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When Angels Cry

 

 

July 29, 2006

Chris Bennett collapsed onto his bed, exhausted. After three long hours, his daughter Carrie had finally gone to sleep. She kept asking when Mommy was coming back, and couldn't understand why she wasn't. Chris turned onto his side and gently touched his wife's pillow. Even after three days, it was hard for him to believe that Grace wasn't coming home again. He closed his eyes as he hugged the pillow to himself. Only five days ago, she had been alive, and today he had buried her. He sighed. All he wanted was to have this day be over. He rolled over to turn off the lamp on Grace's nightstand, and froze with his hand half way to the switch. Lying next to the lamp was Grace's diary, exactly where she had left it before she died. He slowly picked it up, and opened it randomly, almost crying at this last tangible piece of his wife. He turned to the first entry in the worn book, and let himself remember. It seemed just like yesterday.

September 22, 1999

Dear Diary,

Okay, had you asked me after high school graduation who I would be dating my freshman year, the answer would not have been Christopher Bennett. We have been best friends since preschool, I have been in love with him since kindergarten, and yet he never seemed to notice me in that girl sense. Well, not until last Saturday, anyway. We were in my dorm room, watching an old movie just like we do every weekend, and something changed. He looked at me, I looked at him, and we kissed. Just like that. No fanfare, no warning, nothing. It was everything I had expected, and more. It was a little weird after that, but we finished the movie, and he left, giving me another kiss on his way out. I, of course, called Beth the minute he left. She's been my best girlfriend since junior high school, and she's wanted Chris and I together for years. She was really excited for us. Now, we just need to get Daniel to realize that he loves Beth as much as she does him, and the four of us will be set. He's too uptight about the age difference, though, even though it's only about ten years. Okay, so maybe that is a lot right now, but they are perfect for each other. We've known Daniel ever since he moved into the house between Beth and I four years ago, and he's always been more of a friend than anything else. Well, anyway, later that night, Chris and I talked about what happened, and we both agreed that it is something that we want. So, there it is. After all these years, I am finally able to tell Chris that I love him. Took me long enough!

July 26, 2001

Dear Diary,

I can't believe it! Chris proposed to me today. Proposed! I'm getting married! I'm just so excited. Our perfect day started this afternoon. . .

"Hey, Gracie!" Chris called out as he let himself into the apartment Grace shared with Beth. He spent so much time there, they had given him his own key.

"I'll be right down," Grace shouted. "I'm almost ready!"

"Okay!" he called back, and settled himself on the living room couch. Beth walked in from the kitchen, eating an apple, and sat down next to him.

"So?" she asked impatiently. "Are you going to do it?"

Chris pulled a small black velvet box out of his pocket and handed it to his friend. "For better or worse."

Beth opened the case and gasped. "Oh, my God." She lifted the sparkling diamond solitaire ring and examined it in the sunlight. "Chris, this is gorgeous! It must be a, what, full carat diamond? How in the world did you afford this?"

He took the ring back, putting it in the case, and slid it into his pocket. "It was my mom's. I got it after she died."

She smiled as she tucked a lock of her long brown hair behind her ear. "Your mom always did love Grace. I bet she'd be happy to know it was going to her. But are you sure you want to propose now?" she asked carefully. "I mean, you guys aren't even done with college yet."

"I'm sure, Beth," he said with more confidence than he felt. "Gracie and I are meant to be together. We've been in love with each other practically since we could walk, even if it took me a little longer to realize it. We've already spent a lifetime together. It was just a matter of time until we decided to spend the rest of our lives together."

Beth smiled wistfully. There were times when she envied Chris and Grace, and this was one of them.

Just then, Grace came bounding down the stairs and headed over to Chris. "Hey, sweetie," she smiled, leaning down to kiss him. "So, where are we going?"

"Nope, not telling," he said, kissing her nose. "Where we're going is a surprise. Ready?"

"Ready, Freddy," she giggled, pulling him off the couch. "Bye, Beth!" Beth waved as the laughing duo headed out the door.

"Please tell me where we're going?" Grace pleaded as they drove down the street in Chris's car.

"Uh-uh," Chris shook his head. "No hints, little one. Just wait."

"Oh, you're no fun," she pouted, leaning over to turn the radio on. She played with the stations until she found something she liked. "Oh! I love this song!" she said excitedly, cranking the volume up as she sang along, only a little off key.

Chris watched her out of the corner of his eye as she continued singing, wondering how he had gotten so lucky to have her in his life. 'Goin' to the Chapel' was the next song, and Chris prayed that it was a good omen as Grace continued to sing along.

Nearly an hour later, they had arrived at their destination. Grace looked around at the clearing of the forest where they had stopped. There was something familiar about it. "Oh!" She clapped her hands. "Second grade camp-out," she said excitedly. "Remember? Of course you do, you brought me here. God, I was terrified of the things that go bump in the night, and you let me share your sleeping bag. Is that my surprise? Are we going to have another camp-out?" She bounced excitedly in her seat, her short red curls bouncing with her.

Chris smiled at her animation. "In a way. Over there," he pointed, "is a cabin, which is where we'll have our camp-out. Sound good?"

"Sounds very good," Grace smiled, leaning to give him a quick kiss before jumping out of the car. "Come on! Let's go," she said happily.

He reached into the back seat to pull a duffel bag full of clothes he had packed for them, and exited the car. He caught up with his girlfriend and walked her back to the cabin.

