Forty-nine cards, not 52. Claire sat at the dining table looking at the pack of cards. She spread them out over the table, arranging them in suits. Slowly she turned them over looking at the variety of backs.
Every back was different. The rule was that Dave never paid for the cards he had to acquire them. She smiled at the thought of how many friends no longer had a full pack of cards. She remembered where some had come from, others she was not so sure. Another symptom of old age she thought. Rubbing her swollen knees she was reminded again of her increasing age.
It had started when their hair was still its natural colour and their joints didn’t ache. On the first birthday Claire was married to Dave he presented her with a card and the ace of hearts. The second year it had been the two of hearts and so on through three suits.
The cancer had started eight months ago. She finally dragged Dave to the doctor with his continuous cough. He moaned all the way, it was a cold he couldn’t shift, why was he wasting the doctors time? Six months later he had laid in the hospital fighting for every breath, until, he could fight no more.
Today was Claire’s birthday and her pack had stopped at the ten of spades. She had thought about buying some cards and completing the pack but she couldn’t see the point. The cards had been Dave’s thing it didn’t seem right to finish it.
Claire cleared the cards away into the box and went to make a coffee. Their son was coming to take her out later and he didn’t like to see his mother maudlin. On the way to the kitchen, she stooped to pick up the mail. As she went to throw the mail on the table, one envelope caught her eye. The writing was familiar, no it couldn’t be, could it? Ripping the envelope open and tipping the contents into her hand there was the Jack of spades. She turned it over and on the other side was one word, forever.