Disclaimer: Characters are completely my own. Feedback, comments, etc. can be sent to Elaine Kinney at firstname.lastname@example.org. Hope you enjoy…
Have you ever come across someone in the course of your life that just seemed to lead a charmed life?
Someone who was impossibly beautiful, uncommonly intelligent, and naturally athletic – someone with a storybook childhood, charming personality, perfect body, and an angst-free soul?
Someone who just always seemed to veer down the right roads in the diverging paths we all face, always seemed to be in the right place at the right time, made the right choices in the face of adversity, and always won the door prizes in the raffle of life?
Someone who seemed more like a character in an impossibly idyllic romance than a real person? You just wanted to give them a swift, sobering kick in the ass, right?
Hey, don’t laugh. People like that are admittedly rare, but – at the risk of sounding like an egotistical, self-important ass- that was me – yes - me, once upon a time – an impossibly perfect, privileged, and incredibly lucky individual for whom – in one day and in one horrible instant – all the improbable grace that had seemed to rule my life, the beneficent planet that arrayed the stars of my good fortune, suddenly and spontaneously departed with disastrous consequence, and that is where my story really begins.
Of course, I didn’t really totally appreciate how perfect and blessed my life had been before that moment – isn’t that always the way it is? But I do now. I definitely do now. Believe me. My charmed life was only something I came to appreciate in retrospect.
Instead, I was in many ways the typical self-absorbed adolescent/teenager/young adult, who thought I was ugly if I had a pimple and thought my parents were unreasonable tyrants when they grounded me.
Before I get to my life-altering moment however, I need to tell you a little more about my life leading up to that day.
I probably need to start with “Who the Hell are you?”
Well - my name is Shawn Dale Hudson. The “Dale” is a result of the fact that my paternal Grandfather apparently thought Dale Evans was the hottest woman who ever lived, and always wanted to have a daughter he could name “Dale”.
Unfortunately, he never had a daughter, just my Dad Roy and my Uncle Roger (luckily I never had an Uncle Trigger) so my Dad gave me the middle name Dale in an effort to pander to him (especially considering the old man - who was half-Italian and married an Italian second cousin - had gotten absurdly rich with a chain of popular pizzeria restaurants).
I only learned that little “Dale Evans” tidbit when I was around 14, and my first thought after my Mom told me this tale was, “Who in the Hell is Dale Evans?”
Speaking of my Mom, who was German-Irish, with red-blonde hair and blue eyes – the polar opposite of my dark-haired, olive-skinned Dad - the “Shawn” part of my name is a residual of the fact that my Mom had a huge crush on Shaun Cassidy when she was a teenager. I guess she thought “Shawn” was the more appropriately “girly” spelling of the name. If you ask her for the official origins of my name however, she’ll tell you I was named after paternal grandfather who first immigrated to the United States, but I know the truth, thanks to my Aunt Patsy.
When I found that Shaun Cassidy tidbit out, my first thought was, “Ewwww” (at the thought of my Mom thinking of anyone as “hot”, much less some scrawny blond teen idol).
I was born into an extremely close-knit, loving family (believe it or not, they do actually exist). My father was a doctor - a general practitioner - and my mom was a high school math teacher. Honestly, I’d have to say that while growing up, I don’t ever remember witnessing a fight between the two of them. They were the kind of couple that seemed more like one entity than two independent, autonomous people. As a matter of fact, they were so perfect and so compatible they were almost boring – at least that’s how I saw them as a kid - my boring, disgustingly compatible, happy, loving and supportive parents. Gross.
I also had two siblings - a brother, Mason (Grandma Antonia was famous for her canned marinara), who was two years older than me, and a sister, Helena (my Mother’s German ancestors first settled in Helena, Montana), who was three years younger than I. Amazingly, we all got along great. We were the best of friends in addition to being siblings.
