I Will Always Be There For You
Two lonely people find each other, and discover true love lasts longer than they ever knew it could.
I Will Always Be There For You
It is hard to know where to begin. Up to this point my life had been a series of ups and downs, mostly downs it seemed at the time. I was born Jonathan Andrew Downing. I changed it to Dawn Andrea Downing just over 16 years ago, a year before the surgery. It wasn’t easy but I have lived as a woman ever since. It had been worth it but I was very lonely. I knew I could never be a convincing woman, but it was something I had to do, for my sanity, for me. I was 5’ 8” tall and I carried too much weight at 192 pounds. I have always had big hands and feet. I was used to the occasional verbal abuse, though it hurt when it happened. I had just turned 58, which did not help. I looked like a fat man in a dress, and I knew it. I didn’t see many people, I’ve always been active in forums on the Internet, and my writing helped pay the bills.
I was hurting much more than usual. An old and dear friend, Angie Tate, had died and I was at the visitation of her funeral. Several other of my small number of friends there, most of them post op transgender ladies like me. Angie was among the kindest and gentlest people I knew. She had volunteered her time freely to the clinic while I was there. During my darkest days she was able to stop me from doing something very permanent and unfortunate to myself, she had a way to looking into your soul and seeing the person within. I was not the only life she saved, of this I was sure.
We all filed into the chapel and took our seats. I saw one person seated in the front row. I recognized him from pictures Angie had shown me. It was Ted, her younger brother. He wasn’t an attractive man, as he also carried too much weight, and the top of his head gleamed in the lights. He was a little taller than I was, with gray hair where there was hair. I knew from talking with Angie he was about 4 years younger than I. She had always commented that he was one of the gentlest souls she knew. Like sister like brother?
Ted got up to do the eulogy.
“Angelina was one of the best people I knew. I am proud to be her brother. When our parents died she was the one that kept me going, kept me alive. I owe everything…” at this point he broke down, and couldn’t continue. He collapsed and sobbed unashamedly while other people got up to pick up the slack. It seemed a lot of people had good memories to share about Angie. I was not surprised.
As we lined up to do the final viewing I saw Ted covertly slip a small slip of paper into her casket. Even with my crying curiosity overcame me and I turned it over to look at it when my turn came. It was a picture of a very young Angie next to a smaller girl that could not have been anything but her sister. As I shuffled on I couldn’t help but think how strange it was that she had never mentioned her other sibling.
During the outdoor service I noticed Ted watching me. When I looked at him he would avert his gaze, but would pick it up when he thought I wasn’t looking. I was deeply embarrassed, I knew I was not pretty, but still, did he have to stare?
The service ended, and we went our separate ways. I was alone again.
I was shopping at the local grocery store several days later when I ran into Ted again.
“Hello, it’s Dawn, isn’t it?” he said with a smile.
“Yes.” I said, fully on guard. I was thinking back to the funeral.
“Angie mentioned you many times.” At my look of surprise he added, “She was quite fond of you, you know. She kept telling me I needed to meet you.”
I hadn’t known and my expression must have shown it. He continued with a sad smile, “It’s funny, you think you have forever. I did and I should have known better. We both lost our parents when we were young.”
“Angie had talked to me about your parents. I always considered her a good friend, I never thought I was that special.”
“She did.” he replied. “Look, can I buy you a cup of coffee? I had really meant to talk to you after the funeral, but you left before I could break free.”
Something about his earnest expression got through and I agreed. We spent the next half hour chatting. When we got up I gave him my email address and a list of chat rooms I used. I had never had a man ask how to reach me, I was a bit flustered.
He escorted me out to my car, helped me with my groceries, and opened my door. It startled me a bit, as I had never been treated with womanly courtesy.
The next week we chatted constantly on the Internet. I began to look forward to them intensely, Ted was a good listener. He really was a lot like his sister.
Then he asked me for a date. It seemed I was doing a lot of things for the first time with him. I was frightened, but intrigued. What could he possibly see in me? I mean, he wasn’t handsome, but at least he was a real man. Surely he could have found someone better than me! But I screwed up my courage, and said yes.
