The Rest of My Life
Someone was screaming. It was a horrific, spine-chilling scream.
Make it stop.
Make it stop.
Covering my ears didn't work.
The screaming was coming from me.
"Drea! Stop!" Noah was laughing, trying to grab me around the waist.
Laughing, I danced out of his way, dangling his baseball cap on one finger.
"My goodness you're slow!" I cried, dashing behind a giant oversized bush.
As he chased me around the bush, I stuck the hat on my head backwards and made a mad dash for the house, Noah close on my heels. Before I could reach the back steps, however, he was in front of me, and charging at me, and next thing I knew, I was swinging over his shoulder. Screeching happily, I pounded his back.
"Put me down!"
"Not until you give my hat back!" He said heartily.
"Well, you'd better be really strong, because I bet I can keep the hat longer then you can hold me." I told his back.
Noah grunted and tightened his hold on my thighs. I grinned. This should be interesting. Suddenly Noah was turning in circles and my hair was flying around my head. I whipped the baseball cap off my head and raised my head to see that he was spinning as fast as possible. He knew I got sick and dizzy when I was spun.
"Noah, you cheat!" I shouted as loudly as possible and shut my eyes tightly, vertigo already getting to me.
"I never said I'd play fair!" He shouted back at me, jiggling me slightly, so that for a moment I thought I was going to fall on my face.
With a terrified shriek, I shouted, "Alright! Alright! You can have your hat back! Just don't—don't drop me!"
Noah laughed. "Thank you," was all he said as I felt him lean down to put me on my feet. I opened my eyes, limply handed him the cap and turned away, taking a step and tripping. I was so dizzy that I simply lay where I fell, face first in the grass.
"Oh, come on, Drea, get up." Noah said, and it sounded like he was rolling his eyes.
An idea had come to my head, and when Noah told me again to get up, I simply lay there and didn't respond. I felt the toe of his shoe nudge me, and again, he got no response from me.
"Drea? Andrea!" He cried, kneeling next to me and shaking me gently. Then he rolled me over and I was careful to appear limp and as lifeless as possible.
"Oh, come on," he repeated, but with more urgency to his tone. "Please, wake up. I didn't mean to spin you so much that you'd faint!"
When I decided that he was good and worried, I opened my eyes suddenly and jumped at him.
Noah came the closest I'd ever seen to screaming as he fell backwards, away from me, and landed hard on the ground, butt first.
Just as quickly I was on top of him, grinning down at him.
"Don't ever spin me like that. I felt like I was going to throw up." I told him, conversationally.
Then he'd rolled us over and was lying on top of me. "And don't you ever worry me by pretending to be passed out!"
In answer I ducked under his baseball cap and rubbed his nose with mine. Noah and I had been together for about two and a half years, and recently I'd had the impression that he was going to ask me to marry him. We had both graduated from college in May, and now it was June, steamy and warm, and both of us were still high on the freedom we felt from classes. My parents were thrilled with my boyfriend, and couldn't have been happier that he seemed as happy with me as I was with him.
Noah kissed me gently before rolling off me and bounding up, tugging his hat in place more securely and stood looking down at me.
Throwing off the tranquil mood that had enveloped me suddenly when he kissed me, I sat upright. My stomach was still slightly queasy, and as I stood up, the contents of my stomach suddenly revolted. Sure enough, it was all I could do to dash to the bush I'd previously hidden behind and empty my stomach on the ground at its feet. As I retched, I felt Noah behind me as his hand slid through my hair, pulling it behind me. His hand was on my back, caressing me, his voice gently murmuring words of encouragement to me as my stomach took out its aggression on me.
"Look what you made me do!" I told him, when the retching had stopped, and turned to look at him, weakly wiping the back of my hand across my mouth. "Ugh, I need to go brush my teeth now and take a large drink of water."
As Noah followed me into the house, apologizing for making me throw up, his hand never left the small of my back. It was one of the most protective feelings I'd ever known. Once we got inside, my mom, standing at the sink looked over at Noah.
"You going to stay for dinner?" She asked, shooting me a sidelong glance.
"I'd love to," Noah told my mom as I grabbed a glass out of the cupboard and filled it with water. "But, I have to go soon. I told my roommate that I'd be back to meet his new girlfriend and have dinner with the two of them."
"When do you have to go?" I asked, not having heard this before.
"Soon." Was all he would say.
There was a flash of light and an extreme pain in my leg.
"Quick! Help me staunch the blood!" a voice said.
Hands moved over my body.
Sirens wailed, voices came and went.
Someone was still screaming.
