The Art of You “Finale” Part 12

Fly with the wings life gives you.

Fly with the wings life gives you.

 

 

 

 

It was a warm day, that third week of June when someone knocked at my door. Curious, I peeked out from between the blinds that hung in my front window and was very surprised to see Davis on my porch.

Opening the door, I felt a flood of emotions. “What do you want?” I asked none too friendly.

Davis pleaded with me through his eyes. “I need you to come with me, Ruby.”

I laughed at him. “Really? Well, I think not. Have a good one.”

I shut the door and he slid his foot in the way. “Please, Ruby. I need you to come with me.”

His insistence made me stop to wonder what was so important.

“Give me one good reason why,” I challenged.

“Well, I don’t have one. I have just been ordered to deliver you somewhere,” he said evasively.

I closed my eyes and rested my forehead on the edge of the front door. “I can’t bear it, Davis. This last year has been torture for me. I can’t go through all that again.”

“Come out of your cocoon, Ruby. Time to spread those wings wide and fly. Take a chance and get in the car…or do I have to put you there myself?” he added with a nostalgic grin.

I sighed and grabbed my purse shouting out to the boys that I would be back in a while. All I heard in reply was some noise that came out of their mouths mixed with the sounds of video games.

I found myself in the back seat once again. The car looked the same and it smelled the same. We drove through town and got onto the freeway that took us into the very outdoorsy town of Eagle. Taking the busy thoroughfare north, we pulled into the parking lot of a hotel by the river. I could see dozens of people poised with their cameras and ready to strike, as Jack had put it once. Davis came around and let me out and I just stood there not knowing where to go or what to do.

The cameras all clicked and flashed around me. Jack came out through the doors of the hotel. He smiled at me with that relaxed smile of his.

“Ruby!” he greeted pulling me into his embrace.

Shocked, I hugged him back but not knowing what to say or how to feel. I was shocked, to say the very least.

“What are you doing here?” I asked feeling breathless.

“Look. I have missed you and have thought of you many, many times over the last year. I came back here to take my stand against anyone who wants to tell me otherwise. You can see the art of me just as I can see the art of you. You taught me that. You have shown me that there aren’t many people who will ever just love you for who you are. And I know you don’t care about the fame or the money or you wouldn’t have been real with me last year. You are the one I want and you are just as pretty as the day I dropped you off…but I never said goodbye. You did, but not me. I didn’t want that to be the end. I’ve had my struggles as I am sure you have, but it is time I claimed my freedom too. Can you forgive me for how I handled ‘us’ last year and start again?” he asked me in front of all those cameras.

“I thought I hated you. I mean really hated you. I still want to hate you,” I started.

“Okay, I know you hate me. But think of what I was dealing with at the same time. You of all people should be able to understand all those emotions,” he defended himself.

I fluttered my eyelashes in irritation. “Let me finish. While I still want to hate you, I just found out that I forgave you a long time ago. I could never hate you because…well, because I love you too much. Maybe you don’t really want to hear that, but there it is.”

Jack laughed at my sentiment and hugged me tight again. I had found the door to save him when he cried for help and he led me from the darkness and into the light. We were there for each other when we needed each other the very most.

“For old time’s sake,” he said smiling huge and a sparkle in his eye.

Before I knew what was happening, he drew me up into his arms as he had the day we went for pancakes. The day his wife died. The day my dreams came to a screeching halt.

I squealed in surprise. “You still have those strong arms,” I remarked.

“All the better to carry you with. I plan to carry you anytime you need me to, Ruby.”

And then the prince took me into his castle where we would plot out the rest of our lives together. You notice I didn’t say “happily ever after”? Well, that’s because it is impossible to be normal people and not disagree ever, so I thought that politically incorrect to say. But I will say that he has made me very happy and I soar with those big butterfly wings from my cocoon, the very one he coaxed me out of knowing I was ready to fly.

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The Art of You Part 11

Life is adapting to where you are placed.

Life is adapting to where you are placed.

 

 

 

 

The mail came that afternoon and coincidentally there was a letter from Jack Harrington’s offices in Hollywood. Ignoring the other bills that came that day demanding payment, I ripped his open and unfolded the paper. There was my photo card for my camera along with his scrawling handwriting that simply said: “I thought you might like this back. Thinking of you, Jack.”

There was no revelation of missing me. Just the card. I plugged it into my computer and they were all there. That anger came back and I thought I might pitch them to the media. I thought I might sell my story to the news. I thought I would write him a good thanks-but-no-thanks letter in response. And then I flipped to the photo taken on the couch and I realized I missed him a lot but I was growing to hate him at the same time.

