It Was A Wonderful Life

Jim sat with a beer in one hand and his gun in the other. It was just two days before Christmas and Anne was out to yet another Christmas party or so she'd told him. What Anne didn't realise was that Jim was now blind not stupid. He'd rung her precinct and been told there were no office parties this evening in any of the divisions. She'd either forgotten that he used to be a detective or she no longer cared and thought the sooner he found out about the affair the sooner she could leave him without feeling too guilty.

Christie had left him just before the shooting after finding out about his affair with Anne. Christie had tried to visit him at the hospital but he wasn't allowing any visitors at the time, so she'd left him a note. When he'd finally worked up the courage to have it read to him she'd just written 'I still love you. If you have the courage to try again call some time'. He'd not had the courage especially when he found out the blindness was permanent and not just temporary. He'd not wanted her pity. Instead he'd ended up with Anne and he now realised that was because Anne felt guilty for wrecking his marriage. He'd not had the courage to tell Anne it wasn't her who'd wrecked his marriage, it was him!

Now Jim sat alone trying to listen to his favourite Christmas movie 'It's A Wonderful Life'. However, his thoughts kept wandering to what could have been... to what might have been... and to what would never be again...

Ironically Jim thought they could have made a movie about his life 'It WAS A Wonderful Life'. He'd had it all... beautiful loving wife, an exciting action packed job that he loved and a beautiful mistress to make his life seem complete. It had only taken sixty seconds for a bullet to the head to take it all away from him.

He'd spent one month in hospital recovering and for one month he sat in this seedy apartment feeling sorry for himself and drinking until he was numb. He'd refused rehab. It was for cripples and he was not a cripple!!

He wondered how his life would have turned out if he'd had the courage back at the hospital to call Christie; if they truly could have made a go of their marriage. He still loved her. It had taken him losing his sight for him to truly see. Poetic justice really.

Now he'd finally found his courage. He was going to do what George had planned in 'It's A Wonderful Life'. He was going to end his own life. Though George was going to jump from a bridge Jim had decided he'd never find the bridge let alone be allowed to jump from it what with all the do-gooders now in this world!!! So he was going to blow his brains out, not a very festive thing to do but he really didn't feel very festive at the moment. He felt empty, cheated and alone. He put his beer bottle down on the floor at the side of his chair and his gun to his temple.

It took a full minute for it to register in Jim's mind that he could actually now see. He almost pulled the trigger out of shock. Now that would be a cruel twist of fate. He could clearly see George standing on the bridge with Clarence next to him trying to convince him he was really an Angel. Suddenly Clarence turned his attention from George and looked straight at Jim. "Don't get your hopes up, boy. You're still blind, this is just a dream, to show you how your life could have turned out if you'd had the courage back at the hospital. That's what you wondered wasn't it?"

Jim was incapable of speech so he just nodded.

"Well then watch carefully, boy. Watch and learn and remember it's never too late to take that path and everyone stumbles now and then whether they're blind or sighted." With that the scene of George and Clarence on the bridge was gone.

It was replaced by images of himself stumbling around on what looked like an obstacle course, being shown how to button a shirt, and use a cane. Jim realised that this must be rehab.

Jim saw himself stumble and fall. Suddenly he noticed Christie standing in the corner of the room. The look of desperately wanting to help him was written all over her face but she was standing rigid. He could hear her encouraging him though and then saw himself get up and try again. He realised that Anne would have gone to him and helped him. Anne wasn't as strong as Christie. He'd foolishly thought she was. Now he knew how wrong he'd been. It took more strength to step back and watch the one you love struggle but knowing in the long run it was for their own good. Christie had that strength and Jim hadn't known that about her even after four years of marriage. He wondered what else he didn't know about Christie.

