Julianne losses her love, Lance. Believing her life is over, she discovers a treasure box.
|After losing the love of her life, Julianne has found a ride along the rugged coast is therapy. As Mozart plays, her long dark hair whips at her face and she can open a damaged soul to wild wind. Pain comes in raw waves, crashing against the sea wall, cries escalate to a primal scream. It is like probing an open wound without anesthetic. When she arrives home, sleep comes from tortured exhaustion.
Julianne Gregg kissed her husband Lance good-bye at their vine-covered cottage on a stormy night one year ago. Lance was invited to a party for a visiting professor from France. The party was being hosted by the Head of the Literature Department two hours away. Julianne went to the occasional college function but tonight she was feeling congested. When she closed the door behind Lance, she felt relief. A glass of Merlot and brand new novel by her favorite author waited for her.
At midnight she was curled up beneath cool cotton sheets and a lovely scarlet satin comforter. It had begun to rain gently, a symphony on windows, a sound that she loved. Lance might wake her with a kiss. She had taken a decongestant so the combination of it and the wine had put her into a deep sleep.
The phone startled her. A glance at the clock said 3:12 a.m.and she knew. Her hand on the cell phone was damp. It read "St. Joseph's Hospital".
A compassionate female voice was on the line.
"Is this Julianne Gregg?"
Her voice was shaky. "Yes, what's wrong?"
"I'm sorry to tell you but your husband was in a car accident. He is in serious condition. Do you know where St. Joseph's is?"
"Yes-off 1-95, right?"
"Please have a family member drive you. Come as soon as you can. We will take care of him."
"But...can you tell me more..is he going to live?"
"He is holding his own. If he has any medical papers like durable power of attorney, we need those."
There wasn't anyone so she drove with GPS. It took twenty minutes.
There was a valet, thank God. Julianne wrote her name on the admission sheet at the ER window. When no one responded she pushed her way through the crowded hallways. She saw gurneys with varieties of injuries and symptoms.
An elderly woman reached out to her, clutching her arm with a strong gnarled hand.
"Cassie, get me some thing for this here pain. I believe I'm a dyin'." She was so pitiful.
There was a mixture of coughing, retching and crying. She listened to angry patients and family members complaining how long they had been waiting. A couple laid so still that she wondered if they had given up. She didn't look to see if they were breathing.
She had a purpose. She was looking for Lance's beautiful eyes.
An elderly female volunteer gently took her by the elbow. "Who are you looking for, honey?"
"My husband, Lance. He was in a car accident."
"Wait just a moment and I will find someone to speak to you."
A chaplain appeared and escorted her into a dimly lit room.
She attempted to pull away knowing this was not a good sign. He gripped her cold hands with his warm ones.
"I'm Tim Martin, a Chaplain for the hospital. A physician is on his way to explain about your husband's injuries. Call me Tim."
Julianne could taste the salty tears running into her mouth.
"So he is still alive, right? Someone just tell me something. Give me something to hang on to."
The Chaplain reached into his jacket for a monogrammed hankerchief. She wondered how many he had stuffed in there.
"This is a mistake...I think I need to go home now."
She began to walk towards the door.
A young man, looking like a confused kid, comes in. He begins to speak rapidly with words tumbling out. He is apologizing.
"I am so sorry, Ms. Gregg. I was the supervising resident to care for your husband. It appears that he was killed instantly....head trauma. There wasn't anything we could do. In cases like his, he probably didn't suffer. I know this is difficult. Sometimes it helps knowing someone else can be saved. Your husband was a young healthy man...had you two ever discussed organ donation?"
This was only Dr. Don Grimm's second time to break this awful news. Perhaps one day he will be able to say these words with the proper compassion and professional tone. Thank God for the Donor Coordinator with the skills needed to deal with how much better a loved one will feel if they can give organs to six different people that can be saved.
