Fleeting Moments

Fleeting Moments is a Christmas ficlet of 5k words. You can read the story below, or if you’d prefer to read from your eReader, click here to visit BookFunnel and download your copy.

Fleeting Moments: A Christmas short story

Life hasn’t been easy for Matthew O’Connor lately. He’s an only child and struggling to deal with his mother’s Alzheimer’s, as he prepares to move back to Sydney to assist with her care. Visiting her on Christmas Day brings all his worries to the surface. What if she lashes out? What if she doesn’t remember him at all? However, what starts out as an emotional day fraught with concern, turns into the day of Matthew’s dreams, thanks to his boyfriend, Jerry, and a special gift from his mother.

CHAPTER ONE

Jerry

“Are you sure you want to come? It’s not too late.” Matthew looked around the hotel room, gaze flitting from the bed with its wrinkled white sheets to the open suitcase, then to the window, before landing back on Jerry. “I’m sure the hotel does some sort of Christmas lunch or dinner thing. I could head out to Mum’s—”

Jerry stepped forward and placed a hand on Matthew’s arm as he spoke. “I’m coming with you.”

“If I call now, we might get you a reservation—”

“Matt, I said I’m coming with you. To your Mum’s place.”

Matthew blinked a few times and a soft smile touched his lips. “Thank you,” he whispered.

Jerry couldn’t remember seeing his partner of two years ever look so vulnerable, and it tore at his heart. “You don’t have to thank me. I wouldn’t dream of being anywhere else.” He wrapped Matthew in a hug, relieved when Matthew relaxed against him, letting out a deep breath and resting his face against Jerry’s shoulder. Matt’s breath was warm on his neck and the scent of him was familiar and comforting. They stood that way for a moment, Matthew’s arms around Jerry’s waist, his head tucked under Jerry’s chin, the two of them standing together against the world.

If only the world wasn’t so bloody hard, so much of the time.

“W-what if she doesn’t recognise me?” Matthew’s words were mumbled against Jerry’s chest, but the worry was clear enough. Jesus.

He stroked Matthew’s hair. “There’s a good chance she may not, sweetheart. You know what the doctors have said; at this stage of her illness, she’ll probably have fewer moments of clarity, and more times when she’s confused.”

“I know.” Matthew’s voice shook. “But what will I do if she doesn’t know who I am?”

Jerry continued running his fingers through the auburn strands, wishing he could take away Matthew’s pain. It had been a hard year as Matthew tried to come to terms with his mother’s early dementia and her rapid decline, and he hated watching the emotional toll it was taking. Matthew was an only child, for God’s sake, and the pressure of making decisions for his mother’s care had fallen squarely on his shoulders. Plus, when she wasn’t around anymore, Matthew wouldn’t have anyone left. No family.

No, that isn’t true. He has me.

Jerry hugged Matthew tighter and whispered against his hair. “You’ll do what you did last time. You’ll be gentle with her, show her how much she’s loved, enjoy spending time with her.” He pushed aside thoughts of the last time they’d seen Susan—her momentary forgetfulness, her anger, the lashing out. She was so young—only in her late fifties—to be afflicted with the disease that was robbing her of her memories, her personality, and tearing her from Matthew. His gaze fell on the wrapped gift waiting on the credenza by the hotel room door. “You’ll give her the Christmas gift.”

“Do you think she’ll even remember it’s Christmas?”

“You’ll remind her if she’s forgotten.”

Matthew gave him a quick squeeze then pulled away, the distance allowing him to look up into Jerry’s eyes. God, he wished he didn’t see so much sorrow looking up at him, but Matthew managed a small smile. Regardless of the outcome of today’s visit, Jerry resolved to make sure Matthew had a Christmas to remember— for all the right reasons.

 

Matthew

 

The house looked exactly the same. Single storey, red bricks, the paintwork on the awning and windows slightly peeling. That would never have happened if his dad had still been around. David O’Connor had been a stickler for maintaining the house that had been their home for over thirty years until his unexpected death six years previously. The azaleas were overgrown, the branches overhanging the path, and his mum’s prize roses were in definite need of pruning, spent blooms weighing them down. Matthew stopped at the gate and sucked in a breath, fear of what he’d find when he reached the house making his limbs heavy.

