Fay was on her patio in the day’s fading light when she saw Mr. Kelly walk by on his evening constitutional. He waved, and she waved back, smiling, knowing he liked to finish his walk just before sundown so that he could watch the sunset before going inside. She, too, enjoyed the western sky display over the meadow behind their houses and felt connected to him in that daily shared moment of beauty and tranquility.
Tonight, she needed tranquility.
After dating Darren for more than a year, she thought he was about to suggest that they move in together. She was nervous, but thought she was ready for that next step, even though she’d not lived with a man since her husband had died almost 13 years before. But, last night, Darren surprised her, and instead of asking that they live together, he took her hand in his, as they sat on the old green glider under the stars, and asked her to marry him. Before she could respond, he said, “And, we’ll have a two-year honeymoon in Australia — the company is sending me there to start up a new venture.”
Her mouth worked soundlessly as her mind switched from stunned surprise to shock. When she finally found her voice, she cried, “But my kids are here, my mother is here, my job is here. . .I can’t run off to Australia for two years!” Then, jumping from the glider, she added, “How could you think I’d just take off like that?”
He’d slowly answered, “This is a great opportunity – both professionally and personally. How often do you get to truly experience another part of the world virtually cost free?”
Her heart had gone cold. “So,” she matter-of-factly said, “You’ve already told them you’d go. Without talking with me or even thinking of how I’d feel.”
He jumped up and hurriedly responded, “I’m not doing this very well. I didn’t mean to spring it on you tonight, but sitting here, I realized I was visualizing you with me in Australia when I accepted the offer.”
Coldly she said, “So, I was an afterthought,” and started up the steps to the back door. She turned at the top and said, “You should go – I mean both go to Australia and leave now. Why would I marry someone who puts me last on his list?”
He hadn’t left. He followed her inside, trying to make her see that he had thought about her, he just hadn’t communicated what he was feeling or thinking. He told her he loved her, and he tried to paint a picture of the great adventure their life together could be. He reminded her that her mother was in excellent health and more active socially than Fay herself was, and that her children were very much adults. She heard none of it, and asked him again to leave, and that time he did, leaving her to dissolve into tears in her kitchen.
Tonight, after stewing on her thoughts several minutes more, Fay suddenly realized she hadn’t seen Mr. Kelly return from his walk. He never went far and should’ve been back by now. After wrestling with the gate, she crashed through it and started running up her driveway. Reaching the front of her house, she caught a glimpse of something out of the corner of her eye. She turned, and found Mr. Kelly staring at the front of her house. Putting hand to heart, she took a deep breath and said, “Oh, Mr. Kelly, I was just coming to see where you were!”
“You have a visitor,” he replied, barely glancing at her.
Concerned, she said, in a tone reserved for someone losing their faculties, “I see that. Why didn’t you come down back where I was?”
Looking at her fully, he snapped “Not me,” and then with amazement in his voice, “Miss Luna here,” pointing at the window.
Confused, Fay came to stand beside him, looked at the window, and saw a giant luminescent moth.
“Is that a Luna moth? I’ve never seen one before,” she whispered.
He nodded and told her, “My granny always said it was a great honor to be visited by Miss Luna. They only live seven days, you know, only out at night. Scientists say their only function is to reproduce – they don’t even have mouths for eating. But Granny said their purpose was Love, and to tell us that life is short and for living. She said, too, that if they appear around the full moon, it’s to tell you that everything will be alright. Tomorrow’s the full moon.”
He turned to Fay and said, “You’ve been blessed. Miss Luna says everything will be alright.”
Startled by his words, Fay let loose an astonished “Oh!”
Mr. Kelly turned back to the moth, and said sadly, “I always remembered my Granny’s words. I’ve been visited by Miss Luna three times, and every time, my Claire and I would take it as a sign to plan a great adventure. The first was when we started our family. The second was when we launched our business. The third was a trip to the Holy Land. Claire told me before she died that she would visit me as Miss Luna, but she never has.”
Fay laid her hand on his arm and said, “But, Mr. Kelly, she’s here tonight.”
He shook his head and said, “No, this is your visitation, your sign.”
She said, “You’re wrong. Miss Luna came where YOU would see her. If it hadn’t been for you, I would never have seen her at all!”
He turned to her, his eyes filled with tears, and said, “You’re right! You’re right!” Then he turned back to the moth and said, “Hello, darlin’. I’ve been missin’ you something’ terrible.”
At that, Fay’s eyes welled, and she swallowed hard to trap the sob in her throat.
Mr. Kelly, looking at the sky to the west said, “There’s your sunset, pretty girl.” Fay knew he wasn’t speaking to her.
They stood together looking at the moth, which never moved from her spot on the window, until the light faded, Mr. Kelly telling Fay about his Claire and their adventures. Then he said, “Well, I think we’re keeping Miss Luna from spreading her love, so I’ll tell you both goodnight.”
With that, he blew a kiss to the moth and turned to leave. Fay spontaneously hugged him. “Thank you for telling me about Miss Luna and Claire,“ she said.
He smiled a secret little smile, said, “Now, don’t you waste your visit,” and went home.
The next evening, Fay stepped outside and saw an ambulance and a police car in front of Mr. Kelly’s house. She ran over just as the paramedics brought out the stretcher. Hand to mouth, she sobbed, “Oh, no!” The policeman emerged, with a couple behind him at the door. Fay recognized them as Mr. Kelly’s son and his wife.
“I’m so sorry, “ she said. “What happened? I just saw him yesterday evening, and he was fine.”
The son said it appeared to have been a stroke. His voice caught, and he looked at his wife. “Whatever it was,” he said, “it’s because I told him yesterday it was time we moved him out of this house.” His wife wrapped her arms around him and told him it wasn’t his fault.
Quietly, Fay said, “No. Claire came for him last night.” They nodded as if she’d said one of those things that people say to comfort you in grief. She said, “No, listen,” and then she told them about Miss Luna’s visit and all that Mr. Kelly had told her. Then, she pulled out her phone and said, “Here’s the picture I took of them.”
On the wrap-around porch of Mr. Kelly’s beautiful old Victorian home, tears rolled down his son’s face as he looked at the image of Mr. Kelly’s beatific expression beside the glowing moth. “Oh, Mom,” was all he said.
At that moment, Fay saw Darren’s car pull into her driveway. Again, offering her condolences, she excused herself and walked over to greet Darren.
Seeing her face, Darren tenderly reached for her. She melted into his arms, crying, and told him Mr. Kelly had died. He held her tight, stroking her hair until finally she pulled away. He caught her hand, and said, “Can we talk?”
She simply replied, “Yes,” and led him back to the glider on the patio. There, he took both her hands in his as his words fell over themselves. “I’m sorry. I didn’t think. I shouldn’t have brought it up the way I did – not the proposal, because I do want to marry you, but I won’t take the promotion. . .” Fay stopped him with a finger to his lips, just as the sky streaked red, gold and purple.
“I will marry you, and we will go to Australia, the first adventure of the rest of our lives together, because life is short and for the living,” she whispered, smiling into his eyes.
As the full moon began to rise, there was the almost imperceptible flutter of luminescent wings.