Falling Four Ways: 3 & 4
(1 & 2 Posted Friday, October 19, 2012)
Falling (Story 3 of 4)
Jennifer rubbed the sealed envelope between her hands. All day she had carried it in her Vera Bradley Plum Petals bookbag. She didn’t believe in spiritual vibrations like her kooky roommate Alice. But she did feel tingly, almost ticklish on the right side of her body each time she threw the bag over her shoulder.
Now that she was alone in her dorm room, Jennifer imagined Peter’s rubicund hand writing her name. She thought of his tongue wetting the seal she now loosened from the body of the envelope. She took out the thin paper folded three ways. She opened the page, and saw that the note was terse. It read:
I’ve met someone else. You shouldn’t have gone so far away for school.
Jennifer watched the letter slip from her loose fingers, glide across the linoleum, and skate underneath her door. It took only four seconds to read the ending to her four year relationship.
Falling (Story 4 of 4)
“Dee Dee, wake up” he said.
Her head was heavy. Her eyes felt the heat of the sun and the sting of her sweat.
“Dee, Sweetheart, you need to wake up now” Howard said again.
“How?” she answered. She rolled her head to the left; to the right.
“Yes, Dee. Let me see the grays of your eyes” he answered.
Dee Dee smiled. This was Howard’s request the first time he told her he loved her. When he saw the flecks of gray dance within the blue, he knew she loved him too. From then on, it was the line he used whenever he wanted her full attention.
Dee Dee’s lids flittered like a hummingbird. She saw Howard leaning over her. The sun outlined his form and she felt a charge.
“There they are . . . “ He observed her eyes with a grin in his own. “. . . blue, gray, and a little bit of red. What are doing sleeping out here?” He asked.
“I don’t know. I was working in the garden, raking leaves. I guess I just lied down to rest and got sleepy. I don’t really remember.”
“Your head’s on a rock. Not a very good pillow Dee.”
“I guess not. My head itches. How long have I been out here?” Dee Dee began to lift her head.
“No, no. You stay where you are. I’ll sit next to you.”
When Howard moved, the sun became too intense for Dee Dee. With her left hand, she felt the hoodie that she had taken off earlier on the ground next to her. She covered her eyes with it.
“I’ve got a better idea” Howard said. “Why don’t you roll it up and put it under your head.”
Dee Dee took the suggestion. “I’ve got such a bad headache” she said.
“I’ll just bet you do. You’ll probably have one hell of a sunburn too.” Howard smiled, “It’ll look good on you.”
“I doubt it. Not much looks good on me these days. But you look handsome as ever. Unfair” she said.
“Where’s your locket?” Howard asked. “It looks good on you.”
“Around my neck like always” she answered.
“You still have my picture in it Dee?”
“Of course I do How. What a silly question.”
“Really? For all I know you’ve got some other man’s picture in there now. All this time, right around your neck, and I wouldn’t know it.”
“I do not.” Dee Dee protested.
“Prove it. Show me. “
“You’re daft” she answered.
Howard laughed. “Don’t change the subject. Come on, let me see.”
“You’re ridiculous.” Dee Dee slid her fingers down the rope to the pendant hanging from it and tried to open. “My fingernails are too short. I can’t get it open.”
“You have to press it. Press it Dee.”
She pressed the pendant and held it toward Howard. “There. You silly, jealous. . . .” She tried not to smile, but she was flattered. “Are you satisfied?”
He was satisfied. Satisfied to sit next to her as the autumn wind seemed to blow the sun westward. Satisfied to turn her cheeks the color of the leaves falling around them. Satisfied to take care of her.
Howard lay down next to Dee. The tree frogs began to croak, and he knew a storm would come soon. Dee Dee would get wet and cold.
“I’m sleepy” she said; her eyes slacking.
“Don’t sleep. Talk to me. Better yet, sing to me” he said.
“Sing what?” Dee Dee asked.
Howard began singing slowly, “I . . . don’t want . . . to set the world . . . on fire.” He looked to her for the next line. “Come on, Dee. Let me hear your voice.”
“I just want to start . . . a flame in your heart.” Dee Dee answered.
Howard led the next line. “In my heart I have but one desire.”
“And that one is you . . . no other will do.” They sang together.
Howard requested one song after another; “I’m Beginning to See the Light,” “Put Another Chair at the Table,” “Is You Is or Is You Aint My Baby.”
“Dee. I’m going to get up now. Sing one more for me while I go.”
“What do you want to hear How?”
“I want to hear, ‘Please Don’t Talk about Me When I’m Gone.’” Howard answered.
“You are daft. Where are you going?”
“Not far. I’ll be back, I promise. Let me hear you Dee.”
Dee Dee began singing softly, “Please don’t talk about me when I’m gone. Though our friendship ceases from now on. “
“And listen, if you can’t say anything real nice” he sang with her as he got up off the ground.
“It’s better not to talk at all . . . “ Dee sang.
“That’s my advice” Howard joined. “Keep going Dee” he said.
“We’re parting; you go your way, I’ll go mine. It’s best that we do” she sang.
“I’m still listening Dee” Howard said as he began to walk away.
“Here’s a kiss; I hope this brings lots of luck to you” she continued. Dee could hear the trumpet section join her, “Makes no difference how I carry on. Just don’t you talk about me when I’m gone.”
The horns got louder; seemed closer. She couldn’t see Howard anymore. “How? You still here?”
The sax, the trombone, the trumpet were hurting her ears now. She covered them and yelled, “How!?!”
Trucks with bright lights turned into her gravel driveway. The horns turned into sirens and split her head like an ax. She felt sick, like she might vomit. She felt faint, but the lights and the noise made her whole body jerk and her eyes widen.
Two men rushed from one of the trucks to her side. “Ma’am? Can you hear me?” One man asked. He directed the bright end of a flashlight toward her eyes.
“No more lights” Dee Dee begged.
She heard her neighbor Cynthia’s voice. “Oh, God! There’s so much blood!”
The men ignored Dee and Cynthia. “Ma’am, how did you fall?”
“Her name is Mrs. Long. Dee Dee Long.” Cynthia offered.
“Mrs. Long. Do you know how you fell?” The paramedic put away the small flashlight.
“No, I don’t remember” Dee Dee answered.
“How old are you Mrs. Long?” The paramedic asked.
“I’m 93. And proud of it.” She answered.
“Ma’am, you’ve hit your head on this rock pretty hard. I’m going to need to stop the bleeding. It was good thinking for you to put pressure on it with this shirt.”
“I’m so sorry Mrs. Long” her neighbor said. “When I saw you out here with that man . . . I don’t know. I just assumed you were okay. I’m so sorry. I should have come check on you.”
“What man? Mrs. Long, is someone here with you?” The paramedic asked.
“I was just talking to How. Just Howard.” Dee Dee answered.
The paramedics looked to Cynthia for an explanation. Cynthia shook her head and whispered, “Howard is her husband. He died a year and a half ago.”
“Ma’am? Are you sure there’s no one else here with you? In the house maybe?”
“No, I was just talking to How.” Dee Dee laughed, “He had me singing his favorite songs. He made me show him my locket. Crazy, ol’ jealous fool.”
“What locket Mrs. Long?” Cynthia asked.
“Well, the one around my neck. The one I always wear since How gave it to me.” Dee Dee answered.
“Ma’am. There’s no locket. Are you talking about this?” The paramedic held the emergency alarm up from Dee Dee’s chest. “This is what’s around your neck. This is how we got the call to come out. You pressed this button.”