Sunday, July 25, 2010

Mourning After, part II


Today I have the privilege of partnering with the amazingly talented Brian Miller at WaystationOne.  He wrote the first half of this story, so jump on over there to read the beginning, then come back here for the end.



It's been two weeks since he died, and I'm drowning. But I knew that someday I would. After all, there's penance. Penance for sins so great we cannot breathe them out loud. I look at my treasure. This living, breathing proof of my husband, Will's love. A love that I didn't think I ever deserved. And I know it's all my fault his daddy's gone. How am I going to raise this precious child without him? I can't even breathe.

I met him accidentally. I know people say that, and then believe that some higher power arranged it, but not me. I know it really was an accident. I mean, how many times does it happen that you're in a car crash and the paramedic turns out to be the love of your life? I gave up believing such nonsense at an early age. But there he was. His kindness calming me, his reassurance actually believable.

Mom? Mom? Aren't we going to play”

I shrug the thoughts away, the blanket of them too heavy for my child. We play. I tuck him in.

Evenings are always the hardest. Without his presence, I have no compass. I'd been a silly girl to believe in redemption. In a love so overpowering that the past melted away. “It doesn't matter what happened before we met. What counts is from now on.” I'd actually begun to think it might be true.

I can't sleep in our bed. We'd loved so tenderly that last morning, and I can't bear to go back there without him. Instead I haunt the couch, and try to endure the vacuum my life has become. But the chill always comes, creeps into my bones. Evil. But tonight's chill is different. Tonight Josh said, “Daddy is right there!” And I haven't been able to shake the feeling of a presence, even though I was able to so calmly say, “Well of course, he'll always be with us, honey. In our hearts.” Tonight the chill has weight, and form, and makes me uncomfortable in my skin.

I see it again. I'm in that room, monitors beeping, doctors discussing me in whispers as if I weren't right there, didn't have a voice. Or a choice. “It's either her, or the child. We can't save them both.” Unable to speak, unable to cry out in protest, I fade away.

They saved me. As for our first child, my unborn, precious, miraculous child, he was gone. And I know that's why they took Will. To pay for that, they took him. Took my north, tied these chains of grief around me, and shoved me into this darkness from which there is no escape.

And the dreams have started again. It's always the same. I see our unborn child running towards me, about six years old, golden hair curling, slightly damp at the temples. His little legs sprinting across that meadow, into my eagerly waiting arms. He doesn't see the presence behind him, doesn't see the hooded figures with icy breath, skeleton hands, quickly catching up to him. I know that if I reach him first, he's mine. But my feet always get stuck in the mire, and I never get there in time. He's always just one step out of reach when they snatch him up, take him away. His piercing scream of terror echoing, “Mom! Mom! Help! Don't let them take me!” No words come. I want to say, “I'll find you, I'll rescue you!” But I have no mouth. I can't even scream.

I always fight sleep. Most nights I end up in the hall outside Josh's room, as if I could guard him from that evil by my physical presence. Eventually my body gives in to the sleep, and when I awake, I'm curled up on the hardwood floor.

Mom! Mo-om! Wake UP! Daddy is taking me to the park!”

I'm startled awake. Sunlight dances in through the sky-light, haloing his perfect little face.
Ah, umh...”When?”

My vision clears and I see Josh. And Will! Propped on his hip is the six year old from my dreams. Will reaches for his son's hand, and I'm suddenly wide awake.

No Josh! No!”

He takes his daddy's hand, and as the three of them turn and walk down the hallway, I'm paralyzed. Just like in my dreams. I'm screaming, screaming, trying to speak, to run, to stop it from happening, but as always I'm stuck.

I don't know how long I lay there, but I know what I'll find when I get up. Finally, I move. Terror and grief are stuck in my throat, thick like paste, but I can't stop myself. I open the door to Josh's room. And of course he's lying right there. Not moving. Stone cold to my fingers.

His eyes flutter, my heart clenching in a fist of hope, “Mom, I saw dad, and another little boy. He said everything is going to be okay and that he will always love us.”

I pull my son to me, threatening to smother him in my embrace, as I soak up the last cold vestiges of my husbands touch.

45 comments:

Brian Miller said...

Tina, great continuation...i had a lot of fun with this one as it took me out of my norm a bit...it was my privilege...thank you.

TechnoBabe said...

Whew, nice little twist at the end. You told the story in as few words as possible and kept it so interesting. I really liked it.

gospelwriter said...

Excellent continuation to Brian's start. 'Whew' is right, I was practically sobbing by the time I neared the final paragraphs.