With experience he will be able to eat breakfast, discuss the next case and it will be just another routine MVA (motor vehicle accident) fatality. This is the way one becomes a ER doc without going crazy. Sometimes you can save someone and you feel like Super Trauma Surgeon. You spread that all around; to the patient and their family, your Chief Resident, your fellow residents. The patient may have months of rehab, other surgeries but it is a victory. Chalk it up in your brain-a win.
This was happening too fast. Julianne couldn't think.
The Chaplain helped her to a chair.
She gripped the arms of the chair digging her nails into the fabric.
Then another young woman joined them. She introduced herself as Laura Hunter. She explained her job as an Organ Donor Coordinater. She apologized about Lance's early death but began to speak about how many other people he could help.
Julianne felt like she had to take some control here. How dare these people presume they know anything about the two of them?
With authority in her voice, she stated, "I want to see Lance, please."
Laura explained Lance was still on a ventilator so it will look like he is still alive but his brain waves are absent. The machines are trying to keep his body parts available.
Intellectually, Julianne understood this. The two of them had spoken about organ harvesting while watching TV programs about it.....but this was really happening. They were organ donors with all the proper paperwork to cover each other in case.
It was just so hard to believe. She already knew he wanted a small service and cremation. Lance had always been a realist.
She followed Laura into a room, like in an ICU, that was filled with monitors. She was assured she could touch her husband.
She asked the people in white coats that had arranged this charade to leave the two of them alone.
"But we should stay for your sake..and the machines. What if.."
"I said leave, please. He won't have another emergency, will he?"
'Like these people owned her love... how generous they are assuming she will share his everything. Where was the soul and what if they took it when they took his healthy heart? She wasn't sure about things like that. She wanted to get mad at someone; hurt them like she had been hurt. It was only hours since she and Lance had shared each others everything.'
Lance looked like he was just sleeping soundly. She expected him to get up and go home.
"Darling, let's get these tubes out. Time to go home. The joke is over. You should have been an actor. You play dead well."
He didn't move except for his chest that was being filled with oxygen by a machine. Surely, it was all just a mistake. She grabbed him by the shoulders and shook him.
"Enough! You are scaring me!"
She climbed into the bed with him and tried to hold this body that had made love to her, dried her tears, laughed and made plans. There was still warmth in his strong body. She ran her fingers through his dark thick hair and the stickiness made her feel ill. The head injury was in the back and his eyes were taped over and face was bruised.
She collapsed in a chair. Exhaustion came over her. The longer she sat there he looked less like her husband and more like a body with dozens of tubes and machines. She kissed the bruised lips aound the tubing and walked away.
Suddenly, she longed for the insanity of the ER where there was human voices not the icy stillness of death.
Julia took her by the elbow and guided her to another gray room. She was given a pamphlet to read and then she signed donor release papers. This woman was far too young to have this delicate and complicated job. She asked if Julianne wanted some tissues.
"I am sorry but you are soaking the legal papers."
Julianne didn't even know she was crying, again.
When she finally got home it was afternoon. Her head was pounding and she realized she hadn't drank or ate since dinner the night before. She knew she had to put one foot in front of the other so she fixed a sandwich and a cup of tea.
Looking Back: Falling in Love
She remembered the first time they touched. He literally stumbled over her on the campus lawn.
"I am so sorry. Did I hurt you?"
She playfully checked herself out and smiled.
"I promise not to sue unless you're rich."
"You would be very disappointed. However since we are now so intimately acquainted, how about a date?"
She didn't answer but gestured at the book.
They were both reading "Anna Karenina". This had to be a sign. She was impressed he was absorbed in such a huge romantic novel.
"I'm Julianne, by the way. Is the book an assignment?"
"I'm Lance and it is but it's also my second read. Is that a prerequisite for a date?"
She smiled, lighting up his world.
She had long braided dark hair. She was one half Native American and her light bronze coloring hinted at her heritage. Her eyes were smoky brown with long lashes. Her lips were full, bee stung and sensual. She was slim, wearing a long cotton skirt and top she made herself. They were simple in naturally tasteful colors. Her body was that of a dancer. She had been in ballet classes since she was a child.