The sunset was gorgeous. I'd never seen such an exquisite spring break sunset. It was casting its glorious rays across us; our hands entwined in each others. Noah was looking down at me, smiling gently.
"It's beautiful isn't it?" I said, turning my head to look up at him.
"Very beautiful." He said, not looking at the sunset.
I blushed and buried my face in his shoulder.
"Aw man," he said, disappointment coloring his voice. "The sun just went out."
"You're ridiculous." I told him.
"Why thank you." Pleasure now pervaded his voice. "Come on, it's time to go in. There's a movie in there with your name on it."
"There is?" I asked him, kind of startled. He'd said nothing about a movie earlier.
"Only if you want to watch it."
"What is it? Will I like it?" I asked.
"I hope you like it, and I'm not telling you."
"Fine." I followed him into the house, clutching his hand in mine.
I sat on the couch, watching him move confidently about the house. The fact that his brother and sisters were bouncing next to me on the couch, or on the floor, or in chairs around the room told me that it was going to be a family decent movie.
It was Prince Caspian, and I was utterly pleased. As we watched it, my head on his shoulder, peace invaded my being. His littlest sister, at seven years old, had been bouncing around all day, running from one thing to the next and she fell asleep towards the end of the movie, head in my lap.
When the movie ended, he glanced at Marcy in my lap and stood upright.
"I have to go." He said. It sounded odd and out of context.
"Where are you going?" I asked, worried.
"To put Marcy to bed." He told me, as if that were obvious.
"Will you come back?" I asked patting the couch next to me which was still a bit warm.
"Maybe," he winked at me and carried Marcy out of the room, leaving Jared his brother and Casey his other sister fighting over the DVD remote.
Something was wrong.
Sirens were now wailing around me.
Something was missing. What was missing?
The pain in my leg was horrific, but not nearly as bad as the pain in my head.
A scream was still ringing in my skull.
"Drea! Snow!" It was Noah, the dear boy. He was looking at me excitedly. Grinning that heart-melting grin of his, peaking through his shaggy bangs at me.
"Noah!" I cried back at him, reaching up to run my fingers through his hair. "I know!"
"Let's go sledding!" He tugged at my forearms.
"But it's cold and wet out!" I protested.
"But it's snow!" He told me tugging harder.
No one could resist Noah's pleading. I'd watched him in twelfth grade, wheedle a teacher out of giving him detention.
"If you want me to come, I need to get bundled up. You go get the sled." I gave in with reluctant grace.
"Hurrah!" He shouted before plunging around the corner and out of sight. I laughed. I rarely saw him this excited. To think that he'd come all the way to my dorm to ask me to go sledding with him. I loved that boy to bits.
Two shirts, snow pants, a coat, hat, gloves, a scarf, and a pair of boots later, we were headed out the door to enjoy the white and the cold.
Time and again, we trudged up the hill Noah had picked and piled onto the sled to ride down screaming with laughter. If I sat in front, Noah would invariably start tickling me and we'd end up in the snow half way down the hill, shoving snow in each others faces, and in my case, down the back of his shirt.
The snow soon became cold and wet as it melted through our clothes and set our teeth to chattering.
"Let's go inside." I begged Noah during one of our downhill runs, me clinging to him from behind.
"One last run!" he asked and felt me nod into his back as I tried to stifle my shivering and chattering.
At the bottom of the hill, I stayed on the sled and grinned up at him.
"Pull me up the hill?" I asked, using my best puppy dog eyes.
"Won't you get cold just sitting there?"
"I'm already cold!" I insisted. "How is this going to hurt me?"
Noah grinned at me and tugged on the sled's rope.
"Mush!" I cried happily.
Noah rolled his eyes. "Dork."
"It takes one to know one!" I told him, as we started up the hill.
At the top, Noah was suddenly on top of me, fingers under the edge of the sled, tipping me into the snow. I squealed at the sudden cold and shivered.
"I have to go!" Noah cried, piling onto the sled in my place.
"Wait, what?" I cried, a chill that didn't have to do with the snow gripping my heart. Hadn't this happened before?
Before I could pile onto the sled behind him, he took off down the hill leaving me behind.
"I need more anesthesia, she's coming to!" a voice said high above me.
I was shivering.
It's not like I was cold.
Something was gripping my heart, my throat. I couldn't breath correctly.
There was a light shining far above me, blinding me.
Something smelled funny.
"Well, this is nice." I commented as Noah pulled me towards him in a hug, right inside the gates of the park in which we'd first met. I'd clocked him in the head with a Frisbee, trying to play Frisbee golf with some of my friends. For months after we first started dating, I'd tell him that he only liked me because I'd stunned him.
