It was late August. The nighttime air was crisp and cool. Jonathan Elroy and Ms. Vivica Powell walked together down the sidewalk of Twenty-fifth Street. They weren’t holding hands but their shoulders were touching. Neither of them said a word. The only sounds to be heard were the tree leaves rustling and the click-clack of Ms. Vivica’s high heel shoes.
Jonathan looked at his watch, which read 8:30. “Ms. Vivica, how much further is it to your son’s house?”
Ms. Vivica sighed heavily. “Not much further.”
Jonathan sighed. It felt as though he had been walking with Ms. Vivica for an hour instead of ten minutes. If only he’d listened to his daughter and hadn’t stopped at the corner store for a pack of cards. If only…
“Oh, dear!” Ms. Vivica stopped in her tracks and looked down at the ground. Jonathan stopped as well and looked at her.
“What’s wrong, now?”
“I almost stepped on this penny,” Ms. Vivica replied.
Jonathan rolled his eyes. “So? Can’t we just keep going?”
“Stop rushing me, John. You know how I loved collecting and saving pennies. I want you to get it for me…please?”
Jonathan continued to stare at Ms. Vivica. “You want me to get it?”
Ms. Vivica nodded her head. “Please, John. I’m dressed much too nicely and I have a bad back. Couldn’t you be so kind as to bend over and pick it up…for me?”
Jonathan mumbled a couple of undistinguishable expressions as he bent down to pick up the penny. He held it out for Ms. Vivica but she wouldn’t take it.
“John, dear, do you mind dusting it off? It’s dirty.”
Jonathan blew on the penny and practically threw it at the older woman. Ms. Vivica clamped her long, bony fingers around the penny and the two started taking no more than three steps when she stopped under the street light to examine the penny. Jonathan stood beside her, a growing, annoyed expression on his face.
“John, dear, do you mind telling me the year on this penny? My eyes are bad.”
Jonathan looked Ms. Vivica Powell up and down with a look of disgust. Just who does this woman think she is? he thought to himself. She hadn’t changed not one bit. Ms. Vivica still had the same smooth, golden brown skin, only now she had a few wrinkles around the corners of her hazel eyes. Her eyebrows were perfectly arched and her lips were painted a crimson red. Ms. Vivica’s nutmeg brown hair was immaculate, pulled up into a neat bun with dashes of gray throughout. She was dressed in a knee length cream dress with pearl buttons and a light shawl draped her shoulders. Around her neck and on her ears and fingers were diamonds and she carried a small cream purse.
Jonathan, on the other hand, wore dingy old farmer overalls and a plain, button up shirt with worn, beat up work boots. Looking at him, with his aging brown skin that housed multiple wrinkles and head and rugged beard covered in gray, told the story of a man that lived a hard and tiring life.
Jonathan took his broken reading glasses out of his pocket, putting them on in just the right way so that they wouldn’t fall down on his face. He looked at the penny.
“Well, what year is it?” Ms. Vivica wanted to know.
“Nineteen sixty-two,” Jonathan replied.
Ms. Vivica looked up toward the vast, starless sky. “Nineteen sixty-two,” she repeated more to herself. “Hmm…I remember that year very well, dear, don’t you?”
The two had started to walk again, shoulder to shoulder. Jonathan shook his head. “Nope. Really can’t say that I do, Ms. Vivica.”
“Well, I do. I was seventeen…and you were eighteen. That was the year we met, and I was still a senior in high school and you….”
“Had just come home from the Navy,” Jonathan finished, grinning to himself.
“Yes,” said Ms. Vivica. “John, dear, isn’t it odd that I still remember what I wore? A lavender shirt with a ruffled collar and a matching skirt. My hair was done up in some new-style bun. I remember right after school I went on to the corner store and there you were…buying a pack of cards!”
Ms. Vivica started laughing and Jonathan began to chuckle to himself. He remembered now. He remembered exactly.
“You were looking at me the whole time I was in that store,” Ms. Vivica told him. “You thought that I wasn’t paying you any attention but indeed I was. You went outside just so you could see me when I came out. You thought I was looking so fine!”
“Well, no, Ms. Vivica,” Jonathan said, sticking his hard, dirty hands deep into his overall pockets. “The way I remember it is that you was lookin’ at me. You thought I was lookin’ mighty fine in my Navy uniform.”
Ms. Vivica shook her head. “Oh, well, anyways, that was the day when you first spoke to me. You were very polite, and I admit that you were quite handsome.”
Jonathan grinned to himself. “Yeah, I was. You was cute yourself. Can’t believe we even dated for----”
“Seven years,” the both said in unison.
“Nineteen sixty-two had it’s up and downs,” Ms. Vivica stated sadly. “Of course, that was the year that my father died, and I missed him so much. No one seemed to understand me like my father. It was so hard on us all. Of course, it was especially harder on my younger brother, Phillip. He never did act the same after Daddy passed.”
