“And they lived, happily ever after.” I slammed the book shut. “What the Fuck is this shit? Must be some hopeless dream they feed to little girls.” The princess book was flung across the living room, and thudded as it slammed against the wall. I sat there in the crook of the couch, and stared at it lying on the floor. My arms were crossed, and I surveyed the room around me. Nothing was different; it had been the same for the past few weeks. The clock just tolled midnight. It chimed twelve times before I said, “Goodnight.” I spoke to an empty living room. The only company I kept with me in this shell of a house was the furniture now. I lived alone for a reason. The things that once consumed my world were ripped away from me. The fabric of my being was worn, and it was hard to keep the loose ends tucked in. Loved ones tried to stitch me up, but it was futile. I sighed, feeling the emptiness take over, as the room went to sleep. I slipped out from underneath the blanket that held me, and left it on the couch like usual. I shut off the lamp beside the couch, and crept up the stairs to the empty bed.
As I walked up, I could remember him coming up behind me, smacking my ass lightly. I’d startle a little, and let out a giggle. He’d continue past me, and make a run for the bedroom, and I would usually chase him, “Can’t catch me slow poke.” The memories, oh if only I could live in them forever. I walked into the bedroom, to find nobody. Why would there be. He was dead. His ashes were buried at Washelli Evergreen Cemetery here in Seattle. Our daughter was laid to rest beside him. I looked in the direction of her room; the nausea hit me like a curveball. I shut my bedroom door, and shimmied my jeans off tossing them in the laundry hamper. I slid out of my shirt, and reached behind me undoing the clasps on my bra. As I touched the cups, the warmth of his hands were there. “I can’t keep my hands off of you.” I smiled cocking my head to the side exposing my neck. “Alright then so don’t’ then.” I sighed, and dropped my bra on the floor. I pulled one of his t-shirts out of his dresser, and pulled it on. It still held his scent. The smell of Armani’s Acqua Di Gio still clung to the shirt. I walked around to my side of the bed, and pulled back the covers lying down.
I just stared out the window. I had to be up in a few hours, but sleep wasn’t coming to me. “It’s not supposed to be like this. Things were supposed to be different.” I shifted my eyes to my nightstand. I looked at the metal band, that once meant so much lying on the nightstand. It never moved it was just a dormant reminder of the vows we made, “Until death do us part.” That vow came all too quick. The picture of the smiling happy couple didn’t reflect what mood this house now held. I was broken hearted. I was alone. I just didn’t care anymore.
I laid there feeling the warmth, as the tear slid down my cheek. I had to stop it now, or more would come. I couldn’t afford the time for a good cry. I had too much to get done. Crying wouldn’t solve anything anyways. It would leave me with a soaking wet pillowcase, and a headache that’s worse than one from a hangover. This headache would be a reminder of the pain I was desperately trying to avoid. I was not ready to deal with this. It had been a month since it happened. People slowly stopped the whole caring act, and went back to normal life. They’d not lost anyone. I was the one who’d lost something that meant so much to me. My life was changed in an instant. It was like flipping on a light switch. It happened that quickly. I can still hear it, “HONK! Esme, Am…” Faintly the beep, beep, beep from the heart monitor. “Mrs. Guthrie are you ready?” the doctors voice was all I heard. Then it went black.
“Esme, Esme?” A voice roused me from my sleep. “Unless it’s an emergency, why are you waking me up?” The soft voice, and very cheerful which was all too familiar, wasn’t giving up. “You asked for a ride today? Remember the appearance you’re doing at the Coffee Shop. You said, “Alice, can you drive me please? I don’t want to drive.” I stretched, groaning. Shit! I had asked her, hadn’t I? “What time is it?” She sat on the edge of the windowsill, “7:45 am. You have to be there at 10:00am.” I sighed, and kicked the covers off. I looked behind me, but the other side of the bed empty as usual.”It’s not fare. What did they do to deserve it?”I whispered, and then sat up. Alice looked at me, “Listen beautiful they didn’t deserve it. None of you did. I look at it as though, they served their purpose for the time, and God needed them as angels.” Soft pink rose lips smiled at me. Warm chocolate brown eyes twinkled. Her black spiky hair didn’t move as she cocked her head to one side. She looked so good. I knew she was beautiful, but today, she looked amazing. I looked at her. “Please don’t say that to me. I can’t believe it.” She nodded, “I understand love. I’m sorry. I was just trying to help.” She hopped up, and went to my closet.
I got to my feet, and shuffled to the bathroom. I shut the door behind me, and went to use the toilet. I sat there, and let my head fall back. “Don’t fall asleep in there.” Alice’s voice always gave away when she was just on the edge of a chuckle. A small smile made an appearance on my face. It wasn’t the understudy stepping in for my regular smile. This was a genuine one. It took a lot of energy to bring it to life. Something about Alice brought it to life. She’s been by my side through some of my toughest times. She meant everything to me.