It was wonderful. We both had fun.
It was the first of many dates. He was a little younger, but you could not tell from how he acted. I felt like a woman when I was with him. I knew it had to be a sham, but when a man really listens and stares at you like you’re the only person he wants to be with, it was intoxicating. I was falling hard and unbelievable as it seemed, I thought Ted might be too.
We were walking when I asked him what he saw in me.
“Angie was always good at reading people,” he replied, “she thought we would be good together. I wasn’t interested at the time, but when she died I realized how alone I really was. Besides, she was right. You are beautiful.”
I was not buying, but I loved it. “Look at me,” I said, “ I am not pretty. I will never be.”
“But you are! I almost married woman who seemed attractive, but turned out to be hideous. She ripped my heart out and held it up for all to see. You are so wrong, you are beautiful, inside and out. After Angie’s funeral I looked for you. It wasn’t a coincidence I found you in that store.”
I was done for, what little control I had left was gone. I was in Love. It was as good as everyone had ever said it was, better even.
A week later I brought up his younger sister, the one in the photograph.
“That was Tammy. She died right after my Dad.” Tears started flooding his eyes and slowly began to flow down his cheeks.
“What happened?” I asked gently. I did not want to hurt this man, my man.
“When Mom died of breast cancer, my Dad couldn’t handle it. It had been a long and horrible illness. He center punched an overpass pillar. Tammy died that day too. Angie found me sitting on my bed, with a gun to my head. I would be dead too if it weren’t for her.” The tears were flowing freely now. I dropped the subject, and hugged him tightly while he cried himself out. I remembered Angie helping me out of my darkest days.
We were at a posh restaurant when he did the deed. He went down on one knee, showed me a magnificent golden ring in its case and asked for my hand in marriage. What could I say, but yes? There was applause from the other patrons.
It was a small service, I had never dreamed I could wear a real white wedding dress. Everything had a dream like quality. An old friend stood in for my deceased dad and several of my friends, most of whom were TG women, looked extremely pleased as they served as brides maids. I think they felt it was a good omen for their futures. I wished them the best, as all of them were much more attractive than I was. I wished my mom could have been there too, but I had lost both my parents after my transition. They had time to reconcile themselves to their new daughter, just before the fire claimed them. I miss them and I knew they had loved me in spite of my appearance.
As I marched up the altar I realized something I had known, but not actually conceptualized. This man, whom I loved so much, was the most handsome man I had ever known. I knew he physically wasn’t that attractive, but to me he was. I finally understood what he meant when he told me the same thing about myself. Maybe, just maybe, I could be pretty.
We exchanged our vows. Then Ted added something unexpected, I could tell it had taken the chaplain by surprise.
“I will always be there for you my love. You will never be alone again.” Simple words, but I was crying for joy. Every now and again, when I think back, I still do.
That night was yet another first. I had never been with a man, or a woman for that matter. Ted’s experience was slightly more advanced than mine. But we were willing, as only newlyweds can be, and both of us had fun. I resolved I was going to practice this until I had it down. So we practiced more over the next couple of days. I think I sprained something, several things actually, but it didn’t slow us down much. I had discovered something new and interesting in my life, but I needed to work on it. Practice makes perfect, so I had heard.
Ted didn’t need to work. He had a major inheritance and kept busy by working as a free lance writer for several technical magazines. Slowly, over several days, he explained it to me. When his Dad first died everyone assumed it was a suicide. It wasn’t, the coroner ruled it was a massive heart attack. His Dad was already dead when the car hit the pillar, and fortunately it had not burned. The insurance company had fought, even after the facts had been established, as the policy on his Dad was substantial. It backfired, when Ted and Angie’s lawyers won they got considerably more than the original policy was worth. It explained to my mind how Angie had had so much free time to be there for all the newly minted girls like me. Angie was slowly able to convince Ted that the accident was not his fault (I couldn’t figure out why, but he had been rather wedded to the idea) and further convince him that suicide was evil. The good and bad done in a life lives on, suicide solves nothing. On the other hand, suicides can beget other suicides, even from people who had never really known you. Even if no one else died, the lifetime of unhappiness and regret lived forever, as it would have with Angie. The converse was also true. All the little kindnesses one does in their life adds and adds. I was familiar with the concepts, as Angie had convinced me of much the same things when I had similar thoughts. Even with Angie gone, Ted and I were proof it was true.
