It was love at first sight for him. For her she had to get used to his face. He looked like her Yorkshire Terrier. It was his red shaggy beard and eyebrows. What she was attracted to was his eyes – dark and gentle, with a sparkle to them – again, like her dog’s. He came into her pastry shop early each morning to buy something sweet. He ate it while sipping coffee and they chatted about nothing in particular – the weather, town gossip, news from the lives of their children. It was a pleasure for him to watch her greet the customers whom, he suspected, came in to see her more than for her selection of delicious treats. She was stylish in her colorful aprons, often adorning herself by wearing hats with the plumes of a bird shooting skyward and dancing lightly above her in the air. He had an antique store down the street which he opened for business an hour later. Because he was in love with her, secretly of course, with both of them recently widowed – coming up on a year for her, three years having passed for him – he bought a blue and yellow parakeet that reminded him of her. He named the bird Sugar and gave her a home within a domed wrought-iron cage that he had in his shop. It was more than one hundred years old, ornate with floral designs and painted white. He carried the parakeet with him to and from work and Sugar became a regular customer in the pastry shop at daybreak. While Sugar pecked at the crumbs of donuts and jelly-filled croissants, the two of them chirped like birds themselves. They taught her to sit on their fingers and, over time, got her to say things. First: Hello, Sugar. Then: Good morning. Next: Something sweet? And after weeks of practice: I love you. Customers gathered around to listen, to voice their delight, the doorbells tingling as they came and went. Since her store had more traffic than his, and since the parakeet loved the attention, he gave her Sugar as a gift, telling her it was an early Christmas present. She almost cried, accepting his gift on a promise from him that he would continue visiting her in the morning. Additionally, he would come to her house for dinner. He arrived punctually, holding a cluster of Iceland poppies from his greenhouse. She made a place for them in a vase at the center of her dining room table. Waiting in the living room, he listened as she sang in the kitchen, Sugar singing on a nearby perch, and he became intrigued by a shaggy face staring up at him. There was something familiar about the dog. Its mouth opened in a panting smile, a pink tongue displayed, licking his offered hand. He stroked its silky fur and this seemed to calm them both. The evening chill of an approaching snowfall clung to his skin but he was warming nicely beside the fire she had made. The glowing embers and orange flames swayed hypnotically. From another room he heard her voice call to him, in a playful trill, announcing dinner. Her love for him was spoken. He turned to look at Sugar chirping on her perch, bobbing her blue and yellow head. He felt the warm kiss on his hand, a nuzzling head against his arm. And at long last his frozen doubts melted. He recognized himself in her dog’s eyes and realized he was home.
Excerpt from Light-Years in the Dark: StoryPoems (see more)