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Three Small Words
Another summer at my grandparents beach house; sun, sand, sea—total relaxation. So why couldn’t I let go? The dream last night had seemed so real, but it was just a dream, right? Colors swooped and swirled behind my closed eyelids as the music soared, taking me back to last summer as I pulled out the creasy concert ticket from my back pocket.
…It was raining outside that afternoon, so I decided to head to the Burger Shack. As I pushed open the door, a bell rang notifying my entrance. I pulled out a roll of quarters to play Pac Man. I wore flip flops but took them off and stood on them, playing the game.
I was down to my last quarters when the entrance bell rang again and two kids walked in, a guy and a girl. The guy walked over and put a quarter on the machine. “I got game when you’re done.” He said. I didn’t look up, I just nodded. I thought to myself; don’t make me lose concentration now! I finally lost my last quarter and motioned the guy that it was his turn. He rose from the table they were sitting at and walked over. “C’mon, I’ll play ya.” He said as he put his quarter into the machines coin slot.
“I’m out of quarters.” I replied.
“I’m buying.” He said.
“I don’t think your girlfriend will be too happy with that.” I said eyeing the girl still sitting at the table with the pizza and soda.
“Her?” He asks, pointing to the girl over his shoulder. “That’s my sister.”
Now I’m intrigued. I smile as he puts a second quarter into the coin slot. Six games later, his sister is long gone and we sit down for cold pizza and flat soda. I can’t help but sit across from him and watch his black eyelashes flicker over his grey blue eyes. I am pulled into them like a vacuum. Plying myself back to reality, I realize I still don’t know his name. “We still haven’t formally introduced ourselves yet.” I said.
He laughed, “I was wondering if I was ever going to get your name. I’m Cole.”
I smiled, “I’m Natalie.”
“So Natalie,” I liked the sound of his voice, “what brings you to Port Orange?”
“My grandparents own a beach house near the coast.”
“No way, me too!” He replied.
“Yeah, it’s right off Murray Way.”
“My grandparents’ place is on Blue Skies Drive. I think that’s around there.”
“I think your right, just a little ways from here?”
“Yeah, it’s about a mile or so.”
My eyes traveled to the windows, it was still raining and it was getting late. The sky grew darker and darker as our conversation carried onto likes and dislikes then, life stories. I couldn’t believe the amount of things we had in common. We were both seventeen, had younger siblings, shared the same values and morals, and loved music… My thoughts continued to dwell on our similarities; on him. His smile, his face, his personality, everything about him attracted me. He was beautiful. I didn’t ever really believe in ‘love at first sight’ until that night...
Remembering I was still lying on the beach, I brought myself back to the present. The tide was coming in as the wind wiped at my long hair. I brushed the sand off my shorts and forced myself to walk back to my grandparents’ house. My body ached from lying out in the sun on the beach all day. The sun was beginning to set and I heard my mother’s voice calling me in for dinner.
“I’m coming!” I shouted as I continued up the beach. When I reached the porch stairs, I looked back at the sun setting; the pinks and oranges in the sky fading in to the ocean’s surface. I chilly breeze pushed me up the steps and through the door.
Inside was hectic. In the kitchen my grandma was finishing making dinner. She pushed back her bangs with the back of her hand while slicing the last of the bread. My grandpa sat at the dinner table with his slippers on reading the local newspaper. His glasses on the tip of his nose teased him of falling off as he read. My mother was setting the table for dinner with my grandma’s nice china. In the other room my brother sat in a lounge chair watching cartoons.
“What’s for dinner?” I asked.
“Vegetable soup, my favorite,” My grandpa said.
“Natalie, go wash your hands for supper.” My grandma said, bringing the pot of soup to the table.
I walked through the kitchen and into the hallway and turned left into the bathroom. I turned the faucet, cool water flowing through my fingers. I put my hands on my face, soothing the burns from the hot sun today. My loose curls ran past my shoulders, stretching for my torso. The girl in the mirrors face was filled with freckles. Her hazel eyes sparkled with the room’s fluorescent lighting. Taking off the hair tie on my wrist, I gathered my brown curls together, pulling my hair back into a pony tail. I turned off the light and left, heading for the dinner table, ready to eat.
When I got there everyone else was already seated and ready to eat. I quickly sat down and grabbed my grandfather and mother’s hands, quietly saying grace. Everyone grabbed bowels of soup and started to eat. Dinner was silent. We knew what happening in the morning. Tomorrow was not going to be fun.
The next morning when I woke up, I looked out the window. The hardly visible sun was already above the oceans waves. Fog was coming in from shore and the sky looked gloomy. It was going to be a long day. I went into the kitchen and made myself a bowl of cereal. It happened to be raisin bran. Maybe not the best choice today, raisin bran had always been my dad’s favorite breakfast….
