Good evening everyone!
Today guest reviewer Lexi McCurdy returns with another writing treat! Because of the short story’s length it will be split into two parts. This is part two, evening edition!
As always comments are appreciated, as she would love to hear your thoughts about her piece.
Love Lives On
By: Lexi McCurdy
I went to fold the laundry. It wasn’t part of my morning ritual, but I thought it might calm my nerves. After the phone call with his mom I couldn’t stop missing him. Today marked exactly one year since he was gone. I couldn’t believe I had survived three hundred and sixty five days without him, but here I am. It hurt more than usual today, like it was a fresh wound. I had to keep biting my lip to stop the tears from gathering in my eyes.
I sat on the couch, folding the big and little clothes. They smelled so nice out of the dryer, I always loved this part of laundry. I loved folding it, running my hands over the warm and clean clothing. It was a reminder of how lucky we had been.
I bit the inside of my cheek thinking about the day he proposed. He had been so nervous, his deep voice reaching an octave I’ve never heard before. His hair hung in his face, I pushed it back as he looked at me. He didn’t even get down on one knee, he just held the ring between us, his eyes sparkling with the question that never left his lips. I never expected him to propose so early. But the only answer I would’ve ever given him was yes.
Our wedding wasn’t magical or put together. Some of our friends came down to the barn I insisted it be in. His mom officiated the wedding, she got her license online. I wore a white dress I already had, he wore his best clothing. I didn’t want a big affair, I just wanted to marry my best friend and start our lives together.
He had been so nervous, even more so than when he proposed. His hands were shaking, he kept running them through his hair. A nervous habit he had had since he was really small. When I reached the end of the aisle I grabbed his hand and laced my fingers through his, squeezing gently. I wasn’t going to change my mind, this was what I wanted. This was always what I wanted.
We wrote our own vows, he went first.
“I promise to love and cherish you every single day of our lives. I won’t be intimated by the fact that you’re smarter than me or how strong you are on your own. I will take care of you when you’re sick and hold your hand whenever we’re together. I want you to know even when you think you’re alone you will always have me beside you. But most importantly I promise to be your best friend first, your husband second, your lover always.”
His voice carried through the barn and I blushed. I took in a deep breath and fought off tears as his mom told me to go. I nodded, waited a beat as I pushed down the tears in my throat, before I brought my eyes back up to his.
“I promise no matter how angry I get with you, I’ll always kiss you goodnight. I won’t be angry at your free spirit, I will embrace it. I’ll always be there to remind you when your feet are too far off the ground. I won’t shut down when I need help, I will find you and let you in. I will love you at your worst and cherish you at your best. You’re my best friend first, my love always.”
I heard a few of our friends sigh. I laughed as he sipped the tiny diamond on my finger. That felt like a lifetime ago now. We had gotten married so young, but it was even better than I imagined it could be.
I pulled the shirt out, stopping short as the gray fabric touched my hand. I didn’t remember putting it in the wash. I thought I had gotten rid of it, but somehow it was still in the house. I brought the old shaggy shirt up to my nose and breathe in the scent. It still smells like him. A pain ripped through my chest, tears gathered in my eyes.
I hated this shirt. It had a stupid cartoon moon on the front with a saying about space walking that’s long washed off. He never took the thing off, it was always his favorite. I tried throwing it away without him knowing, but he always found it again. He wore it to spite me, I know he did. I laughed, realizing how much this shirt meant now that he wasn’t here.
“I miss you,” I whispered, feeling the pain inside my chest get tighter. I never said the words out loud but I missed him more and more every day. It was hard to be strong all the time, it was hard to keep up the facade of being okay when I was slowly falling apart inside.
When I first lost him I couldn’t sleep without pulling this shirt on. It was a far cry from his warm arms that used to wrap around my body, but it was the closet I could get to him since he was gone. It was hard to remember what it was like to fall asleep listening to him breathing, to feel him press a kiss to my temple as he tried to let me sleep in. All those little moments seemed so much bigger now that I didn’t have them.
I wiped away a tear, holding that shirt in my hand. If he was here he would be wearing it. He would laugh at the grimace I’d make as he walked past. He’d tap my butt with his hand, kissing my cheek as he went outside to work on his car. Our life was simple, but it was a life I never wanted to lose.
It’s true what they say; you never really know how good you have it until it’s gone.
“Mommy!” Gracie’s little voice startled me.
I forced a smile trying to wipe all the tears away as I turned to look at my little girl. She was the spitting image of her father. She was unexpected, but became a blessing we never knew we needed. Just when we thought our world was perfect together, we had this beautiful little girl we created together.