"You remember why this is so special to me?" He asked, leading me forward, arm around my waist.
"Because for the first time in your life, a girl was able to stun you?" I asked, making light of the fact that my heart was pounding so hard it was about to explode.
It was a cool fall day about four months after we had graduated. Noah had been hired right out of college to work for IBM and had been squirreling away his savings like winter was coming fast.
"It wouldn't have been special if another girl had clocked me." He told me lightly. "It's only special because that day was the first day I saw you."
I blushed, never one for blatant compliments.
As he led me to a small creek that ran through the park, he looked as though he had the world at his feet.
"You remember this?" He asked, gesturing to the stream.
"How could I forget?" I asked, deciding that I'd play along with his walk down memory lane for now. "After stunning you with a poorly thrown Frisbee, I insisted on trying to clean your bleeding forehead with the water from this creek and you refused, saying that it might have chemicals in it and you didn't want to get infected."
Noah grinned. "We'd been doing biology recently and I couldn't get it out of my head that you would probably unwittingly poison me and then I would die and I wouldn't get to know you any better."
"Yeah right!" I countered. "You were probably thinking, 'Who's this crazy mad girl who's first hit me in the head with a Frisbee and then insisted on trying to clean me up?'"
"Well, that too, but what I said before still counts." He half conceded.
The summer we met, we continued to return to the park, and slowly a friendship grew. We'd been acquaintances in high school for at least two years already, but that summer, we really met and became friends. Every single inch of that park was covered in memories, and Noah insisted on reliving all of them that day.
We swung on the swings we'd almost broke celebrating my twentieth birthday and exit from the teenage years. We rolled down the hill where Noah had first taken me hill rolling. I'd become encased in his arms as we rolled down together and ended up in a heap at the bottom, dizzy, bruised and laughing. We visited the tiny meadow, as Noah insisted on calling it, even though it was really more of an overgrown field, where he'd arranged a picnic and a slow waltz to the music of his iPod to ask me to be his girlfriend.
When we seemed to get to the end of memory lane, we were in the meadow, laying on our backs, watching the clouds form funny shapes, Noah's arm around my shoulder, cradling my head.
"So, Mr. Romantic," I asked, turning my head to look sideways at him, "why this trip down memory lane?"
Instead of answering me right away, Noah sat up, and looked at me with that blazing look that he got when he was deadly serious and yet almost joyful at the same time.
"As cheesy as this is going to sound," he started, sounding almost apprehensive, "I look back on life, the years I've known you, and I can't imagine why I thought I was living before I met you. When I look at my future," he shifted slightly, "I can only see two things. One is full of darkness, I'm alone, sad, broken, not living, and something is missing. The second is full of light, I'm sharing the rest of my life with you, I'm happy beyond all belief and everything is right where it's supposed to be."
Suddenly he was on one knee before me. "Andrea Harper, I don't want to see my future solidified in the first image. I want to share my future, the rest of my life, good or bad with you."
I was crying, totally shocked.
Then something in his face changed, red (blood?) bloomed over one side of his face and he quickly stood up.
"I have to go." He told me, the pain on his face telling me that he hated the fact that he had to leave me.
"Go?" I asked through my tears, standing, trying to clutch at him, but he was too fast. Before I could so much as call his name, he was gone.
That's when I woke up.
Gasping, clutching at straws, I woke, screaming.
Why did Noah keep leaving? He was supposed to propose!
Why didn't he propose? He wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. He said so!
Then something in my scrambled brain awoke and my body and breathing relaxed, my screaming stopped. Noah had proposed. He'd asked me to be his wife, to make him the "happiest man who ever got hit by a Frisbee." I'd said yes. We were going to be married.
I breathed a sigh of relief just as another cog caught in the machinery of my mind.
Something was wrong.
Something was terribly wrong.
My breathing picked up again, ragged, painful, fearful.
Where was Noah?
From somewhere inside me, there was a flash.
A crumpled body.
Noah's hair, matted with blood.
I was suddenly screaming again.
Not my Noah.
Then there were people in the room with me. People wearing different colors, but the same clothes.
They were talking to me, to each other, almost frantic.
My flailing arms were being pinned down.
Over the shoulders of the crowd around me I caught a glimpse of a face. It was important. It wasn't the most important thing in my universe right now, but it came close. My mother looked like she was about to cry, and then my dad's face came into view over her shoulder, watching me for a moment before leading my mother away.
The panic in my body was overwhelmed by something else. Something cloy and sweet. Things around me became fuzzy.
"You really do have to let me go." Noah was telling me, his voice clear and close to me. "My boss will begin to wonder what's happened to me. I have to go to this training seminar in Dallas. I promise I'll be back in no time. Please Drea, let me go?" He asked, as I persisted in clinging to his arm.