Chris pulled the key out of his pocket, and opened the door with a flourish. "After you, milady," he said with an exaggerated bow. Giggling, she curtsied back and walked into the cabin. He followed her inside and dropped the bag on the ground. "So, what do you think?" he asked nervously.

"It's beautiful, Chris," she said, spinning around to see everything. "This is so cool. Look at the size of that fireplace!"


He grinned again. "I'm glad you like it." He glanced to his left. "Did you see the kitchen yet?"

"Uh-uh," she said, and headed over. She opened the refrigerator and gasped. "Chris! Oh, my word. Look at all this stuff!"

He walked over behind her. "It's for our picnic," he said, taking the bottle of wine out. "In front of the fireplace."

She turned to smile at him. "Sounds perfect."

They set up the picnic and sat in front of the fireplace, watching the flames dance. Music was playing softly on a small boom box Chris had brought with. "Happy?" Chris asked, dropping a small kiss on Grace's hair.

She smiled contentedly. "Yeah. Very happy," she told him, snuggling against him.

He took a deep breath, and slipped the small box out of his coat pocket behind him. Not giving himself a chance to chicken out, he pushed in front of Grace.

"Chris?" she questioned. "What's this?" At his direction, she opened it and gasped. "Oh!"

He pushed himself up and knelt in front of her. She slowly sat up, not taking her eyes from the diamond ring. He gently took the box out of her hands and held up the ring. "Grace, sweetie, I love you so much. Will you marry me?"

"Oh!" she said again, stunned. "Oh, Chris." He waited with bated breath. "Yes! Chris, yes! Yesyesyesyesyes!" she said excitedly, starting to giggle with happiness. She held her hand out, and he slid the ring on her finger. Their eyes met, and matching smiles of joy appeared on their faces.

"Wow," Chris said, amazed. "We're engaged."

"Yep, we are," Grace agreed.

They looked at each other. "Took us long enough!" they said in unison, starting to laugh.

November 20, 2001

Dear Diary,

I can't believe it! This is just unbelievable. Unbelievable in a good way, but still unbelievable. What's unbelievable, you ask? We're going to have a baby! I'm 11 weeks pregnant. Isn't that awesome? Luckily, I won't be showing until after the wedding, which is only 27 days away. I think Chris was more shocked than I was when I told him. : )

December 17, 2001

Dear Diary,

Well, it's official. I am now Mrs. Andrew Jarvis Bennett!! "Hello, I'm Mrs. Bennett. Grace Bennett. Grace Hanson Bennett. Grace H. Bennett." Okay, yeah, I still need to decide on that. It can wait, though. I don't have much time right now. Chris went out to get me and Little Bit a cheeseburger and cheese fries. I had a craving, what can I say?

The wedding was beautiful. Beth was my maid of honor and Daniel was Chris's best man. Beth and I found the most perfect dress for me—it was very simple, with a plain white bodice, short sleeves, and a full skirt with a lace overlay. Simple is good when you're only 5'2". You don't want the dress wearing you! Beth's pale blue dress was a little more form fitting and slinky, but I decided I didn't want to dress her in something she hated, so she wouldn't do the same to me when she had a chance. It was a small ceremony and reception. Neither Chris nor I have very large families, and we both just invited a few other friends from college.

College. I have no idea what I'm going to do now. I'll finish off at least this year, since the baby's due in June, but what about after that? Chris and I have decided to take the Scarlett O'Hara approach and think about that tomorrow, but eventually we have to decide what to do. For now, we're living in mine and Beth's apartment, and she moved into Daniel's guestroom. We're still hoping he realizes that she's not a kid anymore, but it's slow going. Oh, goody! Chris is back. More later!

 

March 7, 2002

Dear Diary,

Chris and I saw our baby today! I keep looking at the sonogram picture in amazement. We made this baby. And it's perfect. We're starting to talk about names now. If it's a boy, we both like the names David and Jeremy. If it's a girl, I kinda want to name her Jennifer or Jana, but Chris prefers Emily or Rebecca. We'll figure it out eventually. We still have a few months, so it's still Little Bit for now. What we do know is that we want Beth and Daniel to be godparents.

Speaking of Daniel. He's just been wonderful. Chris has a job in the afternoons and evenings now, so I go to his house after my classes are over. They're both being so protective of the baby and me. I told them I can take care of myself, but they'll have none of that. A few days ago, I was talking to him about the problem of what I'll do with school after Little Bit was born. He actually suggested that he would take care of her! (Okay, no, we don't know the sex yet, but I can't help referring to the baby as a girl, because "it" seems too impersonal.) I told him that he was crazy, because even though he worked at home, he still needed to get work done. He said he could easily write during her naps and after she went home, and could even record ideas on a cassette as he took care of her. I guess it's definitely an option, and I can't think of anyone I trust more than Daniel to take care of her if Chris and I can't be there. I think he regrets that he never found someone to marry and have children with, and our baby is the closest that he'll ever come to a child of his own. Maybe it is the best idea, for all of us.

 

June 21, 2002

Dear Diary,

I'm a mommy!! I thought this day would never, ever come, even though the doctor warned me that she would probably be late. These two weeks since my due date have been horrible! But Miss Caroline Emily Bennett was born at 8:56 pm today, weighing in at 7 pounds, 11 ounces. So far, she has my red hair, but with blue eyes, which the nurses say will probably change colors soon. Caroline is one of the names we could actually agree on. Emily was starting to really grow on me, but then Chris saw this name and we both fell in love with it. I think we're going to call her Carrie. Our little Care-bear. : ) I was with Daniel and Beth this morning when I went into labor, and Chris met us at the hospital. They waited all day in the waiting room, and didn't leave until they'd gotten a chance to hold her. Carrie and Chris are sleeping now—she's staying in the room with me. He was holding her in the chair next to my bed, her little body curled up on his chest, and she fell asleep, and he followed soon after. And now I think it's my turn. I'm really tired, but I wanted to get this all written down. I'm just so happy!

