by Lameerah Rasheed
Tonight went better than I expected. We went to this new restaurant downtown that has live musicians every night. It used to be a dance studio with a stage; I guess that made it perfect for that kind of restaurant with a dance floor.
We should’ve danced. I should’ve asked her to dance. She looked beautiful tonight and deserved to have been seen by everyone. No, I don’t think she wanted to be seen. She wore a black, spaghetti strap dress. It was simple and beautiful, but she didn’t want to stand out.
“Look at me, I know what kind of dress she wore.” I laugh to myself and sigh. “She would’ve been proud.”
I wipe my hands on my face and lean back in my car. I hope the kids are asleep. I check my watch forgetting that it’s broken. It just needs a new battery, but I can’t find it. She always knew where they were.
I checked my phone, it’s already nine-thirty. Time flies when you’re sitting in your car, huh? I tried to wait out this feeling, but it won’t go away. It’s my usual feeling; guilt, anger, sadness. I hate when the kids see me like this. I take a deep breath and clear my mind. I grab my things and get out of the car. I just have to keep it together long enough to see my babies.
I get to the door and hear laughter. It fills my mind with disbelief, but makes my heart leap, wanting to join it. I unlock it and the laughter slowly fades. I come in to see Tina, my babysitter, sitting on the couch watching a movie.
“Hello, Tina. Are the kids asleep?” I look around, almost certain I couldn’t have imagined that laughter.
“Hey, Mr. C. Yes, they went to bed about thirty minutes ago.” She starts to gather her things and motions around to all their toys neatly stacked waiting for them to return to play. “They had fun tonight. They did their homework, helped me cook and …” Tina’s voice faded out has her voice faded in. I could hear her as if she was standing right here with me.
‘A story is never done until you have reached the end.’ She always told them that when they stopped playing with one toy to play with another. Then she would tell me, “You know I have to tell them that with each new thing. A book, an essay or paper, and of course their love life.”
The feeling is starting to come back in my chest now. “Thank you again, Tina. Here’s your money. Have a safe night.” I watch her get into her car and drive off to make sure she’s safe. I closed the door and hear the laughter again. This time from upstairs. I climb the stairs quietly, so I don’t startle the children. I peer into Jr.’s room first, he’s sound asleep. I peer into Melody’s room, sound asleep as well. I kiss her on her forehead and thank God for her and Jr.
I go into my room and shut the door. I sit down on my side of the bed and take another deep breath. I can’t believe I imagined laughter. I rub my eyes and shake my head. “Of all the things to imagine.”
I get a text from Laura, the woman I went on the date with. She says she had a great night, she hopes the kids are well, and she can’t wait to see me again. I wish I could say the same, but each time this feeling gets worse. “I can’t keep doing this.” I place my phone next to me face down.
“Of course, you can’t. You’re too cautious.”
That voice sent chills down my spine. It can’t be true. “I’m just imagining again.” I refuse to turn around.
“How would you be sure if you don’t look?”
I turned my head and there she was. Her curly hair slightly touching her shoulders, her curvy figure underneath a silk slip dress, her cocoa skin glowing in the moonlit room, her deep brown eyes staring at me, and her full lips smiling at me.
I got up off the bed. “It can’t be. You’re here?” I move closer to where she was standing.
“Yes, Shawn. It’s me.” Her smile grew bigger as she gestured to herself.
I hug her and let my tears fall down my cheeks. She squeezes me and laughs. I pull back and look at her. “Your laugh, I kept hearing your laugh.”
She smiles and tilts her head. “I know. I’m sorry if I scared you, but the movie Tina was watching was funny and you stood at the door like Superman. I didn’t think you would be able to hear it since I wasn’t fully here.” She shrugs her shoulders and giggles.
I look at her confused. “Fully here? Wait, why are you here? What happened?”
She takes a step back and her smile fades. “I’m not sure how you’re going to react to what I have to say.”
I keep eye contact even though I want to look away. “What is it?” I ask cautiously.
