Authors: Silla Webb
“It’s not just him that I fear, Carly. You have someone to watch over you and your children each night. Do you realize that I’ve only slept maybe four hours since Friday night, because every noise shocks terror through me? Luke’s gone. I haven’t heard from him in nearly a week. Now Drew thinks it’s funny to take his place on the swing, pretending to protect me having my best interest at heart. HA, like that bastard has a heart. Oh my gosh,
? How fitting.” I laugh, rolling my eyes at my insanity.
“Ooooo-kay. I think you need to reel it in just a smidge, take a big deep breath and try to sift through that shit again. What does Luke and Drew have to do with your porch? You ain’t makin’ a lick of sense.” Carly snaps back at me, then tries to stifle back her laughter when she says, “well, the bastard comment…that makes perfect sense.”
Raking my hands through my hair I grit my teeth together and growl in frustration. “Drew, Carly! He’s obviously been watching me for a while now. He knew that Luke would watch over me at night, randomly appearing on the porch swing. I guess he figured I’d be the easier target now that Luke’s gone and since you never gave two shits about his constant stunts for attention. He tried to play it off as his way of protecting his little sister, but his threat was blatantly obvious to me.”
“Woah, woah, what?” Carly shrieks, her eyes widening to the size of saucers. “Drew has been watching you?” I nod, confirming what I just said is indeed true. “Savannah, I need you to calm down and tell me what the hell happened. NOW!” She spits through gritted teeth, the apple of her cheeks flaming red with heat.
I shake my head to clear the cloud of thoughts before speaking. I’m sure I’ve confused Carly enough with my incessant rambling, but I’ve bottled up so much this last week it feels like the cork popped free and everything I’ve held inside has just burst free.
“I expected it to be Luke, but was surprised when I realized it was Drew. He warned me about visiting with Josh, said that he was dangerous. Drew said he was looking out for me and would see what James could do to expedite the divorce proceedings, but he continually urged me not to visit Josh.”
Carly pinches the bridge of her nose and I’m sure I’m wearing her down. “Why didn’t you call me?”
“Carly it was in the middle of the night. There wasn’t much you could do.” I shrug my shoulders.
“There is always something I can do, damn it!!! You and the kids need to stay here for a few nights, Savannah. What if he goes a step further, Sis?”
Shaking my head, “No, I won’t do that. The kids are having a hard enough time understanding all the changes that have taken place in our lives these last few months. I won’t pull them from their home just when their finally settling in.”
Rolling her eyes, Carly huffs resigning her argument in defeat.
“Drew always has an underhanded play. Don’t trust him, Savannah.”
“I know better than to trust him, Carly.” I roll my eyes exaggeratedly. “In fact, I’m going to do the exact opposite of what he advised.”
“Like hell you are! Are you insane?”
“A little, I do believe so.” I smile nervously, but there is a little truth in my response. I feel like somewhere along the way I’ve finally cracked, the seams of my flawed existence fraying uncontrollably. “But even Luke suggested it, Carly. I need to show Josh that after all the hell he’s put me through, I’m resilient. He needs to see that the control he once had over me has diminished.”
Facing the music is easier said than done. Every step I take each day requires more and more strength. When I returned to Lexington last week, I had planned to visit Alyson and Sawyer’s graves – memorializing’ my family for the first time since their deaths, but also taking that first step towards forgivin’ myself for not being their hero. I cowered. I continue to make an excuse for myself puttin’ it off further and further. I’ve admitted that I was at fault for this tragedy, but forgivin’ myself seems impossible. It’s unforgettable, so therefore in my mind – unforgiveable.
Momma was surprised, yet pleased when I appeared on her doorstep in the middle of the night unexpectedly. It’s been a few months since I saw her last so she’s enjoyed havin’ her boy home for the last few days. Work keeps her busy, but I know she’s lonely livin’ in a big city without many friends. She moved to Lexington after she left Dad so she could be close to my family, then after the fire I left her here to return to Williamstown. It wasn’t intentional, but I was literally suffocatin’ in Lexington. Too many constant reminders of what I’d lost. With the old man’s ailing health it only made sense that I move in with him to find myself or at least the part of me that I’d lost.
Each day as Momma readied herself for work she’d ask what my plans were for the day although my answer hasn’t changed all week: not much. She’d smile, payin’ no mind to me and head out the door. At dinner she’d make idle conversation asking about the diner, how my friends were doin’,anything she could think of to dance her way around what she really wanted to ask – why I was really here. I’d change the subject from me to her, anything to get her mind away from mine. I could tell she was carryin’ a heavy weight of worry for me, but she knows I’m the strong silent type who does better at workin’ my emotions out all on my own.
Today she began to grow antsy, filled with worry. She knew I was torn she just didn’t know why. Mommas have that greater intuition; they know when their children are battlin’ somethin’ greater than the strength they have to defend themselves with. No sooner than she set the food on the table and I planted my ass in the chair she started in, not letting up until I told her what I was strugglin’ with.
It wasn’t an easy conversation to have, but I gave her every thought that crossed my mind without hindrance. I didn’t realize just how heavy my heart was until I spoke the words. I’ve carried the pain for so long, wearing it as a second skin, that unleashing it all somehow gives me lucidity over the situation.
“Luke, you weren’t given an easy life to live by any means. But battling the hand you were dealt is what gave you the strength to persevere. After Alyson and Sawyer passed away, I was so worried that you’d let yourself slip into a nasty addiction, ya know – drinkin’ ya life away like your daddy has.” She clasps her small hand over mine, squeezin’ gently as she gathers the words. “But baby, what you’re doin’ is none too healthy either. You’re drownin’ in your own sorrows. You can’t change the past, so stop lookin’ over your shoulder at it constantly. It’s okay to move on, Luke. Alyson would want you to be happy.”