He hadn’t made it back home to Sydney for two months and the thought of what could have happened in that time frightened the shit out of him. Mum’s carer, Claire, was great and he trusted her implicitly to look after her, but he had a feeling she tried to protect Matthew’s feelings a little too much and might have whitewashed things. Thank goodness the extra time in Melbourne had paid off, though—in one more month, after the current project wrapped up, he’d be back in Sydney permanently.

Matthew glanced at Jerry and immediately felt stronger, that feeling amplified when Jerry grasped his hand. Such a simple touch of his work-roughened hand against Matthew’s own, was all Matthew needed to bolster his spirits.

“C’mon, Matt,” Jerry tugged, “let’s not keep her waiting. I’m sure she’s as excited to see you as you are to see her.”

Matthew smiled. Jerry was right. He was excited. Nervous, but excited. He pushed aside the negative thoughts and focused on the positive. “Like a kid at Christmas.”

“A very big kid.” Jerry laughed.

“You’d better believe it buddy.” He nudged Jerry’s hip.

Jerry gave an exaggerated wink. “Oh, I believe it all right.”

Jerry’s chuckle further lightened Matthew’s spirits and he reached for the gate with renewed enthusiasm. The groan of metal on metal gave him something else to put on the to do list. His return to Sydney would be busy with house maintenance tasks, something he was surprisingly looking forward to. It wouldn’t take much work to clean things up and do some minor repairs. He and Jerry would settle back in Sydney—they’d make their new home together and see more of Mum.

He looked at the man beside him—tall and slender, with a shock of messy dark hair, and a big heart. He tugged on one of Jerry’s large hands and pulled him through the gate. Matthew thought of the present he had waiting for Jerry back in the hotel room, and hoped Jerry was ready for the kind of changes Matthew had in mind.

 

Jerry

 

Jerry moved the large bag to his other hand and gave Matthew’s hand a reassuring squeeze as they stood together in front of the door. Matthew met his eyes, the uncertainty clear in his expression but at Jerry’s nod, he raised an arm and pressed the doorbell. Briefly, Jerry wondered why Matthew was waiting to be let into his family home rather than using his key, but within a moment he had answered his own question; the last time they’d visited—the first time Jerry had been introduced to Susan—she’d been frightened to death by the ‘strange’ men entering her house. It was the reason the two of them were staying at a hotel rather than Matthew’s home. Matthew’s nervousness made even more sense in light of the recollection. Please, please, please, let her recognise her own son.

The door opened to the smiling face of Susan’s carer.

“Matthew. How nice to see you.” There was genuine warmth and happiness in her voice, no sign of tension, which bode well for the visit.

“Hi, Claire. It’s great to see you, too.” Matthew leaned forward and gave her a quick kiss to the cheek, the older lady giving him a brief hug as he did so. He moved back and indicated Jerry. “You remember Jerry?”

“I do.” She graced Jerry with her smile. “How are you, Jerry?”

“I’m doing great, Claire. Thank you.”

“Excellent. Don’t let me keep you boys on the doorstep. Come on in.” She stepped back into the entrance way to let them pass. “Your mum’s in the back room, Matthew.”

Matthew stopped, his voice dropping low. “How is she?”

Jerry knew Matthew wasn’t inquiring about his mother’s physical health and held his breath.

“You know how it is, dear. She has her good days and her bad days. She seems all right at the moment, but things can change in the blink of an eye. She knows you’re visiting today, and I reminded her it’s Christmas, but…”

Claire and Matthew both looked to the doorway at the end of the hall, the atmosphere laden with sadness.

“Let’s not keep Susan waiting then. It is Christmas, after all.” Jerry forced cheer into his voice and placed his palm on Matthew’s lower back, needing to touch his man, wanting to remind Matthew he wasn’t alone, no matter how bad things got. He was rewarded when Matthew relaxed against him. Jerry addressed Claire. “We’ve brought some goodies, so how about we take this to the kitchen and get this party started?”

Susan was seated at the dining table in the small room adjoining the kitchen, two bowls in front of her. The scent of roasting meat filled the room, reminding Jerry of countless Sunday roasts shared at his own parents’ place. Maybe he and Matthew needed to start some traditions of their own, to give Matthew back a sense of family?

“Hi, Mum,” Matthew’s voice was artificially bright as he greeted his mother. She looked up from the beans she was preparing and Jerry found himself holding his breath again. For one awful moment, as he watched the fear flick across her features, he thought the worst. But Susan’s face relaxed into a look of confusion before settling into a soft smile. It looked as if she wasn’t afraid of their presence. Hope bloomed but was quickly snuffed out.

