That's how long it has been since her world changed forever. That's how long it has been since her husband died. It was strange. She remembered running to the hospital, she remembered the doctor taking her into a separate room and telling her that he was no more, she remembered laughing at his face and going out into the hall, she remembered calling his name and opening random doors and waiting for him to come out of one, take her into his arms and tell her that this whole thing was one big joke, his way of taking revenge on her for forgetting their anniversary. But then she saw him, lying on a hospital bed, covered in a single white sheet that had covered so many others, and she knew. She knew it was over. He was gone.
"Rebecca? Rebecca, sweetheart, you have to eat something, you can't go on like this." It was probably her mother, she was the one who had driven her home from the hospital that night after she had fainted in the hospital. She knew that people were worried about her, but no matter how hard she tried she couldn't bring herself to care. Besides how did it matter? He was gone. Jack was gone. And he was not coming back. Those were the only words that had been revolving in her head like a mantra since the moment she had regained consciousness. Those words were the truth, they were a fact; but they were only words after all, they contained no feeling. No meaning. Not for her.
For the first two days people came and went, offering their condolences, and assuring her that everything was going to be alright. She looked at their faces, listened to their words and saw and heard nothing. It was when she was doing laundry that day and came upon his shirt while folding the rest of the clothes, that it hit her. It didn't matter if she folded his shirt or not, because he was never going to wear them. He was never going to smile for her, or fight with her over the tv remote, or laugh at her lame jokes to make her feel good. He was never going to hold her after a long day, or hug her or kiss her.
That was the first time she had cried after his death. And once she had started she couldn't bring herself to stop. She screamed, she shrieked, she howled in pain, but it wasn't enough. The hole in her chest seemed to feed on her tears, on the memories that ran through her mind like tape recordings, it grew bigger and bigger until it consumed her from within and she could not feel anything except for the vast empty void that her life had become.
"Mommy?" she could feel her standing at the door, peeping from behind the curtain as if she was afraid to step inside the room. Sara, their seven year old daughter, sweet and innocent, and yet to learn that her father was dead. How could she tell her? How could she even look at her when her eyes reflected his and her lips always stretched into the same smile? She was afraid. She was afraid to turn around and be the mother she was supposed to be.
"Mommy?" she called, her nervousness echoing in her small voice. Rebecca swallowed. Still she couldn't turn around. She felt her mother rise from the bed and walk to the door.
"What is it sugar?"
"What's wrong with her? Is she sick?"
"She is just sad honey, because Dadda is away, remember? She will be okay though, so don't you worry"
"Did I do something? Is she mad at me?"
"What? No! Why would you say that?"
"Because she isn't talking to me, Granny. I must have done something!"
"Listen to me hon, you haven't done anything, you are a sweet little angel and right now your mother needs you to be the big girl I know you are. Okay? Why don't you go to your room and write something. You love writing, don't you? I heard you are very good with letters?"
No one said anything but she must have left because she felt the bed shift once again, and felt her mother sit down.
"You can't do this, Bex. You can't just stop functioning. Your daughter needs you." She sighed, because Rebecca had yet to say a single word that wasn't a sob or a cry or her dead husband's name. "I know you can hear me, sweetheart. Please, just be there for her. Talk to her. She is just a kid. She needs you."
And I need him. Rebecca listened to her mother, she didn't really hear her. So they just sat until it grew dark. Then her mother got up, fed her daughter and put her to bed. And then she was alone again.
Rebecca got up. She moved like a machine, walking through the empty house, setting the cushions right, picking up the stray toys lying on the floor and headed to the laundry room. She didn't bother switching on the light, she was accustomed to the dark by now. She began sorting the clothes by color but it didn't take much time, even though her daughter had a habit of wearing four sets of clothes in a single day. Jack always joked that she was going to be a model when she grew up. She remembered him, shaking his head in exasperation, when Sara went in to change her costume the third time simply because her frock didn't feel right. They were late by an hour to church that day. Rebecca stood up and ignored the stab in her heart.
She avoided looking at the pictures on the wall as she walked up the stairs and into her daughter's room. She didn't go near the bed, she just stood by the door, motionless for a while and then took a brave step inside. There were books lying all around the floor; color pencils, drawings, all scattered on the desk. She began arranging them into a single pile when she came across a sheet of paper and froze.
Hope you are well. Mrs. M said that we should always start a letter like that. I can write paragraphs now, can you believe it! I am so happy. I was a little sad before. Mrs. M read mine after school and you and momma weren't there. But I am okay now. I am learning new words every day. Big words. Mrs. M said that I could become a writer when I grow up and she explained to me what a writer is and I think I would like to be one one day. I will write stories. And you will read them to me at night when you come back!
When will you come back Dadda? Mommy misses you, she is so sad, she does not smile, only cries. I saw her. She is not talking to me. If you come back I know she will. Come back Dadda. The girls at school say bad things, that you are not coming back. They are mean. I don't like them very much. I am mad at them. I am mad at you too. You went without telling me. Gran says I did not do anything, but I think i did. So you went and mommy is not talking with me. Please come back. I wont be bad again. I will be good and we will be very happy. Come back Dadda.
I wanted to send you this letter but I do not know where you are. I will give it to you when you come back, and you can be proud of me!
The tears that collected in her eyes never fell, she clutched the page to her chest and sank down onto the floor shaking with silent sobs. She felt the bed shift, heard the tiny footsteps approaching her and held the arms encircling her from behind.
"Mommy?" she asked, nearing tears herself. "What's wrong, mommy? Please don't be sad. I will be a good girl now."
Rebecca cried, the tears now falling freely from her eyes.
"I know sweetheart, I know," she sobbed. "Mommy's okay. We are all going to be okay. I am here."
And she meant it. She would be there. For her. For their daughter.