Monday, December 14, 2015

The Breaking of the Morning

Grabbing her nude lipstick, she looked at herself in the mirror and suddenly realized, "I look like I'm on a date with Jackson, not a business meeting!" Her cheeks flushed and heart began pounding out of her chest.
"What am I going to do? This isn't a date, and he's not Jackson!"

Emily, held back the tears that threatened to streak her makeup as she threw the lipstick back in her purse.
His voice echoed in her mind as she stared at the old, worn out tube. "I love that shade on your lips. It gives them life but doesn't take away from their natural beauty. It just makes me want to lose myself in your kisses."

A few tears breached through their prison door. Most days she could hold them back, but not today.

"Jackson is gone," she repeated her mantra out loud to remind herself of the reality.

"Jackson died 10 months ago. He is not meeting me here. Declan is here and this is not a date. This is a planning meeting, not a date. Now pull yourself together Emily!"
Declan had already texted  her, "I am a running a little early. If you want to tell me what you like, I'll have your coffee waiting here for you."

Thoughtful. Declan was more than thoughtful. He was a gentleman, the kind women can only hope for. The kind that would have been the epitome of chivalry at King Arthur's Knights of the Round Table. It only took one evening at a friend's party last week to remember that much about him. The summer they spent together almost two decades ago had confirmed to her that true gentlemen were out there, although a severely endangered species.
This morning she guessed he wasn't just "running" early, but made a point to be there early, probably to have an excuse to buy her coffee so there would be no back and forth about who will or won't buy.

Reaching back in her purse, she grabbed the red lipstick she wore more often now that Jackson was gone. She couldn't bear the thought of running out of that nude lipstick, the one that made her late husband swoon over her. Over the last 10 months, she hadn't even considered wearing it until today; she knew why she wanted to wear it today, to this meeting, but she was unwilling to allow herself to feel hopeful, especially in love again.

It was too late to change out of her current outfit that consisted of one of Jackson's favorite blouses, but she could choose a different shade of lipstick.

Walking to the door of the coffee house, Emily was surprised as the door swung open and  to reveal Declan, waiting at the door for her.

"Oh, wow. Now that's front door service," she laughed nervously, trying to sound light-hearted and pleasant.

"I, uh, saw you drive in." Declan smiled.

Emily felt her heart sink as she stepped inside the coffee shop. "So, did you see my little breakdown in there? I'm sorry. It's just that..."

"It's okay, Em. If this is a bad time, we can reschedule, or I can just find someone else."

"No. No. I mean, I want to do this; I like the distraction, and it's just one of those days. It's only been 10 months since Jackson died and I still have bad days where something hits me unexpectedly. Today is one of those days."

"I'm sorry."  His voice was low and uncertain. Emily hated these awkward conversations followed by an even more awkward silence.
"I know this is probably a stupid question, and one you get asked all the time, but is there anything I can do to help?"

It was trite. No one could truly help. What she needed was Jackson. No one could help her unless they could bring Jackson back somehow, or make the pain and emptiness magically disappear. It was a useless question.
Before she could give her polite, "No, I'm fine, really," answer, Declan's eyes got wide as he handed her the biggest mocha she'd ever seen. .

"Never mind, that was stupid of me. I have an idea. Are you up for a little road trip?"

"I hope it will require lots of activity, because if I drink all this I will be bouncing off the walls." She stared wide eyed at the gallon of coffee in her hand.

"Sorry," he unknowingly gave her that smoldering smile she had imprinted on her brain all week. "I wasn't sure what size you'd want so I figured you could drink what you want, instead of wishing for more."

Thoughtful indeed.

"Actually it's just the opposite, it's a peaceful place. I think you'll like it."

Declan pulled into the lake campground a few minutes later, making Emily a little uneasy.

"I hate to break it to you Declan, but I'm wearing a skirt and heels. Hiking, boating, or swimming isn't really what I was planning for a business meeting this morning." She couldn't help but poke fun at him for his location choice.

"It's okay, I have some spare swim suits in the trunk. It'll be fine." He was stone faced and completely serious. Emily's smile faded fast.
"I'm not wearing a bathing suit in front of this guy!" she thought.

"I'm just kidding! Don't worry! You look like you're going to punch me or something."

Thoughtful, funny, and witty.

"You had me. I was trying to think of an excuse! I was just going to go with, 'No! Way!" Emily no longer worried about letting hope in. It was the furthest thing from her mind. She was laughing for the first time in months, without forcing it, or feeling the tight grip of guilt for being happy without Jackson.

"See that bench over there? That's where we're going." It was early and the sunrise was just kicking off it's morning show with bright colors and orange clouds streaking across the sky. It was breathtaking.

Declan sat a good distance from Emily on the bench, turning his body in her direction he began. "This is where I go when I just need..." he let out a sigh as if he was trying to find the right word. "rest. When I feel like I'm drowning in worries and anxiety, I come here and watch the sun rise. It makes me think of Lamentations, 'His mercies are new every morning,' and then I feel at peace again. I thought maybe it might do the same for you."

Declan then just sat silent, not saying anything, while Emily watched the sunrise colors morph into a bright morning sun, glistening off the placid lake. A few more tears escaped their iron clad prison again, but Declan pretended not to notice.
"Thank you." she forced the words out of her clenched throat through a whisper. His arm was stretched across the back of the bench. Without turning toward her, he moved his hand to her shoulder. She patted his hand to say "thanks". Without even thinking, she picked up his arm, moving her body closer to his and placing his arm around her shoulders. She felt the comfort of his warm body close to her, dispelling the emptiness that had become familiar as she watched the sun warm the cold, empty surface of the land, bringing light and  life to all that lived there. Declan didn't protest or move a muscle, but watched the day come alive beside her, in silence.