How do a freshly divorced couple deal with their grief while still dealing with the love they still have for each other? Can they find their way back to each other? A One Shot based on the song ‘I can’t make you love me’.
Turn down the lights…
I opened my eyes to the dimly lit room, warm and comfortable in my bed, but keenly aware that there was someone else next to me. I always slept soundly with her next to me, and tonight was no different. What was different was the circumstance that got me here. I looked to her, sleeping as sound as I had been, and it didn’t cease to amaze me how beautiful she was. I looked to her left hand where the track of her ring still remained, a shadow of a reminder; all that was left of the wedding ring that once sat there. Then I looked to my own and saw the same thing, no ring, just the memory on my skin.
It had been the most beautiful day, that day that I married my wife. She wore white against her freshly tanned skin; a smile so wide adorned her face, and a twinkle in her eye showing me just how happy she was to be married to me. The feeling couldn’t have been more mutual as I watched her walk down the aisle toward me. My heart was beating out of my chest, my palms were sweaty, but I was just so utterly content in that moment. I had plenty of content moments afterward too; it just seemed that where she was, my happiness followed. In the beginning it worried me that I placed so much of my happiness in her hands, seemingly by accident, but as our relationship grew, my mind felt at ease over my choices. If all my eggs were in her basket, she said, she would just take care of the basket. I smiled at that memory, because she came home the next morning with a literal basket full of eggs to continue poking fun at me.
The dark room slowly grew lighter as the sun began to rise. I knew I’d have to leave soon. I always left when the sun came up. It was becoming part of our fucked up routine.
“Hey, you’re awake,” she began, her voice husky from sleep, her hair askew too.
“I couldn’t really sleep. Too many thoughts.”
With that her happy sleepy face changed and the Sookie I knew now came back, and so did her poker face.
“Yeah that’s the thing about thoughts; they haunt you at the worst times.”
“And usually the worst thoughts too,” I added, watching her get out of bed, grab her white terrycloth robe from the end of the bed, and put it on. She tied her hair up before looking back to me.
“Thoughts are a bitch,” she said with a twitch of a smile on her face, but it soon disappeared.
With that I got up too, finding my pants that I had lost somewhere between the door and the bed the night before, finding my shirt on the stairs, and I knew my shoes and sweater were downstairs. She hung around the bedroom as I dressed, making the bed and opening the windows before she turned to face me.
“I’m going to go shower. You can help yourself to coffee if you want, or if you need to go, that’s cool too.” Her tone made it clear she’d rather I leave. My heart ached, it literally ached. An expression I got all too familiar with in the past year.
“No, that’s … that’s okay. I have things to do this morning, so I’d better get a move on.”
Whether she knew it or not, she breathed a sigh of relief.
“Okay, good… I mean… not good… but you know… Things. Having things to do is good.”
“It is,” I nodded, awkwardly standing there not two feet from her but feeling like I was now a world away. The air was always awkward the morning after, always. And yet we found ourselves in this situation a hell of alot more than once. I leaned over, allowing my fingers to graze her cheek before kissing the spot I’d touched. It seemed that with the sunrise came the feelings we’d always force away, for a night at a time at least. When they returned though, so did the hurt.
“I’ll be seeing you,” I said before I turned to leave, knowing she wouldn’t say anything to stop me. Knowing she wouldn’t say anything at all, until next time.
I watched his car pull out of the driveway, and I did what I always did, I turned on the shower and stood there, numb and sobbing until the water ran cold. I didn’t know what I was doing, not in life, not anymore. There were times when I would look around our house, and I still thought of it as ours even though he had been gone almost a year now, and I missed him in it. I missed our movie nights, I missed his cooking experiments, I missed us mixing up our phones and keys and causing havoc in the mornings when we were late, and we were always late. Now though, all that was left were stolen moments, most of them drunkenly fuelled, finding each other in darkened rooms if only for a few hours of comfort.
