View From Heaven

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 20 (v.1) - Chapter 19

Submitted: April 04, 2008

Reads: 182

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Submitted: April 04, 2008



Chapter 19

Cecily had once heard someone use the word surreal to describe an experience; she was unsure of the exact meaning at the time, but she was wise beyond her years and could at least speculate. She took it to mean something like being in a moment, but feeling more like it was simply watching someone else go numbly through the motions, as if it weren’t really, well, reality.

Face-to-face with the smooth and polished mahogany box encasing the lifeless body of her best friend of ten years and in all truth, her first love, Cecily understood that this—this was anything but surreal.

This was the cold, hard truth.

She sat in the chilly, spacious confines of St. James church on Wabash, wedged between Jamie and her mother. It was 11 A.M. on a dark and snowy Monday, December 20th and Ben, assuming everything had gone off without a hitch, would be emerging from his second surgery right about now. Her mother would not be there when he awoke, nor would any other family or friends. This, as Theresa had bluntly explained, was Ben’s punishment for his blatant mistakes—to wake alone and uncomforted just this once, because Landon’s parents would never have the blessing of watching their son wake to them ever again.

While the priest offered encouraging words to the expansive sanctuary crammed with Landon’s family and friends Cecily divided her time between nervously picking at the black winter pants suit she donned for the awful occasion, and inflicting countless wrinkles to the two pages of yellow legal paper folded in between her hands.

When Landon’s mother first contacted Cecily and requested that she present a eulogy at her son’s funeral, Cecily simply broke down into tears. How shameful was it for her to even be present when her own brother was the one responsible?

“Cecily,” Landon’s mother urged maintaining incredible strength during their short phone conversation. “You are not your brother. You were—you are Landon’s best friend and truly the only woman who mattered in his life. For any significant amount of time, at least.” She managed a laugh. “He loved you dearly, that is why it is so necessary for you to stand in front of everyone and say something about him.”

Cecily ended only feeling worse for wear afterwards, reminded once again of how awful she had been to Landon in his final hours, but she agreed to make a short speech if only to satisfy his family. Besides, it was the closest she would ever come to actually divulging to Landon everything she truly felt.

So, at 2 A.M. the night before she had penned out two pages onto a legal pad, standing at her kitchen counter as was the enigmatic ritual with everything she wrote. Instead of allowing her qualms over dangling participles and run-ons sentences to dictate her composition, for once she simply allowed her heart to flow directly through her pen onto the cheap, starchy paper. She scratched and scribbled and even balled up entire pages into the trash, but she stood for two hours straight until the deed was done. She considered re-typing it to present herself a bit more ceremoniously, but thought better of it, desiring that the words recur from her mouth exactly how she intended.

The priest’s sermon came to a close and three people preceded Cecily at the podium: Landon’s good friend, Aaron, followed by a close cousin and uncle. Cecily willed herself not to hear what they said for fear she would break down before even saying her peace. She said the Lord’s Prayer over and over in her mind, ran through the state capitals, and even channeled the tunes to some of her favorite Christmas carols. Her strategies were somewhat successful at blocking out the words echoing through the church, but they did little to erase Landon’s face from her imagination and it was almost more than she could bear.

“And now,” returned the priest’s commanding voice, clearing Cecily’s thoughts completely. “I will ask to come up to the stand Landon’s best friend, Cecily Manning, in order that she may share a few words in his memory.”

Cecily felt her skin go cold and she very well may not have moved from her place were it not for the gentle coaxes of her loved ones from either side. The short trip up to the podium was a lonely and desolate one, magnified by the hushed but audible whispers which immediately rose around her. She knew what they were saying. That’s the girl whose brother is responsible. That woman’s brother killed Landon.

There were a few moments when she was sure either she was going to turn right back around or simply faint onto the ground, but some invisible force lured her forward until she was facing the throng of people with their eyes glued upon her. The room was silent except for the occasional sorrowful sniff, the flutter of the flimsy paper as it trembled in Cecily’s hands, and her own heartbeat thudding in her ears.

