In the Middle

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
For my friend/ brother Jacob. This is a piece of fiction about the middle name of someone. It's lengthy, but i had a lot of fun writing it

Submitted: August 03, 2016

A A A | A A A

Submitted: August 03, 2016



In the Middle

To describe the beauty of another person has always plagued me. I’ve read the English sonnets to help me, but I always trip up when repeating them out loud. I wonder how it is even possible for someone to come to the conclusion in describing another as fresh dew on a flower. My aunt would’ve probably been described as this dew. She is immaculate and shining in the one picture I have of her. She wears her long, flowing hair in a tight bun. She’s wearing sun glasses as bright rays glow on her cheeks. She’s laughing or smiling with an open mouth. I can’t really tell, if I’m being honest. I’m being cradled in her arms as I believe I am screaming my head off. It doesn’t affect my aunt though. I get the chills and I place the picture back in my wallet. My aunt passed away a week after the picture was taken. Whilst driving home from a bachelorette party, a drunk driver hit her. I don’t want to get into the details, they just make me melancholy.

“Why would you do that to your aunt?” My dad screamed at me when I came home drunk. I didn’t even know about her at that time. I was a rebellious kid who at the young age of sixteen thought it would be perfectly fine to have a couple drinks and drive home. I ran into our mailbox. It was one of the only times I saw my dad cry. The next time was when he brought me to the gravesite of my aunt. There was a cheesy quote about loss. I don’t know why, but in that instance I hated it. It tricked my emotions with its strong lengthy words. Alexi Anne Shuntz was her name. “1964 – 1989” was printed just below her name.  After reading the name about 10 times, I started to hear the soft tones escaping my father’s throat. Tears formed at the corners of his eyes and he turned away from me when he noticed that I was watching him. My adolescent pride was the first thing that popped in my head. I blamed my emotions on his own weakness at the time. The empathy and sympathy would not fully surround me until a year later. My dad gathered himself and grabbed me by the shoulders. He told me her life story and the details in full of her death. He lingered on that for only a second before returning to all the positive aspects of her.

“You have her name right in the middle of your own.” He told me. My name is Christopher Alex Shuntz. I felt a wave of embarrassment when I put all of the pieces together. It was such a real possibility that I could’ve taken someone’s life in the same manner someone took my aunt’s. I felt somber and anger all swirl inside me. I hated the feeling. I felt weak and full of energy at the same time. I was a walking contradiction of emotion. How could I have been so stupid.

“Christopher?” My dad held my face in his hands. I felt a pain in my hand. I looked down to see I had squeezed so hard that my nails had cut into my palm. We went back to the truck, where my dad wrapped my hand. I succumbed to the weaker side of my emotion and laid back in the seat. He talked more about her.

“She was going to be your god mother, y’know?” He chuckled, but it didn’t stay. “Instead of your christening, we went to her funeral.”

We sat in truck as the silence enveloped us. I heard sniffling and the throaty whimper from next to me. I put my hood up and tried to block him from my vision. Crying was the last thing I wanted to be doing right now.

“I just want you to be a good kid Chris. I mean…I know you are, but…” he trailed off.

“Fuck Chris!” He screamed. I shuddered. “I’m sorry, it’s just that I know you can be the same person your aunt was. You both have a rebellious and fun loving nature, but I never want you to lose sight of what’s important. The feelings of others and the understanding of the importance of life.”

I stayed quiet. I think he was waiting for a response. I couldn’t think. It was getting so hard to breathe in the cab. He grabbed me by the collar and pulled me to him.

“Do you hear me?” I could see the passion in his eyes as dried tears shown across his cheeks. I let go of everything I was holding and sobbed. I nodded as I hung my face. He hugged me as tightly as possible. I couldn’t cry if he squeezed it out of me. The pain of the embrace helped in a way. We drove home and he gave me the picture that is now in my wallet. I laminated the next day to ensure it would stay as pure as the day it was taken. From that day on, I visit her grave every holiday. I asked my mom to order a new batch of flowers every month, until I could make them on my own. When times were tough for me or my family, I always went to her grave. I’m not a religious person, but I prayed when I would go on those occasions. But, you’re probably wondering why I’m telling you this. In some ways I do feel as though history repeats itself, from time to time. I wish it didn’t, but in this instance it did.