September 3, 2002

Dear Diary,

I had no idea it would be so hard to leave Carrie with Daniel to go to school today. It was the first time I would be away from her for so many hours, and it nearly killed me. I think it nearly killed Daniel, too. It took me almost half and hour to actually leave his house today, and then I called almost every fifteen minutes after that. I tried to cut my afternoon classes, but he wouldn't let me. He actually put her on the phone with me to demonstrate that she really was doing well. And she was. She loves Daniel a lot, and is so comfortable with him since they saw each other so much over the summer. It was much more traumatic for me than for her, and there has got to be something wrong with that. But this was a good idea. I just hope it goes easier on me tomorrow.

 

January 13, 2003

Dear Diary,

I'm so happy for Beth and Daniel! They're finally, finally getting married. They don't want a huge wedding, so Chris, Carrie, Beth's mother Anne, and I are going to go with them to see the Justice of the Peace tomorrow for the ceremony. Anne is disappointed that there won't be a big wedding, but Beth and Daniel just want to be married.

Carrie's going to be the flower girl, at "Aunt" Beth's insistence. Well, not quite a flower girl. Carrie has this thing about eating everything she touches, so she'll be the Zwie-back girl. I swear, Beth is like a second mother to her. Then again, Daniel is like a second father, so it's fitting. Whenever Chris and I need a night to ourselves, they're always there, willing to take care of Carrie for us. I don't know how we would deal without them.

January 15, 2006

Dear Diary,

I'm numb. Just completely numb. Beth died today. She and Daniel were just crossing the street to get to their car after a movie last night, and someone hit her. They didn't even stop. Even as I write it, it doesn't seem real. Nothing seems real, anymore. I can see Carrie playing with her dolls in the corner, and Chris is on the phone with his boss, telling him why he won't be in for awhile, but it's like a dream. Daniel is just devastated, as is Anne. Beth was too full of life to be killed, and yet here we are, and she isn't. When Anne called us early this morning, all I could do was run into Carrie's room and hug her with all my might. I can't bear the idea of ever losing her, and yet that's exactly what Anne has to face now. I think of Daniel, all alone now, and I can't imagine life without Chris, either. He's my other half, truly part of me. Maybe I don't show him that enough, but we're both so busy. If he died, I don't know what I would do. I would just crumble, because he's my life support.

March 3, 2006

Dear Diary,

It doesn't end. Why doesn't it ever end? It's been almost three months since Beth died. I've been feeling run-down and tired lately, but I figured it was because I was grieving for Beth, and expending so much energy helping Daniel and Chris. Then, I thought that maybe I was pregnant again, so I went to the doctor for some tests. Who would have thought that it would be cancer, and it was my turn to die?

"Chris?" Grace walked into their bright house and looked around, not seeing anything. "Chris?" she called again.

He poked his head out of the kitchen door. "Hey, sweetie." He walked over and kissed her. "How did the doctor's appointment go?"

Grace dropped her jacket on the couch, not quite meeting his eyes. "Where's Carrie?" she asked.

"Daniel came by to take her to the park," he said slowly. "Gracie, what's wrong? What did the doctor say?" She didn't say anything, and a feeling of dread started in the pit of his stomach. "Gracie? Grace, honey, you're scaring me. What did she say?"

Silently, she took his hand and sat him down on the couch. "They ran some tests, Chris," she said, staring at the floor. She raised her head and met his eyes. "It's cancer. They showed me the results of last week's tests and today's."

Chris felt as if he had been punched in the stomach. "What?" he whispered. "No. No way."

She nodded. "I know. That's what I said. But no, it's true. I need to start chemo next week."

He sat there, stunned. Then, a look of determination passed over his face. "We'll beat this, Grace. We're not going to let it get you. End of story."

She wanted to believe him so badly. She finally nodded. "Okay. You're right. We can do this. I won't let it beat me." Tears suddenly filled her eyes. "But that doesn't mean I'm not scared out of my mind."

He quickly leaned forward and pulled her toward him. "I know," he said softly, holding her as she cried. "Me, too."

March 9, 2006

Dear Diary,

I started chemo today. I'm doing it on an outpatient basis so I can be there for Carrie during the day, like she's used to. I've always worked at home, because it never did get easier for me to leave her with Daniel. Luckily, right after graduation, I had been able to find a small computer company that was so excited to get me, that they didn't care if I worked at home or in Timbuktu, as long as I worked for them. Greg, my boss, was great when I told him about the cancer. My job will be there as long as I'm here, he said. I never imagined I could be so tired, though. I'm in bed now. I had to call Daniel to get Carrie and take her to the library. She can't see me like this. I wish I hadn't forced Chris to go to work today. I need him.

March 10, 2006

Dear Diary,

No sooner did I finish that entry, than Chris was home. He said he could tell that I needed him, so he came home early and arranged for Carrie to stay with Daniel for awhile, until I get my strength back up. I talked with her on the phone last night and again this morning. I think a visit with her is exactly what Daniel needs right now. He hasn't been the same since Beth died, just walking around like he was dead inside, and telling him about my cancer didn’t help things at all.

