Some of you are not on my personal page. Some of you are only following me on the reccomendation of someone else (and I’m very thankful that you are). Some of you are still waiting to read my writing.
I thought that sharing the first chapter of my novel, A Life Without, would give you a better idea of who I am and what I write. For those of you on my personal page, I’m sorry to post this again but I’m hoping my new fans will love it as much as you all have.
I welcome your feedback and I thank you for taking the time to read it.
Kadie’s funeral was on the coldest day in January. Mara couldn’t have told anyone what the temperature was that day; the coldness was determined by the frozen state of her heart. It ran through her blood and seeped into her bones until it was impossible to imagine ever being warm again. Kadie was gone and with her the sun went, too.
The church was filled with a sea of blacks, blues and grays spilling out into the foyer in standing-room only fashion. The death of a young person always pulled a community closer and brought them together; their attempt to make a stand against the great injustice of wasted youth. In spite of the weather, friends from school, teachers, coaches, neighbors and family turned out in droves. It was a final act of love for their hometown girl.
The coffin had been closed; her face hidden forever from the people who loved her most. Flowers were laid out covering the coffin, the alter and the entryway until they spilled out onto the porch and still they continued to come. It was the flowers that made Mara rage. People sent flowers when they didn’t know what to say; as if the flowers would really make a difference and somehow bring her daughter home. She knew that she wouldn’t even remember who had sent flowers and who had saved the money to spend on their own children….their LIVING children.
Mara sat beside Davis, refusing to turn to him for comfort but not having the strength to turn away. Even side by side, they were miles apart. In the crowd of faces, she was completely, totally alone. Sympathies were offered, hugs shared and tears shed; all of which were lost on her. Everyone else’s hurt paled in comparison to hers. Their soft spoken words were raw and rough on her heart. The hugs were scratchy wool on her skin, and the tears mirrored her own. Grief had filled the room and Mara was left with nothing else.
The eulogies were beautifully written and vibrant in color. They were the stories of a girl who laughed often and loved deeply. The crowd heard of the child who shared her Oreos with a homeless guy. The story of winter boots left from “Mrs. Claus” was told by a teenage girl who remembered well the door-step package. Then there was the Kadie who wore pink bunny slippers to church every Sunday until Mrs. Mason stopped wearing her fur coat. They heard of the hospital volunteer who told a child his birthmark was an angel’s kiss. They were stories of a girl who dreamed she would change the world by sheer willpower alone. What she didn’t realize was that she had already changed the world because of her love. There were stories of pink tutus, sleepovers and summer swimming parties. Each story was another piece of Kadie; the only pieces left of Kadie. Mara sat there though, too numb to drink them in, too hurt to find a way to hang on to them. They washed over Mara one after another and like waves in the ocean, she knew each one was beautiful but it was impossible for her to capture them.
The eulogies gave Mara no comfort. The memories did not bring her daughter back. They only spotlighted everything she had lost and served as a reminder of everything she would never have again. The kind words were salt on an open wound. The wavering voices made her ache with sadness and then it was Luke’s turn to speak.
In the three years since prom, Luke had gone from the good looking boy next-door to an incredibly handsome young man. Gone was the soft, roundness of his face replaced with chiseled lines and angles. He had not grown any taller but he had filled out and lost his teenage lankiness. He had become more comfortable with his size. There was no doubt that Luke Montgomery now had a solid presence.
He walked toward the podium with slow and deliberate steps. Mara had seen the other speakers do the same thing, dreading the moment that all eyes would be on them. With Luke though, she knew his reason was different. Luke was holding on as long as he could to Kadie’s last good-bye. Dragging those moments out, allowed him a bit more time before he had to let her go.
He towered over the podium and yet it appeared to hold him up. His mouth opened and closed twice but silence reigned. He shook his head, scattering the sadness long enough to allow him his words.