I met a girl named Evelyn in my last year of college and we married two years later. We moved to a larger city in pursuit of her career. I would still visit my aunt when we would drive back for holidays. It was my own time to reflect on my life and to question if i was truly living up to what my dad had expected of me. She had gotten pregnant a year after our marriage and we announced it to the family. I can’t tell you how many kisses I had gotten from my parents, her parents, and our immediate family. I swear my cheeks were sore by the end of the night. My wife loved surprises and always told the ultrasound technician to hide the baby’s sex from us. She went into labor and I was scared out of my mind. Her screams of pain sent me into a panic attack. My wife has always been the quiet, shy type and never once raised her voice. Well, maybe once when we couldn’t hail a taxi in New York. She cursed such obscene language at me to get her more ice chips. I knocked over a nurse while running back to her room.

“You fuck ass mother kisser!” She yelled at the new delivery room doctor who nervously dropped his gloves and flashlight. I laughed at her unusual choice of words and she called me an asshole. Thirteen hours later and our baby daughter was born. I gave her the rights to naming her. She said she would have her answer in the morning. I went home that night to pick up a few things my wife needed. When I came back, my wife was sleeping. I set the bag of things down as my daughter started to stir at my presence. I picked her up and held her so gently. It’s amazing how light she felt in my arms. I knew I was doing a weird waltz shuffle while bobbing gently with her in my arms, but I didn’t care how stupid I looked. At that moment, I felt at peace.

“Alexi.” I heard my wife say.

“What?” I asked.

“I want her name to be Alexi.” She said with a smile.

“Really?” I said as I suppressed the hitch in my throat. My wife held her arms out to me. She had pity written all over her face, but her eyes were gleeful. Heat spread all around my cheeks. I sat on the corner of bed and gave my daughter to my wife.

“I want that to be her name.” She said. “I think she would have wanted it to.”

I couldn’t help but cry. I removed my glasses and started wiping my eyes. I motioned to move away from the bed. I didn’t want the first sight for Alexi to see was her father crying, but my wife grabbed my wrist and pulled me toward her. We lay, all three of us, together on the small hospital bed. I took the picture out of my wallet and showed it to my wife. I had told her the story of my aunt, but I never showed her the picture. She breathed in shakily as her fingers trembled, holding the picture. We were just a stupid emotional family in that instance. We arrived back home and settled our daughter in the crib next to our bed. I still needed to finish painting her own room. Alexi had created a new energy in me. I felt completed when I married my wife, but now I felt as if I had been overloaded with bliss. I made sure to constantly plan trips for us to take on weekends. In the first two months, we had done everything in the city. Money became tight at some times, but we always found a way to have fun. Alexi grew up and I remember her first words. It was her own name as I was chasing her around our living room. We were such a happy family at that time. I’m not saying we stopped the happy times, but the solace of happiness is lost in times of grief. My father was diagnosed with leukemia when Alexi turned 2. He passed away two years later and I remember his last words to me then.

“You’re living the life she wanted you to have.” He coughed and hugged my mother one last time before whispering something in her ear. My mother took it hard for the first couple of months, but I was surprised by her recovery. She started focusing all of her attention toward volunteering and attending book readings at St. Jude’s. Her phone became loaded with pictures of the kids she met. She remembered every one of their stories and never lost it within her mind.

A year later, Alexi started school. I was nervous as I dropped her off and even asked her if she wanted to take the day off. She took hold of my hand and looked me in my eyes.

“Dad, I love you. I’ll be good.” She smiled, kissed me on the cheek, and exited the car. She waved bye and we went our separate ways. Three years later, Evelyn’s mother started developing early onset dementia. My wife took a week off to visit her and write down everything she could remember. When she returned back to our home, she was encased in an emotionless shell.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“She can’t remember our favorite book.” She told me. My wife’s favorite book was “The Phantom Tollbooth.” Her mother would read it to her at least once a year as a young kid. My wife took another three days off of work. She would act normal around Alexi, but I knew it was a farce. She wouldn’t sleep at night and readily went take a hot shower and cry. On the third day I went to a bookstore and bought a copy of the book.

