The road crunched beneath the tires of the old sedan. Even though it was a November day, the air was windless and somewhat chilly but it was bearable. Robert and Bertha were on their way back home from their thirty-second wedding anniversary banquet.
“You know, I know that I am fifty-four and all that, but I still feel like I am twenty tonight.” Said Robert slyly, and gave his wife Bertha a side glance. Bertha looked at him and giggled like she was eighteen years old again – although she, herself was fifty-three.
They were driving on the country side roads where the roads were barely ever snow ploughed. The road was home to no vehicles other than those of the many farmers’ tractors and the occasional driver who was leaving the city, and entering the suburbs. The snow on the road became a rough layer of ice due to all the weight and pressure applied by the rolling tires.
They knew that there was nothing to greet them for miles, “Bob dear, can we stop here please?” Bertha asked innocently. Looking outside the window, Bertha was mesmerized by the nature. Her head was so close to the window that her every breath fogged up the glass. Her eyes wide open; trying to take in every minute detail possible.
“It’s ten minutes to get home; can’t it wait till then?” Robert asked tiredly. Eating, drinking, and dancing for hours at a stretch can do that to someone. Even though Robert was not willing to accept that he was aging, all signs indicated otherwise. His once jet black hair now streaked with silver, and his once flat stomach was now somewhat of a baseball pitcher’s mound. None the less, Robert kept himself busy by walking every day, doing yoga, and Pilates. Bertha on the other hand, accepted that she is somewhat old, however that never stopped her from trying to look pretty and keep her shape. She joined Robert in his daily excursions and yoga sessions. She was slim and fit however, she looked a couple of years older than she actually was because of all those years in the police force that were slowly catching up to her.
Bertha was persistent, “Please Honey, just park over there. Right there, at the foot of that bridge.” Bertha seemed to be hypnotized by the nature, “I want to walk over there and enjoy the beauty.” Robert could not blame her. They might as well have turned off their headlights. The light from the full moon reflected off the snow and it was just beautiful.
“Very well, but we have to hurry up and get home as soon as we can. We both have a lot to do when we get home.” Once again, Robert smiled sneakily.
The car came to a slow halt at the base of the bridge, “Stay in the car for a moment.” instructed Robert. He got out of the car, ran quickly to the other side, opened her door, and held out his hand. Giggling again, Bertha held onto his out stretched hand and pulled herself out of the car very smoothly and gracefully. He closed the door behind her and escorted her to the bridge. The bridge arched upwards and gave them a magnificent view of the river, the trees, and the star struck night sky. The moment they reached the top of the bridge and looked out, and they knew they were going to be a while and suddenly, neither Bertha nor Robert seemed to mind the cold.
So engrossed in the beauty of the nature, they did not seem to notice a dark car silently coming down silently along the same road. The mysterious car stopped at the bridge, right by the couple’s sedan. Very quickly and expertly, the passenger’s door of the dark car opened, someone got out, and got into the couple’s sedan. Since the keys were already in the ignition of the sedan, the car instantly came to life and it seemed that the roar of the engine snapped Robert and Bertha out of their trance and back into reality. As they looked at their car, both cars started to speed away. Robert panicked as he realized that even if he was an Olympic runner (and he was far from that), he could not have reached the car. All he could do was watch as the two cars sped away into the night. Soon, the tail lights were just specks in the distance, and then, the darkness in the distance seemed to have devoured them.
Every expression Robert felt was reflecting on his face; from confusion, to rage, to guilt. He was really worried now. Quickly thinking, Bertha said, “Don’t worry. They can’t leave town until morning and by then, we would have obviously gotten home.” She wrapped her hands around his upper arm, “We don’t have to stress over it. I know the license plate number. I can pull a few cop strings.” Robert found very little refuge in her words.
They were going to have to walk home, “I left everything in there. The car keys, the cell phones, your purse, everything!” Robert felt guiltier than ever.
“Don’t worry honey, nothing will happen and we will find the people who did it.”
