A strong south wind rattled the windows of the Jackson house and howled noisily through the eavestroughs. The last vestiges of snow melted rapidly on the roof and formed a small river at the bottom of the downspout at the southeast corner of the house, and a pair of crows argued noisily in the big old elm tree that stood in the front yard. Spring was very definitely in the air.
Rose Jackson stood at the window gazing out at the dreary grey countryside for a minute before turning to her husband Andrew, who was sprawled full length, half asleep, on the couch.
“Shove over sweetheart,” she said.
Andrew opened one eye, then closed it again. “Shove over eh?” he said. “Good to see the romance hasn’t died.” He pulled his feet up to make room for Rose to sit, which she did. Andrew stretched his legs back out and plopped his feet onto her lap. “The socks are clean,” he said.
“Good to know,” said Rose. She took his left foot in her hands and began to gently work her thumbs into the base of the toes. Andrew sighed happily.
“Foot massage,” he said. “Baby, you know what I like.” Rose smiled and kept working.
“My good man,” she said.
Andrew opened both eyes and studied her for a second. “What brought that on?” he asked.
Rose paused for a moment, gathering her thoughts.
“When I was a little girl,” she said, “I used to dream about what I wanted my future to be like. I pictured a farmhouse with a white picket fence, three or four happy children running about, horses and cows in the pasture and a sweet but ruggedly handsome man looking after it all.” She paused. “You made all of my dreams come true,” she said. “That makes you my good man.”
“We don’t have a white picket fence,” said Andrew.
“That’s true,” said Rose. “In my dream we also had a nicer couch. And a very impractical red convertible of some kind. But those are just the unimportant details.”
“Wow, your dreams were very specific,” said Andrew, “and, I might add, somewhat clichéd.”
“I had a vivid imagination,” said Rose, “but I admit I wasn’t particularly creative. But look how it all turned out. I got everything I really wanted.”
Andrew smiled. “You’re the lucky one,” he said. “You had dreams.”
“Didn’t you?” said Rose.
Andrew grinned. “My dreams mostly revolved around what I hoped my mother might make for dinner the next day.” He paused. “Although when I got a little older I did begin to dream about the possibility that one day I would meet a beautiful woman whom I would fool into thinking I was a good guy and then I’d marry her and just try to keep her thinking that for as long as possible. And so far that’s working out pretty well.”
Rose gave Andrew’s foot a little dig with her thumb. “You know what a man can do to help keep his woman thinking he’s a good guy?” she said.
“What?” asked Andrew.
“Buy her a new couch every 20 years or so,” said Rose. “That really helps to maintain the illusion.”
“Speaking of which,” said Andrew, “I was thinking that we should go furniture shopping. I have had many good sleeps on this old sectional but I have to say it’s getting a little ratty. How long have we had it? Eighteen years or so? Maybe we should get a new one for the grandkids to jump on.”
“Wow,” said Rose. “You catch on fast.”
“They don’t call me the master of illusion for nothing,” said Andrew. “My plan is to keep you thinking I’m a good man till the day you die.”
“Well, you’re doing a good job,” said Rose.
“Here’s what we should do,” said Andrew. “We should take a weekend and go to the city to shop for a couch, and we should get a room at one of the hotels that has a spa in it and we should get a couple’s massage. I thought of that just now because of what you’re doing to my foot. What do you think?”
“I think you have ulterior motives,” said Rose.
Andrew put on a pained expression. “Now what would make you say that?” he asked.
“You’ve already fooled me into thinking you’re a good guy by suggesting we get a new couch,” said Rose, “and now you’re going to fool me into thinking you’re sweet and romantic as well, by suggesting we get a couple’s massage. Well, I have news for you, sir.”
“What?” said Andrew.
“Your plan is working,” said Rose. “The illusion is almost perfect.”
“Only almost?” said Andrew.
Rose grinned. “There is still the matter,” she said, “of the white picket fence.”