Paint It BlackbyJakeRivers©
When my turn came, Angie handed me a small, flat package. It turned out to be a very nice calfskin address book.
With a faint tinge of sarcasm, she said, "Notice that I already put my name in it! Now you have no excuse for not calling."
I smiled at that but didn't say anything.
It was a wonderful morning. Everyone treated me like I was one of the family. I realized with a start that I really was … that I had always been part of the family.
I flew out later that afternoon and spent a week with Mom and others in my extended family. It was a nice visit but it was good to get back to work. I settled in and was quite busy. We were at a critical design stage and were scheduled to make the final pitch for funding the first of March.
The days and weeks flew by and we finally made our pitch. We got pretty much what we asked for but when everything had settled down they had increased our equipment budget significantly.
About a week later, this was about ten weeks since Christmas, I was watching Phoenix and Dallas go into overtime: Nash versus Nowitzki was always fun to watch. There came a knock on the door and I paused the game -- God bless DVR's. It was, of course, Angie again.
She came in, a sudden flurry of activity, a box in her arms. "Jim, I ... I made a couple of apple pies and I ... well, I thought you might like one."
She put it on the counter -- next to the address book she had given me. She looked at it for a frozen minute, and then asked, "Did you like it? Did you like my present then?"
Before I could answer she ran from the room crying. Perplexed, I stood there and tried to figure it out. Not coming to any understanding, I sliced a piece of the pie and finished watching the game.
Later I thought about it lying in bed. I considered all the interactions I'd had with Angie since Jen had died but the pieces weren't falling into place. Finally, I fell into a deep sleep. Hours later I slowly came somewhat awake and felt a presence in the room. I knew there could be no one there but I had that same sense of peace I'd felt that night sleeping in Jen's bed. Out of nowhere came a fragment of one of Jen's favorite songs - not audibly heard, but in my head.
"Hey, Jude! Don't let her down
You have found her, now go and get her."
It seemed like Jen was singing it -- as she had so many times before. I felt a hand on my cheek: like I had held Angie's cheek with my own that Christmas morning.
"Remember, to let her into your heart
Then you can start to make it better."
I was awake now. I got up and fixed a cup of tea. As I sipped the tea I stared at Jen's picture -- searching for some answer. I saw the address book on the kitchen counter and walked over to pick it up. I ran my fingers lightly over the smooth - almost warm feeling -- leather. I lifted it to my nose -- inhaling the rich aroma of fine calfskin. Idly I leafed through the pages -- one at a time, flipping them slowly over. There was nothing on any page until I came to one about half way through that had Angie's phone number on it.
I suddenly dropped the address book as if it were hot to the touch. I looked down at it and realized with somewhat of a shock that Angie loved me! With a sense of wonder, I turned the thought this way, that way in my mind. I studied it; I considered that it was true. I almost ran to the phone to call her to see if it were true. I stopped as I picked up the handset. The time wasn't really great for social calls, but more important, I had no idea how I felt.
Had Jen been trying to tell me something? I got Jen's photo album from the closet and looked for the picture there. It was taken at a dance we had been to with Angie and a guy she was dating and the picture showed Angie dancing with me; she had a look of what could only be rapture on her face. It came to me then that Angie had always loved me in some fashion. I was humbled by the realization.
I thought of all that had happened -- the intense feeling of blackness that had invaded my soul for so long. Holding that thought I realized with a small shock that I hadn't felt that blackness since Christmas.
The next day I called Angie and somewhat clumsily asked her out to dinner.
"Why?" she replied.
I considered that question carefully.
"Well, Angie, the food is good there, I like your company, and I'd like it very much if you could go with me."
I could almost hear her smile. "Okay, come early and visit with the folks."
I did get there early and I enjoyed talking to them. I felt guilty that I hadn't stopped by more often. Angie would glance at me every few minutes -- almost a question in her eyes.
As we got to our table and I pulled out her chair, she indicated the one next to where I would sit. The waiter came to take our drink orders and left. She put her hand on mine and looked away for a minute -- deciding something. Leaving her hand on mine, she looked straight in my eyes for a long minute.
Finally, she whispered, "You know, don't you?"
"Yes, Angie, I know."
She took a deep breath, and asked, "How do you feel about it?"
