The Pull, Chapter One
“I was holding it together by a string and a paper clip in the fall and winter. I didn’t know if I could keep it all together…You console yourself by saying it’s all a deepening process. But it’s weird. After the first year, the pain is less intense; it’s less immediate. But the magical thinking goes away too. And that’s a whole new reckoning.”
                                  

                           -Michelle Williams ‘On coping after Heath Ledger’s death.’


                  
                                                                                   
 
              The Pull


                                  
             

      
“Those who are dead are not dead, they’re  just living in my head.”
                                                                   

                                                                         –Coldplay

 

                                        
                                                             Chapter One

Evie

July 31st,  2011


    For a long time my subconscious rested in a dark place, ticking through the memories like a jukebox selecting a record. It took its time digging while I slept. Pausing to evaluate the images that flashed by. Wondering if I was ready to see what had become dusty in the blackest corner of my mind.

     Yes. It was time.

      I melted into the dream as if I had always been there. I knew where I had come from; I knew where I was going. I was standing outside our bedroom door with Dr. Hamilton. I stared at him for what seemed like hours, unable to comprehend his words.

      “Bria? Did you hear what I said?”

      I nodded mutely to answer the doctor’s question. I had heard him alright. It echoed endlessly in my mind. Overandoverandover. It’s time to say goodbye. It’s time to say goodbye. It’s time to say goodbye.


      I walked him down our stairs, with one hand delicately tracing the rail, in case my legs gave out from under me; trying to keep my sanity long enough to thank him and send him away.

      I couldn’t make eye contact with him as he whispered his condolences. I nodded and pushed the door shut softly behind him. As it latched into place I leaned against it and slid to the floor. That was when the hysteria began. I couldn’t breathe for sobbing. I’m not sure how long I sat, when the realization hit that I was wasting precious time. I picked myself up off the floor, patted my cheeks with my palms and hurried up the stairs.

      Again I found myself face to face with the door. I knew what lay on the other side. I was terrified to open it, afraid it might be too late. I didn’t know if I was strong enough to make it through the next several hours. I wondered if it were possible to actually die from grief.

      I lifted my chin bravely and opened the door.

      “So… he told you.” His voice was steady and calm.

      “Yes…” Breathless sobbing overtook me as I made my way to kneel by his bedside.

      “Shhhhhhhhhhhhh.” He whispered as he crinkled into a smiled and placed a hand on each side of my face to wipe tears away with his thumbs.

      My husband.

      I always knew of course that it would come. I had been preparing for it, cautiously, for many many years. Thinking about it in properly contained doses. Never lingering for long, such things could grab ahold of you and pull you under with massive force if you let them.

      Now that it was here, sitting right here in the room with us, I realized how truly unprepared I was. I felt like a tiny leaf, shivering in the icy breeze… only I wasn’t cold. The gravity of what I was facing was causing my entire body to shake and chatter.

     Everything that goes up must come down. For every high we had experienced in forty years of marriage it would make me pay tenfold now.

      I trained my breath to flow in and out. Slowly. I had to keep a handle on my emotions, we were out of time and we had things to arrange. "I would like to renegotiate your twenty-six rule. Twenty-six is old. Twenty-six years is an eternity.” I always did have a flair for drama. I tried to exaggerate my voice in a lighthearted way; wanted to show him that I could be effortlessly upbeat in the face of despair.

      He smiled slowly, always willing to revisit the same issues, over and over, until I was satisfied. “Old? Twenty-six?  In case you’ve forgotten, my dear, I am sixty-six. Now that’s old.  I know you stopped aging at twenty-two,” I gave him an appreciative grin, “but the rest of us have been getting all flabby and wrinkly. Hell, I don’t even remember what I did during my first twenty-six years.” As he mentioned it, it did feel like ages ago. I looked down at my hands, bulging with veins and wrinkles. I used to have such pretty hands...

      I ignored his attempt to convince me and went on, rambling “Where did you come up with that age anyway? And how come you want to see other people?” I knew I was being silly and insecure, but I couldn’t stop the words from coming out. I had a bad habit of saying everything that was on my mind, especially with Jude. The level of comfort that we had achieved throughout the years leant itself to some over-sharing.

      “Don’t be ridiculous. I don’t want to see other people; I said we needed to have new experiences.” 

      “Riiiiiiightt, ‘Experiences.’” I put sarcastic air quotes around the word, but gave him a big wink to show that I was now just kidding around.

      My knees began to ache pressed into the hard cold floorboards. I stood on shaky legs and sat down next to his thin body. When did he become so frail? I could remember so easily a time when he could lift me up and throw me over his shoulder like a rag doll.

