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Assimilated

Silent Journey
DeJay

Iz's Story
Doreen Perrine

Communion
Fran Walker

Games With Chance
Andi Marquette

Backup Plan
Jess Sandoval

Bridgework
Darby O'Neil

Who's In Charge?
DeJay

Water Rites
Mary Douglas

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I lean forward and whisper in your ear. "It's okay, don't be afraid."

We're in the car for what seems like hours. You're reluctantly driving to our special place. It is a journey of the heart as well as the lonely highway we travel upon. I remember our trips of long ago, as if it were yesterday--the long winding road under a canopy of trees. Sunlight filtering through the leaves lighting the way here and there, the greenery swallowing up the views at every turn. The road leading to our imagined sovereignty. It's cool today, in the fifties and you're prepared for it. You're wearing my favorite long sleeve t-shirt, the one we found together in P-town. It's old and faded now but you refuse to part with it. You have on your black jeans, the ones that hug your form so well, your black motorcycle boots and the leather jacket I gave you for our first Christmas. "Remember?"

"It's okay, don't be afraid."

We had only been together six months when we went to Provincetown for vacation. We had hoped to feel a part of it, had been too afraid to dare believe it possible. Incredibly it was, we laughed and frolicked like kids. That's what it felt like the first time we didn't have to be on guard. The first time we were "out" together and no one cared. No one stared, frowned, or judged. "Remember?"

You made it so special. I didn't think I could love you more. We went to dinner that first night at Ross's Grill, a little place you had found down by the water on Commercial Street. You took my hand from across the table and whispered, "I love you." Then you took a breath and asked, "Do you love me?" My heart swelled, for this was the one public place you dared ask that question and I could show you my answer freely. Tears streaked down my cheeks as I leaned over and kissed you. "Yes, always and all ways." You looked into my eyes and murmured, "Will you marry me?" I kissed you again, unable to utter the words. My heart was bursting with joy. I had never dreamed it could be like this. We ordered dinner, but neither of us ate, instead opting to take the food back to our room. I know--you remember.

"It's okay, don't be afraid."

That night we made love into the wee hours, joyful and sure that no one had ever been as happy as we. You wanted to sleep. I wanted to walk on the beach and celebrate life. You insisted that we take jackets. You were right. The moon was fading in the distance, the breezes off the water brisk. I was so happy, you were tolerant. "Remember?"

We walked out to the cove by the lighthouse. Dawn was just breaking, the sun barely lighting the water's edge. I always loved that time of the day, just as you always hated it. We climbed over the barrier of driftwood separating the two shorelines. You feared we were trespassing. I assured you we were just walking, what could it hurt? The sun started to rise in the sky, brilliant reds and oranges illuminating the clouds. White caps danced off the surface of the ocean. We walked along the water's edge holding hands. Content and peaceful. Liberated.

"It's okay, don't be afraid."

The waves rushed to shore, splashing over our feet as we strolled together, side by side. You pulled me into your arms and kissed me for all the world to see. We felt so free, so happy. We were invincible. "Remember?"

We explored along the dunes, just enjoying being together, being free, to openly be. You found the starfish so pretty and so delicate, remember? We took it home and you built a shadow box for it out of the wreckage we had recovered. We hung it in the bedroom. You put your arm around me as we gazed at it, smiling. "We'll look at this and always remember." That's what you said. "Do you--remember?"

"It's okay, don't be afraid."

We married later that fall. You were so beautiful in your tux. Tall and handsome. Your hand, damp with nerves, shook as we said our vows. Sweat beaded on your brow, and you looked so scared. I didn't think I could love you more, but I did. Each and every day of our lives, my love grew.

"Remember?" For my birthday you brought home Daisy, a small bundle of fur no bigger than your hands. You hid her inside your jacket and when I went to kiss you, you put your hands up. "Whoa there." You smiled then slowly pulled the zipper down. A head popped out from between the leather folds. Her small black face against your crisp white shirt was so precious. Her little pink tongue stretched out long as she yawned, waking from her nap.

"It's okay, don't be afraid."

Years later, and a lifetime of memories amassed, we were still together, still happy. "Remember?" We had our home, a dream you made happen. We rebuilt that place from the studs out--new walls, new kitchen and a new bath. You lovingly sanded the banisters down to the raw wood, then spent days staining and varnishing them. Five coats later, the wood satiny smooth, you were finally satisfied. We wallpapered the back room. The baby's room, remember? You painted clouds on the ceiling and a rainbow on one wall. A child was due, a girl of our own. You were so proud. You said, "Our baby will be the luckiest kid in the world, 'cause she'll have you as a mom." I broke down in tears. I was so hormonal, but you didn't care, you held me on your lap and rocked me. We sat there and lovingly planned for the future, hers and ours.

