Jeremy sat at the dining room window seat, looking out onto the back yard; it had been Marta's favorite place. The snow had drifted somewhat, revealing some brownish-grey grass and a shirt that must have fallen off the clothesline just before the storm hit three days before. He turned to remark about the shirt when he remembered that she wasn’t there to tell; it was at times like this when he remembered that he’d never get to talk to Marta again in this lifetime. He pulled the notebook closer and stared at the screen.
“What if?” it read. He looked out onto the back yard once again. He noticed that some buds seemed to be poking their way thru the thin coating of snow where the wind had carried most of the white powder away. Marta always loved flowers. He immediately thought to ask her if they were irises or not, but again, the silence in the room once again reminded him.
“What if?” He recalled a time in the not so distant past...
“Jeremy, honey...” Marta gasped. As with every other call or request, Jeremy’s look turned to worry, and he hurried to listen to her. She smiled, as if to say, “Silly, not yet....I’ll let you know.” Her outlook on life had taken a very strong turn toward optimistic, but not in a way that dove-tailed with his understanding.
“I’ll be okay...you’ll be okay. This is how it works, sweetie...for everybody.” It wasn’t so much that she had lost hope of living as much as deciding she was going to live in the midst of her passing, however long it took. Jeremy’s first inclination was to argue with her; he wasn’t about to give up...why should she? It took about a week of him shouting angrily at God and pouting, as it that would change anything.
One afternoon, coincidentally as they sat in the same place where he now sat remembering, a hand touched his cheek and she smiled, saying,
“It’s okay to be angry, Jer...you’re grieving for what you’re going to lose. Best get it out of the way before the Christmas rush, right?” She kidded him, but it was his way; he couldn’t stand to deal with pain, so he hurried through it like a child wolfing down dinner so he could go back outside to play.
“I’m sorry,” he cried. I just wish I could change things. You know.”
“The best thing you can do for both of us is to try to help me enjoy what time we have, okay?”
“Jeremy?” He had fallen asleep on the window seat. He sat up suddenly, her voice calling with no urgency but just to talk. She wasn’t there; her voice still echoed softly throughout the house, calling almost daily to him.
“Marta?” He replied; he always replied, his tearful pleas for her to return fell upon absent ears and he continued to wonder why? The big questions that came to him in the middle of the night after her calls would wake him. He grew angry at her absence as the tears streamed down his face How could she leave him?
“It’s time to stop pretending,” she would say. She knew him better than he knew himself. It was almost like she was teasing, night after night. Her calls had started interrupting him during the day as well, finding him while he worked his art in the studio. She loved his painting; it moved her to tears how he could speak volumes on canvas. It was as if he spoke for her, her life continuing on as he worked the oils; the broad expression of color saying what she could not.
“I told you, Jeremy, this is the way it is...it’s time to stop pretending. Night after night he heard her. She wasn’t teasing him as much as provoking him to action; he was so afraid to move on, and she was only thinking of his best interests. Isn’t that what his therapist had asked him?
“Jeremy, what do you think she’s trying to tell you?” It was good that his therapist gave credence to his questions about Marta. One more voice to listen to besides his own, but in a multitude of counselors there is wisdom it says somewhere.
“I think she wants the best for me...i know that for sure. I guess it’s trying to figure out what is best that’s hardest.” It was hard; decisions came hard for him and he wavered quite a lot. That he was an artist was never in doubt; everything else seemed to be up in the air. But slowly, over a period of time he became convinced that a change ... a permanent change was necessary.
“You’re going to be okay, you know that, don’t you?” Marta’s voice was as encouraging and loving and caring as it had always been, but seemed to be more...solid...thicker, resonating in space as well as in his heart.
“I know. I’m sorry. I should have done this a long time ago.” He frowned and she came to him, almost dreamlike and spoke again.
“No need to apologize. I know how hard this has been for you. But this is pretty good, don’t you think?” Her voice reassured her even as he considered her words. He looked around and found his portfolio and his notebook as he prepared for the beginning of the week.
“Oh...where did I leave my jacket?” He almost mused as he looked around the house.
“There,” he said, reaching over the back of the kitchen chair to pick up the gray charcoal suit jacket. He had a showing at the gallery, and it was important to look good; first impressions and all. Putting it on, he walked over to the mirror just by the front door and examined his image; professional and stylish, the gray silk pinstripe set off the pewter of the new silk blouse as he noticed their reflections and he spoke once..for the last time, really and said,
“Welcome back, Marta.”
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