He collapsed onto a chair, gazing sightlessly at the wall. His lower lip quivered. Nothing else betrayed the turmoil in his mind.
The sun was setting. Lemony yellowish reddish orange. The oak tree next to it made a beautiful setting. The kind that you use as a wallpaper. Or a postcard. It could have been so much better if she were here.
He sat down on a path of particularly green grass. Too green. Unfairly green. He stared at that sunset. She’d have loved it. She’d have set up her easel right there, on that spot under the oak, got out her brushes and paint, her piece of charcoal and sheets. Oh! so many sheets… Once she’d got that pencil in her hand, there really was no stopping her. He’d have sat there, thrown a line into the lake, or read a book, maybe tossed pebbles across the surface. Maybe just laid there watching her. Played her a song, if he’d brought his guitar. Maybe even written her one. His mind wanders. It’s difficult for it not to. After all, this was no ordinary love.
An image swam into his head. He saw how he’d waited for her outside college. Surprised her by showing up unannounced. Told her he was disappointed not to find her in the arms of another… And she’d laughed. Really thrown her head back. Settled in his arms. Reached up to kiss him on the cheek. And whispered in his ear that she was cleverer than that, that she’d left the other one inside. And laughing, arm-in-arm, they’d practically skipped back to the car, leaving everyone who saw them dumbfounded.
How she’d told him one night that she couldn’t sleep. Her nightmares didn’t let her. Memories she didn’t have, but wanted. Those she had, but wanted to forget. How he’d taken her hand in his. Kissed it. How he’d sung to her. Slow and soft. His voice barely more than a whisper. How she’d cried because she’d heard that song and that voice after so long. And how she’d fallen asleep holding his hand. And he’d fallen asleep sitting there on the floor next to her bed.
How he’d once come home well past midnight to find her awake and waiting for him. How she’d kissed him and watched him eat the meal she’d spent all evening making. How she’d fallen asleep at the table fifteen seconds after his first bite. How he’d watched her sleeping for a while and then carried her to bed. How he’d loved that meal so much more than he would have if he’d been home on time.
How when she was in school, she’d come home everyday and spend hours telling him how someone-with-a-smelly-shoe forgot to tie his laces and the girl-with-the-blue-notebook-and-the-pink-pen had cried when she lost her eraser. How even then, she’d sat at the table while he was working, paper and crayon in hand, trying to draw his face. How he’d put up the bunch of squiggles with the arrow next to it saying ‘Daddy’ on the fridge door. How he’d felt like it really did look like him.
How she’d bawled her head off, as he massaged the finger that she’d managed to bang against the table. How he’d tried to kiss away the pain. How pointing out the cat in the yard made her forget it. How the faces he made and his nose tickling her stomach had made her laugh. How good he’d felt when that happened.
How he’d held her close against him and sung to her when she couldn’t sleep. In his deep, bass voice. How the baritone had calmed her heart. The song. The dispeller of darkness and nightmares.
How he’d felt the first time he’d brought her home. Tears welling in his eyes as unbridled joy mingled there with unimaginable grief. The joy that he had her. And the grief that he was bringing home one girl he loved, not both.
How he’d stood there, aghast, unable to move when they told him that they’d tried their best, but that they couldn’t save his wife. How there had been complications. How it wasn’t over yet. How they were still trying to save his daughter.
How he'd collapsed onto a chair, gazing sightlessly at the wall. His lower lip quivering. Nothing else betraying the turmoil in his mind.
An eternity later, a voice from far, far away called out to him. He tried to see where it was coming from. He really did. He tried to push the images away. He just couldn’t. But everything slipped into focus when he heard those two words. “I’m sorry.” Saw the white coat before him. A minute later, the doctor walked away. He sagged. His knees just buckled. He lay on the floor in a heap. A low, primal groan was all he had left to grieve for memories he would never have.