Seven of us. When I tell people I have four brothers and two sisters, they comment on what a large family I have. What they can never comprehend is how small my family feels to me.
We were nine. I had six brothers. Two were stolen by the years.
Seven minutes until I must go. The pressure! I have to leave exactly on the stroke of midnight- seriously? I mean it’s hard enough to get a guy to commit, but this is impossible. Seven minutes to convince him to stay with me for the rest of his years.
Wednesday is his birthday.
He will never be 52 years old, my Tony.
I’ve grown up with him, but I will never grow old with him.
I’ve had children with him, but will never have grandchildren with him.
I wondered if one day I’d leave him, but instead he left me.
Wednesday is his birthday.
How do I mark it? How do I get through it?
Do I carry on, as if it’s just another day? Do I curl up in my bed and just cry all day? Do I make a birthday cake?
Oh, Tony. I don’t think I told you enough that you were good. That you were the glue that held me together. That you comforted and calmed me. That no matter what happened, I knew you’d be there. But now you aren’t. You aren’t here, and I can’t tell you how much it meant to me to always know you would be. I said ‘I love you’ every day, but did I show you? Did you feel my devotion?
We had rough times, yes. Sometimes I was SO angry with you. Often I was frustrated and annoyed by you. But that is what life is.
We also had beautiful times. You made me laugh. You were there when I needed someone to bring me back to earth, whether I was too high, or too low, you stabilized me.
I never imagined that you would simply…. go.
In my heart, you were forever.
You are forever.
We were together for so long, that every song on the radio reminds me of you. Music was air to you. And although I was the dancer- you moved. I can still see you moving to “I can’t sleep” or “Been around the World” or … so many others.
I remember clearly that last morning. I know I brought you your cup of tea (as always) and kissed you on top of your head, as you sat on the edge of the bed, not yet fully awake. I know that I called out “I love you” (as always) while I walked out and pulled the door behind me to go to work. I know that when Connor left a message saying the police were trying to reach me- that there was a ‘traffic incident’ and asked me what I’d done, I laughed, not concerned, at first, not imagining that my life was forever altered. We, Connor and I, were trying to work out what I had done on my way to work that had caught me on camera, or had caused another driver to complain about my terrible driving. We never speculated it would be you.
I remember how the realisation crept up. How at first I said to Connor, “but the car’s in Dad’s name, if I did something, they’d call him.” A clue that went unnoticed, at first. But insinuated itself. I tried to call your mobile. There was no answer. Connor had told me the police were looking for me, and were coming to my work. A clue. The police don’t turn up to your work if you are caught on camera speeding, or running a red light. Why didn’t you answer your phone???
Connor and I both came to the conclusion, in different places, together. We spoke again on the phone- I’ve no idea now who called who or how it progressed; it’s a blur. “Dad’s not answering,” He told me, “something’s wrong with Dad.” I knew. I knew it was serious. I knew you were gone.
You were supposed to always be there! I was supposed to leave you! You never made the big changes in our lives. Yes, you were the final word- but I was the impetus for change. But, again, you had the final word. You rolled your brand-new car over in a ditch, and you left me.
My tall, silly, sensitive, moody, lazy, frustrating partner, friend, husband. My Tone.
Let me tell you a story.
Are you in bed?
Tucked up tight, like a bug in a rug?
Are the lights out, and your toys put away?
Because if they aren’t, the toys might kill you in your sleep.
Oh, yes. It nearly happened to me.
My mother sent me to bed. I was supposed to clean my room and brush my teeth and put my pajamas on. I was supposed to choose a story and get into bed and wait for my kiss goodnight.
But I didn’t listen to my mother that night. I was playing with my Barbies, and my baby-dolls and stuffed toys littered the floor- my games and puzzles scattered across the room. I hadn’t brushed my teeth.
So when I heard her coming up the stairs, I knew I’d be in trouble. I began scooping and kicking everything under the bed. I turned off the light and dived into bed- yanking the covers up tight to my chin so she wouldn’t see I was still in my play-clothes, not my p.j.s.
She came into the room and I watched as she slipped on a marble I’d missed in my frantic dash to ‘clean up’. Watched as her legs went out from under her and she hit her head on my dresser. Watched as the blood poured from her head.
I was frozen in the dark, shaking in my cold bed. What had I DONE??
Then as I lay there, shaking, too shocked to cry out, I saw a furry paw creep from under my bed. The lion. His mangy fake fur stood on end as he prowled toward my defenceless mother. He was going to EAT her! I threw the book from my bedside table at him, and he turned, growling and baring teeth that should not be in his stuffed head.
I pushed myself into a sitting position, backed into the corner as far as I could go- fists stuffed in my mouth in terror. As I looked frantically around me for another weapon to hurl, I began to see more toys and dolls slithering out from under the bed. The naked baby-doll with the missing eye and the dangling right leg was trying to climb up the edge of my blankets. I snatched at the cloth, shaking her loose so violently she was flung against a far wall and landed with an ooomph and a snarl of anger in the laundry basket.
I was quickly being surrounded. Barbie and Ken danced and laughed. They chose pick-up sticks from the array of scattered toys and wielded them, threateningly, over their heads. Barbie whispered in Ken’s ear, and he chortled wickedly, looking sideways at me and nodding his head. Raggedy Anne merely sat and stared. Her wide unblinking eyes and loopy red hair more malevolent in her stillness than the pacing animals vying for position around me.
My mother groaned. My heart leapt. She wasn’t dead! She wasn’t dead, wasn’t dead, wasn’t dead after all!
But her moans attracted the attention of the beasts and dolls. Here was prey they could reach. They turned toward her. Most of them. Raggedy Anne continued to stare at me. Her evil grin unwavering. Her wild hair a dim halo in the darkness.
I did the only thing I could do. I screamed for my Daddy.
“What is it NOW?” he shouted up the stairs, thinking it was just me seeking attention to put off my bedtime. Again.
I simply screeched, “Daddy, come quick!”
And Daddy did. Well, not quick. He plodded up the stairs with heavy steps. A warning that this had better be important. And as he plodded, the animals circled my mother. She pushed herself away from the floor, and they fell away a bit, but the lion was crouching into his pounce, his muscles bunching in a way that stuffing never should bunch.
I was a gibbering mess, but I was on my knees now, reaching out as far as I could for the heavy book of fairy tales on the window sill. I snatched it up, but I overbalanced and fell out of bed with a heavy thud, right under the murderous gaze of Raggedy. She hissed at me, sneered through her smile, and raised her fist-
The light snapped on. The toys fell to the floor. Lifeless. Dad looked down at Mom in surprise, and she blinked at the hand covered in blood that she’d used to rub the tender spot on her brow.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry”, I moaned. “I didn’t pick up my toys, and Mommy fell, and I’m SORRY, and I’ll clean it all up, and it will never happen again.
And it never did. I never again went to bed without putting away all of my toys. The next day I asked Dad to put a lock on my toybox for me.
Next time I’ll tell you a story about the time I didn’t listen when Daddy warned me to never talk to strangers.
Sweet dreams, little one.
It’s time for me to come down to earth, and do the day job.
Tomorrow I will tackle Chuck’s Flash Fiction Challenge. http://terribleminds.com/ramble/blog/
This is my attempt to set myself on the road to writing. Forgive me if it all goes astray….