I could never get him to tell me what happened to Tammy. I assumed she had killed herself too. I was saddened that Angie had not been there for her.
Something exciting happened over the next few years of our marriage. The loneliness was gone. We took long walks, talking about nothing in particular and stopped eating quiet so much fast food. Both of us liked to cook and we fed on each other’s interest. The food we made was much better than what we had bought and the portion sizes tended to be smaller. In short, we both lost weight. Not fast, but it was a steady decrease. We both felt better, which meant we went out more. I learned to dance with Ted. It was fun!
When we noticed what was happening we did our best to continue the trend. Ted leveled out at just over 160 pounds and I reached 134 pounds over the next year. I would never be slender and I knew my waist was always going to be a bit thick, but I found I now had curves I never knew were there. My arms, if not my hands, became passably feminine. My breasts, which had been major fat repositories, settled down to a B cup, which I found to be comfortable. I did wish they were a bit larger, because my larger chest tended to make my breasts look smaller, but Ted never complained. I even saw a feminine collarbone under my throat! I could now wear necklaces and make them look as if they belonged there.
When I thought it couldn’t get any better, it did. Our lovemaking improved. I think it had also helped loose a few extra pounds.
We were taking our usual evening walk when I heard a familiar yet detested voice behind me while Ted was getting a drink from a public water fountain.
“Well, if it isn’t the fag out for his walk.”
I turned around and there was my personal terror, the Jerk, smirking. I never knew his real name, but ever since my transition we’d see each other occasionally and he had never failed to say something ugly to me. I lived in terror he was going to hurt me physically, so I had never spoken back. I was terrified. Ted quickly walked back and I clutched his arm like a lifeline. I was trembling.
Ted’s face became blank, his eyes went dead. I saw a vein in his temple throbbing. This was a person I had never met before. He would have scared me if I had been the focus of those eyes, but I was safe with him. I would always be safe with him.
“You have something to say to my wife?” he said in a flat monotone.
The Jerk looked like someone who had teased a big cat for years and suddenly noticed the cage door was ajar.
“N N No, I’m sorry. I thought your were s s someone else. I’m sorry, I really am.” With that he started walking away, in that strange duck walk people use when they want to move fast without looking like they were running.
OH! MY! GOD! I had always felt safe with my wonderful husband, but this had brought it to new level! I clutched his still tense arms and giggled like giddy schoolgirl. I couldn’t stop, even though what I really wanted to do was kiss this man, my husband, my Hero! Judging by the strange tingles I felt, I wanted to do more than kiss.
He looked at me strangely. I felt his arm I was clutching so tightly start to relax and he started chuckling. People looked at us strangely as they passed by, but we didn’t care. We were both laughing our heads off. The Jerk and his ilk were gone forever, my mighty husband would slay them with his Just and Terrible Sword if they dared frighten me again! Overly dramatic perhaps, but it was how I felt.
That night I did things to my husband that would have made me blush the day before. Any inhibitions were gone, completely. I did things I had only imagined and tried to imagine new things. Ted had but to hint he would like try something and I was up for it! Our honeymoon had been tentative, but those days were long behind me. Unfortunately Ted fell asleep before I was really done with him. That was OK, I was going to pick it up again tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow after that. I fell asleep in his arms, dreaming of knights in armor with Ted’s face.
Next morning I woke up sore in places I never knew I had, and those places had smaller places that cried out in pain.
Hmmmm, I was going to have to work on that.
