Friday, December 2, 2011

The Last Dance (Part 4)

The Last Dance (Part 4--the ending)
an original short story by Amber Lea Easton
(a story about what ifs, longing and regret.)  

     “Mommy, can you make us something to eat?” Vanessa stood in the hallway and I wonderd how much she heard.  
All talked out,  I said nothing as I moved past him.  
“Why is daddy so sad?” she asked.  
I didn't have an answer so I said nothing.
In the kitchen, I made sandwiches while chatting absentmindedly with the kids about our vacation.  Sam dumped his shell collection on the counter.  
I'm struck by the absolute peace in the house. Calm.  
“Sam, can you find daddy and tell him I have some sandwiches ready?”  
He hopped from the counter and walked toward the hallway before stopping and shaking his head no.
“C’mon, Sammy, help out mommy.  Go tell daddy that we have sandwiches for him.”  Exhaustion weighted down my bones.  
I sank into the deep cushions of the sofa and toyed with Vanessa’s braids.  Absolute silence permeated the house.  A breeze caressed my bare feet through the open deck door, but made no sound.  It was as if even the birds stopped singing.
“Mommy,” confusion twisted Sam’s face, “there’s something wrong with daddy. He needs help.”
I moved Vanessa from my lap and followed Sam to the master bedroom.  One thing after another with this guy…I wonder what kind of bullshit he’s pulling now.  He said he'd go…he promised he'd make things better…he…
My mind can't register what it's seeing.  He's kneeling in the corner of our walk-in closet, my sweater-coat covering his face.  Weird.   
       I flicked on the light.
“Marshall, what the hell are you doing?  You’re scaring the kids.” 
No movement.  
I could almost hear my ribs cracking from the intense thumping in my chest. 
“Go in the hallway,” I told the kids as I walked toward him.  “Marshall, what're you doing?  This is stupid.”
I pushed his shoulder.  His body swayed.  

        I noticed everything at once.  Not kneeling, his feet skimmed the floor.  I pulled the sweater from his face.  Tongue stuck out sideways, blue eyes glazed over—not the same eyes at all.  Nylon cord cut into his neck.
“Oh my God, Marshall, what the hell have you done?”  I lifted him up, trying to slacken the cord.  “Vanessa, get me a phone, call 9-1-1,” I screamed as I held him up, pushing my leg beneath his hip as my fingers struggle with the cord. 
  Oh my God, oh my God, this can’t be happening.  This can’t be real. 
Vanessa rushed in with the phone asI yell at her to stay out of the closet, not to look at her daddy.  One arm around Marshall, I struggled to hold the phone.
“My husband…he tried to kill himself…he’s hanging…I don’t know what to do…yes, he’s hanging…no, I don’t know what to do…”
“Is he breathing?”
“I don’t know.”
“Is he conscious?”
God, his face.  Nothing in my life has prepared me to see his face like this…like a contorted mockery of life, all twisted and grotesque.  
“He’s warm,” I said.
. “You need to get the cord from his neck and give him CPR.”
I never felt so stupid in all of my life.  CPR.  I should know this.  I should know what to do, but I can’t think.  None of this seemed real.  I dropped my head against his chest as I kept holding him up.  
He isn’t dead. He feels solid and warm.  I smell his soap on his skin.  
“He’s hanging,” I said again to the 9-1-1 operator.  “We need help.  I don’t know what to do.”
“He’s still hanging?”
“I’m holding him,” I said.
“Cut him down.  Give him CPR.”
Cut him down…of course.  Stupid, stupid, stupid….I dropped the phone, let him go, ran down the hall, grabbed a knife, told the kids to stay in the hallway.  
“Save daddy, mommy,” they cried.  “Save daddy.”
But I can’t save daddy.  I never could.  
I slashed the knife through the cord he'd tied around a beam in our closet.  His body fell onto the floor beneath the hems of my dresses, his head against a pile of my shoes.  Shaking, I grabbed the phone and followed the instructions of the 9-1-1 operator.  
Hands in his hair, I tilted his head back and pressed my lips to his.  My breath choked on a sob.  I wanted him to live.  I wanted him to cough and be okay.  Breathe, damn it, breathe.  My hands pushed on his chest.  
“Don’t you leave me, you son of a bitch,” I said.  “Please, don’t leave me.  You can’t leave us, stay with me.”
There are hands on my shoulders, lifting me from him.  A sheriff leaned over him, then a paramedic.
“Mommy, save daddy,” Vanessa screamed at me from where she stood at the closet door. “Save him, mommy.”
“He’s alive,” I told the paramedic who looked up at me.  “You can bring him back.  He can’t leave us.  He can’t leave us.”
“I’m sorry, ma’am, we need room to work.”  A sheriff guided me from the closet.
I kept my eyes on Marshall, on his long body lying awkwardly on the closet floor with strangers hovering above him.  
“He needs to stay with us.”  Hand against my mouth, I struggled to think.  “He can’t be dead.  We were dancing in the laundry room, we were in the Bahamas this morning, he was going to plant trees, he promised to make it better, he promised…”
“I'm sorry, ma’am, we need you to calm the kids down.”  
I moved like a robot.  Kids in Vanessa’s room, movie on while my house floods with people in uniform.  I told the story repeatedly to one officer after another…unloaded the truck, bags in the laundry room, made lunch, hanging in the closet with a sweater-coat over his face, tried to save him.  Over and over I said the same words, but all I saw were those eyes of his…those blue eyes of his devoid of life…that twisted face…the cord cutting into his neck…his body on the closet floor…
“Ma’am, I’m sorry.   He’s gone.  We couldn’t bring him back.” 
I wanted to vomit.  
I rocked on the sofa where just an hour ago I'd been playing with my daughter’s braids and thinking about how quiet it had been.  I rocked. I couldn't stop rocking, couldn't stop moving.  
I pictured him as he'd been only a day ago, in the sun, on the beach, blonde hair wet with salt water and tanned skin glowing in the sunlight.  
None of this can be real.  I can't believe what they're saying to me.  
“We need to know if there is a note,” a man said to me.  
A note.  I shook my head, the repetitious story of the day coming out of my mouth.  And then, as if walking through water, I'm in the laundry room.  I had tossed that back at him, had told him that I'd heard it all…I retrieved the note he'd written on the airplane from the floor.
“He wrote this on the way home this morning.  I didn’t think it had any significance,” I heard myself say.  
Didn’t think it had any significance.
Suddenly, every word shared had significance; every word carried the weight of his existence.  
“I told him to go,” I whispered.  “I didn’t think….I didn’t know...I told him to go.”
I sank onto the floor and hugged my knees to my chest.  I told him to go.  I covered my ears with my hands, but I'm not sure I'll ever stop hearing the kids begging me to save daddy.  
I want a do-over.  I want one more day. I want one more chance. I want another dance.
The End


Anonymous said...

Amber - I had no idea just how talented you were! You're a exceptionally gifted writer. I can't wait to go out and buy your book. ~Debbie H.

Amber Lea Easton said...

Thanks! :)