Let Me Live

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The small plane lurches forward as it skids to a halt on the tarmac.  The airport is just as I remember – quaint and unassuming with one terminal, one gate, and no Jetway.  It feels strange to be here without Anthony by my side.  He would always joke that he couldn’t find his way around such a huge airport.  It made me laugh every time.

I make my way out to the parking lot and find my rental car parked in the back row.  It doesn’t feel right when I sit behind the steering wheel instead of in the passenger’s seat.  He always drove.  My breath catches and my hands fall into my lap.  I can’t do this, but . . . I must.  I promised him I would.   Shaking my head, I fiddle with my wedding ring and spin it round and round my finger.  The simple gold band hasn’t left my hand since he gave it to me ten years ago.  Meanwhile, his ring clings loosely to my thumb.  That’s where he put it right before he said, “Promise me you’ll say goodbye.”  Moments after I made my vow, he closed his eyes and never opened them again.  That was three years ago and I have yet to keep my word.  I put the car in gear and start driving.

It takes more than an hour to get to the small town of Boulder Junction.  Nothing has changed.  A golden retriever still sits outside the bait shop and tourists crowd around the one and only ice cream shop.  Anthony loved the dog, but hated the ice cream.  I can’t help but smile.  It’s been a long while since I’ve thought of the little things I loved about him.  I wonder what he would remember about me if our places were reversed.

Before I know it, the town is behind me and an empty road lies ahead.  The edge of Anthony’s ring digs into my skin and my knuckles are white.  I’m holding the steering wheel too tight, but I can’t ease my grip.  In this familiar place, the memories are coming back faster than I can handle them.  I have to keep telling myself this is something I need to do.

I know I’m getting close when the blacktop ends and the dirt road begins.  The cabin is the last one at the end of the road, right where the wild daisies start to grow.  I reserved it for the weekend, but I will be leaving as soon as my deed is done.  It looks exactly the same, complete with a red porch swing and screen door.  This is where we met.   I had just graduated high school when my father rented this cabin for a family vacation.  As fate would have it, Anthony and his parents were our neighbors.  One warm June day he paddled his canoe up to our pier, where I was soaking up the sun.  The moment I saw him, I knew.  And so did he.  It seems fitting to say goodbye where it all began.

A twig snaps beneath my step – another fracture in it’s already broken life. It’s tempting to pick up the splintered remains, but I keep walking down the familiar twisted path that leads to the lake.  He was with me last time I tread these grounds.  It was years ago, but all is the same.  The birch bark still peels on landmark trees, while a cloud obscured sun can’t break through a thick dome of leaves.

Even the lake sits as it always has —  a bucket of water waiting to catch the sky should it fall.  A light mist lays low in the reeds like a gossamer veil.  If only that delicate blanket would wrap around my shoulders with its gentle embrace.  A slightly chilled breeze brings news that rain is on the way.  It won’t be long before scores of droplets begin their descent.  A collage of gray, white, and green paints the top of the water; the wind a giant paintbrush stroking the canvas.  Soft bristles tickle the water into gentle waves, weaving life and color together with mystical grace.  Where the waves meet their fate waits a promise that an ending is not always meant to fear.  The trees sway to a mysterious tune, while a woodpecker thumps the beat. The old pier creaks and rocks, the wooden planks weary, yet eager to bear my weight.  It’s the same pier that held us for our first kiss and I’m reminded that I’ll never be able to kiss him again.  The buzz of a fly sounds a little alarm that anger tarnishes beauty and steals from faith.  I close my eyes and find my strength.  If I am to survive, I must release the grief  that chokes my will.  Let it sink and dissolve, no longer part of me.

A distant thunder rolls, but does not threaten.  The rain is coming, but shall not drench.  Chiming leaves and whispering pines speak to me with a soothing voice, suddenly having more to say than a soul-quieting lullaby.  There is a reason to keep breathing.  I slide my wedding ring off my finger and his from my thumb.  My hand feels naked and lighter, my finger instantly longs for what’s missing.   I tie our rings together with a bit of string.  I kiss them with farewell on my lips, for this is where we part ways.  It doesn’t take long to find the maple tree that witnessed everything from the first hello to the first “I love you.”  From a small branch, I hang our joined rings.  They may stay there forever or fall tomorrow, but they will always be together.  Knowing this, I can keep my promise.

c.b.w. 2005

– – –

c.b. 2012

43 thoughts on “Let Me Live

    • Thank you! 🙂

      I’ve had this one for a while, but I got the urge to tinker with it a few days ago. I yanked out around 150 words and I like this version better than the rest.

      Recognize the pic?? 😉

      Like

    • Thanks! 🙂

      They say to write what you know best and then what you don’t know fall right into place. I know the setting of this story quite well and that seemed to allow the emotions of the character to find their groove.