The years passed and we grew old together. Fourteen wonderful years, each year was better than the one before. I was 72, Ted was 68. I was really showing my age, but you would never know it from Ted. Ironically, I was more feminine in appearance than I had ever been. I looked like a little old lady. Over the years any woman’s magazine had to only hint at improvements to help me please my wonderful husband and enjoy our play time together. I wasn’t alone, I had discovered DVD’s in Ted’s collection to teach men how to improve their sex lives. I thought it odd, as I had assumed only women did that for their men. Most of the suggestions were rubbish, but every now and then…
I had rheumatoid arthritis, most days were becoming full of pain, but I think I was able to hide most of it from Ted. I suspect I was fooling myself, as Ted did most of the chores around the house, but I did what I could and insisted on enjoying our special times. I took painkillers before I went to bed. Ted had always been a gentle lover, putting my needs before his own, as I had done with his. I needed his caring love. I also needed our physical love.
We were out doing our daily walk when Ted went as white as a sheet and started sweating profusely. I was very concerned. He had been complaining about not feeling well earlier.
“Ted, are you OK!?!”
“It’s nothing Dawn, I must have a stomach bug. I’m just nauseous.” He proceeded to prove this by making a mess on the street.
“Dear, lets get you home and in bed.”
As there was no disagreement we started to head back to the house. To my horror he lurched backward and fell into the grass, clutching his left arm.
I went down on my knees next to him, ignoring the agony it cause me, and held him tightly.
“I’m so sorry,” he managed to croak out, “I love you so much.” With that he spasmed in agony, then relaxed. His eyes stared sightless at the sky.
I lost it. The paramedics had to pry me loose of my husband. The pain in my body was nothing compared to my Pain. I couldn’t stop crying. I’m not sure what I said, except maybe “Please, don’t leave me” over and over. He had promised! Why couldn’t it have been me lying there!
I was in shock. The ambulance carried me with my beloved. I heard the doctor pronounce him Dead on Arrival, but noticed very little else. Someone took be home, I couldn’t tell you who. They tried to get me to call a friend, but I refused. I had a plan, but I didn’t want anyone to know. They would stop me if they knew!
As I sat in the dark house, with just barely enough light to see by, I counted my pain pills. While I was doing this a sense of disquiet penetrated my grief. I decided I had enough pills and put them in a glass. The sense of disquiet increased and became frantic. How I knew this I couldn’t say, but I felt it very strongly. I went and got a glass of water, changed my mind and made it some 50 year old scotch instead, filling the glass to the brim. I painfully sat back down at the table and prepared to swallow the pills as a mass. I heard Ted’s urgent voice, clearly, as if he were right next to me.
“PLEASE! MY LOVE! DON’T DO THIS! REMEMBER WHAT ANGIE TAUGHT US!”
I looked around, but as I already knew, I was alone. I broke down and cried. I was crazy, but Ted was right. This is not something I could or should do. I poured the scotch down the sink and took four of my pills, twice my normal dose. I put the rest of them back in the bottle. I thought about throwing the bottle away, but the agony in my joints argued strongly against the plan. I would just have to be strong. I struggled to our, no, my bed. I could barely move, as the pain was horrible. I fell into a deep sleep.
I was in our house, it looked like it had 10 years ago. I looked down at myself and gasped in astonishment. I was young. I was pretty, feminine. My hands and feet were as I had always dreamed they should be, tiny, petite, pretty. My nail polish was my normal shade, but the nails themselves were long and delicate. My waist was tiny, my breasts and butt were not. I looked in the hallway mirror, my face was still my own, but everything had been altered to match my femininity. I was young and beautiful. Then I noticed something else. No Pain, for the first time in years I did not hurt.
Ted stepped out of the bedroom. Only it wasn’t my Ted, he was much younger looking, with a full head of curly hair. I realized this was a dream, but it was so real!
“Shall we go for a walk, my love?”
We walked like we used to, except in my wildest dreams I would have never worn those high heels. They felt wonderful. I prayed I would never wake up. I was going to live with my husband forever and ever. Maybe I had died and was in hea…
I woke up, the sun shining in my eyes. I tried desperately to remember what we had talked about, but with no success. I remembered being with my love, the warmth of our time together still lingered.
OK, so I was crazy. It was a good sort of crazy though; it could keep me sane. Janice came over, she had heard the awful news. She was one of my oldest friends and she was also a good friend to Ted. Most of my old friends (those who were around) were slightly jealous of my find, even more when I told them he had found me. There never was any rancor. Ted even managed to introduce a few of my older friends to some of his acquaintances, after that it was up to them. One marriage had been the result.