“Momma, I ain’t tryin’ to live in the past, but tryin’ to keep the past alive in me. I feel guilty for wantin’ something I know I don’t deserve. I feel like I’m dishonorin’ my love for Alyson and Sawyer by movin’ forward.” I whisper, hangin’ my head in shame.
“Ya know, Savannah sounds like a charmin’ young lady. I know she has something special about her or your eyes wouldn’t twinkle when you talk about her.”
“Momma.” I warn, beggin’ her to drop it. I know what I want, I know what I need. But I know it’s well out of reach.
“Son, you listen to ya momma. Good things come to those who wait. I understand Savannah’s situation, but I also understand yours. You need to figure out if what you’re feelin’ is real, or if it’s empathy for her plight.”
“Is that what it sounds like? That I’m feelin’ things outta empathy?”
“No, baby. It sounds like you’ve fallen for a woman you saw was hurtin’ and now you’re runnin’ scared, high on fear. Don’t do that, Luke. Be her hero.”
I know she’s right, but her advice is hard to swallow. Although I physically ain’t done much of nothin’ this last week, mentally all gears have been churnin’ at Mach speed. I guess I had it all figured out already, but sometimes you need someone else to put everything into perspective.
I miss Savannah and I’ve been worried sick ‘bout her all week. I’m sure she’s pissed as hell at me for not tellin’ her where I was goin’. If I’d told her, then I’d have had to tell her about my family and I’m not ready for that. I want Savannah to continue to look at me genuinely as she always has. Once she knows about my past, she’ll no longer see me as the same man that she sees now: the hero who saved her life, her protector. She’ll see me as the negligent failure who couldn’t protect his own wife and child.
Climbing out of the truck I slowly walk down the small cobblestone path. Rows and rows of perfectly lined headstones decorated with ornate ceramics, elaborate floral arrangements and balloons line the neatly manicured lawn. My steps slow as I approach the west corner of the cemetery. When the names etched on the marble slab comes into clear view my feet refuse to move any further. A small ragged teddy bear and a vase of wilted roses rest against the grave.
My chest shakes erratically as I choke back a sob. Inhaling that ragged breath the thick scent of pungent char fills my nostrils and I fall to my knees restin’ my head against the cool marble. Each breath I draw is suffocating with the acrid smell. The cemetery is somber, yet peaceful, but I'm surrounded by the ill-fated sounds of Alyson and Sawyer's tormenting cries.
Two years ago today my soul died. Finally, here I kneel facin’ the demons that have haunted me endlessly and I’m shattered with the flood of emotions that resonate within me. I didn’t expect this to be easy, but I didn’t expect the onslaught of raw anguish that I’m feelin’ either.
Once the tears relent I wipe my face with the arm of my sleeve, then brace my hands on my thighs as I release an exasperated huff. Diggin’ deep in my gut, I search for the words I need to voice as if Alyson and Sawyer can hear me clearly.
“I’m lonely without y’all. Sawyer, Daddy misses your bubbly laugh and sweet smile. I miss your feet in my ribs when I sleep and bein’ woken up by you pouncin’ on the bed anxious to watch Saturday mornin’ cartoons. I miss zoomin’ you through the house, with your arms stretched out and your little Superman cape flappin’ behind ya. I’m so sorry Daddy couldn’t be your hero, little man. I know how much you looked up to me, and I failed you in the worst possible way.” Stiflin’ back the tears that fall on their own accord, I swipe away at my face and continue. “Alyson, honey I am so sorry I didn’t listen to ya. You know I tried to take care of you and Sawyer, protectin’ y’all the best I could, but I fell short. I’ll never be able to forgive myself for not replacin’ that damn outlet.” I pinch the bridge of my nose willing back the tears. “You two gave me the most beautiful moments of my life. You showed me what love was. I miss you and Sawyer terribly, but I know you’re at peace. I love you guys. I love you both so damn much.”
My tormented cries fall relentlessly and I press my forehead to the cool stone as if it put me closer to Alyson and Sawyer’s souls. I feel wretched as the weight of agony and despair encases me tightly. Finally catchin’ my breath, I dust off the engraved plaque on their headstone, replace the wilted roses with an arrangement of sunflowers and press a gentle kiss to the cold stone. Standin’ to my feet, I brush the dirt from my jeans when a familiar voice startles me. “I-I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to eavesdrop on such a private moment, but seeing you here after all this time shocked me.”
“Hey Ashleigh, I didn’t expect to see you here.” Stupid remark, but I’m at a loss for words, drained of all thought.
“It’s been two years since they were taken from us.” She whispers, stepping towards the grave. “I visit with Alyson often. I know it sounds silly, but sometimes when life has gotten me down, just telling her my troubles makes me feel closer to her.”
I’m confused why she’s tellin’ me any of this. Maybe she’s caught up in the moment, I don’t know. She always hated me. Tried her best to talk Alyson outta marryin’ me because she didn’t think I was good enough for her little sister.
She continues to ramble on incessantly and I politely nod and hum. I know losin’ Alyson was hard on her. She lost her only sibling and I’m sure she lays the blame at my feet. Suddenly uncomfortable with her presence and the swirl of tension that radiates about the air, I try to make a smooth getaway. “Well, I’ll let you visit privately. It was good seein’ ya, Ashleigh.”
Takin’ long strides towards the truck, I halt when she speaks again, “Luke, call me before you go wherever it is you’re headed.”
Noddin’ my head in approval I continue my descent to the truck.