When he opened his eyes, to say he wasn't disappointed would be a lie. The nurse was standing over him, regretfully telling him that visiting time was over. He simply smiled at her and nodded. As he got up out of the chair and stretched, he once again allowed himself to gaze upon the woman whom he loves. She was fast asleep. He once again gently touched her face, and ran his fingers through her silver hair, streaked with the lavender hue that he loved so. Once again, he felt the touch of the nurse on his shoulder, and his shoulders slumped, and he exited the room for the night.
Walking past the nurses' station, they all called out their good nights, and they told him they will see him tomorrow. He said his good byes, and shuffled past them to the elevator, which was held for him by an orderly, and he made his decent to the foyer. Once in the foyer, he said good bye to the usual people there on the night shift. He buttoned up his jacket to right under his chin, and he buried his chin into the jacket, bracing for the inevitable cold outside. Walking up to the automatic door, it opened and he got blasted with bitter wind and snow flurries. Too damned bad he forgot his hat. He actually forgot he was now bald. Luckily he didn't have too far to walk home in this mess.
Turning around, he took in the facade of the nursing home. It always was a stately and grand building, but without bragging, he had to admit since his beloved was staying here, and he started donating money to it, the old place looked like a palace now. They spent his money well, he chuckled. He was amazed at just how far he had come, as he walked down the street. His wife was getting the very best care at the best hospital on the planet. Over eighty years ago, neither of them would have believed they would be the richest family on earth, and if you had proven it to them, you could have floored them with a feather.
Half way home, he stopped to catch his breath, and to rest. He had to admit, he too, was old. Perhaps, he could be in the same room with his wife, if they would take him in. Maybe he could pay them to watch both of them at their home instead- it would be more expensive, but worth it. Whatever they would need, he would purchase to have at their house. While the nursing home was indeed very nice, it paled in comparison to their home. Compared to their home, the nursing home was closer to their first place they had torn down!
The old building. Damn, were they poor. Could that have really been all that they could have afforded? He looks at the now vacant lot, filled here and there with garbage, discarded toys, and an abandoned vehicle. Instead, he sees an extremely old, run down apartment building. She's in the window- waiting for him. She's yelling about something. Most likely about something somewhere in the building needing repair. That place always needed something worked on. She joked that the place was actually older than him, so of course things were always in a state of disrepair. He hated to think how much money they sunk into that place. They were as poor as mice, but rich in love. He sees his children running out onto the stoop to greet him. They are called back in to wash their hands and get ready for dinner. As they run inside, the scene fades away, and he is left staring at the empty lot again. He pinched the bridge of his nose, and then wiped his eyes.
Walking a few more blocks, he passed the small upstart company that they (his wife really) made into a galactic empire. He refused to knock down the old place, instead keeping it for the home office. He lovingly touched the red brick exterior as he walked past. As he came to the alley at the end of the building, he reached into his inside breast pocket, and pulled out an envelope. He didn't need this money, but he knew who did. Quietly opening the garbage bin, he slipped the envelope into the claw of an elderly decapodian as he slept. He then crept away.
A few blocks later, he was almost home. He was glad, because he felt he must be getting too old- he was tired again. Looking up, he saw their huge, ornate home up ahead. He smiled as he wiped a tear from his eye. To think, he mused, that all our hard work, and a wee bit of luck, got us that! Well, his lovely bride being elected Intergalactic President, twice, also helped! He couldn't help but think that that was why his daughter got elected to the same title. He really hoped she would be her own person, though. Yes, it really was too much, but if any family deserved it, and deserved to show off...
Trudging forward, he nixed the idea of resting again. Only two blocks he told himself. Only one and a half... only one block. Despite the cold, he was now sweating, and breathing heavy. By the time he reached the front gate, his chest hurt, and his arm was tingling. He was rubbing his left arm and wheezing when the guard came up to him.
“Sir! Are you alright!?” The guard reached out and took him by the arm, and helped hold him up. “Sir? Is everything alright?”
'Oh God, not now- not now!' he thought. 'Please, Lord! Not now!' As the pain subsided, he whispered a quick prayer of thanks.
“Sir? Is everything O.K.? Do you need a doctor?”
“No,” he lied, “I was just a little tired.”
The guard called over his counterpart to cover his post, as he helped his employer inside to rest. Once inside, the guard helped him with his jacket and shoes, helped him put on his slippers and robe, and asked once more how he felt. Once he was satisfied, he bowed respectfully, took his leave, and returned to his post.