I was an energetic, happy, and out-going kid who grew into that most rare of animals - a well-adjusted adolescent. It didn’t hurt my chances that I had an outgoing manner, and was a natural leader, with a good sense of humor, and a likeable, easy-going personality that seemed to draw people to me.
It also didn’t hurt my popularity that I was growing into a beautiful young woman - tall and slender with long, straight, dark brown hair, grayish blue eyes, a beautiful easy smile that charmed everyone I encountered, and the body of a natural athlete.
In high school, my natural athleticism contributed to my being an uncommonly gifted multi-sport athlete - a fact that cemented my already elevated status in the eyes of my peers. I excelled in track, soccer, and softball - but with my agility and almost six-foot frame - I particularly excelled in basketball.
So - not surprisingly - since I was also a straight-A student and attained a near-perfect score on my college entrance exams - I ended up going to a highly respected Ivy League university on a full athletic scholarship after graduation.
Okay, do you get the picture yet? Like I said - disgustingly perfect - and lucky as Hell.
I enrolled in college as a pre-med major, with the intention of following in my dad’s footsteps and becoming a doctor. It was while I was in college that I also had the good fortune to cross paths with what would turn out to be my life’s greatest blessing – the girl who I knew almost at first sight was my soul-mate - Lauren Lindsey Montgomery.
Okay, I’m getting a little ahead of myself here - so let me backtrack a bit…
I’d realized from a very young age that I was a lesbian, but it wasn’t until my senior year in high school that I finally came out to my family and friends, most of whom had already suspected considering I’d never showed the slightest interest in boys and had posters of hot female celebrities tacked up all over my bedroom.
I decided to finally come out because I thought it would make it a whole lot easier to explain to everyone why I was going to be taking another girl to the senior prom. \
Although coming out can be and usually is a traumatic event for many gay teens, my family was so loving and accepting of me, and my esteemed status among my peers was so well-established, that for me coming out was – well, no big deal really.
Not surprising I guess - I lead a charmed life, remember?
So I came out “officially”, and took Jan – who was my first semi-serious girlfriend (and the one to whom I eventually surrendered my virginity) - to the prom. Oh, by the way, we were also voted Prom King and Queen that night, although I never have quite figured out who was supposed to be king and who was supposed to be queen.
Jan and I didn’t last through the summer, although the breakup was amicable, and I entered my freshman year in college single and very much looking. Upon arriving at school, I never really had any intention of playing the field. All I wanted was to eventually find a relationship like my parents had and settle down with that special someone.
I figured out pretty quickly that it was going to take a lot of looking to find that special someone, so in my first year at college, a lot of looking is exactly what I did, and as a result I acquired a somewhat of a reputation.
It probably didn’t help that I was a virtual lesbian-magnet, and the fawning attention got so bad that my normally not-quite-humble, but still mildly self-effacing personality was quickly fading away and I was becoming a cocky, egotistical ass.
Luckily, Lauren came into my life and saved me from myself.
I first saw Lauren at a local club frequented by gay and lesbian students. Although I’d been to the club many times before, it was the first time I’d ever seen Lauren there.
She was sitting at the bar just a few feet away from me with a group of friends, none of whom, luckily, I was intimately acquainted with. For me, it was one of those “love at first sight” moments. When our eyes met for the first time, the connection was so intense, I had no doubt she was feeling the same powerful emotions I was feeling.
Lauren blushed and broke the heated glance first, turning away from me slightly to talk to someone sitting next to her. She studiously tried to avoid looking at me after that. When she got up to dance with one of her gay male friends (not that I’m stereotyping, but the gay part was kind of obvious), I took the opportunity to look at her more closely.
Lauren was a few inches shorter than me (of course most women are), around 5’ 5”, with a nice, shapely, feminine body which was shown off to perfection in perfectly fitted jeans and a skimpy light purple t-shirt. She had shoulder-length, sun-bleached blonde hair and (as I found out on closer inspection later) the most beautiful hazel eyes I’ve ever seen – they were gold and green and brown all at the same time. She was also an incredible dancer, and watching her sent me into a Phase 3 sexual flush.