“Read it to Alexi. I think she would like it.” I told her. She hugged me and settled in bed with Alexi. Over the next couple of months Alexi would not stop talking about the book. It even went as far as Halloween, where she dressed like Milo and I dressed up as Tock. Even a year later she went as princess Rhyme and my wife went as Reason. My wife moved past her depression and started enjoying life again. Every other weekend of the month she would make a trip to her mother and read her passages from the book and see if she could keep up with the story. There were signs of improvement, but she would also get angry when she couldn’t remember.

Alexi’s middle school days were fine until the coming of age happened. It was womanly stuff that I wish I knew more about. It was hard to relate to her during these times. She moved past “The Phantom” and started following the stories of actresses and models. My wife always tried to get her to read “Harry Potter’, or I would try to lend her my copies of “Romeo and Juliet” and “To Kill a Mockingbird.” These never interested her. At this time her rebellious phase started. She would watch rated R movies at a friend’s house and lie to us about it. Her language grew fouler and she began dating when she entered high school. One night was particularly bad when she walked home by herself. I remember my wife biting her nails down to the cuticle while we waited. We called her several times, but she never answered. At one in the morning she walked in with her jacket loosely hanging on her shoulders. Her eyes hung low and she reeked of puke.

“What happened? What did you do? Why didn’t you call?” My wife blurted out as she collapsed to her knees. She cried hysterically as I picked her up and set her on the couch. I took Alexi into her room and sat her on the bed. I didn’t immediately talk to her. I just paced in front of her. I don’t believe in yelling, so I contained my anger before speaking.

“Alexi,” I knelt beside her. “What happened?”

She started to cry. She wailed loud sobs into my shirt as she buried her face deep into the collar.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t want to. I’m sorry. Please don’t be mad. I’m sorry.” She said. I looked all over her body and found two drops of blood located on her inner thighs.

“Oh Alexi.” I couldn’t help but cry as well. I took her in my embrace and hugged her tight. In that moment we were the crying family. A boy she had been dating got her drunk and took advantage of her that night. I took her to the gravesite of my aunt and told her the same story my father told me with the addition of my own. That was the day my daughter flipped everything. It was funny how immediate she was to the change. I thought of how long it took me to be accepting of the new lifestyle, but Alexi eased right into it. Every week she would come to us, asking for a new book to read. By her senior year of high school, she was only second in line for being valedictorian. She got accepted into an art school in Germany. It would be a whole 5 months until we were going to see her again. She came home that Christmas and asked me if she could visit my aunt’s grave with her. I gave her the picture of my aunt and she smiled up at me. The Christmas before she graduated, Alexi sat both my wife and me down. She spoke for about 5 minutes about love and how happiness comes in many shapes and forms. At the end she started repeating the beginning of her speech and we stopped her.

“What is this all about?” I asked. She sighed.

“I am a…” She groaned in anger. “I’m gay.”

A deep quiet circled around us and my wife was the first one to speak.

“That’s what you had to tell us.” She said.

“Please don’t be mad at me.” Alexi said.

“I am mad at you, young lady.” Evelyn crossed her arms. “You made me sit through some bullshit speech about love that made no sense while I have a turkey cooking in the oven, just to tell us that you’re a lesbian. I don’t care who you date, man or woman. You could date the Pope for all I care. Just don’t make me burn the Christmas dinner.”

A large smile spread across Alexi’s face and she jumped into our arms. For a second I thought my wife was openly against being gay. Alexi ran to our front door and let in a girl with a nose ring.

“This is Helena.” Alexi said.

“…you.” Helena said very slowly with a thick accent. My wife jumped up and hugged her. I shook her hand and felt a very firm grasp. It almost hurt.

“She’s a mixed martial artist and wants to fight in the UFC.” Alexi told us. The thick layers of jackets hid her form, but when she took them off, you could see the definite shape of muscles. It made me a little sad that I wasn’t in that shape. Overall, it was a nice Christmas. The following months went by as normal and Alexi graduated from school. Her and Helena moved back stateside and found an apartment a few blocks from our house. Helena started fighting in amateur matches and we would go watch them. Alexi didn’t watch though. She waited in the locker room and bit her nails. She would enter the back with fully grown nails and by the end they would be chewed down with jagged edges. Helena started gaining attention as she won more and more matches. With the saved prize money, they moved into a house that was even closer to us. We would have dinners every other night and watch old movies.

