Wind blows, time is here
Mama bird strains and pushes
Spits; she eats her babe.
A collection of my writings, mostly fiction in nature, including the occassional poem. Pull up a chair and get comfy. I hope you enjoy your read.
Wind blows, time is here
Mama bird strains and pushes
Spits; she eats her babe.
Julissa Forney sat in the rocker watching her grandmother in the bed next to her. It was odd to see the once active, now frail woman buried beneath the white Battenberg lace quilt; her shallow breaths revealing the last threads of her life. It seemed like only yesterday Margaret Forney had received the news that Cancer had taken over her body.
Julissa took comfort in the warmth of light cast through the window pane. As she rocked back and forth she thought about how her grandmother’s death would truly close a chapter in her life. Margaret was the last of Julissa’s family and the imminent parting overwhelmed her at times. If it wasn’t for her engagement to
Hospice moved Margaret home from the hospital earlier that week and the doctor explained that she would mostly sleep and may only be responsive at times. Julissa wanted to savor every
“How is she doing?” Sawyer asked as he entered the room.
“The same,” Julissa replied. “I’ve been swabbing her mouth with ice chips every so often and she wakes for a few minutes here and there.”
“You should eat,” Sawyer said, setting some take-out boxes on the night stand next to her. Julissa wasn’t sure if it was the smell of the food or the sound of Sawyer’s voice that roused Margaret from her sleep.
“Jules-“ Margaret began, clearing her throat. Julissa set down her food and moved over to the bed, lacing her fingers through her grandmother’s.
“I’m here,” she reassured her.
“My Bible—“ Margaret tried again to speak, however her voice cracked a bit before trailing off.
Thinking that Margaret wanted her to read to her from the Bible, Julissa got up and retrieved the tattered book from the dresser. Upon returning to her bedside, Margaret placed her hand over Julissa’s, stopping her from thumbing through the pages. She pulled the old Bible onto her lap and opened the front cover. Inside was a sealed envelope bearing Julissa’s name. Her hands shook as she passed the letter to her granddaughter. Then, as if that feat took all of her might, Margaret closed her eyes and began to rest again.
Clearing the boxes of food, Sawyer and Julissa made their way to the kitchen, allowing Margaret to rest for a bit. Across the table from each other, Sawyer sat quietly as Julissa pulled several pages from the envelope and began to read aloud. She never could have guessed what she was about to discover.
As I near the end of my days it occurs to me that you deserve to learn the truth about the past. My worst fear is that you will be blamed for my wrong-doings and I do not wish that upon you, especially now that you’re engaged to a member of law enforcement.
“Wrong doings?” Julissa asked out loud, glancing at Sawyer with a puzzled look.
“Law Enforcement?” Sawyer replied before giggling.
“What?” Julissa asked in confusion.
“Well, it’s just that it’s only the Sheriff and me. I mean,
“Sawyer,” Julissa sighed, shaking her head only slightly amused at his sometimes boyish behavior.
“Sorry. Continue,” Sawyer apologized.
I thank God that the numbering of my days has been made known to me so that I may take the opportunity to write out my confession. The guilt of this has torn me up for years. Yet it was also the driving force of that guilt that kept me going, enabling you to turn into the beautiful woman you have become.
I should first explain that your grandfather, the Reverend Henry Forney was not always a compassionate man. Yes, he was the pastor at the church. And yes, he was passionate about his beliefs. But Henry was also a firm believer in “spare the rod, spoil the child.” Unfortunately, I was not always spared that rod either. I don’t mean to speak ill of your grandfather, Julissa. After all, he was a man of God. But you have to understand, times were different then. Women weren’t to speak out of turn. I did not mourn at his funeral. I cried, all right. But they were tears of relief. I felt then as I do now that Henry’s heart attack was an answer to prayer. Of course, I never admitted that to anyone. Who would believe that the honored Reverend Forney was anything but gentle?
