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Do You Remember . . .
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 was all right, I grimace.
For a few minutes, all I could hear was the soft crunch of snow giving break beneath the soles of my torn sneakers. I shivered under my jacket even though my response had nothing to do with the cold or the wind that had suddenly begun to claw at my face. Still, I hastened forward, my tears stealing within me. Blood pounded in my ears, my heart twisting as I paused before a familiar tall gray building. It stood over me, threatening and imposing. My body was already turning away, shouting at me to run, to do anything but stay. Only this was a journey that I had to make.
When I walked, I felt as though I was treading through quicksand. The further I went, the lesser chance I’d ever have of coming back. Somehow I made it to the door, my fingers closing around the brass handle. I stepped inside, my fears disappearing with my shadow, which was once reflected in the sparkling snow.
Sounds, sights and feelings crowded in around me, my head whirling from it all. A man brushed past me, his long white coat making me stumble back as I struggle to control my vocal chords and speak. My throat was parched though, my eyes wide with mixed excitement and horror. By the time I had regained some composure, I was tempted to just walk out the way I came. Only it was too late for that now. Forcing myself forward, I came to face a young blond girl perched behind a desk. Wetting my lips, I asked her the question that had been sewed into the back of my mind. It was like stitches popping loose, everything on the inside held wide open. I’d promised myself so long ago I would never reveal this emotional part of me; the weakness, distress and loneliness. I couldn’t bear the temptation 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 other 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, and yet 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 shrieking from my parted lips.
Maybe I had come to accept the truth long ago without realizing, or possibly it was just sheer happiness that she was alive. I could barely convince myself she was real. The two feet that poked out from under the sheet sure looked real. But I had to touch her to truly 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 was so beautiful even in the sleep that was stealing her away from me, and all of the people who love her so very much.
She looked just the same as I remembered, with soft brown hair spewed around her shoulders, curling slightly at the tips; her limbs long and lean; and, a small face with more often than not rosy cheeks, and slightly pursed lips.
Before I could stop myself, I found the backs of my fingertips against her cheek. My hands frozen from the winter air, her skin warmed mine with a faint glow of life. The fact she still existed, that her heart still beat, spilled salty tears down my cheeks. I’d wanted to cry for so long, release my feelings and forget. I cried because I was remembering; the way she had stood, poised with confidence; the words she’d spoke like music from the heavens; the size of her heart which had always seemed too grand for such a petite body and yet had carried the organ 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 back home to 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 liked 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, shuddering breath I added, “I don’t know why I brought this box. I guess maybe I thought 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 together. 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; I walked away because I was fearful 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 the candy box, revealing a pile of cinnamon hearts. A ghost of a smile brushed against my lips at the thoughts of the 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 is just once. I love you Rosie, and I will forever. 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 knew I couldn’t survive in an inevitably 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 in her bed, 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, the lids 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.”