The scene changed and this time he saw himself in a similar setting to the one he was in now. Though he was in his old apartment, the one he'd shared with Christie, he was in sweatpants and a t-shirt that looked like they'd seen better days. He'd a week's growth of beard and a beer in his hand. He wasn't alone though like he was now. Christie was sitting next to him. He expected to see pity in her eyes but instead he saw how furious she was. He could hear her lecturing him about how much he had let himself go. How if he was going to get his job back that he'd need to start getting his act together or else. How he only needed to believe in himself half as much as she believed in him and he'd be Chief of D's this time next year! The irony wasn't lost on Jim, his wife the fashion editor had more faith in him than Anne who should have been the one to encourage him in getting his job back because she knew from being on the job herself just how important it was to him. Yet she just let him drink himself numb every day so she could betray him with another foolishly married officer who'd have no idea just what he was risking until it was too late.

Once again the scene changed to be replaced with him looking like his old self. He was once again doing an obstacle course though this time he was being led by a big German Shepherd. He wasn't stumbling. He was sure of himself and the dog. They looked like a team, a good team. Again Christie was there, a big smile on her face and a look of pride shining from her eyes and he once again heard her words of encouragement. Anne never encouraged, she only ever put him down or nagged.

Once more the scene moved on, he was in a suit and tie, sitting at a desk in what looked like a squad room. He wore dark glasses and the big German Shepherd was by his side. Jim realised that with the help and encouragement from Christie he'd actually managed to get himself a desk job. He was back on the job. He noticed a petite brunette walk over to him hand him some paperwork and take a seat at a desk near to his. A huge man appeared from a private office, and asked 'Who's up?' Suddenly Jim heard himself answering that he was, which could only mean one thing, he'd actually managed to get his old job back. He was still a proper detective not a civilian aide.

Quickly the scene faded and he saw himself standing inside the hallway of his old apartment, the big German Shepherd by his side and a huge bunch of flowers in his hand. He was trying to get his coat off and on the coat rack whilst trying to hold onto the flowers, which was no mean feat. Suddenly Christie was there but he could only catch snippets of the conversation. She asks if he's re-gifting the flowers, he laughs. He asks her if she knows what a Mulligan is, she replies no, so he explains. He tells her he knows he isn't easy to live with sometimes and her reply that she thinks it's all been worth it... that he's worth it, he explains that he isn't that person any more and that he'd never do that again...

Suddenly Jim realises just how true that is, that the note Christie left at the hospital was because she did truly love him still even after what he'd done. Not because she pitied him like he'd originally thought. If Christie gave him his second chance he would never cheat on her again. He would be a different person, a better person, a better cop and he now knew he could also be a better husband. But would Christie give him that second chance? The last thing Jim sees before the world once again turns dark is the Jim and Christie from his dream tenderly embrace and kiss.

Jim finds himself once again in his world of darkness only now it's different. Even though he can't see it, he knows that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Jim decided to start his new life as he meant to go on. He was going to face things head on. He was no longer going to take the cowardly option, and if it meant he got a little bruised around the edges then so be it.

First things first, he needed to face Anne and finally get the truth out of her and then they could both move on. It'd been hours since his odd dream. His gun was away where it was normally kept and he was now on black coffee. He'd not been this sober in months.

He heard the apartment door open and unsteady footsteps down the hall, then silence. He could hear Anne breathe but still she said nothing. He waited.

"Oh. You're still awake. I thought you'd be asleep by now." Anne hiccupped.

"You mean passed out. That's more likely these days" Jim's reply was tinged with bitterness.

"Who can blame you. I know I don't. I'd probably be the same if it'd happened to me. You had it all. Without your sight you're nothing"

"Thanks" Jim whispered sarcastically "You best get to bed. There are things we need to sort out tomorrow, I don't want to discuss them with a drunk so good night".

Jim heard Anne hiccup a 'nite and stumble down the hall. He heard the bedroom door close and all the tension he hadn't realised he'd been holding in was released as soon as he was alone again. He knew it was going to be a long night and sleep was the furthest thing from his mind. He had plans to make and for the first time since the shooting he felt capable of doing what needed to be done.

Jim woke suddenly. For a second he was totally disorientated then last night all came back to him and he realised that he must have fallen asleep in the chair. He was eager to start the new life he'd planned out for himself but first he needed to call his friend Walter to make some arrangements and set the wheels in motion.

