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Esperanza drove up into the driveway and stopped the car. She put it into park and turned the ignition off, listening quietly as the roar of the engine quieted to a gently hum… then nothing. She sighed heavily as her hands pulled the keys out of the ignition and set them in her lap. She felt that pressure building up in her chest again, the same kind that she’d felt when she was leaving the hospital; leaving her breathless and dizzy with memories that came to her in such great detail that she felt as if she was reliving them again. She couldn’t think, she couldn’t move and even thought every cell in her body was screaming for her to get out of the car and enter her house, she couldn’t bring herself to do actually do it. She wanted to believe that Cam would still be there, swinging the door wide open and giving her a sweet kiss on her lips. That little Vick and Sophie would be running up behind him screaming happily. She could see them clearly in her mind, it hurt. Sophie’s loose golden curls bouncing up and down with each step. Vick’s flushed cheeks as he bounded indoors, smudged with mud and grass and sand. Cam’s honey colored eyes as they gleaming back at her from behind his wavy mop of hair. Although her mind was quick to bring her back to reality, there was nothing to stop the memories from lingering.
She slowly unbuckled her seat-belt, dreading the moment that she’d finally enter her house for the first time in two months. She cracked open the door and from her perched position on the driver seat she could just spot out a pair of bright hazel eyes peeking out from between the blinds of the house. Her breath froze in her throat. Her heart beat loudly in her ears, seemingly in control of everything she wished she could do. She very nearly jumped out of her seat, wanting to burst into the house and stare into those eyes and make them promise her to never leave her again. Almost but not quite. A slim figure appeared through the now slightly ajar front door and she could see the long cascading wavy hair as it traveled down past the shoulders and ended at the waist. It was Jamie, her sister in law. She didn’t look much like Cam, but it was those subtle features that made her think of him.
She was in the park. It was a hot July day and she had been hanging out with her closest college friends one afternoon after their classes had finished. They gathered together a blanket, some snacks and drinks for all and sat down in front of an empty soccer field, talking. After a while of the sun shining down at them, they moved under the shade of a tree just as some guys in shorts came onto the field. They bounced around a soccer ball then it turned into a match. Ezperanza and her friends jokingly kept score and teased the players every now and then. They laughed right along with them. One of them overshot the corner kick and it went over every one's head and it landed right at her feet. She juggled it for a bit with her feet then kicked it high into the air. She tilted her face back to watch it but as it was coming down, the sun blinded her and the ball ended up knocking her on the head on its way down; she still managed to catch the it though and she teasingly showed it to the guys. That’s when he turned around. She saw those gorgeous honey colored eyes and her heart stopped. Her knees felt like jelly as he walked towards her. Every word he said at that moment was etched into her mind forever.
“Hey beautiful, can I have the ball back?” he gave a lopsided grin
He moved closer, his hands outstretched to take the ball from her. She didn’t remember what happened after that only that the ball was out on the field and that he was running out towards the goal dribbling the ball with his feet. As he turned around, he winked and mouthed “watch this.” She watched him alright. She watched his leg muscles ripple as they gathered strength to kick the ball and send it soaring into the corner of the net. She watched his arm muscles flex as his fits pumped into the air and she watched his face break into a grin. She watched him alright.
Esperanza opened the car door and took counted the steps it took her to reach the front door. Jamie opened it, but Esperanza avoided her gaze and brushed past her. The walls of the house she had lived in looked the same, actually everything looked like it had the night before the accident. The refrigerator still had the collection of construction paper drawings by Vick and Sophie: cars, butterflies, trains, robots, angels, mom and dad together. Esperanza headed through the kitchen and into the living room where she saw her mother was re-arranging little Sophie’s baby dolls. The TV was going on behind her, it was the Oprah Winfrey Show, but the words only registered as noise, not conversation. Her mother looked up from the dolls and her face brightened. She stood up and quickly embraced her. She started crying softly, stroking her hair softly. Esperanza could feel her mother’s arms around her shoulders, warm and a little comforting, but the message didn’t quiet reach her brain that she was supposed to hug her back. She just stood there, numbly, barely hanging on to the moment. Her arms hung by her sides limply and her face was blank. She could only stare at the baby dolls behind her mother resting in perfect positions; little Sophie could have never placed them in. One was in the small stroller Esperanza had bought her for Christmas one year. The doll was sitting with her hands in her lap, her hair and dress arranged perfectly. Her eyes looked back at Esperanza, light blue eyes with flecks of gold, eyes like Sophie’s. Esperanza wished so desperately that her daughter was there, playing with her dolls and smiling back at her. Esperanza closed her eyes and in the muted darkness, she could see her daughter playing with those same dolls.
