Authors: M.R. Joseph
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Copyright © 2016 by M.R. Joseph
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Table of Contents
For battling your war with bravery and perseverance. For accepting the things you cannot change. For being my family, which you are and always will be, whether you like it or not. For not only being a friend to me for thirty years, but being a sister. Thank you for being an inspiration, a realist, and a dreamer. This is for you, Henrietta.
don't really know much these days. My brain isn’t where it should be. Each new day brings hope but I can't bank on that. What I am sure of, is that I don't remember a time when Mack Cooper wasn't in my life. I don't know a world without him. I felt his presence even when I didn't know he was near. Maybe that's why I feel the way I do. I felt safe and secure knowing our bedroom windows faced each other. I knew just beyond the thick glass of the windowpanes, Mack was lying in his bed reading one of his silly comics or writing an article for the school newspaper. As our teen years approached, I'd think about other things he was doing in that bed. Who was he thinking about, and were they worthy of his thoughts and his feelings, or were they solely a face without a name? Just another thing on my list of things I should have asked Mack Cooper.
I think about our young parents both starting their new families. They moved into a brand new neighborhood of cookie-cutter houses in Long Beach, on Long Island’s South Shore. It was a beach town full of shops and restaurants, surfers, and families. The perfect place to make a new start. They didn't know each other then, but as soon as moving trucks pulled in front of their homes, which happened to be next to each other—the stories began. We met in utero that day. Our mothers were pregnant at the same time—Jocelyn Cooper was eight months along with Mack, and my mom, Mae, almost six months pregnant with me. Our moms told us the tale of how they stepped out of their respective cars and waddled to their new front doors, turned and noticed each other rubbing their bellies in sync, then smiled and waved.
The rest they tell us—is history.
They would tell Mack and me stories of vacations we took together. Holidays spent together. Birthday parties. Summer nights spent walking the boardwalk of Long Beach and how Mack and I were inseparable. How I wish those days weren't behind us. I long for them. I wish I could go back in time and relive every one of them. The stories Mack's mom, Jocelyn, and my mom tell me are the ones I'm holding on to.
I've been praying, but I'm losing my faith and feel all hope is lost.
I haven't heard his voice in one hundred seventy days. The minutes and days since he's been gone tick by so slowly and so painfully, sometimes I can't breathe. The brightness of the morning restarts the countdown till the pink clouds of dusk come and end the day. I stare at the phone all day. I jump when I hear the mailman or the newspaper hitting the front step when it's delivered. When there's no ringing of the telephone or just find the paper at my door.
When I close my eyes, the only thing I see is Mack's face. I see his chestnut colored hair and the warmth of his sparkling amber eyes. The sight of the strong angle of his jaw and the slight slope of his nose would make anyone stop in their tracks and gaze at him. Mack's devastatingly, aristocratic looks never fooled me though. I always knew there was so much more behind the looks.
I see the small scar above his right eye from when we were ten, and I threw a rock at him for telling the boys in the neighborhood that I stuffed my bra. Ten stitches for Mack, and for me, no TV for a month. I can still feel the smooth and shiny skin of the scar under the pad of my thumb. It would become red when he was upset. I used to run my thumb across it when we fought. It was my way of saying I'm sorry to him. Then slowly, with a smile, he'd lean into my touch and all would be right again between us. I'm not good at sorry, so when this act took place Mack just knew. I was always sorry for hurting him with that rock, and while growing up this was my sorry go-to.
What I wouldn't give right now to touch him—to say to him,
“Please, Mack, stay.”
Instead, my stubbornness took hold of me and he didn’t stay. The way he left was my fault. I shouldn’t have let him walk out that door. I should have demanded he stay.
When I close my eyes, I can hear his voice. I can hear him calling to me.
His nickname for me since we were toddlers. Since he stuttered so badly the
in my name couldn’t be pronounced, so Rinny it became. No one else could call me that. No other boy in my whole life could ever mutter it—not even my dad. It belonged to him. My name and my heart belonged to MacIntyre Cooper.
I miss hearing it. I miss the smoothness of the way he called me
when we were a little older and he was serious. Growing up he was my protector. The role of older brother is what he played. If I close my eyes, I can hear him saying, "
Corrine, you need to swing that bat evenly. Stop chopping wood
," or "
Corrine, stop fighting with Mae and just do your chores so we can take the metal detectors down to the beach and search for treasure
," or "
Corrine, that guy is an asshole. Don't date him
." Then there was "
Corrine, you look beautiful today
Those words came later. The simplicity of the word
impacted me so much, not because someone thought of me that way, but it was because it was Mack who thought of me that way. He was the only one who could speak those words and make them mean something to me. Mack was my first everything. My first friend. My first partner in crime, my first batting coach, my first kick to a set of balls, my first kiss, my first . . . love. My only love. The one man who could bring me to my knees just with the sheer masculinity of his voice. Words rolled off Mack's tongue like sinful chocolate. Velvet and silky. His words were mesmerizing, intoxicating, and forceful at times, but no matter what—you hung onto each one. He commanded a room without being militant about it. People gravitated to him. It was the way he was . . . still is. I hope.
If there is a God and he hears my prayers and the prayers of his mother and our families, I hope he answers them. I hope he's safe. I hope he's trying to come back to us. I pray he's not with God but that He is watching over him.
After hearing him almost every day of my life, I'm not used to not hearing him. I play his last voicemail in the morning and before I fall asleep at night. Even though I'm hearing him—it's not the same. The unfathomable truth sets in—I may never hear his voice speaking to me in the flesh again.
I’ve seen his face. His body draped in soiled clothes. I’ve seen him with a black hood on. He was on his knees reading something the bad people told him to read. It wasn't in English. His captors spoke in another language above Mack's own voice. His were muffled. Words that haunt me.
"Will kill me."
"I will never return."
"Demands need to be met."
Those words sliced at my heart like a scalpel and sounded like nails on a chalkboard in my mind.
That was the last time we saw his beautiful face, even if it was covered in purplish bruises and cuts. That was the last time we heard anything else about his whereabouts.
Mack always told me when things got tough and I no longer felt like I'm strong enough to get through difficulties in my life, I needed to take the leap. The leap of faith. He told me there were only some things we don't have control over. Our fates are decided for us long before we were ever made up. As I said, my faith is failing me, and fate has brought us here. I don’t want us to be here. I just want Mack.
I need to repeat the mantra Mack always told me. When the going gets tough—just leap.