She keeps a straight face and takes a deep breath. “I’m here for,” she pauses, “your soul.” She stretches out her hand towards me and my heart stops.
She lets out a hysterical laugh. “I’m sorry, babe,” she says through her laughing. “I had to do that because of the circumstances.”
I shake my head. “It’s really you.” I sit back down on the bed and place my head in my hands. “I can feel you, hear you, see you. You are here. But why are you here?”
She sits down next to me. “You tell me. What’s been going on with you?” She rubs my back and looks at me.
I sit up and take a deep breath. “There’s nothing really to tell. The kids are doing fine,”
“Fine? What do you mean ‘fine’?” she asks in disbelief.
“You know what I mean. Fine for kids that have to live without,” I didn’t want to finish that sentence. I look at her to see her head was down.
“You can say it.” She looks up at me. “They’re doing fine for kids that have to grow up without their mother.” She puts her head back down.
“Cam, don’t be upset.” I pull her into a hug and she rests her head on my shoulder.
“It’s hard not to sometimes. Jr. is growing up so fast and I’m not here to tell him not to or to go outside instead of watching our shows. Then, Melody is so beautiful. I’m not here to tell her that every night before she goes to bed.” Her voice started to shake, and tears fell down her face. “My babies are growing up without me and my husband is torturing himself.”
I pulled away and looked at her. “What do you mean?”
“Tell me what has been going on with you. You can’t lie to me because I can see you and hear you when I’m away.”
I get up and walk to the other side of the room. “Then you already know.”
“I want to hear it from you.”
“I can’t do that to you. I won’t hurt you.” I fiddle with my ring finger where my ring would be.
“I’m still your best friend, Shawn. You can tell your best friend anything.” I can hear her coming towards me, but I don’t move. “Shawn, what is it?”
I don’t say anything, I can only think about tonight and all the other nights Laura and I went out. The feeling comes back in my chest this time with a pain that makes me grabs my chest.
Cam grabs my shoulder, but I pull away. “Shawn Christopher Cooper, if you do not tell me what is wrong, so help me!” Her voice was full of emotion.
“I’m seeing someone.” I turn to face her.
Her face didn’t hide what she was feeling; betrayal, shock, and pain. I step towards her and she takes a step away with her hands prepare to push me away if I were to come any closer.
She shakes her head. “It’s weird hearing it from you. Even though I knew, I didn’t want it to be true.”
“Camila, listen to me.” I try to come closer and she steps back again with her arms folded to hold herself.
She closes her eyes and stands there. I remember she used to do this when she was upset with me. The only thing I could do is give her space or maybe talk to her. It’s worth a try.
“Do you remember when we first moved into this house?” She doesn’t move. “Remember you told me to go the store and buy light bulbs, so we won’t end up sitting in the dark?” Still nothing. “I went to the dollar store, being cheap, and bought light bulbs that blew out after only an hour.” I chuckle to myself.
“And I yelled at you because I’m afraid of the dark.” She turns to look out the window.
“But do you remember what I did after that?” I walk closer to her.
She chuckles. “You lit up our living room with candles.”
I come closer. “And?”
She shakes her head. “And that was the night Jr. was made.”
“On a candle lit night.” We said together. I wrap my arms around hers and rest my chin on her shoulder.
“Tell me about her. How is she?” She stares out the window.
I knew I didn’t have a choice. “She good. We’ve been out a couple of times, but I can’t see her anymore.”
“Why not?” She looks at me over her shoulder.
“I just don’t think she’s the one for me.” I shrug my shoulders and pull away. “I mean, she’s nice and funny.”
She walks to the window and I can’t help but stare. She looks so real and so gorgeous. I don’t want to say the wrong thing and she disappears.
“I feel like there’s a ‘but’ to this. What’s so wrong with her?” She looks at me.
“It’s not her. It’s the feeling I get after I see her.”
She tilts her head. “You saw her tonight, right?”
She sits down on the floor and motions me to sit with her. I sit down across from her near the bed. She smiles at me. “Tell me what happened on the date. I want every detail.”
