The Pendant

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic
James and his wife Alice, suffers a marriage falling apart. Diagnosed with cancer, Alice experiences an internal struggle with herself, creating the crumble of their love. After leaving him, James can't handle the ensuing stress.

Submitted: January 09, 2017

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Submitted: January 09, 2017

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James Willis was married to his beautiful wife Alice, for an astounding forty-two years. Their two children, Ben and Brian, were now grown and had children of their own.

Since their children moved out of their two story home in Long Island, things began to slowly deteriorate for Alice. She spent nights without uttering a word to him while the television blared Wheel of Fortune, captivating her in a deep state of thought. Without as much as flickering eye contact she could feel him watching her and cursed him for it.

 Quit looking at me ya bat.

 I love you’s never said. The space between them in bed never filled. Perhaps it was due to not having the kids around, the empty house was getting to her, and her resentment for him was growing. Not having the pressure and responsibility of raising kids left their souls a groaning empty stomach with no food in the pantry, no money in their wallets.

 Empty

 The stiffening cold casted shadows, squeezing the life from the love they once knew.

 “Alice?”

 Silence

 “Alice honey?”

 “Yes?” she answered with mild annoyance without looking.

 James sighed at the implication, and bowed his head. His lips in a frown. “What’s going on? Since Ben and Brian left you’ve been distant. I know you miss them. I miss them too. But you need to talk to me, this isn’t healthy.” He looked longingly at her hoping for a response. Ruffling the sleeve of his plaid pajama shirt nervously.

 Silence

 His ruffles now becoming more laboured. With the button worked out of the hole leaving the tail ends hanging like the  conversation, he opened his mouth to speak again.

 “Alice…” She cut him off with a shout.

 “What James?” this time she locked onto his eyes with a flaring irritation.

 He opened his mouth to speak again, but thought better of it. Maybe in the morning she would be more willing to talk. He huffed an exasperated sigh, and pushed himself up out of the chair, her gaze once again settling back on the television to Pat Sajak taking the ½ car wheel board from a contestant. Oddly enough. James too felt like he just had the ½ car taken away from him. The soft plush carpet under his feet they had installed last year was warm but offered no comfort.

Retreating, he mounted the stairs calling it a night. Not that he would get much sleep with the elephant blocking up most of the room but he had to try. The worst part of it all was not knowing. Not being able to help or console her. His stomach guttered loudly in complaint but he was too tired to care. He slipped out of his pajama pants, button up pajama shirt with one cuff unhasped, and laid them on the dresser. Ordinarily he would have buttoned up all the buttons before he folded them up, but tonight he just let them fall in a crumpled pile. It was hours later before he drifted. Still no sign of Alice, only the tv singing the theme song of “Threes Company.”

In the morning, rolling over to look at his sleeping wife laying beside him and wishing there were something he could do to right the wrongs between them. Despite the recent arguing and ill feelings they sometimes feel for one another, he loved his wife very much, hoping she still loved him as well. He placed his hand gently on her shoulder and gingerly shook her.

 “Alice honey, are going to church with me?” Once again she never responded.

A flint of disappointment washed over him, but receded a little in remembering she had a late night. Looking at her tangled hair matted on the pillow from a restless night, he wanted to hold her in his arms more than anything. He was desperate for answers and would pray for them at church. Reverend Hapscomb was a close friend of his so perhaps he could ask for advice after the service. James often asked advice from Rev. Hapscomb. Everything from a color of paint for the bathroom, to marriage advice. His advice was sound, but fair. He didn’t bullshit just because he didn’t want to hurt you. His motto was “if you're brave enough to ask, you’re brave enough to take it.”

He whispered I love you and slowly rolled out of bed to shower and slip into his church clothes. Before he left, he stuck his head in the bedroom door and said I love you again but she still didn’t reply.

 

When James got home an hour or so afterwards the house was quiet, which was odd she wasn’t up yet. Checking the bedroom, he found she wasn’t there. The bedsheets in shambles, half hanging on the floor like a casualty hanging face down in a trench. Her toothbrush in the bathroom had been used, with the cap left off the toothpaste, quickly developing into a crust at the opening. He hated when she done that but barely noticed this time. He snapped it shut and started for the stairs. The living room was left untouched and silent except for the ticking of the clock, adding an odd sense of loneliness. Entering the kitchen he found a note left on the counter. The sun beaming through the window directly on the note, making it warm to the touch. Picking it up with a shaking hand, he hesitated a moment before looking at the words. A sickening feeling, forming in his now desolate stomach.

