A Gift of Loveby_Lynn_©
This is my entry in the Valentine's Day contest for 2009. It's just a short piece but I hope you enjoy it.
Billy knelt on the damp grass and looked at the words in front of her. February 14, 2008, the date on the slab of marble at the head of her husband's grave. He'd died on Valentine's Day, that special time for red roses, chocolates, romance and lovers. Lou had been gone a year to the day and Billy still struggled to accept the fact that she would never see him again. He'd been her whole life and it wasn't fair that he'd left her alone.
Forty was far too young to die. She screamed out the words each time she visited the cemetery. It didn't bring Lou back though. Billy looked at the spot on her left hand where she thought she'd always see the diamond Lou gave her when he proposed. The matching wedding band now laid along side it in her jewelry box. Her bare skin only had a trace of an indentation, and even that little reminder would soon disappear, she knew.
Memories of their life together raced through her head. Billy laid the flowers down and let the images wash over her. Scenes from their wedding, the first apartment they moved into, even the day he tried to teach her how to drive a stick shift car, were all bittersweet. Her eyes glazed over as she pictured Lou making love to her.
"I miss you so much, Lou. This last year has been horrible. What am I going to do for the rest of my life without you? Why didn't you stay longer, Lou?"
Her piercing shriek startled the birds from the nearby trees. The fluttering of their wings added to Billy's sudden fear. She knew that voice but it was impossible to hear it now... Lou was dead.
"I know you heard me, Billy. You can turn around. It's safe, I promise."
"No, you're dead. It's all in my head," Billy said without moving.
"I'm right here. Look at me, sweetheart. You have questions, I know you do."
"Leave me alone. Get out of here! My Lou is dead, he left me last year."
Billy covered her ears and let her face fall to her chest. She was so tired, that had to be why she was hearing him talk to her, she decided.
"Please Billy, listen to me. You know you want to."
The voice came closer and Billy swore she felt hands on her shoulders.
"No, you aren't real. Why are you doing this? Don't touch me!"
"Sweetheart, I know there are things we didn't get to do. We thought we had forever. I didn't want to leave you, Billy."
"I hate being alone! Why did you go if you wanted to stay?"
"Sweetheart, I didn't have a choice. You know that's how it is when it's someone's turn to go. I'd never leave you on my own, Billy. You have to believe me."
She didn't reply as she waited to hear more.
"Do you remember the week we spent in that old cabin at the lake? You were so sexy in that blue bathing suit. I swore you bought it just to tempt me. What about the Paris vacation? I can still see you sitting at that little café, wearing that short white dress that made you look so innocent. I would have been happy staying in our hotel room the entire time so that I could make love to you. You had our server take pictures of us and framed them when we got back home. Then you hung them in the family room with our wedding pictures."
Her back straightened as he talked about the different times in their life together. Memories of those trips washed over her and brought fresh tears to her eyes. They'd been so happy. Billy was so afraid she'd turn around to find empty space that she didn't dare move.
"I laughed so hard the weekend we painted the family room. That ugly turquoise on the walls kept showing through no matter what we did. You kept trying to cover it with another coat of paint until you tossed the roller down and gave up. If you'd only seen yourself the way I did then, Billy."
Billy thought about what she'd done next and groaned. Aggravated, she'd stripped off her shirt and put her naked breasts into the wet paint. Lou dared her to do the same thing with her bottom. She'd agreed if he joined her. He never hesitated and soon they were taking turns rubbing themselves over the walls, making odd patterns everywhere. Wet paint coated their skin as they laughed and let out their frustration. Their sticky bodies clung together when they made love on the plastic drop cloth covering the floor.
"I can see that you're thinking about it, Billy. Your body tells me so much about what you're feeling," Lou's voice murmured from right behind her.
"Why did you go? I loved you with everything in me, Lou. Why did you leave me here all alone?"
Billy's agonized cry echoed through the air. She pounded the earth under her as if hitting at his buried body.
"Always remember that I loved you with all my heart. It's time to let me go and move on. Open your eyes to the world around you and you'll be happy once more. It's time, Billy. You're a beautiful woman. That forever kind of love is closer than you think."
She swore she felt him wrapping his arms around her body. His strength and heat soothed her confused mind. Exhausted, Billy slipped into a deep sleep.
"Ma'am, are you all right? Should I call an ambulance?"
Darren crouched next to the woman lying on the ground and touched her shoulder. He knew she was alive from the rise and fall of her chest, but it worried him that she wasn't answering.
"Can you open your eyes? Ma'am, it's time to wake up."
Billy groaned at the intrusion into her dream. She just wanted it to leave her alone. Her sweet Lou was with her again and nothing else mattered. The loneliness of the last year slipped away as she heard the deep timber of his voice.
Darren finally saw the woman's face as she rolled onto her back and gasped. He felt his heart slam against his chest and saw the way his hands shook.
"You're beautiful," Darren whispered, forgetting his concern for a moment.
"What ... who are you? Where did you come from?" Billy asked. The confusion was evident in her voice as she stared at the strange man bending over her.
Darren slid his arms around her shoulders as she attempted to sit up. He felt dizzy just from looking into her dark brown eyes and struggled to remember what she'd just asked.
"My name is Darren. I was on the other side of the path, leaving flowers for my mom. She died on Valentine's Day last year."
"How ... I don't understand ..."
"It felt as if someone pulled on the back of my shirt. When I stood up, I heard my mom telling me to look in this direction. She told me someone needed me over here. I saw you lying on the ground and hurried right over."
"He was here, just a few minutes ago."
"I didn't see anyone else." Darren turned his head to scan the area but saw no one.
"Lou, my husband, he was right here behind me. I swear I felt his arms on me. He talked to me."
Billy went through the conversation with her dead husband in her mind. She caught her breath when the pieces fell into place.
"He brought you here. Lou made sure you found me. He told me it was time to let him go and ..."
Darren waited but she didn't finish. He looked at the headstone behind her and realized the date on it.
"Valentine's Day is a time for romance and love. Mom always told me I spent too much time taking care of her when she was sick. Someone else needed me more, she said that last day before she died."
"They put us here today," Billy said as she made the connection of all the oddities that just happened. She gave a soft smile and nodded.
"I'm Billy ..."