"I'm sorry that it's been so long since our last talk. So much has been going on…" May shifted on the old wooden bench, and straightened her skirt across her knees. "You know how much I enjoy … no ... really need the time we spend together."
The weather was turning a little cooler, thankfully. It had been a long, hot summer – one that had seemed even longer after all the changes in her life. Beside her, in their cellophane wrapping, the flower petals rustled gently in the light breeze.
"We had a terrible scare recently. I really thought I'd lost Peter for good. When he came through that door, whole and healthy… I couldn't have received a better gift if it were Christmas." She shivered a little. "I'm still not sure what happened, how he could… shed his skin… like he was some sort of reptile or something. I don't think I'll ever really understand what goes on – I don't think I really want to, either. All I care is that we thought he was dead, and by some miracle, we have him back again."
"Peter still hasn't decided what to do next. I mentioned before, he spent the summer back at The Bugle, just to help make ends meet. I'll never understand what possesses him to work there. That Mr. Jameson has always had it in for Sp-…" May still had difficulty speaking the word on her first try. "Spider-Man. There, it is getting easier to say. Anyway, as much as Peter wants to, he'll never really change that man's mind."
May went on, "Another option is for him to continue teaching at Midtown High. You know, he lost his summer school job because of… well, the reason he always has trouble with his personal life." May chuckled to herself. "I can't believe it took me so long to realize the chaos we have been through all these years wasn't normal. I look back on that night I discovered Peter lying battered and broken on his bed, costume in tatters on the floor… and I wonder... if I hadn't forced the truth from him, would he have ever told me himself?"
She shook her head slightly to get back on track. "They always seem to need teachers at that school – what with the way the neighborhood has changed over the years – and Peter really felt like he was making a difference with those kids. So maybe they will keep him on for the fall, despite his frequent absences."
She let a breath out. Peter's ongoing search for normalcy was not a new topic in their weekly "conversation." She was only just beginning to accept that life would never be normal again. They were two of a kind, Peter and May. They both had sense enough to do what had to be done, but they were dreamers at heart. They pined for a simpler life. On the other hand, Mary Jane was a realist…
"Mary Jane is still getting great reviews in her play, Cats Always Lie." May smiled proudly. "She deserves all the praise she is getting. Now people won't just think of her as just another pretty face. That Lobster-Man movie was probably good for getting her name out there, but it certainly didn't change that stereotype."
The wind rustled the cellophane wrapping beside her. "Peter and Mary Jane seem stronger than ever these days. Since they ended their separation, it's almost like they are newlyweds again. It warms my heart to see them so happy. It reminds me so much of what you and I had…"
May lifted her eyes from her lap to the weathered headstone in front of her. "And that brings me to the subject I have been avoiding. I have tried to tell you so many times, Ben, but something always got in the way. It's about Jarvis…" She sighed. "You know what I am trying to say by now – why is it so difficult? I know you would have liked him. He is kind, intelligent, a good listener. He has spent years taking care of others, the way I did for you and then Peter…"
Her mind wandered for a moment. For the last few months they had been living in Stark Tower, through the graces of Tony Stark, better known to the world as Iron Man. An old friend-turned-enemy had burned down both Peter and MJ's apartment and her Forest Hills family home. Mr. Stark had said: "You're one of the Avengers now, son, and we look after our own." As unsettling as it was to live day in and day out with people who were "larger than life" – being so close to Peter's peers made it somehow easier to accept… And there she had met Edwin Jarvis, Mr. Stark's long time chief of staff.
"Having someone to talk to, who really knows what it is like to deal with people with, um, special abilities, has been very comforting. It was Peter and I for so long, the two of us taking care of each other. Now that things are better between Mary Jane and Peter, I find that I long to have that again... what we had…"
May stood slowly, feeling every one of her years, and walked over to the grave. Setting the flowers on the ground in front of the headstone, she knelt before Ben's name. "I hope I have your blessing. He will never replace you in my heart." She kissed her fingertips, and then touched them to the cold, chiseled granite.
A few minutes passed in wordless prayer. She sensed, rather than heard the quiet footsteps behind her. A hand settled on her shoulder. "He was a lucky man."
She nodded, adding, "I still miss him. He would have known how to handle Peter's life…" She started to stand, but he held out a steadying hand to bring her to her feet. Her eyes traveled from his polished shoes, over his well-cut suit, to his care-worn face.
"You raised him well, May. No one could have done better," Jarvis stated firmly. Somehow, the wind could not touch his impeccably groomed, thinning hair. But May had learned that under the gentlemanly exterior beat the heart of a kind, thoughtful man. He held out the crook of his arm. "Are you ready to go?"
May took a last look at the gravesite. She softly murmured, "Same time next week?" and then nodded to Jarvis. Threading her hand through his arm, they headed together toward downtown.
In her mind's eye, she could see the image of her Ben, smiling in that gentle way of his, watching them go.
The setting of this story pays homage to Amazing Spider-Man #501: "Saturday in the Park with May."
A/N: I asked several people to read this – and even though I had decided to put this on hold, I somehow couldn't help but post it anyway. Thank you for all the help and encouragement. You guys are so great…