 “James, when you get home I won’t be here. I’m leaving town and won’t be returning. I feel like I don’t love you anymore. Something has changed with us...me...and has for some time. Please, don’t come looking for me, there’s nothing you can do to change my mind. I’ve done a lot of thinking about this, my mind is made up. I’m sorry.”

 

 James laid the note down on the counter with his wrinkled fingers still touching it and tears began filling his eyes. The feeling in his stomach now a hard knot, like he swallowed a baseball. He didn’t know what he was going to do. For the past forty-five years since he’d known her--two years prior to their wedding day--she had been his rock. His soul purpose in life and the very ground that he walked upon. And now she was gone and never to return.

Alice had been diagnosed with cancer last year and decided to not go through with Chemotherapy treatments. After watching helplessly, a friend of hers nosediving into debilitating sickness, she swore up and down, it would never be her. She wasn’t going to lay in a hospital bed as her hair fell out and her weight dropped off her bones like a fishmonger scaling a sea bass.

Could he have done something different?

He knew he couldn’t.

You can’t help somebody that won’t let you in.

Should he have stayed home and tried talking to her about what was on her mind?

You can’t help somebody that won’t let you in.

The results were all the same. His mind was playing guilt trips with himself, somehow relaying the blame to him even tho there was nothing he could do. She had to deal with this in her own time. Time she didn’t have.

He was burdened with guilt that it was somehow his fault.

Slowly walking over to the chest in the hallway, barely able to see from the tears filling his eyes and soaking his cheeks. He knelt and opened the small chest holding a gift he had purchased for her coming birthday. A mother of pearl with turquoise teardrop necklace. The same one her mother had given her, that had been lost in a fire some years ago. He had waited for the right moment to give it to her. Now the moment may never come...it won’t come…

 Smiling at the pendant in his hand realizing how true those words were, he broke down in heaving sobs that hiccuped his breath. He knew that it wouldn’t be long, perhaps only a year before he would get word of his wife’s passing. News he wouldn’t be able to handle, knowing he wasn’t there for her. So he was going to be there waiting for her when she got to heaven.

 Climbing the stairs one final time, he took the bottle of heart medication from the bathroom cabinet, and watched the little white pills as they ticked noisily off the ceramic disappearing down the drain. He wouldn’t be needing them anymore. Not where he was going. Then he took a handful of his sleeping pills, with a glass of water that was laid on the side of the sink, luke warm from sitting too long, swallowing them all at once.

 James hoped Jesus could find forgiveness in his actions here today. Hoped he would understand it was all for the love of his wife. Vows that were made on their wedding day he was determined to keep.

 

Sickness and in health, till death do us part.

 

So death it was. If he couldn’t be with her in life, he would be with her in death. Waiting for her in heaven, and greet her with open arms when she arrived. It wasn’t a selfish act; it was for her. He didn’t know what was going through her mind right now but he knew in his heart that she loved him and always will. And whatever it was, that was blocking her view of her true feelings, she would overcome.

 Retreating to the bedroom, he laid with the casualty hanging face down in the trench. The side she always slept on with the pendant still clasped in his hand, waiting for the lord to take him home. He would explain then, why he done what he did. He kissed the small heart feeling the cool turquoise on his dry lips and whispered I love you. The ticking of the clock reverberating into an echoey tong. His passage of time coming to a misty end.

 Waiting for the darkness to take over his vision. The darkness never came. But a bright white light started to fill the center of his vision, radiating outwards growing in size. Filling with vivid pictures of Alice during their vacation to Hawaii, last spring. When she hurled a handful of poached eggs at him in anger that quickly vanished and they fell to the floor laughing on the morning of their first year anniversary. Her reddened, tear filled face during the days of their children's birth when the doctor placed them in her arms. The memories caused a tear of his own, fighting to escape its prison within his tired closed eyelids. It never did.

 Sleep slowly closed in, pinching off the movies of his life now left as a memory, creating a black box surrounding his vision. It was more peaceful than he thought. Never had he felt so happy.  Just before the darkness took him he smiled, and prayed he made the right choice. At his last moments, his breathing weakened to a stop, and his fingers relaxed as the pendant slipped from them and clanked on the floor. But there was nothing he could do about that now. They would find it...they will give it to her…

Darkness.

 


© Copyright 2019 Steve Bursey. All rights reserved.

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