Birthdays weren’t supposed to be like this. She watched him sitting up in his hospice bed.
‘Lovely steak, dear,’ Tom mumbled, ‘Shame Sarah couldn’t join us.’
Mary did not respond, re-living the previous day’s argument.
‘I’m having no part in this lunacy.’
‘If it’s what your Dad wants for his birthday, why should I argue?’
‘He’s dying, Mum.’
* * *
Mary drove Tom out to the airfield. She dialled Sarah’s number on her phone and stared up at the clear blue sky. Voicemail.
A man in a pilot’s uniform walked over. ‘Mary?’
‘Yes. Is he…’
‘We’ll take good care of him. You can watch from the spectators’ area.’
Mary settled herself on the bench inside the perspex shelter. The plane pulled out of the hanger. As it taxied, a figure dashed from the hanger and clambered aboard. The plane was soon climbing into the morning sky, leaving Mary on the tarmac.
After what seemed like hours, first one, then another black speck emerged from the plane to fall back to earth. Mary let out the breath tightening her chest at the sight of her husband with his instructor floating towards the white “X” on the grass. She was transported back to the church hall when the sergeant with paratrooper insignia on his shoulders had asked her to dance.
Mary noticed the other figure again, bent down to kiss Tom, pulling her helmet off and shaking out her blonde hair.
Sarah turned towards her mother and waved. Mary pecked Tom on the cheek then stood back.
‘Dad, that was brilliant!’ Sarah laughed, ‘Bloody scary though.’
Tom roared with laughter, a knowing, bittersweet look passing privately between him and Mary.
‘Aye, kid,’ he replied, ‘As birthdays go, that one wasn’t too bad.’
* * *
The original at Future; Nostalgic