One more brush of his skin on mine.
One more taste of his kiss.
One more wisp of his breath in my hair.
People say they would give anything to have ‘just one more’ moment with a loved one lost. That’s not good enough for me. I want it all back. How could I be satisfied with just one more fleeting moment with the only man I’ve ever loved – the one who owns my soul … and will forever?
I can’t let go.
* * * * * * * * *
The silence in my room is broken by the rattle of capsules in a little green bottle I hold in my trembling hand. I blink and hot tears stream down my face.
Two of these magic pellets can give me the sleep my body is craving, but a handful can bring me eternal relief from the agonizing pain ripping my heart to shreds. They may even take me to meet Harley.
Life goes on as normal around me. Dad is busy with his new wife and daughters. My best friends, Chelsea and Gretchen, are workaholics. Mom is the only one I worry about. She and I grew quite close during my teenage years when Dad was busy with work. Most mother-daughter duos fight during that stage of life, but we clung to one another, keeping each other safe. I begged her to buy a house close by when I moved away to college. She didn’t want to give up her home. I understood that. It was the only house we’d ever lived in as a family.
Mom stayed with me for a few days after I got the news about Harley, but being the ever-stubborn, fiercely-independent person I am, I convinced her I was fine so she would go back home. I knew she couldn’t afford to miss much work.
Settling into married life, I was happy to spend all my time with Harley. Now he’s gone. There’s a void in me that no one can fill, not even my mom.
I stare into the bathroom mirror, but I don’t like what I see. My puffy eyes are heavy with bags. No amount of concealer can hide the frown lines I’ve earned the past few weeks.
I shuffle to my bed and place the bottle on my night stand. I grab Harley’s pillow and press it to my face; the faint traces of his cologne still remain. His watch rests where he left it. He said he didn’t need it because, “It will be as if no time has passed when we see each other again. We’ll pick up right where we left off.”
Chelsea and Gretchen—my best friends from college—live less than thirty miles from me, and they use that phrase too. We make plans to get together often, but it rarely happens. We maintain our feigned satisfaction with the situation by saying, “I haven’t seen you in forever, but it’s like no time has passed.” We’re going in different directions. No matter how good the intentions, life changes things.
I sniff a time or two and wipe my cheeks again. My hands shake as I grab the little green bottle one last time. I dump a few pills into my hand, and then add several more for good measure. I reach for my water bottle and prepare to toss back several of them. One for each memory I can’t erase. I close my eyes and pray it won’t take long for me to get to him. I’m so sorry, Mom.
Just as the first pill is about to meet with my tongue, the radio comes on by itself and plays a soft version of “I Got You Babe.’’ My nose is invaded with the scent of Eternity cologne and a disembodied voice sends chills down my spine.
“Don’t do it, Jules.”
* * * * * * * * *
I would know his voice anywhere. “Harley? Oh, Harley.’’
“Yeah, baby. It’s me. I’m here,” he says, his words calm and soothing.
A tremble reverberates throughout my body. The tears seem to pause midstream on my face. My voice is barely audible.
“Where? I can’t see you. I must be dreaming.”
“No, you’re not dreaming. You’re grieving. And you’re about to make the biggest mistake of your life.”
If my hands were shaking before, they are almost convulsive now. Even my veins quiver at the sound of his voice. I wipe my eyes and run my fingers forcefully through my hair a few times. I slap my cheek to make sure I’m really awake. It hurts. Yes, definitely awake.
My inner thoughts escape through my mouth.
“This can’t be happening. You’re dead. I’m just hallucinating. It’s the pills. Just the pills.” I nod my head a few times with vigor to confirm it to myself. I look down at the bottle still in my hand; I haven’t taken them yet. I put the capsules back in the bottle and close the lid.
“I’ve been watching you since the moment I died. I know what you were about to do.”
My eyes shift toward the floor.
“But what’s the use in living if I can’t be with you? At least we could be together this way.”
“It doesn’t work like that, sweetheart. You can’t kill yourself to be with me. We won’t end up together.”
Tears flood my eyes. “But I miss you, Harley. I want to be with you. There’s nothing here for me anymore. I don’t want to live without you.”
The room is silent for a moment. I call out his name to ensure he’s still there. Moments later, he speaks again.
“I know. I miss you too. But I lived out my destiny. I died doing what I was meant to do. I served my purpose in the world, and then I was called home.”
“But your home is here with me. You belong here!” Anger and desperation seep through my words.
