Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A Short Story

She stood at the door with great trepidation, hesitating to raise her hand and knock. Somewhere between the slam of her car door and the walk up the front steps to the man waiting inside, she had lost her composure. She had the entire conversation planned out in her mind, but now faced with the reality of what was about to happen, everything she had so meticulously outlined was forgotten. The closer she got to the door, the more her hands began to shake. Her stomach was in knots and her knees went weak. How was she supposed to explain to him that their lives were about to take a turn that neither of them had planned on? It had taken her two days to muster the courage to face him and if she followed her instincts and turned around, she knew she would never have the strength to say what needed to be said and to do what needed to be done.

Steeling herself against her own apprehension, she knocked boldly on the front door. It may have been easier to use the key that he had given her, but she wanted to be formal and she had not spoken to him since she received the news two days ago. He had called and texted and e-mailed her incessantly for the last forty eight hours. She heard the news herself at 2:06 P.M. on Monday afternoon and now it was almost exactly two days later to the tee. While she waiting for him to come to the door, she could smell the fresh cut lawn. She felt the sun beating down and the breeze cooling the sweat that began beading on her skin as much from her frayed nerves as from the heat of the afternoon.

Just before he opened the door, a surprising calm came over her. Suddenly she knew the exact words to use. The right tone to take. As he opened the door and came into full view, her heart skipped a beat at the sight of him. While they stood there, drinking each other in, it occurred to her that two days was the longest that they had gone without seeing each other in some capacity for the last year. Here was the man that she had come to love without hesitation or reservation. His posture was regal, his shoulders pulled back in juxtaposition to the faded jeans he was wearing and his bare feet. There was just something about the combination of his formal bearing and casual nature that had appealed to her from the first.

Without saying a word, he lifted one eyebrow quizzically and gestured her inside and out of the heat. She let the coolness of the foyer wash over her as she looked around the room. Nothing had changed here, but everything had changed for them. This time, there was no looking back. They both had an important decision to make. In a relationship that they had both entered wounded and scared, time and love had seen enormous growth in both of them individually and as a couple. They had learned so much from one another and had grown so close that it was sometimes difficult for their friends and family to see them as anything other than the unit that they had created together.

The two of them had resisted enormous pressure from both of their families to make their union more formal. Neither had a strong desire to enter into a legally binding contract when their hearts were already married. For the last two years, that had worked out well for both of them. While she had practically lived with him for the majority of those two years, she had still kept a separate apartment. It was her security blanket against pain. A safe haven where she could run to if things got a little hairy, which they had. Especially in the beginning. It had caused a lot of arguments between them in an otherwise non-contentious and loving union. At first, he insisted that she give up her place and move in with him. She dug in her heels and refused, citing that she wanted to be certain of their complete partnership before making such a huge move. He had finally given up many months before and resigned himself to her stubborn nature. He figured that she would make the move when she was ready.

Without saying a word, he reached out and took her hand and lifted it to his lips. She could see the worry and concern in his eyes. While she usually went back to her place when he was away, or to check her mail, she was never far from reach and they spoke on the phone several times a day if they were apart, so his concern was not without merit. As they walked into the living room, her heart skipped a beat. After the kitchen, this was the core of their home together. Ownership of the home meant little to either of them when anyone could look around and see that they were present in every corner of the house. They had picked out and redesigned each and every room together, laughing as they argued over paint colors and fabric samples. They purchased several pieces of artwork together as well as the bargain buys they had found at estate sales and discount stores. It was an eclectic mix that reflected who they were as a couple and they were justifiably proud of what they had built together.

As they sat down on the sectional couch that they had spent months searching for until they decided to design one themselves, her hands once again began to tremble and she could now see fear replace the concern in his eyes. She started to speak, but faltered before she could get any sound to come out of her mouth. As she began to tremble he pulled her into his arms and held her as she sobbed. Her heart was breaking for what she had to do. There was no way that she could keep this from him, even though it might destroy him, but the words still wouldn't come.

As her crying subsisted and with his arms still around her, she found a tranquility that would prove to serve her well in the months ahead. She eased back from him and wordlessly held out a piece of paper. She just couldn't tell him herself.

She watched him as his eyes widened and filled with tears. He looked at her for reassurance, but found none. In an instant, their dreams and plans had gone out the window, but not their love for one another. Never that. She hadn't doubted that he would still love her, but she hurt for him and all that she would leave behind. She watched him pull his eyes back down to the paper as he reread the words that would be her death sentence. She already knew what it said as she had read it herself over and over again in the last two days. She argued with the doctors initially and then railed against fate. She prayed to the God of her childhood and finally made peace with herself and the illness that would end her life in a few short months.

Inoperable brain tumor was what the diagnosis had been. The doctors that she had seen were top notch. No one would have suspected that the mild headaches that had been plaguing her for months would turn into something so life altering. Since she hadn't known how to break the news to him, she had shut herself off from the world for a while until she was confident to face it again on her own terms. She had lived her life her way and she would pass out of this world her way.

Once again he reached for her. He reassured her in his support and devotion. As the days flew by with increasing speed, her health deteriorated. She did not wish to die in a hospital bed, nor would she allow death to take away her last moments of life. Instead, she played for as long as her body would let her. He was there with her the entire time, holding her up when she faltered. He supported her and stood by her side as they broke the news to their family and loved ones together. He was always there with her, even as her energy waned and she was forced into bed rest. There was a hospice nurse who came every day in the end, to watch her and give her the medication that she desperately needed to ease the pain. But he never left her side and he slept in the bed they had set up in his first floor office for her comfort and ease every night.

The last night of her life, they laid in the tiny bed listening to the beeps and hums of the machines. She had lost her ability to speak, but they didn't need words. They never had. He held her tight and lightly touched her hair with his fingertips. And as she took her last breath, he could swear that he felt her presence in the room.

The next few days were hell, spent making sure that her final wishes were followed through with. She was buried in her family cemetery next to a sister that had passed away during their youth. As the final mourners made their was through the rain and back to their cars, he stood staring at the casket in the ground. He knew that her spirit was no longer there. She had come to him in a dream the night before exacting from him the promise that he would celebrate her life and if he had to mourn her death, that he did so for as short a time as possible. As the clouds opened and the rain poured down, he felt it only fitting that the heavens weeped. Not at the loss of her body, but for thankfulness in the gaining of another angel.

He took one last look at the hole in the ground. Finally, he picked up a black-eyed susan, her favorite flower and the flower of their home state, kissed it and tossed it on the top of the casket. She had shown him love and laughter and shared all the joys of life with him. He didn't know what he would do now that she was gone, but he knew that no one could ever take the place in his heart that would forever belong to her.

1 comment:

sybil law said...

A *beautiful* short story.!