My fury spun out of control and I cleaned my house. I made plans for what I wanted to do in restoring it. I would spend every last cent he gave me just so he couldn’t have it back.

When the boys came home, we went shopping and bought clothes. We bought new furniture. We went out to dinner. I spent money on food at the grocery store like I had never spent before. We had so much fun together and then spent the next several weeks painting the house and doing remodeling projects from off the internet. That was our Christmas, buying the things we never could before and I had a glimpse into Jack’s life. Acquiring all those things, but not having anyone to come home to. Oh wait! He had some beautiful blonde on his arm now. I growled in frustration and hoped she would spend all of his money in careless, frivolous ways until he was broke and too old to be the sexy hero in the movies any longer.

Several more months passed and summer approached. Daniel graduated from high school and I bought him a new car to take to college. He was accepted at a school in Utah so I wanted him to have some reliable transportation. Okay, I wanted to spend more of that money that I had earned with my life. I wanted to erase Jack from my life. And as hard as I tried, he wouldn’t just leave.

So I decided to just make him visible to me the way I wanted to see him. I took the photo of him on the couch and removed the color from it. Then, I printed it out and put it out on my pretty new dresser. I suppose I felt a little bit better.

With the weather turning for the better, I hired some guys to work on the house and spruce it up some. I was nearing the end of my bucket. I knew I would have enough to pay the bills through the end of the year so I decided to use the summer to take photos that I could sell once again.

I started going to the gym a few miles away and in two months, I was back into a size 10. Feeling better about myself, I started getting out. Daniel and I bought him some things for his apartment and began to prepare to say goodbye to him as well.

When I made it into a size 8, I celebrated with a new wardrobe. It wasn’t where I wanted to be, but I could be content. I wasn’t as small as I had been, but I was showing some definition at long last. My waist was slimmer and my legs were strong, but I still fought the flab around my belly.

I started to go back to my hairdresser and had him bring back my Hollywood hair, short and sassy.

After one year, I put makeup back on my face.

“I’m not so ugly,” I reasoned to the mirror.

It had taken me a long time, but I did it. I was myself again.

We made it a point to stay busy and in truth, I hardly thought about those men in my life that I mourned. They grew to be ghosts of my memories.

The Art of You Part 10

The battle rages on.

The battle rages on.

 

 

Two days after Jack had left, I decided I had better get some photos ready for printing and mounting. I put the card in my computer and uploaded the ones I had. I was excited to see some of the photos I knew would be amazing. I gulped in panic when only six photos popped up and they were all of the carpet in the hotel room, like someone didn’t know how to use the thing. But the last one was a picture of a note.

“Don’t be mad. I’m sorry.

But I hope a few dollars in the bank will help out. ~Jack”

My ears were pounding with my pulse. I found it hard to gulp at the air. He had taken my pictures. While I had been sleeping, he stole my property. The anger I felt at the thought that he had messed with my livelihood did anger me more than his gracious rejection. I decided it was a good thing he had left or I would have told him what I really thought. Oh, who was I kidding? I wouldn’t have said anything more than I already had to him.

Curiously, I opened the internet browser and looked up my online banking. My hand flew to my mouth and I stifled a cry. I had three figures sitting in my at one time, overdrawn bank account. There was $100,000 sitting there. He told me everything was taken care of, that I didn’t need to worry. I believed him and I had felt safe with him.

Angry that he stole my pictures, I decided I wouldn’t use his money unless I absolutely had to. But I began to spiral into a depression, not unlike the one I’d had a few years earlier. It was a natural response to the lot I had been dealt in life.

But that depression continued and I sat on that couch just watching television and eating ice cream for months. Pathetic, I know. But I could barely get myself up to go to the bathroom.

Daniel turned 18 on me and that was hard because he was my baby. He was doing well in school and worked at a local pizza joint, applying for colleges to major in theater. But he was wise beyond his years and talked to me about how I had been acting.

“I miss my mom,” he said at last. “I don’t like this person who sits here and cries all day long. This isn’t the mom that raised me.”

How could I explain?

“I’m sorry, Daniel. I never planned for this to happen, I don’t like it either,” I said with obvious tears in my eyes.

“I know,” he said pulling me into an embrace. “But you need to get out. You need to take a shower. I think he’s around and not happy that you are just throwing your life away. I can’t seem to bring myself to move out on my own and leave you here like this.”

I cried, okay? I bawled like a little baby in my son’s arms. He helped me to the bathroom and started my shower water, laying my towel out on the counter beside my bathrobe. Then, he left me alone.

