Francine rests her head on her husband’s chest. In turn, he circles both his arms around her. The white stubble where dark chest hairs used to be sting her cheek and she rearranges her head to find a comfortable position.
She once knew each hair on his body, each mole and birthmark. Now it feels so different. She sees the familiar, slightly raised birthmark just below his left nipple. Memories flash, like lightning in a summer sky; she observes her husband as a young man in the back seat of his father’s new 1965 Buick. She sits beside him, her hair pulled back in a ponytail, unbuttoning his shirt. Her blouse is open and she guides his hand away from her breast, not out of modesty, but embarrassment at him discovering that her bra is padded.
Francine smiles, and in her mind she runs her hand over his chest for the first time, seeing his birthmark and kissing it gently. Now, almost forty years later, she touches her lips to the same spot. This time, she listens to his heart race and she tries not to see the pink surgical scar running down the middle of his chest.
“Welcome home,” she whispers. “I love you.”
She feels her husband pull her even closer into the circle of his arms. His chest expands as he inhales enough breath to say he loves her, too.