"Angie, I have to be honest with you. I was in the grasp of this darkness, this blackness for so long that I didn't really see what was going on around me. How do I feel? Many things. Mostly I feel honored and humbled that such a special person as you would care about me. I feel excited in a way I never thought I could again. You have awakened something in me that lay fallow for far too long.
"I need to learn to live again ... to learn to love again. I do need some time to … "
"What do you need time for, Jim? How much time?"
Slowly, I responded, "Time to do what we are doing now. Time to explore each other in a new light. Time for you to test your love and for me to make sure the blackness has really gone. How long? I can't say but we'll know, Angie, we'll know."
With that I leaned over and gave her a short kiss just as the waiter came with our order. She laughed a little and visibly relaxed. We had a lot of fun and much laughter along with the great meal. There did seem to be a certain brittleness to her but I could understand that.
From then on I made a point to either call or see her every day. The first time we ate dinner with her parents I expected them to say something but I guess they knew all along. Later I talked with her dad.
"When you and Jen got hitched, we thought it was cute the way she loved you. We thought it was like puppy love. I guess Jen knew all along but they always had such a great relationship that it wasn't a problem."
"Dad, how do you think Jen would like it if … well, if something happened with Angie and I?" I'd taken to calling him dad soon after Jen had moved in with me.
"Why, boy, I reckon Jen's up in heaven right now smiling' down on us. I surely do think she would be tickled pink."
As we dated and gradually became closer, that brittleness I'd sensed at the restaurant that night faded away. I guess if you want something for such a long time and so deeply, that when it does come it can be hard to trust.
I took it slow and gentle with Angie. I knew she loved me but I didn't want to spook her. She had a sweetness that I guess I'd always known about but never fully realized.
Months slid by faster than I could believe. I gained a growing assurance that I loved her for herself and not just as Jen's little sister. What wasn't to love? She was pretty in the girl-next-door sort of way. Where Jen had always been calm, Angie had a natural gaiety about her that made folks smile whenever they saw her. She didn't have Jen's outgoing kindness and thoughtfulness for others but she was kind and caring in a narrower sense. It took her time to make friends but when she did, you knew you were a friend forever.
We would cuddle most days that we had a date but neither of us seemed in a rush for something more physical. It's hard to explain but we had an intimacy that many couples can only gain through physical contact.
During the Thanksgiving dinner that fall, Robert's wife, Marie, was talking about a wedding shower she had gone to. When she finished Dad looked at us, one by one as we sat across the table from each other, and asked, "Well, when are you kids gittin' hitched?"
With great interest, everyone looked at us. Angie and I made eye contact and I could see the question there. I nodded at her -- letting her know that whatever she wanted to say was okay. We had talked in general terms but nothing specific had been decided. Actually I was very interested to hear exactly what she would say.
"Well, Jim and I would like to get married on Christmas Eve, here in the house." She looked over at me and I smiled so she continued, "Then Christmas morning we will be here for our traditional gift giving and then we will leave for our honeymoon."
She had tears in her eyes -- I think I did too -- and everyone got up and gave us hugs.
It worked out just like she said. We got married on Christmas Eve with just friends and family around. We slept together for the first time in her small bed in her room. That's the way she wanted it.
It was a slow, beautiful sharing of many tender moments. We both knew that wild passion would come later. That first time was more of a recognition of our joining together in marriage and a seal of our shared love.
I woke in the night and had a sense that Jen was smiling down on us. It was like she was saying goodbye and wishing us well. I could feel the last vestiges of the darkness that had been so much a part of my life after she died melt away in a happiness I'd never expected to find.
The next summer, Angie wanted to go to the beach. With an air of mystery she said, "I just want to check on something."
We walked slowly along the beach, holding hands and marveling at the beauty of the summer morning, dashing in and out of the gentle waves that seemed to greet us with a smile. We got to the little cove, sandwiches in hand, and stared at the emerald green water. As the sun rose higher in the sky, slowly, and we ate our sandwiches, the water started its metamorphosis to a deep blue.
I'd told the story to Angie of how the sea wouldn't change for me anymore. There was a look of wonder on her face as she watched the magical change of hue. When she realized the water was truly a deep blue and all hints of green were gone she threw herself on me with a squeal. She blushed prettily and whispered one word in my ear.
"Did you say daddy? Me? Really?"
She smiled her yes and together we made love in that private cove with an abandon that would mark our lovemaking for many years.
If I look hard enough into the settin' sun
My love will laugh with me before the mornin' comes