      He would reach for me in the middle of the night, nearly every single night, wrapping one of those solid arms around my waist and pulling me in close. So. Close.

     I wondered if he woke each night to find I was too far away, or if he needed me subconsciously, even while he slept.

      I closed my eyes and tried to remember the lines of his tan shoulders, plump with muscle and youth...

      “Ya know what I think?” His shaky broke the silence and the image of Young Jude vanished. I opened my eyes to the reality of Old Jude. Dying Jude.

      “What baby?” I placed a hand around the curve of his neck, always feeling the need to touch him in some way.

      “I would like to think we keep coming back because we’re supposed to be learning something.”

      “I could see that.”

       “It’s just the only damn sense I can make of any of it. If we’re not learning from these lives, what the hell are we doing here?"
When did he start talking so slowly? It seemed to take him a great deal of effort to get the words out.We couldn’t be random accidents…we have the same birthday for Christ’s sake.”

      I smiled warmly at the special milestone we had celebrated jointly every year.

      We sat for a moment in comfortable silence. His haggard breathing hissed and wheezed as his lungs fought for survival. With great effort he said softly, almost to himself, “Everything would be so much easier if you could remember...”

      “Why do you think that is?”

      “What?”

      “How come you remember and I don’t?”

      “I dunno.” He shrugged his boney shoulders, “I think it has something to do with our personalities. See you’re…” I could tell he was trying to find a way to put it delicately, “you’re a lover.”

      I raised my eyebrows in surprise at his choice of words.

      “Not lover, as in lovvvver, but you love. With all your heart. You love me and you love being with me. I’m a little more….independent. Not that I don’t love you, of course I do, but maybe I have a little more perspective or else I’m possibly more selfish than you are, but either way I think you have to forget about me to focus on you.”

      Oh.

      “Well alright. I guess that makes sense. But what if I fall in love with someone else because I have no idea I'm supposed to meet you?"

     Bria, the universe has a very specific plan, and neither of us could change the outcome if we wanted to.” I looked into his eyes for a sign that he was bullshitting me; maybe he was just trying to make the whole losing-your-spouse-thing less difficult. But he was solid as he stared back at me and I had no choice but to trust him.

     I climbed under the covers and gently twisted my body around his. I held him as tightly as I dared and planted the softest, tiniest kisses on his shoulder, his collar bone, his neck. I was breathing him in, trying to memorize his smell, his pretty eyes.

      He smiled.

      “What ever are you doing love?”

      “Making sure I remember you. You’re perfect, you know that? And unbelievably sexy…” The man staring into my eyes was my whole entire world and the tears found their way out once again. I wasn’t gasping for breath now, just letting them silently roll down my cheeks.

      “I know this is harder for you and for that I am eternally sorry. I wish I could give you this gift of certainty. I would in a second honey, but I just can’t. You’re going to have to believe me, can you do that? You will live on it the rest of your life…”

      “But how will I find you?”

      He hesitated for only a moment before a crooked sly smile lit up his face. “Let’s meet at the Hotel Del Coronado, for old time’s sake…”

      I smiled in spite of everything. Memories of our honeymoon flooded a golden light on our bleak reality. “Yes. Yes of course…”

      “Go there when you’re twenty-six, and so will I…”

      After a moment’s pause I thought I would try one last thing.  “I know! How about a compromise? You know we do a mean compromise. We’ll make it sixteen. We’ll run away from home, meet at The Del, and… umm… then we can finish high school.” I ended brightly. There, knocked ten years off. Not too shabby.

      He sighed with an exasperated smile that he used every time I got excited about an impossible idea.

      “Run away and finish high school? Babe. That’s a terrible idea. Besides, it’s not something I get to make up as I go. I have to play by the rules, just like you.”

      My happiness deflated. I knew this, of course, I just didn’t like it.

      “I’m tired now.” His voice sounded strange. “If it’s not too much to ask, can we just fall asleep? Just like this?”

      I wanted to bombard him with questions. I wanted to kiss him and hear his voice, I wanted to keep him up talking all night…but this wasn’t about what I wanted. I nodded wordlessly and nuzzled into the crook of his neck. I was sure I wouldn’t fall asleep but exhaustion got the better of me.

      As I opened my eyes to the harsh light of day I turned to examine Jude. Surely he was still here, he had to be. Yes the doctor had said he was dying, but I wasn’t finished yet. I hadn’t even said a proper goodbye. My eyes welled up as I shook him and called out his name. He was cold and stiff. His face was serene and there was no question, he was gone.

      I moaned out, unable to believe or accept it. I suddenly felt afraid there, alone in the room with his…body.

      I pulled out the pen and paper I had stashed in the drawer next to the bed and shakily scrolled out the words I never wanted to have to write.