“H—hello.”

Jerry’s heart fell at the tenuous nature of Susan’s words. Damn, she doesn’t know Matt.

Claire stepped into the silence that fell as Matthew stopped moving towards his mother, obviously unsure how to proceed. “Susan, Matthew and Jerry have come to join us for lunch. Isn’t that nice?”

Susan nodded. “We’re having a roast. I’m top and tailing the beans.” Her gaze fell back on the bowls in front of her, and she started back at her task.

Matthew recovered quickly and slipped on a mask, though not before Jerry saw how affected he was by his mother’s lack of recognition. But at least she seemed calm and accepting of their presence, which was further reinforced when Matthew put the box he’d been carrying on the table and sat down next to her. She didn’t object when he picked up a handful of beans and began snapping off the ends.

“I’m just going to check on things in the oven,” Claire said.

“I’ll leave you guys to it, and see if I can give Claire a hand,” Jerry announced, wanting to give Matthew some time with his mother. Matthew gave him a brief nod. Susan didn’t pay much attention, apart from a quick glance before returning to the beans. Matthew kept snapping but Jerry knew he was more focused on his mother than on the vegetable.

God, they were alike. They had the same slender build and similar colouring, with pale skin and red hair. Although, where Matthew’s hair was a deep auburn, Susan’s short style was a pale rose gold with a generous smattering of white thrown in. Jerry wondered if Matthew’s locks would turn that same colour as he got older, his happiness at the idea of watching Matthew grow old further reinforcement that their future together was meant to be.

 

Matthew

 

Claire had set the table in the dining room with his mother’s linen and the good silver. Or maybe his mum had done it? Matthew hoped that was the case, that his mum had done the simple task she’d done countless times over the years—but only on special occasions. The rest of the time, family meals were eaten in the back room with the TV broadcasting the news quietly from the sideboard. Today everything looked so proper and formal, with the Wedgwood plates and crystal wine glasses. Matthew poured sparkling apple cider into his mum’s glass, and she looked at him with a huge smile on her face. Oh, Mum, I hate to tell you but it’s not wine.

Jerry and Claire appeared from the kitchen, each of them carrying a platter of food that they placed in the centre of the table. Ham, turkey, roast potatoes and beans joined the treats already on the table. Matthew’s stomach fell as he looked at the plate of mince pies, the sweet little tarts having been purchased by him and Jerry at the gourmet bakery, not fresh from Mum’s oven. He met Jerry’s gaze and could see the understanding in Jerry’s sympathetic smile.

“How’s this for a feast?” Claire said from the end of the table. “Doesn’t it look wonderful, Susan?”

Susan unfolded the serviette and placed it on her lap but otherwise didn’t respond, the only sound in the room the regular ticking from the antique clock on the mantle. Tick. Tick. Jesus, how have I not noticed that before now? Matthew picked up his own serviette, trying to avoid the pitying eyes of Claire and Jerry as they sat in uncomfortable silence.

“Give me a sec.” Jerry pushed back from the table and disappeared into the hall, but he wasn’t gone long. Matthew had to chuckle when his totally thoughtful boyfriend re-entered the dining room a moment later, accompanied by his iPhone playing “Silver Bells”.

Jerry waved the phone in the air. “Got to love public playlists.”

The scraping of a chair against the floorboards was harsh. “Please excuse me for a moment.” His mum stood and walked unsteadily from the room.

Damn!

“I’m sorry. Do you think it was the Christmas music? I didn’t mean to upset her,” Jerry said, the smile gone.

“It’s all right, dear.” Claire patted Jerry’s forearm. “It’s hard to say what set her off. We’ll give her a minute and then I’ll go check on her.”

Matthew wanted to walk around the table and hold Jerry’s hand, to tell him it would be all right, but it didn’t feel all right. He felt like a stranger in his own home, like he was just waiting for the other shoe to drop. He took a gulp of wine, and didn’t relax until his mum returned a few minutes later. Her smile was wide, her eyes crinkled with happiness as she placed a small vase between the platters.

“It’s not Christmas without Christmas Bush.”

Matthew grinned. “No, it isn’t.” He looked to Jerry. “There’s a Christmas Bush in the front garden. Mum always cuts and brings some in over the holiday season.”