I closed the toilet lid carefully, making sure it didn’t make a loud thud. It wasn’t like Alice never used the bathroom herself. Ever since the accident, every noise seemed like it was amplified. A simple cough, sounded to me, like a jet flying over head rather low. It would be long, and drawn out. I flushed the toilet, and washed my hands scrupulously. I made sure to get under my nails, and washed vigorously. By the time I finished, they were bright red. They still didn’t feel clean, but I dried them off before I quietly pried myself from my clothing. A shiver danced down my spine raising every single hair on my body. That old expression of, “Someone just stepped on your grave.” ran through my head, “Who the hell comes up with this gruesome crap.” Her voice was right outside the door, “What’s that Hun?” I told her, “That old expression of, “Someone just stepped on your grave.” Once she heard me she responded with, “Old ladies back in the day to scare people.” I shook my head.
I turned to the shower turning it on. “Well good morning beautiful” Warm; soft lips were kissing my shoulder. They worked their way up to my neck, just below my ear lobe. “You have to be careful, I’m married. We can’t have my husband finding us. He’s mean when he’s angry.” I could feel his lips curl up against my skin, as he grinned, “Well he doesn’t need to know about our naughty showers, now does he?” I laughed turning around.
I was standing there alone, and cold. I gently lifted the cross that hung around my neck, and ran my thumb across the adornment on it. It was his cross. He wore it every day, and never took it off. So why hadn’t it worked that day. I slowly brought it up to my lips, placing a soft kiss on it, a lump swelled in my throat threatening to cut off my air, so I let sob escape. The tears were there, so I stared up at the ceiling. It was a technique that I used to prevent myself from crying. It was hard to explain what I was doing, when people asked, “I’m just examining the ceiling for structural support is all.” I let the cross fall against my chest, and whispered, “I miss you both so much.” I moved the shower curtain slightly turning on the water, and let it heat up. When it was warm enough, I flipped it to the shower setting and climbed in. It was the smell of his body wash, and the baby soap that was my daughters, that filled the small compartment I showered in. I still hadn’t thrown the items out. I couldn’t bear to yet. The wounds were still so raw, and fresh. The adrenaline coursed through my body, leaving me numb. I grabbed the shampoo and poured some in my shaking hand, and lathered up my hair. I stood there with my eyes closed, massaging my scalp. I tried to release the tension that was already building. I stood under the water rinsing the suds out until the water ran clear. It still felt weird washing such short hair. After the accident, I cut off my long beautiful chocolate hair. It used to sit above my ass; now it was just over my shoulder. I wanted to change who I was. I wasn’t the happy Esme anymore. I was a bitter woman, who’d had her whole life stolen away from her, in the blink of an eye.
I grabbed the tooth brush, and tooth paste, and started brushing my teeth. I did everything in the shower now, when I was getting ready. I avoided the bathroom as much as possible. I refused to brush my teeth at the sink now. Scott used to stand in the door way smiling, watching me. I remember when I must have been about seven months pregnant, I was having a bad day. I felt horrible. Nothing felt comfortable anymore. Clothes didn’t fit properly, and I was very emotional. “I hate this. I look like a beached whale.” He unfolded his arms, and walked in the bathroom, and over to me. “You’re a beautiful pregnant woman, carrying the most beautiful gift in the world, HUMAN LIFE.” He gently placed his left hand on my stomach, and it made me smile. After that every day, he stood with me, even after Amy was born.
“I have such a beautiful wife. How did I ever get so lucky?” he’d ask. I winked, “It’s all in what our hearts desire, and what we pleasure.” He smacked my ass, “Such a smart mouth, on a sassy woman. I love that about you.” He kissed me with such passion; it made my heart pound against my swollen breasts. “Shit, I’m going to end up ripping my shirt like the Hulk in a moment.” He smirked against my lips, never removing them, “Maybe that’s the goal. You have five minutes before you have to leave.” I slid my arms around his neck, and let my fingers slide upwards through his hair. His hands slid down my hips, and he lifted me up onto the bathroom counter, and I sat right on the edge. “I want to fuck the shit out of you right now. Just call out sick please.” He begged, nipping my bottom lip with his teeth. I laughed, “I can’t. I need to get back. My maternity leave is up.” He leaned in pressing his crotch against mine. He was close to my lips, “Well with the way I want you, you’ll be on leave again soon enough.” I let my head fall back, and a burst of laughter serenaded the bathroom.