Julissa was shocked to read the words scrawled by her grandmother’s own hand. She had only ever heard wonderful stories of her grandfather and how much service he gave to the town of
Hank Jr., your father, was barely a teenager when he lost his
It came as no surprise to me when Hank got Kathleen, still in high school, pregnant. I suppose if there was anyone who gave a care about her, they may have brought some sort of charge against him. However your sweet mama was merely a child abandoned to foster care. I took her in. Looking back it probably wasn’t the smartest thing I had ever done, but I convinced Hank Jr. that marrying your mama was the proper thing to do. I guess I was worried about keeping up appearances. I can’t help but feel what he did to her was partly my fault.
“Is she taking the blame for your mother’s murder?” Sawyer asked.
“I would imagine,” Julissa began. “Growing up I heard the story a hundred times. My father had gotten himself drunk one night after losing his job at the plant. He and my mother had an argument and in his drunken rage he strangled her. The sheriff believed he jumped off the
Sawyer nodded. “I remember when I first moved to
“Well, this isn’t
Your mama was the sweetest, shiest girl I knew. As I’ve told you before, she was beautiful; had the fair skin of a porcelain doll. You actually take after her quite a bit. She was a gem and deserved to be treated like one. She loved you so much too. She held you and rocked you and sang to you. I’ll never forget her lovely voice. She also protected you. As soon as you began to cry, your mama would rush to your side to comfort you. She never said as much, but I knew what she was thinking, for the same thoughts had crossed my mind too. When Hank came home drunk, nothing more would set him off than the sound of your cries. Kathleen feared what he was capable of if she didn’t keep you settled down.
News of the local power plant lay-offs spread like wild fire. When your daddy didn’t come home for supper I knew he was down at the tavern drowning himself in his sorrows. One look at Kathleen’s face told me she knew the same to be true. I don’t know what time it was when he finally came home, but it was after midnight when I heard the yelling. Kathleen was begging him to get off of her. Thinking there was an intruder, I reached in the side drawer for the Reverend’s pistol and ran down the hallway to the bedroom to find your daddy on top of your mama, choking the life right out of her. I pleaded for him to stop and even tried to pull him off of her. But he was strong and his arm came at me fast, in spite of his drunken state. You were in the crib nearby and began to cry. I knew he had to be stopped.
I know what the Bible says about killing a man. But I also knew this cycle had to end. As he returned to Kathleen, raising his fist, I put 2 bullets in the back of his head. But it was too late. Your mother was no longer breathing.
I don’t know how I managed, except to say that my adrenaline pumped fire through my veins. I pulled the sheets off the bed and wrapped them around his body before dragging him down to the basement. I removed all of the meat from the ice chest and somehow managed to lift your father’s body into the freezer. I threw the gun in there as well and locked the freezer with a padlock.
I then returned to the bedroom and cleaned up the blood as best I could and moved the area rug over the stain on the floor. I rocked you back to sleep and then, I called the police. I told them what had happened, for the most part, replacing the part about the murder with a story that Hank had run off.
You were just a baby, instantly orphaned. If I confessed and went to jail, I feared you’d end up in the system just like your mother. I wanted only the best for you, Julissa.
Although is hasn’t worked in years, tell Sawyer the freezer is still in the basement, in the back corner behind stacks of boxes, and Hank’s body is still inside. The key to the padlock is in the jewelry box on my dresser.
I know what I did was wrong. I know that when I die I will have to answer to my maker and His judgment. I’ve made peace about that in my mind already. What I want more desperately than anything else is to know that you forgive me. I love you and have always loved you with every fiber of my being. Please, Julissa. Please forgive me.
Sawyer and Julissa sat in silence for a few minutes before either one finding words to speak.
“So, what do we do now?” Julissa asked. “Certainly you wouldn’t arrest my grandmother on her deathbed, right?”
Sawyer reached across the table, gently placing his hand over hers. “Your grandmother was acting in self-defense and was trying to protect you.”
“Yes,” Julissa said, holding back the tears.
“Your grandmother was a wonderful role model to you,” Sawyer continued.
“Yes,” Julissa confirmed again.
“Your grandmother raised you to be a beautiful, smart woman who’s been able to accomplish many things because of her encouragement and support.”
“Yes,” Julissa nodded.
