by Phyllis Souza
After coming home from Mid-night Mass, remembering fifty years earlier, Betty dressed herself in a long flannel nightgown.
Crimson lingerie, sheer as a veil. A neckline that plunged. Her husband had given her a Christmas present.
"Sweet Pea, go try it on," Harold said. "Beautiful isn't it. He smiled, showing the slight space between his front teeth.
"I'll wait. You don't mind... do you?" Betty asked.
"Don't you like it? The saleslady said I could take it back. Exchange it for something else. A purse, maybe." Betty could see the sad expression in his pale blue eyes. She knew that he knew how she felt. He deserved better.
Betty didn't love Harold. Wanted to. She prayed to the Virgin Mary to make her love him.
She couldn't and wouldn't ever wear the crimson nightgown.
Later that night, after putting on her flannel gown, Betty crawled onto her side of the bed. And Harold knelt and prayed next to his. Then, he got under the duvet and snuggled close to her.
Pretending to be fast asleep, she sighed.
Rolling over, facing the wall, Harold whispered, "Goodnight, Sweet Pea. It's okay that you don't like it. I'll return it."
"Thank you, Harold. I'm so sorry," Betty softly said.