Do You Remember? This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

February 13, 2010
By , London, Canada
A series of winter white intricately designed snowflakes danced through the cool morning air, twisting and twirling as they descended to the freshly sheeted walkways. The wind tickled my cheeks, tousling my brown hair into a disarrayed mess. Clutching a large blood red box under my arm, I treaded through the enveloping snow. My arm hugged the box against my side, a small but also hopeful smiling turning up my lips. Quickly feeling ashamed for even trying to smile, pretending that everything is alright, I grimace.

For a few minutes, all I can hear is the soft crunch of snow giving break beneath the soles of my torn sneakers. I shiver under my jacket even though it has nothing to do with the cold or the wind that has suddenly begun to claw at my face. Still, I hasten forward, my tears stealing within me. Blood pounds in my ears, my heart twisting as I pause before a familiar tall grey building. It stands over me, threatening and imposing. My body is already turning away, shouting at me to run, to do anything but stay. Only this is something that I have to do.

When I move, I feel as though I’m treading through quick sand. The farther I go, the lesser chance that I’ll ever have of coming back. Somehow I make it to the door, my fingers closing around the brass handle. I step inside, my fears disappearing with my shadow that was ever reflected in the sparkling snow.

Sounds, sights and feelings crowd in around me, my head whirling from it all. A man brushes past me, his long white coat making me stumble back as I fight my tongue to speak. My throat is parched though, my eyes wide with mixed excitement and horror. By the time that I’ve regained some composure, I’m tempted to just walk out the way that I came. Only it’s too late for that now. Forcing myself forward, I come to face a young blond girl perched behind a desk. Wetting my lips, I ask her the question that has been sewed into the back of my mind. It’s like stitches popping loose, everything on the inside held wide open. I’d promised myself so long ago that I would never reveal this part of me. Such weakness, distress and loneliness. And yet I couldn’t bear it any longer. I needed the truth more than anything.

The girl nodded to a door on the right, her gaze gentle with kindness. I gave her a hesitant smile which felt completely dead to me. I sped on my heel, my eyes resting on the crimson door. Everything stilled, my frenzied heart killing all sound. The people seemed to merge together into nothing but black shapes. Almost by an invisible thread, my feet carried me forward at their own command. The box under my right arm seemed to burn through my jacket and right to my skin. Thankfully the door was already open. Stopping just short of the doorway, I sucked in a breath of air and made the final step.

The sight of the pale white walls made me cringe, but I turned my head nonetheless. I’ll never know how I gained the strength to do so. What I saw shocked me, but my reaction was so different than I had ever imagined it to be. I was calm. There was no bolting out of the room, nor was there shrieking from my parted lips.

Maybe I had come to accept the truth long ago without realizing it, or possibly it was just sheer happiness that she was alive. I could barely convince myself that she was real. The two feet poking out from under the sheet sure looked real. But I had to touch her to really believe. Some part of me just wanted to look. If I dared to touch, she may just disappear.

I loved this girl. I still do. She is so beautiful even in the sleep that has stolen her away from me and all of the people who love her so very much.

She looks just the same as I remember, with soft brown hair spewed around her shoulders, curling slightly at the tips. Her limbs long and lean. A small face, more often than not rosy cheeks, and slightly pursed lips.

Before I can stop myself, I find the backs of my fingertips against her cheek. My hands still frozen from the winter air, her skin warms mine with a faint glow of life. The fact that she still exists, that her heart still beats, spills salty tears down my cheeks. I’ve wanted to cry for so long, release my feelings and forget. Now I was crying because I was remembering. The way she stood, poised with confidence; the words she spoke like music from the heavens; the size of her heart which always seemed too grand for such a petite body that carried it with such grace.

“I brought you something,” I whispered, my hands strangely calm as they gripped the heart shaped box. Her eyes remained closed, her face almost molded into one single expression. Emptiness. Except only it wasn’t. She was in there. I just had to find a way to awaken her.