Between the traditional meal, the festive music, and his mum’s Christmas Bush, Matthew’s spirits lifted. It was finally starting to feel a lot like Christmas.

 

CHAPTER TWO

Jerry

 

It had been hard to watch Matthew and his mother over lunch, with Susan’s stiffness and formality during the meal, and Matthew’s too-bright smile as he pretended everything was normal. Things had relaxed slightly as lunch went on, with Susan looking around the table and nodding as Matthew had recalled some stories from holidays past. She’d laughed when they all did, but it was hard to determine whether she was following the story or just responding to everyone else’s laughter. She hadn’t added anything much to the conversation, apart from a story about her “Matty” when he was a little boy. Jerry wasn’t sure if she even knew her Matty was the same man seated alongside her at the table.

It was a relief when the meal was finally over, although the guilt struck when Jerry had jumped at the chance to escape for a while, by offering to take care of clearing the dishes and doing the washing up, leaving Matthew, Susan and Claire at the table. The Christmas lunch was followed by coffee in the living room as they exchanged gifts—a box of chocolates and a silk scarf for Claire, who gave them a bottle of red wine in return. The presents from Susan were gift vouchers, obviously purchased by Claire, but Matthew kept a broad smile on his face as he hugged his mother and thanked her for the gift. Jerry’s heart nearly broke again as Susan stiffened at the touch, but at least she accepted the hug.

“This is for you, Mum.” Matthew handed over the brightly patterned box. Susan took it with unsteady hands, balancing the package on her lap as though uncertain what to do with it next. “Here, I’ll give you a hand.”

Matthew knelt on the floor by his mother’s seat and pulled the ribbons, the silver strands fluttering to the carpet. Together he and Susan tore off the wrapping paper, and opened the box. Matthew pulled out the contents and passed it out to his mum, discarding the box and wrapping.

“Thank you,” Susan said, the uncertainty evident again.

“It’s a digital photo frame, Mum. I’ve put a whole lot of photos on it for you.”

“Isn’t that lovely, Susan?” Claire said. “You’ll be able to see lots of different photos, not just one.”

“Let me plug it in and you’ll see what we mean.” Matthew took the photo frame and its power cord, setting the frame on the sideboard next to a portrait of Matthew when he was a kid. He plugged it in and immediately a photo of Susan and a young Matthew appeared.

Jerry watched Susan carefully and didn’t relax until she smiled.

“Oh.” She pointed at the frame. “That’s my wedding day.”

Jerry turned to see the photo had changed to a photo of Susan and her husband, Susan’s auburn hair shining in the sun, her eyes locked on Matthew’s father. “Wow, you look beautiful, Susan. It must have been a wonderful day.”

She turned to Jerry. “It was the most magical day ever. We got married in the park by the river. It was forecast to rain all that day and we woke to a torrential downpour, but when I left for the service, there wasn’t a cloud in sight. David said it was a sign our marriage was meant to be, that the bad times would be fleeting, and we were destined for happiness. But even if the happiness was fleeting, we should always grab it with both hands and make the most of every one of those special moments.” She looked back to the frame and Jerry followed her gaze. The photo had changed to a picture of Matthew, probably about twelve years old. He was dressed in soccer gear, socks bunched around his ankles and dirt on both knees. One arm held a ball, the other hand gripped a small trophy. “That was when Matty’s team won the grand final.”

Matthew laughed. “The one and only time.”

“Yes, but it was worth it. All those years of never making the finals but never giving up. We were so proud of our boy.”

“Six years till we even made the finals. No wonder you were proud.”

“We would have been proud even if he hadn’t won. Matty never gave up. He’s a fighter. When he wants something he goes out and gets it, doesn’t let anything stand in his way. David and I couldn’t have asked for a better son.”

The look on Matthew’s face was worth the tension that had been around all day. His face flushed under his mother’s praise and the adoration was obvious as he gazed at her from his seat at her side.

By the time coffee was long gone and they’d cleaned up the wrapping paper, the conversation dried up, but the silence was no longer uncomfortable. Susan grasped Matthew’s hand as she watched the ever-changing array of photographs, while Jerry and Claire watched on quietly. Every now and then Susan or Matthew exclaimed over a certain photo, but the smiles never left either of their faces.

Eventually it was time to leave.

They gathered their things together, including presents and the Tupperware of leftover Christmas cake and mince pies that Susan insisted they take with them.

