Anything for You

Three Cheers and a Tiger ~ Gold
S.K. Traheir


“Sorry I’m late.” Shannon slid into the booth, shrugging off her coat. She began to unwind her scarf, but decided to leave it on. She leaned into the table. “I had a hard time getting started today.”

“No worries.” Peter smiled. “I got you a latte, skim milk. And Sugar in the Raw.” He slid the small brown packet across the table.

“Thanks, Peter, you’re my rock.” She took the sugar packet, shook it with one hand, then stirred it into her coffee. She picked up the tall glass mug in both hands. Under the thin layer of foam, the coffee was lukewarm. “This coffee tastes like dirt.”

“Well, it was probably…”

“…ground this morning, very funny.”

“I’m glad you came out. We don’t see each other nearly enough,” he said earnestly. “How are you?”

“I’m… you know, I’m… okay. Relatively.” She turned the ring on her finger, a tiny speck of a diamond. Once a token of a promise, now it represented a fading hope. She hugged her arms tight to her chest, the way she had held Brian that day. “So, how’s the landscaping business?”

“It’s good. It’s been a hard winter, though.”

Shannon nodded.

“The ground, I mean. It’s still hard as granite. I got all these bulbs ready for planting, but we’ll have to wait. This time last year was so busy—remember that huge project I had? Working day and night, barely had time to breathe? Wouldn’t be able to do that now, temperatures the way they are.”

“Yeah, I keep wondering if spring is ever going to come.” On the cafe’s speakers the Mamas and the Papas were California Dreamin’. Shannon sighed. “I haven’t heard this song in forever.”

“Remember in high school when I was looking for this? I had to have it. We went to a dozen used record stores, and you finally found it, filed under P instead of M.”

“I thought you were going to strangle someone if you didn’t get it! I couldn’t understand why you cared so much; I just kept begging you to give up already. Then you gave me that mix tape for my birthday with this song on it, and I felt sort of silly.”

“Anything for you, m’dear. No obstacle too great. Eighteenth birthday, after all, that’s no small thing. And I knew that loser boyfriend of yours wouldn’t do anything appropriate.”

“Justin was not a loser.”

“Oh yeah, what’d he do for you?”

“For my birthday? Gave me chocolate, I think. And… stuff.”

“Good chocolate?”

She laughed. “No, not really.”

“There you go—proof you weren’t meant to last.”

“That was so long ago. I haven’t thought about Justin in years.”

Peter put his mug down on the table. “What about Brian?”

“That’s different.” She fell silent for a moment and stared out the window at the sun struggling to break through the clouds. “I think about him every day. I mean every day. Sometimes, I’ll be home alone, and I’ll hear something, just a small noise, like a knocking or a something that could be a footstep and I’ll think for just a second, could it be him? Then I realize, of course it’s not.”

“It was a year ago, wasn’t it?”

“To the day. It was this exact day, last year, that he walked out the door and… never came back.”

“It’s hard to go on, without closure. I saw him, you know.”

“When? Where?” She sat up, pushed her coffee aside to listen.

“That day, I mean. Last March. He wanted to do something special for you and said he knew I’d be the one to ask for advice.” A note of pride crept into his voice. “I told him he was dead right on that score, and I knew just the thing, only it’d take a while.”

He brought out a low, wide planting tray from the seat beside him. He had groomed it with an immaculate miniature landscape, neatly trimmed grass, moss, and stalks that were just sprouting tiny buds. “I know you don’t have room for a garden yet, but this will do for now. It’s also a promise to make you a real garden if you want one, in the future. A living promise.”

“Peter, I don’t know… wow. It’s amazing.”

“Brian loved you, Shannon. But I love you more.”

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S.K. Traheir received an Honorable Mention in last fall’s Three Cheers and a Tiger contest. She reads, writes, lives, and works in Massachusetts, where the past winter was relatively mild, all in all. E-mail: sabeth[at]amergin.org.

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