(many of my newer readers missed this when it was first published last July. It was my first publish of fiction on this blog and I am still kinda proud of it. If you are a long-time reader then... read it again because you can never get enough of your Uncle Hof.)
She strokes the petals of the daisy carefully so not to pull one out. Immediately she remembers the childhood "he loves me, he loves me not" ritual. A smirk emerges from the corner of her mouth stretching her lips far enough to catch the salty tear as it runs down her cheek.
Wiping the tear away she can't gather the nerve to toss the flower to the ground.
"How the hell could he do this to me?"
She is sitting with her feet close and her legs tucked in front of her. She rests her chin back on her knees. Normally a day like this in a city like Chicago would have her walking with him through the park. He would blush as she caught him checking out the view from the neckline of her tank top. She would have a book like "The Prophet" and he would have a magazine like "Sports Illustrated". He would have the ratty green towel over his shoulder so they could sit on the ground without getting too dirty.
Her knees support her chin and she gets lost in the soft center of the flower. "Are daisies weeds?" She says it out loud and half expects him to answer. He knew all that science shit. He loved to correct her when she lumped tomatoes with vegetables or called a whale a 'big fish'. Then it was annoying and made her feel stupid. The thought of it now makes it hurt that much more.
"Fuck you..." she says clearly and a bit louder than she expected (half-wanting him to hear).
It really is a rare day. A Chicago summer is the nicest three days anyone will see. Despite being a Thursday and despite it being two o-clock in the afternoon, it seems like the entire city has taken the day off. Young couples are playing with their newborns under the shade of the park trees, dogs are finally getting the workout of a Frisbee thrown by their owners.
Lisa falls back on to her elbows but keeps her knees pointed to the sky. The flower falls loosely from her grip and she watches a cloud drift. Had it really been three years since they met? When he was holding her hand last week on the way to the movie it seemed like they had been together for a decade. Today three years seems like a month.
Even in her anger she loved him more today than when he left last week.
"You selfish son-of-a-bitch", she thought. She is still looking up when her cloud slides under another, much bigger, cloud. He just laughed. That's how they met. She slipped on an ice cube flat on her ass and he stood, at the bar, and tried to hold it back. It was too much and he burst. Of course, she was embarrassed and pissed (embarrassed for herself and straight-up pissed at the cute stranger laughing).
"I bet we would have never met if that ice cube wasn't there. I was on my way out anyway. Today would be just a sunny Chicago day if not for one fucking ice cube. Instead, it is the first of many anniversaries. One month without David and the fucking sun is shining and the wind is warm."
"I hope you're happy now. I hope you found whatever you thought was missing. Just so you know, it sucks here. The wind is too warm and the sun is too bright."
She forgot to bring a blanket and she thinks the ugly green towel was last left at his place. The grass was already staining her skirt. All she could think about was what he said when he came over from the bar and offered her his hand.
They talked all night. Normally when she met a man she, during their conversation, was secretly assessing his viability as a mate. Was he smart? Was he kind? Was he ambitious? Not that night. She was too lost and engaged by his wit and charm. It wasn't until the next morning when she was making her morning coffee and getting ready for work that she realized she was in love. It shocked her. She only knew David for a few hours yet, for the first time in her life, she had the feeling she always heard about. She knew it and that was all.
The next few months were so natural. Breaking her typical neurosis, she did not over-think their relationship. Thoughts like "are we moving too fast?", "is this what I want?" or "where is this heading" never filled her mind. He just flowed through her and surrounded her.
Those memories brought a smile to her face as the sun started to float gently to the horizon. It was approaching seven o'clock and those that didn't take today off were now filling the park to capacity. She stood up, brushed at the grass stains on her skirt like it would make them easier to get out in the wash later.