She placed the pieces of paper with a shaky hand onto the podium before her. Readjusting the microphone to meet her mouth, Cecily dared to actually look into the faces of the audience which now belonged to her. Square in front of her sat Landon’s father, Jim, and his mother, Kathy; they clung to each other, their eyes wet but they seemed almost proud to behold the woman standing in front of them.

Gazing upon them was very painful at the moment—not so much out of guilt any longer, for she had finally begun to absolve herself of the crimes she had not committed. It was just how striking a resemblance both of them bore to their son. Landon’s mother carried his large, almond shaped eyes and long eyelashes; his father the thick, dark curly hair (though his was beginning to thin around the top) and his chiseled face. Cecily’s heart ached seeing his features brought to life once again.

One final deep breath as if preparing to submerge herself in water, Cecily lowered her lips to the microphone.

“Landon,” she began, but her voice sounded unnatural, high pitched and strained. She swallowed several times and tried again.

“Landon always made fun of me, since we first became friends some ten years ago, for having my nose perpetually buried in a book. If he was here today with us, and, I truly believe he is here in his own way, he’d have a good laugh knowing even now I could not escape quoting my favorite author.”

Cecily softly cleared her throat, feeling her strength slowly return. Locking eyes with Jamie he urged her on with a small nod and a slight smile, and her gaze fell back to her small, cramped cursive writing.

“Virginia Woolf once wrote, ‘As a drop of water, detached, alone, separate from others, falling from the cloud and entering the great ocean, alters not only the immediate spot in the ocean where it falls, but all the myriad drops which together compose the great universe of waters; so is a marvel comparable to this within the reach of each one of us, who dropping a little word or a little deed into the great universe alters it for good, not for one instant, but for all eternity.’ A lot of words, I know. Woolf was never known for being very brief; nor am I. But every time I read them I can only think of one thing; and that is my…my best friend.”

“Landon Chemeck was never destined for fame. He boasted a high school degree, worked forty hours a week in an auto repair shop and lived in a tiny apartment. He would readily admit to you that his aspirations for the weekend usually involved hunting for the best drink specials in all of Chicago.”

A small, knowing rumble of laughter rolled through the church.

“He was never going to become a rocket scientist or find the cure for cancer. He was never going to write a best-selling book or hold a political office. For some, his existence might be considered dull and unimportant. To me, however, and to all of you who have come here today—to us, he was extraordinary.”

Cecily’s voice broke on the final word, tears instantly filling her eyes. She drew in shaky breaths, her lips trembling, willing herself to hold off until she no longer had six hundred eyes upon her. She could not keep control of herself for much longer, though. If she hadn’t had enough doses of reality in the past week, somehow, standing in front of these people and referring to her dearest friend in past tense was bringing it all home.

“I am certain I am not the only one here today who can attest to the wonderful feeling Landon could give you simply by being in his presence. The way he knew just how to make you laugh, even when there wasn’t too much left to laugh about; and the way, with just one look, he made you believe you were the most important person in the world.”

Several heads nodded slowly in assent.

“I think I can best express the profound affect Landon had on me as a person by explaining the way I felt every single time we parted ways. The minute he walked out the door, I was always overcome with a sad, empty sensation as if he had exited with a portion of my insides in tow. From the moment we said our good-bye’s until the next time we met, life was a little less cheerful and I always sensed that I had taken for granted his company when I was lucky enough to have it.”

My God, Landon. How? How could I have ever known?

“Now…” the tears flowed freely now, warm drops rolling down the sides of Cecily’s face and landing with a patter on the paper. She paid them little heed, however, because she was no longer standing vulnerable in front of a room full of strangers. It was simply her, two yellow pieces of paper, and Landon as her heart broke apart piece by piece. She fought to even form the words anymore.

“Now, I assume you can imagine the magnitude of that emptiness, the sense of regret I am left with for not holding on to every last second I was so privileged to share with Landon. It…nearly kills me every morning to wake up and realize that he is no longer h-…here.”

She was quickly falling apart in the middle of a speech which was intended to instill hope in others, and to raise her own spirits in the process. The devastation which befell her all at once made her simply want to collapse to the ground, but she had to march on. She had to make right with Landon somehow.