It always felt the exact opposite the morning after. The morning after, as I’d watch him drive away, it felt like nothing but pain. It was a Saturday, which meant I had no work to distract myself with; instead I would do as I always did now, I would clean. I think I must have had one of the cleanest houses in the neighbourhood. That, or a touch of OCD. Putting away some old magazines for recycling I hit a box in the closet, I knew what was in it right away, the things I avoided like the plague. That day though, a wave of bravery washed over me, and I felt as though I could maybe take a peek without losing myself for days like last time.
I pulled out the old dusty box, opened it carefully, and like the wave of bravery, came the waves of sadness.
I exhaled my tears away, forcing myself to look at her face from the first time in too long. Looking at her little smiling face, so happy in every photo. So silly and goofy, pulling faces and acting the clown. Every photo of us all, during times so good we didn’t even know they were the ‘good times.’ I promised myself that I couldn’t fall into the depths of despair as I had done before, I wouldn’t allow myself to do that now, not after all this time. I had to be stronger than before, I had to make myself understand why things happened the way they did, and I had to – eventually – accept it.
Had I accepted it though? I wasn’t so sure.
I checked messages on my machine, the usual crew had called. I smiled at their concern for me; it had helped me in bucket loads since it had happened. My support system as it were, consisted of Pam – Eric’s sister, Jessica and Hadley – my cousins, and Lafayette – my co-worker and best friend. I called Lafayette back, answering his request to meet up for lunch that day. It was just after noon, so it could still be done if he was around. Thankfully, he was. Half an hour later, I had picked out the cheeriest sundress I owned with some cute sandals and a small cardigan if I got cold, and made my way into town.
“You look nice today,” he said, kissing my cheek as I sat down. He’d ordered me a coffee as we waited for our menus.
“Thanks, you too,” I added, and he did. Lafayette was flamboyant from his bones on out, but he also knew how to blend in with us ‘boring’ folk when the mood struck him, today that mood struck him as he sat opposite me in a navy button up and navy pants with some very fetching boating shoes. Even though we were nowhere near any boats.
“I called last night, were you out?” he asked after we had ordered our soup and sandwiches.
“Uh, no, not out exactly… I had company.”
“Compan… oh Sook. Sookie.” His tone told me he knew exactly who my company was.
“You can’t keep on doin’ this to him.”
“TO him? I don’t force him to come over, Laf.”
“No, maybe not physically, but you think that man’s heart gives him a say in the matter?”
“Don’t. Okay? Just don’t.”
“I’m just sayin’, it’s a dangerous road to be goin’ down … after all you’ve both been through. Dangling the idea of hope in front of him like this…”
“It’s not hope. It’s sex. There’s a difference.”
It was then his turn to sigh.
“Look, the last thing I would ever do is judge you, either of you –“
“Oh, and what do you call this then?”
“Sookie Stackhouse. I am being serious here. It’s not fair, to either of you. You divorced him, remember?”
“Of course I remember.”
It was something I had a hard time forgetting, the little voice inside my head had to constantly bring that detail up, at the most awkward of times.
“Well then you remember just how much it wrecked him… and you. You told me it was a one-time thing.”
I had told him that, the first time it happened after the divorce, after it all, but then it just kept on happening. Every month or so, he and I would cave in and make the call. It was him or me that called first, usually when we’d had enough of trying to avoid each other, tired of pretending to not care.
Pretending not to love.
Pretending not to love Eric Northman was one of the hardest things I had ever forced myself to do. Because the truth was, I did still love him and once my anger had subsided enough – it had been too late to fix everything we’d broken, by the time I realised I wanted to fix things, I couldn’t.
“And it was, until it wasn’t.”
“I know, okay. I know, and so does he. We know how fucked this is,” I whispered. “There’s just things there that can’t be explained, alright? Believe me, I’ve tried.”
“And what does he think of being your bootie call?”
“That’s not how it is…”
“Six months ago you couldn’t look him in the eye long enough to even hold a conversation, and now this? Something changed.”
“Nothing changed. We’re still divorced. We’re still … fucked up.” I felt resigned; my soup didn’t interest me as much anymore.
