Sylvester Cunningham carefully selected a supermarket trolley from the stack. Everything Sylvester did was contemplated and executed with methodical exactness. He was still smarting over the greeting he’d received as he approached automatic doors which led into the supermarket. Dennis Jones had spotted him heading toward the entrance and shouted a greeting. “Hi Silver!” He hated that name.
He winced as he recalled traumas experienced growing up. Boys had soon learned Sylvester was very particular about things. His class books were always placed precisely on the desk during class and stacked neatly when he entered the library. The contrast between his personal appearance and use of things, and behaviour of boys in general could not be missed.
His classmates concentrated on bringing Sylvester down to earth, their earth. One of their favourite tricks was to mess up the desk he’d carefully arranged just before class commenced. When he didn’t respond, they move onto other potential irritations like pulling his shirt in the corridors so the shirt hung out, dropping food onto his neatly stacked books in the cafeteria and a myriad of other inventive provocations. The kids didn’t hate Sylvester, they just wanted to test his patience as they sought to highlight his peculiarities. Sylvester would accept it all calmly but inside each act would produce a raging anger which he allowed but kept under control.
His classmates were running out of ideas and thinking of moving on to some other poor unsuspecting person when one of them who’d been sent to the Principal’s office for mischief making happened to spy in class records when the Principal was temporarily absent the full name of their present person of interest. Sylvester Andrew Cunningham was his name. When released from detention he went into a huddle with the leaders of his troop. They emerged with a new tool to use on their victim He’d have a new name, Silver Bandy Cunning Pig. The name was whispered around until it became common knowledge then came the day of testing. His History class was drafted and when Sylvester entered the room there was a spontaneous chorus. “Welcome Silver Bandy Cunning Pig.”
Sylvester snapped! The pent-up rage at all those provocations over years of elementary school gushed forth and to the surprise of all those who’d led out in their persecutions during those years found themselves whipped and bleeding lying on the floor while girls in his class pressed together in a far corner in shock. Sylvester took his place calmly and arranged his books as the teacher strode into the classroom.
The teacher took in the situation at a glance. The only person in the room sitting calmly was Sylvester. The rest of the class was standing surveying him in awe. He smiled. Jim Duffy had been a teacher for enough years to read students like a book. He’d counselled leaders among these boys many times as he’d noticed their teasing, this had not corrected their behaviour but forced their irritations underground so as not to be seen by teachers.
“Get up!” He commanded these boys lying in a heap in the middle of the room. “I don’t want people playing silly games in my class!” He looked in Sylvester’s direction with the hint of a smile. Sylvester eyed him calmly in return.
In the cafeteria at lunch Sylvester sat majestically in his own space. There was no attempt to interrupt his meal with a prank and the same space accompanied him to the library in the afternoon. With classwork finished for the day he’d made his way to the bicycle stand. He inspected his bike carefully watched by classmates from a distance. Normally there’d be something arranged around the spokes to spoil them when moved, or loosened wires or pedals. He checked everything and smiled grimly. Somehow, he’d miss the challenge doing a methodical check in future he thought to himself. He felt good about asserting himself.
A soft voice behind him had interrupted his inspection. “Can I ride home with you?”
Sylvester turned abruptly ready for action again, but relaxed when he saw Libby was alone. Libby Walish was one of the quieter girls in his class. Sylvester had noted she too was the recipient of cruel treatment because her accent was heavily influenced by her native tongue German. Sylvester nodded and they both rode out together. Sylvester watched her direction carefully and allowed himself to follow her protectively home. Mrs Walish frowned when she saw her daughter waving off a young man.
Next morning Libby was waiting outside Sylvester’s home. They rode silently, and this became a daily occurrence. After a few days Mrs Walish’s frown was replaced by a broad smile as they rode home together in the afternoon. Sylvester at that stage was not yet enamoured with girls but he developed a protective attitude toward her. If he observed her being teased he’d quickly move to her side at school and the teasing would stop. Eventually they were looked on as a pair and mischief was turned in other directions.