I can't believe how much better I feel now that Chris's here. He knows exactly what I need, whether it's a hug, some sleep, or just a little bit of food. He's so amazingly optimistic that I can't help feeling that he's right, and I will get through this. I'm so much stronger when I have him by my side. He says he feels the same way.

April 25, 2006

Dear Diary,

Chemo didn't work. I still have cancer. I'm cancerous. Chris keeps telling me to think positive, but it's so hard. Chris was there with me this time at the doctors. He kept saying that there had to be something else we could do. So, I start radiation treatment soon. When? As soon as I decide. Chris keeps pushing me to start Friday, but I need time to regroup. What if this doesn't work? I want to spend time with Carrie now, before my energy is depleted again.

I hate feeling so tired, so useless. I want to be with my daughter! Is that such a big thing to ask? I want to play with her, like we used to. Now, all I can manage is some small game while sitting down. No running, no going to the park and playing, unless someone is there with a car to bring me home when I get so exhausted, I almost collapse. How much does she understand about what's going on? What do you tell a three-year-old about a disease that may take away her mother ? Chris and I told her that Mommy is sick and has to take medicine that makes her very tired. Every time I have to tell her that I can't play with her, she gets so confused and hurt, and it just breaks my heart. Can she pick up on the tenseness and worry that are in Chris and Daniel's faces every time they see me? How much does she truly understand? And how will she take it if something does happen to me? These are questions that I don't even want to think about, but are constantly running through my head.

May 11, 2006

Dear Diary,

I'm worried about Chris. Sure, he wants to be positive and optimistic about my survival. I do, too. But I think it's gone a little farther than that. I don't think that he can even contemplate the fact that I might not make it. He doesn’t even really talk about cancer with me. I try all the time to get him to talk to me about how scared I am, how scared he is, but he can't. He leaves the room, he changes the subject, he goes to get Carrie. This diary is great, but I need to talk to someone! A person, who can respond to me, and tell me that it's okay to be scared. I need Chris to do that for me, and he can't. It's a weird feeling to not be able to count on him for something, anything, and I don’t like it.

May 29, 2006

Dear Diary,

Once again, Daniel to the rescue. He came over for a visit this morning, and I just lost it. All the frustration and anger and helplessness that has been building for six months finally just came out. He sent Carrie to play with one of her friends next door, and just held me while I cried and screamed out my rage. And when I was done, he didn't condemn me, or tell me I shouldn't feel so negative, he just told me that he understood. And he does. He knows how I feel helpless as the cancer slowly kills my body, just as he felt helpless as he watched Beth being hit by that car. All these bad things are happening, and we're powerless to stop it. He told me how he's felt these past months, and we cried together. It was nice feeling so close to someone again, but the whole time, I wished it was Chris. Chris hugging me, Chris crying with me, Chris telling me that he'll always be there for me when I need it. I don't understand why Chris just can't be there for me. If Daniel can, why can't he? He's my soulmate, my other half, the one who has always understood me in every way. Why can't he understand this?

June 13, 2006

Dear Diary,

I haven't really talked to Chris in weeks. I don't mean we're silent with each other. No, we talk, but I'd almost rather the silence. Everything we talk about is just inconsequential: what nice weather we're having, Carrie and Daniel are so good for each other, what a cute drawing Carrie made! The radiation treatment hurts so bad. I come home from the hospital, and I'm just dead tired and sick for at least two days. Daniel usually takes Carrie to her friend Megan's house, and he'll take care of me all day. He listens to me complain, he comforts me, he lets me cry, and he just generally does everything I used to be able to count on Chris for. We've gotten so much closer in the past week, it's just amazing. I thought I knew him before, but I learn something new about him everyday.

Today, we took Carrie to the zoo, and she just loved it. "Uncle" Daniel bought Carrie absolutely everything she wanted, but what's new there? : ) She adored the petting zoo, but her favorite place was the house of birds. She loved the hands-on experiences of creating her own bird, and following a path to simulate flying like a bird. The creation of the bird was so cool—she used a computer to choose different aspects of birds, from color, to feathers, to sex, and finally a species name (for which she chose Care-bear!). I'm just hoping Daniel doesn't give in and actually buy her a bird! It could go either way, though, and her birthday is next week. She has him wrapped around her little finger, and we all know it.

It was a great day, but it should have been Chris instead of Daniel.

June 21, 2006

Dear Diary,

Today was Carrie's birthday. I can't believe she's four already! She's getting so big. Because of our zoo visit last week, we had a bird themed party. It was small, of course. Her best friend Megan, two of her friends from morning summer camp, Daniel, Chris, and myself. I planned it all out so carefully, pretty much threw myself into it completely, because this could be the last birthday I get to spend with her. I know, I know, it sounds morbid, but it's something I have to consider. Because if I do die soon, I need to make all the wonderful memories I can. I want her to remember me, and how much I loved her. I'm trying to stay on the line between showing my love and outright spoiling her, but I don't think I'm doing such a good job at it. Let's put it this way—Daniel now half owns a bird with her. : ) It lives at his house, of course.

The party started at two, and lasted about an hour and a half. They are only four, much longer and we would have gone insane. I've been trying to rest a lot so I could be as close to my former self as possible. It worked, up to a point. Chris seemed really concerned about how often I had to sit down, but wouldn't say anything. Or maybe couldn't say anything, since it's because of the cancer. I don't think Carrie noticed it much. The moms who came to pick up their kids did, though. Not Jan, Megan's mom, but the others kept looking at me, and directed their comments and conversations to Chris only. Hello, people! I'm not dead yet, you know. But the important thing is that Chris and I gave Carrie a great party and a wonderful day, and she had a blast. In all of this, she is what matters most. Not Chris's inability to face reality, not the ignorant old biddies who picked up their kids today. Carrie matters, and the fact that she had a happy birthday is what counts in the long run.