“I don’t want to make you feel bad; I just don’t want either of you to hurt each other anymore.”
That confession stung more than I liked to admit. Eric and Lafayette had gotten close while we’d been together, they still talked I would never force my friends to ‘choose’ one of us other the other. Pam told me she’d kick both our asses if we did that. My relationship with her had suffered for a time though, as was expected. I had smashed her brother’s heart into pieces after all. But, we found our way back to something resembling normal eventually, even if the cracks were still visible.
I got back to my apartment, sparsely decorated as it was, and collapsed on the couch. I hated myself for this, always like this, always after time with her. I loved her, but I didn’t feel the love from her that we once shared, and I couldn’t make her love me, as much as I wanted to. I couldn’t make her fall back in love with me, not like before when things were good and we were happy, stupidly in love people together. No, now we were just the remaining pieces of that tragic day, the day that was my fault.
The day we lost our little girl.
I went to sleep with flashes of memories behind my eyes. All of her and her smiles and her curious big blue eyes, I was woken with a nudge.
“You look like shit,” Pam’s voice rattled at me, and I stuffed my face into the couch cushion to drown her out.
“How the fuck did you even get in?”
“I have a key remember? Ever since you decided to get completely wasted and almost die, I have a key.”
Oh, right. That.
“Okay, so I’m alive. Go away.”
“You look like shit,” she said again, taking a seat across from me.
“You said that already.”
“Well, it’s still true. I called and called. When you didn’t call back or answer your door… I got worried.”
I knew why she got worried; there was a weekend when Sookie and I first divorced where I wasn’t taking things so well. There had been a lot of booze to numb the pain; I had lost four days to it all. I still don’t know what I did in those four days, but whatever it was, it was enough for my self-centred sister to keep an eye from then on out.
“I was out, okay? Isn’t that what you’re always telling me to do? Go out? I went out.”
“With who? I called Jason and Rick, they hadn’t heard from you, I also called Stan you didn’t go to the bar.”
“Pam. Go home.”
“You went to her didn’t you?”
I didn’t answer her, but I did look at her.
“You did, I know you did. You have that Sookie sadness written all over you. Jesus Christ, Eric.”
With that I lost my temper and I got up.
“What the fuck business is it of yours? She’s my wife Pam.”
“No. She’s NOT. Not anymore, remember? The bitch divorced your ass!”
“Don’t talk about her like that.”
She exhaled loudly, raking her fingers through her hair.
“You are both fucking idiots you know that? After all you’ve put each other though?! Why can’t you just stay away from each other, at least give yourselves a chance to heal.”
I closed my eyes.
“I just… don’t know. I don’t know. You think I don’t know how fucked this is? That I love her so much that it literally hurts when she’s not around? That I want us to be an us so badly that it’s all I can think about? That I wish so hard that I could turn back time and not insist on going out for dinner that night? You think I don’t know ALL of this?”
That got her to back down, and we sat in silence for a few minutes.
It wasn’t okay.
“I just don’t want you hurting anymore, either of you. And, it seems that even though you both have good intentions now, they lead you both to hell.”
“I know, and I think she knows. It’s just that there are times when I think as much as we want to do the sensible thing, move on, embrace peace… our hearts have other ideas.”
“Or your libidos,” she quipped, causing me to roll my eyes. It was sex, yes. But it wasn’t just sex.
At least not for me.
Three weeks later, at eleven on a Friday night a knock came to my door. Instinctively I knew it was her, even though she had yet to visit my ‘new’ place.
I was right.
She stood there in what I knew to be one of her special occasion dresses, and heels, and her hair was curled. I knew why she’d come dressed up, why she wore the perfume I’d bought her, why she was wearing stockings and not full on pantyhose. I feared that maybe, for her, it was just sex.
“This is nice,” she noted as she walked around after coming in and handing me a bottle of wine. The apartment was okay, but it would never be home. Home is where she was.
“It’s okay, I guess.”
“It’s closer to the city, that must make work easier for you… for the bar and all,” she mused, looking out the window to the lights of the city in the distance.
