Ruthanne had always been independent and strong, but this loss required an unfamiliar strength. She felt like an old party balloon; still floating, just barely, anticipating the inevitable time when everything she kept inside would burst or deflate entirely.
For the first several months, Ruthanne was on auto pilot, just staying the course, just trying to make it from one day to the next. Alice often wondered how she juggled everything and still held it together. At night, when she heard her mom’s muffled cries, her heart ached for answers no one could give.
For Ruthanne, night time was the hardest. She buried her face in Keith’s pillow trying to breathe in his scent and sobbed herself to sleep most nights. She missed his arm around her waist as they slept, his kiss good night, his reassuring presence.
On nights when sleep could not find her, she would wait until the kids were sleeping and crawl into bed with them one at a time. She’d whisper sweet stories about Keith in their ears, hoping he would find his way into their dreams. She’d talk until her eyes were heavy and raw from tears then tip toe back to her empty bed and drift into a restless sleep filled with images of happier times waiting to comfort her.
Alice loved these secret visits. She often forced herself to stay awake so she could feel the warmth of her mother next to her and soak up the stories about her dad. She was worried that she would forget the way he smelled or the sound of his laugh and these stories preserved those memories somehow. Alice bottled every memory her mom offered, and stacked them in her mind.
8 years later….
Ruthanne sat perched on the bay window twirling Keith’s gold band around the chain she wore around her neck. Alice was coming into town to celebrate her twenty-fifth birthday and Ruthanne eyed every car eagerly as they passed. Though they talked several times a week, their conversations had become shorter and superficial since Alice began dating Troy. Ruthanne was thankful for the calls but like any mom, she ached to hold her kids close, to look them over and see for herself that they were alright…especially Alice. She always worried about Alice.
When the silver Camry pulled into the driveway, Ruthanne leapt up and ran to greet her daughter.
“Alice!” She said kissing her cheek. “I’ve missed you! Come inside. I’ve made fresh lemonade and our favorite cheesecake is waiting for us. We’ve got so much to catch up on!” Ruthanne squeezed Alice one more time and then led the way to the kitchen.
Alice sat crisscrossed on her chair and twirled her hair as she ate her cheesecake.
“Soooo Mom. What’s new? You look amazing….you look happier than I’ve seen you in years.” Alice grinned.
“Funny, I was going to say the same thing about you Alice. I guess love suits us.” She smirked.
Alice choked on her cheesecake and downed her glass of lemonade. “What did you just say?”
“I met someone, Alice. Well, we’ve been friends for years, but one night we got to talking and realized we felt stronger than just friends. We’ve been dating for a few months now. His name is Jim. I feel weird admitting I am dating again at my age. I should have told you. I just didn’t know how to bring it up.” She paused and looked down at Keith’s ring on her neck. “He’s asked me to marry him Alice…and I said yes.”
“I’m a little speechless mom, but so excited for you. You deserve this.” Alice wiped a tear from her eye and grabbed her mom’s hands. “It looks like we’ll be shopping for dresses together.” Alice squealed as she held out her left hand displaying an emerald cut diamond on a platinum band. “Troy proposed too! We’re both getting married, Mom!!!”
Check back tomorrow on our two brides!