“I know it’s Christmas but would it be okay if I had a word with you before you left.” Claire looked apologetic, but Matthew put her at ease.

“Sure, Claire. Anytime. You know that.” He glanced at Jerry. “Will you be okay with Mum for a minute?”

Jerry nodded. “Of course.”

Claire and Matthew disappeared into the kitchen, leaving Jerry with Susan. She’d reverted into herself, picking at the fringing on her cardigan, before standing and wandering around the room. Her fingers stroked along various ornaments before lingering on the photo frame with the photo of Matthew and his dad. She moved onto the digital frame which now displayed a photo of a grownup Matthew. In this picture, Matthew was dressed in shorts and T-shirt with his hair a windblown mess. He looked very much like he did today, casual and relaxed.

Susan looked at Jerry, then back at the photo, before looking at Jerry again. She smiled, her eyes lighting up.

“Just a minute, dear. I’ve got something for you.”

Jerry thought they may have been the first words she’d spoken directly to him all day, apart from when she’d been talking about her wedding. He stood and moved to the doorway as Susan shuffled down the hall and into what he assumed was her bedroom. He could hear Matthew and Claire talking in the kitchen, the volume too low to make out their words. Briefly he wondered if he should alert Claire to the fact that Susan was by herself, but before he could give it further thought, she appeared in the hallway again.

“Here.” She held out her hand, a shell balancing on her upturned palm.

“What is it?”

Susan’s laugh was almost childlike. “It’s a shell, silly. A cockle shell.”

The shell was rather small and plain—a simple white shell bleached by years in the sun.

“Oh.” Jerry had no idea what to say. He watched as she ran a fingertip over the shell, her hand trembling, and her touch gentle. She held the shell as if it was the most precious thing in the world.

“David, Matty’s father, gave it to me.” She looked up from the shell and met Jerry’s gaze. “I want you to have it.”

Jerry’s eyes widened in surprise. “Oh, no. I couldn’t take it. It’s yours.”

“I want you to take it.” She held the shell out to him but Jerry shook his head. “It’s important to me for you to have the shell,” she insisted. “You’ll need it.” Her hand continued to tremble as she held the shell toward him.

Feeling as though he had no choice, Jerry finally reached for the small shell. It appeared even tinier in his own hand, his larger fingers swallowing it up. “Well, thank you, Susan. It’s a lovely gift.”

She laughed again, the light tinkling of laughter he’d come to recognise as hers. “It’s not a gift for you, not really. It’s for Matty.”

“For Matty?”

“Yes, for Matty. It’s so you can give it to him.”

“Why don’t you give it to him?”

She smiled. “Because that’s not my place, dear.”

Before he could ask what she meant, he could hear Matthew and Claire approach and Susan reached for his hand. She closed his fingers over the shell and gave a conspiratorial wink. Jerry placed the shell in the pocket of his trousers, confused by the whole exchange.

Matthew quirked a brow. “Everything okay here?”

“Sure. Did you get things sorted?”

“We did,” Claire said. “Everything is taken care of. Now you boys should get out of here and leave Susan and me to recover from that huge lunch.” She looked at Susan. “I don’t know about you, Susan, but I’m almost in a food coma and I could do with a nap.”

Susan nodded, and Jerry was grateful she wasn’t putting up any resistance. Instead she stepped towards Matthew, reaching up and placing a hand on his cheek. Again, Jerry noticed their similarity. Side-by-side their resemblance was uncanny, the same smile, the small cleft in the chin, the same golden-brown eyes, leaving no doubt they were related.

“It’s was great to see you, Mum.” Matthew’s voice shook.

“Happy Christmas, Matty.”

And finally, in that moment, they were again, mother and son.

 

Matthew

 

The hotel room was cold and sterile after the warmth of his mother’s house. His home might have been tired and tending towards rundown, but it had heart and soul. Matthew sat on the edge of the perfectly made bed and accepted a glass of wine from Jerry, who sat down beside him. He placed a palm on Matthew’s thigh and just that simple touch grounded him, reminding Matthew that so long as he had Jerry by his side, everything would be all right. Matthew sipped from his glass, enjoying the cabernet and the sudden sense of peace.

Matthew turned to Jerry. “It went okay, didn’t it?”

Jerry nodded. “I think she had a great day.”