"I can't imagine going a week without seeing you!" I told him, clinging to his bicep like a limpet as we walked through the airport terminal.
"But see, darling," he crooned to me, "a week is nothing. Think if we wouldn't be able to see each other forever! Isn't it a good thing that we have God on our side? Isn't it a good thing that eventually when one of us dies, we'll be able to see each other on the other side eventually?"
"It still feels like a long time." I told him, reluctantly.
We'd reached the gate now. We'd gotten there just in time. They were just about to start boarding.
"I know." He told me, kissing me on the forehead gently. "I'll miss you every single minute that I'm not with you."
The first call came.
"What will I do without you?" I asked, still hanging on his arm.
"Have a life?" He suggested, grinning at me. "Go hang out more with your friends. Do things you always wanted to do, but were to scared to do. Read a new book. Plan that wedding of yours that's coming up in about three months. Have a girls night? There are a lot of things you could do without me." He told me, a wistful look in his eyes.
"But none of those things are remotely fun if I know that I can't share them with you eventually!" I told him seriously.
"I didn't say you couldn't share them with me!" He cried, almost exasperated. "I'll call every night that I can. We can talk then. I'll try to call more then that!"
The second call came.
"That's my turn to board." He told me.
My grip on him increased for a moment.
"Andrea, please. I need this training seminar so I can provide for you. I promise I'll call when I get to my hotel."
"I love you." I told him, trying to express all my feelings for him in three words.
"I love you too." He kissed me gently, slowly, giving me time to loosen the strangle hold I had on his arm. "I wouldn't let you go now!" He pulled away. "Not after you agreed to marry me! I'd be crazy. Go have fun. I'll call you when I get in. I promise."
I nodded reluctantly. "Alright. Have fun without me. Bring home bacon." I told him, finally able to put a smile on my face.
"I have to go." He said. "I love you. Don't forget that." And then he was gone.
Somewhere nearby someone was crying.
"So young." A voice said.
"Where is the justice in this?" asked another voice, anguished, heartbroken.
"Must she be told? Who will tell her? How can you tell someone something like this?" The first voice broke, tears muting the words.
"Maybe she already knows. The EMTs said she wouldn't stop screaming, even after they gave her medicine for the pain."
"Know what?" I wanted to say, tried to say, but instead it came out as a croak.
The room got very silent very quickly.
The light was blinding, even through my closed lids.
I tried again.
Again, a croak.
There was something at my lips, and obediently, I pulled it into my mouth, realizing that it was a straw. The water opened my throat.
"Mom?" I asked the silent room.
"Right here, dear." Right at my elbow. A hand moved gently across my forehead, cool, soothing.
"Bright." Was the next thing I wanted to communicate.
Immediately the light dimmed, and as I opened my eyes, I saw a group of people surrounding me. All of them looked like they had spent a considerable amount of time crying. Mom, Dad, Lana, my best friend who was pregnant, Mr. and Mrs. Archeron, Noah's mom and dad. Why wasn't Noah standing there? Hadn't he been with me just moments before? But no, I had to remind myself, that had been a dream of the day he left for Dallas for a week of training.
Something tugged at the back of my mind.
A sick feeling grew in the pit of my stomach as I reregistered the faces around me. The worried, tear streaked face of my mom. My dad looking like he'd just had the worst news of his life. Lana, tear stained, pale and struggling to keep composure. Mr. and Mrs. Archeron looking as if they were barely holding onto life itself.
"Noah," was all I had to say to the room to start a raging fire of fear in my stomach.
Something was dreadfully wrong.
An awful bone-shattering, mind numbing crunch.
Lights. Blaring horn. Paralyzing fear.
And then the people around me were suddenly moving, pinning my arms to my bed. The people in colorful clothing were rushing in again. Nurses.
I couldn't breathe.
Lights were spinning and winking around me.
My blood was rushing through my ears, pounding, drowning out all sound except for the single scream that was issuing from my already abused throat.
"We really have to stop meeting like this." Noah was young, rueful and rubbing his head.
"I'm so sorry!" I cried, repeating myself for the third time.
"It really is okay." Noah stressed.
The first time we'd met, I'd hit him with a Frisbee. The second time, I'd been running and stumbled on him and his then-girlfriend making out behind a tree. This was the third time, and I had been dancing alone in the woods of the park, iPod loud enough to keep me from hearing his footstep. I had been in the middle of a particularly rapturous spin and hit him in the face with my outstretched arm.