Sawyer then took the sheets of paper from Julissa’s hands, folded them back up and returned them to the envelope. “Your grandmother deserves a proper burial. She deserves to be remembered for the kind, loving woman she was.”
“Yes,” Julissa agreed.
“Listen to me,” Sawyer said, bringing Julissa’s chin up to meet his gaze. “This letter was not found. In fact, it won’t be found until after your grandmother’s funeral. Understood?”
Julissa smiled through her tears. “Yes.”
Julissa climbed the stairs to the bedroom and returned the letter to the front of the Bible, placing it once again on the dresser. Standing in the presence of the greatest woman she’d ever come to know, Julissa soaked in the light wishing time could stand still for a brief moment. Silently acknowledging the suffering Margaret had likely endured for many years, Julissa couldn’t even begin to imagine the amount of courage and strength it took for her grandmother to do what she had to do. It gave new meaning to the sentiment she’d been taught repeatedly growing up, You can do hard things.
Julissa made her way over to the bed and sat next her grandmother. Lightly caressing the top of Margaret’s clasped hands Julissa was overcome with emotion and began weeping uncontrollably. Margaret reached her fingers up and laced them through the young woman’s and Julissa noticed her eyes were also moist. There were so many things Julissa wanted to say to her grandmother; so many questions she wanted answered. Yet, she couldn’t seem to find the words. Their eyes held each other in a gaze that seemed to suggest a deep love and understanding of one another.
“Thank you,” Julissa finally said. Margaret smiled and sighed quietly before closing her eyes for the last time.
“Can you tell the court the first time you remember Mr. Tate coming to your home?” Mr. Dupre asked me.
That was the day I sat on the witness stand in the county courthouse outside of my hometown of French Lick, Indiana. It was the summer of 1964 and I was nearly twelve years old. That summer should have been a summer like any other. I should have been enjoying it like all of the other kids. But it wasn’t and I didn’t. No, that was the summer Delmar Tate was killed.
I remember the first day Mr. Tate came to our home all right. He was selling vacuums door to door. Mama was on the phone and motioned for my older sister, Harmony to brush off whoever it was that came knocking. I didn’t like Mr. Tate the moment I saw him. He was tall and lanky, wore a cheap wool suit and his dark hair was slicked back with so much grease he smelled like a walking drug store.
“Well ain’t you cute as a sack of puppies,” Mr. Tate said, gazing at Harmony’s bosom a bit too eagerly. “Is your mama home, sweetheart?” Upon hearing a man’s voice Mama decided to take front and center as she always did with the men. “Why hello there Miss,” Mr. Tate spoke as he ogled Mama too. “I was just asking your little sister here if your Mama was home.” I ain’t never heard nobody lay on the charm so thick it done gagged me from across the room. Of course my mama was flattered and invited Mr. Tate in. As she sat on the sofa pretending to be interested in his presentation on how this vacuum sweeper could change her life, my mama, the great Trista-Lynn Lawrence did what she did best. She came on to Mr. Delmar Tate and he seemed to take all too kindly to her advances. It was only a matter of days before Mr. Tate became a regular guest for supper, and not long after that he moved in.
“And Sunny,” Mr. Dupre started with his next question. “Your mama appointed Mr. Tate to watch over you and your sister while she went to work. Isn’t that right?” I ain’t never had the occasion to deal with any lawyer before that summer. But Mr. Dupre was the kindest man I ever met.
Each night after supper my mama would go down to the tavern and work until midnight or so. The tavern was packed on account of the shift workers from the rail yard next door. Although my mama left us home with Delmar Tate, we didn’t need him watching over us. Harmony was sixteen that summer and besides that, we had been tending ourselves at night for as long as I could recall. Harmony was the one that cleaned the house, helped me with my homework, and made sure I brushed my teeth and said my prayers before bed. Harmony was more like a mother to me than my own Mama was. Next to Boudreaux Brown, whom everybody called Beau, she was my closest friend.