As they started to walk, they grew very silent. Their hands found each other’s and their fingers embraced the other’s. The frost appeared and disappeared in every breath as they continued down the straight road. Even though their car was stolen, Bertha could not help but ask Robert “Does this,” she flailed her arms around her to indicate she meant her surroundings, “remind you of anything?”
Robert – being a retired fire marshal – was a real thinker. Thinking for a couple of seconds, he replied by saying, “Yeah, that grand theft auto case you busted. You know the one I’m talking about? The one with the guy and the other guy and those cars.”
Although she was slightly amused by the answer, she shook her head rather vigorously, “No silly! Doesn’t it remind you of our wedding day?” Then it hit him. He threw his head back and gave out a hearty laugh and she joined in. They laughed so hard that they got stomach cramps and tears flowed from their eyes.
Bertha imagined the long road as the walk toward the altar. The seemingly endless journey that – after what seemed like ages – came to an abrupt stop. The trees surrounding them were transformed into the people who were standing on either side of the aisle. Beaming at her as she walked by, admiring her beauty.
The noises emerging from the thickets of the woods were no longer hooting, howling, and clicking sounds, but hushed whispers of the people complimenting her on her beauty, and wishing her luck as she walked past them.
The light flurry of snow was no more a problem to Bertha. The weightless little snowflakes were changed into a light flurry of petals that fell to the floor gently and seamlessly as the flower girls threw them in the air, as if they were setting a trail of bread crumbs for her to follow. To top things of (in a literal sense), the full moon was the chandelier that illuminated the whole room, and the twinkling stars were the smaller lights that chased away any remaining shadows.
All Robert could think about was how pretty Bertha looked in her wedding dress as she walked down that aisle. Her flowing blond hair had smooth gentle curls. Her grey eyes were accentuated by the white gold jewelry and lips so red that he was tempted to skip the I do’s and get right to the “you may now kiss the bride.”
As Bertha and Robert were going down the Memory Lane step by step and memory by memory, they soon approached their own home that was on Reminiscence Drive. Each house on the street was bigger and better than it’s preceding home. Since their house was at the end of the street, one could only imagine how grand their home was.
They had the money; after all, Robert used to be one of the best fire marshals around, and Bertha used to be the head honcho of the Forensics and Evidence department. That was, how they met in the first place. Back when Robert was a firefighter like any other and Bertha a cop like any other, they both met at a crime scene. A pyromaniac tried to burn down an abandoned factory for the pleasure of it. Robert put out the fire and Bertha caught the culprit.
Both units decided to go to the nearest Dunkin’ Donuts as a celebration. Robert met Bertha there and they kept on meeting. Since that day on, they were boyfriend and girlfriend till the day they became husband and wife.
The warm and hearty feeling was only short-lived. As they approached their house – rather, a mansion – they noticed that the porch and driveway lights were on. Still hand in hand, Robert and Bertha stopped in front of their house. There were two cars in the drive way. One was the couple’s sedan. “AWBE 029”, Bertha whispered as she looked at the dark car – the same car from which the thief got out. It did not take a genius to realize that if they knew where the couple lived, then they were dangerous. They both shivered and it had nothing to do with the cold.
“Bob, let’s get out of here.”
“Yeah, we can take our car and get to the police station.”
“Maybe we should call Mark and Joe. The can get here from the banquet. Right?”
As if on cue, two doors opened. One belonged to the sedan, and the other to the mysterious car. Two men in their mid-to-late twenties got out.
“M-M-Mark… Joe?” Bertha was confused beyond wit. She was looking from one to the other.
“Happy anniversary lovebirds,” the two sons said in unison, “did you have a nice and romantic walk?”
For a moment or so, no one moved until all four started laughing and hugged each other till they were all tangled up like a ball of yarn. “Wait,” said Robert, “of you two are here, then who is taking care of the guests at the banquet?”
There was pin drop silence.
By: Arjun Kay