“My Kadie….. I always did things for you that I wouldn’t have done for anyone else. This time is no exception. I’m not up here because I think I deserve to be. This room is filled with people who loved you well. We all have Kadie stories and we all feel your loss. My grief does not outweigh anyone else’s. I’m here because I promised you I would be.
They say you never forget the day you bury your first pet. I remember when you lost Libby Girl and even though she wasn’t my dog, it felt like she was. She was the best dog I’ve ever known and I was as lost without her as you were. All my favorite memories included the three of us.
The day we buried her, we laid under our tree just as we had done a thousand times before but this Libby wasn’t there. I remember closing my eyes tight and pretending that she was still there with us. It seemed to work for a while. Then, I heard you crying and the pretending wouldn’t work anymore.
I never knew what to say when you cried, Kadie. It always hurt me to see you so sad. I reached out and took your hand; your cold hands in my warm ones. I don’t know how long we stayed like that but to me it seemed like forever. I didn’t move and neither did you. We just laid there until your tears slowed and you could talk again.
I never forgot what you said to me that day. ‘I’m scared everyone will just forget Libby. I don’t want that. She deserves more. And I’m scared that someday everyone will forget me, too. Promise me that when I die, you’ll tell the world all about me and make me unforgettable to them.’ You will never know how much that simple request hurt my heart.
I promised. If you would have asked me for the moon, I would have found a way. I would have said anything to make your tears stop. I never thought I would have to follow through. Promises made by fourteen-year kids are supposed to be silliness between kids, not final acts of love. But Kadie, here I stand, keeping my word.
Do you remember when I took you fishing? The only time I took you fishing? I caught the ‘big one’ and you made me let it go. I didn’t mind really, although I acted like you were ripping my heart out. What killed me though was when you refused to even take a picture for me. You told me that it was a living creature and I had no right to brag about capturing it. You said I had to simply keep it in a memory. We argued and you refused to budge. You looked at me and said ‘Luke Montgomery, you bragging about catching this fish is just like you bragging about catching me! It’s a living creature. You shouldn’t brag about catching a girl OR a fish.’
“Kadie, I never told you but I did brag to everyone about catching you. I just didn’t let you know it, I was always so afraid you would realize that my only weakness was you. So I tried to stay two steps ahead of you the whole time. Everyone else knew I loved you, long before I ever let you know.”
“Do remember how mad you were when nobody asked you to go to the prom? What you didn’t know was I told everyone not to. I knew if anyone else asked you, you wouldn’t go with me. I couldn’t ask you, though. Back then you never took me seriously….actually I’m not sure you ever did, but especially not back then. You would have laughed at me and shot me down without even considering it. So, I made sure you had no other options. Mike Ruggers almost get a black a black eye over you but eventually he saw things my way, too. Maybe that wasn’t fair to you and I’m sure you’re probably pretty mad at me. I’m not going to lie though and say I’m sorry. Going to that prom with you was the best thing I’ve ever done.”
Laughter filled the church; the tension and heaviness lifted for an instant. Just long enough to allow a breath. At the back of the church, several people turned to look at a tall, blonde man standing by the window. Mike nodded and broke out in a small grin. He remembered that parking lot conversation well and he understood. Even back then, he had no hard feelings.
Luke exhaled heavily, the sound of life and yet somehow the sound of death as well. “Kadie, I told you to wear a blue dress knowing full well you would wear green. You were always your most stubborn with me. Lucky for me, I learned all about your stubbornness early on.
I will live the rest of my life and never forget how you looked that night. I acted like it was the tux that made it hard to breathe but it wasn’t. It was you. I had loved you since I was four but seeing you like that; I knew I was going to marry you. You felt it too, I saw it. It wasn’t an instant change but there were moments of silence and awkwardness where there never had been before. Pauses when it felt like we should kiss but you would punch me instead. I knew you needed time. I had fourteen years to get used to the idea; you were just beginning to realize there was more to us. You are a very lucky girl that I am such a patient man, Kadie Daniels.