All I could think as I watched him pick up my iPod that had gone flying at my shock, was that he was incredibly gorgeous and I had to wonder if the rumors of his singleness were true.
His grin was amazing, his skin just the right color, his eyes piercing. I almost giggled.
"Do you normally come out here and dance?" He asked, handing me back my iPod.
"No," I blushed. "Today I was going for a walk, and just the right song came on. I like to dance but normally, no one is near to dance with me."
"What were you dancing?" He asked, actually sounding curious.
"Well, it was a waltz of sorts, but then I just ended up spinning." I told him, still not believing that I was telling him this.
"I can dance with you." He grinned at me again. "What song were you listening to?"
"Josh Groban's So She Dances." I told him.
"Well, if you'll give me one of your ear buds, I can listen just as well as you can and we can dance."
It didn't help that I gaped at him.
"Come on!" He said as if coaxing a child to come out of hiding. "It'll be fun!"
"Alright," I said skeptically, handing him an ear bud and turning to my iPod.
And so we danced, Noah's hand in mine, his other hand on my waist. He was a better dancer then I thought. He glided through the waltz as smoothly as if he were floating. When it was over, he stepped back, handed me my ear bud and watched me fumble with the controls.
"I have to go." He said quietly.
I knew what was coming next, and my stomach felt sick.
"Must you?" I asked quietly.
"Yes. I must." The look in his eyes ripped my heart in two. He didn't want to leave me unhappy.
"Noah." I breathed, reaching for him, but he was not there.
When I woke up, I was crying.
It was dark outside. That much I could tell from the fact that everything was easy to look at. There wasn't much light to hurt the eyes. There was a peace in being by myself. My room was empty, my family obviously spending the night elsewhere. A remote part of my brain hoped that my mother was getting sleep.
In the darkness of the room, I faced what I knew I must. With no one around looking at me as if I were going to have a panic attack again, I was able to sift through everything.
I knew for certain that Noah was either hurt to a catastrophic point, or that he was . . . dead. It took me a long time to be able to think that word. I lay in bed, trying to resist the impulse to scream again, before choking on the word.
I knew, too, how it had happened. That was at least a little bit clear for me. I dragged him downtown to do some shopping for the wedding with me. We had gone to dinner after shopping, and as we left the restaurant, I had gotten a phone call from one of my bridesmaids and, shopping bags in hand, had stepped into the street without looking to see if anything was coming. Noah had seen me, reached out and tugged me back, but he was to close to the edge. As he shoved his body between me and the road, the crowd on the street had pushed me and I stumbled backwards into him, causing him to lose his balance. As he fell, he gave me a shove, sending me onto the sidewalk. I had looked back to see him fall in front of a bus, eyes connected with mine. That's all I could remember. I didn't know if I wanted to remember. I suppose I would remember it soon enough, or be told.
The IV in my arm itched. The fact that I could register such a simple fact confounded me. I had been under then impression that when one is faced with a tragedy, all they can think about is the tragedy, but I figured that this was my brain's way of trying to change the subject.
The ring on my finger sparkled in the light of the night-light.
All the emotions I had been hiding came rushing back.
It was suddenly hard to breath again, my heart beat a million miles per hour, but at the same time, I could live through it. I could experience it without wanting to regain unconsciousness, or have a panic attack. And then I was crying, great, gusty, tearless, heaving sobs.
Something had changed, but I wasn't exactly sure what.
I was almost relieved when a nurse came in to check on me and saw my panic attack. With relief, I accepted her offer of sleep, slipping painlessly into a drug-induced sleep.
"Happy Birthday!" I cried, as Noah opened the door to let me in.
"Thanks so much!" He replied enthusiastically.
"I wish your birthday wasn't on my busiest week day. I swear it's like my teachers decided to pile on the homework today." I babbled, unbuttoning my raincoat, dripping water all over his dorm room carpet.
Noah grinned at me, tucking a piece of hair behind my ear.
"Even with the rain outside and the fact that we still have classes, my birthday is complete now that you're here." He told me, knowing it was cheesy.
I rolled my eyes. "You're a dork."
"It takes one to know one!" He said, using our customary reply.
"I didn't know if I should give you your present today or at your party on Saturday, but I figured, I wanted to see your face as you opened it, so I couldn't wait." I handed him a small box.
It had been so hard to find the perfect gift. I had eventually settled on tickets to go see his favorite band. The look on his face was priceless when he saw the writing on the two small pieces of paper.
"No way!" was his excited exclamation. "Tickets, really?" He was ecstatic.
I grinned at him. "Yes tickets. I'm so glad you like them."
"Like them? I love them! I love you."
My heart about dropped from my chest. It was the first time he'd said those three incredible words to me.
