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Twice in a Lifetime

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


What would you do if you were given a second chance? Lee is given 3 days to convince his younger self to correct his biggest regret in his un-fulfilled life. A love story than spans 40 years. The
story is based on the 1990's TV show, "Twice in a Lifetime"



If you liked this story, please read my other short story, "Murder in a Storm?"

Submitted: December 24, 2017

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Submitted: December 24, 2017

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Twice in a Lifetime 

(The Dance)

What would you do if you were given a second chance?

By Brian L Clements

Lee Robinson has been upset during the past few years.  He’s had 1 failed marriage and the current one isn’t going all too well either.  He hasn’t had full time work in about 8 years.  Lee has been substitute teaching for most of those years and also working at WalMart.  His wife has stated that he needs to do as she says or he’ll have to leave.

He has been praying about everything in his life: his marriage, finances and the past, which he can’t change.  Only if he could.

Lee has only has one regret in his life.  Her name was JoAnne.  The one person that he felt like he loved with all his heart.  The one person he still really cared for.  The one person that he feels he let down.  But, also, she was the one he never really knew.  How does somebody change that one regret?

The only problem was that she passed away 42 years ago.

You see, Lee never really had the chance to go out with her.  He remembers that he asked her out 3 times while in jr. high and high school before she got sick. Plus 3 times also after she got sick.  She told him at that time she liked him but she didn’t want him to get hurt since she was sick.  She also said that she would be praying for him every day.

Lee remembers when he first heard JoAnne was sick.  He was heartbroken.  After he heard about it, he got as much information that he could about her and leukemia. When she passed away, he was so upset he couldn’t even go to her funeral.  He used the excuse that he was in college, even though her funeral was on the weekend.

Lee eventually married into an abusive marriage which lasted about 22 years.  They adopted a son, named Caleb, who is now away at college.

After a tough day of substitute teaching, Lee decided to go jogging.  At 62 years of age, he has kept himself in shape over the last 30 some-odd years.  He had noticed  quite a few people his age looked like death warmed over.  But that was them.  Lee thought it was best to take care of himself which he did without fail. 

It was a very warm day and a little cloudy, but it didn’t look like it would rain, so Lee decided to go on his usual 3 mile run/walk along Fountain Creek near Colorado Springs.  About halfway through his run, it started to really cloud up  Then it  got very windy and started to rain.  He was out in the middle of a field when it started to lightning. That is some place he didn't want to be. Lee had a slight case of Astraphobia (abnormal fear of lightning) when he almost got hit by lightning back in 1995.  That year, he was on the back porch of his home in Florida and a tree was hit 20 feet from where he was standing.  Blew out a few things in his house.

So, Lee decided to turn back and start to look for some shelter.  He saw another runner who didn’t seem too concerned about the storm.  Lee started to run towards a nature center, which was about 200 yards away. 

 

When, all of a sudden, lightning struck near his foot and knocked him about 20 feet in the air and Lee fell on his back. 

While laying there, Lee sees the same young man standing over him..  He was about 6 feet, 160 pounds.

 

Lee calls out to him, “Can you help me?  I’m hurt”

“I’m sorry, but I can’t”, the young man says, “but I’ll be escorting you to the Judge for you to answer the charges.”

Suddenly, Lee is in a castle-like area; dressed in the same shorts and t-shirt when he was running. 

“What Judge? What charges?” asked Lee.

An older man dressed in a robe came from behind one of the columns and stated “Why, the charges about your life, Lee.  You didn’t live your life to your fullest potential.  These are some very serious charges.”

“Who in the heck are you?” asked Lee.

The young man replied, “This is Judge Othniel.  The one who will be judging you for what you’ve done with your life.”

“OK. And you are..?”

“I am Mr. Jones, your escort.”

“To where?”

“To the hereafter.  But first we have to appear before the Judge to see where to put you.”

“Why?”

Judge Othniel replied, “To find out why you turned out the way you did.”

“How did I do? Lee asked.

“Well, Lee. I know you have that one regret.  And it’s a big one.  And, that one thing has affected your whole life.  Very sad. Two failed marriages, a disgruntled son. What more can I say?  Am I correct... Lee?”

 

The judge shows some video of JoAnne, alone, in her hospital room, sick, receiving treatment, and looking very discouraged.

 

Lee was almost in tears.

 

“And you were afraid to ask her out again.  Why?”

“I didn’t think she’d say yes.  Last time I asked her she told me that she didn’t want me to get hurt.”