Janice was worried because I was so calm. I couldn’t explain it, so I just made up a story of our past happiness sustaining me. It wasn’t far from the truth and Janice had to accept it, albeit reluctantly. Tina showed up a while later. They helped me make arrangements for my love’s funeral. I couldn’t have done it by myself. The pain was back in force.
We arranged the details with the funeral home, where I had found Ted had already made the arrangements for both of us. I wasn’t alone for any length of time. I had more friends than I realized and while they cared for Ted, they also cared deeply for me. When I was alone I cried and when I was caught crying I was comforted. Tina also helped me attend the reading of the will, where I found I was the sole beneficiary of a rather large fortune. Ted apparently understood the markets much better than I did.
After a long and painful day I was exhausted. Tina had left, giving me a long hug and saying she would be back the next day. I took my usual two pills before bed, and lay down. I fell asleep almost instantly.
I was at the altar, in a beautiful wedding dress much like the one I had worn. In the back of my mind I knew it was still in a closet somewhere, much too large for me now. The dress was the same, but I wasn’t. Again, I was the person I had always dreamed of being. My Dad was at my side, looking young, handsome and proud. I saw my Mom further up the isle, in her place of honor. Angie and Tammy were on the other side, as my maids of honor, along with several people I didn’t recognize. Ted was waiting for me, as Daddy and I slowly walked up the isle together to the music.
The ceremony was the same, except my love changed the wording a little.
“My love, I promised. I hoped it would be different, but I will always be there for you. Always.”
I slowly woke up, remembering the marriage clearly and the honeymoon night but none of what we had talked about. I lay there, not hurting for a change, savoring the warm feeling. I was definitely crazier than a bedbug, but I didn’t feel alone. I slowly got dressed for the funeral later that day.
It went as planned, though it was a bit larger than I had expected. Over the years my love had helped many people, he was missed. People I didn’t recognize kept introducing themselves. There was no way to track all of them.
When I went home my girlfriends helped with the reception and food that every one had brought. They stayed long enough to clean up the mess. I was very grateful, as I simply could not have done it by myself. Eventually the ordeal was over, I was alone with my bed. Again, I was out like a light when my head hit the pillow.
We were at a dance hall, dancing a familiar Waltz. I was in a long flowing gown, Ted in his Tux, holding me close. Everything was perfect and again, there was no pain. It was Ted, with me in his arms, dance after dance. Please God, don’t let this end!
I woke to tears of joy. My pillow was soaked, and the pain was back, though it had the decency to wait until I started moving before starting up. This dream was better than most, as there had been very little conversation to remember
Janet came over and checked on me. Together we set up a maid and cook service, which I could easily afford. When she left I eagerly went back to bed. It was a disappointment and while the nap helped, it was a dreamless sleep. I was worried, but there was nothing I could do.
I went for a short walk, ate a few leftovers and thought about my life, past and present, until bedtime. I didn’t feel I had much of a future and prayed the dreams with Ted would continue.
I knew I was raving mad of course, but also understood it made an unbearable situation bearable. The help I hired was a very efficient Hispanic lady named Maria, her English was very bad and we couldn’t talk much. She was kind and with some difficulty explained she was willing to take me to the cemetery. I suspected I wasn’t the only widow she had helped. She left me for 15 minutes or so, then took me back home.
It was peaceful in the cemetery. I discovered something I had not expected. As I stood looking down at my future tomb stone and my loves final resting place, I could feel a presence. It would have been spooky, but it was the same kind of feeling I had had for years when Ted and I sat watching the stars and holding hands. God, I was even crazier than I had thought, but as with the dreams I accepted it. It was calm, welcoming. I was with my husband.
It settled down to a routine. When the weather was acceptable Maria would help to the gravesite and set up a chair. I talked to my husband, she heard this and seemed to think it was perfectly normal. I would sit for an hour or so, then go home.
When the weather wasn’t acceptable I stayed home and stared out the window. My health was deteriorating rapidly, I knew it wouldn’t be long.