July 2, 2006

Dear Diary,

The radiation didn't work. I saw the doctor today, and it didn't work. Not at all. It seems that I have a particularly virulent type of cancer that doesn't want to be cured, no matter what I want. The only other recourse, according to Dr. McFarland, is a bone-marrow transplant, which doesn't have very good odds. So, I made my decision. No more. I'm going to die. That's the constant. The variable is how I do it, and I'm not going to spend my last few weeks or months in the hospital or in so much pain, I would wish I was already dead. I'm going out in style, Gracie-style, and on my own terms. I told Daniel, and he said that he would support me. Now's the hard part. How do I tell my husband and daughter that I'm choosing to not fight to stay with them?

July 3, 2006

Dear Diary,

Chris won't talk to me. I told him about my decision last night, and he just froze. He told me, "It's up to you," in this icy voice I have never, ever heard from him, and he walked away. If he sees me, he leaves the room. I don't know how, but despite this, Carrie doesn't seem to know anything is wrong. He always knows the best thing to say to her. I don't think I've met a more natural father than he is. That's good, because Carrie's going to need him more than ever when I'm gone.

July 4, 2006

Dear Diary,

I went to see Daniel today. It was a hard visit, but long over due. He made me see that I was using him emotionally as a substitute for Chris, and he was doing the same to me, because he misses Beth so much. He was right, and I went home, where Chris and I had our own fireworks. Finally. Turns out it was just what we needed to get ourselves through this. . .

Grace was curled up in the corner of the living room couch with an old book, waiting for Chris to come home from grocery shopping. At least, that's where she thought he was. She hadn't quite heard his mumbled response to her question earlier that morning, and he hadn't given her time to ask again before leaving the house.

Half an hour later, Chris pulled into their driveway. He had indeed gone to the store, but had stopped at the park before shopping and stayed there for most of the morning. He and Grace had spent a lot of time there during their lives, both before and after Carrie was born, to relax and unwind. It was always fun acting like a child again, even for an hour, and remembering what they had been like before everything had changed.

Carrying the few bags to the door, he balanced them carefully and let himself in. He hadn't expected anyone to be home, and the sight of his wife curled up with a book, just like old times, threw him. Grace lowered the book when she heard the scrape of the key in the door.

"Hi, Chris," she said, trying to smile at him.

"Hi," he said shortly, walking into the kitchen to unpack the bags. She followed him and sat at the table.

"Get any goodies?" she tried again. He tossed a box of Ho-Hos at her and went on silently putting the groceries away. Grace noticed that some of the staples of the past few weeks, like wheatgrass juice, were missing. He must have given up on those last resort cancer treatments when she told him about her decision. She waited quietly for him to finish, and then followed him back out into the living room. He sat in the armchair while she chose to sit on the couch. He picked up the remote and then dropped it back onto the coffee table.

"Is there a reason you're following me around, Grace?" he asked, irritated.

"Yes."

"Well, are you going to enlighten me, or are you just going to sit there and stare at me all day?" he snapped.

"I went over to Daniel's today, and he made me see that there's something I should have done a long time ago. We really need to talk, Chris," she told him.

"About what, Grace?" he sighed.

"About everything. About our marriage, my cancer, and the fact that I'm going to die soon," she said matter of factly.

"I don't need to hear this, Grace." He jumped up from the chair and made to move from the room, shaking his head, but she was too fast, even in her weakened state. She pushed past the table and grabbed his arm, whipping him around to face her now angry face.

"No! Christopher, you are not running from this. Not anymore. Now you are going to sit down and you are going to talk to me!" To make her point clear, she shoved him down onto the couch and stood over him, green eyes blazing.

He looked up at her, stunned, even as his own anger rose. He had never seen her this angry before. "There's nothing to talk about, Grace. Yes, you have cancer, and you are choosing to die. What is there to talk about anymore?" he demanded.

"Everything! There is still everything to talk about! I am not choosing to die! Did you think that it was an easy decision for me? Do you think I want to leave my baby girl? Or you? I'm 25 years old! I don't want to die! But all of my choices were second best! There was no best decision. I was going to die painfully, drugged, and in the hospital or I was going to die me. And where the hell were you when I needed you to comfort me and help me? Certainly not here! Where were you, Chris?"

"You didn't need me! You were all Miss Self-sufficient!" he shouted back, jumping up to be face to face with her. "You've never needed anyone, Grace, and you know it."

"My God, Chris, how many years have you known me?" she yelled. "I've always needed you! Ever since we were kids and you would stick up for me! I have never not needed you, and you have never not been there for me until now! And I don't know why. Why couldn't you be here when I needed you?" She had stopped screaming and just looked at him, the tears beginning to stream down her face. "I need you, Chris. I always have," she whispered. "I'm so scared. Please don't leave me when I need you most."

Her tears finally pierced the wall he had built around himself. "Oh, God, Grace, I'm sorry," he said, sounding tired as he slumped back down onto the couch. "Come here. Please?" he asked, almost pleading, as she stood there. Finally she sat, and he hugged her close, almost crushing her in his need to finally hold her again. "I'm sorry, Gracie." He gently pulled her onto his lap, and rocked her slowly as she cried, his own tears now starting to fall. "I'm so sorry. I got so wrapped up in me, and you seemed to be fine with everything, always managing, and I forgot that you were just as scared of everything as I was." He tilted her head up and smiled shakily at her. "Forgive?"