Stripping off my clothes, I didn’t even recognize myself. Where I was once a size 5, I was now in a size 14. That fun little rockabilly girl had flown the coop and left behind and old fat woman.

The shower felt so good and I just stood there a while feeling each stream of water hit my skin. I really had wasted so much of my life and now my baby was a man ready to leave the nest in search his own dreams.

Daniel cooked dinner that night and we all sat together at the table for the first time in several months. His fish was just the best. We made small talk with each other and it was then that they asked to hear the whole story. So I told them.

Neither one had much to say. It wasn’t their heart that had been broken or their pride that had been shattered. But I told them I would never trust another man as long as I lived. They just smiled.

“Well not from the couch, you won’t,” Daniel said shoving fish in his mouth.

I had to give him that one. I wasn’t doing anything from the couch.

Sleeping in my own bed that night made me feel strange. It was a combination of missing my husband being there and those nights sleeping at Shore Lodge with Jack on the couch. I didn’t quite know what to feel. But I uttered a prayer and fell into a deep and restful sleep for the first time since I had been back home.

I woke to snowflakes outside my window. It was late and the boys were gone to school so the house was quiet. I contemplated just staying in bed and remembered the conversation with my son the night before. It was time to get back to normal.

“Ruby, you have to do something with yourself. This isn’t you!” I scolded myself.

I slid out of bed and threw on my robe to make me a smoothie instead of having my usual bowl of sugared cereal. It was the first step.

I flipped on the television and changed the channel until it fell on the news. There was Jack, walking out of some fancy building with some young model hanging on his arm dripping in diamonds. He was all smiles, a little older but still handsome as ever. The headline at the bottom of the screen said this woman was his fiancé. I snorted out loud and shut off the television.

I felt steam build within me and a fury like none other fueled my soul.

The Art of You Part 9

Sometimes life is like a thistle...So beautiful, but can inflict so much pain.

Sometimes life is like a thistle…So beautiful, but can inflict so much pain.

 

 

The next morning, I rose with a heavy heart but I was excited to see my sons. It truly felt like it had been months when it had barely been a week. Carefully, I packed up my things after I had showered and done up my face.

Jack peeked in on me every so often. He spoke little and I worried that I had really hurt his feelings. But I had nothing to lose, so why not say something? He was free to live his life as I was, but he chose to be that figure for the world. I chose to be no one special, just a mom and one who captured life on film.

I picked up my bag from off the bed and sighed looking around the room. Then I slung my camera bag over my shoulder and headed out to pack the car.

“Give those to me,” Jack ordered holding out his hands to take my bags from me.

I threw him a look of true independence. “I’m okay, really.” And I continued out the door.

“Ruby…” he called in his you-are-in-so-much-trouble voice.

I turned back to him and rolled my eyes, handing over the bags. He smiled rather victoriously and took them out to the car for me. Why did he have to be so perfect? I felt my chin tremble and cleared my throat, determined not to ruin my fabulous makeup.

He came bounding back inside to make one last sweep for things we might have missed. All I could do was stare, to watch his body move so fluidly, the way he bent and the way he would peek around the furnishings. Then he looked up and we just stared at each other for what felt like minutes.

“What?” he asked with a grin.

My eyes finally blinked. “Nothing,” I said and left the room.

It was a warm day in the mountains that day. It felt strange to sit in the passenger’s seat of my own car. Jack slid in with his knees to his chest and he laughed.

“Short people,” he said and then adjusted the seat back for his long legs.

Davis pulled up behind us and Jack started the engine. A lively song from years and years ago blared out of the speakers from the doo wop station and Jack’s hands stilled on the wheel. He looked over at me thoroughly amused.

“I should have expected it,” Jack said. At that moment, he looked like your everyday guy. Then, he shoved his very expensive, very shiny sunglasses on his face and he looked like a movie star again.

I just sighed when I wanted to smile at his playfulness.

The drive down the mountain went pretty easy as most of the traffic was coming up instead of down. Jack seemed to enjoy his time behind the wheel and it made me wonder how long it had been since he had driven himself anywhere.

“It feels strange driving on this side of the road!” he exclaimed as we rounded a corner in the road.

“I couldn’t imagine it any other way!” I laughed.

“Thank you for an amazing week, Ruby. I know how you must feel and I’m sorry if I had ever given you the wrong idea. I hope I didn’t offend you in any way,” he said turning the radio down so I could barely hear it.

Well, that was it. There would be no confessions of possible love budding but there would be goodbyes.

“You didn’t offend me, Jack. It’s easy to be happy in a fantasy world. When reality comes back in the picture, the real world never quite seems the same. The fantasy was good while it lasted and those memories will stay with me forever. That has to be good enough,” I said softly.

