Three Years Later
We've been driving for hours and I'm tired.
Joey glances over from the passenger seat and gives me a worried smile. I swear he gets better looking every day.
I look down at my swollen belly and smile. The baby is kicking and has been for the last twenty minutes.
"Yeah," I reassure him. "We'll be there soon."
We are driving to Tulsa from our new house in Missouri. We are staying with my Mom for a week or so, and she is over the moon about my pregnancy. She's been waiting for grandkids ever since me and Joey got married two years back. Ellen is thrilled at the prospect of being an aunt and her parents are pleased too.
I know Joey is secretly hoping for a boy, but I don't care either way, so long as it's healthy.
Hemmingway whines from his carrier in the back seat and Joey makes soothing noises to quieten him.
I smile softly to myself. Over the years, the two have formed an uneasy alliance. Well, that's what they like me to think. I often come home to find Hemmingway purring away in Joey's lap but as soon as I open the door he will leap off and look disinterested while Joey will go back to his newspaper.
Hemmingway settles down again and Joey puts out a hand and touches mine briefly before refocusing on the road.
It has been a long drive and we're both exhausted but before we get to Mom's we have to make a stop. It's tradition now and Joey is on auto pilot. He pulls up outside a wrought iron gate and then he gets out and hurries round the car, our shiny four wheel drive. We sadly had to exchange the Porsche when I found out I was expecting.
Joey opens my door and helps me out carefully since I am absolutely huge now. He then opens the back door and leans inside, reappearing with a bunch of flowers that he hands to me.
"Take your time," he says, stretching and leaning on the car.
I smile fondly at him before I walk up to the iron gate and step into the cemetery, the colourful bouquet in my arms.
I head up the path, past the weeping willow, and come to stop at Mark's grave.
The marble headstone is now in place.
"Hi," I say in greeting. "Sorry I've been so long. I been kinda busy."
I indicate my belly and I can almost see his shocked face and his expression which would read 'no shit?'
"I hope you're doing okay," I say. "I still think about you every day."
The wind picks up and I smell his scent but it doesn't surprise me anymore. I often smell it when I'm here, but the last visit was some time ago.
"I'm in town for a while," I inform him. "So I'll come back again soon. I gotta go now though, I'm bushed."
I stoop with difficulty and place the flowers next to the headstone.
"See ya soon, Mark."
As the wind blows a little heavily, I waddle away with my recently developed pregnancy walk to where Joey is still waiting, leaning patiently against the car.
Back in the cemetery in the shade of an old weeping willow, Mark's headstone glistens with his name his date of birth and death and a further six words that I borrowed from someone special.
Engraved in neat bold letters they tell the world that;
"Lions Aren't Meant To Be Caged."