I sat in the kitchen by a small, rectangular table I have just finished preparing for my friend’s visit. The chamomile tea was still hot in the kettle, waiting to be poured in the cute porcelain cups I picked for the occasion. The clean, spotless, light blue tablecloth looked just perfect with the decor of the kitchen, its colour matching the whiteness of the cups and plates perfectly. In other words, it was perfect, just like the day we agreed to meet. It was a Saturday morning, around ten, and the sunlight poured lazily into the kitchen on this warm day. I was wearing my favourite, knee length white dress adorned with floral patterns, tasteful bits of yellow and pink connected to each other with thin, green stalks. My long, blonde hair let loose, my bare feet crossed on the floor, in the spot where the sunbeam hit the tiles, I was enjoying the warmth on my skin. I checked the time on a tiny, gold watch on my left forearm. Carol should be here soon.
My thoughts began to drift away from the approaching meeting and towards my husband, or more specifically his whereabouts. I couldn’t find him this morning, despite my best efforts. He wasn’t on the pillow next to mine, where he belonged, after all. Neither was he under or around the bed. Even glancing around the carpet did not help. He was, to put it bluntly, gone. Then I remembered that I haven’t really checked for him in other places than the bedroom. Oh well. Wherever he was, I was sure he was safe and sound, knowing well enough he could manage.
I perked up the moment I heard the bell ring, almost running to the front door. In hindsight, I really shouldn’t have done that as, for all I knew, John could have been in my way. Could he dodge me? Possibly. Could he outrun me? Definitely not. I dread to even think what would happen if he did find himself on my path. And I’m not saying this just because I have big feet – size nine (and a half, sadly) is perfectly normal for a woman of my height.
I opened the door and smiled, seeing Carol standing in front of me. ‘I brought cheesecake’ she said, showing the box with it. A cheap, plastic container, clearly would not agree with the rest of my carefully set table. At least the lid was blue. And besides, I could forgive a lot in exchange for some cheesecake.
‘That’s very sweet of you’ I said, smiling at her ‘Come on in. Take your shoes off. Oh and, mind your step, please’
I led her to the kitchen and helped her cut the cake. There wasn’t much of it, but it was more than enough for the two of us. I poured tea for us both and we took a seat on the opposite ends of the table. She was wearing a dress too, hers however was a bit shorter than mine, as well as plain and yellow, which at the same time suited and contrasted her shoulder length red hair.
‘I like what you did with the place, Sarah’ she told me, looking around with some degree of admiration reflected in her blue eyes ‘It looks way better than my kitchen’
‘You’re too kind’ I replied with a genuine smile.
We drank the tea and ate the cake in no hurry, enjoying each other’s company and chatting the morning away. We talked about our jobs and our mutual friends, exchanging some juicy bits of gossip along the way. Eventually we moved on to our families and I was happy to hear only good news from her part. Her husband got a raise recently and, while the amount of money he’d earn was in no way spectacular, it was still some extra to add to the family fund. Her son was in perfect health and growing his first teeth, which she mentioned with pride. It would be nice to have a son, or a daughter, I thought. Being in my early thirties, the clock was ticking for me. If not for a certain… complication. I listened to Carol, smiling and nodding, until she ran out of things to tell me about her family and steered the subject to mine.
‘I’m sorry, I can be such a chatterbox sometimes. Tell me what’s new with you. How’s John? Is he still… you know?’
I smiled. To be perfectly honest, I took some pleasure in Carol’s hesitation to discuss my husband’s condition, and I couldn’t quite tell why. ‘No I don’t. He’s what?’ I replied, taking a sip of my tea and looking straight at her.
‘Is he still, erm, small?’
‘Quite so’ I confirmed with an amused smile ‘By the way, the polite term is “diminished”’
‘I thought you didn’t buy into such stuff’
‘You’re right. I don’t’ I said, putting the cup down ‘Does it bother you?’
‘What? No! No, of course not! Besides, if you guys are happy with each other, then it’s all that matters, right?’
‘Right. Let me get you some more tea’
Truth is, John had always been a bit smaller than me. When we first met, back when he was still normal-sized, I had an inch of advantage over him. I didn’t mind then and I didn’t mind afterwards, being five foot eleven I’ve had my share of boys who were shorter than me throughout my life. He did mind, however. Heels were a no-no, at least for me; he was perfectly fine with wearing taller shoes to nullify our minor difference, and I tolerated it. I still remember how grumpy he would get when I would tell him we’re the same height in bed, never getting the joke, and how adorable I would find his reaction. Then, one day, I’ve noticed I had to lean down to kiss him on the cheek, the difference between us growing to several inches overnight. And it all went downhill from there.
