“Somewhere up there is a pink moon,” Morris declared.
Sonja glanced at the sky, but the dark clouds blanked out everything, including the moon and stars. And had for as long as she could remember. “How do you know it’s pink?”
“Well, this is April, right?”
“Yeah.” They followed the homemade calendar almost religiously so everyone would know what day it was, as well as the month and the year.
“My mother told me it’s named after the phlox.”
He chuckled. “No. A phlox. It’s a pink flower that used to bloom in the spring.”
Sonja sighed. “I’d love to see a real flower again. I’d be happy with an artificial one that I can hold in my hand.” They both glanced at her pale fingers that rested on top of his. He opened his fingers, and they laced them together.
“Maybe one day we’ll find one…or the other.”
Several minutes passed as they continued to stare into the darkness shrouding their world. A darkness that brightened only slightly when night turned into day. But at least during the daytime they didn’t need lanterns or candles to find their way around.
A brisk wind picked up, hurling snowflakes at them. Sonja drew her coat tighter around her as he slipped an arm across her shoulders for a sideways hug.
“Does this moon have other names?” she asked after a while. They spoke in hushed tones, for fear of attracting the unwanted. He knew they shouldn’t be outside after dark, anyway. But tonight had been so tempting. The storm that had enveloped their little community had raged for eleven days, finally letting up in the wee hours before morning. Morris knew that if there was going to be a “safe” time to go topside for some fresh air, it would have to be now. Otherwise, it could be days before they could venture above again.
“Oh, yeah,” he admitted. “Momma said it was also called the Hare Moon, or the Egg Moon.”
“Let me guess. For Easter, right?”
“I think so. Yeah. I’m not certain, but that sounds about right.”
They remained huddled together for another couple of minutes, when he decided they’d been outside long enough. He was about to tell his wife it was time to go below when she squeezed his hand.
“Morris, do you think we’ll ever see the moon again?”
“I dunno, honey. Maybe. Who knows?”
“Do you think it’ll ever be safe enough to come up top and stay here, instead of having to keep living underground?”
He stared at her. At the way her face glowed from the radiation. He knew…she knew…they all knew that living to a ripe old age was no longer obtainable. And hadn’t been since the bombs fell years ago. If anyone reached their forties these days, it was a miracle. So if anyone found someone they could spend those few short years with, they were blessed beyond measure.
“Like I was blessed to have found you,” he murmured, reaching up to tuck a strand of hair back underneath her knit cap.
“I feel so lucky to have you fall in love with me.”
She smiled. She had just a few teeth left, but it didn’t matter. She would always be beautiful to him.
“I think we need to go back inside.”
She nodded in answer. “Maybe I’ll try some of that soup again,” she whispered. “I think I’ll be able to keep a little of it down this time.”
“I hope so.” He helped her to her feet, and they left the small deck that was normally used as a watchtower during the day.
“Oh, and Morris?” She paused at the edge of the hatchway and turned to face him. “Thank you for telling me about the pink moon.”
“Does it ever show up as another color later in the year?”
He made a face as he thought back to his childhood. “There’s a strawberry moon in June. I don’t remember if it’s called that for the fruit or the color. I remember the pink moon because it was Mom’s favorite color.”
“What about a blue moon? I thought I heard someone mention a blue moon a long time ago.”
“It’s not really blue. In fact, the moon never turns the color associated with it. A blue moon is what people call it if there’s a second full moon in one month.” He chuckled. “Those are rare, which is why people sometimes used to say an event happened once in a blue moon.”
She smiled again. “If we’re lucky, we can look for the strawberry moon when June comes.”
Morris fought the tears. If we’re lucky.
If we’re both still alive.
“It’s a date, sweetheart. I promise.” Even if only one of them managed to survive until then, he knew the one who survived would be sure to keep their word.
Sonja stepped onto the ladder, grasping the rungs with her thin hands, and slowly descended back inside the sewers that had been their home for the past six years. Taking one last look up into the blanketed sky, he followed her down.