I Love You

August 17, 2013
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“Mama! He proposed!” Mari squealed into the phone.

“Oh baby girl that’s great! Its bout time you two took the next step,” her mother’s southern accent was rich in her ear.

“It was so romantic. He brought me to that restaurant on Burmingham Square, where me you and papa used to eat on your birthday and then on a moonlit walk,” Mari poured into the phone. “When I saw him get down on one knee I nearly fainted.”

“I can not wait for my grand babies,” her mother gushed.

“Mama! Can I get married first? Oh, I’m getting married,” she trailed off.

“Well it will be a perfect wedding. That is all my princess deserves. Your father will be so thrilled, he just loves Sam.”

“I am gonna drive up to Atlanta as soon as I can and we can talk more,” Mari assured her.

“Alright sweetie, have a good night,” her mother’s voice faded away.

Mari set the phone back on the receiver. She rested her head against the back of the armchair and smiled to herself. She fluttered her eyes up to see him standing in the doorway with a smirk.

“Hey darlin’,” he chimed.

“Well don’t you look snazzy,” she remarked, admiring his suit and tie.

“I have a surprise for you,” Sam declared.

“Mmm and what would that be?” she giggled, running her fingers gently across the nape of his neck.

He reached into his back pocket and pulled out two tickets. She studied them and her mouth fell open.

“Sam, how did you get these? They’ve been sold out for weeks,” she said, awestruck.

The laminated paper gleamed. The Marshfield orchestra was extremely popular in Walton county and Mari was obsessed.

“Sam!” she screamed, wrapping her arms around him and he just laughed to himself.

“Just a little something I thought you would enjoy,” he said in a modest tone, shrugging.

“Oh Sam, you are amazing,” she melted. She checked the tickets again. “These are for tonight.”

“Yes ma’am,” he smiled ear to ear.

Mari was ecstatic. “I don’t know what to wear. Sam!” she shouted with joy, running off to their bedroom.

“You look gorgeous either way,” he shouted back to her, smiling.

She rummaged through her wardrobe. She found her dress, slipped it on and studied herself in the mirror. She picked a bobby pin from the dresser and pulled back her blond curls to open up her face. She slid on her heels and gave a quick once over. Perfect she thought.

“Ready?” he asked.

She nodded proudly.

The concert ended around eleven. It must have rained while they were inside because the sidewalks were slick and warm Georgia air filled her nose with the smell of a May morning of those she loved so much playing with her father and brother, Will, when she was young.

“That was lovely,” she said, looking up into Sam’s eyes.

Sam leaned down and kissed the top of her head. “Agreed.”

The two walked arm in arm down the street, the crowd thinning the farther away they went. The atmosphere was ominous sending slight chills down the back of Mari’s neck.

“Let me find a phone and we can call a taxi,” his voice strong, reassuring her.

They turned the corner onto Lexington. The street was vacant, but Sam knew there was a service station only a couple blocks down. Mari’s heels clacking against the pavement was the only sound that could be heard, but there was another set of feet approaching behind them. Mari looked over her shoulder to see a man’s silhouette ascending down the street after them. Mari gripped Sam’s arm tighter.

“Sam,” Mari whispered.with desperation.

Sam looked down at her with concern. She pulled on his coat with urgency.

Before Sam could look back, he was face first into the pavement.

“Sam?!” she screamed.

“Shut up! Come with me,” the man ordered reaching for Mari, a perverted hunger all over his face.

Sam shot up and punched the man in the neck.

“You won’t touch her!”

“Don’t f***ing mess with me, man,” the man demanded, reaching for Mari again.

Sam knocked the man back off his feet. Mari’s heart raced. She wanted to run, but she was not about to leave Sam. The man got to his feet and reached into his coat.

“No!” Mari shrieked.

The man had pulled out a handgun and pointed it at Sam’s head. Sam froze. Mari burst into tears and scrambled towards Sam. He grabbed her and spun around holding her tight. Without warning she couldn’t hear anything and fell to the ground. She couldn’t feel her body and her vision was blurring. All she could make out was the man’s silhouette running away from them and Sam’s head in her chest. She began to drift in and out, but she could hear the faint screaming of sirens. She held tight to his coat.

“Sa-am?” she choked out, reaching for something to grasp.

There was no answer or movement. She tried to shift her weight to look at his face, but nothing responded. She felt something warm washing over her hand. She felt hands touching her face and sides. The voices were muffled. Her eyes fluttered shut. The pain was incredible. She tried to stay conscious, but with no success, she blacked out.

Mari’s eyes flickered, but shut immediately. Her back was on fire, radiating from her spine to her neck, arms... Mari tried to sit up, but as much as she struggled, she wasn’t able to move more than a few inches. Panic rushed over her as beeping and peoples concerned voices rang through her ears. She continued to fuss and moan helplessly, rattling her bed. She felt an icy sensation rushing through her veins relaxing her, but it stopped at her hips. There was a familiar touch on her face.

“Mama?” Mari whimpered, a tear rolling down her cheek.

“Yes baby girl. Dr. Haartman is here too.”

“I’m in the hospital?”

“Yes, you were hurt pretty bad,” her mothers voice was cracking. The same way it did when Will died.

“What happened?” her voice was so weak that she was surprised they understood what she was saying.

