Chapter 21

Piece by Piece (The End)

When someone you love dies, you don't lose them all in one day.

You lose them piece by piece, day by day, until they are just a memory. No longer a body that you can imagine yourself hugging, no longer a person you can pretend is on vacation.

One day it is their smile, the next week it is their laugh. The next month it's their voice, and finally, maybe a year if you're careful, it's their smell. The room loses 'their' smell. The smell of jasmine and vanilla, clean laundry and roses, soap and cologne. The clothes no longer smell clean and fresh, only musky.

And you want to know the crazy thing?

You wonder what is wrong with you. How could you forget how they laughed, how could you forget their voice? How could you forget the way that they smelled? What the hell is wrong with you?

But then sometimes, you will see something, a dragonfly, a coin placed on your pillow, maybe a fluttering against your shoulder, something that just might not be explainable.

Maybe that dragonfly is a sign, not just a bug attracted to the flowers. Maybe the coin was a gift, not just your younger brother taking a nap with his pockets full of change? Maybe that fluttering was an 'I love you' and not just your imagination.

And sometimes, you can see their smile. Hear their voice. And sometimes if you try really hard, and press your nose really far into the fabric, sometimes you can catch their scent. Never what it used to be, but a whiff, just enough to keep you going for another week, another year. Until the next time. The next time you press your nose just right, sniff really hard and close your eyes really tight.

When someone you love dies, you don't just lose them all in one day.

You lose them in pieces, and each piece is harder to say goodbye to than the last.

It was a beautiful day. The winter sky a brilliant blue, the white sheet of snow glittering, casting diamond patterns against the tar. It smelled fresh, clean. The crisp air making the hair on your arms stand on end, your boots crunch through the thin panes of ice that formed in puddles.

It was the perfect day to die.

When I came home for lunch Connor was right behind me, talking on his cell phone to John.

"No, I have no idea what the answer was."

There was a pause where John must have asked another question, because Connor sighed and sat down at the kitchen table, his head in his hand. "No I don't think the answer was 876, where the hell-"

It was then I noticed the fresh batch of bread cooling on the oven racks, the sandwich meat displayed on a platter, a blueberry pie on the radiator, milk and sugar tossed into the mixing bowl.

I smiled, thinking of Sarah. She must have worked all morning, baking all of this stuff for us to eat!

If I had turned around, I might have noticed the dragonfly perched on the windowsill, its transparent wings flapping in the slight breeze. If I had turned around I might have thought it odd a dragonfly was alive in January, flying around like it was mid-May.

If I had went upstairs to Connor's room, I might have noticed the shiny new dime, placed heads up on his pillow. I might have thought that odd as well, considering Connor hated carrying around spare change.

But most of all, if I had just paid attention, I might have realized the breeze that kissed my shoulder wasn't just my imagination. I might have found that odd, considering all the windows were sealed tighter than a catacomb.

Instead of thinking of these things, I thought that the fact that Sarah wasn't here, cutting up the pie for us to eat was odd. I was so used to being served, it didn't occur to me something must be wrong.

I felt so guilty about her spoiling me so much, so I thought why not me? I should help out here a little more. So I decided to cut up the pie.

So I pulled down three plates, grinning at Connor's sarcastic responses to John's question about water skiing in January. I cut up the pie, sliding the graham cracker crust and plump blueberries onto the plate. I finished adding the ingredients to the whipped cream and added a dollop, dropping the plate off underneath Connor, who mouthed a 'Thank you,' before turning his attention back the phone.

I grabbed the other plate for Sarah. I remember thinking that she must be upstairs taking a nap, or maybe a bath. I remember thinking that eating blueberry pie while taking a hot bath was pretty damn relaxing.

What I don't remember is climbing the stairs.

I don't remember opening the bathroom door and not seeing the bathtub filled.

I don't remember glancing out the window to see if there were deer in the back yard.

But most of all, I don't remember letting out a scream as I saw a figure collapsed into the snow, their yellow sweater and blue jeans ruining the sheer perfection of the fresh blanket of white snow.

I don't remember screaming and screaming, until Connor ran up the stairs, asking me what was wrong. I don't remember his expression as he glimpsed the horror outside on that flawless winter day.

It was the perfect day to die.

The end is always the worst part of any story. I always find myself wondering, 'What happened to those characters? Did they get married? Have children? Did they live happily ever after?'

This is the end of my story.

I have about a page and a half to tell you about the rest of my life, and I will try to wrap it up, so maybe then you can be happy to reach the end.

Sarah's funeral was one of the hardest things I had ever been to in my whole life. It broke my heart to see Connor standing there between the two parents he had never known, his back stiff, his palms pressed into his eye sockets trying to stop the rivers of tears that ran down his face when the priest told of a soft voiced, independent woman who loved her daughter very much.

I didn't have the heart to tell the priest that Sarah wasn't soft voiced, and she loved Connor very much.

All I wanted to do was tell Connor that Sarah was in a better place, but how did I know that? Maybe she wasn't, and I had promised myself I would never lie to Connor again.

So instead, standing all alone, I listened to the priests ' lies, watched Connor's stiffening body, and argued with myself not to go over there and take him in my arms.

When the funeral was over, it almost killed me to see Connor tucked away in those peoples' truck, toted away to some God unknown state.

It killed me to call my dad and ask to come home.

And it killed me all over again when he arrived an hour later, when it takes more than seven from our home.

"I was already on my way here. I'm so sorry sweetie, I'm a terrible person, I've been a horrible father. Forgive me?"

I just nodded numbly, wrapping my arms around this stranger, stuffing my bags into the trunk.

I looked back at the house I had spent the last four months and I felt my eyes swell with tears. This time I didn't stop them from falling. I let them. Let those bastards see emotion. Real emotion.

The entire ride back I remember my dad driving fast, eager for me to be home again.

I just remember telling him to watch out for the Stop signs.

One thing I had learned from Sarah: "When you love one hundred percent, be prepared to lose two hundred."

And the thing I had learned from Connor: "There is no point in loving only part-way. Always love with your entire heart. You feel more that way."

When Connor appeared on my doorstep almost four months after that day he had been yanked from my arms, I almost died.

I took him in my arms, and I promised myself l would never let him go, not ever again.

And I haven't.

I have loved this boy more than one hundred percent, and I will never stop.

Something my mother told me was to wait for the one that said you looked beautiful right when you got up in the morning.

Well, I found the one who pointed out what I had an Amazon grace to my hair.

It was close enough.

So this is the end of my story, I hoped you like it.

And if anything, remember this: Make sure to Stop sometime in your life and take a break. No one wants to sketch you a shattered gravestone.

The end.

A/N: Hello! I know I said there was going to be a couple more chapters, but there was no point in dragging it on anymore. :) There really was nothing left except for the end. I hope you all liked it, I tried really hard not to make it cliché, but I think it might have been. Anyway, thank you to all of you who read this, you have no idea how much your support meant to me throughout this entire process. You were the most amazing readers, and I don't know what I would have done without you. (I wouldn't have finished this, that's for sure.) The fact that you stuck with this till the end makes me so happy you can't even know. So I guess I'll stop blabbering, and if any of you ever need a story read, would like some reviews, or just want to talk, PM me anytime. Thank you again, you guys are the best! Love, Winnie