Authors: Pamela Crane
Durham, North Carolina
Copyright © 2013 by Pamela Crane
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems—except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews—without written permission.
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious or are used fictitiously. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental and not intended by the author.
ISBN: 978-1-940662-008 (paperback)
Printed and bound in the United States of America
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I loathe the day I met you,
he day you tried to destroy me.
Yet I love the day I met You,
the day You set me free.
He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love.
– Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
cut. One swift movement across pink flesh. In a moment of desperation it sounded so easy, so quick. But as my hand hovered above my wrist with measured pressure, the cold stainless steel blade taunted me. My courage waned as I trembled with each heartbeat that pulsed beneath the knife’s serrated edge. Only a thin layer of skin contained my precious lifeblood.
In picture-perfect clarity,
I imagined the jagged grooves puncturing and tearing my skin. I regretted being so hasty in picking up the first knife I came across. A smoother blade wouldn’t take as long to do the job, and it likely wouldn’t hurt as much. The thought itself startled me, striking me with its ferocity. My vein jumped beneath the blade.
as I actually deliberating the efficiency of my own suicide?
No doubts, no hesitat
ing. One slice and this part would be over soon enough. Then I wouldn’t have to think anymore.
Press it down
, and I did.
never felt the blade pinch and then slide into my skin, moving right to left, catching on the tiny bone about halfway across. My mind blocked out the pain, focusing my thoughts on one face—the only face that mattered to me now. Under the force of my steadied hand, I pulled the blade across and out, then leaned into the cushions of the sofa, watching blood ooze from the cut, building momentum as it trickled down my palm the way rain collected on a windowpane. The puddled droplets eventually found residence in the quilt beneath me that protected the microfiber cushions, the crimson chaotically adding to the kaleidoscope of colors. Oddly, I cared about the stain, though I wouldn’t be here tomorrow to see it.
Still one wrist to go, but
I needed to make the phone call first while I still had the strength and ability to dial. I fumbled to open my cell phone—I was weaker than I thought—then concentrated on pressing each of the memorized numbers. The line rang. Voicemail picked up, just as I’d expected.
“I kept my promise,” I
said, then hung up. There’d be no more pain after this. I’d be gone and everyone else could have their happily ever after.
This was the only way to make everything better.
Life had become pain and suffering, and I was tired of suffering. I was tired of making others suffer. If only there was hope out there to make it all worthwhile … but there was none. None that I knew of, at least.
closed my eyes, feeling my energy drain from the slit. My body relaxed along with my thoughts.
Some say they envision a collage of memories
during a near-death experience. Others embark on that journey toward the white light. I saw neither. Instead I envisioned one memory. The day that first tore my heart open and my life apart—when
trampled my life.
you afraid to die?” Haley’s question drifted off into the antiseptic-scented room as her father refused her plea with a turned head. Only his beeping heart monitor answered. It was the day before her twelfth birthday and she knew her father wouldn’t live to see it. She squeezed his hand before Frank Montgomery’s weak grip released his eldest daughter’s fingers.
It isn’t fair
It never was.
“Haley, don’t ask things like that.”
Haley turned to her mom
, who spoke from the doorway where she waited for the doctor.
“I wanna know.”
“That’s not something you should be asking him right now.”
Oh, but Haley disagreed. There were lots of
questions… most of which she’d probably never get the chance to ask. But her mom didn’t understand that. She didn’t understand anything Haley felt.
“Just leave me alone, Mom.”
That’s all she wanted—to be left alone. Forever.
She wanted to hate her dad for getting sick. In the seclusion of her bedroom last night, she had prayed for God to punish him for not trying harder. And for the first time, God answered. But why
did He choose that prayer? What about all of the other prayers for healing? Haley hated her father, and she hated God too. The fact that her father was dying was just as much His fault as it was her father’s for giving up.
She tugged on his pale blue sleeve until the cotton fabric slipped from her fingers and her arm lay rigid on the bed. She returned to the chair she had occupied all day, eyeing the imprint of her behind before she plopped down. Propping her hands on her chin, she
swiped at a stray tear and stared into space, fixing void, watery eyes on the white wall beside his stiff hospital bed where Dad lay stretched out covered in white sheets.
Haley jolted at the
sound of irritatingly upbeat steps as the doctor arrived, gesturing her mother into the hallway. Haley sat quietly while Gabrielle stepped outside the room, but they never closed the door behind them.
Why didn’t they close the door?
They spoke in hushed tones, but Haley only listened harder. Wouldn’t they figure an inquisitive twelve-year-old would eavesdrop? As Haley sat uncomfortably still, she heard everything.
“The cancer is spreading too fast, Mrs. Montgomery.”
Cancer—one of the most dreaded words in the English language. Haley’s arms prickled.
“There’s nothing more we can do for him.”
Her heart thumped a little harder.
And then the matter-of-fact final words of the doctor: “He’s not going to make it through the night.”
Haley’s heart missed a beat then wrenched with pain. Their conversation repeated like a broken record in Haley’s mind, skipping over and over…
The doctor’s footsteps clambered away, the tempo fading into the din of nurse chatter and beds on
squeaky wheels. Sobs that followed echoed down the empty, sterile hallway. While Gabrielle Montgomery wept outside the door, struggling to muffle her cries, Haley brooded, burying it inside.
This can’t be happening. Make it stop.
She dealt with it the only way she knew how—by pretending it away. Haley envied her younger sister, who blissfully dangled chubby legs over the vinyl-covered chair in the corner. The smaller version of Haley fiddled with a blonde baby doll in her lap, twisting the doll’s curls around her pinkie. It appeared that she had no clue what was going on as she babbled to her toy. Haley wished the toddler’s ignorance for herself. She didn’t want this memory. It wasn’t fair.
