Growing Old

by Melissa Chen
Art by Caroline Wang
Issue: Scintilla (Spring 2019)

It was a summer evening. The garden was quiet under a spell of shade and shadow cast by the trees. A cool, sweet breeze streamed through, carrying the light scent of a canopy of fresh-faced, night-blooming flowers and fragrant June roses. The gate was open, and whoever entered just then did not greatly disturb the peaceful enchantment, though the little wind slipped and died.

Ms.Stephanie tread the path softly. Her knobbly ankles brushed the grass. There was a slab of stone a little way off the trail, and she ventured there, and settled near it. The stillness settled around her like the folds of the long gauzy gowns she used to wear at parties.

The second trespasser was not so well welcomed. The gate creaked when Mr.John entered. He paused to tug his coat stiffly, which had caught on the post. His wooden step was not so easy or quiet, and stirred a little dust where there had been none before. He coughed dryly, and the silence was split.

“You still miss him,” Mr.John said. Ms.Stephanie was tracing the inscription on the gravestone with a bent finger. Mr.John saw the distinct glittering on her right hand.

“It hasn’t been long since his passing.”

“Five years is a long time to grieve.”

She raised her head. Her hair was snowy and silvered in the moonlight that glinted off her glasses. “Funny you should say that. Both of us are so aged it’s amazing we recognize each other. Five years is nothing.”

He shifted creakily on his feet and took in deep breaths of lilies and jasmines.

“It’s so gloomy and lonely here,” she said. “They’ll be sure to start the dancing soon.

Why aren’t you down to the celebrations, to the warmth and light?”

“I wanted to speak to you,” he said. He wished a draft of wind would rise, if only to cool the sweat dampening under his collar.

There seemed to be an air of expectation gathering around her, like that before a hot and rushing summer storm. He would like to stay to feel the relief of rainfall, or to hear the wild thunder break out and chill him, but he could not breathe in the stifling atmosphere now.

“You’re right,” he said. “I think I’ll go back.”

“I’ll go as well.”

As they left the garden, something dropped from the old man’s fingers, and tumbled into the tall grasses. It was a plain ring, with a single twinkling jewel. The garden withered a little.

A ring is on the ground, surrounded by blades of grass.