After speaking to Walter he realised just how easy things could have been. Instead he'd made things so difficult for himself. He also realised that for the first time in months he was actually back in control of his life. He decided to confront Anne now rather than sit and wait until she woke. She'd gotten in late so it could be hours until she woke on her own.

He'd spent most of last night trying to learn the lay out of the apartment. Now he knew he needed to go to rehab so he could become independent again. Last night he realised that rehab wasn't for cripples; it was a place for him to get his independence back and for him to stop being the cripple he'd let his blindness make him into.

He navigated down the hallway and into the bedroom. Finding the bed easily enough he sat down. If he could do this after only a few hours of him fumbling around on his own just imagine what he could achieve with a qualified instructor to help him.

"Hey, Anne. We need to talk." Jim fumbled to find Anne's leg so he could give her a shake. It took some finding but eventually he found it.

Jim kept gradually increasing the force of his shake until he heard Anne mumbling and moaning about "What time was it..." and "Tim, honey, don't. I'm still hung over".

"So his name's Tim? Isn't he the new rookie cop in your squad?" Jim casually asked.

Anne was fully awake now. Jim could tell by her breathing but she was being unusually quiet, very unlike her. He must have hit a nerve.

"How did you know?" Anne whispered.

"I'm blind, Anne. Not stupid. Look I've been doing a lot of thinking and I've been making a lot of decisions. I realised that the last few months haven't been easy on either of us and we've both made some bad choices for bad reasons but I'd like to think that I've done a little bit of growing up since then. And I think it's time we went our separate ways."

"You're dumping me? I can't believe You Are Dumping Me! I only came by the hospital because I felt guilty. I knew she'd left you already so I felt real bad. You being alone in that condition. I know it took me two weeks to get there but at least I came, which is more than she did! The shock of seeing you like that made me foolishly blurt out the offer to move in with me. I never thought you'd accept it! Damn YOU!! So where the hell do you think you're going to go, Eh?" Anne was screeching by the time she spat that last bit out.

Jim sat calmly waiting for Anne to get the rest of it off her chest or to calm down. Her breathing was heavy and it sounded like she was crying. He was surprised that she seemed so upset. He'd been sure she'd have been relieved. Maybe it was because he was the one leaving her, a slight to her pride being dumped by a blind guy!

"Walter's going to pick me up in half an hour. I'll be staying with him for a few days. Then I'll be going off to rehab for a couple of months. After that, I'll try and get my job back. Oh and Christie did stop by the hospital, the day I regained consciousness but at that point I wasn't receiving visitors so I foolishly turned her away."

"You seriously think you'll get your job back? I'd think again if I were you. You can't even tie your own shoelace any more!" Anne asked incredulously with a bitter sneer in her voice.

"We're done here. I packed my stuff last night. I'll just wait in the other room until he comes." With that Jim got up from the bed and headed out the door. He'd memorized this path so well that it almost looked like he could see again. He closed the bedroom door on his way out, leaning against it for a second before heading down the hall to what he now considered 'freedom'.

Walter was on time and soon they were on their way to his place and a fresh and new beginning for Jim. On the car journey Walter made it perfectly clear what he had thought of Jim's mad decision to move in with Anne, though he did it in such a humorously good natured way that Jim could only smile and agree with him. He wanted to ask Walter if he'd seen or heard from Christie but wasn't sure how to slip it into the conversation.

He was suddenly jolted out of his reverie by the mention of Christie's name. What had Walter just said? Damn he really should have been listening instead of daydreaming. Before Jim had to embarrass himself by asking Walter to repeat himself, he did.

"You didn't hear a word I just said. I can tell when you're quiet and listening and when you're quiet and miles from here. I said... I saw Christie last night she was at her office Christmas party and she looked stunning. She asked if I'd seen you recently"

"Stop toying with me Walter, I'm not in the mood. Was she... with anyone?"

"Not sure, she seemed to have a few guys hanging around with their tongues hanging out. Oh there was a guy she introduced me to... oh what was his name... Jay... no... no... it was Clay but she said he was her boss. He did seem quite possessive. I think it was more him than her. You did foolishly make her a free agent, so..." Walter laughed at Jim's foolishness.

