Ryan had been missing Ruth ever since their polite kiss goodbye, which had appeared to represent some sort of ending.
In their time as friends, they’d been out for dinner and sat in cafés for hours, talking about their mutual interests and the people they knew. Ryan recalled how he became lost in Ruth’s company, not really seeking to impress her, or fill the conscious silences with random junk. How, whenever they met at parties, which wasn’t very often, they tended to sit away from the other people, where they could communicate in their own little space. She stood a good foot shorter than he, her eyes and hair were pretty similar to a lot of girls’ her age, but she was perfect.
Their polite kiss goodbye had taken place on 17th June, at about 11am, outside a greasy spoon, where Ryan had just bought a bacon sandwich. They were both hungover and running late for things, and neither had anticipated that they would run into each another that morning. It felt unusually awkward and rushed. Their polite kiss goodbye lingered on his cheek that day, and for the next five years, when she was completely absent from his life.
‘Make sure you put “just a thought”,’ advised his friend Sarah. She was a good help with these kind of things. She’d never even met Ruth. ‘You don’t want to scare the poor lass to death.’ Ryan had a lot he wanted to say in that letter. He wrote about their polite kiss goodbye, and how moving its memory was to him. He asked about her cat. He didn’t know much about her anymore. He tried to express precisely what it was he loved about her, but couldn’t find the words, so he simply wrote ‘how I feel about you is beyond words’, and said he wanted to see her again.
In a room, her room, sixty years later, Ryan opened the blinds. Ruth groaned but didn’t move. He hoped she knew he was there. Speaking softly about their granddaughters, Mary and Tabitha, who were coming after school, he stroked her thin hair, and recalled her soft, perfumed skin on their wedding day.
He couldn’t look after her anymore, he’d been told, and neither could anyone else in their family. So now she was here. When Ruth sat up in bed, she spat in his face, and called him another man’s name. He often left the building with red cheeks that she’d slapped hard, but always with the thought that the happy lives they had shared, the many years they had given to each other, and the loving memories they had made, were worth suffering for.