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His shaking finger moved along the foggy surface of the glass, creating broken lines and curves as his hand swooped down and up again to finish the drawing. He gazed at the crooked heart he had constructed with wistful eyes and allowed his arm to fall to his side. She loved the activity when the breath of life was still within her, and he could not help but recall her delighted face upon viewing his less than impressive scribbles. He did not possess an artistic ability similar to hers when drawing was involved, but he could pride himself on his piano skills.

The man glanced at the instrument snuggled in the corner, now sitting idly and collecting dust. It had been years since he last played it. The final time was exactly five years earlier. He winced at the memory, pained by feelings spurred it, and resolved to complete the task he had initially set out to do.

Donning a large overcoat and hat, he opened the front door and took a few hesitant steps out. His feet left deep imprints in the snow, and the biting chill caused his nose to turn a shade of bright red. His breath came out in small puffs, visible in the still air.

A tangle of camellias, his late wife’s favorite, grew wild around her tombstone near the house in a tragically beautiful farewell to their namesake. He knelt down and picked a dying flower near the back, one just as withered and worn as he was. The stem bent forwards slightly, causing the petals to tilt and face the ground. They were drained of their color, dulled to a muted pinkish brown. The man stared at it gravely before bringing it up to his face and breathing in its faint, sweet scent.

“We don’t have much time left, do we?” he murmured, closing his eyes. After a few moments, he heaved a sigh and set the flower down in front of the dreary stone. A chilly wind wrapped around him, and a fresh flurry of snowflakes forced his eyes to open. He spared one last glance at the forlorn scene as he struggled to stand up. The years had not been kind to his body, and he found his once fluid movements were replaced with stiff, robotic ones.

The man hurried back to the house as the snow augmented in both speed and intensity, becoming so thick that it restricted his vision. He hung up his coat and hat in the closet and fell into a large armchair in the living room. There were many memories created there, and they came to his mind in short bursts, beginning with the strains of a conversation.

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“Oh, come on, Henry! You know I love the song.” Her face was lit with earnest joy, an expression which signified that she would accept no refusal. Henry grumbled, but obliged, taking his position at the piano. His fingers slowly played the first few chords, and his wife’s voice soon rang out in harmony with the instrument.

“Summertime, and the livin’ is easy. Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high. Your daddy’s rich, and your mama’s good lookin’. So hush little baby, don’t you cry.”

She looked up at the ceiling, one hand at her heart and the other in the air. Her singing was angelic, soothing to the worn ear, and despite putting up an annoyed front, Henry could not help but smile upon hearing her.

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Henry felt a wave of peace flood over him as he recalled the experience. The prior shroud of darkness settled over the room seemed to be dispersing, deteriorating by the mere thought of his wife’s singing. All too soon, he was thrust into another memory.

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He was stationed at the piano once more, his wife singing and he playing the jazzy tune. “Summerti-“ Her voice had cracked, and a dull thud resounded soon after as she collapsed onto the ground. Henry rushed to her side and brought her to the couch, laying her down gently while she protested and claimed she was fine, that there was no need for worry.

She was proven wrong, however, as the next few weeks consisted of constant bed rest. Henry tended to her every whim, urging her to never give up hope despite harboring an acute dread in his heart.

After quite a bit of arguing, she was moved from the bedroom to the living room couch, so she would be able to hear her husband play piano. It was the same song, over and over, and each time she insisted on singing, even when her voice lost its strength and melodious tone.

“Play it again,” she requested in a whisper after he had completed playing. He would sigh and begin once more, secretly relieved that the illness had yet to conquer her senses and mind.

One night, she stopped singing in the middle of the song. Henry continued to play; an abrupt end to the singing was becoming more frequent as the days passed, but he knew just listening to the music was enough to put her at ease.

As he reached the final note, he waited for her familiar words, her demand for him to play yet again. A few seconds passed, but she did not speak. Puzzled, he turned around. “Camellia, don’t you want to listen to it again? Camellia? Camellia?”

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Henry bit down on his bottom lip, unable to continue reminiscing. After ascertaining the threat of tears was harmless, he looked at the piano, and then down at his fingers. Arthritis was beginning to set in, and they were not as nimble as they once were. But, he mused, I’m not that old.

Moving with newfound confidence, Henry stood up shakily and made his way to the piano, gently lifting the cover as he sat down. He found the first chord and let his hands fall on the keys. The resulting music was refreshing to hear after all the years. As he continued, he realized the music was warped; his unsteady fingers were hitting the wrong notes the majority of the time. The original melody was retained however, and he had an overwhelming urge to sing.

His voice could never be as dulcet as his wife’s, but his mouth formed the lyrics anyway and he sung out, transcending the restrictions of his age. The snow now came down in blinding sheets, blanketing the camellias and the gravestone in soft white. As discordant notes flowed through the house, snowflakes melted upon the window and haphazardly fell through the center of the heart, cracking it into two jagged parts. Henry continued to play as silver tear drops fell onto the ivory keys.

“So hush little baby, don’t you cry.”




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