Preston felt like a kid on Christmas morning as he and Tabitha walked down the snowy sidewalk to the park. He hadn’t realized until this moment how much he’d really missed being able to go outside. His eyes roamed over the people that passed him as he wondered why this one was smiling so happily or what that one was thinking so intensely that they seemed unaware of their surroundings.
When they got to the park he threw his head back and breathed deeply, savoring the sharp, fresh air and the smell of pine trees. “I’ve missed this,” he said as he watched a group of children having a snowball fight while their parents cheered them on. “And that,” he pointed to a man and his dog frolicking in a snowdrift. “I miss all of it.”
Tabitha looked up at him, seeing the wistfulness in his eyes, the only part of his face that was visible behind the ski mask. “Then you’ll have to come here every day.”
“Without you? I don’t think so Tabby. You’re my anchor.”
“Today, yes, and maybe a couple more times until you start feeling comfortable out here, but eventually you are going to do this on your own.” When he started to shake his head she smacked his arm. “As your nurse in residence I am telling you that you are. And you know what happens if you go against nurse’s orders.”
“I get a shot and sent to bed without supper?”
“Got it in one. Now let’s hit the swings and then the slides.”
“You are one crazy lady,” Preston said as he followed along behind her.
“And this is a surprise why?”
Two hours later the late afternoon chill was getting to them. “I vote we get coffee and head home,” Tabitha said, grabbing his hand to pull him in the direction of her favorite espresso shop.
“I can’t go in with the ski mask on they’ll think I’m going to rob the place.”
“So you take it off,” she told him, forgetting for the moment. “Hell, sorry Pres,” she instantly added contritely.
“It’s OK. I almost suggested that too before I remembered.” He slumped down on the bench outside the shop. “Go, get your coffee. I’m not in the mood any more.”
She stood in front of him and then knelt when he wouldn’t look up at her. “Don’t, don’t even go there. Not today. We had fun and it’s not ending just because I had a slip of the tongue. Now what flavor do you want?” She rattled off his choices like a professional, smiling when he finally chuckled softly and told her.
Five minutes later she was back, handing him his fancy espresso. Before he could ask she reached up and undid the Velcro fastening on the mask that kept the mouth opening sealed against the cold. He looked down at her and she could see his quirky grin before he took a sip of the coffee.
“There, that’s the Pres I want to see,” she told him, taking his hand. “Now let’s get home, I’m freezing.”