Not that I was any slouch myself - I had come to the bar that night dressed in jeans, a black top, and black leather boots. I looked good and I knew it. How could I not? Just about every woman in the club – including some of Lauren’s friends, had approached me to ask for a dance - requests I readily accommodated throughout the night. While dancing with them however, I had kept my eye on Lauren, who met my glance occasionally and then quickly looked away.
After a long night of heated glances, I finally realized I was going to have to make the first move (not something I was used to) if I wanted to meet Lauren. When I eventually got up the nerve to walk over to Lauren later to ask her to dance, I heard the last thing in the world I expected to hear.
“Uh – No, thank you,” she said, politely. I was so drawn in by her beautiful eyes and taken with her soft, lilting voice it took me a few seconds to register what she had said. I was so surprised I was at a loss for words momentarily. None of my plans had included the possibility of rejection.
“C’mon, I won’t bite. Just one dance.” I gave her a sexy wink and a smile that most women found irresistible.
She glanced away from my sultriest gaze and when she looked back at me I saw a glimmer of irritation. “Really, no – I’m not interested - sorry. I’m sure there are plenty of other women here who’d love to take you up on your offer, so…” She said with a slight edge to her voice. With this, she smiled somewhat dismissively and half-turned away from me.
My heart sank a little bit. I had absolutely no experience before with rejection. “Would you rather wait for a slow song?” I said a little uncertainly.
There it was, that dismissive look again. Yeah, it was irritation – definitely, and more obvious this time. “No, thank you.” This time she didn’t smile – dismissively or otherwise – and turned her entire back to me.
I shuffled back to my end of the bar somewhat bemused by her reaction. After all, not many women are insulted when you ask them to dance. But she seemed almost – mad at me? I didn’t get it.
Chastened, even a little humiliated - but undaunted - I slunk back to my stool and sulked until I noticed a familiar face had joined the group of friends around Lauren – it belonged to a girl named Holly Sargento. Holly was as a student assistant for the basketball team, and we had become pretty good friends over the last year – since she was one of the few lesbians I knew on campus whom I hadn’t dated. I liked her well enough, and she wasn’t bad-looking, but we just weren’t each other’s type – at all.
Holly was extremely smart, if a bit of an intellectual gadfly (she’d changed her major every semester thus far), and was attending the university on an academic scholarship. She was almost as tall as I was, but blonde, and hopelessly unathletic. She was a great sideline cheerleader, though, and a great stat-keeper.
Holly hadn’t yet noticed that I was there, so I waited until she slipped away from the group, heading presumably for the ladies’ room, to approach her. I followed and pulled her aside with the intent of gleaning as much information about the object of my affections out of her as possible.
“Holly!” I called out. Holly glanced at me over her shoulder and grinned.
“Shawn? Hey, girl - I didn’t know you where here – usually you’re the center of attention. Did you just get here or something? Where’s your entourage of groupies?” She asked, pretending to look around curiously.
I just rolled my eyes at her teasing and sighed. “Stop messing around. I need to talk to you about something”.
“No problem. What is it? Female trouble, again?” Holly responded with a smirk. “What can I help you with? – and - NO, you can’t borrow any of my girl toys.”
“Yes - I mean No -” I replied, feeling foolish. “Listen, that blonde that you’ve been talking to – the really pretty one in the purple t-shirt. What’s her name? I asked her to dance earlier and she gave me the cold shoulder. What’s the deal? She is gay, isn’t she?” I asked with some trepidation.
Holly laughed out loud. “Wow, I didn’t take you for the stalker type, Hud. Usually, you have the women stalking you. So she turned you down, huh? That must have been a real shocker.”
I glared back at Holly. “C’mon Holly. Don’t mess with me. This is serious. Who is she?”