“Me and Helena want to have a baby.” Alexi said to us one night at dinner.

“That’s great!” I abruptly said as I spit parcels of food onto the table.

“Well, actually,” Helena said. “We are already having one.”

Alexi held up a picture of the ultrasound. In the middle was a small grey orb that was darker than the rest. My wife had grown more emotional with age and started crying immediately. They say that when you’re older, each day flies by. Nine months had been even faster than that. Everyday around lunch, Alexi would come to our house and raid our stock of food.

“I just have a craving for pickles and peanut butter.” She said as she dipped her fingers into our jar of peanut butter. We got the call that she was going into labor at 3 in the morning. We made our way to the hospital where Alexi was screaming her head off. Helena was holding her hand and smirking.

“Why are you smirking?” I asked her.

“My trainer would always tell me that getting punched in the face didn’t hurt as much as giving birth.” She whispered in my ear. “Now she can come to my fights and know that I am not in that much pain. They ushered us out when things got more serious. Even with a three-inch-thick door, we could hear her screaming.

“She gets that from me, y’know.” Evelyn told me.

“Oh, I know.” We shared a laugh.

Another three hours later, Helena asked us to come back in the room. Alexi was breathing heavily as she cried. In her arms was a little, pudgy baby. My wife suppressed a cry and started fanning herself with her hands.

“What is it?” I asked.

“He’s so cute with his fat cheeks.” She said.

“He will be a strong one.” Helena said as she draped an arm around my wife’s shoulders.

“Oh I hope he’s not going to want to fight.” Alexi said as tears streamed down her face.

“He will have to fight to defend his honor and protect the weak!” Helena said triumphantly. We laughed and in this instance we were the happy, crying family. We left the new family alone to join together completely. Alexi called me that night around midnight.

“I was just falling asleep, hon.” I said as I rubbed the sleep from my eyes. “What is it?”

“His name is Chris.” She told me. I could hear her breath hitch as she said it. “Full name is Christoph. Helen said it was the name of her great-grandfather and I thought it was perfect.”

“You don’t know how happy that makes me, Alexi.”  I tried keeping to much emotion from my words. “I love you Alexi.”

“I love you, dad.” She said as I heard kissing sounds and a baby fussing from her end.

 A month later, Helena dislocated her knee in a sparring match and was bedridden for 3 weeks. Alexi went to work as a substitute teacher. My wife couldn’t have been any happier. She left the house at 6 in the morning and didn’t come home until 11 at night. She took countless pictures of her and baby Chris in different settings. One was at the grocery store. Another was next to a fountain at the park. I think one was at the yoga studio she goes to. On the last week of Helen’s rehabilitation, my daughter gave us another surprise.

“We want to have another one.” Alexi told us at our usual dinners. Evelyn burst into tears again. It felt like routine at this point.

“You selfish assholes!” My wife yelled out. “I already spent all my money on Chris. How am I going to pay for your new baby?”

 The area around her eyes was turning a deep red. The girls circled around her and hugged her. Within the next month, Alexi was pregnant again. Within the next seven months my assumption of a routine had been solidified. Alexi came over with Chris and raided our house for food again.

“I just really want lemons and milk.” She said as she took monstrous bites of a banana covered in whipped cream. We had our weekly dinner and goofed around afterwards. Helena was telling us stories of when she was a kid in Germany. The local boys would go swimming in the river near her house. Her father hated when they did that, so she would go and steal their clothes. We laughed when she told us of how she beat up a naked boy who threw a punch at her. I looked at Alexi and snapped her picture.

“What was that for?” She asked me.

“Take out that picture of my aunt.” I told her. She pulled the picture from her purse and gave it to me. I held my phone with the newly snapped picture and my aunt’s picture up to her. She smiled at me. It was funny how close they were to each other. The tight bun, the open mouth smile, and the fussy baby.

“If only you had blonde hair. I prefer blondes.” Helena said jokingly. Alexi playfully slapped her arm. We laughed. I was happy that everything was going the way a happy life usually does, but even happy people are challenged in the most unexpected times. Alexi was seven months pregnant when fate decided to intervene.