This should be interesting. “Well, I met her at the new restaurant that opened downtown. I forgot what it’s called; do you remember that old dance studio? By the ice cream shop.” I point to my left where it would be if we were downtown.
She nods her head. “I knew they were going to turn that place into something cool. Aw, did you dance?” Her eyes lit up. That kind of restaurant was always her dream restaurant. She loves to dance.
“No, baby, I didn’t. She didn’t want to.” I shrug my shoulders and shake my head.
“Oh really? Did you ask her?” A little smirk grew on her lips.
I sigh. “No, I didn’t ask,”
“See!” She threw her hands up. “You never ask. Even when we went dancing, it was my idea and I basically had to force you to dance at our wedding.” She laughs at me and I can’t help but laugh too.
“I wanted to dance with you, I’m just shy.” I chuckle and smile at her.
“So, why didn’t you ask her?” She nods her head to the side as if Laura was next to her.
“I told you, she didn’t want to. The way she looked tonight showed that she didn’t want to be the center of attention.”
“Alright, what was she wearing?”
I can’t believe I’m having this conversation with my wife. “She was wearing a black, spaghetti strap dress. It was simple, nothing you would wear.”
She tilts her head and smiles. “Okay, first, I’m proud of you for knowing that.” I knew she would be. “Second, just because it was simple doesn’t mean she didn’t want to be seen. The simplest things have the biggest impact on us.” She always tells me that. “Lastly, what makes you say I wouldn’t wear something like that?” She raises her eyebrows at me and smirks.
I smile at her. “Because it’s not you. When you wear something that’s simple you have to have on something that pops out. Or you would wear something that makes you stand out. Nothing flashy or too bold, something that shows your personality. Plus, you would’ve insisted we dance before and after dinner. We probably would’ve been the last couple on the dance floor if I was with you.”
I stare at her and she stares back with a warm smile. “Shawn,” she pauses, “she’s not me.”
“I know that.” I say sternly. I know who my wife is and who isn’t.
She shakes her head. “No, Shawn. You have to stop comparing her to me. She will never be me. No one will ever be me. Some might come close, but you can’t go looking for me in every woman you meet.”
I take a deep breath. “Then I’m not ready for dating. I get a painful feeling in my chest whenever I go out with her and I don’t want that feeling anymore. I don’t want to keep betraying my wife.”
She gets up and sits next to me. She grabs my left hand and looks at me. “You’re not wearing your ring, though.” I put my head down, feeling disgusted with myself. “You’re ready.” She lifts my head up. “But you have to let me go.”
I look at her with confusion. “What?”
She smiles. “You want the feeling to go away, but in order for it to go away you must let me go.”
My eyes filled with tears. “I don’t want to.” I hold her hand in mine.
“I know, baby. However, you will be in constant pain and that brings me pain. We both need peace.” I look into her deep brown eyes, she was crying too. “I am dead. I will never come back like how you want me to. I am your wife, but I am not the only person you can love in this lifetime.”
“Why did you come back?”
She still smiles despite of tears running down her face. “I came back to tell you, I want you to be happy. I want you to be happy with the kids, with the house, with making new memories, with finding love, and with dancing. I came back to make sure you knew I was alright and at peace. I came back so we could see each other one last time.” She rests her hand on my face. “Promise me you’ll tell the kids that I love them with all of my heart. Tell Jr. I am always with him when he needs me and tell Melody that all my jewelry is hers, but the jewelry does not make her pretty; she makes the jewelry pretty. Promise me that.”
I nod my head as more tears fell. “I promise.” I kiss her forehead.
“Also, remember this; a story is never done until you have reached the end. We have not reached our end. We are just simply on a pause until the next story begins. I will always love you.” She smiles at me and turns to lean her head on my shoulder.
We stare out the window, the moon is shining bright through the curtains. “Hey, where are the batteries to my watch?”
She giggles. “They’re in the top drawer next to your bundle of deodorant.”
“I don’t know how I’m going to live without you.” I take in a deep breath to fight whatever tears I had left.