Holly smirked. “Well - first, her name is Lauren Montgomery, and yeah, I’m pretty sure she’s gay. I really don’t know her that well, but she’s a good friend of the girl I’m dating. Uhm - she’s also unattached by the way - since I know that would have been your next question.”
Holly chuckled at my audible sigh of relief. “Okay, so what about the cold shoulder?” I asked. “What’s the deal with that? I asked her to dance and she treated me like dirt.”
“What do you expect, Hud, you are pretty homely you know.” Holly was having way too much fun with my misery.
“Stop fucking with me Holly. What exactly am I doing wrong?” My patience was wearing pretty thin.
Holly rolled her eyes. “Alright, Shawn. I can’t read Lauren’s mind, you know, and like I said – I don’t know her that well, but from what I do know about her, she’s a nice girl - a really, really nice girl, the “take home to meet your parents” type of girl - not a party girl at all. She doesn’t fool around and she doesn’t do the one-night-stand thing. Hell, this is probably the first time her buddies have managed to drag her to this bar - she’s not exactly the bar-fly type. She spends most of her time studying in her room or in the library.”
Holly’s description of Lauren just made her seem all the more appealing to me. “Ok – so, I can work with that,” I said. “But that still doesn’t answer my question - I just asked her to dance with me, I didn’t try to put the moves on her.” I was still confused.
Holly grinned a little sheepishly. “Shawn, I hate to be the one to tell you this, but your reputation proceeds you, I’m afraid. You may just be a sophomore, but you’re already infamous on the campus “lesbian grapevine” – to which Lauren is privy by the way - since she’s friends with my gossip queen girlfriend – for being a…”
At this point Holly paused, apparently trying to find a word that I wouldn’t find overly offensive. (She didn’t try hard enough, by the way). She frowned at me somewhat hesitantly, “…slut? Dyke ‘Ho’? Lesbo Tramp? Pussy hound? Taco jockey? Get the picture? Am I leaving anything out?”
Seeing the shocked look on my face, Holly broke out into peals of laughter. Had I really gotten that bad? From my viewpoint, I’d just been having a little fun, taking advantage of what had been made so readily available to me. Suddenly a little light went on and I grimaced. Yeah, I had gotten that bad. I suddenly felt ashamed and completely unworthy of someone like Lauren Montgomery.
I left the bar that night with Lauren’s dorm address and phone number - thanks to Holly, who seemed totally bemused by my obsession and willing to help me out in the name of true love – and a profound determination to change my evil ways and prove myself worthy of Lauren Montgomery.
Initially, I had planned a full frontal attack on Lauren, pursuing her with such charm and dogged determination she’d have no chance but to give in.
The more I thought about it however, the more I realized a romantic frontal assault was not going to work with her. She already thought I was lesbian Romeo just out to get into her pants, and if I poured on the hearts and flowers she would just continue to be suspicious of my motives. With my history, she’d never believe I was looking for a serious relationship.
That’s when I realized what I really needed to work on was becoming Lauren’s friend first, hoping that once she got to know me she’d realize there was more to me than my reputation would lead one to believe. Not only that, but I really did want to get to know Lauren and become friends with her, if only for the sake of being her friend.
Eventually, that’s exactly what happened. I slipped into Lauren’s life pretty stealthily. In one of my many talks with a sympathetic Holly, she just happened to mention that Lauren - who was a Journalism major - was struggling with a math class. When Holly told me this, I saw a prime opportunity to get my foot in the door with Lauren.
Following my suggestion, Holly soon managed to convince Lauren that the best way to pass the math class would be to hire another student to tutor her. That’s where I came in, of course. Hell, my mom is a math teacher after all. I’m a natural - I aced Differential Equations.
When I showed up for our first tutoring session (set up by Holly) at the school library, Lauren’s mouth dropped open in surprise. For a few tense moments, I thought she was going to get up and walk away. But I quickly sat down across from her, introduced myself, and smiled in a friendly, not flirtatious, manner. I acted as if we had never met before, and Lauren soon relaxed when she realized I was not going to hit on her.