“The universe is done with me, but it isn’t done with you yet, baby. You haven’t fulfilled your destiny.”
“And what is my destiny?” My tone is sarcastic. I walk around the room, grasping air, trying to touch the voice I’m hearing.
“I can’t answer that for you; only you can discover it. But I know you’re going to do great things in your world.”
“I don’t want to live out my destiny without you. We were supposed to be together forever, remember? We’re,unsevered.”
My sobs return the minute that word escapes my lips. My mind slips into a memory of the day I first heard it. We’d just returned from our honeymoon and Harley said he wanted to go for a drive. He loved to surprise me, so I had no idea what awaited me.
* * * * * * * * *
Harley adjusted the blindfold he had placed over my eyes moments before. “Uh-uh, no peeking,” he said. I smiled and pictured his dazzling blue eyes flickering with pure delight, the way they always do when he’s happy or excited.
I threw my head back, lost in the moment, as a warm breeze danced across my face, offering the sensation of a dozen butterflies hovering in search of a soft place to land.
The 1965 Chevrolet Malibu eased down a bumpy, winding road, and finally stopped.
“Okay, we’re here,” he said.
Harley slid the blindfold off my eyes and a strong scent of salt air invaded my nose. The ocean!
I scrutinized the view and absorbed the magic. Endless sand was veiled by beautiful, white seagulls. The waves performed a melodic tune as they covered the shore.
The beautiful Victorian beach house was more spectacular than anything I could have conjured in my imagination. It was a subtle taupe color, with windows that released outward at the bottom, allowing the ocean breeze to drift throughout the house.
My feet shuffled to the front porch and lingered on each pristine step before I reached the door. In a mesmerized state, I jumped when Harley’s arms wrapped around my waist.
“Do you like it baby?”
“Like it? Harley, I love it!”
“Well, don’t you want to see inside our new home?” His smile was wide, his eyes teasing. “Consider it a belated wedding present from my Uncle Walter.”
“Remember, I was his favorite nephew. He always told me it would be mine if…”
I didn’t allow him to finish his sentence. “Oh no, he died! When?” I was frantic for a moment, worried about Harley losing his favorite relative and experiencing a pain from being lied to by my husband, by omission, anyway.
He laughed. “Calm down. He didn’t die. He just decided to move into a smaller place to avoid the upkeep. He sold it to me for a very fair price.”
I slapped his chest in a playful manner. “Don’t scare me like that.” I took another look around and said in a breathy voice, “Well, it’s a heck of a wedding present. Remind me to send him an exceptional thank-you card. It’s beautiful.”
His gaze shifted toward the ground. “I hope it brings you some peace and comfort while I’m away.”
His words were gentle but pierced tiny holes into my heart just the same. My lower lip quivered and I reminded myself to breathe; that we still had time. To my relief, Harley changed the mood with one of his typical ‘glass-half-full’ suggestions.
“Let’s not talk about that. We’re here together now, and I want to enjoy every minute with my wife.” He pulled me close and covered my still-trembling lips with his.
I let out a squeal as he hoisted me into the air and carried me over the threshold of our new home. I cupped my hand over my mouth and eased out of his arms to soak in the spectacular view.
The first space I entered was a massive living room, with immaculate, hardwood floors from wall to wall, and vaulted ceilings. An elegant, winding staircase to the left was covered in plush, beige carpet. The windows were veiled by sheer, white curtains, which allowed privacy without masking the view of the expansive ocean background. Not that it mattered much since, “There are no neighbors within a few miles of us,” Harley informed me.
I sauntered to the kitchen on the right and slid my fingers across the marble island countertop that was lined by four swivel-backed bar stools. The appliances were custom-designed to match the chocolate-colored marble and a wine glass holder rested above the island. It was just like the one in a magazine I had shown him not long ago. He’d obviously paid attention.
I walked from room to room, upstairs and down, and discovered cleanly-designed spaces with no overpowering floral or striped patterns. It was exactly how I would have designed it myself, and I was impressed my husband already knew me so well.
I turned to Harley with narrowed eyes. “You did all of this?”
“Well, I had a little help. Our friends pitched in.”
“How did you have time? These are all the things from our apartment.”
“It wasn’t easy. I had to enlist some professional help to get our furniture moved out of our apartment while we were on our honeymoon. As far as the painting and decorating, you were pretty busy with planning the wedding so I was able to work on it in the evenings and some on the weekends. It really helped when you went on that spa retreat for a long weekend with your bridesmaids.”
