“The only thing scarier than falling in love is dying, and even then, only by a little.” His voice echoes through my mind stirring up the feel of his hands and the smell of him already fading from our sheets. Always so sure about the two of us, he did the chasing while I did the running. Stubborn to a fault, I told him no for months every time he asked me out but he never gave up. When my lead foot betrayed me, he finally coerced a yes. As Officer Gabriel walked up to my car, instead of a ticket, he handed me a cell phone with a call in progress.
“So Jen, I hear you don’t like speed limits?” Stephen quipped from the cell phone when I held it to my ear and said hello.
“No, they just don’t like me.” I replied back, unable to stop the smile from starting.
“Dinner? Tomorrow night?”
I sighed dramatically as I said “Yes.”
“Great! I’ll pick you up at seven. Can you hand the phone back to Tom?” He spoke quickly to end it before I could change my mind.
“Sure. Bye.” I said handing the phone back. They talked for a few minutes and then Tom handed me a speeding ticket.
“Stephen told me too.” He replied to my stunned look and walked back to his police car before I could argue.
Our first date was an interesting blend of sarcasm and laughter, the kind that would sustain you through the hard times and enhance the good. I made him pay for everything that night telling him I was saving to pay my ticket. He just laughed and told me to slow down next time. Even after we were married, I could never speed because he told his fellow officers to ticket me if they caught me. His cobalt blue eyes would twinkle with satisfaction at every ticket I received and quip “I’ll get that lead out yet”. My revenge was sweet the next afternoon as I would help him dress for his shift teasing with provocative words or enticing touches to show my appreciation for a man in uniform. End of shift would be that much sweeter on those nights as morning would dawn before we slept. Wrapped in each others arms, we would discuss futures and children. The terror easing in my heart with each discussion.
Almost a year ago now, I stood at this same window watching a slow steady trail of snowflakes pile quietly on the ground when Stephen walked up behind me. As he wrapped his arms around me pulling me close and trailing kisses along my neck, he whispered in my ear “You can’t hide in here forever.” Warmth filled me just with his presence and his strong arms holding me, comforting me. I reached up and wiped a tear from my eye.
“I just needed a moment’s peace.” I sighed and leaned further back into his arms. “She used to tell me when I complained about their theatrics that they are family, you have to accept and love them as they are. My grandma was the peaceful balance to their chaos. With her gone, it’s all too much.” I broke off then unable to finish. The dam holding back the tears gave way. Stephen turned me in his arms and wrapped me tightly in an embrace.
“Carry your grandmother in your heart and she’s never truly gone.” Stephen whispered to me. “My grandma told me that on my mother’s death. It soothed me in a way I could never really describe so I’m hoping it’ll help you.” I pushed back then to look into his eyes.
“You’ve never talked about that before…” I started but he shook his head no interrupting me.
“Today, we’re helping you. Tomorrow, we’ll help me.” Then he smiled that boy next door smile at me. With Stephen, it was always time to help me and never time to help him. I brought my hand to his face rubbing his check feeling the faint dark stubble that was always there no matter when he shaved.
“I’m glad you got to meet her.” I started, my voice cracking with the emotion. “She was the reason I finally said yes.” Stephen looked at me startled. “She told me to stop running and take a chance. If I keep hiding from the fear of a broken heart, I’ll end up alone.”
“I wondered why you finally said yes after the third time I asked you to marry me.”
I grabbed his face with both of my hands. “I love you, please promise me you’ll never leave me.“
“I love you too. I promise to never willingly leave you.” We kissed, sealing the promise.
Standing with my forehead braced against the same window, I watch as tears land on the window pane and slowly succumb to the cold that freezes them in place. The cold is oddly comforting to me now, the world having lost its warmth. If I don’t leave this room soon, the circus will come for me. Sighing, I lift my head and move toward the door. The soft whispers halt as I enter the room, all heads turning in my direction. Steadily, I walk toward Stephen, trying to gather the pieces of my heart that were shattered by a bullet. Stopping too sharply, my balance tries to right itself. I feel a steadying hand gripping my arm. I nod only, not strong enough yet to look at it’s owner. Reaching out with one hand, my fingers stroke the lines of the red and white. Softly I place my other hand on my stomach, blurry eyes focusing on the blue while the white stars shimmer in my tears. I whisper softly to our sixteen week old baby, “Keep daddy in your heart and he’s never truly gone.”
I submitted the above story Eat Move Write Writing contest for February and received an Honorable Mention. This contest was the first I have ever entered and I’m thrilled to have received an Honorable Mention. Congratulations to the winner Laura.