MUSED
BellaOnline Literary Review
Oops! by Mark Berkery

Fiction
Over The Hill

Ruthe McDonald

"Who are you calling ‘Over The Hill,’ buster?" Delia poked Joseph in the chest. “I’ll have you to know, there is plenty of fire left in this here furnace!”

“All right! Take it easy! Don’t get your panties into a bunch!” Joseph stepped back with his hands in the air. “Gees-Louise! I was only messin’ witcha, Delia!”

Delia didn’t know why she even bothered with Joseph Stratford. They’d known each other for years, and he hadn’t changed a bit. Still the same miserable soul! She wondered how he’d survived all these years as a highway worker. Lord knows, she’d a found a way to run him over a long time ago!

Joseph was great friends with her brother, Henry. Delia promised Henry on his deathbed that Joseph could stay in one of the rooms in her boarding house. That had been the last deathbed promise she’d ever make!

Until Henry’s death, Joseph was his roommate. Joseph had lost his wife a few years back…she ran off with their accountant. After a year of living with Joseph, Delia couldn’t say she blamed the woman. This was her house, and she was looking for a way to get away from him. He’d a lot of gall calling her ‘Over The Hill.’ Hell! He had her beat by a good six years!

Delia hadn’t heard Joseph calling her.

“Earth to Delia!” Joseph waved his hand in front of Delia’s face.

“Wh--what? Stop waving your gritty hand in my face, you old fool!” Delia swatted Joseph’s hand.

“What, you hard of hearing now?”

“There is nothing wrong with my hearing!”

“I’ve been calling you.”

“I know; your voice aggravates the hell out of me! So, I tuned you out!” Delia walked to the parlor. She picked up the mail from off the table.

“You should be more pleasant to your boarders, Delia.”

“Oh, I am. You just don’t garner the same appreciation!”

Joseph grabbed his chest. “Oh, the agony! The poison from your venomous tongue strikes again!” Joseph laughed. He loved when he irked Delia. He dare not tell her how much he fancied her company.

Delia ignored him.

“Okay. I give up. I apologize for calling you ‘Over The Hill.’ Forgive me?” He asked clasping his hands.

“Grow up, Joseph. And while you’re at it, take a bath. You reek,” she muttered walking towards the kitchen.

“Ah, you do care,” Joseph teased. He watched as Delia disappeared into the next room. He enjoyed the banter between Delia and himself. “I’m wearing her down!”

***

“Call me Charles,” the tall, handsome gentlemen told Delia.

“Okay…Charles, how long will you be staying with us?” Delia blushed.

“Probably two weeks; three at the most. Just until my apartment is completed,” he smiled at Delia.

“Alright. If there is anything you might need, please let me know, and I’ll do my best to oblige.”

“No need to go out your way.”

“It won’t be a problem. Really.”

“In that case, I would love to know if there are any antique shops around. I want to find a few more items for my place.”

“You’re looking at one!” Joseph had been watching the sparks between Delia and Charles. “Delia’s one hell of an antique! Girl’s been around the block a few times; but she still has some good use left in her.”

Delia’s cheeks grew red. “Please excuse Mr. Stratford, Charles. He’s a few sandwiches short of a picnic basket!”

Charles chuckled.

“You might want to rethink your stay here, Charlie!” Joseph stated.

“That’s Charles,” he corrected.

“Whatever!”

Delia turned to Charles. “I do apologize. Sometimes he forgets his meds. It must be from all those highway fumes! Now to answer your question, there are quite a few shops here in town,” Delia said ignoring Joseph.

“Would you mind showing me?”

“It would be my pleasure. We have just enough time before dinner.”

“Great.”

“Mr. Stratford,” Delia turned to Joseph, “dinner will be at six. Please take your meds.” Delia and Charles walked out the door.

Joseph felt the heat rush from the back of his neck to the front of his face.

***

Joseph puttered around the boarding house, listlessly. Delia was spending most of her time with Charles. She was showing Charles all about Richmond.

Joseph sulked.

He noticed a change in Delia. At dinner one night Charles suggested she wear her hair up, and she’d been doing it ever since. He had to admit, it was quite lovely that way. Even with her hair down and no make-up, Delia was radiant.

Joseph cringed as he thought of her with Charles.


Charles’ apartment was finally ready. Joseph couldn’t be more pleased. However, he didn’t like the fact that Charles had asked Delia out on a date! A real date! There was no way he could allow this to happen. If he did, he’d lose the best thing in his life. Delia was right; he needed to grow up. Fifty-two years old, and acting silly! He couldn’t help himself. Delia made him feel like a goofy teenager. And the only way he knew how to express himself was to joke around.

Joseph was hard pressed to not let Delia leave the house without telling her how he truly felt. He knew if he did, he might as well pack his bags and leave.

Delia walked into the parlor.

“Joseph, don’t start tonight,” she warned.

Joseph didn’t say anything.

It was now or never.

“Do you hear me, Joseph?”

Joseph took a deep breath and walked to Delia. He put his hands on Delia’s shoulders.

“Joseph? What—”

Joseph pulled Delia into him and kissed her passionately.

Delia tried to protest; then, to her amazement, wrapped her arms around Joseph’s neck.

Joseph opened his eyes and smiled widely.

Delia felt light headed.

“Whoa,” she whispered. “I guess there’s still fire in your furnace, too?”

Joseph smiled. “Only for you, Delia. It’s always been.”

The doorbell rang.

Delia looked at Joseph.

“I got this one,” Joseph smiled.

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