I remember the call I got from Helena. It was around 10 when she called us the first time. She asked about Alexi and if she was visiting us. I told her that she was out with some friends for a surprise baby shower and she would be back by 11. At midnight I received another call from Helena. She was screaming in German and I couldn’t make out anything she was saying.

“Helena please calm down.” I told her.

“Its…its…” She yelled some more in German and I could hear the labored breathing through the phone. I heard the motor of her car and told her to pull over.

“I can’t,” she said.

“Why not?” I asked. She paused for a minute before letting out a small whimper.

“Alexi is in the hospital.” She said. I heard honking from her end and she cursed.

“Pull over Helena. We’ll come pick you up.” I told her. She protested until I threatened to call the cops on her. I never would have done it, but I didn’t want her going to the hospital as well. I woke up my wife and we threw ourselves in the car with baby Christoph. I sped like crazy, but I didn’t care. My mind raced along with the car. I worried what happened. I worried if Alexi was ok. I worried if the baby was ok. My thoughts got faster along with my speed. Evelyn helped Helena into the car and it was the first time I saw her cry. It was an experience that brought me even closer to my emotional breakdown. We tried to get her to talk, but she was too hysterical. She just caressed her baby and cried. We arrived at the hospital in a hurry. All our emotions were up as we frantically searched for Alexi. A nurse calmed us down and told us that Alexi was hit by a narcoleptic. My previous comment about history was coming horrifyingly true. The similarities began to scare me.

“If she ok? Is the baby ok?” My wife asked.

“Right now we don’t know ma’am.” The nurse told us. “All we know is that she is unresponsive.”

She told us to wait until she was out of surgery. At the mention of surgery, Helena collapsed. Evelyn picked up Chris and I picked up Helena. It was 5 hours of sitting, waiting, and worrying. Helena hyperventilated from time to time and we had to calm her down. A doctor came out of the double doors and approached us. I hated how gloomily he looked in that instance.

“Are you the family?” He asked us.

“Yes, is she ok?” I asked. He rubbed his temple and looked around nervously.

“Alexi is in a coma. We think it was because of the shock of the situation.” He said.

“What about the baby?” Evelyn asked.

“We think that was what cause the shock. The impact caused her to go into labor, but the way her door pinned her leg was painful and most likely suffocated the child.” He said. We didn’t know what to say. Helena just stood up and ran out of the front door.

“I’m very sorry,” I heard the doctor say as I started running after her. My aging body was no match in keeping up with her as she grew further and further from me. I ran back to my car and followed the path she was taking. I eventually caught up to her.

“Helena, Alexi needs you right now.” I pleaded with her. She just kept running.

“Helena,” I was starting to sound aggravated. “Chris needs you right now. She slowed down to a walk and put her head in her hands. She looked up to me, then past me and ran in front of my car across the street. I sighed as I realized she was headed for the local bar we just so happened to be situated outside of. I got caught in traffic, but eventually made my way into the parking lot. I ran inside. The door swung open with a horrible crack. I mouthed an apology to the irate bartender and looked around the joint. My impulsive antic caught the attention of some of the bar’s patrons, but most of them just stared into the liquid they were drinking. Monday was always a sad day to drink. I saw Helena at the bar taking swig after swig out of a greenish bottle. I pulled out and sat on the stool next to her. She spoke softly in her native tongue. I ordered a drink and let out an exhausted breath. Her hand quivered as she picked up the bottle to drink more. I could see the liquid convulse to her rapid movement.

“I’m not fit to live, sir.” She said to me. “I’ve failed your family, I’ve failed my own, oh god how I’ve failed Alexi.”

I threw my jacket over and pulled her head onto my shoulder. I saw her sniffle and put a hand up to her eyes to hide the tears.

“I never told you or Alexi what happened to me after my father died, did I?” I stroked her cheek. “After he passed away, I went to the nearest thrift store and bought the strongest liquor I could find. I was still in line when I started gulping it down as fast as I could. I fought the urge to puke it up because I didn’t want to feel any of the emotions teasing to break out. After I left and pulled out my car keys, everything I remember about my father flooded me. The time he yelled at me when I came home drunk at sixteen years old. The time we cried together in his truck after visiting my aunt’s gravesite. Even his last words to me rung in my head like the chimes at midnight. ‘You’re living the life she wanted you to have’ was the last words he told me. I cried harder than I ever had before. After I let it all out. I took the half empty bottle and gave it to a homeless man sitting on a curb. Y’know what he did?”