By the end of the semester, Lauren got a “B” in the math course and had discovered, much to her surprise, that she actually liked me. Meanwhile, after getting to know Lauren better, I became even more certain that I was utterly, madly in love with her.
When Lauren and I went to our respective homes for the summer, the separation was pretty traumatic for me - I was already addicted to being around her. But we e-mailed each other almost daily the entire time, and somehow our friendship as well as her trust in me grew even more while we were apart. By the time the Fall semester of my Junior year came around, Lauren and I had become the best of friends. When basketball season started, Lauren came to all my home games, sitting with Holly just behind the bench, and cheered me on.
Gradually, I began to see a difference in the way she looked at me – her suspicions went away and her gaze began to contain a hint of longing and an emotion that went beyond mere friendship, and she began to very subtly flirt with me.
Still, I made no move to take our friendship to the next level, terrified of her rejection and afraid to do anything that might disrupt our friendship and drive her away from me. Just the thought of that possibility caused a shudder of pain to go through me. I had become totally dependent on her presence in my life.
All of this uncertainty and fear of rejection left both of us in an uncomfortable limbo between friendship and something more. Me - afraid to do anything that might damage our friendship - and Lauren, thinking I wanted to be nothing more than friends.
Things were bound to come to a head eventually – which of course they soon did. Strangely enough, Holly, once again, was largely responsible for it.
We’d finished up a fairly successful (conference championship and Elite 8 NCAA appearance) but exhausting basketball season, and Holly had talked me, Lauren, and some of other girls on the team into going out to a bar to celebrate. Since we were returning to the scene of the crime where I had first met Lauren, I was determined to do it right this time around – I was going to ask her to dance, and this time I hoped she wouldn’t say no.
I was determined to give it my best shot, so I dressed with the intention of showing as much skin as possible. I fully intended to give Lauren something to look at and lots of warm smooth skin to touch when we danced. I pulled on some denim cutoff shorts and a rainbow-striped halter top, pulling my long hair back into a loose ponytail. I was already trembling just imagining Lauren’s lips pressing against my neck as we slow-danced.
Once we got to the bar, I had a couple of mixed drinks to get my courage up. Huge mistake – since booze always makes me horny and a little too relaxed. We hadn’t been at the bar long when someone tapped my shoulder and I looked up to find Brooke, an old girlfriend of mine (if you can call a “one-night-stand” a girlfriend), standing behind me. Uninvited, Brooke pulled a chair up next to mine and started flirting with me outrageously. It wasn’t long before she was brazenly sliding her hand slowly up and down my bare thigh in front of everyone at the table.
Although everything in me screamed to pull away, the excess alcohol I’d consumed froze me into immobility, and months of enforced celibacy and sexual frustration conspired to cause my body to react immediately to the intimate stroking with an uncontrollable wave of arousal that brought a flush to my checks. My thighs - quite involuntarily I swear – parted slightly.
Just then, I looked up from the hand sliding ever closer to my most intimate place and straight into Lauren’s eyes. What I saw there sobered me up immediately – anger, pain, jealousy, and worst of all - hurt. I jumped up from the table and stumbled toward the restroom that was tucked into the rear of the bar at the end of a long dark hallway. Brooke, unfortunately, saw this as an invitation, and followed me into the darkened hallway.
She came up behind me suddenly, grabbing my shoulders, turning me, and pushing my back up against the wall, and pressing her mouth against mine. Just as I was about to push her away, she was pulled away from me. I looked up to see Lauren, glaring angrily at Brooke.
“What the hell…?” Brooke shouted, not at all happy at having been interrupted.
“I’m taking Shawn home – she’s had too much to drink.” Lauren stated in a shaky but determined voice.
Brooke snorted. “Bullshit. She’s not your girlfriend. You’re not her keeper - you can’t tell her what to do.”