Her tremulous smiled matched his. "Always, Chris. I love you."

He leaned in and kissed her. "I love you, too, Grace," he murmured. "Always and forever."

July 10, 2006

Dear Diary,

I can't believe the world of difference between Chris and me since the fourth. Today, we took Carrie to the zoo. It was just like old times. Well, except I needed to sit down more. Daniel comes over everyday to stay with Carrie for even just a short while so Chris and I have time to ourselves. And every time I see him, I can't help but to give him a big bear hug. He didn't just help me get my marriage back, he helped me get my life back.

July 12, 2006

Dear Diary,

I'm just on a high today! Chris surprised me with a weekend away. Carrie stayed with Daniel, and he took me for a ride in the car, not telling me where we were going. And just like that day almost five years ago, he brought me to the cabin in the woods. It was the most perfect two days, even though I missed Carrie. I can't believe how much I've missed Chris, and I can't believe how happy I am since he's been back. Not that he was really gone, it just seemed that way. But now, the distance that has been growing between us for so long is gone.

July 15, 2006

Dear Diary,

Chris, Daniel and I took Carrie to Disneyland today. We've always meant to do that, and now we know that we're not going to have many other opportunities. She had such a good time, and didn't even bat an eye about the fact that I had to spend all day in a wheelchair. Chris and Daniel took so many roles of film, they must have bought out every store in the county. Every day and every thing presents a photo op, according to them. We've amassed a great sum of rolls in the last few weeks: pictures of me and Carrie, me and Chris, me and Daniel, me, Carrie and Daniel, me, Carrie and Chris, me, Chris and Daniel, etc. Carrie had the most fun with that last one. She's really gotten the hang of the camera, and I think her pictures come out better than Chris's!

July 20, 2006

Dear Diary,

I'm dying. I mean, really dying, as in days left. I can feel it, and that scares me so much. Now I really know how Chris felt. How he still feels, I think. He took me to the park today, even though I couldn't do much other than stand by myself. He ended up carrying me over to the swings and pushing me for awhile. I tried to tell him that I knew I was really dying, but don't think he wanted to hear it. Either that, or each of those well-times kisses were completely coincidental. I'm going to go read to Carrie. Ever since the fourth, I've been making Chris take over more and more of her bedtime ritual so it's not as difficult for her to adjust in that one respect when I'm gone, but I still love reading to her. It's one of the things I can still do with her, and I'm just not ready to give it up yet.

July 23, 2006

Dear Diary,

I can barely hold up this pen. It takes more effort that it should. I just finished reading another story to Carrie - Mrs. Twiggley's Tree. It's her favorite, just like it was mine when I was her age. Chris's reading another story to her now, and then he'll be in. Daniel stays here in our guestroom now. In case something happens to me during the night, Chris can be with me and not have to worry about Carrie. Sometimes I think I want it all to be over, because this lingering, this knowing that the end could come at any moment, is awful, but I just can't imagine not being here. Not being able to read a story to Carrie at bedtime, or greet Chris with a kiss when he comes home from work. Just not being here at all. During the last few months, I've been writing letters to Carrie and Chris and Daniel. I'll leave them in this diary, and hope that Chris finds them. They're for the special times for Carrie-birthdays, prom, her wedding, birth of first baby, first promotion, and everything in between and after that I should have been able to be a part of. I think I've covered every conceivable momentous occasion possible. For Chris, I have our anniversaries, and a lot of Carrie's occasions. I figure that he'll be needing help on some of them, like "Congratulations now that you can legally drink!" Okay, not really, but I want to share as many things with him as possible in any way that I can. Here he comes now, so, good-bye.

July 29, 2006

That was the last entry. Chris dropped the diary next to him and glanced at the clock: five am. He had been reading all night long. He knew that he wouldn't be able to sleep, and that Carrie would be awake very soon. He wiped the tears off of his face. Almost right after she had finished that entry, she had been rushed to the hospital. They hadn't had much time after that before her death.

July 23, 2006

Grace closed her worn journal and put it on the bedstand next to her as Chris walked into the room and dropped onto the bed next to her.

"Hey, sweetie," he said, kissing her head. "How are you doing?"

She smiled weakly. "Been better, Chris. Did Carrie go down easily?"

"Oh, a few bribes here, a few more there, and it was as easy as pie," he said, waving his hand through the air. Grace rolled her eyes and he laughed. "So, up for a scintillating night of television viewing?"

"Mmm, let's watch a movie instead," she suggested. "I'm up for something really, really funny."

"Something really, really funny. I can do that. How about Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation?"

"Perfect," Grace nodded. "Hey, turn up the radio on your way out, okay?"

"Sure, hon," he said, doing just that. She closed her eyes and let the music wash over her. She could lie there for hours listening because it gave her a feeling of calmness in her otherwise tumultuous world. A few songs later, her husband finally returned. "Sorry, sorry, couldn't find it. Who would have guessed it was where it belonged?"

She laughed. "I'm glad you found it. Oh! Chris, I love this song."

He didn't hesitate before grasping her hand. "Then I insist we dance, Mrs. Bennett."

She tried to pull her hand from his, but didn't have the strength. "I don't think I can, Chris. I'm sorry."

He was determined to not let her illness stop them. "Nope. Up. I'll help." He gently pulled her to her feet. She had lost so much weight that she didn't even have to worry about not having the strength to stand, as he was able to hold her up in his arms. He followed Grace's example and let the calm rush over him while he rocked them gently to the familiar song.