“It is in my rare moments of solitude, lying awake in the darkness that I understand that he has not gone very far, however,” she continued, her voice hoarse and thick with tears. “How can such a beautiful, kind and caring person ever be completely erased from this earth, never to be seen, felt or heard ever again? No, Landon is still here with me, and he speaks to me when I least expect it.”

“What is it exactly he is saying to me, you might ask? Well, first, that he forgives me—though I may not ever completely forgive myself—for never taking the opportunity to tell him what he meant to me before…before it was too late.”

I loved you, Landon. I really did.

Her legs trembled.

“ He…he forgives me for what I failed to do, but more importantly, he urges me to never make that mistake again; to never again take for granted those closest to me when I cannot know what tomorrow holds.” Cecily lifted her swollen, glassy eyes towards Jamie once again, who returned her gaze, chin trembling ever so slightly, but visibly nonetheless. She found no need to return to her script; for she had read it over and over so many times already she realized it was engrained into her mind’s eye. Instead, she continued to hold Jamie in sight as the words poured effortlessly from her mouth.

“He urges me to love like I have never loved before; never holding back for fear or doubt, or any other foolish excuse I might use to protect myself. This life, this existence—my existence, your existence—is much too fragile and fleeting to ever allow for hatred, for grudges, for bitterness.”

All Cecily could picture in her mind was the face of the fourteen-year-old boy she had first met and it made her cry all the harder as she spoke. She was sobbing so violently now she was sure she had become inaudible minutes ago.

“This…this is how one man, one single person, has changed the course of my life forever. This…this…”

Her words dropped off all together and her knees were moments from buckling when Jamie suddenly appeared at her side practically catching her in his arms. As he ushered her back to her seat, whispering reassuringly into her ear, Cecily watched as the two wrinkled pieces of paper, like helpless leaves from a dying tree, drifted noiselessly from the podium and alighted on the ground at her heels.

Ben had never considered that one of the millions of tiny holes in a typical acoustical ceiling tile held any magical powers, but somehow, by staring into one for the past two and a half hours, he had watched both his past and his future play out in front of him.

He had first regained consciousness to find his world quite literally turned upside down. He was strapped tightly to a bed—tethers across his head, chest, waist, and legs, and inverted so that he was staring at the floor. Every fifteen minutes or so the bed would make a loud humming noise as if it was equipped with a V-8 engine and it would rotate to a new position in which he could only lie and stare until refreshed with yet another unremarkable vantage point. The nurses who occasionally made an appearance informed him it was to keep the blood flowing through his immobilized body and prevent clotting in his arteries. Frankly, it made him feel like a pig, spit roasting over a fire.

After about an hour of this charade, mercifully, the dizzying rollercoaster ride came to an end and Ben rested in a much more natural position again. With the fog from the anesthesia lifting from his mind, unfortunately, this meant there was nothing left to distract him from his thoughts.

He wondered for many minutes where his mother was and why she hadn’t been there the moment he had woken up. She had been present to watch him go in at 8 A.M. that morning, her eyes filled with tears; but he didn’t know what she was so worried about when they were simply going to open him up and repair something that would remain broken regardless.

But, of course. He had forgotten that today was Landon’s funeral. How silly for him to think he was all his family had to cry about. They would probably be happy letting him lie here in miserable solitude for days. Perhaps they would never come back to claim him.

He attempted to wiggle the big toe on his right foot and see if perhaps by some miracle he had regained control of his lower appendages. It was nearly impossible to see with his head bound firmly against this bed from hell, but he was fairly certain his legs were still as useless as they had been this morning.

One of the major reasons Ben had never had much concern for the consequences of his actions was that the worst thing that could ever result from his reckless abandon was death. Perhaps it was the natural invincible mindset of a twenty-one-year-old, but he did not fear the thought of the end like many people did.

Little had he realized that his stupidity could land him somewhere infinitely worse: life with inescapable regret. No matter what extremes he would go to just to satisfy an itch, Ben would have never dreamed of hurting another soul in the process. Even as he had held that gun up to the head of the gas station clerk, even in his extremely drunk and delusional state, he knew he could never bring himself to pull the trigger. Hell, he wasn’t even entirely sure the damn thing would have worked had he gone that far. Yet, here he was responsible for the death of his sister’s best friend.