“You guess a lot, huh?” She smiled as I handed her the glass.
“You didn’t decorate here though.”
“It screams of Pam’s version of you.”
I smiled. She was right about that. Pam had embraced her role as interior designer at the time, mostly because I was too fucked up to even work, never mind decorate a space. If it had been left up to me then, there would have been deck chairs and a plastic table; instead Pam had made it somewhat homely.
“It’s very bachelor pad-ish.”
“Well I am one now, right?”
She was right; there was a lot of dark wood and leather, like I said not home at all.
“I guess you are.” She turned away from me then.
“Now who’s the one doing the guessing?”
“Hmm,” she mused, sipping her drink, and by sipping I mean gulping.
“Why are you here?”
She looked at me, that incredulous look of hers telling me with just a quirk of a brow that we both knew why she was here, and my question was stupid.
I still needed her to answer.
“You know why…”
A beat passed and I said it.
“I want to hear it from you.”
She sighed, walking over to the couch and taking off her very high heels her eyes sad.
“You know, I’ve tried to move on. I have really tried. I’ve gone out with friends, and pretended to have fun, to have a good time… I’ve even tried flirting with other guys…”
That one hit my gut.
“I tried it all, getting so wasted that I thought I wouldn’t mind if another man touched me, that I could bury it all under the booze to forget and maybe it would feel good. It doesn’t, and tonight I tried again. I went out with some girls from work, and put on my best flirty personality and got drunk… I even flirted with someone. He was a nice guy, or seemed to be at least. He was handsome and sweet and funny…”
I hoped there was an end to this because so far, her storytelling skills sucked.
“But he kissed me,” she said, and my heart jumped, hating that image so completely. “He kissed me, and I freaked out. I ended up punching him in the face and getting ‘escorted from the premises,’” she finger quoted with a sigh. “I doubt Dawn will ever speak to me again.”
“And that’s why you’re here?”
“I’m here because I need you, tonight. And I know that when you kiss me, I don’t freak out. I’d like to not freak out anymore tonight, please.” With that she tugged on my shirt as I stood in front of her, pulling me closer to her, close enough to kiss me.
And when she did, I wanted to melt. She was so familiar, even with the slight taste of whiskey on her breath. She knew my rhythm, and I knew hers. The comfort in that familiarity was something I knew we both yearned for. So, I gave in, even when I knew I shouldn’t have, even when I knew I should have fought her on this, stopped it altogether even, made her look at what we were doing torturing ourselves like this constantly. But, I couldn’t. I wanted this as much as she did, because for the few hours we spent like this, it was a few hours less we spent in loneliness and pain. And really that would never be a bad thing.
She pulled at my t-shirt until I had to yank it off, falling on top of her on the too-small-for-sex couch, but we just laid there, me on top of her for a time, just kissing. I loved kissing her, such an innocent act compared to so much other stuff, but still so significant. I slid her stockings off her legs slowly, knowing that she knew how much they turned me on; a small smile escaped her lips when I did so deliberately slowly. I felt her up also at a snail’s pace, which she didn’t seem to like so much. Sookie never was the most patient woman when it came to sex.
When she wanted it, she wanted it all and right then and there.
When I knew for sure she was ready I shifted my hands under her butt, and lifted her up against me, carrying her the short distance to my bedroom. It felt so strange to have her there at all, never mind like this. Strange, but weirdly normal at the same time I realised.
Her hot, soft mouth over mine was welcomed again once we got undressed and got inside my cold and rarely slept in bed. She didn’t seem to notice or care where we were, a trait that stayed the same with her. Once she was in the zone for sex we could have been anywhere – and sometimes we were just about anywhere when the mood struck, particularly as newlyweds.
There was this one time in a park in Boston…
“Eric… Please…” she said, writhing underneath me as I worked my hand inside her, making extra sure she was up for this. She was. “I don’t want to wait anymore, please just … please.”
