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Rated: ASR · Short Story · Death · #2253084
overcoming the death of a loved one
They say when a person dies, they take a piece of your heart with them. You are no longer whole; you’re only half of what you used to be, because there’s a hole in your heart. The hole in your heart can’t be filled by anyone else because it’s not their space.

I can’t speak about you in past tense. I speak about you as if you were still here. It’s easier to pretend that everything is normal, because facing the reality of you not being here is not a pain I know how to handle. I’m usually the logical one, I’m usually the one that knows the answer, but I don’t know the answer this time, and this is new territory for me. So, instead of figuring out an answer that fits into reality, I instead speak your name, and say that I’m going to visit you, but what I really mean is visiting your grave.

It’s been two months since your tragic and unexpected end and the pain is still as fresh as the day I found out. We had plans to leave this town, you and I, and move to another state, where I could expand my music career and you could chase your dreams of being a doctor. Now, my dreams have shattered, and I don’t want to leave, because you are my anchor that keeps me here. If I leave this town, that means leaving you, and you’re not someone I want to let go of.

I breathe out a sigh and lean my head back against my bedroom wall. My guitar was strapped over my shoulder, but I wasn’t playing it. I had just finished the song I’d written for you last night, but now, I had no desire to send it out into the world. Why should I when you wouldn’t be there to hear it?

Luca. Your name meant light in Latin. You were my light, my beacon that guided my ship to safe waters, and my candle that flickered in the darkness. Without you, I’m covered in darkness, and I don’t know where to turn to next. You had never left me stumbling in the dark before, but now, you were gone, and I had no one to guide me.

I strummed my guitar absentmindedly and moved off the wall so I could sit at the table. The table you had designed for me months earlier, which you’d carved out of oak wood. It had taken you a few weeks to get the design just right, because you said you wanted nothing but the best for me.

I strummed my guitar again and looked up through the sunroof of my apartment. The sun was shining brightly down on me, as if you were listening to every word I said, and could hear all of my thoughts. If you were here, you’d be begging me to sing my song for you, and as I stared into the sun, I could almost hear your voice, musically rich and full of life, gently encouraging me to play it.

I glanced down at the sheet of paper sitting on the table in front of me, the one which held all of the words I wish I could say to you right now, and leaned forward. You’d lean forward with me and stare at me, fascinated and patiently waiting to hang onto every word I say.

I sighed again and pulled the paper closer to me. I had memorized all of the lyrics the day before, but I had a sudden urge to look at them again, as if to burn them into my eyes. I wanted to sing this out-loud for you.

I took a deep breath and looked down at my guitar, strumming the song I’d written for you, not quite ready to sing the words, but knowing that you’d want me too.

Tears spilled down my cheeks as I finished singing and I swallowed back a gulp. I wish you hadn’t died before I had gotten a chance to sing this song for you….I had so many feelings for you and now, you’d never hear me get to tell you them again. I imagine you are still here, but when I look across the table, I see nothing. All I see are walls with pictures on them, my apartment, but I don’t feel at home.

“Come on, Phoenix! I want to show you something.”

We were two sixteen-year-olds, having been together for a year, and you were leading me through the woods near the lake. My parents had offered to take you with us and of course, you couldn’t say no. You’d said it was because of my momma’s cooking, but we all knew the real reason.

You’d told me that lakes were healing to you. The blue waters reminded you of my eyes and always made you feel at home. You were never afraid to go diving into the water as I watched you worriedly from the dock. I was always afraid that you’d drown, but my fears never came true, because your blonde hair always stood out, so I never lost you.

I laughed as you tugged me along, nearly tripping over a branch as you gave my arm a little harder of a tug.

“Calm down, Luca! I can’t go without you guiding me anyway. I don’t know the woods like you do.”

You looked behind your shoulder and gave me that warm smile that always sent lightning bolts down my spine.

“Phoenix, I promise you are really going to like it. Only your dad and I know about this place. You and your mom don’t know about it yet.”

I didn’t say a word in reply, so busy trying to watch my step, I didn’t want to fall, but I also knew you’d be there to catch me if I did.

“When did you guys come here?”

You gave me another smile and shook your head, an indicator that you weren’t about to give away that secret.

I wanted to pout, I wanted to drag the secret out of you, because I hated being kept in the dark, but all thoughts of forcing your secret out of you vanished when I stepped into the sunlight.

The clearest blue water I’d ever seen came into my line of vision. To the left of us was a small waterfall, and two large rocks overlooked the water. The sand was white like the snow and the sun glimmered off the water making look like it was waiting for me.

I turned to you, my other source of light, and stepped closer to you, wrapping my arms around your neck as a shy smile appeared over my face.