However, despite the thrashing he’d administered to leading mischief makers the name Silver had stuck. He disliked it immensely, but tolerated it with good humour. It had followed him through High School to College.
He’d lost contact with Libby when his parents enrolled him in boarding school during college years.
Sylvester finished his trip down memory lane. He was now the recipient of a Master’s in Education and had recently been accepted as a teacher at his old school. It was good to be home, though a little jarring to hear Dennis remind him of those difficult elementary and high school days. He pushed his cart around the old supermarket. It had changed name, the layout was different but it was still familiar territory. He studied the aisles. Why did supermarkets have to change location of their product almost weekly making it difficult to remember where to find things?
As he rounded a corner checking aisle labels he felt his trolley crash against another one standing just inside the aisle. The woman looked up in surprise.
“Sorry,” muttered Sylvester in embarrassment.
“My fault,” said the woman smiling. “I’m on the wrong side of the aisle but found what I’ve been hunting for at last. I hope it didn’t break anything in your cart.”
The woman continued to study his face. “Sylvester?” She asked inquiringly.
Sylvester stood with his mouth open. “Libby?”
He continued to stand looking at her. Memories of those bicycle rides to and from school in his elementary years and high school had often caused him to smile to himself during graduate years. Libby had been the closest to a friend for him even though their conversation had been so limited. He’d often wondered what happened to her, now she was here for real.
He regained his composure at last. “Can we meet sometime Libby, I’d like to catch up on what happened since we were in High School together?” Sylvester’s face flushed in embarrassment. Being that direct with a woman was way out of character for him.
“I’d like that,” Libby nodded with a smile.
It was then Sylvester noticed a wedding ring on her finger and enthusiasm died instantly. “I suppose you husband wouldn’t mind you meeting up with an old friend, would he?”
Libby followed his gaze down to her wedding finger.
“I’m divorced Sylvester and back living with my mother. She would be delighted to see you again so if you have time why not make it tonight? I’m not on duty at the hospital tonight.” She glanced at her watch. “Gotta go quickly. I’ll see you at exactly 6 pm. Are you still as precise about things as you were at school?”
Sylvester nodded in embarrassment and smiled. “Not quite as bad as I used to be Libby, see you at 6 pm.”
That evening was a happy reunion. There was much laughter as they recalled school days while Mrs Walish hovered over them with German treats and encouraging smiles. When school talk exhausted Sylvester recalled college years and pride in graduating with honours. Libby sobered as she recalled her nursing years and how she’d been wooed by one of the young doctors. He’d somehow drifted into the drug scene and taken it out on her. Eventually he’d been caught raiding hospital supplies and had been dismissed with a police record. She’d filed for divorce and had no idea where the man was or what he was doing now.
Sylvester left the house that evening a happy man. He felt that protective urge wash over him as he’d experienced during elementary school years. He luxuriated in the promise Libby had made that evening to save her free evenings for him from that time forward and could hardly wait to see her again.
So, on Thursday evening, her next free night he called in to the florist and selected the choicest red roses then took them carefully to his car looking at his watch. He’d be on time, after all that was his nature.
As he made his way to the Walish residence he noted cars with flashing lights in the distance, and as he drew nearer observed there were police cars and an ambulance. Neighbours crowded around in the street watching. Sylvester parked his car at a distance and slowly opened the door. At that moment, an ambulance screamed to a start siren blaring and rushed past. He ran to the residence to be stopped at the door by police who roughly took him aside demanding answers as Sylvester pulled away to reach the door. Mrs Walish broke loose from inside screaming and ran to his side. The police released their grip.
Libby’s former husband had gone underground after attacking her and leaving Libby fighting for her life. Mr’s Walish assurances finally convinced police Sylvester was not that husband and he was released to speed to the hospital in support of his new-found heart’s desire.
