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Welcome to Heartstrings.Thanks for stopping by. I am a mother, a grandmother, and an author of historical western romance and contemporary romantic fiction. Ethan's Heart, book one of The Blackwood Brothers' series won the 2017 Maggie Award for Excellence. Book two, Escorting Darby Bloom, features Blackwood brother Isaac and will be released in December 2017. Stay tuned for more books in this series. If contemporaries are more your thing, check out Carly's Rule and Dusty's Fate. They are both Amazon Best-Sellers.

Friday, October 12, 2012

A short story by
Summer Stephens

They are inseparable. They've been inseparable since the day they married. They had careers, raised a family, and traveled. He still works five days a week, and each morning he helps her dress so she can go along and spend the day with him.

On Sundays, they always arrive at church early. He opens the car door for her and helps her out of the car and into the building. They are a striking couple, the years of life experience making their faces beautiful. Their outfits often match, his coat complimenting her dress. She always looks lovely; her shoes and nylons perfectly coordinated with her dress, her silvery hair gleaming. No one would guess she can no longer dress herself. She doesn't carry a handbag. She wouldn't know what to do with it. She fits under his arm perfectly, and nestles there with the confidence born of over five decades of nestling there. It is one of the few things left that is dear and familiar to her.

He guides her to their usual seats, and settles her in for the services. The building is often a little too cool or a little too warm, so he watches to make sure she is comfortable. They rarely speak to each other, the looks that pass between them say everything that needs to be said. He nods a 'good morning' to those around him, and takes his place with the others who serve in the worship service. The ladies pat her shoulder and smile at her but she just looks at them. She doesn't remember who they are. She sits quietly, waiting for him to return to her, never moving unless he is by her side.

She loves to sing, and they both have musical backgrounds. He has been involved with the music in almost every church they've attended together. He holds the songbook they share, but she rarely looks at it; she knows every song by heart. Her voice is still strong, a sweet soprano rising above the voices of the other women. She sings every verse, never glancing at the songbook because her sparkling eyes are fixed on something no one else can see. Sometimes she taps her hand against her leg in time with the song and swings her body just a little bit, her face radiant.

When the communion trays come round, he breaks off a piece of bread and gently feeds it to her. She managed the bread on her own until the day she forgot to break off just a small piece. He carefully holds her communion cup to her lips and lets the juice flow slowly into her mouth. She drank from her cup by herself until the day she didn't remember what to do with it, and it spilled.

When the offering plate passes by him, he drops whatever he has in it. There's not much of his paycheck left each week because her care takes most of his income as well as all of his time. But if there is only change in his pocket, into the plate it goes. He is a dutiful, devoted man. He gives all he has, all the time. He does not skimp, ever.

He cradles her under his arm, his body language telling the world that this woman is the earthly treasure he cherishes above all else. She presses against him, the one constant in her strange world where little else is recognizable to her.

When services are over and it's time for lunch, he sits her down at a table and whispers to her. She doesn't seem to hear him but her gaze follows him as he goes to the food tables to make her a plate. He returns to her with food, drink, and utensils, spreads a napkin for her, and helps her eat. He makes sure she has a bite and is comfortable before he takes a bite himself. He converses easily with those seated at the same table, but his attention never leaves her. Some of the ladies offer to keep her company while he socializes with his friends, but he declines with thanks and a warm smile.

It's not that he thinks she might need him, or that he wants to be sure she doesn't drop anything. It's because she is his world, what he lives for, his best friend. He doesn't remember his life without her in it, and every minute with her is more precious than ever now.

When lunch is over and worship services done for the day, he leads her to the car and opens the door for her. She smiles at him as she steps in, her hand firmly clasped in his. He buckles her seat belt for her, adjusting it so it does not bind her, yet will protect her in case of an accident. He slides into the driver's seat and does up his own seat belt carefully, knowing that her safety depends on his. He is not a risk-taker, doesn't take chances with his health or well-being. He made her a promise at their long-ago wedding that involved better and worse, sickness and health, and he intends to make good on that promise.

They drive away, back to their comfortable home where she is surrounded by the life they've collected over the years: restful furnishings, photographs of children and grandchildren, memorabilia whose significance she may or may not recall. He gets her ready for bed, tucking her in and slipping in beside her to hold her for one more night.

When she wakes, he'll be there. He'll make her breakfast and get her dressed and ready to go with him to his office where she will sit patiently while he works. At noon, he'll make lunch for them. He'll feed her if necessary, and keep a close eye on her during the day to make sure she doesn't get too cold or too warm. At 5 pm, he'll close up shop and take her home where he'll be grateful for another evening to spend with her.

It's not how he pictured their golden years together. Back when their love was new, he imagined them laughing and sharing memories of the life they'd built. He had no way of knowing that instead, they would share a silence born of her inability to remember how to have a conversation.

However, even if she doesn't remember how to fix a meal, or take communion, or dress herself, there is one thing she hasn't forgotten: that she belongs heart and soul to this man who sees to her care. She doesn't remember that he made a commitment, decades ago, to always be there for her. She doesn't know that he has vowed to keep her by his side for as long as he possibly can. She doesn't know that his secret, cherished wish is that she will slip away quietly in his arms, at home, just the two of them. She can't know how fiercely he resists handing over her care to strangers who've never heard her laugh, never watched her rock her babies to sleep, never sat down to a meal she prepared. She knows only that she is secure in his arms.

He thinks she has a better understanding of heaven than he does. She gives herself over to his care, snuggles into his arms without question, without resistance. He prays when his time to care for her is over and he is alone, that he has the strength to offer that same childlike surrender to Christ. He marvels at her simple acceptance of care and comfort and wonders why people think so hard and resist that comfort as sharply as they do.

As he holds her in his arms and settles in for another night with her, he thinks back over his life and how important it has always been for him to be the provider, the leader, the backbone of their marriage. And he realizes, as a tear rolls down his temple and falls to wet his pillow, that everything he knows about strength came from her.


Summer Stephens
Summer Stephens is obsessed with northeast Florida and coastal Georgia history, and uses her 25+ years of gathered stories and research in her writing. Watch for her upcoming historical romance set in 1779 St Augustine, Florida. Her work has appeared in numerous horse and parrot-related magazines, including Equus, The Chronicle of the Horse, The Morgan Horse, Birds USA, Bird Talk, and others. Her short story, Surviving Foaling Season, is available in the Amazon Kindle store.

In another life, she worked with horses as a behaviorist, equine massage therapist, saddle fitter, and breeder. She has also worked in parrot conservation with Philippine Red-Vented Cockatoos, a threatened species. She and her husband live in the sticks in central Georgia with their small herd of retired horses, several goofy dogs, and a flock of impossibly silly parrots. She currently serves the RWA chapter Ancient City Romance Authors as Social Media Chair.


  1. Summer, thank you so much for allowing me to post your short story. It is a beautiful story of love and commitment.

  2. A touching tribute to the kind of love the romances we write are all about. Long past the ardor of youth and the busyness of life with a growing family this is the kind of love that survives and gives our human existence meaning.

  3. How touching and absolutely beautiful. Summer's powerful descriptions makes you feel every ounce of the couple's love and devotion.