The Steps My Lover Built
    Michelle Garren Flye

On the day I came home from the hospital, my lover began to build a set of steps for me in the garden with his own two hands.

Some thought it cruel, or crazy. Why build steps I would never use? My mother said he was no good for me, the accident should have proved it, and that I should leave him. She helped me bathe and dress; took me to the bathroom, helped me shift my awkward weight from chair to toilet, and back again; cooked for me, and fed me. She slept on a couch in my room in case I needed her. My lover slept down the hall.

I sat in my wheelchair and stared at the place below my knees. When I was alone, I watched him building in the garden through the east window of our house. Behind him, the mountainside sloped into the crowded forests of the valley and the horizon was broken only by the hunched backs of other mountains.

Every day, he built for me. He hauled river rocks in a wheelbarrow, his muscles straining in the sun. Sweat left dark stains on his chest and back as he mixed cement with a big wooden paddle, laid river rocks, and smoothed the cement to hold them.

It rained. He paced the living room. Paced and paced and stared at the sky until my mother screamed and shrieked at him to stop, stop and let her breathe! As if his pacing took all the oxygen out of the room. Then he left, walking down the gravel drive past his truck, disappearing in the distance.

He came back late, wet, smelling of beer and disappointment.

On the day the steps were finished, he left again. I looked out the window at the steps in the garden. I wondered why six steps and not seven or five? I hoped he would come back soon.

He came back late that night in his rattling old pickup. But he didnt come in. He parked his truck so its headlights shone on the steps. And he began to dig. My mother came and made me go to bed before I could figure out why he was digging or what he was burying.

The next morning he woke me with a gentle kiss, the first since Id come home. He lifted me from the bed and wrapped me in a warm robe. I put my arms around his neck and my head on his chest, eyes closed as he slipped past my sleeping mother. He carried me out the front door and across the drive to the garden. When he stopped, I opened my eyes and looked at the steps.

In the cool misty morning, the river rocks glistened. Hed polished all the extra cement away. Their smooth surfaces ranged from purple to rose to brown. And I saw what hed dug the night before. Planted in a semicircle around the steps were tiny rose bushes. I imagined them in coming years edging the steps with beauty and fragrance. I would sit on the top step and smell them, feel their silky petals, gaze in wonder at bees gathering pollen.

My lover climbed the steps and sat down on the top step with me in his lap. Facing east, we watched the sun rise.


Michelle Garren Flye is a full-time writer, wife and mother who currently lives in Maryland. Her short stories have appeared online and in print. Ms. Flye can be reached by email at mgflye@yahoo.com.For more information, visit: http://www.geocities.com/mgflye.
 
 

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