It had taken a lot of persuasion but eventually hospital staff allowed him inside to wait while they did their best to revive Libby. She was one of their own, so they pulled out all stops. In one of her lucid moments she called the name Silver, at first this had puzzled medical staff. They knew they were losing her. They needed someone, something to give her the will to fight for life while they used their knowledge to assist that fight. Then one of them put it all together Sylvester, Silver. The one pacing the floor outside the operating theatre. They quickly took him through the scrub process, fitted him with gown and mask and had him by her side whispering encouragement. He whispered his yearning for her, no it was love he thought and pled with her to come through this crisis for him. He’d spend his life protecting her if she’d only fight to live. Doctor’s watching monitors as they worked on her noticed a change. Libby would live!
As Libby came out of anaesthetic her eyes told him what he wanted to know. He was still in scrubs and only allowed there, a place where only medical staff were allowed provided he not move. They needed complete access to each bed in case of an emergency and he was potentially in the way but staff knew his presence was vital to her recovery. She could not speak, but the weak pressure of her hand in his told him of a love that had gone beyond their elementary school years.
Hours went by, then he was awakened from micro sleep by hard pressure on his hand. Libby’s eyes were terrified, her eyes flashed in direction of a young doctor approaching in scrubs with stethoscope around his neck. Nurses at the nearby nursing station craned their heads in surprise, then they stood in alarm. It was someone they recognized, someone who obviously was not supposed to be there. They began to run and the young doctor ran toward Libby’s bed. Sylvester immediately comprehended. This must be Libby’s former doctor husband. He’d somehow bypassed security to finish the job, but it was Sylvester in his line of sight first. Tired as he was the same rage that had prompted Sylvester to action against elementary school bullies surfaced again giving him agility and strength as the scalpel flashed in his direction he saw an opening and sent his opponent flying across the room as blood poured from Sylvester’s wound.
In rapid order the ex-doctor was immobilized and tied up waiting for security and a long term in prison. Sylvester’s wound was quickly dealt with and stitched up but lack of sleep and loss of blood saw him succumb and sometime later he found himself waking up in a hospital room. He was put through scrubs again and allowed to revisit with Libby whose eyes did not leave him.
Later when all cables and tubes had been disconnected Libby weakly beckoned him near to her so she could whisper in his ear.
“I had the most beautiful dream in which I called someone called Silver, and this person came to my rescue and said things I’d love to hear again. The person in my dream looked a lot like you? If that really was you, would you like to repeat those things to me again?”
Sylvester flushed with both embarrassment and pleasure. “I had some red roses in my car which will no doubt be wilted by now, and my car probably towed away as it has way exceeded time limits. The roses were supposed to communicate my feelings.” He said guardedly.
“Silver that’s nice, but I want to hear again what you told me while I was in dreamland during the operation.
Coming from Libby, Silver didn’t sound so bad after all, in fact he kind of liked the ring of it! He wriggled in his seat in embarrassment. It was one thing saying what he did to someone who was asleep, but saying it now Libby was awake was different.
Libby looked disappointed and tears formed in her eyes. “Perhaps it was only a dream then!”
Sylvester straightened up. Why was it so difficult for him to say what was in his heart? Stupid of him to not say what he felt, he’d always been that way!
Libby smiled. “It’s like a dentist pulling teeth with you Silver!”
“Libby. I think I’ve always loved you but of course didn’t know what those feelings were when we were kids. I’ve always felt it was a protective thing men feel for women but it goes far beyond that and I missed riding back and forth to your home during my years away in graduate and post graduate schools. If you’ll have me with all my funny ways I’d like to spend the rest of my life with you Libby.”
“That’s better,” said Libby contentedly. “As soon as I’m released from this place I want you to make good on that promise. No more waiting!”
“No more waiting,” said Sylvester.
“© Copyright Ian Grice 2017 All rights reserved”
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