"It's okay, don't be afraid."

Ahhh, we're here now. I see you struggle. Hesitant, you pause. You don't want to get out of the car. You turn to your companion, "I'll be right back." She nods sadly, frightened. Why not? Her future depends on you, this trip, the outcome. I place my hand on her shoulder and whisper. "It's okay, don't be afraid."

Your memories are painful, they're tearing you apart inside, but I'm here, I'll help you. I love you more today than every day before. Can't you feel it, me? I'm here with you, always and all ways. You walk along the sand, the sky filled with dark, angry clouds. They perfectly reflect you and your pain. You're struggling. You've come here to keep your promise. It's time after all. I've been hinting, whispering to you for three years, but never sure until today that you heard me. You stoop and pick up a sea shell. It's small and intricate, so fragile. Tears are running down your face as you crush the shell in your closed hand. Closed--just as your heart is. I kiss your cheek, just a brush of my lips.

"Remember!" I love you so. I want to help you. Let me, please, I implore you.

You scream and cry, your anger on the verge of overwhelming you. I whisper, "Remember." Then you do. You stop fighting me, and the memories flow. The wonder of it all, the happy times, our love. They wash over you and I see the change as you open your mind and your heart.

"It's okay, don't be afraid."

Just as quickly the remorse starts. The self incrimination. You close yourself to me. I can't reach you to tell you it's okay. The guilt follows as you run down to the water, waves crashing to shore. Washing away the sand, as I want to wash your pain away. Please listen. I'm here. I love you. You don't hear me though. Your anger is like a vice crushing you. "Why--why did this happen?" You scream out, but no one's there to answer you. You fall to your knees sobbing. Wailing as if it were yesterday. I wrap my arms around you, holding you tight, willing you to feel me, to know I'm here always and all ways. You blame yourself. It wasn't your fault. How could we know he was heading right for us? How could we have seen him around the bend? It was an accident. He didn't know the deer would be standing in the middle of the road. He didn't know when he swerved that he would hit us head on. He lives with the guilt every day, just like you. He hates himself just as you do. I ache for you both. A soft breeze blows and your tears dry upon your cheeks. You don't understand it's me. The sun peaks from between the dark clouds, smiling on you and your place in the sand. I want you to feel its warmth, to know I'm here, that I love you. I want you to realize I'll always be here, watching, guiding, loving you. Always and all ways.

You stand up, scrub at your tears, and glance back toward the car. That's your future, and I am your past. It's time. "It's okay, don't be afraid."

You pull the canister out from inside your jacket. Your hand trembles as you open the lid. You go to the waters edge, unmindful of the cold washing over your feet, just as it's washed over your heart. I'm here, I love you. "Please remember."

You tilt the urn and my ashes blow in the wind. I'm free at last, my pain no more. Now it's your turn. I whisper softly in your ear. You tilt your face up to the sky, eyes closed and finally . . . finally you remember. The warmth spreads over you, and you let it embrace you down to your tortured soul. The tension drains away as you expose your heart. The good times, the wonderful memories, the loving all vie for attention in your consciousness. Your anger eases, the hatred slips, it okay. I want you to feel good again. I want you to remember it all. Focus on the happy times. Remember me with love in your heart, not pain or guilt. You gave me so much, and I would never change a moment of it. Finally, you are open to me. I know you sense me, my presence. I kiss your lips once more. You raise your hand, your fingertips caress the spot. I know you know. I love you but concede this is good bye. We stand together one last moment, as I wrap in you in my arms for all eternity. You smile and I release you. Now is her time. Mine is no more.

My heart aches as I watch you close your jacket against the cold, against me and turn to walk away. You glance backward, searching, tears shimmering. I pray you can see me, feel me. I smile and wave as the dark clouds cover the sky once more. I know you remember--finally. I know you'll heal now. I remain where I am accepting this is farewell. For she waits patiently on the other side of the bridge, standing in the shadows, hoping you'll come to her. Praying you're free to love her. She's there holding our daughter, our wonder of a creation. They are your future and I am the past. "It's okay. She loves you both. She'll be good for you both. Go to her, be happy. Just please remember, I love you always and all ways."

(c) 2008 Bedazzled Ink Publishing Company