I was visiting the cemetery, when the former bane of my existence walked up. The Jerk had found me, I saw him look up from a grave he was visiting, and slowly came over. The normal sneer was gone from his face, replaced with… was that remorse?
“Ma’am”, he said, “ I have no excuse and I don’t expect anything from you, but I want to apologize for being a total ass and bully. I’ve been thinking about it for years, and I am deeply ashamed. If it is within you to forgive me, it is all I can ask.”
“You want me to forgive you?” I asked in a querulous voice. I hated sounding old.
“Yes Ma’am”, he replied. “I have done many things I reckon were wrong, but how I acted with you was among the worst. I am so sorry. Your husband helped me see things differently.” He nodded at my tombstones. “And I am very sorry for your loss. I regret not being able to apologize to him too. I realized what I had been doing was wrong, and the more I thought about it the more I realized what an ass I had been. Seeing you here I figured God himself has allowed me a chance to atone. Excuse me, but I’ve got to say bye to my Ma.”
He started to turn away, but I stopped him with a question. “What is your name?”
“It’s John. John Bags Ma’am.” I admit to being a little startled by his first name, but chose not to show it.
“Very well, John. My name is Dawn Tates and I forgive you. I don’t think I have much time left, and I don’t want to leave with any baggage on my soul.”
His shoulders lifted a little. “Yeah, my Mom told me pretty much the same thing a while back.”
He trudged back to the grave he started from, and got down on one knee as if praying. I could see him talking, though not hear him.
I felt a satisfaction from the presence. Apparently John had been granted forgiveness elsewhere too.
My pain only got worse. I would need to use a wheelchair very soon, only stubbornness kept me on my feet. My doctor suggested I needed more than Maria’s help, excellent though it was. I loved that woman, and made sure her place was in my will. Doc thought I would need a nursing home and I reluctantly agreed. My dreams had kept me sane and rational. Oh Lord, the irony of that statement!
I visited Ted for what I thought might be the last time. Something was different though. There was a quiet expectation mixed with joy. It was the only thing I could think of to describe what I was feeling.
I was pouring my heart out to my beloved, when my left side went numb. I fell hard and I heard rather than felt several bones break. As I lay on my back I saw a few people gather above me
A woman’s voice told me help was on the way. Everything went gray, then dark.
I woke up to the sound of a siren, and two young men working on me. I think I had tubes sticking out of my arm, but one side of my body was dead, no feeling at all.
One of the paramedics spoke to me, “You’ve had a stroke. Please hang in there, we are almost at the hospital.”
A movement on my good side caught my attention, someone was holding my hand and stroking it gently. I turned my head see who it was.
My God! It was my Ted, but how he looked in my dreams. I smiled, I was so happy, I was with my love at last.
“We’re loosing her!” a voice to my side exclaimed. I didn’t care, I was with the only true love of my life. The world tunneled to a small circle, and Ted was its center.
Wait, there is a light in the far distance.
It was approaching fast, or was I flying towards it?
I flew through the circle, when I turned around there was a dark hole receding in the distance.
I looked down. I was my dream self. There was no pain, none, but I could feel everything. I felt the high heel shoes on my feet, the dress around my legs. I looked up, there was a young woman smiling at me. I knew her.
“Tammy? We’ve never met, but I know you.”
Her smile got wider, she fuzzed out and Ted stood in her place. I threw myself into his arms. I could smell him, that slightly musty odor that meant I was loved and protected.
“What is happening?” I was very confused. Too much was hitting me at once.
“You have won the race, my love. We are truly together, forever.”
“Tammy and I are the same person Darling. When Mom died I was very stressed out, everyone was. Angie and Mom knew about Tammy, but we also knew my Dad would take it badly if he found out. After Mom’s funeral I became Tammy, to help me deal with my emotions. Dad came home early and saw me. The look on his face said it all, he turned around and drove off. I never saw him again. It was a closed casket funeral.”
I understood. I went through much the same before I transitioned. I could think more clearly as Dawn, and my stress was greatly reduced as a woman.