"Well," I tried to alleviate the almost tension that had suddenly filled the room, "if you say that to me every time I buy you tickets, I'll have to buy you tickets more often!"
"You dork." Noah told me softly. "I love you. I tell you that I love you and all you can say is that you need to buy me more tickets? I love you, Drea."
"I love you, too, Noah." I threw my arms around him, clinging to him.
At first he hugged me back and I basked in the warmth emanating from him. Then, he was gently prying my hands from around my neck.
"I have to go, Drea." I knew he was going to say it. It ripped my heart in two.
"Why?" I asked, stretching out for him. The farther I stretched, the farther away he got, while standing right in front of me.
"Because it's time. It's time for me to go. Eventually, your time will come to join me, but while I'm gone, enjoy life. Don't make things to hard for your family. They love you, really." Noah looked serious.
"I miss you." It was true. I missed him already.
"I miss you too. I will miss you every single moment that I'm not with you, but this is how it has to be. May I ask one thing of you?"
"Anything." I told him, desperately.
"Live life, Drea. Don't sit around missing me. I'll always be here." He placed his hand over my heart. It felt like a small shock. "I will always be here." He repeated. "So don't sit around missing me. Get out and live your life. If you need to, take some time for yourself, but don't hold on. Let me go."
I was crying now. "But life—," I tried to say, but couldn't finish.
"Life goes on." He stroked my cheek gently, running his fingers through my tears.
My knees gave out as I sobbed and as I knelt on the floor, he crouched next to me.
"I need to go now. My time is up. Let me go, Andrea. I love you."
And then he was gone, and I knew it was probably going to be the last time I saw him.
There is a numbness that encompasses one when one has experienced a shock or trauma of some sort. This numbness gives, as its gift, an enticing look at the world from a third person point of view. It offers to pull the mourner into a blanket of muffled sound, of endless stretches of time, where afterwards, one isn't quite certain what happened; time is some how slowed down and fast forwarded all at the same time. Also with time, while wrapped in this cocoon, one learns how to think about things that don't bring pain; how to push away unwanted, painful thoughts and experience. This is a very dangerous road to travel down.
To say that life goes on would be very true. When I woke up for the last time in that hospital, I was surrounded, again, by family and friends. My mom looked worried as she told me, placing a comforting hand on mine, that Noah had not made it. The injuries he'd sustained from being hit by the bus, she told me, were too great. He had died shortly before making it to the hospital. It worried her even more when she saw the acceptance on my face, as if I had already known and come to terms with it. I think she expected me to have another panic attack or to start throwing things.
To say that life goes on means that eventually I got out of the hospital bed, with the help of one of the nurses. I'd had a deep cut on the back of my leg, I had lost a lot of blood, but the several days I spent sleeping meant that I was okay to get up and walk. My family clapped when I made my first trip to the bathroom on my own, iv attached to me like a lifeline.
To say that life goes on means that I had to go to the funeral of the one man in my life I had thought was going to stay with me for the rest of my life. I wrote a eulogy, a tribute, a poem for the dead, for the first time in my life. It was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do.
To say that life goes on means that eventually I went back to work, I taught Sunday school again, I went through the moves of every day life.
To say that life goes on does not mean that life went on for me. For me, life became habit, ritual. Like breathing, it became something that I didn't think about anymore. If I thought about it, something sharp would pierce the very core of my being and I would end up curled on my bed hugging the sweatshirt that Noah had left with me, the day before he died. This only happened once. What kept me from moving on was that I thought I had. I made sure I didn't break down and hurt my parents. I moved through life like Noah had told me to. I thought I had let him go, like he'd requested. I did all this, and yet, in the quiet of my bed at night, I couldn't ignore the fact that something was missing.
Life in all its mysteries exploded on me one day. I had driven home from work, and found, to my surprise that Mrs. Archeron was sitting in my parent's living room, talking with my mom. I hadn't seen her since Noah's funeral, even though Mom had told me that she had stopped by occasionally, just to talk. Both women would inevitably cry, Mom told me, and talk about me, I imagined.
What surprised me more then Mrs. Archeron sitting in the living room was the fact that Mom asked me to come over and sit down with them.
Nodding, I joined them on the couch and watched Mrs. Archeron blankly.
Mrs. Archeron cleared her throat uncomfortably, and then looked from my mom to me.
"My husband and I have been going through Noah's apartment and cleaning it out." Her voice cracked. "We found some things that we thought you would like to have, and some things addressed to you. Everything addressed to you said something along the lines of 'For Drea, after the wedding' as if reminding him that he needed to bring them on the honeymoon with him." She was crying now, and my heart was caught in my throat in a way that gave me more pain then I'd experienced in several weeks.