“I don’t think you would be ready for a relationship even if the right guy was in front of you,” Jack blurted out and I turned my face toward him in the fashion of someone possessed.

“Why in the world would you say that?” I asked incredulously. I seriously couldn’t believe he just said that when it was none of his concern.

He glanced at me quickly as his hands worked the wheel of the car. “Oh come on, Ruby. You haven’t let go of him yet. How can you move on with someone else? You are still living in the past. You came up here for closure and you visited every site the two of you had ever been to, am I right?”

Numbly, I nodded. He was correct.

“One photograph of yourself reminds you of things you had done for him, right?”

I nodded again.

“You are not free. You live within your cocoon because you are too afraid to step out and live life for yourself because you feel guilty. I highly doubt your husband wanted that for you, I really do,” he said firmly. “To latch onto someone new right now, would be to continue living the life the two of you had shared. So if, let’s say, you and I saw each other for a time. Where would we go for fun?”

I stared until I realized he wanted an answer. Him and I? How could I possibly answer that?

I stammered a bit. “Well, I suppose I would take you to SilverCity in the late spring and all through the summer. It is my favorite place,” I answered.

“And did you go there with him?” Jack asked.

I sucked in my breath and let it out slowly. “I never knew about that place until he took me there.”

“See? Everything you do is because you are still so attached to him. A new relationship can’t work for you until you can let go and be here in the present with someone new.”

“But that isn’t really fair. He was a part of my life for thirteen years. We did everything together. I would have to move away from here to not ever see anything that reminded me of him again,” I fired back.

“It isn’t that everything reminds you of him, it is the look you get. It is the battle inside you. I saw it many times this last week. You start to make progress and live in the here and now, but then you seem to find that guilt again and you clam up like you are doing something wrong. He should always be a part of your memory, but he doesn’t need to be a part of every memory if you move on,” he said and I heard his voice crack a little bit.

There I was, being scolded by a man who had lost his wife just hours before. How could he be so cold and calloused? I took him to be a much more romantic man than that. Had he spent the week moving on without his wife on purpose, or was it that he didn’t want to end up like me?

“I suppose I started moving on because I have come to care more for you than anyone else in these last three years,” I confessed and I watched his shoulders sink.

“I’m sorry, Ruby,” he apologized and slapped his hand on my knee a couple of times.

My arms folded protectively against my chest and I glowered at him. Even baring my soul to him didn’t matter. Dark emotions began brewing during that drive home, emotions of anger and frustration.

We made it to the house and I cringed as we pulled into the driveway. I climbed out of the car and my boys stepped out onto the porch to wave. The older of the two came to grab my bags and I thanked him, giving him a quick hug.

“Jack, this is my son, Daniel and Jordan is over there,” I said pointing and puffed up proud to introduce my kids to a movie star they loved as much as I did…okay, well maybe not quite as much as I did, but they stared at him with stars in their eyes when they shook his hand. I could hear him laugh at their enthusiasm.

I asked my boys to go on inside and I turned to Jack.

“Well, this is goodbye then,” I smiled.

He didn’t say anything, but pulled me in for a tight hug. He took my face between his hands and placed a kiss on my forehead. “Thank you again, Ruby.”

And then, he got in his fancy black car and Davis drove away with everyone waving at me through the windows.

The Art of You Part 8

There is sorrow in loss. I can't remember where I found this photo, but it isn't mine.

There is sorrow in loss.
I can’t remember where I found this photo, but it isn’t mine.

 

 

 

 

 

I had no right to be sad in seeing him go. I really didn’t. But I distinctly remember going in the bathroom and closing the door. This time, I locked it. Pulling the lid to the toilet closed, I sat down and buried my face in my hands, the tears flowing freely. I felt defeated. That’s the word for it. Life had beat me up so many times that I was broken and hollow and now, defeated.

Now, I’m not a religious person. I was when I was younger and even a while when my husband was still alive. But I felt lost, like a wayward ship upon story waters. My compass was broken and my soul bled. I had no choice to go down with my ship.

I took in a ragged breath and I knelt at the toilet, folding my hands piously and resting my forehead on them.

“Dear Lord,” I cried, “I’m so thankful for everything you have given me, but I am so lost right now. I know it has been a long time since we’ve had a conversation and I’m sorry about that. See, I don’t know what to do. I’m so confused. I finally allow myself to care for another guy after all these years. I feel like I finally started to enjoy living again and he gets taken away from me too. What was the purpose for all this if I’m just supposed to be alone? I don’t understand and this is one of those moments in my life that I really need you to carry me through it. Lend me comfort, I pray…”

A loud rap on the door scared the daylights out of me and I gasped loudly, quickly sitting back down and pulling at the toilet paper to mop my face.