After eating, I gathered my toiletries and went to the bathroom. My eyes had dark bags beneath them from the lack of last night’s sleep. I brushed my teeth and washed my face quickly. Everyone in the house was beginning to wake up. I headed back to the bedroom I was sleeping in and opened the closet. Inside, hanging on the back of the door hung my black dress. I slowly slipped it on.
… “Hi Dad,” I walked into the room slowly, Cole at my side. The walls confining my father had been stripped down to the bare minimum. He was isolated from the world. He lied there silently on the hospital bed, his eyes closed. Silently the beating of his heart continued while his mind remained unconscious. He looked the same as he had for the past three months. But today was different. My hand gently brushed against his cheek as I went to sit by his side. I prayed he would live, but some things can’t be done. Today, my Father would finally be at rest. We were going to take him off life support. We were going to let him die. It sounds awful when you phrase it that way. There wasn’t much I could say to him other then; “I love you.”
“Don’t worry; he’ll be in a better place. I know it’s hard, but” Cole began to speak.
“A better place, is that what you think? He’s going to die!” I couldn’t let the thought leave my head. “He’ll be gone forever. And it’s all my fault…”
“No its not, you had no control over this.” He tried to make me feel better. But even he couldn’t lighten my mood. Not today. We left the room in the silence as when we entered, the stale air refilling the room. I leaned against the wall outside his room, and slid to the ground. The doctors walked into the room my Dad had been placed in when he first arrived with a coma three months ago. I could hear the beating pulse of the machine that kept my father living. I covered my face as the tears began to fall from my eyes. Within seconds the machines beating stopped. He was dead, gone, forever.
I don’t know how long we sat there in the dead air. It seemed like a life time. The clock ticking, minuets passing…
Once I slipped the dress over my head, I walked over to the mirror. I applied some mascara and took a deep breath. I can do this I thought to myself.
Together, my family and I loaded into the black car and drove to the church for the funeral. I had written a speech, but too many thoughts were passing through my head to remember it. We weren’t the first to arrive. Some family friends and relatives had already taken their seats, ready for the ceremony.
Inside the church, people sat in quietly, waiting for the ceremony to begin. But I wanted this to be over, done with. My eyes began to water as I walked to the first pew was. I sat uncomfortably in my seat; I couldn’t breathe, there in front of me was my dad’s coffin. We had decided to keep it closed, thank god. His picture stood to the right of the coffin which was surrounded by flowers.
The church bells finally rang, signaling the beginning of the ceremony. I slowly walked up to the front of the church were a podium stood. With my back to my dead father, I looked out at my family, friends, and people I had never seen before. I can’t do it, I thought to myself. I just couldn’t come to grips that my father was dead, done forever. He would never see me go off to college, get married, meet his grandchildren; and it was all my fault. This guilt consumed me. I took several deep breaths as I stood there.
I somehow managed to pull myself together and began, “My Father was a great man. Losing my Father is one of the most difficult things I have ever gone through. As I am standing up here today in front of you, I realize how fortunate I am to have him as my Father. There are no words to express his influence in my life. He was a strong, hardworking, and loving man…” My thoughts drifted off as memories flashed through my head; the time he taught me how to ride a bike, him cheering on the sidelines for me at my little league soccer games, cooking in the kitchen together, swimming in the ocean, and him teaching me how to drive… the last thought stung to think about. Driving…
I couldn’t continue my speech. I left the podium and exited the church in tears. I sat on the curb outside the church, my hands covering my teary face. My makeup was smearing but I didn’t care. I had no one to impress. I needed to take life seriously, why was I such a kid?
As cars passed me, drivers and passengers looked out their windows at me. I tried to cover my face more, hoping no one would recognize me. But then I heard a familiar sound. An old Nissan pulled into the church parking lot, its paint chipped and rusty. The door squeaked as the driver got out. He walked over to me and placed his hand on my back.
“Are you ok?” a familiar voice asked. I shrugged his soft hand off my back. I was still mad at him. “Natalie, you can’t still be mad at me,” he exclaimed.
“Well I am,” I said grumpily. My emotions were already a wreck due to the funeral, and his appearance was only making it worse. “Leave me alone Cole,” I told him
“I only came to the funeral for you; I knew you would be having a hard time.”
“Well I don’t need you in case you haven’t noticed.” He could tell I was lying as my voice cracked. He sat down on the curb next to me and put his arm around me. I nudged in closer to him, as he rested his chin on my head.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered, but I had already forgiven him. I loved him, he was the only light left in my life.
“No, I’m sorry. I’m sorry I blamed you for what happened. It wasn’t your fault. It wasn’t anyone’s fault.” I responded.
“Other than the other guy in the accident…” he added. My father had been killed by a drunk driver one night while driving home from work. I had been devastated when I found out. The last time I had seen my Father I was on my way out of the house, headed for Cole’s. My dad was arguing with me about it being a school night and how I needed to stay home and study for finals. The last words that I ever said to him were, “I hate you.” I couldn’t get over it, why did I have to say that? He died thinking I hated him…