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A Perfect World

"You have to quit smoking," were the first words out of her mouth.

His arms were still open wide for the embrace that never came as she plucked the still smoking cigarette from his mouth as she walked past. He followed her like a duckling (arms still open, a little bewildered) into the living room and watched her grind it out against the ashtray on the coffee table.

"It's a shame," she said, straightening, "I always thought you looked cool holding your cigarette, but we're both going to have to quit."

"Okay," he said. If she told him to jump over the moon he'd find some way of doing it. Quitting cigarettes? Not an issue.

"Less parties too," she added, gauging his reaction. "It'd be nice if we didn't go out as much."

"Whatever you want, darling." The pit of his stomach felt cold. He was still waiting for her to step into his embrace as usual.

She turned away and opened a window. Standing in front of it she said quietly, "I went to the doctor today."

His arms dropped. The wind had been knocked out of him. She had been feeling a little run down lately and he'd suggested that she go see a doctor friend of his because, after all, she had always told him "You can't be my doctor with the way you worry! If I had allergies you'd think it was pneumonia." But the fact that she'd actually gone - "Oh, oh GOD. It's your lungs, isn't it? We'll move to the country; I'll purify the air myself, I-"

She turned around and he stuttered to a stop. She was smiling. "No, silly," and she placed her hands over her stomach, "I'm pregnant."

Isshin felt like everything was sped up three times and only his own brain was moving in slow motion. Then, suddenly, the frames of his life and the audio running through his head snapped together, and he let out a whoop like the Indians in old Westerns and ran at Masaki, spinning her up and into the air. Her laughter fell like sunlight and he thanked God for this and every moment.

His life before had been a lie; without knowing it he'd been completely mistaken about the nature of everything – this, right now, was perfection.