Knock, knock, knock, “Hey girl come on. I want to get going, and get some coffee. You don’t seem to believe in the stuff anymore. I was pulled from the memory, and I shut off the water, and drew the plastic curtain back, “I do believe in coffee, and I just haven’t gone shopping.” That was a lie. I had gone shopping, well attempted to. The panic attack was so bad; I left the store in tears, and sat in the parking lot for forty five minutes crying. I snagged the towel off the rack wrapping it around my body. I grabbed another towel, wrapping my hair up. I twisted the end, and tucked it underneath the towel so it wouldn’t fall. I opened the door, and the steam quickly emerged to the hall way, escaping the small bathroom where it had been held captivity. “I’ve already picked out an outfit for you. I’m doing your makeup, and hair. No bitching. Just shut up, and relax. I love you, and you deserve to look good, and be pampered.”
I walked into my bedroom. On the bed, she’d laid out a pair of tight fitting dark blue jeans, and a grey long sleeve blouse. She rummaged through my closet and grabbed a pair of red flats. “You needed something to make this outfit pop.” I pulled out the understudy smile once again. “You’re doing it again, and I’m not stupid.” Alice moved in-front of me. I looked at her, “It happens. Sometimes the star, well it can’t shine. That’s why there’s an understudy.” She threw my panties and bra at me. “Get dressed now. I’m not going to look don’t worry. Well you are my type, but you’ve gone through enough recently.” She smiled turning around, and was back in my closet. “You need something to make it pop, a necklace?” I muttered, “One that hangs around something suspending me from it.” She held onto the door frame, poking her head out, “Don’t talk like that. I love you, and that’s what matters. Your parents would be heartbroken.” I sighed, and got dressed.
Once I’d dressed, she quietly brushed my hair, and then styled it carefully. “This new length and look suits you.” I just raised my eyebrows, and nodded. I made a drastic change once it all happened. Cutting my hair, and layering it was something I’d never do.“Alright, let’s go doll face.” She showed me to the mirror. “Well?” I forced the Broadway smile. “Alicel you did an amazing job thank you.” She hugged me, “Oh I’m glad you like it.” After that we were on the road, reluctance and all.
We were set up just inside this little shop. “Esme, here’s some sharpies in case you need to sign stuff. We’re expecting a fairly large turnout. We did a poll for fun on our Facebook page. It was 86% were coming to see you. So you’re our hit. Your fans have missed you.” Steve smiled at me. He was older than me by a little bit. He was mid thirties, and married with two children. He had wavy, thick brown hair, and crystal blue eyes. Steve was always incredibly sweet, and handsome. He was also the producer of my show. I wouldn't have minded a work place relationship, but he was gay. When I did an appearance, he’d usually tag along.
I looked around the shop, “This will fill up fast I bet.” Jen nodded, “Yep, so we brought extra stuff.” Alice smiled, “Excuse me. Esme’s a sadist and doesn’t believe in coffee in her home. I will be right back." Steve and Jen laughed. “I would have been back to work sooner but,” Jen cut me off, “You needed the time off, and to rest. I even think personally it’s a bit early. You’ve gone through a lot.” I sighed knowing she was right. “The back will take some time to get completely back to normal. It’s still stiff in the morning.” Steve looked at me, “You know what she means.” I nodded, “Can we not talk about it right now. I’ve had a rough morning.” He hugged me, “Of course Hun.” I returned the hug. “Coffee anyone?” Alice came over with four cups, handing each of us one. “Thank you ma’am.” she came around behind the table, and sat down.
“So what are you up to after this show?” Jen asked. “I need to go look at cars. The rental is up in a week.” I looked down playing with the lid on my cup. Scott’s car had died the month before the accident, so we were waiting on car shopping, and working with one car. It was working out for us. He’d drop me off in the morning, and pick me up. While I was at work, he’d take Amy to the park, go shopping, and attend story time. He was great with her. All the things I was too busy working to join in on. Scott worked from home. He was a freelance writer, and was a damn good one at that. He would work while Amy was napping. I would catch him making voice memos on his phone, and then translating them later into the computer after she’d gone to bed. He originally was an English teacher, but once she was born, became a stay at home dad. His student’s already missed him. They thought he was the greatest. He helped run the drama department once he left. They were getting ready to do their first show of the year. They voted on doing Rent. Once they heard what had happened, they decided to continue with what Scott had designed already. They’d asked if I could help with set designs, and I agreed.
“So do you have any idea what kind of car you’re looking at?” I looked up, “Actually one really keeps grabbing my attention. My rental is a Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo. I love the thing. It’s spacious, and comfortable.” Alice rubbed my back. She could tell it bothered me. “I’m ok I promise. I won’t have a meltdown. I’ve not really cried. I’m more angry then anything.” Steve and Jen both looked at me, “Everyone needs time to grieve. There’s no expected amount of time it should be done in. Just let us know, and we’ll work with you. We’re family.” I smiled, “Thank you.” I hadn’t held a memorial service for them yet. We’d had a wake, but that was it. I couldn’t do them together, it was just too much. There was a huge turnout. I swear every student who ever had him, showed up. I still was working on the service. It would be in the beginning of January. My body had just been through too much. We chose to do a closed casket wake, because they didn’t look like themselves. Amy’s, oh god it was so small. No one should have to ever see one. It was white, and Scott’s was black. The caskets sat, one in front of the other. Like a father and daughter holding hands. Amy’s had Lily’s around hers. Scott’s were combinations of different arrangements.