College was good for us although the first months nearly drove me crazy with worry. I thought you would find someone there. I thought you would let someone else make you laugh and help you forget to be homesick. I was scared that I was going to lose you. I knew the threat of a busted nose wouldn’t be enough to keep it from happening this time. I was scared that you would replace me. Then your phone calls came and you talked about Joe. You went to the movies, had ice cream, played Frisbee in the commons, and went bowling. I couldn’t act jealous although I was. I didn’t sleep for a month. We had come so far. I couldn’t bear the thought of losing you before we ever really had a chance. Then you called to ask me what you should buy him for his birthday. I didn’t understand why you would ask me. You got mad and snapped at me when I told you that I couldn’t help.
‘It’s Joe’s birthday next week, Luke. I thought you might remember what it’s like to be a ten year old boy since you still act like one!’
Joe was a foster child you had volunteered to mentor. I swear you never told me and I know you say I simply didn’t listen but it didn’t matter. Joe wasn’t competition. You were my girl again, even though you still wouldn’t admit it.
I think you needed to go away just so you could miss me. It was hard on you not having me right there all the time, I could tell by your late night phone calls and your five page letters. I cherished them all. I read them over and over again until I knew the lines by heart and the pages were soft from folding. I think you started realizing you loved me when you started having to miss me. As much as it killed me, I couldn’t call you or write you. I knew I had to wait for you and hope that missing me would be enough to open your eyes.
Thanksgiving was the official beginning for us. You were different around me and I hoped that was because we were growing closer and not apart. You acted the same way you had in 6th grade when you had a crush on Eric Robertson. You giggled too much and acted shy. Back then I told you that you were acting like a stupid girl. This time, when I was the reason for your silliness, I liked it. We were arguing over who got the last piece of chocolate pie when I kissed you. It was much better than the one in kindergarten had been. You looked at me with all the spunk that drives me crazy and said ‘I’m still not giving you the last piece of pie.’
I promised myself then that I was never going to let you go even if it meant I never had the last piece of pie. Since that moment three years ago, we’ve always been together even when we’ve been apart. It was so easy once you finally realized that you loved me, too.
Kadie, I bought your birthday gift last week when the world was still right. I don’t know if I could have kept it a secret from you for three weeks but I was going to try. I couldn’t wait to see your smile. Now I realize that if I don’t give it to you today, I’ll never have the chance. So I’m going to do it here because I can’t live the rest of my life knowing I never gave it to. I’m so sorry; this isn’t how I wanted it to be but this moment is all I have.”
Luke’s eulogy had not been addressed to the church. His words had not been directed to Mara and Davis. He had not stared at the stained glass window to avoid eye contact. Luke’s eyes had not left the one place that everyone else had tried to avoid. Luke’s eulogy had been given to Kadie and the whole time he never took his eyes off her casket.
He walked past Kadie’s graduation picture to the rose-draped coffin. His bent shoulders acknowledging the burden he carried. His face was moist with un-wiped tears. He was a young man aged in an instant. He reached out and touched the coffin. It was obvious in his mind he was touching her face.
“I’ve shared your story, Kadie, but I am not the one who made you unforgettable. You are. You always have been. I love you. You were everything right in the world and the best memories I have are all with you. I’m lost now. I never realized that I breathed easier just because I knew you loved me. Please find a climbing tree and wait under it for me. I promise, someday, I will come and find you.
I’m so jealous of the angels because they get to hear your laughter and feel the warmth of your smile. They get to have you forever and, selfishly, that’s what I wanted, too. Kadie Elaine Daniels, all I ever wanted was to grow-up and marry you.”
Luke reached in his pocket and gently laid something on the soft, white cloth covering the coffin. Even those in the back who couldn’t see, knew what Luke had done. When he pulled his hand back, he left behind the small velvet box that held a diamond ring. In that moment, Mara’s heart caved in and she lost the only piece of sanity she had been holding on to.