“She really didn’t mean that.  She was looking someone to help her and she didn’t know how to ask.  That person should had been you, Lee.  And you didn’t even try.”

“I didn’t know what to do. I wish I did  something.

“Maybe there is…. So... here’s what I’m going to do.  I’m going to send you back so you can ask her out one last time.  Maybe get that one kiss that you never got.”

Lee seems  a little sceptical  “How can that happen?

 

Mr. Jones interrupted, “Listen to the judge. He can do anything he wants.  You should be thankful.”

 

Lee gave Mr. Jones a doubting look.

 

Judge Othniel then said, “Just remember, Lee, you change one thing and it all changes….. So, it is the decision of this court that you be given a life sentence.”

Lee asked, “ What does all of that mean?  It doesn’t sound good”

“It can be...It all depends on you”, Mr. Jones said.

Judge Othniel continues, “You will have 3 days and 3 days only.  You’ll be going back to that point that is most critical in your life.  You will go back with all of your memories intact.  But, nobody will recognize you. You are a free agent of the universe with the blessing of God Almighty and his court.”

 

The gavel slams down and Lee is somewhere that looks familiar but is unsure...at first.

 

Why, it’s Lee’s old high school in Florida. 1970, 71.  A lot of memories. Both Good and bad.  Got in trouble in school a couple of times.  Talked a lot in class.  Even got kicked out of Biology class for a couple of days.  Some of the other kids were throwing things at him and then he threw one of the items back, but it hit the teacher instead.  Lee really didn’t do all that well in high school overall.  He was ranked 400 out of the 600 graduates.  But, he was able to go to college.

 

Lee sees Mr. Jones in the mixed of things.  It’s about 8 and school hasn’t started yet.  Students are starting to arrive.  School starts in about 20 minutes.

 

“Mr. Jones,” Lee asked, “What am I doing here at my old high school?”

“To make that change, Lee.” 

“How? I don’t even know who I am or where to go?” 

“Well, for starters, for the next few days your name is James May and your answer is right behind you.  Oh, you are the new kid in school.  First day.”

 

James/Lee turns around and sees JoAnne right in front of him.  His heart nearly skips a beat.  It turns out that she is his ambassador for his first day of school.  She will be showing him around and where all his classes are.  She is just as beautiful as he remembers. And chattier than he remembered.

 

“James May?, She said, “I’m JoAnne.  I’ll be helping you find your classes today.  Where are you from?  Ok to call you Jim.”

Lee replied, “Sure.  Uh...Colorado.  My dad is in the Navy.”

JoAnne gives him a sarcastic look.  “Really?...The last time I checked they didn’t have an ocean anywhere near Colorado.”

Lee responded awkwardly, “Uh, my dad worked at NORAD as an artist.

“Why would NORAD need an artist?”

“To be honest, I have no idea.  I’m just his son.  He didn’t tell me much about his work.”

“I didn’t mean to ask too many questions.”

“You didn’t.  Sorry about the sarcasm.  How about you, JoAnne?”

“Well, my dad’s a doctor. A surgeon to be exact..  That’s what I want to do when I finish college.  That is, if I live long enough.”

“What do you mean?”

“I have Leukemia.  I’ve had it about 8 months now.  Started treatments a few months ago at St. Jude’s in Memphis.  Have to go back again in a couple of days for more treatment”

“I am sorry to hear that.  St Judes is a great place.  Do you have any friends that’ll help you or go with you to Memphis?”

“I do. But, I’ll be gone for about 2 weeks and they don’t want to be gone that long from school.  Oh, I understand that, but it gets so lonely up there with just my family.  I know they are doing their best. They’re just worn out right now.  God, I just need a friend to lean on.

“I’m sure you’ll find somebody.”

“I hope so.  It’s starting to wear me out.”

 

Well, she took him to his classes each hour until lunch when she went to the McDonald’s across the street. He ate in the cafeteria since Mr Jones and the Judge didn’t give him enough money to go with JoAnne.  While getting his lunch he notices his young self and decides to approach him.

“Hi, I’m Jim. I’m new here.  What’s your name?”

“I’m Lee. Nice to meet  you.”

“I was wondering if I could eat with you.  My first day here and I don’t know anybody at  school.” 

“Sure, have a seat.”

“The only person I’ve really met so far is my ambassador, JoAnne.  Nice girl.  Maybe you can help me meet some people.  She seems to have a lot on her mind.”