Lauren looked straight at me for the first time. She looked like she’d been crying or was about to cry, her eyes wet with tears. When I looked into her eyes, I saw all the things I’d been hoping to see. Desire, longing, tenderness, and most importantly – love.
“Yes, she is – she is my girlfriend – and I’m taking her home.” Lauren said, smiling at me tremulously.
With that, Lauren stepped forward and kissed me, a kiss filled with all the passion of months of pent-up longing, and for the first time in my life I felt whole.
I learned later that it was Holly who saved the night from disaster. When Brooke and I had headed for the back of the bar, Lauren had jumped up, crying, fully intending to flee from the bar and probably intending to never speak to me again.
Holly had intercepted her and told her something like, ‘For Christ’s Sake, Lauren, don’t you realize Shawn is crazy in love with you? Go and get your woman!” (or something to that affect) – and that is exactly what Lauren did.
So that’s how Lauren and I got together – and much like my parents, I don’t think we fought from that day forward. Our relationship was almost impossibly idyllic.
Soon after we both graduated from college, we had a commitment ceremony in front of our families and Lauren surprised me by taking my last name – laughingly saying Hudson was a lot easier to write than Montgomery. We moved in together and Lauren worked on her freelance writing career and waited tables while I went to medical school.
In my second year of medical school, a cash gift from my obscenely rich Granddad (which we insisted be considered a loan) enabled Lauren to devote her attention full-time to her writing career.
Near the end of my stint in medical school, Lauren brought up the idea of starting a family. Although I thought it was too early – since I wasn’t yet actually earning any money - I couldn’t deny Lauren anything, and we had our first child - a girl we named Kristen - through in-vitro fertilization, my egg and sperm from an anonymous donor, with Lauren as the birth mother.
Four years later, at the end of my residency, we had a second child. This time, my brother, Mason, who coincidentally had also come out as gay a few years after I had, donated the sperm that was used to impregnate Lauren. This child was a girl as well - we named her Lindsey.
By the tenth anniversary of our commitment ceremony, our life together was very nearly perfect. My OB/GYN practice was extremely successful, and we were blessed with two happy healthy daughters. Kristen - who was 6 years old - bore an uncanny resemblance to me at the same age, although her eyes were more blue than gray and her hair was more black than dark brown.
She was an energetic and inquisitive child, with a degree of physical coordination and a competitive spirit that I knew was going to lead her to excel in athletics as I had. We’d already cheered her on in tee-ball and little league softball, and I looked forward to someday watching my gifted daughter on the soccer field and basketball court.
Lindsey, who was 2, was blonde, with curly hair and bright green eyes. Lindsey was outgoing and very affectionate, unlike her older sister, who was a little more reserved and very independent.
Having children is a hard thing to get used to after years of the relative selfishness and self-absorption of youth. Suddenly, there is someone in your life who is totally dependent on you to take care of them; someone for whom you are totally responsible and for whom you would sacrifice your life without hesitation. It’s selflessness so complete it is almost frightening, since it is so contrary to our normal instincts for self-preservation. It’s a totally life-changing experience.
I always felt one of my greatest responsibilities as a parent was to raise my children in an environment where they felt totally safe and secure. One day, not long after she had started first grade, Kris came home with the disturbing news that one of her classmates had been struck by a car and killed over the weekend. The little girl who was killed had been one of her best friends.
When I got home from work later that afternoon, Lauren walked up to me, hugged me, and told me about the horrible accident and events of the day.
“Go talk to your little girl, Shawn. I tried my best and I can’t seem to get her to open up to me. She just huddles up against me and cries. You’re the only one who can really get through to her sometimes – you’re her hero, you know. She’ll try not to cry in front of you – so maybe she’ll actually open up and talk.” Lauren smiled at me sadly, hugged me, and softly kissed my neck.
I went into the darkened room and climbed into the bed next to the huddled form, slipping my arms around a silent, somber little girl. A half-suppressed sob broke out. “Mama”.
