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Saturday, November 28, 2009

First Piece

***This is a Missing Pieces story which features characters and story-lines from my upcoming novel, Pieces.***






I watched him, helplessly, as he gasped for breath.  I knew his lungs must be on fire, desperately trying to hold on to what little oxygen remained.  His left hand clenched the sweat soaked sheet as the coughing took over his body.  My mother patiently stroked the other hand, never once losing her composure.  I had never known she was so strong.  She seemed fragile to me, especially as her stomach expanded with my new sibling.  I wanted to protect her from what was happening.  I wanted to beg for her forgiveness.  But I couldn't.  She could never know.  I would never tell her that her husband was dying ... because of me.


My eyes followed blindly as Jeff sat down on the bed opposite of my mother.  Gently he ran a cold cloth across my father's brow.  The coughing subsided and the tiniest moan escaped his parched lips.


"Thank you Jeff," his raspy voice whispered.  Jeff just nodded his head.  He didn't speak.  He was trying hard to remain composed.  My father was his best friend.  Since childhood they had been inseparable.  They had once joked that only Death could pull them apart.  And now it would.


"Keith, can I get you anything?" my mother's cool voice asked.  "Anything at all?"


Dad shook his head slightly.  "No, I don't have a need for anything.  Not now."  I watched as a dark glimmer passed quickly across my mother's face.  Jeff bit his lip hard.  I watched for blood, but none came.
A tiny sniffling next to me sent cold chills down my back.  I didn't want to look at her.  But my body wouldn't listen to me, and I turned my head slowly anyway.


Quiet tears streaked down her pale face, leaving glistening trails of sadness on her cheeks.  Her lips quivered, and I knew she was trying her best not to break down.  She looked up at me, and our eyes locked.  I knew that look.  I knew all of her looks.  She was scared.  More than that, she was heartbroken.  She loved my father too.  We were all like one big family, never knowing a moment in life without the others.  Well, that was about to change.


My father's gasp drew my eyes away from her.  Something was different in the sound.  It was more hollow.  And final.  My mother ran her fingers gently across his face.  "I gotta go sweetness," he whispered to her.  Finally tears escaped her eyes, but she made no sound.  "Jeff will take good care of you and the kids."  His attention turned to his friend.  "Won't you Jeff?"


 At first I wasn't sure he'd be able to answer.  But he took a deep breath and said quietly, "I swear it."
 My dad smiled, the first real smile I'd seen on him in days.  His eyes were still on Jeff.   "It'll be real nice to see Elizabeth again.  I've got a lot to tell her about you and Ella."  More tears streamed down Jeff's face at the mention of his wife.


"I'll take care of yours, now you take care of mine."  Jeff's tears flowed freely now.


"I swear it."
He squeezed Jeff's hand, then turned his attention to my mother.  He gently lay his hand on her stomach.  "I wish I could have met her."  My mother nodded, unable to speak.  "I'm tired of hurting Victoria.  Tired of being a burden to you all.  I'm ready.  And I'm not scared."  My mother was sobbing as she bent down to kiss him one last time.


My head screamed a million things at me.  Amid all the turmoil in my mind, I knew only one thing -- I didn't want him to speak to me.  When his eyes locked on to mine, my blood ran cold.


"Jason," he paused.  I could feel his dark green eyes studying my face like they had done a million times before.  "In life things happen that are beyond our control.  People enter and leave, sometimes quietly.  Other times, it's more like the sound of rolling thunder.  No one causes it.  It's just the way.  Let it go.  And never forget to hold on to what, and who, is most important.  Life is fragile.  The pieces are hard to gather once it's broken.  And remember that no matter what, love is never wrong."


 Everyone in the room stared at me, blankly.  My father's eyes shown with a light I'd never seen.  He could see right through me, straight in to my soul, at this moment.  His last thought on earth would be of me and what I'd done.  He knew.  He knew that I'd brought down God's wrath, and that it had struck him instead of me.  He knew every wrong thought and deed.


His attention turned to Ella.  I could feel her tense beside me.  No matter how badly I tried to fight it, I instinctively reacted to her every movement.


"Ella, take care of my Jason.  And he will take care of you."


Ella couldn't respond, the sobs stripped away her voice.  Another fit of coughing shook my father.  He closed his eyes and whispered, "I love you all."


And then, it was over.  With his hand still resting on my unborn sister, he died. My mother fell across him, sobbing.  There was no need for her to be strong for him anymore.  Jeff wrapped his arms around her and cried with her.  Next to me, Ella sunk to the floor, crying silently.  Her body shook.  My arms ached for her.  They wanted to wrap around her, hold her until she quieted.


I looked away from her.  I couldn't look at her like that.  I stared at the vessel that had once been my father.  Slowly, darkness descended on me.  It was gentle at first, dim and glimmering.  But as I thought about what I had done, it grew denser.  It wrapped around me until the pain and guilt were all that was left.  I had killed my father.  I had allowed myself to feel and do things that I knew were wrong.  Yet I hadn't been able to stop it.  As my punishment, my father was dead.  And now, I had a debt to pay.


I pulled my new found cloak around me, burying myself deeper in silence.  Nothing would ever reach me.  I could hide forever.  No one would ever know.  I would never again act on what I felt.  It would be buried with me in my living grave.  And someday, I would die alone. My cursed love for her would be enclosed in the earth with me.  It would be my recompense for my father's life.  I embraced my new darkness, knowing completely that I would never see light again.


 Suddenly a jolt of lightning erupted in my hand, sending heat up my arm and in to my chest.  I looked down, confused.  There was a hand clasping mine.  I followed the thin pale arm down to the tear stained angel in the floor.


"Jason," she whispered, her voice pleading.  I couldn't answer her.  Her brilliance was too much for my new eyes.


It was in that moment that I knew.  I would never escape her.  I couldn't.  I would be bound to her forever ... by my betrayal, by my punishment ... by my condemned heart.

1 comment:

  1. OMG WRITE MORE! I need to KNOW MORE!!! keep it going! I want to find out what happens...!:)

    ReplyDelete

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