       To my lovely friends and family-

      I know this is selfish and I’m sorry. It’s not possible for me to live in a world where he doesn’t exist. I want to  be buried by his side in the Franklin Cemetery. I have included his obituary in this envelope. Please don’t write one for me. I don’t want anyone to know that I took my own life. It’s despicable to me even as I’m about to do it. I hope a small part of you will understand why I had no other choice. I love you and hope to see you again in another life.

         -Bria

      I folded the tear streaked paper and shoved it in the envelope. I kissed the seal and placed it next to Jude on my pillow. I couldn’t bear to look over at the lifeless shell that used to hold my husband. I climbed off our bed, never to sink into its softness again. Walked along the creaky floorboards, knowing it would be the last time I would hear them cry in protest, and opened the window in our bedroom that overlooked the sea.

      The ocean’s salty breath washed over my face and with it a sense of calm. I smiled knowing it would be the last thing I smelled. I peered down to the rocky bluffs below and almost lost my nerve. I climbed onto the window ledge, sitting on my heels.  The wind blew my hair back and as it shifted, I could almost feel it wrap around my body, pulling me outward. I gasped, clutching the sides of the window. I would not accidentally fall. I would do it deliberately, on my own terms.

      I perched on the window frame for a long while, wondering if this was really what I wanted. The moment the doctors told us he only had a couple months my mind was already made up.

      But it wasn’t too late. I could crawl back inside, burn the note, and bury my husband. The thought sent a shiver that racked through my entire soul. Was I actually supposed to sit there and watch as his body lowered into the ground? How long would I live while he waited patiently for me to die? The longer I lived, the longer it would be until I saw him alive again, until I could taste his new lips and run my fingers through his new hair. We could be young and beautiful again…

      With that I took a deep breath and leapt; spreading my arms, pretending I could fly…

      I awoke with a start just before my body hit the jagged rocks.

      My eyes shot open and I was wrenched into the present tense. Drenched in sweat and disorientated I looked around, forgetting where I was when I had fallen asleep. Shakily I sat up in bed and noticed my pillow was wet. I reached my hands up to my face and frantically began to wipe away the tears that were sticky on my feverish young cheeks.

      Twenty-six? But I’m twenty-six now.

      The realization hit me with brutal force. It had all been for this. This crucial memory. I laughed aloud at the cleverness of my own subconscious, leading me down the trail of bread crumbs.

      For the last few months I had been traveling, digging, searching. For this. I sat for a moment and remembered the whirlwind events that led me here. I traced them in my mind, one by one, back to where it all started. Back to my office in Colorado…

Comments:
 
pamelasummer   pamelasummer wrote
on 2/19/2012 11:20:35 PM
I love it!

ChelsieShakespeare   ChelsieShakespeare wrote
on 5/24/2011 12:07:30 PM
Torn- It is in the process of being published and should be out sometime in June (my editor is gutting it as we speak) :-) I don't think I will be posting any more chapters since it will be out so soon :-) Your comment gave me goosebumps. This is my first novel and I had no idea how it would be received or interpreted by the rest of the world, so far I have heard such kind and amazing things. It helps me to know that I am doing the right thing with my life and need to keep writing!! So thank you. Very very much.

torn   torn wrote
on 5/23/2011 11:22:30 PM
@ sharma: Awesome is an insult to how incredibly addictive this is. 0.0 Are you planning on posting more chapters?

AzureFaith   AzureFaith wrote
on 5/20/2011 11:37:20 AM
The best part to me of the story, though it was all very solid and impressive, was the dialogue. The way the characters speak with one another felt real, which is hard for most writers to do, in my opinion, and what makes me immediately a fan of a book -- regardless of content -- is the way characters speak, think and interact. You seem to have that down, from what little I've read, and I'm in. Congratulations on getting published too! I hope it all goes well for you!

ChelsieShakespeare   ChelsieShakespeare wrote
on 5/19/2011 5:30:23 PM
It will be out in June :-)

12
ChelsieShakespeare
Novel / Novella
Romance
writing ChelsieShakespeare
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Synopsis
The Pull is a love story about two people who are meant to find each other over and over, every time they live. Each life they get to meet, fall in love, and rediscover the reasons why they continue to stay together throughout the ages. When the story begins Evie remembers nothing of her long history with one man. She has no idea she is supposed to be looking for him until she begins having vivid dreams about their previous life together. Along the way she meets Kyler, a handsome college student who shares her hunger for knowledge. Together they uncover more than she ever thought possible and he unknowingly sends her down a path from which she might never return…
A Word from the Writer
You can read more about me at www.chelsieshakespeare.com. The Pull will be released June 13th!!!
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