Sophie’s curls bounced around her angelic face as she moved from one doll to the next. She sat cross legged in the living room while her dolls lay scattered around her. Her toy chest was over flowing with all kinds of dolls; porcelain, plastic, fabric, yarn. Playing with them was everything she loved doing. She cherished the feeling of mothering those dolls, wrapping them in blankets, changing their diapers, feeding them from a plastic bottle as she ‘lulled them to sleep’. When she’d change their diapers, she’d pretend it smelled horrible, and hold it as far away from her face as her arms could reach. Her tiny fingers would pinch a corner of the dirty diaper as she ran to throw it away. When it was time for them to eat, she’d get oat meal from the kitchen and mix it in a bowl with warm water. She’d sit a baby in a high chair I’d bought for her baby and she’d feed it. Often times, the baby was a messy eater and therefore got lots of mush all over its cheeks and lips. When it was nap time, little Sophie would lay flat a blanket, set the baby down and wrap it up. She’d caressed their faces and sing them lullabies as she put them to sleep. Esperanza loved to listen to the sweet voice of her baby, her shinning little angel. She’d coo at the baby, swinging it softly in her arms. When she was satisfied that it was asleep, she’d set it down on the soft cushion of blankets and pillows she’d made. She would cover it with another blanket the quietly creep away.
“Look what I have mommy”
She said one day. Holding out her hand, she showed Esperanza an open locket that was resting on her palm. The same one that Esperanza had been given on her wedding day, but now it was filled with a picture of her husband and her baby girl on each side.
Esperanza’s eyes flooded with tears but she didn’t let them fall. She abruptly pulled back her mother’s embrace and ran out of the room, to any room. She needed to get out; needed to get her out of her mind. She couldn’t bear the vibrant memories of her baby girl appearing so clearly in her mind. She sprinted down the hall way, into the nearest room and shut the door. She collapsed in a heap by the door, breathing fast. Her eye sight was blurred with tears, but when she looked up she knew exactly where she was. Light blue walls and one navy, the ceiling and floor trimmed with a strip of sail boats. She couldn’t see but her mind wouldn’t let her forget the orange sun setting in the background, white and green sail, seagulls swooping in the horizon casting shadows in the deep water. Her heart felt as it was about to explode out of her chest. The baseball decorations by his crib already showed him as a promising star for the major leagues. She saw it brightly decorated: blue crib, his perfectly arranged closet filled with matching outfits he had yet to wear. She crawled to the large red overstuffed chair where she would read his bedtime stories. Sat down and picked up Dr. Seuss’s Sleep book, this was his favorite. She remembered how even before he was born, she’d read it to him every day at the same time. If he was kicking her, she’d read the book and he’d settle down. And if she was on the phone, she’d plug in the small portable speakers she had and play the books on tape for him, putting the speaker close to her belly so he could hear. He loved that story.
Little Vic gurgled in her arms as she swung him back and forth. His arms reached up to her face. She would then tickle his stomach and he shrieked in happiness. To hear him laugh out loud was such a gift considering that the doctors gave him less than ten percent chance of being born alive. As always, she held on with great hope and the little one had come out unscathed from the ordeal. His forever bright pink cheeks always brought her joy and happiness. Her precious baby boy, her special little miracle rested in her arms. The hugs, the blown kisses, the running to mommy as she came home from work, she treasured them all. They prayers she recited to him when he was a newborn , now he told them back to her. The first thing he ever saw was her face, his first words were directed at her, and his first steps were towards her. He was her miracle baby, the one that wasn’t suppose to survive but did against all odds, he was going to be a tough one that boy.
