Trial Number One: Work Through the Pain
I never thought I'd ever come back to Starr, Idaho. I never thought I'd find myself back at the place my young teenaged life had basically come crashing down around me. Yet here I was, in a hotel room directly above the ballroom at the Paxton Hotel, sitting in a darkened room with my best friend sobbing in my arms. Although I hadn't seen Lila Cross in ten years, when I'd come home from my trip to Russia and had found a message from her on my answering machine, her sobs and gurgled words had absolutely broken me, and I didn't think twice before picking up my luggage from where I'd left it by the front door and had locked my front door before driving back to the airport.
"What am I going to do without him?" Lila whispered out between sobs, absolutely breaking my heart with those few short words.
"Lila, I know that right now it feels like you can't breathe, and like you won't be able to live without him here, but you need to be strong. For the baby," I pleaded, wiping tears from my own eyes as I looked down between us at her giant pregnant belly. I still couldn't believe Lila was pregnant. I've always known that she wanted a child, but I never thought she'd have one before I did. She had always seemed like she'd be too busy saving the world to have a child. But here she was, wrapped in my arms, all big and round, whereas I was. . .flat. Now, though, Lila didn't want to be fat and big. Not after the call she'd gotten.
This morning, I'd come home from a month-long trip to Russia, ready to shower and sleep, but I had gone to check my messages and see if there were any important calls that couldn't wait. There were twelve from my parents, two from my agent, who was dumb enough to forget I had said I was going away on yet another adventure, and one from Lila, from about two that morning. The minute I had heard the word dead, I had rushed from my house, the message still playing as I stumbled to my car and drove shakily to the airport. Now here I was, trying my best to console my best friend over something that made her inconsolable. I could understand her pain; here she was, eight months pregnant, and she had just gotten a call that her husband had been killed while on a hostage rescue in an abandoned mine in Iraq. Needless to say, I was devastated too. I had known Jackson my entire life, and I knew that all he had ever wanted from life was to marry his longtime love, Lila, to have a child or two with her, and to save lives. He'd succeeded in all three things. The problem was, he would never get to see his son, and he wouldn't be here to love Lila like she deserved or to take pride in his Purple Heart for saving the hostage.
"This is just so unfair," Lila whispered into my shoulder, and I finally broke down, unable to contain my tears any longer. For two more hours Lila and I just cried and held each other, trying to make each other feel less despair then we already did. It was hard though, because every time one of us began to calm down-usually me-the other would just start crying harder, and the process would start all over again.
Lila finally cried herself to sleep and I laid her down on the lumpy hotel bed, then scribbled out a note for her saying that I was leaving to my parent's for a while, in case she woke up, then grabbed the car keys resting on the small wooden table squeezed into the corner of the room, along with the room key before heading down the elevator and stepping out into the blazing summer heat. It was about four in the afternoon, the time of day where the heat peaked here in Starr, and for a moment it felt like nothing had changed, when in reality so much had. Climbing into the run down Toyota I'd gotten from the rinky-dink car rental next to the airport, I cranked the air conditioner, scrunched my nose when vinegar-scented air came blowing out, and switched it back off, lowering all four of the car's squeaky windows instead. Driving out of the parking lot, I cruised down the streets of my childhood, touched to see that nothing had changed. You could take the girl out of her hometown, but you can't take the hometown out of the girl.
Looking around at all of the shops and people, I smiled in satisfaction when I saw a few heads double-take in the direction of my car. Obviously nobody had expected to see me back here anytime soon. Hell, I hadn't expected to see me back here so soon. Truthfully, I hadn't expected myself to ever return to Starr. But I had to. For Lila. Pulling into my parents' driveway a few minutes later, I climbed out of the car and walked up to the front door, pulling up the front of my tank top as I went so my father wouldn't give me the same talk he'd always given me as a teen about how I was 'a beautiful young woman with a well-endowed body that shouldn't be flaunted for all of the world to see'. And of course, by all of the world, he had really meant all of the boys. I smiled at the memory of those talks, saddened that I hadn't seen my father in ten years. I had kept in contact with him and my mom over the years and always sent them something from whatever state or country or city I was currently in, but I had never had the guts to come back and face my parents. Not after I had left like I did. Knocking on the door, I waited with my hands stuck on the back pockets of my shorts, waiting anxiously with my breath held.
The door suddenly opened, and my mom was revealed, looking beautiful and slightly aged and timeless. She gasped at the sight of me standing before her, like she thought her mind might be playing tricks on her, and she whispered my name softly, as if yelling would make me disappear again. She whispered my name again, and this time I truly had to fight to keep from smiling.
"The one and only,"I said, finally letting my grin break free, opening my arms wide for her and going up on my tiptoes so I could kiss her face all over. Even after ten years, when I had thought she would have started to shrink from aging, my mom was a good three or four inches taller then my own five foot four height.
"Oh Eve," my mother sobbed, burying her face in my shoulder as she cried. "Look at you, all grown up! Come in and talk with me! Oh Eve, I can't believe I haven't seen you in ten years. Jamie! Jamie get out here!" My mother cried frantically at the top of her lungs, calling for my father without even taking a breath.
"What is it, Lina? You're hollering loud enough to wake the damn dead!" My dad called, coming down the hallway, looking no different then he had ten years ago, save for some new gray hairs and an extra ten pounds or so.
"Daddy!" I cried, unable to contain my excitement any longer, rushing toward my father and launching myself at him, wrapping my arms around his neck as he picked me up off the ground, cradling the back of my head with his big palm as I cried into his neck. Oh how I had missed this. Isn't it funny how you can go without something for so long, and then when you finally experience it again you realize how much you missed it and that you didn't know how you went without it for so long?
That was how the next three hours passed, with all of us talking and crying and just holding each other. My mom had said that she wanted to call up Noah and Pandora to have them bring their two kids over to see me, but I told her that I would go see them later on, after I had left here and had checked on Lila. Telling my mom I had to get going, I spent another thirty minutes, arguing her command that I stay here while I was in town, but I turned her down, telling her that I needed to stay with Lila and take care of her. She didn't let me walk out of the front door before promising that tomorrow I would check out of the hotel and go back to Lila's house to take care of her there. Giving a few last hugs and kisses, I climbed reluctantly back into my car and called a goodbye out of my window before driving off down the road, away from my childhood home.
I didn't want to go back to the hotel; I wasn't ready for that. Not only did I not want to go, but there was also no reason to because I knew that Lila wouldn't be awake yet. Not only was she pregnant, but she had been up all night crying and her body had finally become to exhausted to do anything else, and her brain would keep her asleep for a while, helping her sleep to cope with her pain and trauma. I didn't want to go to the hotel, but I know where I did want to go. Making a quick, sharp turn to the right, I drove an hour to my destination the drive going quicker then I remember, and felt like I was seventeen again and here for the first time. I got out of my car, slipped off my shoes and socks, and walked through soft sand and grass, stopping briefly when I reached the cool wood, sighing when I felt the slick coolness of it beneath my toes. Continuing on, I walked all the way down to the end before plopping down on the wood surface, sticking my toes in the cool water, a welcomed contrast against the warm air. The sun would be setting in about an hour, and that fact brought back every memory, every little detail of that first day. It hit me head on like a ten ton tow truck, and there was nothing I could do to prevent the onslaught of images that assailed the back of my closed eyelids. Flash after flash came and went, out of order and yet perfectly in sync.
Jet Skiing. Fun. Almost Kissing. Swimming. Laughing. Dancing. And for what seemed like the millionth time that day, I began to cry. For what I'd lost. For what I'd given up. For summer days on the docks I was sitting on. For summer days with someone special. For Tyler.