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Fredrik smiles to himself in the dark. Maybe there are advantages to Jean losing her hearing. He dismisses the thought. It’s not Jean’s fault she’s aging faster than he is. He’ll convince her about the hearing aid eventually, even if they have to argue about it. They’ll both feel better when she gets one. He’s troubled though. He’s not sure Jean’s problems are limited to hearing loss. She is becoming more forgetful. At their age, each day is a gift they can’t afford to squander. But if she won’t even consider a hearing aid, how will he convince her that other tests might be in order?
He finds the first doorframe with his hand. The light switch is on the other side. He wishes he could see better but his night vision has always been poor. And he’s quite certain that all three pairs of his glasses are resting on the kitchen table where he left them last night. He tries to keep one pair in the pocket of his cardigan at all times, but they always end up in the kitchen at the end of the day.
Jean is still in bed when Snowflake hops up beside her.
“There you are,” Jean says, and runs her hand along Snowflake’s back. Snowflake arches in response.
Jean pushes herself to a sitting position and strains to hear Snowflake purring. She can feel the vibration under Snowflake’s fur, but until she places her ear against Snowflake’s side she hears nothing. She flushes with anger.
“It’s not fair,” she says, “I never had any problems hearing, or seeing, or anything else for that matter. I used to be sharp, everyone said so.” She slumps and Snowflake pads across her thighs, butting Jean’s chin with her head. “You’re right,” says Jean, “feeling sorry for myself won’t do any good.”
Jean pulls the cord for the blind and a weak light seeps into the room.
“Look at that. The whole neighbourhood is sleeping. Why in the world do we have to get up so early?”
She often complains to Fredrik about this new habit they’ve acquired since he moved in. But secretly she enjoys getting up early and imagines they are the only two souls for miles around who are awake. As if they are getting more out of the day than anyone else. Their way of cheating time. She can’t hear the cardinal at the top of the white cedar in the backyard, even though she knows he is there, trying to wake the neighbourhood with his shrill song.
She gets out of bed and takes her robe down from the hook inside the closet door. Her muscles are stiff and her joints ache, but overall she feels well. She overlaps the robe across her chest. Her breasts droop and her skin folds in places she never thought possible, victims of gravity. She never dreamt she would have to share her body with anyone again, but it wasn’t long after their first dinner that she and Fredrik discussed sex.
Instead of fumbling in the dark like teenagers, they planned it. They decided to lie on the bed before taking their clothes off. An attempt to make the first glimpse of each other naked as flattering as possible. They both admitted to scars. He’d had shoulder surgery and an appendectomy. She’d had two C-sections. She was dismayed by the appearance of her breasts. She suspected Fredrik was self-conscious about his buttocks, although they looked fine to her. Lying down, things didn’t look so bad. And not everything was lying down. Jean’s face warms at the memory.
Even after they started having sex, Jean never thought she and Fredrik would get married. They were from different worlds. The first night he came over for dinner she had expected him to bring a bottle of wine; he arrived with vodka. He was cavalier about it. “It was in the freezer,” he said. Jean wasn’t sure how they were supposed to drink it, but gathered that it wasn’t to be mixed with tomato juice or shaken as a martini. She showed Fredrik where the shot glasses were, in the back of the cupboard beside the fridge, and Fredrik poured to the rim.