“Yes...she does.  With her illness and all that.  I’ll introduce you to some of my friends.  How is she doing anyway?”

“JoAnne? I just met her today.  I guess she is ok.  She sounded a little down right now since she has to go to Memphis for treatment in a few days.  Why do you ask?  Are you two an item?”

“Afraid not.  I asked her out a few times.  But, she turned me down.  She said she didn’t want me to get hurt.”

“Why don’t you ask her out again?”

“I really don’t know.  What if she says no again?”

“Well, Lee.  What if she says yes?  Sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith.  Too bad you aren’t going to Memphis with her.”

 

After lunch, James/Lee met up with JoAnne and they started walking towards his next class.

JoAnne asked, “How was lunch?”

“Not too bad.” Jim replied. “Had Pizza.”

“Did you have lunch with anybody?”

“I sure did. I ate with Lee Robinson.  He gave me the scoop about what was going on in school.  Bright kid”

“Oh?  How is he doing?  I hope he isn’t mad at me.”

“I don’t think he is.  Why do you ask? Are you two an item?”

She gives a reluctant, “Not really.”

She then adds, “He asked me out a few times but I turned him down.  I just don’t want him to get hurt if my illness gets worse.”

“I don’t think he’s worried about being hurt.  I sense that he really cares about you and wants you to be happy.  How many times has he asked you out?”

“3 so far.  I don’t know, Jim.  I’ve been avoiding going out with anybody because of what’s happened to me.  How do I change my attitude?”

“Well, your life isn’t guaranteed.  You could live another year or 80 years.  Don’t have any regrets on happiness.  Take a leap of faith.  Too bad he isn’t going to Memphis with you.”

 

Jim just realized that he gave them the same advice.

 

At the end of the day, Jim/Lee thanks JoAnne and then sees his younger self sitting on the bench waiting for the bus.  Jim just happens to remember his old bus schedule after all these years.

Jim says to JoAnne, “Hey, JoAnne...there’s Lee over there.  Why don’t you go over there and talk to him.  He mentioned to me the bus comes about 3:50.  So you have about 20 minutes before it gets here.  Take that leap, JoAnne”

“I don’t know.  I'm a little nervous about talking to him.  What do I say?

“How about, ‘Hello?’ That’s always a good start.  Besides, I’m sure he's just a harmless little fuzzball”

JoAnne laughs, “I’ll try that. See you tomorrow.Jim” 

 

JoAnne goes over by young Lee and they start chatting.

JoAnne say, “Hi, Lee.”

“Oh, hi,” Lee responds. “How did it go with Jim?”

“It went pretty well.  He already has the hang of everything.  It’s seems as if he went to school here before.”

“Have a seat.  Seems like a nice guy.  He and I had a nice talk.”

“So did we.  That’s why I wanted to talk with you…... I feel like I owe you an apology.  The main reason I turned you down is that I didn’t want you to get hurt since I’m sick.”

“And the other reason?’

“I really like you and I’ve been a little nervous about going out.”

Lee gives her a sarcastic look and says, “You were nervous?  You used to be a cheerleader.  Do you know how long it took me to ask you out the first time?... 3 weeks!”

JoAnne laughed.

“You’re kidding me?  “You always seem so confident.”

“I do?  Thanks.  I needed that.”

Over the next 10 minutes, they chat about a variety of subjects including when she was cheerleader and when he tried out for football in Jr. High. 

Lee says, "I tried out for football trying to impress you and your friends. Do you think it worked?

JoAnne shakes her head, "Not really.  We were just wondering why you were trying to get yourself killed."

They both laugh about that and other things.

 

The subject then switches to her bout with leukemia.

JoAnne said, “I’m scared, Lee.  I really don’t know how much time I have left.”

“JoAnne,” Lee holds her hands, looks into her eyes and replied,  “I’ve liked you ever since I met you in Jr. HIgh.  When I heard you were sick, I cried.  I wanted to reach out to you but I didn’t know how or if I should….but, if you let me, I would like to somehow help you and be with you  as you go through this struggle.”

“That would be nice, Lee.  I need somebody to lean on.” 

Lee continues “I know you’ve been feeling like crap because of your illness.  I know I’d probably be feeling that way also….However, I do have a crazy idea.  Why don’t I go with you for your treatment in a couple of days?”

 

Remembering what Jim said, JoAnne smiled, but was just a little reluctant.