“What?” She asked wiping the tears from her cheeks.

“He screamed, ‘I’m not an alcoholic anymore asshole!’ Then threw the bottle at my car and cracked my windshield.” I told her. She laughed and cried all at the same time. It could’ve been the alcohol, but it felt right at that time.

“You should’ve seen my wife’s face when I got home the next morning.” I chuckled myself. We finished our drinks and made our way back to the hospital. Evenlyn was sitting in the waiting room with baby Chris.

“They um,” she sniffled. “They said we can see her now.”

It felt like an eternity before we finally followed the nurse down the hallway. When we rounded the corner we caught a glimpse of Alexi, motionless in bed. Helena backed into me, but I grabbed her by the shoulders and persuaded her nervous legs to move. We entered the room and a smell hit us. The scent of stale copper lingered throughout. Alexi laid on her back with her arms by her side. The makeup that usually adorned her face was now covered in scars, bruises, and stitches when you approached her hairline. Her foot was wrapped in a cast and it was held up by a harness. My heart dropped when I saw that her once distended belly was flat. I think the scariest part was that she just lied there. Without the occasional beep from the monitor, you wouldn’t think twice to whether she was dead or not. It hurt to look at her, but I had to. I held onto Helena with all of my strength. She trembled in my grasp and I was afraid she would try to run again. She eventually tapped my arm and pulled up a chair next to the bed and held onto her partner’s hand. Chris began to fuss and I told Evelyn to take him home to sleep. She sniffled and kissed Alexi before leaving. What made this ordeal even worse was the natural routine of the hospital. A doctor and various nurses would come into check on the machines, check on Alexi, or change out an IV bag. Helena always asked each one what they were doing. They would give a vague answer and leave. Helena kissed Alexi’s hand and sobbed ever so often. The room was set in a constant rhythm led by the monitor’s obnoxious beeps.

“Please sir,” Helena said to me. “Can you got get me some coffee?”

I nodded and made my way down the hallway to the cafeteria. I bought the strongest one they had and made my way back to the room. As I crossed in front of Alexi to give her the coffee, Alexi shot up. She breathed in a deep breath and started hyperventilating. I was so startled I dropped the coffee all over the floor.

“What the fuck!?!” She screamed. She screamed in pain. She was frantic and ran her hands along her body. When she arrived at her abdomen, her face contorted.

“No, no, no, no.” She said quietly before erupting into a bloodcurdling scream. Helena wrapped her arms around her and whispered into her ear, but Alexi just got more out of control. She swung her whole body and pushed Helena off of her. Various nurses and doctors rushed in and held her down. She grunted and wiggled against them. A doctor yelled for something and nurse pushed a syringe of liquid into the IV drip. Alexi’s onslaught ended when she fell back to unconsciousness. I broke myself out of the daze as everyone exited the room. I felt a pain in my hand and noticed that I had once again cut into the palm with my nails. I noticed Helena rocking in the corner. I picked her up and carried her to the stairwell down the hall. She crumpled into the fetal position and cried. It was hard comprehending what happened in there. It was hard to see so much anger and hate in my daughter. Helena started punching the concrete. Each hit caused her knuckles and the floor to grow redder until they were both soaked with blood. I pulled her up into my lap and held her from behind.

“It’s ok.” I whispered repeatedly into her ear. I don’t know how long we sat there in that position. Nurses came and went down the stairs. The older ones were oblivious to us, but the younger ones gave us the same sympathetic stare. For the next couple of hours, the process played over and over. Alexi would wake up in a fit and would be sedated seconds later. Each time she lost more of her will until eventually she just woke up and stared at the ceiling. She rubbed her hands along her stomach and sobbed. Helena came into her view and kissed her cheeks.

“Helena,” Alexi said in a somber tone before embracing her partner. They cried together and my daughter said she was sorry.

“No,” Helen said as she kissed her. “There was nothing you could’ve done, my sweet.”

I left them by themselves and walked outside. I realized that I had been up for 27 hours, but I didn’t feel it. The morning sun burned my eyes. I saw Evenlyn drive up with baby Chris.

“How is she?” She asked, walking up to me.

“She’s in a lot of pain. Both of them are.” I told her.