Lifting her left arm, I traced her index finger over the heart shaped box. “Rosie, this is for you. It reminds me so much of us...Do you remember when we used to buy those sweets from that store down the road? I always bought chocolate but you, you always like those crazy cinnamon hearts that they brought out in February. Remember when you used to dare me to eat the whole bag at once?,” I asked. She remained still. I kept going, whether to reassure myself or for some other reason, I still don’t know. “We were just kids then...So long ago, but it feels just like yesterday.” I turned her hand over in mine, palm facing upwards. Tracing circles along it, I asked, “Remember when we were going to get married? You wanted kids, but I didn’t. I didn’t want to share you with anyone, but now, now I know that I would say yes. They would look just like you.” I paused, my eyes on her closed ones. Taking a deep breath I added, “I don’t know why I brought this box. I guess maybe I thought that the scent would wake you up, that possibly we could just open it up and eat it together. Like old times...It was stupid. You were always the stronger one. It shouldn’t be like this. I always stand back and let the world pass me by, but you, you live every moment without stopping to blink. I just wish that it was me instead of you...When I first heard about the coma, I didn’t believe it. I couldn’t. Not when just the night before we’d been discussing marriage. And now I realize that I’ve just wasted a year that we could have been togther. I...I..,” I struggled, choking and stumbling over my words. Bowing my head, I whispered, “I gave up. I didn’t want to try. You have to know that it was because I was afraid of failing you. Walking away because I was afraid of what had happened to you, when really I knew deep down inside of me that if I ever came to you, I’d never leave. Because I won’t ever leave you now...I love you.” I waited as if I would get some kind of response. The flicker of an eyelash, the twitch of a fingertip, but nothing came. I wasn’t about to lie to myself. She would never speak again. It had been too long.

Easing myself onto the bed beside her, I lifted the lid off of the candy box, revealing a pile of cinnamon hearts. A ghost of a smile brushed against my lips at the thoughts of our past. I could never quite understand how one object could wrap up so many memories.

“Here,” I told her. I placed a small single heart into her palm, closing her slender fingers over it. “I’d give anything for you to sit and laugh with me again. Even if it was just once. I love you Rosie. I will forever and I promise that I’ll never leave you alone.” There were so many words that I could use, but nothing would be able to satisfy what my heart felt. Loss. Tenderness. Love.

She deserved so much. I wanted to give her the world, the stars, the sun and the moon. All of it. Everything there was to give. But more than it all, I wanted to hold her in my arms.

After a few moments of silence I leaned forward ever so gently, my arms tucking under her. As I approached, her familiar scent tickled my nose, her silky hair in my fingers. “Please, wake Rosie,” I begged. Tears streamed down my cheeks. She had to come back to me. She just had to. I couldn’t survive in this empty world without her. My hand cupped her face, my mouth finding hers for a split instant, where I sobbed. I felt my body spasm against her, my breath ragged with distress. I tilted my head, my mouth just a breath away from her ear. “Wake up, my love.”

I must have fallen asleep like that, sprawled out beside her with my hand in hers. When I awoke, I found the room much darker than before. Her hand was still in mine. It took me several moments before I realized something that startled my mind. SHE was holding MY hand.

“Rosie?,” I asked. No response. Wiggling my fingers, I found my hand trapped in hers. Excitement fluttered through me, my heart pounding like a drum of exultation. Moving gently, I leaned upwards to place my other hand at her heart. The rapid pulse sent my eyes wide with wonder. “Can you hear me?” I felt a slight pressure in my palm. “Open your eyes.” I could feel my body trembling, my heart leaping as if on fire.

Her eyes crinkled ever so slightly, her eyelids opening like delicate petals to invite the first warmth of spring. Large sparkling green eyes glanced up at in me in amazement. “Rosie, it’s me.” She smiled with recognition. Joy consumed my soul as I brought her close and kissed her forehead. “Happy Valentine’s Day.”

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