How would he ever be able to look her in the eye again?

How would he be able to avoid any member of his family when he would rather just hide in shame? By destroying part of his body he had rendered himself completely dependent on the last people to whom he ever desired to relinquish control. Until further notice his mother and sister would have completely reign over his livelihood and he would be forced to face every single one of his mistakes on a daily basis. Of course, there were always other options, but he didn’t quite fancy the idea of busting out of here in a shitty rental Amigo wheelchair and hospital gown that didn’t even cover his ass.

As for more drastic measures, well, there was no chance of putting himself out of his own misery while glued to this thing. Maybe if he held his breath long enough…

“Hello, Ben, how are we feeling?” came a deep male voice from the other side of the room. Ben was forced to simply lay in wait for a face to put with the voice as he could not so much as turn his head at the moment. Finally the silver hair of Dr. Weinstein came into view as he brought the bed to its normal supine position and began monitoring his patient’s vitals and IV’s.

“My mom isn’t here yet, is she?” Ben could barely summon a voice.

The kind doctor shook his head in reply.

“No, no, I’m afraid not. But I am sure she will be here soon. She was very concerned about you this morning.”

Dr. Weinstein had clearly been informed of the entire state of affairs and Ben wondered how he felt tending to a criminal and, for all intents and purposes, a murderer.

“In the meantime, do you have any questions for me, Ben? I know these past several days have been, well, overwhelming to say the least. We gave you the information in the smallest doses and clearest terms possible, but I know it is not possible to understand everything perfectly.”

The younger man was quiet for a moment.

“Yeah, yeah I’ve got a question.”

“What’s that?”

“Will I be able to get it up?”

Dr. Weinstein coughed and furrowed his eyebrows in feigned confusion, but Ben was quite sure he had grasped his meaning.

“Uh, I’m not so sure I understand…”

“Of course you do, Doc. Come on, give it to me straight. I’m toast from the waist down. So is Man Land closed for business, too, or what?”

Dr. Weinstein couldn’t help but chuckle.

“Well, Ben, that’s difficult to say for sure. Many men who experience trauma to the lower spinal cord lose all sexual functioning abilities while a small portion—uh, approximately ten to twenty percent—maintain the ability to have an erection, orgasm, and even produce children. Only time will tell for you.”

Just great, Ben thought to himself. Spending the rest of my life sitting around in a wheelchair and I won’t even have my penis to keep me entertained.

“Are there any other questions, Ben?”

Ben shook his head sullenly.

“The surgery was a success; your spinal column is aligned and with time it should heal fully. Now it is just a matter of getting the rest of your body back up to speed and on the road to recovery.” A subtle smirk pulled at the corners of the doctor’s mouth. “I think you will come around rather quickly; you seem the fighting type.”

Hah, if he had only known how close Ben had come to letting go in just the past week alone.

Dr. Weinstein disappeared and Ben was left alone with his thoughts once again. Outside snow fell heavily onto the city and he remembered that Christmas would arrive very soon.

His upper back began to ache and he tried to shift his weight but to no avail. He had grown to despise the lack of any feeling beginning just below his belly button, like he had been shot with two gallons of Novocain. He would give anything to feel a shooting pain to remind him that the lower region of his body still existed.

Where was his damn mom? Months ago, when he had been doing just fine on his own, it seemed she would never stop pestering him, but now that he was seriously ill and actually in need of someone? Nowhere to be found.

Hot tears stung at the back of his eyes as his blood began to boil. He gritted his teeth and tightened the muscles in his throat to fight the sobs threatening to rack his body.

Here, he had met the destiny his life had always been leading him to even from the earliest, most carefree days of his youth. Ben was trapped, trapped inside a body that did not work and a mind that would never be at peace. He was completely and utterly ensnared and for the first time in his life there was no conceivable escape. For the first time in his adulthood he was taking a sincere look into his future and for the first time in his adulthood he was truly frightened.

© Copyright 2018 Megan Maydell. All rights reserved.


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