Ruth Long’s Picture Choice: Two
Title: Ghost of Hope
It is really one moment of looking love dead in the eye that takes us everywhere in a flash. ~Swami Chetanananda
Why are people so afraid of dying, as if that's the end of it? Were it that simple, I wouldn't have a tale to tell. But here I am, mucking about, two years after my death. Disembodied and disgruntled.
Family and friends mourned my passing, though my wife didn't take it nearly as hard as I expected. But she was an independent woman. People were always surprised that we were a couple. Hard not to take offense to that but I did my best.
Maybe it wasn't smart of me to stick around the house but it's not like there is a manual that explains how this stuff works. I left once, in the beginning. Thought it's what I was supposed to do but sitting on the dock where our boat capsized and I died didn’t bring the closure I’d imagined it would.
Things at home remained strangely the same for the first year. Chelsea was up at seven, off to work at half past eight, and home to make dinner at six. The routine was reassuring. Sure missed the taste of coffee and scent of her perfume though. And her touch.
And then one weekend, when the kitchen faucet went haywire, she went to the hardware store for replacement parts. That's where she met him. Again. The three of us had known each other in college but we'd lost touch in our thirties. He'd turned up for my funeral but I'd used what leverage I had to chase him off.
Grief counselors tell you not to rush into anything, to take your time, to make small slow changes. But they hadn't counted on Max Ballentine. Brash. Charming. Persistent. It was that last quality that would drive a nail in my heart.
When I thought he'd dropped back off map, after my funeral, I was miserably mistaken. There was the odd card, just a line or two scribbled beneath some mundane quote. A bouquet on her birthday. Small, but comprised of solely of her favorite flower. Little things. Purposefully given. Smartly timed.
That sinister strategy made me hate him more with each incident. Such kindness. Such patience. It sickened and infuriated me. And then, the moment came, when his end game was in sight and the shock of it, the audacity, appalled me.
Chelsea was kneeling at my grave, flowers in hand. Two years I'd been gone. She even had tears. A trail of them down her cheeks. God, how I wanted to wipe them away. The separation was unbearable.
And then there he was. Max from the hardware store. Max with the flowers for my grave. Max with his perfectly calculated appearance.
And there was Chelsea, standing to greet him, bravely holding back more tears, and then turning into him, pressing her cheek to his chest, wrapping her arms around his neck.
And he, oh the cursed man, he hugged her back, cheek to cheek, arms around her waist.
I wanted to throttle him. I'd been saving my strength for a moment like this. Waiting out the lesser events so I'd be at full power. I circled them, wanting to be in the perfect position to see the terror on his face when I unleashed my unearthly fury.
But something stopped me. The look on his face was arresting. It should have been smug. This was the culmination of all his effort. Months of planning. Years of unrequited affection coming to fruition. Oh, yes, I had learned much about my opponent during the second year of my death.
Instead, what I saw on his face was the wonder of a child seeing his first snowfall, the joy of a father hearing the first pitiful cry of his newborn, the utter surprise of a man receiving a death row pardon in the midnight hour.
I knew that look, felt it sear my intangible consciousness and wreck me like death never could. No matter the manipulations that put him here in her arms. All of that was rendered inconsequential in a blink because he loved her.
I was there to witness the moment another man came to grips with his love for my wife. That is what truly killed me. And that's the only death that counts. The one in your heart. Because when you lose the ghost of hope, my friend, there is nothing left for you.
But the bitch of it is, you have to keep living with it. You can’t drown, burn, or suffocate to get away from it. That look of love on his face as he held my wife in his arms will forever haunt me.
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A reader by birth, paper-pusher by trade and novelist by design, story-telling in my passion. If you enjoyed reading today's story, please consider checking out my blog bullishink.com, joining my creative community sweetbananaink.com or participating in the madcap twitter fun @bullishink.