"For me?" I managed to get past my lips.
Mrs. Archeron nodded, digging in the bag beside her, as Mom squeezed my hand tightly.
She handed me a small pile of things, including three wrapped gifts, two out of three bearing in Noah's rather sloppy script, "For Drea, for after our wedding." The second one said, "For the wedding."
It was with some difficulty that I thanked her and excused myself, rushing to my bedroom.
My first reaction was to stuff all of it under the bed and not think about it, but my curiousness took over, and despite the knife stabbing at my heart, I sat on my bed and looked at the first item. It was a small photo album. Inside, Noah had filled it with pictures of us, me. Inside on the front cover, was the inscription I'd put there when I gave it to him as a gift on our first year together. I put it aside to look at later when my eyes weren't too blurred to work.
The second item was his leather jacket. The jacket he wore everywhere, when he wasn't wearing the hoodie I had in my room. Knowing what would happen, I pulled the jacket to my face and inhaled his scent. Then I had to go searching for the Kleenex box.
It was a little while before I could look at the third item, for fear of drenching it with snot and tears. It was his iPod. I dug through the junk that had piled around my room to find my ear buds and plugged them in, flipping immediately to his Most Played list.
Then came the first wrapped gift. This was harder because he had actually picked this out with me in mind. Inside the tiny box was, of all things, a locket. Trembling, I struggled to open it, and when it opened inside was a tiny picture of the two of us. In the tissue under the locket was a small scrap of paper.
For putting a picture of our hands and with our wedding bands in. Until then, the two of us together should be enough.
I had to force myself to move to the second wrapped gift. It was our wedding bands. Mine smaller then his, silver, both intricately woven in a way that made one think of the climbing vine out back. We'd both decided that we would get this particular band because it reminded us that we needed to both be so entwined in God and each other that nothing could separate us, and so when something awful happened, when life started to scale our vines, we would be strong enough to hold.
He never quite realized that it might be hard to hold against life without him here. I thought bitterly, fighting the tears that clogged the back of my throat still.
I slipped both bands on, mine on my left ring finger, his on my right thumb and continued to the third gift.
It was a home-made DVD. I was stunned. Turning to my computer, I slipped it in the CD drive and then waited for the DVD player to kick in.
"Hey babe," came Noah's voice, clear and strong, like a kick in the stomach. "I hope you don't mind watching this on our wedding night, but I thought this would be a nice way to start things off. First of all, it's about three months before our wedding. I just wanted to say that I love you so much and I'm so, so, glad you said yes to spend the rest of your life with me. I've been thinking about you and wanted to write you a letter, but thought this might be better. I'd been thinking about calling you, and then came upon the idea to start a diary of sorts, which I could share with you on our wedding night. I hope you enjoy each one of these entries."
Mom found me curled on my side on my bed, an hour later, tears still wet on my face, Noah's jacket over me, his locket clutched in my hand, his iPod jammed in my ears, the DVD finishing its last entry.
After that awful day, I couldn't ignore the pain. I realized, somewhat belatedly that I hadn't moved on, I hadn't gone back to living. I merely existed. I wore Noah's jacket everywhere, kept our rings exactly where I'd placed them on my hands, and took to listening to his iPod instead. Through the excruciating pain, it was peaceful to listen to his music, wear his jacket and know that at one point, we could have been married.
It was also after that awful day that nightmares started. They didn't come every night, and I never woke up screaming, but I'd wake up in the morning, sweating and crying. They were all replays of the accident, or of one of the memories I'd dreamed through in the hospital, every one incomplete. Always, through out each one of them, someone, probably me, was screaming, faint but distinct.
Despite all this, all the pain, the heartbreak, or maybe because of it, there were still days when I would let the numbness take me. One of those days, I found myself in the car, not knowing quite how I'd gotten there. I was driving though, and had no destination in mind. Slipping back into the numbness, I let my subconscious drive.
I was surprised when I found myself, of all places, at the park. There were so many memories here that it was hard to get out of the car. I almost backed out of the parking space and drove off, but something stopped me. Perhaps a walk through the park would bring peace to my battered heart.
I walked through the Frisbee golf course, past the swing sets, the hill we'd rolled down, the creek I'd insisted on washing his head wound in, and finally found myself in our meadow. There was no sunlight here, just clouds and shadows and whispers of things forgotten and things that would, now, never be.
Once again, I was overwhelmed by the enormity of all of it. Not able to contain my emotions, I sank to my knees in the middle of the field. The field, the meadow, where we'd danced, where he'd asked me to be his girlfriend. The meadow where we'd gone cloud watching, star gazing. The meadow where he'd asked me to be his wife. His wife.