She sat rock still in that chair, her mind running a million miles an hour. Her chin rested on her knees which were drawn up, close to her chest. Her arms were wrapped tightly around her legs, her hands clasping the other and her knuckles turned white; she couldn’t keep up this facade any longer. She was shocked when she woke up in the hospital and heard that they had all died. When she was admitted to the Trauma region of the hospital, she said everything was getting better; that she understood it was just an accident and there wasn’t anything she could have done to stop it. that it was not her faultOn her last day of living there, when she told them she was glad they helped her get through this. Lies, all of them. She knew before she lost consciousness that they were gone. She saw the glass embedded in Cam’s chest and the broken cracked skulls of her children. She could have paid attention to the road in front of her instead of singing along with her children. Why didn’t she pay attention? She knew nothing could ever helped her get over it. Esperanza wiped her face clean of any tears and calmly stood up. It was clear now. She took wobbly step after step, leaning against various pieces of furniture until she reached the door of her son’s bedroom. Her knees shook and her lips wobbled, her eyes threatened to tear up again; she chastised herself. If this was going to work, she had to keep her emotions under control. She made her way to the bathroom then locked the door. She turned the knob for the cold water , cupped her hands then splashed it on her face. She wiped her face dry then pulled back the mirror to reveal a small cabinet. There were several rows of face wash, some cream, a couple of clean face cloths and two bottles of pills. She picked each one up and shook them gently. The pills rattled quietly inside. The first bottle was Advil. She set it back into the cabinet and took out the other. It read Rozerem, her anti depressant. She unhurriedly walked to the living room where her mother and Jamie were sitting on the couch talking with hushed voices. Esperanza cleared her throat and the two women looked at her startled.
“Sorry about that, I’m just having a hard time….adjusting.” she said. Esperanza’s mother and Jamie rose.
“We know it’s hard, honey.” Her mother quickly said. She walked towards her but stopped a few steps away, unsure.
Esperanza offered a small smile. Jamie tilted her head to the side, her face had taken a soft sort of expression.
“Are you hungry? Do you want something to eat?”
Perfect. “Yes, that would be great.” Esperanza said. “Do we have the ingredients for lasagna?”
“No,” said her mother, “We’re missing the pasta, I’ll get it.” She gave Esperanza a quick hug before fetching the keys from the key rack and grabbing her purse. She left. Jamie headed to the kitchen and started pulling out spices from the cabinet and a package of ground meat from the freezer.
“Hey Jamie,” Esperanza tried to keep her voice light.
“Yea?” her voice sounded strained for some reason.
“I wanted to take a bath before I eat, do you think you can manage till I finish?”
“Sure, I’ll be OK in here.”
“Great, thanks.” Satisfied that they were both occupied, Esperanza headed to the bathroom, flicked the lights on then locked the door behind her. She turned on the hot water to fill the tub then filled a plastic cup with cold water from the sink and set it down on the counter top. She looked at herself in the mirror. Her long strands of deep brown hair framed her slim face; small features, with big dark eyes. Light ashen skin covered her face and freckles were scattered across her skin like the constellations of a night sky. Her lower lip wobbled again, but she held back the sudden wave of terror that overcame her.
“You can get through this” she told herself.
Slowly, she opened the door to the medicine cabinet and took out both of the pill bottles. She set one on the counter-top next to the plastic cup filled with water and opened the other one. Without any hesitation, she tilted her head back and let each tiny capsule fall into her throat. She took a couple swigs of water before doing the same with the other bottle. Swallowing a couple more cups of water, just to be sure it all went down; she looked at herself in the mirror again. Somehow she expected to see something different in her face. Anything really. She knew nothing would but still, she looked. Changes like this alter who you are inside, there isn’t much of anything change left for others to see. Wait…maybe? Sad. She looked sad, a little more morose than two minutes ago. She sighed and stepped away from the mirror. There was no more of Esperanza to see anymore. Turning off the water that had been filling the bathtub she de-clothed. She stepped into the hot bathtub, and felt a little dizzy as she did.
‘It must be working’ she thought. The only hope left now was in Esperanza’s name. Unfortunately Esperanza was no more.
As she sat down and allowed the water to engulf her body. The warm feeling reassured her that this was the right choice. She felt relaxed, weightless. The heavy burden of living without purpose had finally brought her to this point; where she finished trying to live without Cam, Sophie and Vick. What purpose was there?
The church was decorated with white lilies and Esperanza looked ravishing in her gown and Cam was beaming in his white tux. “I do,” he said. The words echo in Esperanza’s mind
“Do you Esperanza take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband for all eternity?”
I now pronounce you man and wife! What God joined, men must not divide.
“Breath, honey. Come on, you can do this,”
“Babe you did it!”
“Cam, could you cut your daughter’s umbilical cord.”
“Sophie! Sweetie, you’re going to have a little brother!”
Sophie squealed in delight “Ohh mommy I promise to help take care of my baby brother!”
Congratulations Esperanza, you have a healthy baby boy!
“Mommy, mommy can I see him?!”
“Hey beautiful, guess what?”
“What?” Esperanza murmurs.
“I’ll never leave you, ever” Cam whispers fiercely.
“I love you too Cam. Nothing can keep us apart…”
She was going to keep him after all.