This story is dedicated to Gina, one of the bravest women I know.
The steam on the mirror made it impossible for her to see her own reflection. That was something she could take comfort in. Her own face was the last thing she wanted to look at. She knew her mascara would be running down her face and that she'd look a wreck. She was happy for the steam. She leaned over and put her elbows on the counter. Her hands covered her face and then made their way through the strands of her hair. She stood up and rubbed her index finger under her nose. Why? Lost in thought, she stood there for a second, barely breathing.
She undressed and stepped into the shower. Why? Why now? The water began to land on her shoulders. She tilted her head up so the water could hit her straight on. She turned the dial on the shower head so that it changed from the standard setting to massage. Looking down at the shower floor, she let the water work its magic on her neck. She closed her eyes trying to force herself to enjoy the massage, but it was no use. Numbness had taken over everything but the throbbing ache in her chest. The harder the water fell, the more tears came down. She tried to grip the tiles on the wall for support, but her fingers simply slid down them. Suddenly, the ache in her heart made its way to her throat. She heard herself cry. She was scared someone would hear but she couldn't stop herself. Her inward pain turned into an outward pleading and she prayed that the pain would disappear.
She wanted to wake up from this moment. The moment that she always dreaded in the back of her mind. Some how she'd always been preparing for it, but never willing herself to believe that it would ever really happen. She had loved him and now he was gone. What could I have done different? She tried not to think about it. These things happen, she rationalized. She tried to make herself believe that it was not her fault. These things happen, but not to me. . .not to us.
Over the years, love and life had changed each of them, but could she get over this? Did she want to get over this? Suddenly, she felt like the pain in her chest was all she had left to hold. It hurt, but still it was the one emotion she could feel. She balled up her fist and slammed it sideways on the shower wall. Pain! Physical Pain. The heartache in her chest, now began to be overshadowed by the pain in her hand. The emotional numbness that had encircled the rest of her body now began to disappear and again, she started to feel like she was really alive. She leaned on the wall and held her right fist with her unbroken hand. She let the tears fall freely now. A broken bone was a good excuse to cry. Crying for. . . She had to be strong for that.
With a lot of pain and effort, she clumsily turned off the shower and put on her bathrobe. She tried to put her hair up in a towel, but couldn't manage it. Without thinking, she wiped the mirror off with the towel and caught a glimpse of her eyes. For the first time that afternoon, she saw how puffy and red they were. They didn't even look like her own. Quickly, she realized the eyes she was looking at weren't her own at all. She turned around quickly to find that her husband was standing in the doorway.
"Sweetheart. I got here as soon as I got your message."
He pulled her close and she let herself get lost in his embrace. They stood there together holding and crying with one another.
"Why did this. . .," she tried to say the words but the pain was too much.
Deep in his soul, he struggled for an answer himself. He was hurting as much as she was and he felt like he was letting her down by crying in front of her.
"I wish I knew. I wish I could erase this. . ." He couldn't finish the thought.
"I'm sorry I couldn't give you. . . I hope that you're not mad at me." She had been so afraid to bring up what she was so afraid to ask.
"Sweetheart." He lifted her chin. "I don't ever want you to think that. I don't ever want you to say that. This is not your fault. Our ba. . ." He stopped talking as tears filled his eyes again. "Our baby. His little body just wasn't ready. Even though we never got to hold him." He wanted to say this without crying but it was so hard. "He was still ours. He was. . he is part of us. Have you ever thought these little spirits, that our little guy was so good that he didn't have to go this through this test? This test we call life. Maybe all he needed was to come as far as he did and know that his mom and dad loved him."
She buried her head in his chest again and she felt the pain and anger drain out of her. It was replaced with a warmth that comforted. She hoped he was right. She was counting on him being right. His hope and faith was the only thing that was helping her stay on her feet.
He walked her over to the bed and helped her lay down.
"Is there anything I can get you?" He said needing something to occupy himself.
"Some ice for my hand." She held up the swollen hand and showed it to him.
"Tried making a hole in the wall, huh?"
"Something like that."
He gently raised her hand, looked it over and kissed it.
"I'll be right back." He ran out the door.
She laid there on the bed and closed her eyes. Within a few minutes, she found herself playing on a playground with her husband and a little brown haired boy. The little boy smiled and gave her a hug.
"Mama loves you too." She knew he was okay and some how they wouldn't be apart for long.