Mikolaj (Me-ko-why) Lockwood missed his wife!
The widower leaned up against the headstone of someone’s grandmother and finished another bottle of beer. He slipped the empty into the garbage bag he brought and reached into the cooler for yet another bottle. He twisted open the amber drink and took a sip. He spilled some over his bottom lip and it joined tears he had wiped from his face.
Mikołaj Lockwood, Sasha to most, had lost his love, Vanessa Delarosa-Lockwood, two years ago that night. While leading a discussion at a conference of female attorneys in Florida, she was hit by the spray of bullets from an AR-15, the murderer the estranged husband of one of the others on the dais. She was killed instantly. Before he could fly down and retrieve her body, the man had been granted bail by a friendly judge and skipped out to his family’s Kentucky compound.
He remembered the anger he felt that morning when he and the others were informed of this injustice and finished the beer. He rolled the empty into the plastic and grabbed a fresh one. He sighed and swore to no one in particular, cursing the universe for his loss.
“What good is it to be able to talk with ghosts if I can’t talk to you?” he said to his love. The bottle open, he drained half of it before the tears returned. He slipped further down to the ground and was overtaken by much needed sleep. No dreams came.
He awoke when he heard someone call his name. “Nicky!” He stirred and grabbed his glasses from the grass and looked at the form before him.
“Nicky, wake up,” she told him. There was a glow to her, a large smile on her face and a twinkle in her blue eyes. He recognized her: the cherub face and the smells of vanilla extract and chocolate eased his pain.
“Come on brother Nicky.” He reached for the bottle, wanted to throw it at her since he hated being called that. Sasha mumbled that she should have known not to call him that. The man pushed himself up and exhaled deeply.
“Please, don’t call me that,” he said. The mournful man pushed himself up and prepared to steady himself. He knew that his legs would no be stable; he learned against the gravestone and shook his head.
He lifted his glasses and wiped his eyes; the tears were clouding his sight. “You know that no one calls me that, except mom and the grandmas,” he told the young woman.
With his glasses returned and his sight more focused, Mikołaj spoke out. “Mandy, you can speak!”
In life, Amanda Cushing did not speak, only communicating with smiles, tears, and extended arms. Both spina bifida and cerebral palsy had taken much from her, but what she gave was unconditional love, even to the teenager who lived in the apartment above the one she shared with her parents and younger sisters.
“Of course, silly. You of all people should know that everyone in the afterlife can speak. Haven’t the ghosts told you that before?” She took a few steps towards him and helped him stand straight.
Experience prepared him for a cold touch, but not with Mandy. She was warm as if sharing the love that she had for him in life. Her felt the alcohol begin to leave him; he was sweating.
He looked at Vanessa’s tombstone, “I really, truly loved her.” He felt tears well in his eyes again.
She nodded, “I know, even despite the way you two met, and how both of the families had little faith in lasting more than a month.”
A grin came to his face. They won bets with his father and her grandparents, and how they used that money to celebrate their first anniversary.
“You should get off your ass and let’s get you home. You need some rest. I suspect that you have some business in the afternoon.”
“Isn’t the saying ‘in the morning’?”
She laughed, “We both know that that’s not going to happen.”
He laughed heartily, for the first time since his love’s death. “I need to call some cousins and tell them that I’ll help them.”
She kissed his cheek. And like he had thought of how it would have gone as a teenager, Sasha felt love come from her and fill him with pride and understanding. “Nicky, you were the best brother I never knew I needed nor wanted. Please, take care of yourself.”
She handed him his car keys and whispered to him that he was safe to drive. She took his hand and guided him out of the cemetery. They stopped at the gate. She pulled him closer and enveloped him. The warmth of pure love filled him and gave him solace. He tried to pull her through, but she stayed. He understood she could go no further.
He walked a few steps and turned back. He watched her wave and slowly disappear. Another tear ran down his cheek. This one from being happy, he was able to talk with Mandy.
He rolled out of bed and landed hard on the floor. Sasha squinted at the clock: 12:33. He snickered, “Mandy knows me too well.”
Mikołaj removed his shoes and was working on his tie when the phone rang. Picking it up, he answered, “Yes, cousin, I’ll help you.”
He added, “Longfellow Wright will meet you in an hour.”