?

Log in

 
 
04 April 2010 @ 07:06 pm
Heavy Lifting  
title: Heavy Lifting - Part 1
author: _greatguitarsex
rating: NC-17
pairing: Joe Jonas/OFC
word count: 18,548
summary/authors notes: Valentine’s Day: On a holiday most spend celebrating what they’ve built together Joe and Sidney must watch as it all comes crashing down.




Author's Note: It's been a while! Thank you for taking the time to read this. I know there aren’t as many of us here now but I really appreciate those of you who read and take the time to comment..

I guess you could say this is my take on a Valentine’s Day story. Please believe me when I say it’s been sitting on my hard drive for over a year. It was supposed to be much shorter and entered for a contest over at jbperverted in 2009.

I hope you can see the effort that went into it. It sat on my computer for a long time but I kept going back to it every few months. It’s long and painful at times but I hope you enjoy what you read. This is the first time I've written a story in first person and I think you can tell I had a hard time getting used to it in the beginning.

My music taste (or lack of, because I totally listen to everything) is also all over the place with this one. More specifically, two songs -"I Hate This Part" by the Pussycat Dolls and "Here Comes Goodbye" by Rascal Flatts- were the ones that inspired me.

This is part one and the second part will be posted right below this entry.

See you at the end of the story!

Thanks again.

xoxo,
Jen

Special thanks to my best friend Deejae (forever_withme) for recommending songs and staying with me through every email, idea, and re-write. You were with me every step of the way. I couldn’t have finished this without you and I hope you know how much I mean that.


Heavy Lifting



“Then the fight went out of control. In the space of a gasp for breath it sent their memories racing back over the years for old weapons to rip the scabs off old wounds; it went on and on.” – Richard Yates

Sidney


I don't know where I crossed the line
Was it something that I said
Or didn't say this time
And I don't know if it's me or you
But I can see the skies are changing
In all the shades of blue

James Morrison, “Please Don’t Stop the Rain”


My foot slides against the tip of the box. It sends the cardboard reeling across the floorboards. I watch in awe.

It’s official.

This day has been so long and grueling that I can’t even stand to move boxes with my hands anymore. Everything aches so much.

My arms have reached their limits, using them to hoist things all day has been like punishment. The pyramid of boxes sitting at the foot of the stairs looks like a display, evidence for my day’s worth of work.

I’m not satisfied.

I rub the inside of my arm with my fingers and wince when I press them down too hard. Today has been like one long workout from hell.

I turn back and reach for the water bottle I have sitting on the floor. It’s been there for three hours. My stomach grumbles angrily as I twist the cap open.

The water swishes in my mouth as I pace in a circle, my eyes on the floor beneath my feet. I swallow hard and steal a glance over my shoulder. I glare at the hallway that leads to the kitchen. I’m too afraid to venture inside.

Joe is there working on the living room.

He is there and I haven’t spoken to him since last night when we both stubbornly retreated into different rooms after another sorry excuse for an argument- this time I think it was about what kind of take-out we should order for dinner. I roll my eyes.

We can’t look at each other without screaming these days.

So we stay quiet and we walk on glass. We pass each other in the hallway, our arms always full, and we do it without touching. My throat throbs, irritated by the silence that has engulfed us. We woke up in separate beds this morning and one word still seems like too much to bear.

His back is to me when I find him. His hands are up, stretching high above his head as he fights with another painting. Art was always my thing. This time it’s one of my favorites: an imitation Van Gough that I found in a small antique shop last year when he begged me to come with him on tour in Paris.

How ironic, I think, what a difference a year can make.

This time he is begging me to go.

+++

Joe

One word turns into a war
Why is it the smallest things that tear us down?
My world’s nothing when you’re gone
I’m out here without a shield
Can't go back now

Jordin Sparks, “Battlefield”



Nothing has changed and yet everything has changed.

I can feel her in the room before I hear her voice.

“Hey,” she says.

I let the ends of the painting touch the floor and then place it so it's leaning against the wall.

I can hear the soles of her shoes shifting uncomfortably against the floorboards, the way she does when she’s nervous. She tries to smile; both of her hands are in her pockets.

“Hey.”

“Water?”

I wipe my forehead with the back of my arm. I take one deep breath as I turn to face her.

“Yeah,” I pause to clear my throat as my eyes meet her face. “Please.”

