No...oh Please no I can!...no?!...No…NO! I was so close so close. I just needed more time!
“It’s okay…It’s okay just let go we’ll be okay...Just let go…Just let go…We love you...We love you just let go.” Whispers echoed in the cold black abyss, as I crouched on the unseen ground trembling uncontrollably with frustration and fear.
“Why me? Why can’t I?”
And then, as if I were coming out of some kind of dreamlike trance, the impenetrable abyss began to soften. It fell back slowly, revealing a long, pale street with seemingly endless urban townhouses, large and shapely trimmed in white.
The warmth of the sun shined, brilliant and bright in the dull veil as it drove the still pale frost of death that hung like a thick fog over the world to temporary extinction. Cars crawled left and right, slowing past something on the opposite side of the road before being waved on by police.
I was just beginning to walk toward the police vehicles, intrigued, when a faint, “Carl,” made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.
I knew that name.
I turned to see a chiseled jaw, tall, brown haired boy down the street. He wore baggy, battered blue jeans, a gray spring hoodie, and a district twelve Hunger Games tee. He too seemed to be drawn to the commotion.
“Carl!” I yelled, waving.
But he didn’t reply. He didn’t even look at me. Instead, he turned and paced toward the familiar blue house with white trim, that contained the only tree in sight.
Fall colored the leaves. They fell like snowflakes littering the yard and drifting onto the porch’s wood planks. They shined in the bright noon sun, as still water would glisten in a puddle. My long blonde hair was already a hot mess–thoroughly tangled with leaves.
A sad old rocking chair sat to the side of a French styled window, trimmed in white. The arms of it had patches where the lacquer had been chipped off until hardly any remained. It was accompanied by a weathered, coffee table with overlapping cup rings.
Carl was talking to someone at the cherry red door, out of my earshot until I strained, and took a step forward. Even then, I could only make out a weak, loving voice.
The door opened further and Carl walked in. I stepped in after him just before it creaked close behind us.
The woman stood only slightly behind the door. She looked like me, blue eyed, blonde haired except much older as if she hadn’t slept in a many a month. You could see that she was overworked, stressed, tired, and defeated, yet bore a smile of care, love and understanding that filled you with hope that the darkest days could pass with joy.
But the moment Carl’s back turned to her, her smile vanished, the tired grieved woman came out of hiding, along with the pain in her eyes that flowed into small clear tears screaming, shouting, trying… trying so very hard to be heard streaming as smooth and gently as silk as they glistened, gleamed with the great stories that would never be told.
As she slowly turned the locks, a great sadness came to me and I felt for her. I wanted to help her but knew it was impossible.
I walked through the stained tiled mudroom with the warmth of the sunlight on my back.
The whispers came back: “It’s okay, just let go it’s okay…it’s okay IT’S OKAY IT’S, IT’S…Just let go.”
I pretended not to hear.
The mudroom led to the living room big enough for ten...maybe more. Glancing around the room, I saw a couch set made up of a black leather sofa, round side tables, two black leather arm chairs, and a glass coffee table that was decorated with an elaborate dome of large petal flowers in a glass vase, all positioned to face an enclosed multi shelved entertainment center. It seemed to be made of strong tempered glass and dark laminated wood. An impressively wide flat screen set on the main shelf as the focus point.
There were six small shelves running parallel on either side of the tv, aligned with pictures of Carl and a little girl, blue eyed, blonde haired. They looked happy. This gave me a surprising feeling of content and belonging, which brought tears to my eyes that I couldn’t explain, that encouraged me to continue my familiar journey through the house.
An elegant doorway opposite of the mudroom opened to the dining room. Four tall, matte fabric chairs each set to its own side of a large, lightly stained granite table, big enough for six. From where I was, the wall of the open arched door in the dining room partially blocked the view of the kitchen, so that only the island was visible.
To the front of me was the hall and stairs. The whole scene made my heart ache with an unexplained feeling of longing for the life I once had. I felt tears begin to course my cheeks as everything seemed to lose its color, like the warmth of life was simply stripped away.
Creaking footsteps and voices over head pulled me back, my curiosity urging me reluctantly deeper in.
White carpet spread through the house, matching fairly well with the olive green walls cluttered with photos and paintings. But no one particular photo caught my eye.
A single silver frame carved brilliantly like leaves on a gilded vine framed a photo of a little girl with an ugly green and orange turtleneck sweater pressed up on her neck and check in front of a velvety red skirt. Golden wrapped presents stuffed under a beautifully decorated tree, spilling out from at all angles. The girl was surrounded with crumpled and torn wrapping paper, clutching a lego set with the biggest gapped tooth smile on her face showing that she was happy. Truly happy.
