HomecomingA Story by Arizona Sky
Returning home...to the empty chair.
His hand fell limp in mine and I felt Adriane tense beside me, choking back sobs. My eyes were closed as I couldn’t bear to see his face, pale and lifeless. His hand was already growing cold, pulling his soul farther and farther away from me. I felt the last glimmers of life being wrapped around dark hands, being torn away slowly and painfully as death laughed with cruel power. Warm tears slipped from the corner of my eye, crawling ever so slowly down my distraught face. Adriane stood up beside me, walking away and I felt any of the warmth left from all of us disappear.
I opened my eyes and my stomach twisted in cold horror. James lay there, his ice blue eyes still staring at me as if asking me to please bring him back and never let go of him again. I let his hand fall from my own, standing up and stepping back from the bed that was covered with crumpled white sheets. I leaned over James, closing his eyes with my tremulous fingers. I felt absolute loss and dismay wash over my body in a great deluge as I stepped backwards out of the room, still staring at him.
I expected sad but powerful music to echo against the tiled floors and plain, depressing walls of the seemingly never ending hallway that Adriane and I walked silently down. But only distant cries of other widows, the first whimpers of newborns and the unreal echoes of our own footsteps met our ears. I tried to shut out all the noises, summon up my own reassuring melodies of violin and cello but my mind was too exhausted. My body was still in the state of shock.
We drove home in silence, my body automatically stopping the car when I saw red and turning down the streets I had driven for so many years. But James had always been by my side, to hold my hand as we laughed at the day’s happenings. Now Adriane, my only daughter, sat in her father’s seat. It would have usually been a treat for her to sit there. James would have joked around from the back seat, poking her shoulder playfully as if he were her brother.
James had always been good like that, treating Adriane as more than just his child but his friend. We had realized from the beginning Adriane was different and throughout her childhood she hadn’t held onto many friends. So James had figured out a way to always fit at least an hour or two of play time into his daily schedule. Sometimes the time would be spent watching a movie or playing a board game, but he always knew just what she wanted to do. He had been the best father anyone could have.
We stepped out of the car and I heard Adriane slam the door, cursing as it caught her scarf. Both reassembling ourselves we walked towards the front door and I fumbled with my keys, clicking the right one into the door. The moment I turned the door knob Adriane pushed passed me and sprinted up the steps, her bedroom door shutting so hard the entire house shook. I put my arm out to touch her too late, wrapping my hand around thin air.
Sliding off my scarf and jacket I let them fall carelessly on the wooden floor that creaked as I walked down the short hallway to stand in the middle of the house, facing the living room. As I traced my fingers mindlessly up and down the couch my mind went back to James’s face, paler than I had ever seen it. His parents, both still living, had volunteered to deal with the body once he passed away. I had never been strong enough to deal with things like that and was grateful but ashamed for their offering. James would have been brave and kind enough to deal with both my body and comforting Adriane if I had passed away. But now I was here, unable to do either, standing helplessly alone.
It took awhile to set in. The emptiness of the house. Christmas lights that had long since died hung limply and carelessly off the cream colored walls. I had left them on when I had rushed out of the house to meet James at the hospital. I walked to the end of the hallway, my foot sending something sliding across the floor. I looked down to see a phone with a cracked screen. I had dropped it without even ending the call that had brought the news to me. The words the phone had delivered echoed in my mind as I collapsed on the couch, holding my forehead.
“Hello Marie. This is Nurse Sierra of Carilion Hospital. I’m calling to inform you that your husband has just recently arrived her from ambulance. He is currently unconscious but is in stable condition. I can give you the exact room number if you just give me-” My fingers hadn’t been able to hold on the phone as I bolted for the door.
I shook now, remembering the entire week I had spent in the hospital with James. Adriane had stayed at her friend’s house from most of the nights. All except for last night when the doctor had come in, telling me that James was permanently paralyzed and was currently in extreme pain. It took me six hours of silence and the occasional murmur from James for me to decide to pull the life line. Adriane had spent that night with me, to make sure she could say goodbye to her father.
James’s eyes that had been constantly fluttering open and closed had opened the moment we pulled the plug, his face contorted in extreme pain. I had closed my eyes and grasped his hand until he passed away completely.
My fingers clung to the side of the couch so tightly my knuckles turned white. All I was trying to do was keep from completely collapsing on the floor. My eyes were fixed on James’s chair across the room. It was a tall, green majestic piece of furniture, the wood a strong mahogany. James had received it from his father when Adriane was born. It was known as the ‘family man’s chair’.
A cold stream of nostalgia dripped down the back of my throat, forming a grey pool in the pit of my stomach as I remembered James in that chair. He would pick Adriane up from the floor, sweeping her up like a superhero before plopping her down on his knee. I would sit on the piano bench and laugh as he told stories, animating them with Adriane’s skinny arms. He believed in keeping the old art of story telling so we only had one TV in the house and it was rarely turned on. We would spend our nights lighting up the fireplace as James spoke ancient tales with his face illuminated by the fire’s warmth.
Hot tears slipped into my mouth through slightly open lips and my tongue absorbed them, my stomach twisting at their salty taste. “James…” My voice was not my own, sick and disheveled just as my appearance. I hadn’t showered in three days, nor applied makeup in six. I was wearing the same clothes from two days ago and my thick black hair hung limply over my sagging, tired eyes.
I sat there for hours, or maybe even the entire night. I watched the shadows of the room shift until there were no more, darkness enveloping the entire home. My entire mind. I wasn’t conscious of my thoughts, just all memories of James and worries about the future.
This home didn’t seem like mine anymore. It was empty, quieter than it had ever been. Not even peaceful breathing broke the concrete sadness that had hardened around the helpless silence. James’s chair sat empty across from the soundless piano, and I sat staring at both. This house wasn’t my home. It was a prison that held me in with the cold bars of lost memories and echoes of my past life.
I closed my eyes and imagined James sitting down beside me, wrapping his arms around me. I felt his heartbeat against mine, his warm breathing in harmony with my own. His strong voice saying, “Why did someone shoot him?”
My eyes shot open, startled. Adriane sat next to me on the couch, her arms wrapped around me and her large gray eyes staring up at me. I felt my heart shudder in confusion of whether to be disappointed in that it wasn’t James, or comforted that it was Adriane. The comfort won, its warmness washing over me as I pulled Adriane closer.
“I don’t know honey. I don’t know.” I closed my eyes again and we both fell asleep, dreaming of James and the empty home.
© 2011 Arizona Sky
Shelved in 1 LibraryAdded on December 11, 2011
Last Updated on December 11, 2011
AboutI'm a young teen very inspired by great authors, musicians and artists of any and all kinds. My brother inspired me to begin to write real stories (short stories) when he wrote a wonderful paper in .. more..