The couple walked out through the double-wide sliding door as a woman pushed an older man in a wheelchair into the building. The door closed, leaving the couple alone outside.
“Now what?” the man quietly asked his wife.
She considered a moment. “Let’s go to Tim’s Pizza.” It was a normal thing for them to do.
They ordered a hand-tossed Canadian bacon and mushroom pizza and root beers. The girl behind the counter smiled at them because she’d been working there just long enough to realize it was their usual order.
They talked of this and that as they ate, just like always. When they left the restaurant, he opened the car door for her, which he usually did. They stopped at Barnaby’s for a bottle of her favorite merlot. “Always keep that in stock for you,” Mr. Barnaby said with a smile. They smiled back and walked out to the car and drove home.
She turned the TV on as he opened the wine and poured it into a couple of glasses. He handed her one glass and sat on the couch next to her. His wine was at his left and his hand lay between them, next to hers but not touching, as usual. They watched a nature documentary and the news through the weather. Then she turned off the TV and they got ready for bed, as they always did at this hour.
They got in bed, shared a perfunctory kiss and said “ ‘Night.” She turned off the light and they lay together in the dark as they had since getting married. The end of a perfectly normal evening.
Until she said, “I’ve set the alarm for 5.”
And unlike any night in their lives together, tears spilled down his cheeks and he took a slow, deep breath to keep from sobbing. That had been their tacit agreement. “OK,” he said quickly.
They had to be back through the double-wide sliding doors at the hospital by 6. Her surgery was scheduled for 7.