Progression (for Cafe Writing)

Written in response to Prompt Three,  Cafe Writing for February:  Pick at least three of the following eight words, and write a paragraph, scene, flash-fic, essay, blog entry or poem using them. It’s fine to change tenses, or pluralize if you want to, but please bold the words you choose.

astonished, conclusion, drown, gilded, hands, magnify, snow, time,

"Are you having fun?" Stephen asked, his lean angular body framed in the doorway between the garage and the house.  He gazed somewhat longingly at the winter white landscape before him.

Tara weariliy raised her head and peered intently at him, her eyebrows raised in astonishment.  "Does it look like I"m having fun?" she asked, straightening her aching back and leaning wearily against the snow shovel.  "I'm drowning in this stuff!"

Shaking her head, she turned back to her task, lifting a thick wedge of snow and tossing it laboriously onto the growing mound beside the path.

Stephen concluded that if he couldn't help it behooved him to remain out of sight, so he retreated to his desk.  He placed his hands before him on the smooth surface, and focused his thoughts on them, envisioning a thick palatte of glue holding them firmly in place.

"One, one thousand...two, one thousand," he counted, hoping to suprass yesterday's record.  It was at "Seven, one thousand," that he felt the first inkling of a tremor in the ring finger of his left hand, and before he could say "eight..." the thin gold wedding band he wore was beating a rapid tatoo on the polished oak.

"Damn!" he hissed, slamming his right hand viciously over top of the left, now in full spasm. Horrified, he watched his left hand trembling violently underneath it's captor, like a bird caught in a trap.

  "Time is running out!" he thought as he always did when the tremors increased, aware of the relentless progress of his disease.  He was afraid to tell Tara, knew immediately what she would say.  "Call Dr. Wheatley," was always her first response.  What would that mean except more tests, more drugs, more bad news?

Meanwhile, he became less of a man every day- in every way.

Stephen stared in contempt at his hand, finally still, and splayed out before him, exhausted. Memories rushed in -the leathery grip of his ski poles, held tightly in preparation for pushoff,  the velvety softness of baby Mariah's cheek, the slender fragility of Tara's fingers, cupped protectively within his palm.  He grabbed his lower lip between his teeth, hoping to stop the tears which threatened to spill from his eyes.

"Hey," she said softly, coming to stand behind him, an aura of cold air clinging to her body, casting its chill reflection on his shoulders.

"Hey," he replied, not daring to look at her.

He felt rather than heard her sigh, a familiar, deep exhalation of breath signaling resignation.

"It'll be allright," Tara said, unconvincingly.

"It won't," he replied, "and you know it."

Another sigh, this time audible, as she placed her own steady hand on his arm.  

"This is a process," she said, "part of our progression through life.  We will both tire at times, but we will weather this together."

Stephen turned to look at her now, her cheeks flushed from cold and emotion.  For a moment, the steady progression of their past whirled across his mind - their courtship, early marriage, raising Mariah, and now this, this illness that had him in it's deathgrip.  He couldn't bear it to end this way, to become dependent on her for everything, to lose his ability to be her partner in all ways.

He opened his mouth to speak, not knowing what words could possibly come.

"Stop," Tara said, touching her fingertips to his lips. "Let it go, Stephen."

She held his gaze until he lifted his hands, holding them upright in the traditional posture of surrender.  Smiling, she matched her palms to his, extending her fingers until they aligned with his, drawing his hand toward hers with an invisible line of strength.

"One, one thousand..." she began counting quietly. 

This time, Stephen felt sure they would make it to ten.