 

“I don’t know, Lee.  I don’t want you to feel that I am taking advantage of you.  Also, you need to be there for your classes. Your grades are not really the best right now”

Lee is wondering how she knows what his grades are like.

“Let me worry about my grades.  I should be ok.  I have been praying  the last couple of weeks  how I can help out somehow when I learned that you will be going back to Memphis for more treatments.  Let me talk to my teachers and parents and let me get back with you.  What is the worse they can say?”

 

JoAnne was excited and surprised. 

 

Well, they both went home and talked to their parents.  After they convinced them about having chaperones at the hospital and that the two of them would study, everybody seemed ok with it.  JoAnne’s folks were relieved since they would be getting the help and relief that they need..

 

The next day Lee and JoAnne got together and talked.

 

Lee says, “I’ve talked to my teachers.  They are getting my assignments ready for the next 2 weeks.  My parents said it was ok.  Let’s talk with your parents.”

JoAnne replies, “I already talked with them and they were good with it.  My dad said that he has never seen anybody so excited about getting treatment.  They will take us up and then go on a mini-vacation somewhere in Tennessee.  Probably somewhere near Memphis” 

“They probably need a break anyway. So, let’s figure out what time you want me to be at your house tomorrow. Or you guys can pick me up.  I guess you could say that this will be our first date”  Lee then continues, “However...I do have one stipulation.”

“Uh oh.  Just one?...What is it?

“No matter how much time the doctors tell you that you have, I want you to fight and continue to fight... today...tomorrow...and the next day, and the next.  And let me help you fight.”

 

JoAnne gives him a big grin.  She doesn’t know what to say.  She then starts tearing up and  walks over to Lee and gives him a big hug. 

 

“Thank you for doing this for me, Lee.  It means a lot.” 

 

JoAnne then kisses him tenderly on the cheek.. 

JoAnne adds “There are 2 raspberry Jellos in Memphis with our names on them”

“Oh, wow.  Free Jello.  That is something to look forward to.  I don’t want to miss it.”

“That makes the trip worthwhile, Doesn’t it?”

They both laugh.  After Lee kisses JoAnne back, there is a white flash and he ends up in a new location.

 

Whoa, Lee is startled and is wondering what’s going on now. Nurses are examining him and giving him an I.V.  Is this from the lightning strike?  Was everything just a dream?

 

“Oh, my God, I’m in the emergency room!” Lee says,  “What the hell just happened to me? What am I doing in a police uniform?”

“Where did this blood come from?”  Lee says to himself.

 

Lee was in the emergency room from a gunshot wound.  Nurses were tending to his wounds and reassuring him. 

 

The nurse told him, “Sir, you’ve been wounded.  Twice. Once in the shoulder, the other in your vest.  Most likely some cracked ribs.  Look at me.  You are going to be fine, Officer…..”She looks at his nameplate on his shirt.  “Uh, oh.”

 

Then another nurse shouted to the doctor on duty.

 

“Doctor, Come over here quick!”

She turns around and answers, “What is it?’

“I think it’s your husband?”

“My husband?  You’re kidding me, right?”

 

Dr. Robinson then looks at Lee, “Oh, my god, Babe.  What the hell happened to you?

Lee was very puzzled.  “Jo?...what are you doing here?  I thought you died?”

“Me?...Died?...What’s going on with you?  You’re the one in the emergency room and you’re thinking I’m the one who died?  Looks like we’ll need to check you for a concussion also.  Babe, we’ve been together around 40 years now”

“I have no idea what is going on..  I'm very confused right now.”

“Well, you’ve lost a lot of blood.  So, let’s get you ready for surgery.  I’ll call another doctor because I am not operating on you.”

 

After she gets her composure, JoAnne gets on the phone and calls another doctor to operate on Lee.  She then heads out to the waiting room to be with Lee’s co-workers from the local Colorado State Patrol post.  She is in shock and close to tears.  As she wipes her face she tells them what is going on. 

 

“Hi, I’m Doctor Robinson...Lee is my husband.  I happened to be in the emergency room when he came in.  He’s going to be ok. But, another doctor is coming in to perform the surgery.”

 

The Troopers were a little confused because most of them have not met her and didn’t even  know she was a doctor.  After she introduces herself, they give her a hug of support while they wait for the surgery to finish.  Over the next few hours, she tells them about their life together during and since high school, her battle with Leukemia, their first kiss, and their first date, which lasted 2 weeks.

