God, I’m tired, he says as he sits down beside her and props against the shade tree. “Sorry, I’m late. It’s been one of those days.”
He looks at her and smiles, remembering the first time they met. She was beautiful and he had fallen head over heels for her before they spoke their first words. But when he finally had worked up the courage to talk to her, he’d found his words stuck in his throat. He frantically searched those pale blue eyes of hers… trying to find the words… but she just smiled at him and waited. Somehow he had finally managed to introduce himself, and then the ice was broken, and they talked and laughed all night. And before the sun had risen in the Eastern sky, he was in love.
Her name was Tracie. His was Lance. He looked over to her again and smiled and as they rested beneath the shade tree, he traced the heart he had carved here two years with his finger. It was a simple carving, childish really. A heart with their initials.
TC + LC = 4/Ever
Things had not been easy. He may have fallen head over heels for her, but she was not so easily swayed. She’d come from a history of bad relationships and abusive men. It was hard enough to build the friendship with her. Trust was not a commodity she held in large supply. But as the weeks and months passed, she began to let down her guard. She began to see that he wasn’t like the others. That he was different. And finally one day, after a year of being pursued by him, Tracie had realized that Lance was one of the good guys. They were sitting under a tree, much like the one they were under now. She looked over at him and found him watching her in his quiet way, his eyes so full of love she thought she might just drown in them. And she began to cry. “What’s wrong,” he asked, concerned and a little bewildered. He put his hand on her cheek, and wiped a tear away with his thumb. She grabbed that hand in hers and pressed it against her face, and she kissed it. And then she pressed against him, her mouth in his ear, and she whispered “Do you really love me Lance?” And with his mouth pressed against her ear, his hand working its way across the nape of her slender neck into her short, red hair, and with the weight of the world crushing his lungs, he whispered “Until the day I die.”
And that was the moment Tracie fell in love with him. After years of anguish, and years of abuse, and years of hating herself… she let the moment take her, and she gave into it. She gave her heart to the only man she had ever truly loved (because she had never known what love was until he’d taken the time to show it to her). And under that shade tree, in the setting sun, almost a year to the day that he introduced himself to her, she kissed him for the first time, and it was like nothing she had ever known in her life. It wasn’t selfish. He wasn’t taking from her. Yes, it was needful. Yes, it was passionate. But it was tender. And warm. And safe.
Safe. It was like nothing she had ever known.
And here they were, five years later, under a shade tree (which was now “their” shade tree). Lance’s eyes still full of love. But now, there was also some sadness there. And every so often there were tears.
I brought these for you, he said, almost as an after thought. He had a dozen pink roses, her favorite. Red roses always made her think of blood, sadness. Pink roses were full of life. He set them on the ground beside her and smiled. And turned back to watch the setting sun with his love.
Married life had been fantastic for both of them. They brought out the best in each other. They were loved and hated by all their friends, coined “the perfect couple” which was usually followed with sighs or rebukes. “Oh, look… it’s Lance and Tracie… aren’t they the perfect couple? They make me sick.”
The days were short and the nights were long in those first few years of marriage. The happy couple couldn’t get enough of each other. Every day was a party, and every night was the honeymoon. Eventually, Tracie’s past faded away. Her terrible dreams no longer woke her up at night. Lance was the perfect fit for the hole that had plagued her life for so very long.
The sun was now almost gone from the sky. “We should be going soon,” Lance said, watching as the sun slid slowly from the sky. It was Halloween night, and the kids would be out and about soon. He looked at his love and his sadness swelled. Their son would have been two years old this year. What cute costume might they have dressed him in? Would he be a pumpkin? A goblin? Maybe Peter Pan.
Yes, Peter Pan. That seemed fitting. Because their son was indeed the boy who would never grow up. He would never get old. He would never love a woman. He was a lost boy. Far away in Neverland. He was a lost boy. Lost two years ago today on All Hallows Eve.
They had been at a party. Lance was dressed as the Grim Reaper. He had a skull mask on and a black, hooded cloak. His cycle was real (but blunted for safety), and when Tracie had seen him she’d asked him to change. “I don’t like it Lance. Please take it off,” she’d begged him. But they were late and he didn’t have anything else to wear.
She’d been perfect. He remembered everything about her. She was dressed as an angel, but with horns and a forked tail. She had looked amazing! He remembered her sitting on the edge of the bed waiting for him. Her beautiful red hair was now blonde, her bright red toenail polish was visible through her angle white stockings. Her long neck was so inviting, he just wanted to cuddle with her on the bed and forget the stupid party. But they had been anxious to show off their brand new baby boy, who was as of yet still not born, but showing proudly under mommy’s heavenly robe.
Take off the outfit, she had asked him. “It creeps me out.”
What are you talking about? he asked, laughing. “There’s no time. We’re late as it is. Hit the bricks baby. Get that cute patootie of yours into the car.”
And two hours later she was dead. She and their son. He stood over their bed in the hospital room, unaware of the stares he pulled from the nurses and patients and members of other families walking the halls. He stood over their bed weeping in his black holocaust cloak, the weight of the world crushing his lungs, waiting to see her pale blue eyes looking back at him, searching him. But those eyes had been closed forever by stupid kid, not watching the road. Her eyes had been shut forever when that kid’s truck rammed headlong into Tracie’s door, crushing her and their son under two tons of screeching metal. And so he stood over them in the drab little hospital room, presiding over them as they crossed to the other side without him.
The sun was now gone from the sky. The harvest moon could be seen on the horizon. Lance looked at his love one last time. He took the old roses from the vase beside her headstone and replaced them with the new ones. On the other side of Tracie was their son Robert. “Be good for your mom, son,” he said. He kissed both of them before he left. “I love you,” he said with the weight of the world crushing him beneath it.
And now, in a dark house a very small light can be seen in an upstairs window. As the kids and parents yell “Trick or Treat” on the street below, the Grim Reaper once again shows his face in Tracie’s house. In the window of the room with the tiny light, it’s possible to see the shadow of a worn and broken man as he steps onto a chair and reaches to the ceiling for the catalyst that will take him to those that he loves.