This was written for the A Picture Says it All Challenge. A last minute thought, inspired by image #25. You can read the rest of the entries on the community page they will setup - www (dot) fanfiction (dot) net (/) u (/) 2507750 (/) A_Picture_Says_It_All
Thank you to PhoenixMP3 for helping me push this out.
By now, we all know SM owns the characters and the manipulation is mine.
Reading a diary on an anniversary never wanted, gives a lover a medium for bottled grief.
"Alright?" My buddy, Edward, asked as he sat across from me in the corner booth at Daliance, the swanky martini bar she loved to frequent. I didn't look up from my Black and Tan, knowing he would be regarding me with that keen Psychologist's eye, taking a visual note of the answer to his question that he damn well already knew.
Taking a swig and emptying the glass, I sat back in the booth as Victoria, the regular waitress at this time of day, came by to drop off Edward's Captain and Coke, hold the Coke.
I mused internally over the fact that he's been drinking that since high school; it started out as a way for him to impress girls. Growing up in a town where football was king and being a brain, not a jock put him at a disadvantage, he was often in pursuit of ways to be seen. If only those losers could see him now. Actually, I'm sure several of them did. In a professional capacity of course.
"Are you sure you want to be reading that now?" He questioned, when I pulled the worn book from the pocket of my wool, winter coat.
God love him, but I sometimes wish he would leave that therapy shit in his kiss the sky office for his over the top fee. That shit wasn't going to help me now.
"It's the only way to be close to her." My reply was dim and the sound of my voice reminded me of a person hanging on to the very last thread, which made sense because I was that man. That's how I felt most days, but especially today. This day every year. The day she left me.
He nodded, knowing his silent watch was all that he could truly provide, Victoria brought me another Black and Tan as I turned the page.
It's the unwanted visitor, I never expected. So silent, it crept into my life without any kind of warning. It started out small. A bad mood here, a cry fest there. But I was a teenager and hormones were the normal course of life.
Most days passed by and I hardly noticed its presence. I never realized it became a part of me, making it harder for me to recognize. Like an extra five pounds gained or that hangnail that becomes a dull pain instead of throbbing.
I went on, doing things and going through the normal motions. Classes, birthdays, projects, graduation, working, marriage...life.
Or so I thought...
Her painful words awakened by a time of healing were hard to read. I always reeled with the ache that the weight of her painful prose elicited in my soul.
I never really understood the concept of 'a life worth living', or 'life in your years, not years in your life'. They always seemed like cliches, platitudes and emphatic quotes of inspiration, found in a condolences or birthday card in the bargain aisle...
I always knew she struggled with her value; never understanding her worth, but reading it in her own graceful script knocked that point home like stubbing your toe on the coffee table; except the smarting, shooting pain would never subside.
I've never uncovered the source, as I can't recall very much. That's what happens when you walk through life under a veil of pain. To compensate, protection kicks in, making you numb to the things outside, so you can try and cope with what's inside.
Sometimes, a fuzzy picture will flood my brain, but it's gone just as quickly. I figure, I was not meant to remember. I reason that not remembering has helped me move towards recovery.
Days aren't so dark now. I've found my light, my Jasper. I recognize my smile and the local grocer commented that I seemed taller when I stopped in quickly for a floral bouquet, to set on the dinner table.
With him, most days, I can feel my heart beat and I'm aware of outward sensations. Sunlight on my skin, wind in my hair, a pleasing glance with a stranger, a compliment at work. With him, I can feel the hardened cocoon of coal-like material start to shed. Allowing me to feel, to breathe.
Sad days are normal, it's the black days I have to watch out for...
Our love was pure and true. Born from one look on a crowded sidewalk outside Bloom, a florist downtown. As I exited the shop, with a bunch of lilies to bring my sister Rosalie who just had a baby, I held the door for her as she entered. She gave me a shy smile, a dainty twirl of her fingers signaling a 'thank you' as I bowed my head in response.
Captivated, I spun around and watched her immediately go towards a set of white flowers with six points and a flush of a purple color and inhale deeply. The set of her shoulders signaling a slight relaxation.
I watched her nearly glide toward roses, I was familiar with that flower as it has been a favorite of my high maintenance, demanding, ex-fiance Maria. But she turned from them and headed toward the orange blossoms, Mama Hale's favorite.
She must have sensed that she was being watched, because she turned slightly, our eyes met again and I unwittingly moved toward her.
That night, I took her to dinner.
Six months later, we got married in a small church on the outside of the city. Her mother came and of course Edward was my best man. Little Lilly McCarty was our flower girl, tossing Alice's favorite flower petals of freesias and honeysuckle, on the crisp linen runner Alice had chosen.
The happiest day of my life consists of details I can't recall, but she said "I do" and that was all I cared about. The rest, as they say, is history.
Not all history is good.
They say time heals all wounds, but what if time is forgotten?
As I sat there, the sea of black around me threatening to swallow me whole, I wondered. It's been a long time since my darkest days. Many years and scores of orange tinted bottles. I've spent almost as many years trying to pull myself away from the abyss I fell into, as the lifetime I spent inside it.
I know I had friends, there were some pictures around, and I wondered how they let me drift so far out to sea. I don't remember them, but the pain of the thought of being so unimportant stings.
