Fountain of Youth

The mist of water spraying from the fountain cast a rainbow like glow across the air, through the golden hues of sunset. The air was warm, thick and slightly claustrophobic, like a blanket that was tucked in around you just a little bit too tightly. Still, the day was glorious. The weather for the whole week had been. Las Vegas was a good choice for an anniversary holiday, especially as they needed to slow down for Alex’s knees. They could spend a whole day at the pool, lost in a good book with a steady stream of cocktails miraculously appearing at your side. They may even meet another couple there, maybe even another British couple, and they could have a laugh about all the weird American idiosyncrasies. Could head out for a bus tour along the miles and miles of ‘The Stretch’, pointing at all the things they had seen in movies and taking pictures for the kids to see. Or a show! Wasn’t Britney Spears in residency here? Weren’t there a million magic shows they could see?

The world was their oyster.

But they weren’t doing any of that. Instead, they were sitting there on a bench, eating an ice-cream from some van that cost them a pretty penny. It was something they could easily have done in Blyth, but here they were, almost 18 hours of flying later, sitting on a bench watching the world go by in absolute silence. You could take the girls out of Blyth but-

A scream peeled through the thick air, wafting over to them. For Mary, panic set in. Her hand flew to Alex’s knee and she scanned the crowd, trying to work out where the danger was coming from.

They were in America. What on earth were they thinking?! Coming to bloody America of all places. Americans were bloody maniacs, wandering around the guns and bloody well using them on each other all the time. Savages, utter savages-

Then she saw them. Half soaked, sun kissed skin. Long, lean legs. Arms held out in a waltz stance, like they were ballroom dancers who had forgotten their costumes and only had some summer wear. The smiles on their faces were radiant and their mirthful laughter was contagious. Even though they were nothing like the dancers on Strictly and they stood on each others toes and yelped every time they were caught by a spray of water, they were captivating.

Mary huffed a small, nostalgic sigh as she watched the young couple giggle, squeal and swirl through the jets of the walk-through water fountain, trying to avoid the more vicious and vigorous spurts. They looked at each other like there was no one else there in the world. It was like something out of a Jack Vettriano painting, like the one they got for one of their other anniversaries from the kids.

Mary gently squeezed Alex’s knee once more and wistfully stated, “We used to be like that, you know.”

“Like what?” Alex harrumphed between licks of ice cream, like it was her duty to ensure that not a single bead of ice-cream dared to breach the walls of its cone. It was a fight she was almost losing.

“You didn’t even - l-like them! Look! Look at them! Young-”

Alex continued her battle but glanced upwards towards the spectacle before them, making furtive glances at the ice-cream cone to monitor her success at keeping the flood at bay. She hadn’t even registered the yelps and screams, nor the crowd that surrounded the fountain and the dancing couple. It took her a moment to pick them up out of the crowd, but when she did, she clucked in disapproval, “You mean ‘stupid’?”


“They’ll die of hypothermia, if they don’t get arrested first.”

“-full of love – hypothermia? Alex, it’s 14 degrees! That’s Summer in Newcastle.”

“Look at what they’re wearing! If they don’t have hypothermia by the end of the night, I’ll be surprised. That or sun stroke. You know, once the sun’s gone, they’ll freeze to death. We might well be in a desert, but it still gets cold in a desert, you know. I read an article a while ago about snow in the desert. I can’t remember where it was... Anyway, it said that it snowed there for the first time in a long time, but the point is, it gets dead cold. I reckon it must’ve been the Sahara - or was it the Serengeti? I always...”

Mary turned back to face the couple, her shoulders sagging in defeat. She heard this one before. After 25 years and two children, was there anything that she hadn’t heard? Alex read so many articles, but it felt like Mary heard the same 10 over and over again. Every once in a while, a new one would slip into the rotation and old one would disappear. At least until one of the kids called to see how they were doing and then it was all about the life cycles of the African elephants all over again.

How did they find themselves like this? Alex used to have a lust for adventure, wanting to bring Mary and the kids around the world. Before the kids were around, they spent two months traveling through the coastal towns and islands that surrounded the Indian Ocean, letting Alex satisfy that itch for discovery and Mary to dabble into new cuisines.

The rich foods and stories spiced their lives with colour and flavour, something that Mary honed into her first cookbook. It was more of a ‘hidden gem’ than a best seller, something of an aficionado's book, something that the professional chef’s referred to. Word spread among those in the know and suddenly, Mary and Alex’s lives were filled with invites to dinner parties and book launches all around the world. The kids followed as well, of course.

She could hardly do that now here in Las Vegas. The best years were behind them.

The young couple drifted off, the rest of their lives still ahead of them.

“We still are, though.”

Mary furrowed her brow, pulled out of her fond memories of the full life they had lived together, still wondering when their youth had left them exactly. “’Still are’ what?”

Alex’s worn, ice-cream sugared hand brushed across Mary’s palm, linking fingers with her wife’s. The gentleness and care Alex took to caress her thumb over Mary’s was a welcome familiarity, “We’re still full of love.”

A smile blossomed on Mary’s face. That was a sight Alex never got tired of.

“I suppose so.”

A moment of quiet passed, the two lovers’ hands linked as they watched the fountain run through its sequence one more time before Alex declared, “Alright! We’ve still to spend the rest of kids’ inheritance. I think The Venetian won’t have you pegged as a card counter.”

Mary pursed her lips, gently swatting Alex’s lap at her little quip, “I thought it was 22, not 21!”

“Oh, of course, of course. Might be best to keep you on the slots, though.”

Written by slekster

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