"Chris? Love you," Grace murmured as Chris felt her slump in his arms.

"Gracie?" he asked, panicked, as her head lolled back. "Grace! Oh, my God, Grace!"

He laid her down on the bed and tried to find a pulse. It was there, but weak and thready. "Hang on, baby. Don't leave me, Grace."

He ran to the door as fast as he could, not wanting to leave her for even a second. "Daniel! Damn it, come here! DANIEL!" He raced back to the bed when he heard the older man's footfalls on the stairs, knowing Carrie could sleep through an earthquake. He slid next to his unconscious wife, holding her close. "Gracie, please, I need you. Don't die on me. Please, you can't." He clutched her body to his as Daniel called 911, barking out that they had an emergency. Chris could only focus on his wife while he held her close, as if she could take from him the very life she needed. "Please, Grace. I love you. Don't go."

July 24, 2006

The light was so bright. Grace squinted her green eyes, and then closed them completely. "Chris?" she whispered.

He left the window he had just opened and rushed to her side. "Yeah, baby?"

"Can you close the blinds again? The sun is too bright."

"Sure, Gracie." He went back to shut the blinds, blocking out the hot sun, before sitting next to Grace's hospital bed. He reached out and took her hand. "How are you feeling, Gracie?" he asked gently.

"Come here, Chris," she said softly. He leaned closer. "No, come here, all the way. Lay down with me." She shifted her body to the left and he laid down next to her, cradling her frail body.

Grace raised her nearly translucent white hand to smooth back his dark brown hair. She was going to miss him so much. Every time she thought leaving Chris and their daughter, her heart broke. Carrie. Her sweet little baby girl, who had been through so much in her short life.

"Penny for your thoughts," Chris finally said, gently squeezing her hand.

She smiled sadly at him. "I was just thinking about how much I'm going to miss you." A pained look crossed his face, and she knew he was going to try to refute her statement. Despite the last few weeks, he still hadn't come to terms with her impending death yet, and soon, it would be too late. "Chris, shhhh," she said, putting her fingers over his mouth in an effort to quiet him. "Chris, you have to listen to me. It's hard, I know. But I'm going to die, sweetie."

His eyes filled with tears at her last sentence. He knew that they didn't have much time left, but his heart still refused to believe it. In the twenty years they had been best friends, they had never been apart, and now he had to contemplate spending the rest of his life without her. He realized that she was waiting for him to say something, and he struggled unsuccessfully to hold his tears back. "I know," he finally managed, his voice thick. "I know." The dam finally broke, and he started sobbing as he allowed the pretense that Grace was going to pull through drop from his mind.

The tables turned, and now Grace was the one to cradle Chris as he sobbed out all the pain and frustration he had been feeling for the past few months. She closed her eyes as she hugged her husband's shuddering body to her own, and let her own tears fall. She cried for Chris, and Carrie, and Daniel, and also for herself. She would never get to see Carrie grow up, get ready for her first date, her prom, or her wedding day. She would never get to grow old with Chris, or have more babies with him. They cried together for the future they would never get a chance to share, and for all they were losing. They stayed that way for almost an hour, until all their tears were spent and they lay limply in each other's arms.

"Chris?" she asked weakly.

He lifted his head, his watery brown eyes meeting her dull green ones.

"It's going to be soon, sweetie, and I don't want to die here. I want to be at home, in our bed, listening to our little girl playing and laughing in her room next to me," she said softly, her voice breaking.

He hadn't thought he had any more tears left, but he was wrong. "Okay," he said softy as she brushed his tears away. "I'll talk to the doctor, and we'll get you home, where you belong."

She smiled at him. "Thank you."

July 26, 2006

Chris left Grace in their bedroom, where she had fallen asleep again, and went downstairs to find Daniel and Carrie. He walked into the living room, and saw his daughter sitting at her kiddy table with Daniel crouched behind her, smiling proudly.

Carrie noticed her father standing in the doorway and jumped up excitedly, running over to him. "Daddy! Daddy, look at what Uncle Daniel teached me." She dragged him to the table where Daniel sat, and pointed at the sheet of paper. "Caroline Emily Bennett. See, I can write my name!" she said proudly.

"Wow!" Chris told her, smiling. "That looks great, honey," he said, hugging her.

"Can I show Mommy?" she asked hopefully.

Chris looked up at Daniel, as if wanting an answer himself, before looking back at his impatient daughter. "Sorry, sweetie, she's sleeping right now. Why don't you put that on the fridge now, and you can show her later when she wakes up. Is that okay, Care?"

"Okay, Daddy," Carrie agreed and ran out of the room.

Exhausted, Chris ran his hand through his hair and slouched against the couch. It had been a long night. Even though Grace had slept so much, he hadn't let himself close his eyes once, just watching her all night.

"How is she?" Daniel asked quietly.

"Not good. She's sleeping most of the time now, and her breathing is erratic." He looked up, the pain in his eyes unmistakable. "We're losing her, Daniel, and there isn't a damned thing we can do about it." He stood up. "I have to go back up now. I don't want to leave her alone, in case. . .just in case."

Daniel nodded. "Carrie and I will be up later to visit."

"All right. We'll see you then." He went back upstairs and entered their darkened bedroom. He had closed the drapes to block out the bright afternoon sun when Grace had fallen asleep again.

Grace was lying down on the bed, awake, and holding an old picture of Beth, Daniel, Chris, Carrie, and herself. "Do you remember when this was taken?" Grace's whisper cut through the still of the dark room.