Beau Brown lived with his Meemaw down by the river behind the woods. I loved him since the first day in Miss Lucy’s Kindergarten class. At recess some of the other boys were making fun of me on account of my stuttering. “S-S-Sunny can’t s-s-speak!” they called out, taunting me until I began to cry. It was then that Beau hauled off and kicked the biggest one, Bobby Perkins, right where the sun don’t shine. I ain’t never seen a boy cry so hard in my life.
“Can you tell the court about Mr. Tate’s behavior while your mama was away at work?” Mr. Dupre continued in the stuffy courtroom that day. In my mind, while sitting on that witness stand, I used to pretend that my Daddy was a lot like Mr. Dupre. Though I never had the pleasure of meeting my Daddy, thinking him in the likes of Mr. Dupre somehow helped to fill that empty space in my chest. If only my Daddy hadn’t been killed in the war like Mama said, then maybe none of this ain’t ever happened.
As it turned out, and to nobody’s surprise but Mama and him, Mr. Tate wasn’t a very good salesman. Night after night he’d come home, put out that he still had the same number of vacuums he left with that morning. Mr. Tate was the kind of man to take to the bottle when he was in a foul mood. Problem was, he was nearly always in a foul mood and the drinking only made things worse. On Mama’s nights off she’d drink with him until they both passed out; but not before bickering and hollering at each other. Mama got real mean when she got drunk. I remember one night she told Harmony to quit dressing like a slut or she’d end up barefoot and pregnant before she was even eighteen. Truth be told, that was Mama’s life. She was the one who slept with nearly every boy in town back in her day and she was the one who got pregnant with Harmony and never finished high school. Harmony cried herself to sleep that night even though I done told her that it was just on account Mama was jealous and drunk. Harmony was going to make something of herself. She worked real hard in school to get good grades and saved money by bagging groceries at the Five and Dime. She was fixing to go college one day and prayed every night to God, asking Him to help her find a way to get as far away from French Lick as possible.
“Sunny,” Mr. Dupre continued with his questioning. “Can you tell the court what happened the night of June thirtieth?” Mr. Dupre knew I didn’t like to talk about that night. I practiced saying it over and over in his office beforehand on account I didn’t want to stutter on the stand. I could tell by the look on his face he didn’t like Mr. Tate neither. But I agreed to tell it because Mr. Dupre said it would be real helpful to Harmony. Besides, I loved my sister and wanted to do right by her.
It was a Tuesday night. Harmony and I put on our pajamas and were fixing to watch “A Man from U.N.C.L.E.”, like we did every Tuesday night. Mama had already left for her shift at the tavern and Delmar Tate was passed out drunk in the recliner. Just as our show was finishing up Mr. Tate stirred a bit and mumbled for Harmony to fetch him another beer. Problem was, he done drank all of the beer and when Harmony told him such he became irate. Mr. Tate began hollering and cussing, calling her a liar; saying that she was hiding it from him. Harmony told him she ain’t hiding nothing. Mr. Tate didn’t take too kindly to her back-talk and told her he was going to whip her hind end. Mr. Tate then told me if I knew what was good for me I’d be getting myself to bed right quick. I didn’t want to leave Harmony, but I knew by the look on her face she wanted me to go to my room, so I did. But I couldn’t sleep.
I could hear Delmar Tate’s belt slap against Harmony’s bare thighs. I held the pillow tight over my face to block out Harmony’s yelps and to silence my own tears. I started praying to God that He’d somehow make Mama come home early. I just thought if Mama saw what he was doing she’d get rid of him once and for all. I told God I wanted a new daddy, so long as he was nothing like Delmar Tate. I so badly wanted to run to Harmony, to help her and protect her. Funny thing was, when Harmony came into the bedroom a few minutes later she crawled into bed with me to comfort me and stop me from crying. “Shh. It’s gonna be alright,” she whispered. “Don’t cry for me, baby girl.”
I don’t recall how long it took for me to fall asleep or at what point Harmony got into her own bed. But I do remember it was late when the bedroom door opened slowly, allowing the light from the hallway to peek in. While pretending to still be asleep, I glanced from beneath the covers and saw the figure of Delmar Tate standing in my bedroom. He didn’t say a word, but I watched as he put himself underneath the covers with Harmony and as he climbed on top of her. I watched as he covered her mouth with his hand to keep her quiet. I saw her eyes open wide, like a frightened deer in the woods and I watched the tears roll down her cheek. My heart leapt into my throat and I wanted to scream; but I was frozen. It was as if time stood still and I was just a mere bystander to a horrific sight. Harmony and I never talked about what I saw, but I was pretty sure she knew that I knew what that man had done to her.