“It’s going to be tough for a while.” She said.

“Life is never easy.” I regretted saying that for some reason. I felt my teenage apathy resurface and I wanted to punch myself. I wish I had said something more comforting.

The next week, Alexi got out of the hospital in a wheelchair. She was on very heavy depression medication that made her emotionless. It was hard to get her to do simple tasks when she was taking it. Helena took her home, changed her, and bathed her. Evelyn made their life a little easier as she helped Helena with grocery shopping and cleaning up the house. We attended the funeral on Sunday. Helena wheeled the unexpressive Alexi to the gravesite. My daughter looked down with her arms folded in her lap. In her hands was a small doll. A black day accompanied our own attire. The pastor read the usual burial words and called for anyone to speak. Alexi sprung out of her chair and everyone gasped as she fell to her hands. We all moved to help her up, but she put her hand up to stop us. She crawled to the ground’s opening and threw the doll in.

“I never met you my sweet,” She began. “But I know I would’ve loved you until the end of time. My father taught me that. I know that Helena doesn’t know what you are, but I know that you are our daughter. I couldn’t stand the surprise. I love you, Anne.”

Another name taken from my aunt. Helena kneeled beside Alexi. She threw her arms around my daughter and sobbed into her collar. Me and my wife kneeled alongside and threw our arms around them. The other attendees let us be. In this instance we were the sad family. We drove the girls back to their home and helped Alexi back inside. Helena changed her into some pajamas as we waited in the living room. She came out and told us that she was sleeping. Evelyn put baby Chris to sleep and we sat at the dining room table.

“I don’t know what to do.” Helena spoke first.

“What do you mean dear?” My wife asked.

“I mean that…I don’t know what to do with my life or Alexi’s.” She said.

“It’ll take some time, but the pain and depression you both feel will pass.” I told her.

“I know that,” started to sniffle. “I mean that I don’t know how I am going to support them both. All I was ever good at was fighting.”

“You’re not going to fight?” I asked.

“How can I fight, when I feel this low?” She retorted. Evelyn took Helen’s hand in her own.

“Do you love my daughter?” Helena nodded. “Do you love your son?” She nodded again. “Don’t you think they are both worth fighting for, fighting for their well-being?” She nodded again.

“But how?” Helena asked.

“What do you feel right now?” I asked.

“I feel sadness, but I also feel angry.” She said.

“Why do you feel angry?” I asked.

“Because my daughter is dead and someone took her from me.” She said.

“Then use that.” My wife said. “Fuse every punch with emotion and think about your family. I think that’ll help you get back into it. We’ll even help you get back into it.”

She nodded as she stood up and hugged us both. For the next week, I took Helena to the gym she trains at alongside a psychologist friend I know. Together we helped her work past the emotions that hindered her punches. She eventually made her way back into her natural state. During this time Evelyn was taking care of Alexi and Chris. On the third day of being in bed, Alexi asked to go to her studio. Evelyn told me that she tried checking in on her from time to time, but Alexi locked herself in. Helena got back in the ring and won three fights in a row. A sponsor from UFC came to her and offered her a fight. She agreed and we were on our way to Vegas. She asked me to be in her corner. Alexi, Evelyn, and Chris stayed home. Leading up to the fight, Helena became more and more nervous. In the first round, she struggled to stay on her feet and even acquired a bloody nose. In the next round she knocked her opponent the ground, but the bell saved her. In the third round they both beat each up, pretty equally. Helena won by a single point, and the announcer asked her questions on why she was there.

“I’m fighting for my partner Alexi, our son Christoph, and my daughter who sadly passed away.” She said as her voice jerked a bit in her throat. Some of the audience whooped and hollered while the majority let out a groan of sympathy. As we made our way back to the hotel, Helena got a call from her manager.

“I get to fight again?” She asked over the phone. “For the title?!? Yes, please!”

She said something in German and jumped in my arms. We flew back home the next day. Helena began training every day. It was hard work for both of us, but it made us even closer than we were before. Alexi spent most of her time either painting or at the rehabilitation center. A therapist came to see her ever so often. She was the only one allowed in the studio and was sworn to keep the painting a secret from us. She did let it slip that it wasn’t just one painting though. Another month of training and we flew back to Vegas.