“I just wish I knew what she was thinking. There were a couple of times I thought she was with us but then I wasn’t so sure. I didn’t want to push it.”

“I believe she knew who you were at the end. While you were looking at the photos, and as we were saying goodbye, there was something in the way she looked at you.”

“And she relaxed into the hug, not stiff like when we first arrived,” Matthew added with a smile. That small moment had made the whole day worthwhile. “She’s right about all those fleeting moments and grabbing happiness where you can.”

They sat in silence for a moment, but Matthew’s thoughts were racing a mile a minute. He’d waited all day, until he and Jerry were alone, to give him his gift. Now was the time.

“Jerry—”

“Matt—”

They spoke at the same time.

Matthew chuckled. “You go first.”

Jerry reached for Matthew’s wine glass and placed it on the bedside table along with his own glass. He took both of Matthew’s hands in his own and held his gaze.

“Oh,” Matthew said, the butterflies gathering flight in his belly. “This must be serious.”

Jerry nodded and squeezed his hands. “I’ve never been more serious. I hadn’t planned on doing this today—someday soon but not today. I wanted today to be about you and your mum, and Christmas. But she’s a wise woman, your mum. I don’t want to waste another day.”

Jerry slipped from the bed and knelt on one knee.

“Oh, my God.” The air fled Matthew’s lungs.

“Matt, you have brought so much into my life, so much joy, so much love. With you, I am a better person. You make me complete. You are my family. You are my heart. I can’t imagine a day without you at my side. Matthew David O’Connor, will you marry me?”

“Oh, my God.” Tears prickled at the back of Matthew’s eyes. “Oh, my God.”

Jerry squeezed his hands. “I hope that’s a yes.”

“Of course it’s a yes,” Matthew almost shouted. He pushed from the bed, landing on his knees beside Jerry. He wrapped his arms around him. “Yes, yes, yes.” He punctuated each yes with a kiss.

The kiss turned heated. Jerry pulled him tight and deepened the kiss. Matthew could feel the love and poured every bit of his own feelings into the embrace, letting Jerry know just how much he loved him with touches and kisses until they were both breathless.

They finally pulled apart, but Jerry seemed as reluctant as Matthew to let go. Jerry clung to Matthew’s hands and held his gaze again. “You’ve made me a very happy man, Matthew.”

“Likewise.” Matthew smiled at Jerry. “Hold on, I’ve got something for you.”

Matthew jumped to his feet and hurried to his suitcase. He rummaged for a moment, returning with a small box. Jerry’s eyes were wide as he joined Matthew back on the bed. Matthew opened the box and held it towards Jerry. Jerry’s eyes said it all, glistening with unshed tears as he reached for the silver and onyx band that was nestled in the black velvet. His hand shook as he picked it up. Matthew took the ring from him and placed it on Jerry’s finger where he’d been picturing it for so long. Not exactly how he’d imagined his proposal taking place but just as sweet.

Jerry held out his hand, admiring the ring. “It’s beautiful, sweetheart. Thank you. I wish I’d been more prepared, and had something to give you.”

“I don’t need a ring. Just knowing we have the rest of our lives together is more than enough. You know Mum doesn’t even have an engagement ring?”

“No?”

“Nope. Dad proposed on a beach while they were on holiday. He hadn’t planned to do it then, but didn’t want to pass up the perfect moment. So he dropped to one knee in the sand and proposed. Afterwards, Mum refused to get a ring. She said she didn’t need it, that the shell was enough.”

Jerry’s eyes widened. “The shell?”

“Uh-huh.” Matthew laughed. “He held a shell when he proposed. It wasn’t even a special shell. It was a boring, washed-out white shell that you’d find anywhere. But to Mum it was worth its weight in gold.”

Jerry reached into his pocket. Now it was Matthew’s turn to look stunned. How on earth?

The small shell was nestled in Jerry’s palm.

“Wh—where did you get that?”

“A very wise woman gave it to me. She said it was for you, that I’d need it, that it was my place to give it to Matty.”

The tears that had been threatening to fall ever since Jerry had first dropped to bended knee, now trailed down Matthew’s cheeks. “She knew who I was, who we were. She knew we were meant to be together,” he said, the words barely above a whisper.

Jerry placed the shell on Matthew’s palm and closed his fingers around the small object, before encasing Matthew’s hand in his own. “She was giving us her blessing.”

And what a blessing it was.

THE END

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