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The cripple walked carefully along the manicured pathways, a lily suspended gently between his palms. He moved with the half-shuffle of a man who had given up on life a long time ago. Some of the attendants nodded and smiled with pity in their eyes, but most simply slid away.
He passed a birdbath and glanced at his reflection. His face was a spider web of lines, with weighty white eyebrows and an indiscriminate nose. There was nothing remarkable about his features excepting the lack of life in his eyes. The most beautiful thing about him was the lily in his hands.
His visits had become a commonplace thing among the attendants, who notified new employees of his odd ways on the first day. Really, nobody knew what exactly happened beyond the final bend in the pathway, where the old cripple would disappear for hours on end. They learned to leave him be as soon as he entered “his own little world” behind the petunias, roses, and begonias.
As he neared the end of the path, he unconsciously ran his fingers through his sparse, white hair. He straightened his bow tie. The cripple tried to stand up straighter, even though he would risk breaking his back in doing so. “I can’t wait to see you,” he thought. “Thank god I am allowed to see you. Father never approved, you know.”
He slowed his pace even more drastically when he finally turned the corner. The simple stone slab of a bench that was her favorite place to talk to him came into view, and his heart rate slowed as he settled himself.
Moments later, the scent of her perfume caressed his senses, and he turned his head. She was sitting beside him, her black hair braided and pinned up into a crown. She was wearing the pearls he gave her on their wedding night in May, and her skin glowed with timeless beauty.
“You look lovely tonight,” he said shyly.
“That’s what you say every night, silly…” she tittered, and blushed.
“It’s true, though,” he insisted.
“Oh, what will I do with you?” she looked even more beautiful when she laughed than before.
“Love me,” he said gently.
“Of course,” she replied in a whisper. Her hands clasped his, and she kissed his wrinkly cheek. “Close your eyes,” she said. He obliged. While his smile lingered, she walked away…
The cripple stood up with a sigh. He walked crookedly out of the greenhouse, past the willow, and into the small cemetery beyond. He kneeled beside the nameless marker which read:
Born: October 14, 1943
Died: May 18, 1966
The cripple, kneeling, wept as his lily joined thousands of others in front of the marker…