The tears fell faster.
Each step on the beautifully polished oak staircase creaked and groaned under the weight of my purposefully placed steps. Straining, bending, obviously hiding the weak old wood planks.They were well loved: stomped on, run on, things hauled up and dropped down, used through the generations, one after the next, slowly getting older, and older. As I moved through hall a feeling of loss grew gradually stronger.
“She needs time...and rest.”
“All we can do is wait.. I’m sorry.”
“I really am there's nothing else I can do. I've done everything I can.”
“But it’s just a matter of waiting .... just try to have hope ok… let your sister rest.”
“Thank you Dr.Honson.”
The doctor gave a brisk nod and let himself out with a sigh of grief.
“I’m sorry I’m so,so sorry.” Silvery tears slowly rolled down his cheeks to drip off his chin.
“This is all my fault all my fault,” Carl bowed his head.
“I’ll fix this, I promise I’ll get us through this.”
“What is this? What do you want me to do, I don't have much longer I need to hurry.”
Just as the words left my mouth a loud pounding downstairs made both Carl and me jump. Carl had fear in his eyes.
He gave a last worried look at the eleven year old girl on her deathbed and softly kissed her sweat covered forehead knowing time is something she did not have. He walked down the hall, stopping briefly at the stairs to try to hide any trace of tears with little success. He put on the bravest face he could manage and we walked down the stairs together as one,descending into what ever hell awaited us downstairs.
“....My house I’ll put My feet on My table that I paid for whenever I feel like it.”
A string of unintelligible drunken slurs emitted from the round,stubble-faced man lounged in one of the leather arm chairs. His dirt covered boots propped on the coffee table,the threads matching the prints trailing throughout the house and stopping where he sat. The stained black dress pants and wrinkled, pit stained button up Polo reeked of both beer and must.
"Get in that kitchen and get me beer. That's why you're here inn’t it? Oh… hey boy where you been I was startin’ to think you left! You’ve been cryin’? You know how I feel about that…Oh! Wait one little god damn minute! You’ve been up with that kid haven’t you?? ‘aven’t you! She’s… she’s weak she brings shame to our family en you’re stuck on goin’ up there en cryin’... cryin’ of all things. Why don’t you use your time doin’ something productive like goin’ in that kitchen and helpin’ me understand why there’s not a beer in my hand! That god forsaken female Why don’t she just go on en die already? I do not know, save us money… hav’n a room.”
“Just let go, JUST... LET ...GO Julia!”
This man made me sick “Just let go! Just...Let...go!”
He filled me with something I hadn't felt in a long time.
“Just let go.”
It consumed me.
“We’ll be alright.”
Overpowering all other emotions that had made me who I was–that made up my very being.
All sense of reason and understanding replaced with grief–boiled into rage. Overpowering the radiant sun turning the world blood red. The gentle warmth of the now, hot with the rage that consumed me.
I watched as everything evaporated into the black abyss cooled as death.
“Just let go.”
The little blue house of my childhood,my family,my brother...one with no hope of returning.
“Just Let Go.”
With my name and words of comfort.
“Just Let Go.”
Whispering, yelling, echoing in my ear just like my mother did when situations were dire.
“Just Let Go! Just Let Go! it’s okay...It’s okay...Just let go we’ll be okay...Just let go... Just let go...We love you… We... Love...you… Julia... We love you.”
I collapsed,hugging my knees,hiding my face. Nothing, nothing but the black abyss and the cold embrace of death–colder than ever,with the whispers fading into nothing.
“I’m sorry... I’m sorry… I’m sorry… I’ve failed.”
Tears rolled down my cheeks-chill, cold, and empty. There was nothing but the sound of my lonely whimpers echoing loud in the silence.
“No...oh Please no I can!...no?!...No…NO! I was so close so close. I just need more time!... I’m not ready to go.”
And as if I were coming out of a dreamlike trance, the impenetrable abyss began to soften as a bright light shone on me from an unseen source, warm like a spring afternoon.
“Julia!” A voice big and powerful but beautiful and calm, coming from everywhere yet nowhere.
“Julia I give you a choice, of everlasting peace and joy… or to go back to your home. You have only choose.”
My family, my home. The white trimmed windows, crusty old rocking chair. Back to the creaky stairs...The cherry red door. A second chanceto laugh to cry to hope and fear, to be happy to be sad.
A second chanceto live.
Standing I turn to see a door that wasn’t there before, just a door. No wall. Cherry red, framed in white. I reach out, feeling the gilded knob cold to the touch. I turn and push, feeling the chill wind of fall running over me, hearing the sounds of leaves getting caught in the wind, as I enter the world of the living, to try again.