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.