First published at The Story Shack, December 2015.
Hump day was their favorite. Bill and Lauren made love for the first time on a Wednesday in her dorm room. He told her he'd hump her every Wednesday for the rest of their lives. And he did. Sometimes twice. They continued the tradition, even after Lauren's brain cancer diagnosis. She insisted.
Thursday was surprise day. He relished providing Lauren with jewelry, or wine, or tickets for a show, or sometimes just a long hug. She offered the best surprise, though, on a Thursday twenty-three years ago when she told him she was pregnant with twins. Paul and Patty were married now. Neither had children, but he and Lauren were hopeful they'd get a special Thursday surprise and learn they were going to be grandparents.
Every Friday they dressed up and went out for dinner. Bill always ordered fish and chips with a side of fresh fruit. Lauren was the adventurous one and often requested the special for the evening. They'd linger over dinner and drink coffee. They rarely ordered dessert. Now that Lauren was no longer strong enough to go out, Bill found recipes online for some of her favorites, like Amish meatloaf, or Chicken Marsala, and made them for her. He wasn't much of a cook. Tonight's filet was chewy and the fries burnt, but Lauren smiled and ate what she could.
Bill spent Saturdays in front of the TV with a six-pack of beer and a bowl of popcorn watching whatever sports were in season. Lauren rested in the recliner and watched Bill jump, sometimes with joy, other times in disgust, the leap always accompanied by a fist pump or a growl. On cold days, she'd cover her bald head with a Notre Dame ski cap.
Sunday was a day of prayer; and they did, especially Bill, hoping for a miracle. When Lauren became too weak to attend church, young Father Joseph came to the house.
Monday used to be Bill's third favorite day—after hump day and surprise day—a day for fresh starts. But not any more. Not since the Monday the doctors gave Lauren six months to live. Now it was his least productive day, one he could skip every week.
On a Tuesday in February, Lauren passed peacefully in her chair. Bill sat with her before calling 911, holding her hand, thanking her for a great thirty-three years. He'd promised her he wouldn't cry when the time came. It was the first promise he failed to keep.
He received the surprise they'd waited for two months later when Patty told him she was pregnant—with twins, just like Mom. "Mark and I hoped it would happen before…you know," Patty said. Bill told her it was okay. Mom knew. Mom always knew.
Bill still bought surprises on Thursdays. He gave them to neighbors, or friends, and sometimes strangers. He went out to eat on Fridays, often ordering the special, instead of the fish and chips. He still watched sports, but the excitement wasn't there. And on Tuesdays he sat next to Lauren's chair, closed his eyes, and held her hand.