“Ruby?” Jack asked sounding panicked.

“Yes?” I replied feebly, hoping the emotion couldn’t be heard beneath my voice.

“The door is locked. Are you alright?”

I chuckled. “I’m fine, Jack. Be out in a minute.”

“Don’t scare me like that!” he exclaimed and a pain shot through my chest.

I could tell he cared and he wasn’t meaning to hurt me at all. I was merely being selfish and wanting what I was not meant for. My status was not the same as his, we were from completely different worlds, and I was an emotional mess.

I ran some cold water over my face and pat it dry. Then, I paused as I unlocked the door and opened it to find him still standing there. That dang lump formed in my throat and burned so bad I could not speak. I looked down at the floor so he wouldn’t see my tears and I moved past him.

He reached out and grabbed my wrist, pulling me to him. I felt those strong arms close around me and my weak ones wound around him. We just stood there together for a time. My silent tears ran over my face and wet his shirt. His silent tears ran down his face and wet the top of my head.

“Thank you,” he croaked out.

“For what?” I sniffed and looked up at him.

“You opened my eyes, that’s what,” he smiled.

I was speechless. “I’m not following you.”

He took my hand and led me to the couch where we both sat.

“I can’t really describe it. I was cut off from the world even though I was a big part of it. I was angry, I was impatient, and I was ungrateful. Davis hitting you with the car was one of the best things that ever happened to me, and I mean that. There is only so much happiness that money can buy,” he gave a false chuckle.

I looked down at my hands. He envied my simple life and I envied his lavish one.

“Thank you, Jack. I can’t say that being hit with your car was the best thing that ever happened to me, but I’m glad that I was able to know you for the good man that you are. I will be really honest, my first impression of you wasn’t the best even though I am probably your biggest fan,” I laughed and he joined me. “I do want you to know that I wasn’t following you. You really did keep popping up everywhere I went. I was not stalking you, I promise.”

His hand found my shoulder. “I know. Perhaps there were greater forces that kept throwing me in your path.”

“I came up here to find closure and I found you and your great kids…and the bumper of your car. But you have helped me too. You have shown me there is so much more to life that I have missed out on these last few years. I thank you for that,” I said wringing my hands in nervousness.

“You want to know what I think?” he asked.

I tilted my head and looked at him with narrowed eyes. “Do I want to?”

He smiled, the lines around his mouth deepened and the lines around his eyes crinkled. “I think you look for the magic in the world because you don’t have any magic in your life. You have to find it somewhere to keep from going batty. But I think you are an old soul that has been very sad for a long time and if I was able to help you out of that, even for an hour, I’m happy I could help you back. But what you did for me was more than I could ever do for you.”

I shook my head to the negative and I felt the sadness creep up on me again. If he cared so much, and if I did so much for him, why couldn’t he just make a promise to me that he would come back someday? Was I so undeserving? Was it really as silly as it sounded? I mean, we were two human beings. Why did it matter so much about the stereotypes of the world? I felt like the peasant who fell in love with the prince and everyone around him was telling him how the peasant girl was not good enough or have royal enough blood to be with him. If only more princes stood up to those people and broke the bonds of society.

“What are you thinking right now?” he asked when I didn’t respond.

I flicked my gaze to his. “You don’t want to know.”

My thoughts piqued his interest and his eyebrows shot up. A hint of a smile played on my own lips but I didn’t want to feel happy.

My brain worked quickly, searching the corners for some viable excuse. “I was feeling free.”

“What do you mean by that?” he asked quietly.

“Well, I am able to make my own decisions, except when a movie star takes me out with his car and I’m forced to stay in his hotel room.” I heard him laugh out loud. “But I’m pretty in control of my life. Yes, I have bills that are late, most people do. I can choose who I take with me to dinner. I can choose what clothes I wear. I can be who I want to be and it’s okay. But you…you have expectations to live up to. You are forced to put your own life last for the entertainment of millions of people. You can’t be seen in public with people who aren’t of a certain status. You are forced to vacation in tiny mountain towns to escape cameras. While I might envy your bank account, I’m much freer than you are.”

I stood then and left him on the couch headed for the bedroom. I paused before I passed through the doorway and looked back at him just staring into nothing, the muscles of his jaw leaping as they clenched and unclenched.

“I told you that you didn’t want to know…” I muttered and went to lie down.