She nods and extends one arm, her ponytail swaying as she inches closer and hands me a water bottle. I take it, averting my eyes at the same time.

“Thanks,” I tell her.

Our fingers never touch.

I pull the cap of the bottle open and quickly begin to drink.

“I’m so tired.” I hear her say. She looks how she feels; I watch as she presses her fingers to her sore arms.

My fingers itch with the urge to push the hair out of her face and to smooth the tired lines on her face away.

“Me too.” I cough.

She looks at me like she's expecting more, but I don’t know what else to tell her. The silence that lingers is a heavy one. I can feel it begin to fill the room, first by inches then by feet as we both try to figure out how to make conversation in a situation like this. I am breathing through my nose, the sound moving in time with the clock that is ticking off the seconds.

I take another drink.

“There’s so much more to pack up than I expected.” Sidney is laughing. It actually sounds like a cross between a laugh and a scoff. My eyes widen. How can she be laughing?

I grit my teeth. It is a sarcastic laugh that she’s had for as long as I can remember, followed by a shrug and a roll of her eyes. “When did we fill this house with so many things? If this house wasn't so big, we probably wouldn’t have filled it and then it would've have taken us a whole week to pack up.”

“What did you expect? It's a million times bigger than your old apartment. We're lucky that the big stuff is gone and we can do the rest of it ourselves.”

“Yeah,” she mutters under her breath. “Really lucky.”

“Did you want to live somewhere else this whole time? Is that what you're telling me?”

Her eyes meet mine. She takes a step back; her hands already up in defeat.

“I'm not saying anything, Joe-”

“Really? Because it sounds like you’re blaming me when you were the one who practically begged to live here.”

“If I had left it up to you we’d be in Los Angeles or somewhere right off of Sunset or next to the beach shacking up with a bunch of fakes like we’re Malibu Ken and Barbie. Oh, I’m sorry Joe. I’m so sorry- that must be what you wanted in the first place. Right?”

I roll my eyes, my gaze shifting to the ceiling as I grip the counter for support. I can't look at her when she gets like this.

“The least you can do is look at my face when you're fighting with me Joe.”

My jaw shifts as my teeth grind together.

“God, Sid, I hate you-“

I can hear her gasp, can hear her shift on her feet.

The words empty out of me as she leaves.

“I hate you when you get like this.”

But she is already gone.


+++


Sidney

Well it kind of hurts
When the kind of words you say
Kind of turn themselves into blades

Jason Mraz, “A Beautiful Mess”



He’s yelling my name across the lawn.

I flinch.

“Sidney!”

I glance back to find him throwing on a jacket as he hurries into the rain too.

“I’m telling you to stay! It’s my house and-“

“Leave me alone!” I scream back, my voice betraying me. My anger fumes as my stupid, clumsy, slippery hands wrestle with my car keys. “Get back inside!” I add without turning around.

“No!”

“Fuck you!” I spit. “Shit-“

The keys slip out of my hands and fall to the pavement and out of my view. I groan as I drop to my knees and begin patting the floor beneath my car. The next time I hear Joe’s voice it is right behind me.

“This is my house-”

Something about the statement makes me flinch. The words strike me like a whip and the anger only grows thicker. It coats my lungs and my throat and then finally my lips and suddenly I find myself turning around to face him.

“Of course it is, Joe! You never let me forget that I wasn’t good enough for you! You never let me forget that I was fucking a rock star. So there! You can go out and fuck everyone that’s on your level. Every model, every shitty no-talent tramp actress that’s out there. Go! You’re free!”

“Jesus Christ!” he shouts back at me. His arms are in the air as he rolls his eyes. “Here we go again Sidney!”

“Isn’t it the truth Joseph? Why don’t you just say it out loud for once and make yourself feel better? I’m fucking a model! I’m fucking an actress! I’m fucking a singer! I bet you can’t wait to find out which one’s your favorite Joe-”

“That’s just like you to say things like this. It’s about me and you and you just can’t help trying to bring other people into it.”

“Oh that’s so typical of you too. You’re trying to turn it around and make this about me. I know I’m not innocent Joe. I’m not a saint and at least I can admit that!”

“What do you want to know? “He seethes. His hands rise as he starts to count with his fingers. “One, I haven’t met anyone else. Two, I haven’t been dating anyone. And three, I haven’t fucked anyone else!”

