Twenty Three Steps to Goodbye

Martha Brentwood stood stoic against the first arctic gale of the season, as she waited for the number-seven to carry her to Saint Ann’s Cathedral for the sixth time in two years. A trip she never got used to. The harsh breath of winter bit at her as rabid flecks of crystalline powdered snow threatened to bury her where she stood. Her mourning-black Cashmere coat was faded by time, and it did nothing to cover her bare hands, but she didn’t shiver, she didn’t blink, and she didn’t move. Her heart was warmed by the precious memories of Anna, as she recalled their first encounter at the fourth street USO where they both worked so many years ago…Lost in her memories she hadn’t heard the number-seven slide to a halt in front of her—she was somewhere in time.

A barrel chested man bounced off the bus with the grace of a younger man. His chiseled features, leather skin, and gray hair—all marked by time, gave him the look of distinguished charm, contrasted only by his simple black slacks, and weathered pea coat. Blinded by the snow he stumbled to a halt mere inches from the statuesque beauty before him. Her soft-powdered-pale skin was nearly lost in the backdrop of winter’s fury. But her sea-green eyes and luscious ruby lips cast a luminescent glow like a watch keepers lantern meant to guide lost sailors home. He knew this beauty, and rusted memories of a love long past broke free from their moors as he recalled a four day furlough, a sailors first kiss, an enchanted honey moon, and a sobered divorce sent first class mail from Normandy.

“Martha—Martha, are you ok dear?” Martha was pulled back into the ferocity of the storm as her memories faded back into the shadows of yesteryear.

“Excuse me, do I know you?” Martha asked.

“It’s me, your ex-husband, John Brentwood.” As frozen tears of remembrance welled in her eyes, John asked, “Where are you going, Martha?”

“I’m going to say good bye to an old friend at Saint Ann’s.”

“Me too,” John said, “but why are you standing here?”

“I’m waiting for the number-seven to take me there,” Martha said with a tremble in her voice.

“Martha, honey, you’re standing in front of Saint Ann’s.”

Startled by this revelation, Maratha’s knees buckled and John reached out to her. As they clasped hands, the cold-cheap -gold bands they had given one another over half a century ago were reunited. But this reunion was cut short by the somber chimes of funeral bells.

They turned, facing the marble steps of Saint Ann’s, solemnly remembering why they were there. It was Anna who had introduced them all those years ago, it was Anna who had brought them together on this day, and it was Anna they were going to see. Arm in arm, walking silently, they faded into the storm as they climbed the last twenty-three steps to good-bye.

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