I remember that day on the witness stand as clear as a bell. Mr. Dupre continued to ask the questions, while my mama continued to look at me with disappointment. My palms grew sweaty and I could feel the warmth of discomfort rise up the back of my neck. He asked me to go on and tell the jury what happened the following Saturday, on July fourth.
July fourth was a huge deal in French Lick. The whole town would gather for a day of festivities. Everyone would bring their blankets and picnic baskets to the park in the center of town. There were games and entertainment for folks of all ages. There was even a live band and dancing in the gazebo. As far back as I could remember, we’d always attend the party to visit with friends and neighbors until the big fireworks show. That Fourth of July was no different, but Harmony and I sure were.
Harmony barely spoke two words since the incident with Delmar Tate just a few nights before. Mama kept asking her if she was sick and Harmony kept telling her it was just her time of the month. I think she was hoping her excuse would be reason enough for Mr. Tate to keep his distance, at least until she could figure something out.
“Come on,” begged Beau. “I want to show you something!” As soon as I arrived at the picnic, Beau was ready to go off exploring as we often did. We ran back into the woods behind the church and found our favorite log down by the stream. It was there he pulled his latest prize from his knapsack.
“Another BB gun?” I asked, teasingly.
“Not just any old BB gun,” Beau said in defense. “This is a Crosman V-300 Spring Air BB Pistol!” You would’ve thought it was Christmas or something the way Beau was going on about it. After several minutes of chasing squirrels with his new toy we stopped to rest against an old tree stump. I didn’t realize I had been kicking at the same rock in the dirt over and over until Beau cleared his throat. It was true I was never much one for talking, on account of my stuttering. But with Beau I could, and most days would talk his ear off.
“What’s wrong with you today?” he finally asked.
“Ain’t nothing,” I mumbled.
“Sunny,” Beau said looking me straight in the eye. “Don’t lie to me. You’re my girl,” he reasoned. “I can tell when something ain’t right.”
By then I couldn’t keep it in any longer. I hadn’t told a soul about the unspeakable things I’d seen and it was festering deep inside me. Without warning, the tears started to flow and I couldn’t hardly catch my breath, I was crying so hard. Beau didn’t know what the trouble was, but he knew enough to keep still until I could get a hold of myself. When I told him what that man did to my sister, I saw the same look in Beau’s eyes that I’d seen the day he kicked Bobby Perkins in the groin. It was a look that told me he was sad and outraged at the same time.
“What about you?” Beau asked, softening his voice. “Has he touched you?” I could tell that was a question Beau didn’t want to ask and yet knew he had to.
“He ain’t bothered me,” I answered, keeping my head down.
“Here,” Beau said handing me his newest possession. “Take this.”
“What for?” I asked, pushing his hand away from me. “I ain’t gonna shoot him,” I said.
“It’s a BB gun, Sunny,” Beau contended. “It ain’t gonna kill nobody. It’s just to scare him off if he tries to touch you.” Beau convinced me to take the pistol and hide it under my pillow. Just as he was stubborn, he was as sweet as could be. For the rest of the afternoon ‘til dusk we just sat at that stump with my head against his shoulder, neither one of us making a peep. Beau always seemed to know the right thing to say and the time when saying nothing at all was everything I needed to hear.
After the bursts of rockets and oohing and ahhing from the crowd Mama rounded up Harmony and me and we headed home with Mr. Tate. The day wore me out and both Harmony and I were fixing to go to bed soon when Mama and Mr. Tate started in on one of their arguments. Luckily for us, it didn’t take long for the both of them to pass out. I waited until Harmony was in the bathroom brushing her teeth before I slipped Beau’s BB gun underneath my pillow. As I said my prayers that night, I asked God for a favor. I told Him about the awful things Mr. Tate had done to Harmony. I told Him to watch over us and to please keep that man away from us. I told God I missed my daddy, and at that very moment a peace came over me and I knew that Daddy was there; an angel watching over me.