I kissed her again, moving from her lips to her ear which I knew made her shiver, right down to her neck where I kissed her softly, ensuring I left no marks. Sookie hated that, and in truth so did I. I wasn’t a dog; I didn’t have to mark my territory.
I didn’t bother with a condom. For one, I didn’t own any, and for another thing, I knew that she knew I wasn’t with anyone else but her. In my head she was still my wife, even if that thought was more fucked than it had the right to be. After all, who could blame my heart for wanting this, when every so often I would find myself inside her with her in my arms. How was I meant to move on from this when we kept moving toward each other?
Her body was burning under my touch. Her movements were erratic tonight, they always were when she had had a few drinks, and Sookie that night was borderline drunk off her ass.
One minute I was on top, the next she decided she was the one in control – even if physically she was under me, she was always the one in control – I realised. But I obliged her, because it seemed that she had a point to prove to herself, and it gave me the always amazing view of her bouncing breasts. Her hands went to my chest, where she massaged me at first but then she started to grab and it was less pleasant as we fucked, then the grabbing turned into clawing, her nails a lot sharper than they looked. I winced with pain, and she noticed but she didn’t stop. She didn’t stop until I had to grab both of her hands and yank them off me. That stopped us both in our tracks.
“What the fuck are you doing, Sookie!” I whispered harshly, but she didn’t seem to register my anger, my hurt.
Another darkened room, another night of fucking the pain away only for it to come right back and bite us in the ass.
She was frozen, just sat there a blank expression on her face.
Then she blinked, immediately then moving off me and to the inner corner of my bed.
“I… I … wanted to hurt you. Just now, I wanted to hurt you… Eric.” She started off okay, but by the time she said my name she sobbed. She pulled the sheet around herself.
“Sook –“ I tried to touch her but she flinched. Memories of nights after everything with Olivia came right back, pissing me off and hurting me all at once.
“Talk to me would you?”
“I can’t do this.” She began to move off the bed, taking the sheet with her as she moved. I wasn’t having it, not this time. I moved too, yanking on my boxers and catching her in the hallway, I grabbed her arms, forcing her to look at me.
“Just fucking talk to me, just talk to me.” I begged.
“I can’t … I can’t do this.”
“Because I just can’t be around you, this was a mistake all of this has been the biggest mistake and I’m sorry…” She sounded dazed, like she had sounded in those early days of our grief. Something hit her in bed just now, and I had a feeling it wasn’t my amazing sexing skills.
“Sookie, you walk out that door now and that’s it. That’s it, do you hear me? I can’t keep doing this to myself. I can’t, and if you walk now, that’s it.” I threatened, but this time, unlike the other times, I meant it. I loved her more than life, but I’d be damned if I kept this mental torture up for much longer.
She looked up from the couch where she was now putting back on her shoes, having shimmed into her dress quicker than I imagined possible. And to think she used to take hours getting ready for dinner out.
“I’m sorry.” She said weak and crying silently to herself.
“I don’t accept that.”
My bite back seemed to shock her.
“I want to talk about this… we’ve never … not rationally…Talked.”
“And say what? Say what Eric? That we fucked up? Yeah, we fucked up! We killed our daughter!”
“We didn’t –“
“WE DID.” She yelled and sobbed at once. “We did and I blamed you because I was scared to blame myself… I blamed you so hard that I couldn’t see straight for months. I hated you. HATED your every breath because in my head you stole her from me that night. You and your stupid ideas, your stupid driving, your stupid need for Pad Thai that you cause it all.” She sighed. “But then I pushed you away and was left alone with my anger and my grief and not for a one second did I think of you and how you felt… until that was all I could think about.”
“No, you wanted to talk, let’s talk! You want to know how I overcame my anger towards you, towards God and everyone…only to be consumed with my own guilt. Over her, over you… losing not just her that night but you too? You, me, us? I lost it all because I could see nothing but my anger; do you know how humiliated I felt when that sad truth dawned on me? What a total bitch I had been to you.”
“You were grieving.”
“And so were you…” she added, now more calm than before.
