Bard Valentine Invitational 2010
This story is dedicated to all who have found, and lost, true love.
May it never be truly gone from your hearts.
I met her four years ago today on, of all days, Valentine's Day.
I was in a foul mood.
It had been one of those crappy days at work and all I wanted was to get away from my muddled-minded boss; and people as a whole. As I entered the blessed sanctuary of my apartment, I was looking forward to nothing more than the six-pack chilling in my fridge and an evening of watching mindless reruns on the tube.
Unfortunately, some had other ideas.
Just as I was relaxing into my comfy couch, the door burst open and my next door neighbors, and best friends, rushed inside. They yanked me up then propelled me back outside. My arms were firmly grasped as they forced me to their pickup and shoved me into the front seat. Doors were quickly locked after they squeezed in on either side, leaving me with no chance of escape.
Not that I didn't try.
“It's the Valentine's Day dance,” they kept insisting as we drove, their hands slapping at mine as I fought against their kidnapping. “You have to go. It's time you found someone.”
I was steaming and they knew it. But that didn't stop them from dragging me out of the truck and up the sidewalk to the community hall where the dance was being held.
The usually sedate ballroom was decorated in faded pink and bright red crepe paper ribbons draped from one side of the room to the other; and bunches of helium-filled balloons of similar obnoxious colors floated at the ends of long strings tied to the tables encircling the dance floor. The normally bright overhead lights had been dimmed to allow for behavior of the close and personal kind at the tables while the dancers were awash in bright lights that changed color and darted about as if it was a reunion of psychedelic flashbacks from the sixties.
A band made up of members looking as if they had just stepped off the school bus occupied the stage at the far end of the room. They made up for a definite lack of talent by cranking up their amps as high as they would go, which had the result of completely drowning out their singing-- not altogether a bad thing from what I could make out.
It wasn't long before my head started to pound from the unbearable noise and intolerable light show. I looked around for any means of escape and saw my chance when my soon-to-be ex-best friends --at least, that's what I thought at the time-- became involved in an animated conversation with another couple. I pulled my arms free of their relaxed grips and made a beeline across the dance floor for the only place that looked inviting to me.
“Pina colada,” I shouted at the bartender over the noise of the band and then, as soon as she placed the drink in front of me, I ordered a second. I plucked out the annoying umbrella, tossing it aside. As I raised the glass to my lips, I heard an amused chuckle quickly followed by a rude question.
“Isn't there a song about a two-fisted pina colada drinker?”
Okay, it wasn't that rude but I told you I was in a foul mood.
I set the drink back on the bar then swung around, opening my mouth, to spew out my best insulting retort.
But I couldn't.
No, all I could do was stand and gape at the most beautiful blue eyes daring me to make good on my intentions.
“Well?” she finally asked, her lips twitching as she fought a grin. But she couldn't stop the twinkle entering her eyes.
Struck by Cupid's arrow, all I could think to say was, “This one's for you.” I lifted the drink and held it out for her. You could have knocked me over with the wing of a flea when she accepted it and raised it to her sweet lips.
We spent the rest of the evening sitting in a corner of the room as far from the out-of-tune band as we could get and as close together as our chairs would allow. I have no idea what we talked about but we talked.
And drank pina coladas until we had to give them up when the rum caught up with us and smacked both of us squarely in the head. We switched to water after that but it didn't seem to matter.
We were giddy.
And falling in love.
We had what you would call a whirlwind romance. We couldn't seem to stay away from each other over the next few days and by the end of the week, we decided to order the U-Haul and move in together.
Neither of our apartments was big enough for two so we gave our landlords notice and starting looking for a more appropriate home. She found the perfect place and we moved in.
Living together seemed so right. And after a short time, it felt like we had always been together. The days slipped into weeks and months and years. And we never looked back.
It was perfect.
And, we said, forever.
Plans for our marriage were underway. It was to be a simple affair. A few close friends and the members of our families that supported our love. It would be held in the summer. Outside, in the beautiful forested yard of a friend who would also perform our ceremony.