It was all too familiar when sometime in the middle of the night, the hinges on my bedroom door began to squeak and the light from the hallway crept in. My heart began to pound as I saw Mr. Tate quietly raise the covers and slide himself in next to Harmony. I couldn’t believe he was attempting such a thing when Mama was right in the next room. I knew I had to do something. I knew I needed to stop him. I could hear Harmony’s whimpers. As strong as she was and as much as I needed her, she needed me more in that moment than she ever had before.
My throat was dry, my tongue felt heavy and my body started to tremble. I knew it was now or never. Ignoring the dizzy spell that done come over me, I slowly sat up and with every bit of strength I could muster yelled as loudly as I could, “Stop! Get off of her!” Those were my words, all right. But it sounded like someone else’s voice.
Harmony broke into hysterics, crying and screaming. “Mama!” I hollered. Mr. Tate yelled for the both of us to shut up. Mama came rushing in. Never mind the fact that Mr. Tate was trying to do up his trousers as fast as he could and Mama caught him red-handed. Mama shoved him out of the way and slapped Harmony across the face, yelling at her and calling her names; blaming her for supposedly making advances towards Mr. Tate. There was a wild look in her eyes as she wrapped her fingers around Harmony’s neck and began shaking her. I yelled for her to stop, but there was no stopping my mama.
I felt my fingers slide around the cold metal beneath the pillow. I stood, with the gun pointed directly at my Mama, hoping to scare her. But before I could say a word, Mr. Tate came at me. And just as easily as I had pulled that trigger at nearly a dozen or so squirrels earlier that day, I pulled the trigger and shot Mr. Delmar Tate.
“And did you suspect that when you pulled the trigger, you would in fact kill Mr. Tate?” Mr. Dupre asked me in court. I didn’t know much about guns. But I told him what I’ve told many others that day since.
“No sir,” I answered on the witness stand. “It’s a BB gun. It ain’t supposed to kill people. I just wanted to make them stop.”
“And did you in fact, make them stop?” questioned Mr. Dupre.
“Not soon enough,” I replied with all honesty, my voice breaking just a bit.
Once Mr. Tate fell to the ground, Mama released her hold on Harmony and ran to his side. I don’t remember much else about what happened after that. But I do remember Harmony laying there like a ragdoll, not moving, not breathing.
Mr. Dupre said the state would not bring charges against me. I was old enough to hear the rumors. I was old enough to read the papers. They were calling Mr. Tate’s death a freak accident. Apparently, because he was shot at close range, the BB went through the skin and tore a key artery, causing him to bleed to death.
Mr. Dupre made it so I could stay with Meemaw during my mama’s trial for the death of my sister. He was as kind to Meemaw and Beau as he was to me. He came over nearly every night for supper until the trial was over. He said he wanted to make sure I was okay, since he reckoned it would be hard to testify against my own mama. But I think he needed Meemaw and Beau as much as I did on account he was a single man with no family of his own.
The jury found Mama guilty and she was sentenced to life in prison. As for me, there were never any charges brought, just as Mr. Dupre had promised. I continued to live with Meemaw and Beau and Mr. Dupre continued to come over every night for supper. In fact, it was Mr. Dupre who walked me down the aisle when I married Beau just six years later.
It’s hard to believe nearly fifty years have passed since that summer. I’ve often wondered what could make a mother discard her own children. And yet, what compels others to love someone else’s children as their own? I know they say it was a freak accident. But to me, it was the Good Lord, Almighty making it so Mr. Tate couldn’t hurt nobody no more, making it so I could have a loving family and a father like Mr. Dupre, and making it so Harmony could get as far away from French Lick as possible.
I ain’t ever pretended to know the mysteries of God, so I don't know why Harmony had to die for her to get away. But I heard Meemaw once say, “When God takes away something good, he replaces it with something great.”
