The living room was warm and cosy, illuminated by the roaring fire in the fireplace. The wallpaper was peeling in area’s and the cobwebs hung low from the ceiling. Elsie sat comfortably, swinging back and forth in her rocking chair. The only sound other than the crackling fire, was the clickety clack of Elsie’s knitting needles. The woolly scarf travelled down her lap to the cream carpet below.
The sound of keys jangling in a door penetrated the room, as the front door was opened, then shut. ‘Elsie! Love, where you at dearie?’ shouted a gruff voice.
‘George darling, I’m in the living room! Come and get warm by the fire. How was Helen and Nathaniel?’asked Elsie. The door to the room swung open, letting in an icy draft. In the door way stood George, a coat in one hand and a newspaper under the other arm. He chucked the coat on the back of his armchair and took his cap off his balding head.
‘Hello dear, yes Nathaniel is doing fine, the little tyke has his mother chasing him round the house. It’s his bath time and he won’t listen.’ George chuckled and collapsed wearily into his seat.
All the time George had been speaking, Elsie had not looked up from her knitting. Now she stared at her tired husband fondly as she spoke. ‘poor Helen, she must have her hands full. She was just the same at his age.’
‘That’s what I said El,’ remarked George as flipped open his paper, ‘i told her she works herself too hard. She said why don’t I take Nathaniel for the weekend. So I left.’ George laughed. Elsie chuckled.
Suddenly Elsie started to cough violently, her frail hands dropping the knitting needles as she struggled to breathe. ‘Elsie! El! Dear are you okay?’ yelled George as he leapt to his feet in terror. She flailed a hand at him to not panic. In between gasps she says,
George shuffled from the room and the sound of running water could be heard. Elsie stops coughing, her hand to her mouth, as colour filled her weary cheeks. George arrived with the glass of water. Elsie’s trembling hads took the glass gratefully and she brought it to her lips.
‘You need an appointment Elsie, I’m booking you in with that doctor, doctor doct- what was his name again? Anyway I’m booking you an appointment. We’re not getting any younger my dear.’ gabbled George as his wife finished the glass.
‘I-I’m fine G-George darling, don’t ‘cough’ go bothering the nice ‘cough’ doctor,’ Elsie croaked, ‘now, be a dear and pass, my knitting needles.’
‘Okay El.’ George picked up her needles and the house reverted to the sound of a crackling fire, rustling paper and the clickety clack of Elsie’s knitting…
… the car slowly pulled up outside the tiny cottage.
‘Mum, are you going to tell dad what the doctor said?’ asks Helen as she switches the engine off and turns to Elsie in the passenger seat.
‘No it would break his heart.’
‘But mum it would break his heart not to know,’ urged Helen, ‘both of you aren’t getting any younger, you need to take it easy from now on.’
‘Helena dear, me and your father may be old, we know, but we’re still the best dancers in the community,’ smiled Elsie, ‘and we aren’t the only ones who need to take it easy. When was the last time you took a day off, a moment to relax?’
‘I don’t have time, I have work, Nathaniel and, another child on the way.’ Helen tenderly touched her growing baby bump.
‘Yes well-‘ began Elsie before she burst into a violent coughing fit. Helen sat in distress as her mom’s body convulsed, fighting to stop the cough. The moment passed and Elsie sat shaking in her seat.
‘Let’s get you inside mom. Come on. I can see dad in the window.’ Helen opened her passenger door and…
… the room was dimly lit by candles. A record player plays in the background, the sound of ‘save the last waltz for me’, filling the living room.
Elsie and George stood in the center of the room, hand in hand as they danced to the music. They waltzed to the sound of the melody, graceful and elegant. The flickering candlelight illuminated the pictures on the wall. A young Elsie and George on their wedding day, a trip camping with a young Helen, as she giggled at the wriggling fish in her hand, and a photo of baby Nathaniel in his mother’s arms.
The song began to end, Elsie and George delicately embracing one another. ‘George, it’s time, let’s go to bed.’ said Elsie. George nodded and turned the record player off.
‘You go up first El, I’ll bring up some hot cocoa and put out these candles.’ Elsie nodded and left the room…
The bed was furnished either side by two bedside cabinets, the figures of Elsie and George lit by the pale moonlight that shone through the window.
George’s voice broke the silence. ‘Ahh what a beautiful night El. It’s been too many years since we danced like that, swaying across the ballroom floors. 53 years. It’s been 53 years since I first met you, as we danced to our favourite waltz for the first time. You were like an angel, El. Three years later we got married, in a field, surrounded by horse manure,’ chuckled George as stared up at the ceiling, ‘of course it weren’t all rosy. We had our fights, you got me with the frying pan once, and then came along Helena. Our darling daughter Helen, stubborn like her father and as beautiful as her mother. Then she had Nathaniel, a cheeky scamp if I ever saw one, and now a beautiful granddaughter. Ha, we’ve had a brilliant life El.’
Elsie didn’t respond. George rolled onto his side to gaze upon his wife. Her weary eyes were closed, fragile and delicate like the wings of a butterfly. Upon her face sat a gentle smile. George held her hand in his, feeling the ice cold touch of her skin. Tears rolled down his face as he held his late wife’s hand.
‘You rest now my love, we had it all, we did it all, and we loved till the very end. My sweet darling angel, El.’