He had dark rimmed glasses, thick tousled hair, and was shorter than her by a couple inches. His shirt was buttoned half up. He had on tight jeans and boots. He did have a great hairy chest. She discovered later that she loved to lay against it.
He favored silver and turquoise jewelry.
Sitting in a coffee shop they got to know each other better. She jumped right in with questions.
"Do you have family close by?"
He developed tears quickly in his eyes. "I lost both my parents in an auto accident when I was ten. I'm an only child."
She felt like a fool.
"Oh, I'm sorry. Did you have other family?"
"My Mom's folks....they were great. How about you?"
"I grew up in a foster family....a merry-go-round of kids. I had to work...needed a scholarship plus grant money. I don't know who my real parents are."
They were truly soul mates.
Finishing each others sentences, it was a lovely relationship. The first time they made love, it was a delicious dinner with appetizers teasing for a main course that satisfied followed by luscious dessert. They fit together beautifully.
Most of their free time was spent going to plays, symphonies and lectures on campus. They found coffee houses where folk singers and poets hung out. She worked at teaching ballet and he was a coach for a high school soccer team. They both had academic scholarships but had to pay for housing and food.
Since they wanted to be together, It made sense to find a cheap apartment and share expenses.
He surprised her with wild flower bouquets, polished rocks, homemade fudge and poetry. She did the same. Sex was frequent, fantastic, gentle, sweet and fulfilling.
After a simple but meaningful wedding at the courthouse, they graduated and he started working on his Masters in Literature while she taught dance to children. She wanted a baby and he wanted to teach college.
He finished both his Baccalaureate and Masters in Literature in five years and was given a job in the English Department. She was hired full time at a school for children with disabilities in town.
Ballet seemed to help these children and she loved teaching them.
Over the next five years their life was lovely.
A retired woman professor who was a friend, Olive Olsen, had a cottage that she needed someone to live in while she cared for an ailing sister. Lance jumped at the chance.
It was a storybook cottage with window boxes full of flowers and a fireplace. It had a pond with lilies and birdhouses with a path that wound around the property to a wall of rocks. It was a three acre wooded lot half a mile from the Maine coastline.
They took the dust covers off the wonderful wicker furniture. On adventures they discovered eclectic pieces at yard sales and thrift stores. There were two bedrooms. The small bedroom they painted yellow with a border of baby ducks. They decided on a mural so they took turns painting whatever their muse suggested. They met in the middle with a magical forest of fuzzy characters.
A pregnancy test was positive. They were ecstatic and the nursery was complete. She lost the pregnancy at twelve weeks. It hurt so badly. Then they lost two more pregnancies. Julianne went to a specialist and there was no medical reason she couldn't carry a pregnancy.
Heartbroken, they decided to give it a break. Julianne asked Lance to please put some sperm into a bank. She had read an article about it. He did it with no questions.
Life Must go on
She is still at the cottage a year after Lance's death. This is where she and Lance built their world and surely he is here somewhere. She will wait until he comes to her. She can't think of work. She has money since the college continues to pay her half of Lance's salary for five years plus he had a substantial life insurance policy. She is just waiting. Not sure of what she is waiting for but she knows it is important.
One day, riding up the coast she decides to go by the town square. A delightful place, she had avoided it because of memories.
Then going purely with feelings, she spots a new quaint shop called "The Golden Goose."
She can feel the excitement.
She is at the right place at the appointed time. Fate is guiding her to a date with destiny.
She opens the door. It is there; a regal red chest. The bold dragons on top are vibrant emerald green jewels surrounded with ebony and pearl inlay. Around the dragons are tiny white porcelain flowers with chimes painted on. The two dragons breathing flames are guarding the contents. They seem to wink at her as if she needs no introduction. When the box is opened, the faint tingling of chimes is heard.
A magical maze of compartments and drawers, four of the inner boxes are locked without keys visible. In her heart are the emotional keys. She knows this ornate box holds her future.