At least, this is how he perceived it, because I still didn’t mind and I still couldn’t see the issue. Even though there was less and less of him with each day, what remained (or should I say, who) was still the man I promised eternal love to. As he grew shorter, he was still my husband and so he remained as being short turned to being small and being small turned to fitting in the palm of my hand. The joke about being the same height in bed stopped being accurate, or even funny any longer, to me. I’ve watched him being frustrated with his gradual diminishment and at the same time being powerless to stop it. Science, medicine, anything we tried to halt or reverse the process failed. We would lie in bed, embracing each other (when he was still big enough for that), him telling me how scared he was and asking me not to leave him and me kissing him gently and promising I would never do such a thing. As his body grew smaller, our bond endured. We’ve had to make some adjustments to our life, of course – especially our love life. I would encourage him that he was never small enough to… do the job and he would always be eager to prove it. And trust me when I say he would keep good on his word, even more so when I could have him whole down there.
And yet, today he was missing. I didn’t get my morning peck on the cheek, I couldn’t give him his morning peck on the chest. I tried not to invite dark thoughts into my head, but as the morning slowly turned into early afternoon, so did they slowly find a way into my head.
‘You did mind your step, didn’t you?’ I interrupted Carol as she found another family thing to boast about.
‘Huh? Of course I did. Why?’
‘Just checking’ I said, sighing ‘I can’t seem to find John today’
‘What do you mean, can’t? Where do you usually keep him?’
‘Keep him? I don’t keep him anywhere. He can go wherever he wants’
I watched Carol’s eyes open wide ‘You mean you let him roam freely?’ she asked, shocked.
‘I don’t want to restrict his freedom. It’s his house as well’
‘Jesus, Sarah. What if you stepped on him or something? How small is he anyway?’
I pondered about her question, recalling the last time I measured him. Was it Monday? Yes, I think it was. ‘Two inches and a half’ I said, suddenly remembering the sad look on his face when I announced the news to him.
‘You’re playing with fire, Sarah’ she said, her tone growing stern ‘I’m not the one to lecture you, but I don’t think that’s the right thing to do. He’s getting way too small to be allowed to go wherever he pleases’
‘Thank you for your concern, Carol’ I said, smiling at her, my conviction unshaken. ‘But I’m sure he will turn up in no time. In fact-‘ I stopped in my tracks, suddenly noticing a motion below.
‘What? What is it?’ she asked, getting slightly nervous.
‘Carol, please stay still for a moment’
She froze in her seat as I leaned over the table’s edge. There was something moving on the floor, mere inches from Carol’s feet and getting closer to where I was sitting. Something roughly the size of my fingernail, running in my direction, waving its arms. There was no mistake about it.
‘John!’ I cried out in excitement, as I immediately put my palm to the floor so that he could climb on it, lifting it slowly once he did so. I brought him to my eyes, noticing he was naked, having clearly shrunk out of the last set of clothes I made for him. ‘So that’s why I couldn’t find you the whole day, you’ve gotten smaller!’
Poor thing. How long was he down there? It was a miracle neither me nor Carol stepped on him. At his current size, I doubt we would even feel it. I watched my teeny tiny husband standing in the middle of my palm, his arms outstretched, his lips moving. He was crying something out to me but, much to my chagrin, I couldn’t hear him. Oh dear, communicating would be difficult from now on.
‘Look, it’s John. Say hi” I said, moving my hand across the table and showing him to Carol, seeing the uneasiness overwhelm her face.
‘Um. H-hi, John’ she muttered, and I brought my hand back, close to me ‘I hate to state the obvious, but he’s really tiny right now’
‘Yes he is. He must’ve shrunk through the night’ I said, my attention turning once more to the tiny human being in my palm. I started to wonder how did he find himself on the floor in the first place. Did I blow him away with my breath? Did he climb down from the bed, ashamed of being seen in such a state? I would have to inquire further when we were alone. For the moment, I set my hand on the table, allowing him to get off. I pinched a crumb of the cheesecake and gave it to him. He looked so cute, his little hands grabbing the piece the size of his head from between my fingertips.
We spent a while more, finishing what was left of the cake and the tea until Carol said it was time for her to go. I walked her to the door, taking John with me. When she was set, I told him to say goodbye and watched him awkwardly wave to Carol. She in turn gave him a quick, equally awkward, wave back and left. I locked the door behind her with my free hand and carried John into our bedroom, looking at him and only him the whole way there. I sat down on the bed, with my back against the headrest, as I very carefully set John down on my right shoulder. This close, I could actually hear him.
‘It was fun meeting with Carol. I wish she’d drop by more often’ I told him, relaxing and stretching my legs, making sure my shifting doesn’t send John falling ‘But for now, I’m curious how did your morning go’ I added, smiling warmly at him.
And my smile only grew wider as he began to recount his morning adventures to me, while I sat and enjoyed the soothing effect his voice has always had on me, unspoiled by how much more quiet it sounded now.