Chris sat next to her. "Yep. It was the week before Carrie's second birthday. That's the dress Daniel bought for her." He squinted at the picture. "It was how many sizes too big?"

Grace smiled. "I think it was a 6x. She still can't wear it." She laughed. "He tried, though. And he's gotten better." There was a small silence as they both remembered those days, when Beth was still alive and Grace wasn't sick. "She'll remember me, won't she?" Grace asked suddenly.

"We won't let her not remember," Chris reassured her. "She'll grow up know all about her mommy and her Aunt Beth. Daniel and I will tell her stories, and show her pictures, and she'll always know how much you love her." They heard Carrie chattering to Daniel coming up the stairs and Chris smiled. "Speak of the devil. Carrie has something she wants to show you. Up for it?"

Grace smiled back. "Of course."

He got up and went to the door, turning the light on. "Carrie, do you want to show Mommy your paper?"

Carrie held it up. "Yeah!" She ran past Chris and climbed up next to her mother. "See what I did, Mommy? I writed my name!"

Grace took the paper from Carrie and smiled. "Oh, I can see that! I bet Uncle Daniel taught you how to do that."

Carrie gave a nod. "Yep. We practiced all morning."

"It looks great, Care bear. You did a wonderful job. Are you going to put it on the refrigerator?" Grace asked as Carrie snuggled against her.

"Uh-huh. I had it there, but I wanted to show you." She twirled her mother's hair for a second. "Uncle Daniel is going to read me a story now, so I gotta go. Okay?"

Grace smiled at her. "Okay. Have fun."

Carrie threw her arms around her mother's neck and squeezed. "I love you, Mommy."

"I love you, Carrie," Grace said, hugging her back. "Now go have fun with Uncle Daniel." Carrie climbed back down and grabbed Daniel's hand. Grace looked at her friend and smiled. "Bye, Daniel."

He bent down and kissed her forehead. "Bye, sweetheart." He turned to the little girl pulling his hand. "All right, Miss Caroline. Let's go read that story now." They left and Chris closed the door behind them.

"She's so big now," Grace said softly.

Chris grinned. "Looks just like you did when you were her age, with her red hair and big green eyes."

"Acts like you, though," Grace teased. "Can't keep quiet for even a minute, and forget about sitting still."

He laughed. "Oh, you were quite the active child yourself, miss. Do you want something to drink? You haven't had anything all day. I can run down and-"

She reached for his hand. "No. Don't go, Chris. Can you just hold me? Please?"

There was something in her voice that made him stop short. "Okay. I can do that." He lay down next to her, and smoothed back her hair. "But Grace? Do me a favor. Don't pull a "Love Story" on me, all right?" he said with a grin, only half kidding.

"Don't worry, sweetie. I promise I'll wake you up and say something more meaningful than 'hold me'," she grinned back, a glimmer of her old humor returning to her eyes.

"That's all I ask," he responded with a smile.

A short while later, she poked him in the arm and he looked down at her. "Grace? What is it?"

"I wanted to tell you something more meaningful than 'hold me.'" She smiled at him, and he started to smile back until he realized that she had stopped breathing.

The room's sudden new silence seemed deafening to him. He closed his eyes, torn between laughter and tears. She had definitely gone out in her own style, just like she wanted. He curled up close to her body and reached for her arm, placing it around his shoulders like she was hugging him. He didn't know how much time had passed before Daniel knocked and entered the room.

"Is she sleeping?" he whispered.

Chris turned to face him, and the pain on his face was enough of an answer.

"She's dead," Daniel said blankly. "Oh. Lord, Chris, I'm sorry."

"She's with Beth now," Chris said softly. "They'll take care of each other." He touched his wife's face gently. "She'll be okay now."

July 29, 2006

Chris couldn't stop the rush of tears as he remembered his wife's death only three days earlier. Sometimes those days seemed like forever, and other times it was like it had just happened, and he was still lying on the bed with her. He got up to put the diary back onto the nightstand and saw a manilla envelope, addressed to him in Grace's writing, lying where the diary had been. He opened it and dumped the contents onto the bed. There were three bundles of letters and a piece of paper. He picked it up and began to read.

 

Hi, Chris! Enclosed in the envelope are letters that I wrote to you, Carrie, and Daniel. You can think of this as the first one in your series. I have dates and occasions written on the outside of each envelope—please give Carrie and Daniel theirs on those days.

I'm sorry that I can't be here to help you raise Carrie, but I know that you and Daniel will do a great job with her. Besides, she's my daughter. How could she be anything less than wonderful? : )

I love you, Chris. My happiest day was when you told me that you loved me back. Thank you for making my life so wonderful.

Give Carrie a hug for me, and don't forget that I'll always be with you.

Love, Gracie

 

Chris put the letter down just as Carrie flew into the room, landing on his bed.

"Morning, Daddy!" She looked around. "No Mommy?"

Chris touched her hair lightly. "No, sweetie, no Mommy. But you know what? She wrote me a letter, and she said to give you a big hug. So, here it is," he said, wrapping his arms around the little girl. She held on tightly, squeezing back.

"Uncle Daniel told me that Mommy is still here, we just can't see her. Was he telling a story?" she asked, sliding into her father's lap.

"No, baby, he wasn't," Chris reassured her. "She's here, watching us right now."

Carrie considered this. "Okay, then. Love you, Mommy!" she said to the room at large.

Chris looked at his daughter, the exact image of her mother twenty years earlier, and smiled. Grace was with them, and she always would be.

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