her, and as June laughed, she felt her chest burst. As they left one another’s embrace, Margaret kept June’s hand in hers. Then the happy couple shared a kiss.  

 


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