The Art of You Part 7

Inspiration for "Jack Harrington" Borrowed from Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/HughJackman

Inspiration for “Jack Harrington” Borrowed from Facebook.
https://www.facebook.com/HughJackman

Another couple of days passed before I dared leave the bed again. I was bombarded with terrible headaches that made me feel sick to my stomach and more sensitive to light. Jack kept the lights low and the drapes drawn against the beauty that waited for them outside. I told him to get out of the hotel and enjoy himself, but he refused. I often wondered if caring for me was replacing being able to care for his wife. A ridiculous notion, I know. But he never left and was always there to bring me water and little bits of food.

Painkillers were given out like candy for the headaches and while nothing really took the pain away, it made it manageable. The effects of the sleeping meds stopped working so well and I began to have strange dreams and insomnia often. I felt strange sensations like bugs were crawling over my body making me itch and need to walk around and even shower several times a day. It was miserable, to say the least.

It was Thursday morning. I woke up and Jack was there smiling at me telling me to get up and about. We were going to the Pancake House for breakfast. I tried to object, but he halted me, not taking ‘no’ for an answer.

I took the time to look presentable, kind of halfway doing my makeup in the beloved 50s look. Jeans and a white tank top won out and I slipped my feet into my little white tennis shoes. I decided to tie a red bandana in my hair that covered the back of my head and tied at my crown.

Making my appearance in the front room of the suite, I saw a wheelchair waiting for me, sitting empty and lonesome, the foot rests down and ready. Slowly, I back away.

“No way,” I said shaking my head slightly. “I’m not going in that!”

Jack laughed. “Come on, Ruby. It’s the only way to make sure you stay upright!”

“No. Not going to do it. I will do it on my own, or not at all,” I argued.

“For the love! You are so stubborn! Fine. Have it your way then,” he said throwing up his hands in the air and moving the wheelchair into a corner.

“Thank you,” I breathed.

Grabbing my backpack with my camera in it, I started out the door. The dizziness was trying to grab at me and I kept talking to myself and telling it to knock it off already. I was about four slow paces out the door and Jack swooped me up in his arms.

Shocked, I squealed and struggled to get back down on my own feet.

“Nope, I can be just as stubborn. So if you aren’t going to sit in the chair, I am responsible for making sure you don’t fall down. That means I carry you everywhere you need to go today,” he chuckled.

“I will break your back! I’m too heavy!” I countered.

“I think my superhero arms will do fine. You are not heavy in the slightest so be quiet.”

People on our way out to the car stared, their heads rotating as we walked by.

“Everyone is staring,” I whispered.

“I know. Get used to it,” he smiled in response. “Guess you should have taken the chair then, huh?”

I groaned in embarrassment, but inside I was cheering. Who could say that the very handsome Jack Harrington carried them in his delightfully strong arms? Very few, I was sure.

This fantastical world that had spun around me began to feel comfortable. I cared for Jack, not because he was my angel in all this, but because he was a good person inside. He genuinely cared. He had seen me at my worst and he never relented.

The Pancake House was busy for a Thursday morning. We got seated promptly, but waited a while for our waitress to be free enough to make it over. We sat in our booth, the kids on one side of the table and Jack seated beside me on the other. It felt strange and natural at the same time. It was like a fairy tale that had come in and taken over my pathetic life and it made me feel whole again. He made me feel whole.

Finally we ordered and sat there joking around with each other and deciding what we would brave next. The food arrived in fairly good time and we dug in to the pancakes with butter and syrup, the crispy bacon and golden hash browns. It was the first real food in a week and I realized how I had missed the taste of all of it.

Jack’s phone rang. He stared at it a moment before answering.

“Jack,” he said in greeting.

I could hear the tone of the voice coming out of the speaker and into Jack’s ear. It sounded monotone and hushed a little.

“I see. What time?”

More hushed talking and I could hear him swallow and sniff.

“Thank you,” he replied and hung up the phone. “Excuse me, please.”

We all sat quiet as he headed for the restrooms. My heart sat high in my throat and my stomach turned. I wondered if it was the moment I had been dreading all this time.

Jack’s son excused himself and went to find his dad. I thought that both kids probably already understood.

When they returned to the table some time later, I could tell they had both shed tears. Their eyes were glossy and puffy with red rings defining their sorrow.

“She’s gone,” he said low. “She slipped away peacefully about an hour ago.”

I sat there numb. We had been seated about an hour before. Had she felt his happiness and let go when she knew he would be okay?

“I’m so sorry,” I said and patted his hand, fighting the tears of my own.

He sniffed again and ran his hand beneath his nose. “We all knew it was coming. We all said our goodbyes and we all knew she would be gone when we got back. That was the deal,” he rationalized.