Charlie opened his eyes, not sure where he was or how he even got there. The bright light stung him for a brief moment before the sky broadened his view. Charlie had never seen such a vivid blue sky in his life; not that he could remember anyway. As he braced his hands down by his sides to sit up, he noticed how plush the grass felt between his fingers. He looked at the ground around him and just as the sky was blue, the grass was bright green. Charlie couldn’t explain it, but all of a sudden his heart felt like singing.
“Daddy!” A voice called out.
Charlie looked in the direction of the voice and began to laugh and weep at the same time. It was Johnny, his little boy. Charlie jumped up and ran towards him. “Johnny! Oh, Johnny!” he cried. It seemed like ages since Johnny had chased his ball into the street and been struck by that truck.
Charlie couldn’t help from giggling as Johnny ran right into his arms. The two began laughing and playing together and Johnny showed him all of the beautiful things of this enchanted new place.
Sarah sat beside the bed, grasping her husband’s hand, sobbing, praying that he would be okay. Charlie had just come out surgery lasting several hours, during which time he had slipped into a coma. The doctors explained this was common, especially in cases of head trauma such as Charlie’s. While some patients only remained in a coma several days, others lasted for several weeks, and the rarest for months.
“All we can do is wait and see,” the surgeon told her.
Sarah’s prayers were laced with tears, thanking God for reuniting her with Charlie while at the same time pleading for his recovery. Her heart went out to the other families who had lost loved ones just three days prior, when two airliners led by terrorists crashed into the World Trade Center. The tragic events of September 11th, 2001 would be a day Sarah knew would live forever in the hearts of the American people.
For two full days following the attacks, Sarah sat surrounded by friends and family before finally hearing from rescuers that Charlie’s body had been pulled from the wreckage. Initially she had only been told that he was in transport to St. Vincent’s and she should meet them there. She had no idea of his condition until she arrived. She learned from one of the paramedics that he was one of only sixteen people found alive. Sarah knew she couldn’t discount that miracle, but she desperately wanted her husband back.
Charlie didn’t need to verbalize his worries for Johnny to understand.
“I think Mama really wants you to come home,” Johnny said to his father.
Looking into his eyes, Charlie knew his son was right. But how could he leave Johnny now that he finally had him back?
“Won’t you please try, Daddy?” Johnny begged, squeezing his father’s hand.
Charlie agreed as he walked over to the giant oak tree at the end of the hill. Johnny told him it was the way. With a tear in his eye, he turned back to take one last look at Johnny. He didn’t need to hear the words. He knew his son loved him.
Each minute passed turning hours into days until an entire week had elapsed. It seemed the sands of time stood still and the miracle Sarah had been praying for finally arrived.
“Nurse! Come quick! Nurse!” Sarah cried.
Doctors and nurses came rushing in when they learned Charlie had opened his eyes. All were hushed, except for Sarah who began to ramble through her tears.
“Charlie, oh Charlie!” she cried. “I thought we had lost you.”
However, Charlie didn’t respond. He simply stared blankly at Sarah in return.
“What’s wrong with him?” she asked the doctor. “Can’t he hear me?”
“Well it’s hard to say,” the doctor replied while checking Charlie’s posturing and reflexes. “Coma patients normally don’t regain consciousness very quickly. In fact, during the first few days they are usually awake for only minutes at a time. Some will come completely out of their coma while others progress to a vegetative state. We won’t know the chances of his recovery until we are able to run some more tests. But ultimately, time is the telling factor.”
As Charlie rounded the corner from the oak tree the wind began to pick up, chilling the air just a bit. As he walked further away from Johnny and the hill he noticed the colors around him muting and the echoes of laughter fading in the breeze until only the sounds of silence encircled him. The light grew dim and the darkness began to swirl around him, engulfing him, choking him.
Charlie grew faint and weary as the earth began to spin. He felt his knees give way as he clutched the ground beneath him. Tears of anguish poured from his soul as he begged for the light to return. Deep breaths, he told himself trying to calm down. Charlie mentally retraced his steps to figure out where he had gone wrong. He went the way Johnny had said, hadn’t he? Perhaps he was trying too hard and didn’t see the signs. Perhaps he was simply trying to run faster than he had strength. Soon the pounding in Charlie’s head subsided and his chest began to rise and fall like the ebb and flow of an evening tide. As Charlie lay on the ground an ever so slight twinkle appeared in the darkness of the sky and Charlie’s nose was filled with a familiar fragrance.