Before Jim could reply the car stopped and Walter guided him up to his apartment. Jim had realised last night that Walter was the only one out of his long list of so called friends that he could actually ask this of. His pride being what it was he knew he'd never allow anyone else to see him so vulnerable but with Walter it was different. He was like the father he should have had but never got. Jim considered himself very lucky to have a friend like Walter.

The afternoon was spent learning his new surroundings. The evening was a quiet dinner after which he'd politely excused himself claiming fatigue and he was now in his room trying to work up the courage to ring Christie.

He experimented with various forms of greeting... 'Christie... it's me'... he'd even considered just... 'Hey'... How did one greet the wife you'd cheated on and then ignored for over two months. He decided to go for lame and say he was ringing to wish her a 'Merry Christmas'!

He decided to dial 67 to block Walter's number. He didn't want Christie checking the caller I.D. and ringing back to this number. He took a deep breath and dialed. After five rings the answering machine kicked in. The message was new. He realised he was holding his breath. He hung up the phone and let out the breath he hadn't even realised he'd been holding. He was more nervous than he'd thought he'd be, and he couldn't even leave her a message; but god it had been so good to hear her voice after all this time.

He tried all evening and each time kept getting the answer machine. In a way though he didn't mind, it was just so good to hear Christie's voice again. He decided that last thought was so lame it was definitely time to give up. Also it was getting late. Then with one more try, suddenly Christie answered with an out of breath "Hello?"

Jim froze. He realised how ironic it was. He'd been able to take out a mad man who was shooting at anything that had moved and it hadn't fazed him in the slightest. He'd taken it in his stride and now just the sound of his wife's voice had him rattled.

"Hello... Hello... who's there?" Christie was starting to get annoyed.

"Hey... it's me... Jim"

"Jim! Hey yourself... stranger. This is unexpected... but in a good way. So... how are you? How's Anne?"

Jim could tell that Christie struggled to get that last bit out without choking on the words first. He could tell just by her tone that she was pleased to hear from him. Well that was a positive start.

"I left her, I wasn't thinking straight after the shooting. It wasn't until later that I realised what a fool I'd been. I didn't know that she'd only offered out of guilt and I thought you'd only come out of pity! Your note said to call so... I hope it's not too late for us Christie?"

"Oh Jimmy... I'm sorry things didn't work out between you and Anne but... I can't be second choice, sorry Jimmy. I wish you well for the future though. Merry Christmas."

"Not a problem. Merry Christmas, Christie."

Jim gently placed the receiver back on its hook. So much for Clarence and his "Well then watch carefully, boy. Watch and learn and remember it's never too late to take that path and everyone stumbles now and then whether they're blind or sighted." If only he'd made the right decision at the time, just think how differently his life could have turned out.

He must have been watching too many movies on Lifetime! So much for he and Christie having a fresh start and so much for him getting his job back as a detective!!!

Jim realised how tired he suddenly felt and decided it was time for bed. Things would look... well just as black as far as he was concerned but tomorrow was another day. He was asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow.

Jim was brought out of a deep sleep by the sound of a voice he didn't recognise.

"Detective... Detective Dunbar... you're in the hospital. You've been shot but your going to be fine, just stay with us... can you hear me Detective?"

Jim couldn't believe it. Shot. Again. How unlucky could one guy be! And how on earth could he have gotten shot at Walter's apartment where he'd been tucked up in bed? He was definitely confused. The voice continued to talk to him... what was it saying now...

"There was a shooting at the Bank... your partner's fine, no need to worry about him. And we've gotten a hold of your wife. She said she'll be here just as soon as she can."

So Clarence had been right... it wasn't too late for him to take that path and he knew that he'd be stumbling quite a lot. But he'd been shown the light at the end of the tunnel before they'd taken his sight and he would forever have that vision of his future firmly in his mind for a long time to come especially when the path got rocky.

That voice was still continuing "I've some bad news for you Detective but I know you'll be able to take it. The bullet grazed your optic nerve which means that... you're blind. We have an excellent rehab facility here and they'll soon have you back on the job." That voice sounded an awful lot like Clarence!

The End or The Beginning