“For Alexi. For Chris. For Anna.” Helena said to herself while we taped her hands.

The fight began with the champion easily overpowering Helena. She cut her eyebrow and had her in a hold before the bell rung. The next round wasn’t that different. Helena got a kick into the side, but the onslaught didn’t stop. Her eye started closing shut and her coach yelled some motivation at her. Helena kept her distance and got in small shots on her opponent without taking any blows. In the next round Helena took the other girl down and got some hits to her face. In the final round, Helena kicked her opponent in the head and she fell to the mat. It was going smoothly until the champion rushed Helena and pinned her against the cage. She kneed Helena in side until the final bell rung. In the end Helena lost, but the audience was mixed with who they chanted for. It seemed like the arena was a split decision. They hugged and we left for home. The next week after arriving home, we held Chris’ birthday at the house. Everyone was in high spirits except for Alexi. She just sat in her wheelchair and bit on her nails. She smiled for pictures, but that was the only time. After everyone left, Helena confronted Alexi.

“Alexi, what’s the matter?” She said. “It’s Chris’s birthday. Why are you sad? Is it the medicine?”

Alexi held her hand to stop her questions. Helena groaned in anger.

“I need to show you all something.” Alexi told us. She wheeled herself over to her studio and unlocked the door. We walked into a paint stained room with cans littering the floor. On the wall opposite from the door were seven paintings with a sheet covering the one I the middle. Each visible canvas had a word above it. The words “Anger”, “Sadness”, and “Depression” were each labeled for one and their counterpart parallel to them. “Sadness” was colored in blue and was an abstract of various shapes. “Anger” was red with jagged shaped littered everywhere. “Depression” was a dark grayscale, mostly black, with yellow eyes and smiles hidden in the shadows. She wheeled herself to the middle painting and pulled the canvas off to reveal a smiling baby in a yellow dress. The title was “Anna.” She was lying in a crib with rosy cheeks and a hand outstretched.

“The other ones were impulsive, but this one,” she said pointing at the baby. “This one is what I think Anna would’ve looked like. I just have a feeling.”

“She’s so beautiful.” Helena said as she started choking up. We stood in silence and just looked at Anna. Her smile made us all small. The bliss associated was enough to make me kneel. I didn’t feel like leaving the room.

Alexi eventually got passed the depression and stopped needing the pills. She hosted an art exhibit and raised a good deal of money, even being featured in newspapers across the state. Helena used her UFC money to go back to school and get a teaching degree. She started working at a high school and stopped fighting due to the school board not wanting a bloody and bruised teacher. She trains new fighters and even had one make it into a title shot. She won and hung the belt at the Helena’s gym until she lost it a year later. Later in life, Helena took the principal’s position. When Chris turned 5, they announced that Helena was pregnant. It came as a shock to us, but we were happy for us. Helena was now the girl to come and raid our kitchen for food.

“Do you guys have pickled sausage?” She asked us. I cringed and gagged at the image of pickled meats. They had a girl named Natasha. We all visit Anna’s grave every Saturday morning at sunrise. Alexi continued on with her art and even gained some recognition in a couple art magazines. She wrote a modern art textbook that she teaches every summer at the community college. Her and Helena tattooed Anna’s name on their forearms along with a pair of halos on the “A.”

Me and Evelyn continued our life as normal. We hosted our dinner parties and just enjoyed our happy family again. A few weeks ago, Evelyn was diagnosed with breast cancer, but she remains completely optimistic. She’s already bought five wigs with vibrant yellows, greens, and pinks in them. Each one a different length and a different style. She still takes dozens of pictures of her and the grandkids.

As I replace the flowers of my aunt’s grave I finally arrive at present day. I’m making the rounds of the people I’ve buried in my life. I don’t linger on the sad times, but rather remember the lessons they have each taught me. I take the picture of my aunt out of my pocket and stare at the immaculate smile. The edges are fraying even in the lamination. I think I have lived a great life for the both of us. I think in some way she has been guiding me everywhere I go. I don’t believe in God, but if there is an afterlife, I hope I can at least spend five minutes with my aunt. I just wish I wasn’t as old and she wasn’t as young. I’ll see you around my friend. I hope you have a wonderful life.

© Copyright 2018 Voskie. All rights reserved.

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