“You can’t have that, Robbie, give it to me right now.”
With her lips pushed out and arms folded across her skinny middle, she was a six-year-old bulldozer. Lulu’s voice carried authority that could not be ignored. At least, not by Robbie.
Obediently, he put the new sand pail and shovel down and stood back while Lulu took possession and began digging. He watched with wistful eyes, but he knew better than to grab the shovel back. Or even to ask for a turn. This was Lulu, after all.
“I’ve changed my mind,” Lulu said. She didn’t raise her voice. She was stating a fact, not arguing. “Not going after all.”
Robbie nodded, but it was important to him so he dared to press her ever so carefully. “It’s just that it’s too late to ask anyone else; the prom is tomorrow night, and you did say you’d be my date.”
“Nope,” Lulu said with a shrug. And that was that. He’d already paid for his tux rental, but skipped the prom.
“I need a ride to the frat party,” Lulu said, “and then you can hang out somewhere nearby and wait until I call you to pick me up. If I do call; I might meet someone.”
“But I’ve got a mid-term tomorrow. I planned to study and then get to bed early so I’d be rested. My GPA is going to rise or fall on this test.”
“Bring your books and study in the car.”
“It’s pretty cold to be…” Robbie began. But Lulu had stopped listening.
Resigned, he packed up his books and picked up his car keys.
“I’m going to marry him no matter what you say,” Lulu said.
“Wait; please listen to me. He’s not a good person. He brags about getting women drunk and assaulting them. He’s got a terrible temper. You’re making a mistake.”
“You’re just jealous.”
“Come get me, Robbie,” Lulu wailed on the phone. “He gave me a black eye and a cracked rib. I’ve got to get out of here.”
“Oh, Lulu, I tried to tell you…”
Of course, he did.
“I do,” said Lulu and “I do” echoed Robbie. They turned to face the congregation and be introduced as husband and wife. Robbie’s face was incandescent with happiness; Lulu looked mildly interested.
Their youth was behind them; Lulu had been through two marriages already. Not Robbie, though. He’d waited – well, not exactly waited because he’d had no hope of ever marrying Lulu. There simply hadn’t been anyone else who interested him. He suspected that Lulu was marrying him now because she needed a safe harbor for old age. If that’s what she needed, he’d gladly supply it.
Life together was eventful, that’s how Robbie described it to himself. He’d had a lifetime of training in letting Lulu have her own way and he continued to do so. It wasn’t wise to annoy her, knowing that any day she could say, “Enough,” and it would be over. His family and friends thought he was a spineless schmuck. They didn’t understand what it meant to be with Lulu at last.
“Robbie, can you hear me?”
Since she was shouting directly into his ear, yes, he could. He made a huge effort to open his eyes, to nod.
“You can go on now. I’ll be all right,” Lulu said. “You’ve got plenty of life insurance.”
“I won’t go until you say it,” he said, so weak he could hardly form the words. Part of him marveled that he had the courage to defy her, even now when it wouldn’t matter much longer.
“Oh, Robbie, you idiot. Do you have to hear the words?”
“Okay, then. I love you.”
He smiled. He’d known it all along. His last breath was a gentle “aaah” of satisfaction.