“Hey, it’s me. I heard about what happened to your friend, sweetheart. Do you want to talk to me about it?”
Kris hesitated momentarily, “I’m scared, Mama,” she whimpered.
“Why honey,” I asked, stroking her damp forehead, “why are you scared?”
“Because I saw Janie Friday and ever thing was okay – and when the bell rang she said. ‘I’ll see you Monday, Kris’. But she didn’t come back, Mama, and I’ll never see her again. She’s gone - gone forever - and I don’t understand why. It scares me.”
I squeezed my eyes shut to keep from tearing up at Kris’ words, “Oh, Kris, honey – Janie will never truly be gone as long as she’s still in the hearts of all the people who love her,” I responded.
“But what happens when everyone who loved her dies, Mama? Will she be gone then? Where do you go when you die? Where do you go when no one remembers you anymore? Where do we all go” Kris asked, sincerely curious.
“It’s complicated, Kris – and the funny thing is there is no one person on Earth that knows the answer to that question - not even the smartest person in the world - although a lot of people think they know the answer.”
“A lot of people think we go some place else after we die, but no one really knows for sure - because it’s apparently a place that – once you go there – there’s no coming back. So it’s not like you can come back and tell everyone, ‘hey, you guys - there’s this wonderful place you go when you die – see you there!’” I responded, giving Kris a hug, “When you grow up, you’ll have to figure it out for yourself, but me - I like to think we do go somewhere else - some place very, very nice.”
“Like Disneyworld?” Kris asked with a slight smile.
Shawn chuckled. “Maybe even better than Disneyworld.”
“I’m still scared, Mama.” Kris responded, sighing.
“What if you or Mom die?” Kris asked, her voice trembling slightly, “I don’t want you to go away – even if it is to a very nice place. I want you and Mom to stay here with me and Lindsey forever and ever.”
Shawn hugged her daughter to her and swallowed hard to keep from crying. “Oh, baby.” Shawn leaned down and kissed a warm forehead. “Nothing is going to happen to me and your Mom. But, no matter what happens, don’t ever doubt that we’ll always find a way to be with you - even if it’s only in your heart – and I promise you I’ll try as hard as I can to never to be separated from you and to always come home to you.”
With that, Kristen seemed to feel better, and wrapped warm little arms around Shawn’s neck as she fell into a dreamless sleep.
Two years had passed since the tragic death of Kris’ friend, and this is where we get to that moment I mentioned at the start of this story. Specifically, it was a Monday night, which is strange, because for me Monday has always seemed to be a benign, rather innocuous day.
My office is closed on Mondays, so we usually do something special that evening as a family. This night we did dinner and a movie – a new animated Disney movie that the girls absolutely loved. At four, Lindsey was just getting old enough to sit still for a movie, but she still spent most of this one bouncing in her seat out of excitement so that I ended up holding her in my lap to try and keep her still out of consideration for our fellow movie-goers.
By the end of the movie, she had fallen asleep in my arms. Her hair, which was long, blond, and incredibly soft and fine, tickled my nose when I hugged her to me, reveling in the wonderful baby shampoo and cotton candy smell of the now sleepy – and uncharacteristically still - little girl.
Both girls slept on the ride home. Kris, who was too big to be packed in, was grumpy when we woke her up on arriving home – mad because her little sister got to be carried in and she didn’t. Lauren scolded her mildly and I packed the still sleeping Lindsey in to put her to bed.
Since we were both preoccupied with the girls, neither of us noticed some of the things we normally would have noticed, lights on that should have been off, an overturned chair, broken glass. But soon after laying Lindsey down in her bed, I heard a stifled gasp and a child’s scream that made my blood run cold. Running toward the living room I saw a sight that briefly froze me into shocked immobility.
