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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A woman stays with her friend after her husband passes away

Submitted: May 20, 2009

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Submitted: May 20, 2009

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Standing at the paddock, watching the horses run, I still couldn’t believe I was finally here. My best friend Joy had moved to Texas a year ago, and now I’m here, at her ranch, watching her horses run. I honestly didn’t think I’d ever see her again. We had both had a rough year, and almost lost each other in the process.
 
Hearing footsteps behind me, I half turned to see who was coming. Joy and Madison were walking toward me, Mattie with her riding helmet on.
 
“Whatcha doin, Miss. ‘Lizabeth?” Joy asked, stopping to adjust Mattie’s helmet.
 
“Just watching the horses run.” I smiled “Goin riding, Mattie?”
 
She nodded with a huge grin, still a little shy around me.
 
“Do you want to come,” Joy asked, shielding her eyes from the sun.
 
I really did want to, but I’m not a small person. I couldn’t see my fat butt on a horse, let alone getting up there, so I said, “No, I think I’ll just watch.”
 
Joy gazed at me, a puzzled look on her face. She knows how I love horses, and knows with that love comes the desire to ride them. But she’s not a pusher. She just looked at me and said, doubtfully, “Ok, well, come with us to the barn, you can help saddle us up.”
 
“ I don’t know how much help I’ll be, but I’ll try.” I took the hand Mattie was holding up, and turned towards the barn.
 
“Well, the most important thing to remember is to not stand behind them. As you’re walking around them, keep one hand on the horse, so he’ll know where you’re at, that way he won’t spook, and kick you.”
 
“No kicking is a good thing!”
 
Letting go of Mattie’s hand, I followed Joy into the tack room, and picked up the saddle she pointed to. “Mattie, you grab the saddle blanket sweetie.”
 
I inhaled the sweet scent of hay and horse, honestly feeling at home here.
“Elizabeth, I know you just got here, and we haven’t really had a chance to talk, but, why the sudden visit?”
 
“It’s not sudden. I’ve wanted to come visit since the day you left.” I said, walking over to Jumpers stall.
“You know what I mean. We haven’t heard from you since, well since the funeral and then you call out of the blue wanting to come visit. Listen, you know you’re always welcome here, and I love having you, and you can stay as long as you need, but it seems kind of spur of the moment to me. What gives?”
 
Feeling uncomfortable, but knowing an explanation was in order, I took the easy way out, “We’ll talk later. Lets get these horses ready, Mattie wants to ride!” My voice tilted up near the end, as I looked down at Mattie and hefted the saddle to make my point.
 
She got that look on her face, but she let it go for the moment.
 
How could I explain that I was running from my life? 
 
Later that evening, as I was giving Mattie her bath, Joy popped her head in to see how we were doing.
 
“’Lizabeth gave me a shampoo hat Momma!” Mattie exclaimed excitedly, almost causing the tub to overflow in her excitement.
 
“Miss. ‘Lizabeth knows lots of tricks huh?” she turned to me and said, “When you’re done, let’s go out and talk, ok?”
 
My stomach sunk at the thought, at the things I didn’t even want to admit to myself.
 
“NO! Story first!” Mattie demanded, grabbing my face and turning me towards her.
 
“Yes Mattie, story first.” I looked up at Joy, “Let me do this ok? Then we can talk.”
 
 
After finally settling Mattie in for the night, I knew I had to face the music so to speak, and try and explain why I hadn’t been in touch, and why I suddenly needed it more then almost anything.
 
 
“So what’s up baby doll?” Joy asked, settling into the couch with a cup of coffee.
 
Taking a seat next to her, I kept my eyes on my hands, and began.
“Well, after Jake,” I stumbled over the words. It was amazing that even after 6 months, I still couldn’t say myhusband has died. “After Jake got so sick, and the funeral was over and everyone had gone home, I thought I really had it all together ya know? I thought that I could handle everything, and I know you and Dave offered to help, I’m not saying that. I thought I should handle everything, that it was all my responsibility and no one else’s.” I swallowed hard against the tears that threatened to come. “ And for awhile I did. But then I thought well, it’s been 5 months, I need to pack his stuff up, I can’t keep looking at all his things lying around. Do you know I can still smell him on his pillow? I get confused sometimes, and think when I wake up that it was all a dream, and none of it ever happened. Like that movie with Sandra Bullock, only it is real.” I hadn’t realized that I was crying until I felt Joy’s hand on my face, wiping at my tears. I pulled away slightly, “Please don’t, just let me finish first ok? I kept thinking I could hear him in the next room, and I’d rush in there, mad as hell, what kind of joke has he been playing because it’s not funny, only no ones there. So I went to see my doctor, but all he offered were sleeping pills and a therapist. I didn’t want to sleep away my pain and I sure didn’t want to share it with someone who didn’t know either of us. And so, here I am.” I finally looked at her, fearing the pity I knew would be there. But there wasn’t any. Only sadness and compassion.
“Can I touch you now?” she asked, already moving to pull me into her arms. “ I don’t understand why you didn’t tell me, why you let yourself be all alone in this.”

 “ I was ashamed,” I whispered, “ I was ashamed that I’m not as strong as you, that I couldn’t do it alone.”
 
“Oh Liz, oh honey don’t you ever feel like that! You and I are different people, different experiences, of course we won’t handle things the same, but that doesn’t mean how you handle it is wrong!” We pulled apart, but I still held onto her, afraid if I let go, I’d be lost forever.
 
“Joy, I don’t know how to go on from here,” I reached for Kleenex, tears flowing freely now. “ Getting myself here took about everything I have.”
 
She stood and offered me her hand. “Well, first, lets go outside for a smoke. Whatever happens, you aren’t doing it alone anymore. We’ll just take it one day at time. And I’ll be with you every step of the way, ok?”
 
We both heard a noise and turned, seeing Mattie standing outside her room, her face solemn, sucking her thumb. Joy went to her, bending to pick her up and asking “Whatcha doin up love bug? You’re supposed to be asleep!”
 
Never taking her eyes from me, or removing her thumb from her mouth she said “Why is ‘Lizabeth crying Momma?”
 
Joy looked at me and said, “She’s just sad sweetie. I’m sorry we woke you up! Lets get you back to bed.”
 
“No Momma.” She leaned in to whisper in Joys ear, “May I give ‘Lizabeth a hug? I think she misses Jakey.” Joy met my eyes, asking with a look if it was ok.
 
“Well Miss. Mattie, I think that would feel very good right now,” I answered, walking up to them and taking Mattie from Joys arms. “And you’re right sugar butt, I do miss Jakey.”
 
 


© Copyright 2018 Melissa Burger. All rights reserved.

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