The Urban Cowboy said...

I especially liked the twists in this collaboration...as I truly appreciate a good twist!

also, this is my first time here via Brian, glad I found my way here.

Eva Gallant said...

Wow! That's all I can say: Wow!

Cheryl said...

I'm with Eva. Wow! I was riveted to my seat.

dorazsays said...

You guys did a wonderful job. :) WOW.

drybottomgirl said...

Very touching.....

Caty said...

This was a great collaboration! I enjoyed reading it :)

The Empress said...

This looks like it was fun to do, even if it left me with a golf ball sized lump in my throat by its end.

Beautiful...

Pat said...

Very powerful story. Sniff!

Baino said...

Nice he said she said but I would have liked to have been a little more creeped out by the whole thing. As a widow myself, it certainly would have given me the willies!

Felicitas said...

I'm glad this had a semi-happy ending. Well done!

TALON said...

So well done! Great collaboration and seamless flow from one to the other. Sad, though. Very sad.

steveroni said...

Gosh, I hate to use the word "spiritual". but that is how I was struck with this story, an inadvertent attempt to explain what happens after...? Really good writing on both ends.

MORE! MORE!

kkrige said...

just wanted to post that I was here and appreciate your artistic talent. Of the subject matter, I have walked too close, so offer no more. Lucky lady to write with Brian. You both create a wonderful muse

Bernie said...

As an avid reader I can honestly say I have not read any better....good on you Tina...Hugs

Viki said...

OMG, this was just amazing. Wow!! I could hardly catch my breath lol. Wow!!

She Writes said...

GREAT final lines!

Velvet Over Steel said...

Wow!!!! Great continuation of Brian's (I'm a hugh fan of his writing & now yours!) I was numb and near tears at the end.... but your ending was Perfect!!!! So moving and just like most of Brian's post, I have goosebumps!
You are a fantastic writer! So glad I found you through Brian's so I can follow you!
HUGS,
Coreen

hvninhell said...

Oh thank goodness! Enjoyed this!

Eternally Distracted said...

That was absolutely amazing. i always love the people Brian collaborates with and today I found another gem.

PattiKen said...

Wow! What a terrific story! You and Brian work well together. You've created a modern horror story that feel entirely too real. Bravo.

H said...

Totally touching! Thank you :)

Birdie said...

Tina, very touching! This topic is not my favorite but you did such a great job here :-)

Stacy (the Random Cool Chick) said...

What an awesome ending to an incredible story! You and Brian did an amazing job! :)

Kay said...

everyone will die, love doesn't have to.

eerie write, Mr. Miller.

Brian Miller said...

kay, and tina! she did an excellent job with her part making hte characters real and giving them texture...

AmyLK said...

I was holding my breath by the end, waiting to see what would happen! I cannot imagine loosing my love and my child at the same time. Very nice story!

Claudia said...

This was excellent writing with such a love for character details - and - yes - I have just to live without a happy end...

Magpie said...

Amazing...wonderful job. You picked up the thread of Brian's beginning beautifully.

Jessie said...

WOW!
just fabulous.

smiles,

JStar said...

Ok, I have a lump in my throat...This story was very vivid...Brian did an excelent begining, hooking us...But you took it to new heights...I have chills...

Maggie said...

Oh, wow! That was an amazing ended! You both did a great job!

kavisionz said...

WOW! This was one chilling read!
Brian's start, and the second part to it! Both awesome!! And scary too...
A movie rolled in my head, with images clear and sound loud!
A brilliant read!

Kat_RN said...

Thanks for ending it the way you did. I got wrapped up in the story quickly.
Kat

Tracy said...

Nice tag team here. I enjoyed the beginning, the middle and the end!

ds said...

Wow. You two are a formidable combination. I love where you took this one. Completely engrossing, completely believable. Thank you.

Life@Cee said...

Tina, supurbly written. I could feel your character's terror when she couldn't get to her son. You and Brian make a great team.
Cee

ladyfi said...

Chilling... terrifying... brilliant!

moondustwriter said...

Tina - this was a great continuation of Brian's piece. Sadly hopeful
Thanks for weaving the emotions of a widow and a mother into this.

Smiles from the Moon

My name is PJ. said...

That was so real, it was actually uncomfortable to read. Great job, Tina!

CatLadyLarew said...

Whoa! Loved it even as I was drawing away from it as I read. So believable, I felt like I was intruding. Well done.

Shas said...

Am left speechless. Its simply beautiful and touches the core of the heart.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That was so full of emotion, Tina. Hope that final vision and words from Will give her peace.