A stranger, a young man with long, shaggy hair, who looked to be little more than a teenager, was standing in our living room. In his hand, which was trembling violently, was a lethal-looking gun. The gun was pointed toward Kris, who was standing frozen about 10 feet in front of him. Lauren was on the opposite side of the room and behind him, afraid to move in case she startled him.
I looked into the young man’s eyes and walked slowly and purposefully forward stepping in front of Kris and shielding her body behind me.
“Don’t move” he stuttered, raising the gun and pointing it at my chest. A trembling, terrified Kris clung to me from behind, arms wrapped around my waist. I glanced over at Lauren, who was trembling with fear, eyes streaming tears. I suddenly realized with dismay that I was the one who had the cell phone clipped to my belt, not Lauren, and the intruder was between her and the nearest phone in the kitchen.
“Hey, it’s ok.” I said calmly to the nervous teenager. “Just take whatever you want and go. We’re not going to try and stop you.”
His eyes darted around the room, looking for his nearest avenue of escape. I suppressed a sigh of relief, sensing he was going to take me up on my offer to flee.
That’s when it happened – and the terrible irony of it was that he obviously didn’t mean for it to happen, because he looked just as shocked as I was when the gun discharged, the bullet striking me in the chest with an explosion of pain and heat, knocking me back a few steps so that I knocked Kristen over and almost fell on top of her.
From that point forward, everything began to move in slow motion. I dimly heard a horrified scream from Lauren. I saw shock and fear in the boy’s face before he turned and fled from the room. Suddenly without strength, I dropped to my knees and rolled over onto my back, looking up at the ceiling, which seemed to tremble and glisten as if it was losing its very substance.
I was a physician, and as a physician with a high degree of familiarity with human anatomy, I somehow innately understood the severity of my injury. Lauren ran to me and fell to the ground beside me, sobbing and pressing against the blossoming wound in my chest, but I could feel the blood pooling at my back, could feel myself sliding down an irresistible precipice – the bullet had gone through me, probably narrowly missing Kristen.
“Shawn! Shawn! Baby hold on!” Lauren frantically pulled the cell phone from my belt with a bloody hand and dialed 911, sobbing frantically. I listened to the brief, frenetic conversation with a strange sense of detachment.
Lauren closed the phone and leaned back over me, pressing at my wound and gazing desperately into my darkening eyes. “They’re coming baby. They’ll be here soon - just hold on, Shawn. Hold on. You can’t leave us…” Lauren’s voice choked up. “What do I need to do? – Is there anything I can do before they get here, baby? Shawn? Shawn, talk to me.”
I tried to speak and couldn’t, and suddenly realized I couldn’t breathe, hadn’t taken a breath probably since I hit the floor, no matter how hard I tried to draw breath. Everything started to shimmer and darken around me and I knew I was losing consciousness.
I suddenly felt myself rise up, so that I was looking down on my vacantly staring eyes, at the blood pooled around me, at the back of Lauren’s head as she bent over me, at the heart-wrenching sight of Kris huddled in the corner, arms wrapped around her knees, a look of sheer terror on her tear-streaked face, saying the same thing over and over again.
“Mama, no. No, no, no.”
Lauren suddenly realized I wasn’t breathing and started frantically attempting to resuscitate me. “Shawn, No. We need you, Shawn. Don’t leave me. Please don’t leave me.” But I was already gone. I had already left them, quite unwillingly.
Jesus, God. I can’t do this. I can’t leave them. Please don’t make me leave them – don’t make me do this.
Even as I desperately tried to hold on to that slim thread of life and light - as I tried to remember the inevitability of gravity and fall back into my body - I lifted up ever further away from them, into a world where the laws of physics fall apart, spiraled into that dark endless corridor, and the nightmarish scene dimmed as I was slowly and agonizingly pulled away from everything on Earth I cherished and held dear, from everyone who loved me and very much needed me there - and I departed - quite unwillingly I assure you - from my oh-so-perfect, oh-so-charmed - Life.
To be continued in Part 2
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