The Circle of His Arms
Francine rests her head on her husband's chest. In turn, he circles both his arms around her. The white stubble where dark chest hair used to be stings her cheek and she rearranges her head to find a comfortable position.
She once knew each hair on his body, each mole and birthmark. Now it feels so different. She sees the familiar, slightly raised birthmark just below his left nipple. Memories flash, like lightning in a summer sky; she observes Tom as a young man in the back seat of his father's 1961 Buick. She sits beside him, her hair pulled back in a ponytail, unbuttoning his shirt. Her blouse is open, but she guides his hand away from her breast, not out of modesty, but embarrassment at him discovering that her bra is padded.
Francine smiles, and in her mind she runs her hand over his chest for the first time, seeing his birthmark and kissing it gently. Now, over forty years later, she touches her lips to the same spot. This time, she listens to his heart race and tries not to see the pink surgical scar running down the middle of his chest.
"Welcome home," she whispers. "I love you."
She feels him pull her even closer into the circle of his arms. His chest expands as he inhales enough breath to say he loves her, too.
—First appeared in Smokelong Quarterly, 2004
Wayne Scheer has published hundreds of short stories and essays, including, Revealing Moments, a collection of twenty-four flash stories, available here. Wayne has been nominated for four Pushcart Prizes and a Best of the Net.