We couldn't have been happier.
Then we got the phone call.
A yearly physical had unexpectedly necessitated the need for some additional tests. First, an ultrasound. Then a ctscan. A visit to a specialist. And another. The tests and appointments stretched for over a month and, in that time, what had started out on an X-ray as a dark smudge the size of the tip of a finger grew into a mass the size of a golf ball.
Our hands locked together, we sat in the doctor's office as she flipped through the stack of reports that made up the sizeable patient's chart on her desk. She shook her head sadly and made a half-hearted attempt at a sympathetic smile before telling us the news.
The tumor was on the lining of the heart.
It was growing. Fast.
It was inoperable.
We were devastated. For several long minutes, we sat frozen in a pair of uncomfortable straight back chairs and stared at the doctor hoping she had been reading the wrong chart.
Finally, I found my voice. Though, when I heard the choked sound that came out of my mouth, I didn't recognize it. “Are you sure?” I asked as the dams on my eyes broke and the tears washed down my cheeks in great waves. I felt myself being surrounded by loving arms as I watched the doctor nod. “How long?” I croaked out.
“Not very.” Then the doctor quietly told us to go home and enjoy what little time I had left.
The tumor grew bigger each day and finally my heart didn't have the strength to fight it any longer.
I died in my love's arms. I couldn't have asked for a better way.
That was almost a year ago and she hasn't missed a single day of coming to visit where I now rest. She's brings me flowers even though she knows they make me sneeze. And she sits on the bench she had placed beside me.
And she talks.
She tells me about her day. Her job. What our friends have been up to. What her plans are. She rarely has any.
She tries to fool me but I hear the loneliness in her voice.
She's not sleeping. I see the dark circles under her eyes.
She's not eating. I see how the once slightly rotund figure, that I loved to wrap my arms around, has shrunk.
She's not living.
Well, she's living but not really living. You know what I mean.
I need to find a way for her to understand that I can't be happy until she is.
For now, she must live in her world as I must now live in mine.
But what we had is too precious to let wither away.
It can remain strong. But only if she does.
Here she comes. And with a dozen red roses. My nose is already twitching.
It's Valentine's day. Her first without me.
My first without her.
She kneels and places the roses in the vase on my stone. Her lips brush against my name.
Ah, to be able to feel those sweet lips again.
She sits on the bench.
She's been crying.
I must touch her. Hold her.
I sit beside her. Gingerly, so as not to frighten her if she should sense my presence.
“I am here, my love,” I whisper.
Her head turns toward me.
“Do you hear me?” I ask hopefully.
She lifts a hand and hesitantly reaches into the space beside her.
I lean into her touch. My cheek rests against her fingers. I feel them lightly move across my skin. “Do you feel me, my love?”
A smile plays at her lips. “Is it you?” she asks then pulls her hand away. “I must be going crazy.”
“You are not.”
“I swear I can feel you. Smell you.”
“I am here.”
“Why did you leave me?”
“I did not.”
“I love you so much.”
“As I love you.”
“You left me. Alone.”
“Never. I am with you always. You carry me in your heart. As I carry you in mine.” I reach for her hands and slowly close my fingers around hers. She looks at her hands. Does she feel mine? “We will never be far from each other. But you must go on with your life.”
Did she hear my words? “It was not your time. You must see what the future holds for you.”
“Without you, my future is only loneliness.”
“No. There is reason for you to live. You must keep our love alive.”
I place my fingers against her lips to stop her words. “No. Do not wish that. Not yet.”
She touches her lips. Again they twitch. She almost smiles. “Will we be together again?”
“Yes. When the time is right, my arms will welcome you.” I can't help myself. I sneeze.
Her head jerks around. “You are here,” she states unquestionably.
I could shout for joy.
I do shout. “Yes. Yes, my love. I am here.”
She smiles then leans into me and I wrap my arms around her. “Do you hate the roses?”
I laugh. “No, my love. I gladly suffer the sneezing.”
“Will you wait for me?”
HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY
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