Shay slowly looked over to the empty side of the bed and arose softly. His spirit was still there, even if his body would no longer be. Very gingerly she pulled the pillow from his side of the bed towards her, as is trying not to disturb the person whose head still lay upon it.
She wrapped her arms around it tight, inhaled the lingering scent of his body still trapped in it and began to slowly rock. She still could not cry.
That worried her.
She knew it was coming. She felt it building up within her. It felt like being trapped on a shore watching the tsunami of all tsunamis come towards her. There was nothing to protect her from the oncoming devastation of it. Above all she knew when it hit, it would be ugly and there wasn’t a damn she could do about it even if she wanted to.
This was how Reese found her an hour later. Slowly rocking on the bed, holding on to the pillow with her husband’s scent for dear life. Reese closed the door gently behind her and watched her. What the hell is wrong with me!? She thought to herself, suddenly overcome with envy. My best friend is in PAIN, and I’m feeling envious? But she knew why.
Twenty-seven years Shay and Carl had been together. They had met in college. They were joined in spirit long before they were joined as a couple. Older, wiser people saw it, predicted it. Shay, Carl, Reese and all the rest of the younger generation who hadn’t lived long enough to know, were bemused by the elders prediction of longevity. Still, even their friends could see there was something in the way they related to each other that was special. Ten years into it, watching all their friends drop in and out of relationships, Shay and Carl started to believe. In their fifteenth year, they finally believed enough to get married themselves. Twenty-seven years, eight months and sixteen days, Shay told her yesterday.
Reese knew why she was envious. Deep down she wished that someone had loved her enough to be in the pain Shay is now. This level of sorrow could only have come from reciprocal level of love. Having been her best friend for the past thirty-three years, Reese was among very few people who knew just how deep the well of love between Shay and Carl. For Reese, losing Carl was only like losing your favorite brother. Shay lost so much more. Reese’s heart went out to her.
Shay held out her hand, but didn’t look at Reese or stop rocking. Reese sat beside her best friend, holding the offered hand. Reese knew Shay knew it was she. Very few people would dare just come into her bedroom. Turning to face her best friend, Shay couldn’t help but smile at the look of concern on Reese’s face.
Shay squeezed Reese’s hand, “It’s coming, but I’ll be all right.”
For a morning that started out dreary, the afternoon sun was more than apologizing for it. Ben watched her as she stood at the patio doors watching the autumn rays bounce off the water in the pool. Condolences are the last things she wanted right now, and she’s being gracious to everyone who comes to her, but she’s not there. The music from the party going on was physically only ten or so feet behind her.
Emotionally, it was worlds away from that room.
She honored Carl’s wishes with the party as she had with the service. It may not have been as short as he’d have preferred, but it was fun! Who else but Shay or Carl could turn a memorial into a roast!
Ben stood next to Shay at the patio doors and started humming the melody of the highly inappropriate song that was Carl and Shay’s wedding march . She nearly choked, as much from laughing at the sudden memory, as from Ben’s acute timing to her thoughts. The only thing funnier than the memorial had to be their wedding. That alone brought a faint, but fond smile to her face. It was nice to see an honest smile on her face again. It had been a while.
Shay half smiled, taking some comfort in his being near. They’ve been good friends for about twelve years now. Somehow, he made it to be one of the few people she called her “2am friends”. The type of friend you could call at 2am for anything without a second thought. At first Ben thought she was just being polite to him as Carl’s new friend. As time passed, it was Shay who received the first phone call in the middle of the night when his own mother passed three years ago and the true meaning of the phrase hit home. He hadn’t even called his girlfriend at the time until two days later. Not surprisingly she was soon his ex.
Ben lifted Shay’s chin up, the honest smile from a moment ago already fleeting into the plastic smile she had been using for the past few days. Damn, gone already! Shay shrugged, her heart gone from the room again. The only clue he had that she was still aware of his presence was her hand on his arm. They both stared out into the backyard, their separate thoughts anywhere but there.
A sharp pain in his arm brought him back to the moment. Shay was thanking a woman he didn’t know, but the pressure of her fingers in his arm increased. It dawned on him that the pressure had been increasing for the past few minutes. It was only now to the point of causing pain that he noticed it. He called her name gently as the woman walked away. The expression on her face as she turned to him that got his full attention. It was the complete lack of expression in her eyes to be exact as the pain in his arm increased more.
Someone else came up to her and she was responding. Shay was reacting completely by route. It was amazing to watch. Ben was probably the only person in the room that knew the extent of Shay’s emotional state at that moment and realized the only thing keeping her going was the death grip on his arm. He could feel his arm starting to go numb where she gripped. Shay was literally drawing strength from him and he knew the moment she stopped, he would lose her.
It was finally the stiffness in Shay’s own fingers that brought her attention to grip she had on Ben’s arm. She wasn’t even aware she had touched him, let alone held on long enough to cramp her own fingers. It had to be hurting him, but he wasn’t saying anything. Shay opened her mouth wanting to speak, to apologize, but nothing was coming from her. Ben, who had been speaking with someone on the other side of him, turned to her quickly when she released his arm.
Ben quickly grabbed her hand trying to get her to grip his arm again. It was too late.
Shay was suddenly aware of all the music, all the people, all the – everything, around her and the room spun. The last thing she heard was Ben calling her name, catching her before she could hit the floor.