A year passed since Eloise Whithers’ encounter with Petty Officer Third Class Durham. Although she hadn’t seen or heard from him, thoughts of Seth lingered in her mind. She often found herself thinking about him at odd moments. Her job in a corner delicatessen/bakery kept her busy. She served at the pastry counter while her workmate, Elmer Parker worked at the deli. He smiled at her across the way; she smiled back.
When Elmer asked her for a date, she kindly refused. In the back of her mind lingered thoughts of Seth’s reappearance. She fantasized romantically of his whisking her away from the bakery.
Eloise clung to her dreams. Seth became her anchor; her feeling of future security. When she closed her eyes, she saw his playful hazel eyes and that oh so sweet cockeyed smile. Elmer remained a workmate and friend; she kept him at arm’s length. Seth remained the love of her life.
Time continued to pass without a word from Seth Durham. Eventually, Eloise decided to put the fantasy behind her. The time came to become more serious about life. Christmas approached, and Elmer asked her to accompany him to New York City. He purchased tickets for the Radio City Music Hall holiday show. Elmer’s patience succeeded; Eloise accepted his invitation.
Eloise said “Yes” to Elmer’s marriage proposal in Time Square on New Year’s Eve. They married in May. Their first child, Helen Marie, arrived on a snow filled January day of the following year. Elmer Lawrence appeared after another eleven months and a third child, Mariam Elizabeth, four years later. The Parker’s opened their own bakery in Cape May, New Jersey. The little family thrived; Seth Durham faded into the past.
The years passed in the blink of an eye. The children grew up and began lives of their own. Eventually, Elmer and Eloise sold their bakery and retired to Venice, Florida. They settled into the Sunshine State lifestyle. The condo association kept them busy with dances, bingo and movie nights. In the summertime, they visited their grandchildren in Cape May. During the winter months, their offspring brought the little ones to Disney World or Busch Gardens.
Eloise enjoyed Elmer’s companionship. Throughout the years, they learned to anticipate the other’s thoughts or desires. They became inseparable. Then her husband suffered a fatal heart attack.
“A day like any other,” Eloise muttered, her memories overflowing.
In the morning, they took a walk along the beach and lunched with their group of elderly friends. Following an afternoon nap, they ate a light dinner on the lanai. Finally, the couple turned on the TV to watch Jeopardy!.
Eloise called out her questions to the answers along with the show’s contestant. Entranced by the game’s pace, she did not realize Elmer wasn’t playing along. Following Final Jeopardy!, she realized she hadn’t heard his voice.
“Elmer,” Eloise called. When he didn’t respond, she became alarmed. “Elmer!”
For a moment, Eloise believed her husband had fallen asleep. Rising, she nudged his shoulder. Elmer slumped further into his recliner. She shook a little harder. Aghast, she stepped back when he collapsed face first onto the carpet.