The door’s opened, and snapped me from my memories. People shuffled in, and out. There were so many people. At least a hundred showed up within the first hour. The teenagers and the phrase of, “Oh my god.” aggravated me so easily. It wore on my nerves, but I smiled and dealt with it. “Esme, I love your show. You’re so funny.” Was one on the comments I received. Then I received a, “You’re so pretty.” I took countless pictures, and signed multiple items we were giving away. I whispered to Steve, “I’m a radio disc jockey, not a movie star.” He laughed, whispering back, “You’re one of the few afternoon radio show’s left in the area.” That was true. My fans had known what had happened. They didn’t say much. I received condolences on my page, and even in person. "I’m so glad you're back. I’ve missed hearing you.” These were my fans.
It had been in the news, “Devastation on Interstate 90 Express at Exit 8. Two killed. Several others injured.” The headlines were burned into my memory. I remembered this particular one. “Esme Guthrie of WBKP's afternoon show was seriously injured in a multi car, accident on Interstate 90 Express on Saturday morning. Leaving two dead and several injured. Police arrested the drunk driver on the spot. Michael Lexusa, 21 was three times over the legal limit.” It was a car accident. Yes it was bad, but why the news. I just wanted to pretend it never happened. “Excuse me Ms. Guthrie.” I turned around to find a woman, holding a bouquet of Calla Lilies out to me. “I wanted to give you my most sincere condolences. I’ve been praying for you, and your family.” I walked around, and gave her a hug, “Thank you,” She smiled, “I’m Leah Clearwater, well Leah Emerson soon. I’ve listened to you, as long as you’ve been on the radio. I remember when you were on over nights. I smiled, “That’s dedication.” She smiled, “I worked overnights at Sweedish Medical Center in the ER. I’m a nurse.” I smiled, “Well glad to know I kept you company at night.” She smiled, “Can we talk privately?” I looked at Steve, “Give me a few.” He nodded, “Of course.” I stepped out from behind the folding table we had set up.
We walked to a more private area. “So what did you want to talk about?” She looked at me, “I was working when you came into the emergency room back on September 13th. I was one of the nurses, who worked on your husband.” I looked at her, “You took care of Scott?” She nodded, “Scott Guthrie, 28 of Seattle, Wa.” I covered my mouth, “Oh my god.” She just nodded, “I’m so sorry about your little girl.” I swallowed the lump that had crept up in my throat, “Amy.” She looked at me, “I’m so sorry. I wasn’t trying to upset you.” I hugged her, “No I’m glad we’ve met.” Jen looked at me, “They were both too young.” I agreed, “Amy was 6 months old. She was in her car seat properly. We had in checked out by the fire department. The impact was too much.” Leah had tears streaming down her cheeks. “Oh please don’t cry Hun. I have two beautiful guardian angels.” She sighed, “Well just know, you’re always in my prayers.” I hugged her again, “Thank you for being with him. I was afraid he was alone.” She reassured me, “Neither of them felt any pain. They weren’t alone. I wanted to say, that they’re not gone. They’re in the beauty that God show’s us every day.” I nodded, “Listen, I need to get back, but thank you for introducing yourself. Anytime you want to chat, call me at the station, or message me on Facebook.” She smiled, “Here’s my number, just in case you need someone to talk to.” I took the piece of paper, and slipped it in my pocket, and returned to the table with my flowers.“Is everything ok?” Steve asked. I nodded, and continued to pass out stuff, and sign a few things.
It was 1:00pm, and we had packed everything up. “Alright, so Monday you’re back?” I nodded, “Yep. I will see you then.” Steve stopped me, “Hey who was that lady you spoke to?” I looked at him, “She was the nurse that was taking care of Scott, and Amy. She wanted to offer her condolences." I forced a smile. Steve looked at me, "Esme," I cut him off, “Now I will see you Monday.” I tossed the Sharpie Marker at him, and walked out of the coffee shop. “Esme, wait up.” Alice called after me. I kept walking until I got to her car, and climbed in the passenger’s seat. She quickly hopped in the driver’s seat, “Breath sweetie.” She rubbed my back, as I rested my head against the dash board. “He wasn’t alone. Neither was Amy” I whispered. “No they weren’t babe.” I let Alice pull me into her small arms. I let the Broadway smile, and its understudy fade away. The true colors had come out, and I couldn’t stop them.