Death hovered over her like an ominous cloud, ready to pour its toxic rain at a moment’s notice. She restlessly awaited its cruel thunder. Though her mother tried to protect her from the truth, Gabrielle would never know how deeply Haley would be affected by these events, and Haley would never tell.
At the sound of heels clicking on ceramic, Haley was met by the sight of her mother’s puffy eyes and tear-stained cheeks.
She knelt down and firmly grabbed Haley’s shoulders. A
n intensity clouded Gabrielle’s bloodshot eyes as she pulled her firstborn to her chest. Haley closed her eyes, retrieving a distant memory of her mother’s happy face. When she opened them again, it seemed like her mother aged ten years over the past couple months. A few new creases cut around her mother’s mouth that hadn’t been there months before. Several lines crawled out from the corners of her eyes. Soft fingertips brushed stray hairs away from Haley’s brow, and she felt her mom probing her. Haley could smell talcum powder and she tried to pull away.
“You look so much like your
daddy…” Gabrielle reflected, as if deep in thought. “Go say goodnight to him. We have to leave.”
“I don’t want to. I’m not leaving him.”
“C’mon, sweetie. It’s time to go. We really don’t have time to argue about this. I have to take you and your sister home.”
Somehow Haley knew she was dropping them off so she could come back alone to watch her husband of fifteen years slip from life. As her mom reached to grab her hand, she pulled away.
“Mom, I’m staying here with you. I want to be with Dad.” She needed to be here. He needed her here.
“I’m sorry, sweetie.”
“No. I’m not leaving him to die just so you can feel better about it.”
Her mother’s eyes widened and mouth gaped. “I know this is difficult for you, but I don’t want you to see this, honey.”
“He won’t die as long as I keep him awake.”
“You can’t stop this.”
“Yes I can.”
“No, honey, you can’t. Everyo
ne has a certain number of days…” As her voice trailed, Haley sensed that her mom didn’t believe the words herself.
“Before God steals them
?” Haley choked on the words, barely able to push them out.
Gabrielle cocked her head, concern etched on her brow.
“He borrows our loved ones until we can be reunited, Haley.”
“No, no, no!” Haley screamed. “This isn’t fair!” As if watching it from afar, Haley saw her mom fall back a little as a blunt force slammed into Gabrielle’s shoulder. Then another. When she looke
d down, she realized it was her… uncontrollably punching her mother. Two small fists pounded the only object within reach, again and again. She had no control over her arms, no control of her actions. Every impact released something inside of Haley that hurt, numbing the pain. Something told her that if she just kept punching, maybe she’d feel better, so her fists kept flying.
“Honey, stop! You’re hurting me!” Gabrielle’s words went unheeded. Haley’s balled up hands evaded her mother’s frantic grasp, leaving shoulder bruises in their wake. She couldn’t stop, and Gabrielle couldn’t stop her.
This one’s for Dad leaving me.
This one’s for God
This one’s for the doctors who couldn’t save him
ward, Gabrielle’s wounded shoulders evaded the next blow while Haley’s wild fury was delivered to thin air. Gabrielle managed to catch both wrists, ceasing their firing. “Stop! Now.”
A feeble cough from the corner of the room interrupted them. Both heads turned toward the distraction. Frank weakly raised a hand and motioned for his daughter to come closer. She slowly approached; the journey from the chair to the bed felt
Afraid to touch him so as not to break him, Haley rested her head next to his pillow. She pushed back newly formed tears. S
he had never seen him like this… so fragile with tubes entering his nose and needles puncturing his wrists. This skeletal man before her appeared ghostly, ashy. Haley missed the sun-kissed olive complexion he once had; this stranger looked nothing like him. So weak, so small. The man that once towered over her, cuddling her with strong thick arms and broad shoulders, was gone and replaced with this sickly substitute. It couldn’t be him… but it was.
She felt the cool of his skin as he leaned his forehead against hers. It was just the two of them. Everything around them vanished into space; the walls and people faded as the moment froze in time. Their eyes locked as he held her chin between his finger and thumb. She refused to blink, as if one misstep would send him off of this planet and out of her life. As long as she maintained eye contact, he couldn’t leave her. She stared so hard that her eyes burned. His fingertips gently brushed against her cheek and absorbed a stray tear.
“I’m sorry you have to go through this, honey.” His husky voice sounded like it always did. A welcome sound.
“No, let me say this. I know this isn’t easy for you, and I wish I could make all of this better for you girls. But Haley, you’re strong.” He paused to catch a shallow breath.
Haley’s reply got stuck in her throat somewhere. Her mind rumbled through all the things she had wanted to tell him. Both good and bad.
“You know I love you, don’t you?”
Their hands found each other, and Haley timidly squeezed. She felt all their years together in that hand. Though everything else about him looked different, his touch hadn’t changed. It had the same texture, the same warmth that she recognized. He squeezed three beats:
I love you
. She returned the covert message with four:
I love you too
. It was their private language that they shared without words, started before Haley could remember. Somehow they always knew what the other was trying to say with each squeeze.
That message was his last secret communication to her.
“Promise me something.” He wheezed before finishing the thought. Haley dreaded hearing it, for it sounded too much like last words. She didn’t want last words. “Promise me that you’ll let go of the pain.”
Let go of the pain?
The words cruelly smacked her with the realization that he knew what he was doing to her and was doing it anyways. But it was a dying man’s last wish. Not just any dying man, but her father. Haley didn’t understand the weight of his request just then—how it would shape her entire future—and she wouldn’t understand it for years to come.
But she spoke the words anyways: “I promise.”