It was one of his favorite things—combing her hair before they went to bed at night. Ellen enjoyed it too. His gentle touch soothed her after a long day. Carlton would hold her upper arms and gently lean her back into a chair. Sitting behind her, on the edge of the bed, he would drape her long, grey streaked blonde tresses over his knees. If the strands were tangled, he might use a comb first, but he preferred stroking her with his fingers.
Carlton would start at the edges, bringing them up to his lips, kissing them. With one hand he would skim through her locks and the fingers of his other would caress her neck. Occasionally, he would lean in, his lips tickling where his fingers had been. Ellen’s neck would sometimes loll to the side at his persistent petting. Carlton would smile and lift her head back into place, chiding her softly for falling asleep. Ellen, of course, said nothing. Always, she remained silent throughout his ministrations.
Carlton didn’t mind. She was still here with him and it was all he could want. This nightly ritual of smoothing her hair was a comfort to him. He filled the silence with songs. Usually it was something by John Lennon. Still, he often wished for the days when he had been able to hear her beautiful contralto vocals.
Once in a while, he would hold both sides of a conversation they might have had. He yearned for her sassy comebacks to his dry wit, so he closed his eyes and spoke for both of them. They talked of their African safari and their trip to the Alps. Carlton smiled and became a little overly enthusiastic when he brought up the possibility of a vacation to Hawaii and Mai Tais on the beach. His energetic fingers distressed her hair, pulling out a small chunk.
He cried out. She did not.
Carlton rose and came around to face his wife. He touched her cold cheeks, lifting her head with the gentlest of movements, apologizing over and over. Ellen, of course, didn’t respond. Her lips had long ago been sewn shut. Her glass eyes had no life in them.
With years of tender practice, Carlton cradled his bloodless wife and carried her to their bed. He lay down beside his beloved Ellen, placing her delicate hand in one of his while still caressing a strand of her hair in the other.
LKT © 2015