Vignette 1 – A House is Not a Home

The pouring rain had slowed to a drizzle, bringing with it an unrelenting grayness in the sky and in the mists that threatened to sink anyone's spirit. Not that Elena's spirit was ever high now days, unless she was spending time with Adam. She shivered as she took another sip of her rapidly cooling coffee, wrapping her frozen fingers around the mug, vainly trying to gain some warmth.

The rain and cold are two of some of the worst things about her current living condition. Other horrors of this particular countryside include driving in the icy road, trying to communicate with the non-English speaking people, and adjusting to the food.

The worst thing was the sterile environment of the house she was supposed to now call home. There were none of the cherished and prized possessions that made a house a home. There simply hadn't been time to bring the mementos and things she spent a lifetime collecting. Worst, there were so little of the house to reminded her of Michael.

The furniture was streamline and modern, so opposite from the sturdy yet elegant antiques Michael loved. None of his things and clothes were around, no chance of her cuddling up with his favorite sweater on a cold night, trying in vain to pretend he was still there. Only a few pictures of him remained, carefully framed to avoid damaging the only images of him she had left.

She sometimes wondered if she was remembering him correctly. Maybe the time spent without Michael, and the trauma of losing him the way she did, had made her mind block any unpleasant memories. So that all that remained was a man closer to a god than a living breathing human being.

She had tried telling herself before that she had erased all the tiny imperfections that made a person, in order to put him on a pedestal. She told herself it was easier thinking she had been married to a paragon of virtue, to make her self-imposed isolation that much more palatable. It let her justify the way she would judge every person she's met over the past few years to find them severely wanting.

Elena knew she was lying, even now, to herself. It didn't make it any easier, whether she thought she had sugar-coated her memories of Michael, or when she tried to knick-pick his inevitable flaws. The fact still remained that she had loved deeply, completely, with her entire being, and the love of her life was ripped brutally away.

She knew Michael had his flaws, like any person. He would leave the toilet seat up, to her eternal irritation, despite her many attempts to get him to quit that particular habit. He clammed up tighter than a snare drum whenever she asked him to share his feelings and thoughts. He was a work-a-holic, who was away on business more than he was at home sometimes.

No matter how many flaws she forced herself to acknowledge, they were greatly out balanced by all the good. He was a beautiful man, inside and out. He was slow to smile and laugh, but when he did, the entire world seemed brighter and full of possibility. He was considerate of others and was generous with his time and himself. Most of all, he loved their darling boy, Adam, and he loved her.

Elena was never in doubt of Michael love for his family. No one could be so gentle, protective, and giving, without loving deeply. It was the loss of the security of his love that was the hardest to adjust to.

For a while, she had managed to convince herself that what she needed was a companion, someone with similar attributes that attracted her to Michael in the first place. She wanted to find someone who could be a good father to Adam, someone kind and considerate, someone who was good to their core.

She had thought she had found that person when she had met Robert. He seemed kind and gentle, he doted on Adam, and Adam loved him in return. She had convinced herself that he was what she wanted, but in the end her heart told her she had been fooling herself all along. Robert might on the surface remind her of Michael, but no one could replace him in her heart.

She was saved from having to break it off with Robert, when police protection took her and Adam away again. The first time she had to move, immediately after the devastating loss of Michael and the smaller loss of her father, she was given time to lovingly pack away important mementos and keepsakes. They were relocated to Bordeaux, where she could remember the wonderful time she had spent with Michael years before Adam was born. It was a bittersweet homecoming of a sort for her living there.

The second time they came to relocate them; she hadn't even had time to turn the stove off. She only had time to pack a change of clothes, grab the family photo album and Michael's cello, before being rushed out the door. This time, they had moved them to northeastern Germany, where it rained all the time and was bitterly cold.

She took another sip and grimaced at the now luke-warm coffee in the mug. No matter how many times she tried, she could not get the coffee to taste the way Michael made them. She smiled wistfully at the memory, coffee was one of Michael's only vice and he drank several pots of coffee per day. The pantry and refrigerator could be completely bare, but there would still be a pot of coffee ready.

She turned away from the grayness outside and was confronted with the washed out colors inside. Whoever decorated this place had apparently left all the colors out of the walls and furniture. She had thought about at least painting the walls to brighten the place, but that brought back memories of the last time she painted her house. Michael and she had carefully selected the various warm tones and colors that made up their home. The days spent painting had been relaxing and full of laughter, with baby Adam occasionally getting in on the action and making a mess.

Adam, she knew why she had been staring out the window and waiting. She was waiting for him to come home from pre-school. Adam, who never failed to remind her of the man she lost. Adam had the exact same sweet smile, the same gentle expressions, and the same heartbreaking laugh. The house was not a home, but with Adam there, it was getting closer to it.