A biting pain ate at his upper back and in his heart. The calendar mocked Landon Haley. It was December sixteenth. The worst day of the year for him. Tears filled his eyes and acid traveled up his throat. He was going to get sick. This was going to be a bad day.
His wife blinked up at him and propped herself up on her elbows. "Lucy's birthday is today, isn't it?"
Landon nodded. "I miss her, Andi."
Andrea sat up and rubbed his arm. "I know you do. Every day, right?"
He nodded. "I should be dead. Not her."
Andi kissed his cheek. "It's okay, baby. You have the right to miss her."
He looked outside. It was storming, with rain and lightning in the sky. "I'm going to go out to her grave."
"Do you want to go alone? Please don't stay too long. Its pouring; you'll come down with pneumonia or something."
"Yes, if you don't mind," Landon said, pulling on a sweatshirt. He went downstairs and brewed some coffee, black and strong as he liked it. He smelled it, breathing in deeply. Irish creme was her favorite coffee creamer, Landon remembered. A deep ache filled his soul. Landon missed Lucy so much.
He heard the shower start. Andrea was getting ready to start the day. Both of them were pastors at their church, and he was the associate pastor. His wife was the administrative director in the office. She was always organized and rock-solid. He was sentimental and went off the whim of his creative mind. It was like God was playing a joke with him his whole life. Guys weren't supposed to cry, right?
He finished his coffee, which was his usual breakfast, and grabbed his keys. Landon pulled his arms through the sleeves of his leather jacket and put up his hood. He stuck his feet into Nike shocks and ran out to his van. "Perfect weather for a day like this," he thought bitterly.
Landon stopped by a local flower shop and bought twelve red roses. He scrawled on the card: To my Lucy "Life-Saver" Masse. Then he climbed back into his vehicle and found the cemetery she was buried at. It was ten miles out of town, a perfect length of a drive for him to think and cry about his dead and forgotten sweetheart.
His fingers were cold as he scanned the radio to find a station that would calm his butterfly-filled heart. Landon hated visiting Lucy's grave site, but this was her birthday and she deserved his respect. Since she did die for him . . .
He found her plot, ironically in section L, and he stopped at the curve. Lucy was buried under a weeping willow. Her mother, Ryanne, had thought it was a perfect location. Lucy's favorite type of tree was a weeping willow, and considering her death, it was strangely appropriate. He sighed as he began to weep. Landon fell to his knees, holding onto her tombstone for strength. He was physically weak and spiritually disabled. Praying or preaching wasn't even in his alibi anymore. Landon couldn't bear to teach about a God who let a sweet, young girl like Lucy Masse die so unruly. He set the bouquet of roses beneath her birthday and studied the dates, letting his fingers caress the curves of her name so gently. He closed his eyes and saw her pretty face, could feel her frozen fingers trace his cheeks to wipe his broken tears.
Landon remembered the last time he was with her. Her face was light with child-like joy. Her laugh resonated off her yellow walls and candlelight flickered in a serene nature over her face. He wish he would've ignored temptation and kissed her that night. What was he going to do? They were saying goodbye. Her layered, shoulder-length, curly hair bounce as she asked him to twirl her to their song, as she referred to it, "Breakaway."
"I miss you, Lucy girl." He clung to the carved rock and recalled how she'd been patient with him through every emotional scar that came back to him. His favorite part of her was her sweet, hazel eyes. They were full of love for him. He decided to do what he'd came for. He began to whisper.
"I love you, Lu. How are you? How's your birthday in heaven? I miss your sweet smile and your patient, godly understanding. Andrea doesn't know how to help me. Can you? How do I move on from here? You told me the world is just outside depression. How do I step out? I want to move beyond your death, I just can't seem to figure out how. Can you help me? Tell me what to do!"
Waves of sobs crashed through his body as rain poured down around him. He sat in the mud, crying and wanting his Lucy. The wind bit his ears, his hood now down across his shoulders. The wind died down suddenly, and the precipitation ceased around him. He looked around and the sun shone on Lucy's grave.
Peace embraced itself around his soul and he breathed out, wiping the tears from his cheeks. Landon looked at the tree and saw a word engraved in it. Talk.
He gasped. That wasn't there before, was it? He was sure it wasn't. Was that what Lucy wanted him to do to get through her death? Landon remembered something. He had a counseling appointment this afternoon after work. He didn't want to go, but if that was what Lucy wanted him to do, he would do it.