“And I was wondering what you were going to do to keep busy while I was away,” I replied with a chuckle.
I continued to inspect the house and walked toward the glass doors situated off the living room. I stood on the back porch, facing the ocean. The warm mist from the sea sprinkled my skin. It became my favorite part of the whole house.
As I walked back inside, I saw a sign above the front entrance. It read, ‘UNSEVERED’.
Harley noted the confusion etched across my face, placed my hands in his and said, “It means we will never be apart in spirit, even if we’re somehow separated physically.”
The room was silent. A tear threatened to escape my eye, but relented when a sense of desire washed over me. I looked deep into his eyes.
“Take me,’’ I said. “Take me now.”
Needing no further convincing, he placed both my cheeks in his palms and kissed me as we lowered our bodies to the stairs together.
Our eyes remained locked on each other and our tongues danced with strong intention. In between hard, fast kisses he said, “I love you so much, Jewel. I want to make love to you.”
“I want … your mouth … all over me, Harley.” My reply was breathy and needy.
He didn’t even stop to take off my sundress, lifting it from the bottom instead. His strong hands traced a fierce path over the outer edges of my hips as his thumbs moved downward, squeezing and teasing my inner thighs.
“More. More.” I didn’t want him to stop.
A snapping sound startled me. I let out a high-pitched squeal as he tore the white lace of my thong underwear with just one hand, too impatient to pull it down. He’d never been this forceful, but I liked it. A lot.
He pulled the spaghetti straps of my low-cut dress down to reveal my breasts. As he massaged one in each hand, his tongue teased my hardened nipples. I gasped, taking in the scent of pure virility … mixed with a hint of Eternity cologne. The combination drove me crazy. I wanted him, all of him.
He moved upward for a moment to attack my neck, leaving teeth prints along the path. I gripped his hair with both hands and threw my head back in pleasure. His lips were velvet on my body, anywhere he chose to place them. My hands moved downward in search of my prize. I released the gathering of his jeans and slid them down over his hips. Then I pushed his boxers to the floor with my foot, stroking the length of him along the way.
My back found the stairs as he entered me, and I was more than ready. He pulled me close and I took him in and out again. One of his hands became tangled in my wavy, beige-blonde locks while the other gripped the banister rail in hopes of containing his early release. “Oh … Baby … you’re … amazing!”
The passion was almost tangible—our breaths heavy, our skin on fire. A bead of sweat rolled off his forehead onto my breast. The ocean waves provided a blissful soundtrack to our ecstasy.
Almost too soon, the moment we were both waiting for came … but with great satisfaction on my part. Harley smiled and closed his eyelids as he produced short, weighty breaths. Exhausted, we both slid down the stairs at a careful pace, holding each other and basking in the afterglow.
Our short-lived encounter was more than made up for as we spent the remainder of the weekend christening every room in our new home.
* * * * * * * * *
My mind returns to the moment and I scold Harley’s apparitional presence for lying to me. “You told me we’d be together forever. You told me that’s what the sign meant.”
“I did say that. But it didn’t mean we’d be together forever in the physical sense; just that we’d always be in each other’s hearts.” His voice lowers and adopts a serious tone. “But there is one problem.”
“I am kind of stuck right now.”
“What do you mean stuck?”
“Well, I was supposed to move on to my afterlife, but I can’t do that until you let me go.”
“But how do I do that?”
“I can’t answer that for you. It’s something you have to discover for yourself for me to be able to complete my journey. I’m sorry you feel like I let you down, but I did what I had to do.”
A long pause cuts through the air for a moment. “I don’t blame you, Harley. I know you didn’t choose to leave me. I just miss you. Why can’t I see you?” My voice keeps cracking as I wipe my tears for the umpteenth time.
“You’ll see me when the time is right; when you are ready. And you won’t be able to see the gift I left you until the time is right either.” He was still surprising me, even in death.
“I’m ready! What is it? Please, I need something to hold on to.”
“When you are ready to see it—and me—you will.” He was beginning to sound like a broken record. “I have to go now, but I will be watching over you always. Please be kind to yourself and don’t do anything else to endanger your life. Live. Be happy. Fulfill your destiny. And remember, I love you.”
“I love you too, baby. Don’t go.” My voice is brittle, fading.
He doesn’t respond.
“Harley?” I call out his name until my throat becomes scratchy and my voice is almost absent.
“Harley? Harley? Come back. Please don’t leave me again.”
There’s no reply.