The daughter folded her arms on the table and her head sunk down onto them where her shoulders shook with the force of her sorrow.

“We will be fine, guys. This was how she wanted it to go, remember?” Jack said with emotion thick in his voice.

Silent tears weaved their way down the boy’s face and I had to wipe a few of my own away. The wound from burying my own spouse was reopened and I knew the turmoil they were all feeling.

“Consequently, we will head back home tomorrow for the funeral,” he announced and then he looked to me. “I will drive you back home so I know you aren’t driving on the roads in your condition. Davis will follow and we will catch our plane out of Boise.”

I shook my head. “That’s not necessary, Jack. I will be fine.” I knew it was a lie, but the last thing I wanted was to keep him from doing what he needed to. “It’s a long drive down to a not so glamorous place,” I laughed weakly.

I felt embarrassed just at the thought of him seeing where I lived, in a run down little cottage that was the better part of 100 years old. I’d had neither the money nor the ambition to restore it. I could feel a sense of panic rising in me.

“We can do this the easy way or the hard way, Ruby. You are not driving home. You can’t exactly leave your car here and have Davis get it home for you later. You can’t exactly stay here alone and unattended either. Just please lower your guard for one minute and realize that I will win. I will always win,” he said looking me in the eye.

I closed my eyes and sighed. Lovely.

The world I had started to love, the one that was most unexpected but comfortable, all crumbled down around me. It was all a charade. None of it was real. Things were so amazing that I had almost forgotten about the wife half the world away. Who was I kidding? These kinds of stories only happened in books and movies. In real life, they just tease you and then disintegrate back into the nothingness from where it came. I would not only mourn the loss of my husband for years to come, but I would also mourn the loss of the man who taught me that there was more to life than tears.

I was quiet the rest of the day in anticipation of going back home. I missed my boys terribly but I knew I would miss Jack just as much. Perhaps he would write or email. Perhaps he might call on occasion. Given his status in life, I doubted it. I might be on his mind for a few weeks and then life would take over and I would disappear into the archives of his mind.

The Art of You Part 6

Loneliness happens.

Loneliness happens.

 

 

 

 

 

I heard him swallow hard in the silence of the bedroom. The tears were just pushing behind my eyes until it hurt. Why wasn’t he leaving?

“I’m losing my wife,” he said, his voice thick with emotion. “There aren’t many people who understand what that feels like.”

My heart lurched in my chest and I rolled over to face him. “I’m so sorry…”

“Is it true? That you never get over something like this?” His eyes were pleading with me to tell him otherwise.

I sighed. “Some days are better than others, I suppose. You see, my husband died unexpectedly. I never got to tell him goodbye and I think there has just been no closure for me. I holed up for a long time, living on what we had left. I found it hard to function and think straight. I stopped taking pictures because that magic had left and the world was just ordinary and ugly. But it’s funny how life happens. I came up here to capture some shots to pay my mortgage and I have spent my time so far revisiting places I had gone with him and reliving memories that I could never experience again. The loneliness I have felt at times here is crushing. But you know, spending the little bit of time with you has shown me that life is still here, but it isn’t waiting for me to make up my mind.” I paused. ” So if she’s dying, why are you here without her?”

He looked like he was trying to gather himself up. “We are here at her request. To live life for her in her final days. I wanted to be there to hold her hand when she slips away, but that was my wish…not hers. I chose a place that was small and remote, where I had less of a chance of paparazzi showing up, and where it would be relaxed and low-key. And then I met you. The fire in you has shown me there is more to life than this blackness I feel. But I can’t seem to escape it.”

My dream flooded my head as he mentioned escaping the darkness. I remembered how no matter where we went, it always found us and destroyed everything in our path. I heard a laugh come out of me before I meant for it to. Jack’s head snapped up, sending me a rude look.

“I’m sorry, Jack. I didn’t mean to laugh out loud…and I wasn’t laughing at you. It’s just that I have been running from the darkness too. For a long time. It-well, it always finds me and I don’t know how to make it leave me alone. I don’t have any answers for you, but it seems we are more alike than we ever knew,” I smiled, reaching out my hand to pat his.

I thought he would cry or let go of even one tear, but he didn’t. He merely got up from the chair beside the bed and left the room. I was so emotionally spent at that point that the tears had subsided and I felt fast asleep.

I couldn’t tell where I was. The ground was cold, it was dark out, and all I could do was feel my way along a brick wall. A voice came to me. It was shouting for help. I kept inching my way along the wall in the dark hearing the voice grow louder. I recognized the voice and I stopped to listen more intently. I shouted back, “Jack!” There were more pleas for help that came through that wall. I felt the panic and I felt like jelly, as though I couldn’t move very well. I asked him where the door was. It was like he couldn’t hear me.