“But you didn’t march out and divorce me and kick me out of our home out of anger. You were kind and rational and I hated you for it. I hated everyone for it. For their fake platitudes of wisdom in death, how it would be ‘okay,’ how I would never forget her but the pain would lessen over time. What bullshit!”
“I wanted to hate you for it, and for a little while… while drunk I admit, I did.”
“No, it’s not good. I love you –“
“I love you, and I don’t care if you know it or not, and underneath everything that’s what this comes down to. I can’t move on from you because I still am in love and I still love you. I see past your angry self, Sook. I saw a woman that lost the baby she grew and birthed, I saw what that did to you, because I knew what amazing mother you were…”
I sat next to her then; the shoes had fallen by the wayside.
“Please stop. Can’t you please be mad at me or something? You have every damn right to be, this Yoda crap isn’t doing either of us any good,” she asked, her big blue eyes identical to Olivia’s when she cried, I hated to see either of them cry.
“I dealt with it on my own before, alone. I drank myself stupid, I cut everyone off… it didn’t help much, but the time has, a little at least.”
“Why can’t it help me?”
“Because we deal with shit differently, I just wish we’d dealt with it together,” I confessed, and I noticed that she nodded slightly.
“I’m tired, Eric. I’m just so fucking tired.”
“I know, Love. I know,” I said, letting her lean into my cuddle. I let her stay there for a while too, just giving her time to sob it out.
“I’m just so tired of being alone, in that house with all our memories, all our things and no one there to share it with. These nights with you… I knew it was unfair, to both of us… but…”
“It felt right.”
“It felt normal, having you there in our bed and having you with me when I woke up. Instead of the countless mornings I’ve woken up and for that split second I expect to hear her feet on the floor tiptoeing into our bed, or whispering for pancakes… or telling us with a red face that she peed in her bed a little.”
“It was always a ‘little.’”
Sookie laughed for a second.
“Even if when we went in it was like fucking Niagara.”
“Three mattresses in two years,” I shook my head.
“And she’d yank the plastic sheets off saying only doggies slept on things like that,” Sookie smiled again, wiping her tears.
“We don’t talk about her,” I added and she nodded in agreement with me.
“Why don’t we talk about our baby, Sookie?”
“I was scared. We didn’t talk about anything, we just avoided it all… and it’s been too long Eric. I need you to know how sorry I am, for everything.”
“No. I need to say this okay? I treated you like shit because I was angry and you were the only one I could take it out on, you were the only one that knew.”
“But I never stopped loving you, and it wasn’t until I had ruined everything that that fact came back to me. Even when I hated you, I loved you.”
There it was. Something I had waited almost two years for her to say to me. Something I was sure at times that I would never hear again.
“I don’t want you here and me to be there without you. I want you home with me, I want you to have dinner with me and complain about the messy dog next door with me and go grocery shopping with me and hold me when I can’t sleep… make me noodle soup when I don’t feel like cooking… And I want to do the things I used to do for you too. Like knowing that you like tomato and basil with pepper not salt when you have the epic man flu of all man flu’s… that you only like liquid soap and certain razors… now you find my hand in yours so effortlessly when we walk side by side. I miss it all. I miss you, I miss my husband.”
“I’ve been right here.”
“I couldn’t see that… not for a long time.”
“Do you see it now?” I asked, cautiously optimistic in the turn the conversation had taken in such a short space of time.
She nodded. “I want to see it all again.”
“I want that too. I don’t want anyone else, Sookie. I never have. I just want us on the same page. No more avoiding, no more lies… no more hidden feelings.”
“Yes. I never stopped loving you Eric, but just for a time… I forgot how to.”
“I shouldn’t have let you push me away. I should have been stronger…”
“You were stronger than most men, given the shit that I fired at you. God… the things I said.”
“It’s in the past. The question is though…”
“Where do we go from here?” She sighed. “Yeah, that’s the million dollar question.”
“It can never be the same, I think we both are smart enough to know that.”
“No, it can’t… we’ve spent the last few months proving that,” she admitted. “But maybe it could be something different, something stronger in time, if we can.”
