Fountain of Youth
Micro-fiction by Emily Ness
He noticed the contrast now more than ever. Stark wiry gray hairs stood out from the deep auburn ones. When he first met her, one of his favorite things about the way she looked was the way that dark hair would collect the energy of the sun and send the warmth scintillating back to his face. She tried to look at him with coyness through that thick veil of hair but he could tell she was unsure of herself and needed him. He liked that. It made him feel like a man.
She had begun to get a few gray hairs around her 33rd birthday to her great surprise. He teased her, as he was 20 years her senior and recalled those first few appalling moments when you realize that no matter how energetic and young at heart, or how vain you are, the beauty of your youth slips away. He wanted to tell her it didn’t matter, but it did to him.
For him, the primary criteria for being a good wife were to be young and pretty. He married her three days after her 25th birthday. He wanted someone to keep him youthful he had told his colleagues with a wink. Now there were more gray hairs on her head relative to the rich auburn ones of the girl. He realized he didn’t want her anymore.
Her girlishness had been replaced by haggardness. The lines on her face reminded him of the exhaustion and frustration they felt as they dealt with baggage from his previous marriage – a bitter ex-wife and hostile college-aged kids. As she stood by him during the costly and drawn out divorce, these lines of resentment were etched in to the space between her eyebrows and in to tight perpetual frowns around the corners of her mouth.
When they first got married, he appreciated these lines because they displayed empathy to him and they were fleeting. But over time, they began to represent what he knew was a reflection of her shattered hopes also. In the same way he had not denied to himself that he was marrying her for her youth and beauty, she had made no qualms about the fact she was marrying him because she wanted to live a fancy life of leisure.
Neither of them anticipated that the reason they initially decided to become a couple would fade in to nothingness over time.
He knew that if he were to tell her he wanted a divorce and was to leave her childless and past her prime, she would get back at him with the only tool she had in her box which was to extract his money from him. This would leave him unable to freeze the aging process again with another 25-year old. So he had simply hired a live-in maid with benefits to keep him feeling young, as he told his Friday golfing buddies with a wink.
Some months had passed of him enjoying chocolate milk skin in the pool house and home theater. He returned home one night, anticipating some satisfaction since his wife played Bridge on Wednesdays, only to find his weekend Mercedes Benz convertible missing. There was a note on the kitchen counter announcing that his wife and Consuela were done with him and his disgusting ways and had liquidated their cash assets and were off to live on the western coast of Mexico together. “I needed someone to keep me feeling young,” his wife had written in the note.
This micro-fiction story was inspired by the prompt, “He noticed the contrast now more than ever.”