“Is that right? That’s not what every magazine out there is saying-“

“You know what? Fine. I’m here. I’m home and you’d rather listen to a reporter or a tabloid than believe me. That’s it. It’s what you want to believe.”

“What am I supposed to think when you don’t come home? Who am I supposed to believe?”

“CAN YOU BLAME ME?” he shouts with such force that I can’t help but flinch back. “This isn’t a home anymore. That bed upstairs is cold!” –He stops to stab a finger in the direction of one of the windows upstairs. “This house is a fucking tomb! Do you hear me? I’m not the only who screwed everything up, Sidney-“

“Fuck you.” I can’t afford any other words. My anger has swallowed them all.

“You let us die! Don’t you understand? You let us die. What was I supposed to do-“

I climb into the car and push the keys into the ignition. The headlights turn Joe’s eyes into a glaring black as he watches me from the front of the car. His hands are bent like claws as he grips the edges of the hood.

“I’m not moving,” he says. “I’m not letting you do this. I’m not letting you out of here in this weather.”

I swallow hard, my fingers gently holding onto one of my key chains. I can feel the shape of the silver J there. It was a gift from Joe too.

The minutes pass as we both listen to the soft pitter pattering beat of the rain. The drops scatter over the windshield like thousands of tiny footsteps.

I stare at the determination in his eyes, at the strength in his hands and the water as it slides down each side of his jaw. I imagine his firmly planted feet on the ground beneath the car and the amount of pressure his fingers are applying to the hood.

And suddenly I know I can't leave him like this.

I gently slide the keys out of the ignition as I watch him cross the distance to my window.

“Please Sid,” he says, his fingers gently tapping on the glass. His eyes are just as gentle as his voice.

My still wet fingers glide down the end of the steering wheel. I press my face against it and sigh.

“Sid, come on, okay? I’m not going to let you drive out of here in this weather. There’s still a box of your stuff up there. You can at least change into some warm clothes. Okay? Come inside-"

My shoulders feel heavy as I gently shake my head yes. I stare at him through the glass, watching as he eases away from the door so that I can free it. I slide the car keys into the back pocket of my jeans.

“Look at you,” he says.

I can hear the disappointment in his voice. I flinch as the tips of his fingers graze my knuckles.

“It’s freezing out here and you’re getting soaked. Come on, you’ll get sick-“

I watch as Joe slips his jacket off and sets it over my shoulders. His hands grow more insistent as he tries to pry my fingers open. Slowly, so very slowly, I find myself being moved across the lawn again as he tows me to his side.

He opens the front door just a crack, his other hand gently reaching for the small of my back so he can let me in first.

“I didn’t mean to,” I say as I stumble forward trying to find his eyes.

His grasp moves to my hand again, his fingers tightening around mine as he turns back to face me. His other hand is still holding the door open. I can see light trickling onto the porch like spilled water as his foot hovers over the threshold.

“What did you say?”

I try to clear my throat.

“I didn’t mean to,” I say. My throat is dry and aching but I try to force some life into the words so that he knows that I’m telling him the truth. “I-I didn’t mean to let us die. I never wanted you to hate coming home. You’re right. This is…I mean it was your house. You should have always felt welcome. You should have never had to be afraid or dread it.”

I can feel the water on my face again though the weather is not to blame this time. The tears feel warm as they slide down my cheeks and my battle to keep then in ends in defeat.

I blink and hurriedly reach one hand up to try to wipe them with the back of my hand- and find that it is the one tangled with Joe’s. I don’t realize what I’ve done before it is too late.

Joe takes one step toward me.

“This was our house,” he says.

He offers me a small tired smile and then finally lets me go. His fingertips reach for my face. They hover over my skin there but it is his eyes that hold me in place. The sadness in them seems to turn me to stone.

His hands stay there, barely touching me and I can’t resist closing my eyes. He is so close I can almost feel the warmth of his touch though it never really comes.

His feet shuffle back and the floorboards creak beneath his movements. I open my eyes and watch him blink, his eyes fall and it is like watching a piece of glass shatter. I can’t fight the soft gasp of disappointment that leaves my mouth as he turns away.

He moves so quickly, so fluidly, and I know he can’t bear to look at me for a second longer. It’s not so much that another moment would break his heart but like another second would kill him.

A moment passes before I hear him take a breath. When our eyes meet again he has found his words.

“Hey,” he says.

“Hi,” I whisper back as I stare into his face.