“Luca, how did you know that this is all I’ve ever wanted?”

You nudged my forehead with yours and locked your sparking green eyes on my blue ones. You carefully placed your hands on my waist and then picked your head up so you could press a kiss to my forehead.

“Sweetheart, I know a lot about you. I know you love little spots like these, not only so we can be alone, but so that you can have a place where you think and dream. After knowing you since we were 12 years old, I’d like to think I know you like the back of my hand.”

I blushed and nuzzled my face into your neck, causing a small burst of laughter to escape your lips.

“So shy,” you whispered. I pretended not to hear you as I took your hand and gently tugged it.

“I want to go down and see more of it, Luca!”

You only laughed and followed me down the rocky stairs, keeping your eyes on me so I didn’t fall.

“And see it you shall, sweetheart.”

Four months. Everyone says things get easier with time, and while that can be applied to most things, it can’t be applied in this situation. I’m getting more used to the empty apartment and the silence, but that’s it.

How could I get used to not seeing your twinkling eyes, your smile that told me more than words ever could, or your hand on my back as you carried me up the stairs to bed? The way you’d look at me when I played a song for you, or the way you’d laugh when I’d stumble over my words? The way you’d hold me when I cried from a bad day or how you were so patient when I lashed out at you?

How does one heal a broken heart? One that had found it’s missing piece, but now only has half a beat, that only has half of it while the other half is six feet under?

I look at that picture of us from six months earlier, the one that I hadn’t removed from my nightstand. We were on the beach in Florida. I was wearing a yellow sundress and you had a t-shirt and your favorite pair of skinny blue jeans. I was looking up at you as you pressed your lips to the top of my head.

My mom had taken that picture, I remembered. That was the last time the two of us ever traveled to Florida. How I wish we could have stayed there a little longer. My heart was so full that day, and looking at that picture leaves a bittersweet taste on my tongue. I used to never taste the bitter when I looked at that picture, only the sweet, but all that has changed.

I stumble down the hallway to my kitchen, struggling to keep my tears at bay. My heart is aching, it is always aching, but you aren’t here to celebrate your 24th birthday. I was planning a big surprise party for you, but all those plans shattered when I’d gotten the call that you had left this world.

I curse at the skies for taking you from me. It wasn’t fair that you had to die and I had to suffer losing you. We were both too young, we had so much to win, but I’ve lost you.
I let out a squeak as you bolted up behind me and picked me up from behind. I had just arrived at your graduation party, and I hadn’t seen you as you came up the driveway. Now, I knew why.


Your sweet laughter rang in my ears as you spun me around before placing me down on my own two feet. I looked up at you and smiled as your eyes sparkled in the sunlight.

“Hi, pretty girl,” you whispered, brushing some of the hair back from my face so you could kiss me properly.

I blushed and leaned into the kiss, my hands going into your hair.

I didn’t want to tell you then, but I was scared. We hadn’t exactly discussed college plans, so I was terrified of you moving away from me. I wasn’t going to be mad, but I’d be upset.

You smiled and tugged me towards the garage. The party was in your backyard and I could see people moving around, talking, eating, or playing in your giant pool.

You lead me to a private corner of your garage and gently pushed me into the wall so I could stare into your eyes. You were the most beautiful sight I’d ever seen, with your hair swooping over your forehead just the way I liked it, you were wearing your graduation shirt and a pair of dress shorts. I placed a hand on your chest and felt your heart beating, beating for me.

“Phoenix,” you whispered, cupping my face in your hands and kissing me again.

I didn’t lean into the kiss as much as I had the first time, so you pulled away and stroked my cheek instead.

“What’s going on, sweetheart?”

I hated that you could read me so well, but I wasn’t surprised. You knew me like all of the pages to your favorite book; after all, we’d been friends since the age of 12.

“Have you figured out where you’re going to college?”

I had sort of mumbled the question, so I didn’t think you heard me, but you did.

“I haven’t decided yet, but I know what I want to become.”

I looked up at you, my eyes widening as I waited for your answer.

You chuckled and kissed my forehead.

“I want to become a doctor.”

I tilted my head sideways at you but nodded. You were always helping our friends who’d gotten hurt, and plus, I knew your dad was a doctor, so it made sense for you to follow in his footsteps.

“You’re going to do great at that, I hope you know.”

You laughed and pressed a kiss into my hair, making me sigh in contentment.

“I will be fine as long as I have you by my side.”

I glanced down at the calendar and sighed. This was the day you’d asked me to be your girlfriend and I couldn’t celebrate it without you.

