Mark Ethridge’s Picture Choice: Two
Title: A Clip From Heartsong (a unedited work in progress)
I never realized how cold and empty a house was at 3 AM until I woke up from my exhausted sleep in my chair. I’d never turned any lights on, I hadn’t needed them in the daylight. At 3 AM, there was no daylight, but I saw clearly, every detail of my Living room.
Not knowing what to do, but realizing I wasn’t going to sleep, I got to my feet. My wounded leg screamed at me, but I didn’t care. I limped to the bathroom for another break. Then, walked through the house.
Everywhere were memories. We’d only lived there a few months, but everywhere I looked that morning I saw Jillian and Lillian. Jillian in the kitchen, fixing breakfast. Lillian in the family room, playing video games. Lillian sitting at the coffee table in the Living room doing her homework. Jillian sorting the mail on the kitchen table. All of us at the dining room table, a bouquet of Lillian’s favorite flowers on the table. I always called them pink and white. Lillian always laughed and told me I had no sense of color. “You’re an artist, Daddy! You should know what color things are!” Jillian sleeping on the sofa, waiting for me to come home from a long night at the store, balancing the books, taking inventory.
So many memories, so much life, in such a short time.
I stopped when I reached our room. I glanced through the door, and knew I couldn’t enter. I pulled the door shut, and leaned against the wall in the hallway trying to breathe, trying not to cry. Jillian was gone.
Everything I’d done, everything I was, everything I believed, every dream I had, was for her, with her, because of her. Every painting and sculpture I’d created since I’d met her was for her. I never tried to sell anything I’d created she didn’t love. If she loved it, if the smiled when she saw it, If she had to touch it, I knew it was good, and I put it up for sale in my small store.
I’d opened the door of my store to other artists, because of Jillian. So she’d have more magical creations to look at. So she’d have more reasons to smile. God, I loved to watch her smile. It never mattered what mood I was in, when I saw her smile, my heart lept. I could have an awful day, when nothing worked, and all I wanted to do was scream. When Jillian took my hand, when she smiled, everything changed, and I couldn’t help but smile.
But she was gone.
In that hallway, staring at our bedroom door, I had nowhere to run, no way to escape the truth, the reality, Jillian was gone. I’d never hold her hand again. I’d never see her smile. Never hear her laugh. Never get lost in her eyes.
Jillian was gone.
My world was gone.
My life was gone.
I sank to the floor. I sat there, knees tucked up to my chin, arms around my legs. I stared at that door, and fought to breathe. I sat, shaking, until the sun rose. I didn’t cry. I couldn’t cry. I was too numb, to empty, to dead inside to cry.
In the hall that morning I had no way to avoid the truth.
Jillian was gone.
I was alone.
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Mark woke up in 2010, and has been exploring life since then. All his doctors agree. He needs to write.