Both of us never really considered children. We were both so driven, our careers seemed to be our focus. But then the pink line appeared and I realized I was carrying his child. Our child. We had created a life together, something even more beautiful than all the love we shared in our little house. Somehow that little seed felt like something we needed. He had been ecstatic, I never realized how happy he would be until I told him I was pregnant.
My entire pregnancy he would touch my stomach, feeling her kick and giggle like a little kid on christmas morning. He was so excited to meet her, we found out it was a girl early on. I was a planner, I wanted to know the sex and he didn’t care either way. When we found out our baby was a girl, he got even more protective. He said he would never love any other woman the way he loved the two of us.
A tear fell down my cheek as I watched her run down the stairs towards me. She was the brightest light in my world and yet the source of more pain than I wanted to admit. Because she was her father’s child. It hurt to be reminded of him, but it was beautiful to see all of him in her beautiful little face.
She jumped into my arms, “mommy sad?”
I shook my head, “not anymore. Hey want to go somewhere today? I think it’s time I take you to see him.”
She was only two, but she was my world. She had been his world too. He didn’t even get to see her in all her adorable terrible two’s. He would never get to walk her down the aisle or terrorize the dates she would bring home. A tear slipped down my cheek as she stared at me with her little crooked smile.
She had his smile. It made my chest ache. She had his big eyes, her hair a mixture of our dark hair. She has my spirit and his charm. She was the perfect dose of his humor on my sad days.
She wigged out of my arms, “go get your shoes.”
She ran back to her bedroom and I wondered what he would think about his little girl. Would he be proud of her? He held her first when she was born. She had him wrapped around her tiny finger since before she could walk. Now she would never remember the father that rocked her to sleep, the man who held her as she took her first breath. He would always be a memory she could never reach.
That hurt more than my own loss. He would’ve been an amazing father.
It was warm out as I held Gracie’s hand. We walked through the grass, avoiding the other plots as we made our way towards the tall oak tree. His mother had insisted he be buried under the big branches. She said he always loved trees and that’s where he would want to be. I felt more emotional as we got closer to the stone.
Tyler Collins. Husband, father, son, friend.
The dash between his name felt too small. There was so much more to him than those three little words. He was poetic, he wanted peace more than anything else. He loved hard, I knew that from experience. He was an overachiever, always getting himself into big projects at work. He was a dreamer, a thinker. He was the perfect husband, the best friend I ever had.
It was a stupid accident that took him away from us. He was working at the factory, testing one of the machines. His shirt got caught so he went to turn it off. He couldn’t reach the lever, so one of his co-workers tried. It was stuck, he was pinned down at the saw came towards him. He was gone before they cut the power.
They called it a freak accident. They paid me and Gracie off so we wouldn’t sue them for a wrongful death. Suing them wouldn’t bring Tyler back. It wouldn’t heal my broken heart either. I lost my husband and my best friend all in one day. It was hard to process, hard to deal with. I felt like I would never get over losing him.
I stood holding my daughter’s hand and smiled, “she looks just like you, Tyler. She’s everything we always wanted. I can’t believe you’re missing it. I miss you,” my voice broke as Gracie hugged my leg, “God I miss you more and more everyday. Everyone says it gets easier, but I always have to be difficult. Because for me it’s getting harder to breathe without you. Every day I live without you is harder than the last.”
I sat down on the grass, pulling Gracie onto my lap. She hugged me as I placed the flowers at his name. I took in a deep breath, “someday, when she’s older I’ll tell her all the you I see in her. I’ll tell her how excited you were the day she was born. I’ll show her the pictures of you holding her for the first time. She’ll know you loved her. I will make sure she knows her father. It’s the last promise I will ever make you. One I intend to keep.”
Gracie looked at the headstone, “daddy.”
“Yeah,” I squeezed her little arm, “it’s daddy. He loved you so much, Gracie.”
“Love daddy,” she whispered standing up and placing her tiny hand against his name. A tear slipped down my cheek as I sat there, “miss you, daddy.”
Her tiny voice held so much emotion I had been feeling this morning. She was so smart, she realized the absence she never should’ve had in her life. Her little lisp made it even harder to watch her stand there and talk to the father she would never get to see again. I closed my eyes, trying to keep myself together for her. I took in a deep breath. When I opened my eyes, her tiny arms were wrapped around the white headstone.
More tears gathered in my eyes and I knew no matter how much I cried, how painful it was, he had given me the greatest gift in my life. Gracie was the only reason I was still holding on. Without her I would’ve drown in the depression that followed his death. I wouldn’t have been able to pick up the pieces of my broken heart on my own.
I was still learning to live without him. Her smile, her laughter, takes me a step further in that learning process every single day. She’s my saving grace, literally. Even with him gone, the love I have for him lives on. I hear it in her laughter, I feel it in her hugs. Whenever I need it the most I look at the face of our daughter and I know he will never be forgotten.