      Like

    • Thanks! 🙂

      I took a cue from one of my favorite writers, Guy de Maupassant. He liked to play with nature (as do a lot of 19th century writers) as a means to convey emotion. Often, his settings were characters in and of themselves. I can’t pull it off as well as he does, but I enjoyed the challenge. I’m glad you enjoyed how it all turned out.

      Thanks for reading!

      Like

  1. Beautiful! Not only did you totally pull me into the scene with your descriptions, but you pulled me into your character’s emotional life. I have tears in my eyes, here at the end of your story. And putting the rings on the tree was such a great twist beyond what I expected. Of course I thought she was throwing them into the lake, and you surprised me and delighted me with what she did instead. This is a GREAT story!!!!!

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    • Thank you! 🙂

      Her act at the end comes from a childhood memory, (which has nothing to do with losing someone), that I’ve always wanted to put in a story. It’s amazing how a little bit of truth can make fiction that much more powerful.

      Thanks so much for reading! I’m glad you enjoyed it! 🙂

      Like

    • Wow – I can’t believe you remember that! You did hear the earlier version about a year ago. This is the story I submitted the last time we did our “Guess the Author” activity, (I hope we do that again!). I’ve been tinkering with it ever since and this is the end result. 🙂

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  2. Sharladawn

    This short story leaves me with so many questions! What happened to him? Did he get sick? Have an accident? Why did he ask her to remove her ring? Did he know she would take them back to the lake, was that part of the deal? Or is this just HER way of saying good bye?

    Great writing, CB. You keep us wanting more and you’re able to get us thinking about these fictional characters in such a small amount of time.

    Like

    • It’ll probably drive you even more nuts that I know the answer to every one of those questions, but I’ll never tell. I want the reader to make those decisions for themselves. This is a piece that really taught me the value of understanding what to leave in and what to leave out of a story.

      Thanks so much reading! I hope to have more short fiction on the way! 🙂

      Like

  3. oh dear … can you assure me please that this is fiction? Anthony was not your husband, and he did not die? i’m sitting here crying, bawling. okay, so i’m a bit on the emotional side these days, but it’s SO SAD … i want to reach out and hold you in my arms, for having to go through this, for being so brave. if it’s fiction, can you please write the next chapter and tell me that you went back home to your new love and you just needed to make space because someone new entered your life and you just wanted to move on. i know, it would bore the guts out of hollywood. but it can be a chapter just dedicated to me and erased later, please? oh how i hope this is fiction.

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    • The story is total fiction. 🙂 Although, I have to admit that being asked whether its real or not is the best compliment I could ever receive. It is a sad story, but those emotions are very real and I wanted to convey that reality.

      The setting is the only thing that is remotely real. I based it on a place where I’ve spent many wonderful summers on the lake. The woods and the water are always so refreshing and they renew my soul every time I go. It seemed only natural to put this character in a place that could heal her.

      Thanks so much for reading! 🙂

      Like

    • I have to admit I posted this story to see how people would respond. After receiving so many amazing comments, I’m very encouraged to submit it somewhere. The search is on for the right publication!

      Thanks so much for reading! 🙂

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  4. I was so relieved that it ended with a surprise, and not with her meeting the “next man of her dreams” at the edge of the lake as she tossed her rings into the water. Sometimes we have such a need to provide that happy ending, (where her pain is quieted by the promise of a new man in her life). This is a different kind of happy ending. I love it that the rings may or may not remain dangling in the tree for all eternity. That could easily lead to another story, where a young couple who are visiting the lake happen upon the rings, and …… well, anything could happen. Enjoyed this, and thank you for not taking the predictable and safe route.

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    • My favorite novels and stories are those that have unconventional endings that tie up the story, but also allow the reader to decide what happens next. Life isn’t about endings, it’s about continuing the journey one chapter at a time. I’ve never been much of a conformist, so I guess that shows in my writing – it never occurred to me to give her a new love!

      Thank you for reading and leaving such a thoughtful comment. 🙂

      Like

  5. Wow! Powerful imagery! You’ve shown me how a short story should be written. I have trouble keeping my writing short and concise, but you have brought the reader to a beautiful, yet poignant place with seemingly very little effort. I have to admit, there were tears in my eyes as I read the ending.

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    • Thank you. 🙂 This is the first story where I feel like I had a breakthrough. It started out as a much longer piece , but editing my novel taught me how to let go. Once I let go of the “fluff” I ended up with a story that didn’t need a lot of space to make an impact. 🙂

      Thanks so much for reading!

      Like

  6. “Even the lake sits as it always has – a bucket of water waiting to catch the sky should it fall.” I love that description. The way I read it, the story ending seemed to allow for both of them to have their ways — him wanting her to move on with life and her wanting to keep the past intact. The rings hanging in the tree did both. What a lovely story.

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    • Thank you. 🙂 It’s so interesting to see how different people interpret the ending. There are those who want to know more, those that worry the rings will be lost, and then there’s everyone in between with equally as intriguing theories. It’s like I get to protect a little secret – I know what happened before and what is next.

      Thanks so much for reading. 🙂

      Like

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