And now that was all gone.
I lay on my back, letting the tears leak out of the corners of my eyes and run into my hair. The clouds hurried over me, grey and sorrowful, and I shut my eyes, blocking them out.
"Noah! This is so cute!" I squealed, pulling him with me to look in the window of the shop.
Compliantly, he grinned. "Yes, but I thought you didn't like that color."
"Well, I don't." I conceded. "But, I do like that dress. It reminds me of summer."
"That's probably because it's a summer dress." He reached to ruffle my hair fondly.
"Ee!" I squealed, ducking away, swinging shopping bags.
My phone rang.
The caller ID told me it was one of my bridesmaids, Kristy, who, although she was slim, could never find something to fit her perfectly.
"Hi!" I chirped into the phone, waving one finger at Noah, telling him that I'd be just a minute.
"Let's cross the street." He mouthed at me, gesturing with his thumb towards the opposite sidewalk.
I nodded brightly, listening to Kristy complain, and, for one brainless minute, forgot about the crosswalk and stepped out into the street. Something yanked me back onto the street, cell phone flying out of my hand as Noah placed his body between me and the street, where a bus had been barreling down on me.
Before I could say anything, something shoved me into him, and Noah lost his balance. He knew he was going to fall and quickly pushed me backwards and away from him, onto the sidewalk. Something stung momentarily on the back of my calf, but what really pulled my attention was the screech and hiss of bus breaks, the dull thud, the crunch. The next moment, I was scrambling up and running to find Noah, half hidden beneath the front overhang of the city bus.
"Noah! Noah!" I cried over and over again as I flung myself on the pavement next to him.
His tired, pain-filled eyes rested on me as if I was the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen.
"Drea," He whispered.
Voices babbled around us.
Someone shouted, "Who is calling 911?"
I didn't dare look at the rest of his body, not wanting to see the damage done to him.
"Oh Noah!" I was crying, holding his face in my hands. "I'm so sorry. Please, stay with me."
Noah winced, and slowly shook his head.
"I'm in to much pain right now." He whispered to me. Grasping my hand with the hand closest to me, he squeezed hard.
"Noah, Noah, Noah don't. Stay. Please. Come on, you've gotta pull through this. I'm sure they've called 911. EMS is on their way! Please!" I pleaded with him, watching his eyes become glassy.
"Drea," he tried, but was drowned out by my babbling.
"I won't let you go! You're strong you can pull through this!" My voice broke, pleading with him to tell me I was right.
"Andrea," he said again, putting all the force into his voice he could muster, "you have to let me go. I can't stay here. It hurts too much, and it's my time. Remember how in church the pastor is always talking about how when a person dies it's their time to go? It's my time now. Please let me go." His hand, clutched in mine, reached up to stroke my cheek.
"I-I can't," I sobbed, placing kisses all over his hand, his face. "Please, don't leave me. What about spending the rest of my life with you?"
Pain that had nothing to do with his massive injuries bloomed across Noah's face as a siren's wail drew near.
"Look at it this way," he told me, clearly struggling to hang on. "At least I got to spend the rest of my life with you."
I was losing it.
"Let me go, Drea. Let me go. It's the only way to live. Let me go, but always remember that I love you."
The voices around me were loud now, asking questions. Then hands were trying to pull me up, asking if I was okay.
"I love you." I whispered to him through my tears, clutching his hand to my chest.
"And I love you." He told me back, speech slurred, the first trickle of blood leaving his mouth.
His grip slackened in mine and I was being pulled from him.
I was screaming.
I woke up from my dream to the first raindrop from the clouds above. My face was wet already, my nose had created its own river. I lay there and let the rain cover me, soak me, rinse me.
I had to let Noah go. He had asked me to. I had to let him go.
As I lay there, a quote from Macbeth, a play we'd done Senior year, came to me.
"What's done is done." I whispered to myself, as the overwhelming sensation that Noah was where he needed to be right now, came to me. "It cannot be undone." I added.
It had been Noah's time to leave, Noah's time to shine, while I was left here struggling to understand the mystery and complexity of it all.
Peace stole over me, gave me the courage to pull myself from the now muddy ground and stagger towards my car.
Life would go on. It would not be great for a long time, but it would not be nearly as painful or heartbreaking. I would be able to think of Noah with peace, not a knife to the heart.
Finally, freed from baggage I didn't know I'd been carrying, I climbed into my car and turned the wheel towards home and my very worried parents, prepared to meet life with all I had in me. Noah wanted it that way.