What were you doing up there? Were you talking about me to the angels? Were you telling them about the smile that always made you smile in return? Were you talking about my laugh, the one I hated but you always loved? Were you talking about the way I jumped into your arms when I hadn’t seen you for a while? Were you talking about the late night conversations we had about life?

I grabbed the necklace you’d gotten me for my 19th birthday and sighed. That had been a cold day, I remember, but you made me feel so warm.

You told me this was a promise necklace. A promise that would follow me wherever I went. A promise that you’d never leave my side. A promise that your heart would always search for mine.

You broke your promise to me, Luca. My heart and soul went with you when I found out that you were gone. Gone because of a drunk driver. Gone because he didn’t pay enough attention to the road and you became a causality.

He’s in jail, serving a life sentence, but that’s a small comfort.

You were my brightest star, the one that showed me the path when I got lost, and now, you’re my most depressing thought, because you aren’t here anymore.

I can’t even listen to our songs anymore because all they do is make me sad. Maybe someday I’ll be able to listen to them without sobbing, but now is not the right time.

I raced into your arms and nearly toppled you over with my hug, causing you to laugh.

“Hi, Phoenix!”

I nuzzled my face into your neck and giggled.

“I’m so glad to have you home!”

You pushed my head up off your neck and gave me a gentle kiss on the lips. I wrapped my arms around your neck and leaned into it, taking in the scent of your Pine Needle Cologne.

I couldn’t wait to tell you about all the new things that had happened in our family and with me, but I couldn’t say a word. The fact that you were here, in my arms, after five long months of you being away, was enough for me.

You grabbed my hand and lead me down the driveway towards a little grassy area that we often sat and talked on.

I took in the light in your green eyes as you pulled me down into your lap and wrapped your arms around me.

“I’ve missed you so much, sweetheart. I’ve missed my favorite girl.”

I leaned back against your chest and reached an arm behind me so I could stroke your face.

“I’ve missed my favorite boy. Everyone has been asking about you. They wanted to know when you were coming home.”

You laughed and kissed my fingertips before I could pull away.

“They want to know everything, don’t they?”

I snickered and turned myself around in your lap, wrapping my arms around your neck again and combing my fingers through your hair.

“Well, Luca, you’ve become part of the family, so of course they want to know everything about you!”

As you went on your ramble about everything that you missed about our home town, I watched you, unable to control my heartbeat. You had such a bright light and everyone you met felt comfortable in your presence. Your light was way too bright, it can’t be burned out.

I collapsed onto the floor of my bedroom, tears rolling down my cheeks. My heart was racing faster than a bullet train and I was shaking so badly, if someone had seen me, they would have thought I was an earthquake. My body shook with every deep breath I tried to take and I couldn’t control any of my movements.

I wanted to scream, I wanted to yell, I wanted to curse, but I couldn’t, the shortness of breath wouldn’t allow me to do that.
It had been six months since you left me and the pain wasn’t getting any easier. I still couldn’t accept that you were gone. I knew you were gone, it was logic, but I didn’t want to deal with logic, I wanted to deal with you.

As I fought to calm myself down, I heard your voice. At first I thought I was hearing things, your voice couldn’t still be here, but then I heard my name. That was your voice calling my name.

I looked up and saw you standing there, in the green t-shirt and jean shorts, which is what you’d been wearing when you had died.

I gasped and tried to stand up, but my legs didn’t want to work with me.

“Luca,” I choked out, staring at you, at the green eyes that I always got lost in, at the smile that still made my stomach do flip-flops.

You knelt down in front of me and wiped a few tears away from my cheeks.

“Phoenix, you need to move on.”

I stared at you in shock. Move on? From you? Why?

As if you’d read my mind, you took both of my hands in yours and sighed.

“You will still always have love for me. I don’t want you to think that I want you to forget about me. But you have to let me go. You have to move on, live your dream of getting married and having children. I’m sorry for leaving you, I never wanted to leave. But we can’t change it now. I will always be with you, I know that your heart will never be the same again, but please move on. Don’t spend all your tears on me. I’m always with you, okay?”

I shivered at your words and looked down, nodding. You were right: I couldn’t spend the rest of my life grieving you. You would always be a part of me, but I had to stop living in the past. The future wasn’t going to go the way I planned, but I had to let you go.

I locked eyes on you again and gave you a small smile. I didn’t need to say words: you knew I was letting you go.

You gave me one last kiss on the forehead and vanished from sight.

I glanced at my guitar and smiled up at the ceiling, looking up towards heaven where I knew you were watching me.

“Thank you for everything, Luca.”

At that moment, a ray of sunlight entered my window, and I laughed, knowing it was you accepting my thanks, and you giving me the light I needed.

You will never fade from my heart, but I will move on, for you have moved on, and you are still guiding my path

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