I was silent for a time, we both were. I think we just needed to digest everything that we had said and everything that we were feeling.
“I think we can.”
I got home that morning at around six am, the sun was just breaking through the skyline and this time I wasn’t alone. Eric and his overnight bag had come too, come home. The house was so dark, but neither of us had to put on any lights to know our way, it was on instinct that he left his bag by the door and grabbed my hand to lead me up our staircase. Neither of us said a word, mainly because for the time being at least everything that needed to be said had been said, and we were both utterly exhausted as a result. We got into bed and cuddled together for heat, and for the comfort that we both missed more than anything else. The comfort I had been going about the wrong way in finding before. I slept as sound as I had in so many months that I had lost count the last time I slept so sound. I woke up the next morning, my nose getting the better of me, to the scent of bacon and coffee. My stomach rumbled before I even stepped out of bed.
Finding him in the kitchen, on a Saturday morning doing his thing was something that used to be so normal for me, so normal that I realised just how much I took him for granted back then.
“Hey you,” he smiled, dishing the food into one massive plate. I smelled coffee too. “Brown or white?” he asked, holding up two slices of bread. I smiled.
“Brown please,” I answered, taking my seat at the table. I hadn’t sat there in a long time. The other two empty chairs used to haunt me too much. Now though, I felt like I could do it.
We sat down to eat for the first time in forever, and for a second or two it was weird, but soon we fell into a conversation that didn’t feel as stilted as I assumed it should be.
“I was thinking, if you wanted, we could hit the flea market tomorrow,” he asked mid-chew. “I haven’t been in a while and I know you like it there.”
There used to be vendors that sold amazing homemade baked goods, it was our thing on a Sunday sometimes. I smiled.
“Yeah, maybe, if the weather holds up.”
“I think it will… for us it might even stay sunny.”
He was happy, I knew by his voice, by his face even. He was glowing almost.
“I want to try and do this, Eric. I don’t know… if it’ll be easy or –“
“We can try.”
“Good,” I nodded, nervous suddenly at the prospect of it all, though weirdly excited too. “I want to… talk about her more. I don’t want to forget things just because … well, just because she’s dead.”
Saying those words out loud hurt, and I suspected they would always hurt. The night that the driver rammed into our car, hitting her side of the car, her side and not the side I sat on behind Eric, next to her injured but alive, hurt but awake and very aware as I watched my baby girl go.
“I think that’s a great idea,” he added before I stood up, confusing him. But instead I went to the hall closet, found the familiar old box and a few of our photos. It was another regret of mine, erasing her from the house like I had done. Closing off her room and never going inside, getting rid of the photos. I needed to be reminded because she lived in our memory now, and if we didn’t have that to hold on to, we really truly didn’t have anything at all. I didn’t want to lose what little I had of her, and I was sure that Eric didn’t either.
I took two of the photos, one in a frame and one loose, both of them hidden from view for too long. The loose one was from her second birthday, her face covered in birthday cake that I loved because we were all unaware it was being taken, it was just naturally us. The second was one of her and Eric both of them sleeping on the couch. I loved that one.
I watched him watch me, and what I had in my hands before he exhaled.
“I wondered where they went.”
“I would never really get rid of them. I think this should go back in its place,” I said handing him the one of him and her, and he nodded before standing up. I followed him to the empty fireplace. He looked at me before looking back at the framed picture.
“Yeah it can go back in its place, where we can see her… remember her.”
“Love her,” I added.
“As if we’d ever stop doing that.”
“We can do this, can’t we? We can get past this but not forget her?”
He nodded, wrapping his arms around me.
“Sure we can, we just have to take our time. Just take our time and make it through with each other this time.”
With each other, the small but significant difference from last time was that together, I felt we could fight the seemingly never ending battle of grief this time, and maybe this time we might even win.
No, not just ‘might’ win, I felt. Standing there with him the other person in the world to know what I was feeling completely, I felt we could win. We would win, and we would grow from this, even if the sun didn’t always shine now. The rain helped things grow too, right?