Jonathan hung his head and cleared his throat. He didn’t like people talking about death. It made him feel uneasy, especially after his wife, Helena, died three years ago.
“But that was the year Mama got me a brand new car!” Ms Vivica said with excitement in her voice. “It was red, dear, and very shiny. Do you remember that car?”
Jonathan nodded and nudged Ms. Vivica’s shoulder. “We spent a lot of evenings and late nights in the backseat, huh?”
Ms. Vivica was glad that it was dark outside, and Jonathan couldn’t see her blush.
“Really, Jonathan!” she scolded. “Only you would remember that.”
“Well, I remember going with you to your senior prom and you wanted me to wear my uniform so that everybody would know that you was datin’ a man that had a job.”
Again, Ms. Vivica couldn’t help but to blush .
“Yes, dear, I remember. Mama and my older sister, Kelly, had made that dress for me. It was white with a full, big skirt and I was a little squeamish at first about how low cut it was in the front, but Kelly assured me that it was the new style.”
“I remember bein’ nervous about just going,” Jonathan admitted. “I didn’t even go to my school prom back in Cur-lina. Didn’t have no time or no money. Had to work my daddy’s farm.”
“Yes, dear, I remember.”
Just then Ms. Vivica stopped in front of a tall, spacious looking white house with black shutters and a wraparound porch. She turned to Jonathan.
“Dear, might I ask you what was the best thing that happened to you that year, if you don’t mind?”
Jonathan didn’t say anything for a while. He just looked up toward the sky, searching for any sign of a star and not finding one. Finally, he looked back into Ms. Vivica’s eyes. “
“Meetin’ you, I suppose.”
Ms. Vivica smiled one of her beauty pageant smiles. “Yes, dear, I suppose that was the best thing for me, also. Meeting you. Would you mind walking me to my door?”
Jonathan held out his arm for Ms. Vivica to take and she did. Together, this time arm in arm, the pair headed to the front door, walking up three steps of the wrap around porch before Ms. Vivica stopped.
“Dear, I told you that my back is bad. May we sit down for a bit?”
“Sure.” Jonathan helped Ms. Vivica sit down on the step and he sat down beside her. She held her knees together and her purse in her lap with her hands clasped together on top, looking like the lady of essence that she was.
“John, dear, after so many years of dating, what happened? Why didn’t we get married?”
Jonathan sighed. “I don’t know, Ms. Vivica. I just don’t know. Do you even think we coulda made it? Bein’ married and all?”
Ms. Vivica shrugged. “I don’t know, dear. It’s funny how we spent so much time with each other and ended up marrying different people. I have my son, Jacob and you have your daughter----.”
“Helena,” Jonathan spoke up. “After my late wife.”
“Oh, dear, I’m sorry about your wife. My own husband died over five years ago. Ever since his death, I’ve been living with Jacob. He’s such a sweet young man. What about your daughter? Do you live with her?”
Jonathan shook his head. “Now you know I’ve always been independent, Ms. Vivica. I still work and live on my own.”
Ms. Vivica nodded her head slowly. “Dear, isn’t it funny how we’re meeting again…over forty years later…just as we had the day we were eighteen. Oh, my! And at the same little corner store and you were buying a pack of cards and waiting for me outside!”
Ms. Vivica slapped Jonathan’s thigh and the both of them started laughing.
“And a little penny with nineteen sixty-two on it took us down a trip of memory lane,” said Jonathan.
Ms. Vivica smiled. “Yes, life is strange sometimes, dear. It’s really quite strange.”
Just then the two heard a door open and they looked up at the same time to see Ms. Vivica’s son, a tall, golden brown man with hazel eyes like his mother.
The man adjusted the glasses on his nose. “Hello,” he said to Jonathan and then to his mother, “Mom, it’s getting late and you need to come inside and take your medicine.”
“Oh, alright, Jacob,” said Ms. Vivica, starting to stand up. “I’ll be inside in just a second.”
Jacob nodded his head and shut the door. Jonathan helped Ms. Vivica to her feet.
“Medicine?” he asked with raised eyebrows.
“Oh, it’s nothing, dear, really it isn’t. Just for aches and pains. Just a little tumor they found near my spine. It’s really quite alright. I’ll be just fine.”
Jonathan didn’t say anything but he could tell by the pained expression on Ms. Vivica’s face as he helped her to her feet that she had more than just a “bad back”.
Ms. Vivica walked to the door and with her hand on the knob, she turned around to face Jonathan Elroy, her long time friend and love.
“Nice seeing you again, Jonathan. Do you suppose we’ll meet again?”
Jonathan nodded his head and smiled. “Yes, indeed, yes indeed. Well’ meet again, Ms. Vivica. Goodnight.”