Ted went on, “We thought Dad had killed himself. Tammy thought she had killed Dad. It was awful.” Ted looked sad, but he wasn’t crying as before. “Tammy couldn’t live with it. When I picked up the gun I was still Tammy. Angie found me seconds away from pulling the trigger. Part of the reason I didn’t do it faster is it wasn’t natural, for me as Tammy, to use a gun. I was in full girl mode, but it was the fastest way I could think of. If there had been any other way I would have used it instead.”
“Angie pleaded for me not to leave her alone. She told me if I used that gun it would be used again, on her. I had just lost Mommy and killed my Daddy, I didn’t want her to die because of me too. Tammy died that day, I couldn’t be her ever again. Even when we found out it was a heart attack, I still felt I had killed my Daddy.” Ted was crying, but it was the pain of the memory. I could read him after all our years of marriage.
“So what changed?” I asked.
“Simple enough,” Ted said, abruptly changing moods. “After I died I was with Mom and Dad again, even Angie is here. This flesh we wear” he said, lightly pinching my arm, “Is an illusion. Only our souls are real.” He giggled, strongly reminding me of the girl I had just met. “It is quite common for old married couples to experiment with love making after they are here for a while. I suspect Mom and Dad had done so by then.”
I nodded slowly. I had never let go of Ted the entire time. I knew we were together, but part of me wanted to be sure it stayed that way.
“Why wouldn’t you let me get here quicker?” I said, thinking back on my near suicide.
“Love, this is heaven, but it has rules. The truly evil are reborn, the past memories and inclinations erased. They start newly born with a clean slate. God does not hurt people unless there is a reason. Other people, the ones who return to Life voluntarily, retain all their memories when they return here. The concept of an old soul is very valid. Those who abused their loved ones can not see or touch them even if they are in the same place, until the abused person needs them and the abuser has reformed.”
“It can get a little tricky, time is not linear here. Past, present, and future are mixed. It is possible to meet someone for the first time that knows you as an old and trusted friend. A child newly arrived may meet his abusive parent immediately, while the parent may have been here for centuries learning how to love without hurting.”
“Suicide is a form of abuse. Judgment can be unpredictable. If you had succeeded I may not have been allowed to see you again for a very long time. Ours is strong bond, so I was able reach you outside the normal limits. When you were asleep I was able to bend some of the rules to keep you safe.”
I nodded again slowly. It had been a close call. Too close. I shivered.
“So are you going to be Tammy again?”
“Probably, but you introduced me to the good things of being a husband. I don’t intent to give that up. Remember what I said about time here? We can all be together at the same time, you, Tammy and me. God grants the gift of forgetfulness in these cases, so Tammy and I don’t remember what happened as the other. After the event is over I will remember it from both points of view, but while we are together it is spontaneous.” Ted chuckled. “I think you and Tammy are going to get along well.”
“You saw my parents at our second wedding, but I couldn’t really introduce you to them then. Both our families are waiting after the wedding, it has only been a few minutes for them. I finally get to do something I have always wanted to do and I could never have done in life. I am going to introduce my parents to my beautiful bride.”
Chuck and Sam were finishing the end of a long shift. Sam was bothered by something he had seen that day.
“Chuck, you remember the stroke victim earlier today, the old lady?”
“Yeah, what about her?
“Did you notice her face?”
“Yep, she was smiling. So what?”
“She shouldn’t have been able to smile, not like that! She was paralyzed!”
“Don’t sweat it kid, it was probably just a death spasm.”
Sam shut up. He knew he would never be able to convince Chuck and the other guys what he had seen.
He had seen her confusion turn into joy, her face lit up as she stared at someone only she could see. He had seen her limp arm suspended several inches over the gurney. But the kicker was the rhythmic movement on top of her surprisingly large hands on the delicate parchment like skin. It looked like someone was stroking it gently and holding her hand, he had clearly seen finger indentations. The look of joy and peace as she had passed was disturbing, but in a good way.
The guys wouldn’t believe, but he knew his wife would.
I owe many thanks to Hope for her help. Without it this would have a much poorer story.
Any resemblance to any other story or movie, such as “What dreams May Come” is your mistake. I have removed any and all traces, you can’t prove a thing.
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