Suddenly, a bright light seared my eyes and there was my husband, standing before me. His face held such adoration and love in it for me. I tried to hold him, to feel him again but I couldn’t move at all.

“Live for me, Ruby. I want us to sit and talk of your adventures one day. You are breaking my heart as I watch you give up. For me, please live your life!” he said and pointed to something behind me. “When you need me, I will show you the way.”

I turned my head to see a door in the wall. Then it all went dark again but I knew my destination. I had to see if that door led me to Jack.

Commotion woke me and I heard many different voices beyond the bedroom. Tidbits of my dream still floated in my mind. He had come to see me! It had been the first time since his death that I had seen him and he looked so handsome and youthful. I closed my eyes, willing the dream to continue, but it did not. But I could still hear him tell me to live life for him. That was the wish of Jack’s wife too, that he lived life for her. Was it the way of it then? That they will live on through us? If we sulk about in the darkness and always try to run from it, they can’t live on. But if we make it full and happy, they can still feel that energy and it makes them happy.

I groaned, disgusted with myself a little. It was just a dream.

There was laughter in the other room. Jack’s laughter. It sounded different somehow. Maybe a little less burdened?

I gasped when the door opened and he stepped inside.

“Did you sleep well?” he asked.

I nodded.

“Good. I’m going to step out for a bit with the kids. They have missed me and are tired of Davis,” he chuckled, his dark eyes alight with mischief.

“Okay…” I said and it came out a garbled mess of sounds. Clearing my throat and plastering a smile on my face I added, “Good.”

“Are you okay?” he asked casting me a sideways glance.

“I’m fine.”

“If you need anything, here is my cell number. Call me right away,” he ordered and dropped the paper to the bedside table. Then, he was gone.

It was a crazy few seconds while I computed to myself that I was once again alone. Where I had begun feeling comfortable, I realized that I was still going at this all by myself. I had a sudden yearn to see my kids. I missed them. Seeing Jack with his kids and hearing them laughing made me jealous, just a little. I had left mine behind while I went out to take photos for a week. Granted, they were plenty old enough to take care of themselves, but I never should have left them.

And then I had another thought…since I lost him, I don’t really think I had been present with my kids. I was always hiding behind sorrow and living in the shadows. My actions had robbed them of a mother and I suddenly felt very guilty. I needed to go home.

I sat up slowly and climbed out of bed, a slight feeling of vertigo washing over me as I moved. After poking around briefly, I found my bag. The one that had been in my apartment. Puzzled, I bent to grab it when Jack blew back in the door. I froze and just stared at him.

“What are you doing?” he asked, breathless.

“Well, I decided I’m going home,” I replied standing up again. My palms began to sweat and I started feeling rather green in the gills. “What are you doing here? I thought you were headed out?”

I feared my voice sounded needy in a way, but he just blinked his eyes in disbelief. “I- My sunglasses. I left them on the table just there,” he said. “You can’t go yet. You are not fit to drive at all, Ruby. Let’s go tuck you back in so you can rest.”

I turned around again to take my bag and the lousy floor started to tilt beneath my feet, the room swirled about me and I fell to my knees, my hands bracing me against the movement.

Jack was by my side in a flash. “You okay?” he was asking me.

It sounded like he was talking to me through a door. And then it happened. I threw up all over the floor. I wished the floor would open up and swallow me whole. I wished at that moment that I would disappear and he would never see me again.

“Oh snap,” I groaned and the tears just fell. Tears of shame and embarrassment, not tears of grief or sorrow. “I’m so sorry.”

Jack just lifted me in his arms and carried me back to the bed. He brought me some water to wash away the taste of vomit from my mouth and handed me a pill from a bottle by the bed.

“This should make you feel a little better,” he smiled and smoothed the sweaty hair from my forehead. “It is I that am sorry, Ruby. But I think the clouds are coming on and we will just move our festivities inside for the day. Make it a movie day.”

I shook my head to the negative and my stomach began to lurch again. “You have fun things to go do, Jack. Take those kids out there and enjoy it!”

“We have all the time in the world. A few more days won’t hurt.”

“Don’t shut yourselves in because of me. Go! Have fun!” I tried to shout.

“But you are a part of our lives right now. I can’t just leave you when it was my car that brought you here…and not in a good way. You are more important than that.”

“I am just baggage. You have plenty already on your plate. You don’t need more,” I said slurring my words as the pill began to work.

“Good night, Ruby,” I heard him say before I succumbed.