It was Sarah. He knew it. She was near, but he couldn’t see her. He heard a stream rushing by and could hear the current carrying her sadness. Charlie wanted the light to return so badly, not just for him but for Sarah too. He tried to call out to her, to speak to her, to let her know that everything would be okay. But those desires seemed liked bottled up wishes. His tongue was bound and he knew not why.
Charlie tried to breathe Sarah in, to somehow hold onto her scent. As he continued taking deep breaths he reflected on all of the things he would tell her if she were lying down next to him. As he closed his eyes he could almost see her. He closed them tighter out of fear she would fade from his mind.
Don’t worry about me, he would tell her if only she could hear him. I’m safe. I’m okay. It’s beautiful here and I’m happy. I’m with Johnny again and he loves you. He knew that if he could tell her those things she would be happy too. My sweet Sarah, he would call her. When you pray, know that our loss is only time. It is only time until I can hold you again. Until then… Charlie’s own tears seemed to wash over his entire body. He now knew the way to go and the song in his heart returned.
Sarah found comfort in the rhythms of Charlie’s heart monitor. For the moment it was all she had. Sleep had been a stranger for several days now and Sarah was weak and weary. Threads of family and friends came to the hospital to offer their love and support. In everything they said the one thing she heard most was how they admired her strength. But deep down, she didn’t feel strong. Deep down she was crumbling, breaking, and she knew it.
Sarah had been watching the news, the aftermath of the attacks and the numerous tear-stained faces that came across the screen as survivors held up pictures still hoping to find any sign of their loved ones. Sarah knew she wasn’t like them. Sarah knew that for whatever reason she had been given something they didn’t have. And yet, she felt selfish for wanting more.
The doctors had told Sarah it was uncertain as to whether a coma patient could hear, think or feel. Sarah couldn’t help but believe that if Charlie had any awareness of his current condition it would be torture for him. Charlie was never one to sit by and be idle. His idea of relaxing was finding something to do. Charlie was the light of her life and the life of their marriage. She remembered what it was like burying Johnny and how, if it weren’t for Charlie she would have collapsed. He was the strong one. Sarah reached over to the bed by her side and laced her fingers through Charlie’s.
“I’m not going to ask you to stay anymore,” Sarah said out loud just in case Charlie could hear her. “It’s not fair to you and I’m not strong enough to endure another day of what-ifs.” Sarah’s voiced cracked and the tears flowed freely. “Go home to Johnny and take care of him until I can come too. Until then…”
Charlie knew he was getting closer as the warmth of the sun washed over his face. The air was so crisp it was palpable. The echo of Johnny’s laughter resonated in his heart as Charlie broke into a sprint towards the oak tree now in sight. His love for his son filled the space of time and all of a sudden Johnny was in his arms again.
“I tried, Johnny,” Charlie explained. “I really did. No matter which way I turned, it just wasn’t right. I need to be where the light is.”
“The light is nice,” Johnny admitted.
“It’s wonderful!” Charlie agreed. “And it’s warm and all encompassing…and...I don’t know how else to explain how it makes me feel.”
“They say that is the love of our Maker,” Johnny explained.
“When I found the light again I knew. I knew that I belonged here with you, Johnny.”
“I know, Daddy,” Johnny reassured him. “And now Mama knows too,” he added. With that Johnny gently tugged his father’s arm. “C’mon, Daddy,” he insisted. “It’s time to go.”
“Go?” Charlie questioned. “But I just got here. Besides, I love it here.”
“Just wait until you see what’s on the other side of the hill,” Johnny exclaimed.
As Charlie and Johnny raced towards the top of the hill, Charlie felt Sarah’s love fill his soul and knew that it was only a matter of time until she too would reach the eventide.
COPYRIGHT 2011. Emma C Miller. Any reproduction of this story may not be made without express written consent of the author.