She remembered the first day he didn't call. He always called, every day starting with the day after they met. His daily call was as reliable as the sun setting. It was a Friday and she was swamped at the office. It wasn't until four that she realized David missed his lunch-break call. She sent him an email and when he didn't answer she sent another. She started to worry and was in a complete frenzy by ten that night. Did something happen to him? Was this God's big joke? Here is a man to fall for and now I will take him out with a bus, thanks for playing, Lisa.
He called the next morning and sounded funny. "You OK?" she asked.
"Yea, I had a rough day at work yesterday and just came home and went to bed. Sorry."
As the next few weeks passed she could not figure out if he was really that tired all the time or his exhaustion was an excuse not to see her. When they did go out, he was her David. Why he didn't call as much and why they spent less time together was starting to cause crazy theories to pop in her head. Was he falling out of love with her or, worse, was there someone else? She knew men, if they got their sights set on someone new, they would just drift away from the person they were with. Men could fight wars, save kittens from burning buildings but couldn't just say, "Hey, I'm just not that into you anymore."
One day of no contact became two, three then a week with no calls or emails.She finally lost it. He had not talked to her in a week. She was driving home from work and somehow found herself in his driveway.
His car was there.
Enough is enough and she stormed to the door. Even as she stood in the park she could see the door. She could see his damn door. After knocking for a minute or two she stood there defeated. How could he sit in there knowing she was at the door? HOW? It was then that the weight of his house key on her key chain became too much. He gave it to her over a month ago. She couldn't help herself. Key in the lock and the door opened.
The place was cleaner than she had ever seen it. Spotless. Was he selling it? Did he expect his new fucking girlfriend to come over and was trying to impress her? You son-of-a-bitch!
She yelled, "DAVID!?!"
The place had an empty feel to it. She felt strange being there. Was he upstairs with her? She moved into the kitchen and saw the envelope. Her name was on it, in block letters. It was sealed and he had yet to put her address on it - just her name. Her trembling hand picked it up and opened it.
Dear Lisa,She wasn't sad and she didn't cry. She was pissed. He was going to dump her with a shitty letter? No explanation? She read it three more times as if there was a special code embedded in the text that would explain things. Her arms dropped as all of the energy that powered her muscles drained. The letter fell from her hand and her head became heavy. She could feel the tears coming.
I don't know how to explain this. I know I should have talked to you about my feelings but I was afraid I was going to hurt you. The last few times we've been together I've tried to talk to you about things. I just couldn't find the courage. I knew you would not understand. Please believe me, there is nothing you did wrong. I have to end this. You will always have a special place in my heart and I hope you can move past me - us - and find someone special.
You are a wonderful woman.
She fought them and stalked around the other rooms. Spotless and empty. She stood at the bottom of the stairs and held her breath and listened. Was he up there with someone else? She lifted one heavy foot after the other and went up. At the top of the stairs she caught the first whiff. "Jesus, what was that smell?"
His bedroom door was cracked open. With one finger she gave it a push. It swung open.
My God, the blood. It was everywhere. It took her a few moments to even notice him on the bed. The gun was laying on his chest. His hands still gripped the handle and the end was still in his mouth. The blood- it was everywhere. My God, the blood.
She caught herself standing and staring up at the darkening sky. She'd stopped walking and was just standing, staring into the sky as the stars started to twinkle into view. "It can never be that bad." she thought as people walked past her to get closer to the fountain in the center of the park.
She whispered to the sky, "I miss you David. I love you and hate what you did but I still miss you."
At the funeral she finally met his parents. His Mom explained his sickness, his moods and that this was not his first attempt. "He talked about you all the time." she said to Lisa. "We were looking forward to meeting you." She held Lisa like a mother can. It was the first time she finally cried, in her lover's mother's arms.
The stars were appearing as if someone was poking pins the night sky letting the light of heaven through.
"I miss you David"
She resumed her walk home. She chuckled when she caught herself wondering if tomatoes were really fruit like he said. Fuck it, she lumped tomatoes with vegetables and that was just how it was going to be.