This time a man’s voice answered “You were shot in the back, the bullet hit your spine. We tried our best, but we weren’t able to fix the damage. I am so sorry, but you will not be able to walk again.”

Mari’s eyes shot open. She threw off the sheet covering her and stared at her bare legs. They looked perfectly fine to her. You’re lying! she thought, rage growing inside, but when she tried to wiggle her toes there was no reaction.

“Mama?” Mari’s head sprang up. “Where is Sam?”

Her mother stared at the floor and the doctor slowly backed away to the door. She could hear him whisper something to someone out in the hallway, then both their shadows disappeared.

“Mama?!” she shouted in desperation.

“It is gonna be okay sweetie,” her mother’s voice was masking.

“What-” Mari managed only to cough out.

Her mother sat on the stiff bed and took Mari’s fragile body in her arms, “Sam is dead.”

Dread blanketed her entire body. Her face was hard as stone, but tears formed a steady stream down her face, then a blood curdling scream escaped her lips. A nurse came rushing in, about to ask what was wrong, but her mother shot her her a cold stare and the nurse left almost immediately.

“No!” Mari shrieked.

Her mother smoothed down her curls and pressed her lips to her forehead. Mari felt something pooling around the tops of her eyebrows, her mother was crying too. She tried to compose herself long enough to speak.

“What happened?”

Mari’s mother loosened her grip on her daughter and looked down at her with wet puffy eyes.

“Sam was shot protecting you,” her mother breathed. “The officer said he must have pushed you and taken the bullet, although it was a through and through and the bullet ended up in your spine.”

Tears continued to pour from her eyes, but she kept her composure. She stared at the bleached ceiling wishing it was her who died, not him. He was her best friend and lover, and now she had to live the rest of her life miserable without him. There was a long, harsh silence.

“Mama, you can go. I’ll be okay,” Mari muttered.

Her mother searched her daughter’s face with desperation. She nodded, kissed Mari’s forehead and slowly left the room. Mari really wanted to be alone and her mother understood, it was how she was her entire life. She hated feeling weak around other people, especially her mother who was the strongest of them all in her eyes. Mari stared at her legs. She still couldn’t comprehend the news. Sam isn’t dead. He is alive in the room at the end of the hall and he is waiting for he to come visit him... I can walk, I just have to try. The tears dried to her cheek making them stiff. She wanted to cry more, but there was nothing left. She felt dead, she wanted to be dead. She began to whimper and moan. The pain was getting worse. She looked around and found the page button. A nurse knocked on the door and entered, she wasn’t alone.

“Hi Ms. Doyle, what can I help you with,” the nurse asked politely.

“Pain,” she mumbled.

“Alright, I can fix that,” the nurse walked up to Mari’s IV and began fumbling around with it.

“Hello Marilynn, I heard you go by Mari?” the other woman approached her bedside.

She nodded.

“Well Mari, my name is Rachel Walker and I am a specialist in psychotherapy here at the hospital. I know that you have been through a lot, but I am here for you if you feel the need to express feelings or if you just wanna talk. Is that okay with you,” she explained, her voice soft and inviting.

“Thank you Rachel,” Mari felt warm inside. She wasn’t sure if it was comfort or if it was the pain medicine the nurse just injected into her IV.

Mari began to talk, so Rachel pulled up a seat. “I don’t know what happened last night. Then again I don’t think I really want to remember. I just really want to see Sam,” Mari whispered.

Rachel glanced at the clock and smiled.

“Caroline, if Mari is feeling well enough for it, do you think she and I can go on a little walk?” she asked kindly to the nurse.

“Of course,” the nurse said looking at Mari for approval.

Mari nodded hesitantly and half smiled. The nurse left the room momentarily and returned with a wheel chair. She pushed down the side rail to the bed and slowly helped Mari into the seat. Mari felt a wave of despair, but was happy to get out of the bed.

“Thank you Caroline. I’ll take it from here,” Rachel said politely and the nurse left.

Rachel wheeled Mari down the now empty hallway.

“Where are we going,” asked Mari.

“Do you know what I love Mari? I love the sky. A beautiful and magical thing. It is a little thing that most people take for granted. It seems like it ends, but you really are looking on forever,” Rachel chimed.

Mari sat in silence, her confusion was growing.

“I like to think that there is something else out there, something most people can’t see, but if you look hard enough there is something beautiful to behold,” she continued.

The wheelchair came to a stop. Mari looked up in amazement at the wall of glass overlooking the ocean. On the horizon was the most beautiful sunrise she had ever seen. The reds and yellows seemed to explode and the sky was pink with soft clouds dancing around it. A fresh tear formed in Mari’s eye.

“That is where I think Sam is, Mari. He is safe and sound. He will always be there watching over you. He saved your life once, I am positive he can continue protecting you from where he is now. You should be proud to know that,” Rachel soothed.

“Its beautiful,” Mari tried to keep her voice from cracking with no success at all.

“My pappy is out there,” she smiled, taking a seat next to Mari. “I see his face sometimes looking over at me. I know he is watching me, just like Sam is watching you.”

“Thank you, Rachel.”

That was all Mari was able to say. She stared off into the rising sun. Rachel smiled and slowly stood up and strolled down the hall, leaving Mari with her head up and a slight grin on her face. Mari took a deep breath and whispered “I love you.”

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