Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: First (as in original) (01/10/05)
I was alone.
The house had been quiet when I entered. My children remained oblivious to my presence, lost in electronic games. Amber was on the deck behind the master suite. She was facing the horizon, her eyes searching the waters and shoreline, her auburn hair blowing about her shoulders. I found that I was drawn towards her, memories of our college courtship still fresh in my mind as if they had taken place moments before and were not two decades removed. But I remained blocked from the side of the woman I married as surely as if an invisible wall had been erected between us. I turned towards the closet to change.
She was sitting on the floor when I returned. Her eyes were wide for a moment then clouded as if a pall had been laid over her heart. Her shoulders deflated and sagged as the corner of her mouth twisted into the beginnings of a berating smirk. Her gaze drifted away as countless festering marital lesions began to suppurate and bleed.
Her lack of action left me hesitant, paralyzed with no direction, no ability to respond. I started to move towards the door but stopped and turned to face her once again. “I came home early,” I said, offering the statement as if it was a last desperate plea from a child about to be punished.
She turned, the wife of my youth, the one who pledged to grow old with me, my first love, and, blinking the accumulating moisture from her eyes shook her head. “No, no,” her breath caught and she inhaled with jagged sobs, “You came home late. It’s just too late.”
I flinched and turned away from Amber, now clutching her knees to her breast in an imploding fetal position. I looked to the sea and the sand, towards escape. The sun was fading as tendrils of fog began to slide in from the depths, entangling themselves with the lives of the earth bound. Seizing my keys, I stumbled down the stairs; no valorous actions or bold words, simply retreat. The children remained engaged in their computer games, unaware that their world had just collapsed into a heap of rubble.
I sat, abandoned, the cold moisture from the compacted sand seeping through my jeans and into my body, the hopeless yelps of a plaintive seal solitary in the deep filling the air. I trembled as the weight of my marriage pressed in on me. There was no reserve strength coming to shore up my weakened being. What little life that remained was spilling from me and vanishing into the inky depths of the ever rolling tide. My body began to shake and my lungs heaved into shattering sobs, the salt on my cheeks no longer wholly from the spray.
I prayed aloud that the tribulation would be removed from me in one way or another. That things would either end or be restored, but that life in the transition not continue to wound. My words, however, were swallowed by the constant crashing of the waves and the cries of the herons returning to their nests. It seemed that nobody had heard me and I could not comprehend why I had been forsaken in my darkest hour.
I hurt, as if I had been assaulted or my body was disintegrating into nothing. Every nerve ending was firing as hopelessness consumed me. It was beyond any comprehension remaining in my gnarled mind how two lives might become so tightly knit that the mere possibility of separation could cast such an acidic spray of suffering. If my marriage was dead, why, then, was I continuing to weep not as if for the loss, but rather for the continued rending? From beyond my vision a family of seals barked, hurling their collective voices across the swells and my thoughts turned towards Amber and the misery we shared.
Hope. Was there any remaining for me? For Amber? For us? I could not be certain. I knew only that where there was pain, life still existed and where life remained perhaps hope kept a tenuous grasp. I rose and swiped the moisture from my cheeks.
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