As I sat there, staring at a closed casket, in a room alone, I had to wonder if it was my mother that invited the subtle stranger in? Alone and without the knowledge to fight it off, she was overcome by it. Snuffing her out like a candle burning low in a glass jar...
When she came home after her mother's funeral, she seemed different, but I figured it was the stress of having to bury your last living link. I should have seen it happen. I should have paid better attention. Maybe if I had noticed and talked to Edward about it, he could have offered me some helpful advice.
I took a deep breath, readying myself for the pages to come. I looked up as Edward nudged a shot glass toward me, I was so wrapped up in my misery, I didn't notice he had ordered a round. I threw it back and banged the glass on the table, the hot liquid burned my throat, but as it moved down my charred insides, I felt nothing.
I've been numb for years.
Charlotte needed me to book flights and I forgot. She was furious. I had to double my efforts to fix the mistake I had made. A mistake I never made before. Jasper held me as I cried, but even he couldn't beat back the overwhelming wave of disappointment.
What good am I if I can't do the job I am paid to do? I can't get anything right! I forgot Jasper's dry cleaning, I didn't mail our bills last week on my way into the office, like I do twice every month. I couldn't figure out why American Express was calling us, saying we were passed due...
It wasn't like Alice to forget. She was ever mindful of other people's needs and had the uncanny ability to foresee what someone needed before they did. It's what made her good at her job as Executive Assistant to Charlotte Max, Senior Vice President of Marketing at Saxet Publishing.
Charlotte was tough as nails underneath her polished exterior. She pushed her way from the bottom to the top, even got another executive bounced from the firm when they tried to get Charlotte fired. Charlotte had a lot of faith in Alice and I knew part of Ali's pain was letting down someone she looked up to, whom had trust in her.
I snapped at Bella today. She asked me to come along with her as she did a wedding registry for her and Edward's upcoming nuptials. I wasn't really up to it, I had been working a lot and was tired to the point of being drained, but it was important to her and she is my friend. I grew frustrated easily, and as we stood in Forks, a funky store for unique glassware's, I lost it when Bella couldn't choose which "whimsical" set she preferred.
I didn't mean to and I felt guilty afterward. No, I felt guilty as soon as I shut my uncontrollable trap. I cried in apology afterward, angry at myself for unexpectedly lashing out at my friend. If Bella was upset, she didn't let it show, she made her choice and we moved on. But I couldn't ignore that I felt 'off'...
Her erratic moods were one thing. I just assumed she was feeling emotional or tense. I grew up with a house full of women and I had learned at an early age not to get in their way when emotions were high. And it was often the case that she needed to sweat it out, just feel her way through it, then she would be fine.
But it started to get worse, and that was something else entirely.
I called in sick today. I just can't get out of bed again. My entire body aches and I don't have the energy to try. Charlotte was very understanding, and I felt bad about lying to her. I didn't know how to explain that I just couldn't do it, so I used the fact that Jasper and I had been trying for a baby as an excuse.
I recognized this feeling. I knew it well. It was the subtle, unwelcome stranger darkening my door step again. Unfortunately, unlike the annoying peddler's of their faith or the sales man with his crappy vacuum, I couldn't keep it out by shutting the door.
I couldn't even sleep. At least if sleep had come, I could have had the pleasure of quieting my conscious mind. Instead, I was controlled and plagued by my thoughts.
I sobbed into my pillow for hours today. "Not again, not again!" I bellowed. My fists balled as tears soaked through to the fine cotton sheets I shared with the light of my life, but even if he'd been home, he could not keep the stranger at bay. Light will always find darkness waiting for it.
I just want it to stop. Make it stop!
I blinked hard, trying to prepare myself for what would be next. The hardest part.
My Dearest Jasper,
Please know, that I loved you and I always will, even after we are apart...
I swallowed thickly as I read her elegant handwriting start to shift, no doubt from the relaxant moving through her.
I love you too much to be less than you deserve or more of a burden than such a beautiful being should have to bear. This sickness is mine and mine alone.
I have been selfish in hoarding your love, allowing you to make love to me, letting you care for me when I don't deserve it.
I can never regret knowing you, loving you. For you gave me the best years of my life. Years my spirit will hold on to...
Her letter continued, her words now loose scrawl across pages, almost illegible.
I hope to see you again in another life, I'll be waiting.
I found her, held her, wept over her. I cried out into the still air as I felt my soul being lanced, my other half being forever separated from where it belonged.
A lonely tear dropped onto the page before me, meeting the shadowed tracks of ancestor tears from years passed.
"Do you think I could have done more?" I asked out loud. I knew the answer. I knew that whatever plagued Alice was well into the terminal stage before we even met, but I still needed the reassurance.
"I wish, J. I wish there was something any of us could have done to save her."
I felt the harsh reality of her loss like a jagged knife to the vein every day, but it was only on this day that I allowed myself to fully embrace it. Wherever her spirit lay, I knew it would be closest to me on this day. On this day, I would shoulder the burden I would have gladly taken from her for a hundred lifetimes to show her, one soul speaking to another, that she will never be alone.
In the end, depression killed my Alice, and in the wake of her absence, it threatened to take me, too.
Thanks for reading!