After eating, and making his way into the library, he sat down in his favorite chair. Staring into the fireplace and watching the flames leap and dance, he felt a sudden chill. Pulling the zipper up further on his robe, he thought of all the wealth that they accumulated over the years. It suddenly meant nothing to him. It was all only material. Sure, material things can have a price put on them, but love? Family? Friends? Those were priceless. No money could ever pay for those. How he wished he could pay to have his friends back! Tears started to run down his cheeks as he remembered how he lost his friends, one by one. One died in service to Doop, another in a magnetic accident. One lost his mind and was last seen in Jersey decades ago with his janitorial equipment. Still another died of a broken heart- his wife constantly leaving him, and, adding insult to injury, always for the same man. All had died or left him. All he had left was his beloved. And now... and now...
The cuckoo clock on the wall called out eleven times... twenty three hundred. He wiped his eyes and laughed. How she HATED that damned clock! She complained it was archaic, ugly, and mostly, obnoxious! He, however loved it, and was forced to keep it quiet whenever she was home. He slowly got up, stretched, and decided to call it a night. Walking over to the clock, he carefully took a hold of one of the chains, and pulling it, wound the clock for the night. He almost thought of turning the bellows inside of it off for the night, but what he did next surprised him- he grabbed the pendulum, and stopped it.
“Good night, Albrecht, old friend.” He gently traced the hand carved woodwork, and turned around to leave the room.
Riding the elevator up to the bedroom, he sensed something was different- not necessarily good or bad, just different. He walked into his room, and got undressed. As he did so, he folded each article of clothing, and neatly placed it on the chest at the foot of the bed. Standing there in his underwear, he suddenly wondered why he had thought of old friends after all these years, why he donated the money to the homeless crab, why did he stop his clock, and just why did he actually fold his clothes!? He decided he would mention it to his wife tomorrow. She would know why- she always was much smarter than him. As he lay down on the bed, and pulled the covers over him, he looked around the room. He wondered when did they ever get so extravagant? Why did they? He had everything money could buy, but it meant nothing. The one thing his money couldn't buy, he wanted more than anything in the universe. Everything he owned, had made him wealthy beyond measure in the eyes of all who beheld him, but the one thing that truly made him feel rich, lay slowly wasting away in another bed, in another building, blocks away. He thought about how without her, how poor he really was. He then turned off the light and cried himself to sleep.
“Sweetie! Sweetie! C'mon! We're gonna be late!”
He rubbed his eyes and looked over at her.
“A dream, just a dream....”
“Yes! A dream come true!” she grinned ear to ear. “After all these years together, we're finally going to go somewhere by ourselves! No kids, no family- just US. ALONE! Of course, we may have to try and ditch some friends!” she giggled.
“Hey babe. Don't you need your rest?” he asked rather confused.
She laughed before she gave him her reply.
“We'll have all the time you want to relax! It's a vacation, you goof ball! Come now, you don't want to be late, now do you?”
“Where, where are we going? I- I'm confused! Please tell me...”
“The most beautiful place ever created! Paradise!” She answered him excitedly.
“But, but I didn't pack! I'm not ready!” Now he was really confused- just what kind of a dream was this, anyways?
“Not ready?” she teased, “then what do you call that?” She pointed to the folded clothes on the chest at the foot of the bed. “Looks like you had at least started!”
He looked over, and sure enough, there was a suitcase, with the clothes he just wore, folded neatly, sitting next to it. Beyond that, he could see himself in bed, asleep.
“What the... is that ME!? How, how is this...”
“Come on, baby, you're going to be late!” she said impatiently.
“But, but, I still don't understand!” he cried.
“Just hurry up, babe! You don't want to be late! Time is running out!”
“Time? Time is...??”
“We leave tomorrow, and you are not ready! Really!” She rolled her eye heavenward.
“When, how will I know where to...”
“You'll know where and when to meet me!” she kissed him on the cheek. “You CAN'T be late! O.K.? Time is running out! You really should get moving now!”
She started to fade from his sight, into the shadows and darkness of his mind. He reached out to her, but she was always just out of reach, no matter how hard he tried.
“But, but, don't! Don't leave me! I love you!”
“You need to get moving, now!”
“You need to get moving...” her voice trailed off, as the sound of the telephone ringing woke him up.