She asks where it had come from. The shop owner wasn't sure. His cousin was at the shop when it came in; someone had pawned it. Time had run out for them to pick it up.
Julianne makes a place of honor for it at home. She touchs the satin covering of the first drawer. She tugs as warmth flows through her.
His voice whispers gently.
"Push the drawer in."
She did and it opens.
She felt calm for the first time in a year.
There was a letter.
I know that you are sad and miss me. I am not far from you. Just on the other side of a door. One day, in this place, we will be reunited. I am at peace. Cherish life and friends. You will find another love. Accept happiness; you deserve it.
I cherish you.
How could this be possible? She would write to him. She places the letter in the drawer and closes it. Now, she couldn't open it. She tried the drawers each day. It was a month before a different drawer opened.
Inside was a cherry music box and a talent agent's business card.
Her ballerina slippers were hung up in a closet.
One cannot dance with a broken heart.
The music box played the sweet song of an enchanting Nightingale. It brought tears to her eyes. As though he was there, she felt Lance's sweet kisses on her cheeks.
She called the agent. With an anxious heart, she went for an audition. She began to dance. When she felt overwhelmed, she was lifted by invisible arms. It was a perfect performance with Lance's touch on her shoulder.
Her heart was healing.
The next time she tried to open a drawer, another letter and an empty jeweler's box were found.
I am proud of you. I watch you and the music become one. The hearts of all who see you rise with joy. The ballet of life requires strength, love, and dedication.
Now it is time to take off your wedding band. You are sensational.
Lance gave her strength to remove the endless circle of love from her finger.
One night, as she performed, a handsome man met her eyes in the front row. He introduced himself as Derrick Weaver. He said he was employed by The New York Ballet and she had enchanted him with her beauty and dancing.
"Do you know how lovely you are? When you dance, one forgets all their troubles."
He didn't push.
Since Lance, every time a man had looked at her, she froze.
Derrick invited her out for coffee. He was the opposite of Lance with dirty blonde long hair tied back and blazing sapphire eyes. They spoke of their love for the ballet. He used to dance until he tore a ligament. He had surgery by the best but it didn't heal properly. He couldn't do the lifts so dancing professionally was impossible. Now he recruited for the company.
"I can see the need in your eyes for the dance."
"I don't want to dance without Lance to watch me. It brings only pain."
"Please think about it. Not many have the gift to make others feel love and emotional pain as they move."
The chest held one last surprise, a wedding veil.
Put this on your beautiful dark honey hair, look into a mirror and smile, play the nightingale music box. There is someone in your life. Embrace living every day. Remember me as a gentle summer rain, laughter in snowball fights, long talks in front of a romantic fire.
An old love is now your angel.
The wedding veil was never used by Julianne. It was put away for Katlin, Lance's daughter.
Derrick could not compare with the ghost of her one true love. She really tried and when Derrick tried to pin her down she was honest with him.
It only took three attempts at Dr Jenny Johnson's office and Julianne had what was left here on Earth of Lance. It was a wonderful pregnancy, she literally danced through it giving lessons until her feet began to swell. For the last month she nested with knitting.
Katlin was perfect and looked a lot like her Daddy.
Eventually, Julianne did find a companion, Jason Baldwin. A lawyer, he was twenty years older than her but they had a lot in common and he made her feel safe. At that point in her life, with a child to care for, his love and protection meant a lot. It was a different love but satisfied them both.
Katlin called him "Pop" and the two of them fished together, watched ballgames and adored each other.
When Jason was sixty, he suffered the first of five heart attacks. Despite bypass surgeries, he lived for only two more years.
Jason told Julianne how happy she made him many times. He left her well off with a lovely large home in town. He also bought the cottage when the sweet old Professor died. She sold the house and moved where her heart still lived.
The day came when Katlin was crying over a broken relationship.
Julianne held her and whispered,
"When your heart is broken, cling to those who love you. On the road of Life, dreams and happiness are found in magical places."
By Kathie Stehr