“We rode up together with my folks to St. Jude’s and Lee stayed with me for those 2 weeks.  During my treatment, he would never let me be alone and stayed by my side the whole time.. Even when I got sick from the treatment, we would throw up together since Lee had a weak stomach.” 

JoAnne continues, “While we were at St. Jude’s, Lee would turn on the radio in the hospital room and we would dance to whatever song that was playing.  We did that everyday while I was in the hospital. (And still do it almost everyday at home.)  One night, we even sneaked out of the hospital for a couple of hours and just danced under the stars near their gazebo.  It was really fun and a little romantic.  And then, we would help each other with our school work.  That was when I realized that I was falling in love with him.”

JoAnne then tells them, “I was  shocked when I saw him in the E.R.  He’s always been so strong for me.  I’ve never seen him this vulnerable before….He’s always been my hero.” 

 

A few hours later, Lee was in recovery by himself.  There was a trooper watching outside his room while his wife was talking to the nurse.  Mr Jones appears to him at the end of the bed.

 

“Ahh, You made it. Mr Jones, I don’t understand...I thought JoAnne died 40 years ago from cancer?”

“Originally, yes. Apparently, you gave her a reason to live. That is what love does to some people.  That trip you made with her to Memphis and St. Jude’s seemed to had made all the difference. That must had been one heck of a first date. What did you do for an encore?”

 

Lee lets out a soft laugh and moan.

 

“But, because of her illness, the two of you didn’t think you could have children.  So you adopted 3 kids.  Caleb, Joshua and Olivia.  And by surprise, Kay comes along.  Great kids by the way.”

“How long have I been an officer?  I don’t remember any of it.”

“You will. You’ve been one for about 40 years. Right before you and JoAnne got married. First, in Alabama as a trooper so she could go to medical school.  Then back to Florida where she opened her practice and you were an officer with the Florida Marine Patrol.  That was a very interesting 20 years for you. Now, you’re in Colorado, again as a trooper.  JoAnne opened a new practice here in Colorado Springs. She really supported you in your pursuits and you really helped her and encouraged her when she got her medical degree.

“How about my previous life?”  What happened to my wife...wives?”

“They both found somebody that makes them very happy. They won’t remember you, and you won’t remember any of that life either.  It may seem like a distant dream.  The new memories you have will be the ones from this life. And, sad to say, you won’t remember me either.  There are a lot of people across the country praying for you and wishing you well.  A lot of them are here too, waiting outside.

 

The next day Lee is now in a hospital room recuperating.  His wife and kids are now in the room with him.  Caleb came from Greeley to be with them.

 

JoAnne is sitting on the bed and says, “Lee...you need to be more careful.  I don’t know what I would had done if I lost you.”

Lee answered, “Well,... looks like it’s your turn to nurse me back to health..”

“Like you did for me 40 years ago.  Tell me.  Are we going to have another 2 week date?”

“It just might be a little longer.

“When you get better, we’ll have that dance.  OK?

“That sounds nice, I wonder when they will let me do that.”

“I’ll go find out from the nurses.”

 

Tears started going down Lee’s and JoAnne’s faces.  JoAnne lies down on the bed and kisses him on the cheek.

 

Olivia asked, “Are you guys ok?  Please, don’t gross me out.” 

Kay decides to make a gagging motion. “I think I am going to throw up.”

You can tell that they have their parents sense of humor.

Lee and JoAnne smiled and Lee answered, “Yes... Everything is perfect.”

 

After 5 months of recuperating, Lee and JoAnn decided to renew their wedding vows in front of their friends and proclaim their love to each other.  It has been nearly 40 years.  Everybody was there; kids, family and coworkers. This was a new start for them.  

 

A month later, Lee is getting ready for work for the first time since the shooting.  Lee finds one of his favorite songs, “The Dance” and plays it on his phone.  It was one of the songs they used to danced to in the kitchen when it first came out in the 90’s.  As they danced in the kitchen, they started to reminisce about their life together..  Afterwards, they sat down in the dining room.

 

“Jo, I don’t know where I would be if you were not here. Lee says, I don’t ever want to miss another dance  with you.  Thank you for being there when I needed you”

“I don’t know where I would be either if it wasn’t for you, Lee.  You were there when I needed somebody.  You gave me a reason to live 40 years ago.  You taught me how to fight.  What if I told you that I want us to be together for another 40 years.  Well, do you think we could make it to 102?”

“Wow!….102?....I am willing to try it if you are.”

 

 



© Copyright 2018 Brian Lee Clements. All rights reserved.

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