I can hear him forcing some enthusiasm into his voice. His smile is trembling and the effort he is trying to make cannot hide his wincing. The mask he is wearing begins to fray at the edges.

“Sid, hey…it’s okay.”

“It isn’t,” I insist. “I’m sorry I couldn’t be better- or get better after…”

“Don’t say that,” he says. “It’s okay. It’s done. It takes two to make a mess, right?”

He holds the door open wider to let me in.

My shoes are wet, so is my hair. His jacket is ruined.

“I’ll go try to find us something to eat, okay?”

I don’t miss the way his eyes widen as we both catch the ‘us’ in his sentence.

We’re not a team anymore.

I slide the jacket off. Drops of water splatter onto the floorboards.

“I’m sorry,” I say as I hand it back to him. My eyes lower to the drops of water. “…For everything.”

“Yeah,” he replies. He scratches the back of his head as he quickly turns away from me. “Yeah, the food-“

My hand suddenly reaches for his, softly tugging him back.

“No. I mean it Joe…I'm sorry. Wait, please-“

He grows still, suddenly there and then gone just as quickly. I can feel the pressure of his fingers as he squeezes mine gently before shaking free.

“I-I’m sorry,” he stutters. “I just can’t talk about this right now.”

I nod as I watch him go. My eyes stay on the hallway but I cannot force my feet to move. More water splatters onto the floor as drops fall from the sleeve of his shirt and jacket leaving an awful drip-drip-drip echo as he disappears down the hallway.


+++


Sidney


'Cause the ground is breaking,
I can feel it shaking
Wish it was that easy,
But it's not that easy
Gotta hold my hands up,
Gotta keep my head up
Gotta keep on breathing,
Baby because you and me are sinking like quicksand

Britney Spears, “Quicksand”


“There isn’t much food,” Joe says. His voice sounds muffled because he’s sticking his head inside of the nearly empty refrigerator.

My stomach trembles unhappily in response to the news.

Of course there isn’t, I think. I’m the one who does all of the grocery shopping. I can’t remember the last time he tried to cook anything without using a microwave. For the millionth time in the last week I find myself wondering how he is going to survive without me.

“We could call for pizza,” I suggest. My eyes fall to the phone sitting on the floor. The table that it used to call home has already been put in storage.

Joe’s hands fall to the countertop. I watch as his eyes move to the large black garbage bag sitting on the floor filled with dirty paper plates and take-out boxes. I know he’s wishing we had a healthier option but neither of us had been prepared for this. Who knew moving out of a house like this could be so hard and take so long?

“Can’t,” he tells me. His head is stuck in the almost-empty pantry now. “No one will want to drive out here in the storm.”

“You’re right.”

I sigh in defeat.

“Hmph,” he says. I can hear the sound of foil wrappers and the few remaining boxes of junk food being shuffled around. “There is one thing.”

“Really?”

I perk up and try to peer over the counter that’s blocking my view from the living room.

“It isn’t much,” he warns me again. “But it’s chocolate.”

I can feel the smiling forming on my lips already. Joe peers around the edge of the doors and for once I find myself unable to look away. He knows that I can never ever resist chocolate.

He starts to laugh. I’m in disbelief as it fills the room. I can’t remember the last time I heard him like this.

I watch as he closes the door of the pantry and stares down at the object between his hands. His face is twisted with disbelief as he shakes his head.

I straighten as he comes closer, my eyes finally able to fall on the giant heart shaped box too.

“Oh.”

“Yeah,” he whispers back as he joins me on the floor. “I know. I just found it- I forgot that I hid it back there. I didn’t know if we’d get done in time – Or if I should – I mean-“

I smile as he begins to stumble over his words.

“You didn’t know if one of us would end up changing our mind or not. You didn’t know whether or not we’d still be together on Valentine’s Day.”

He looks up at me with astonished eyes.

“T-That’s exactly what I meant,” he says.

The lamp is casting shadows over his face and his eyes look darker, the sadness in them more prominent now. My throat feels heavy. The sight is almost enough to make my eyes sting all over again.

There is no other sound except for our breathing and the denim on our jeans sliding against the floor as we both begin to fidget.

The plastic wrapper crinkles loudly in his hands as he carefully unwraps the heart shaped box. He plucks one pieces out, caramel: his favorite- and then gently places the box down on the floor so that it sits in the space between us.

“Well,” he says as his eyes examine the design on the candy. “Dig in?”

I hesitantly reach forward, my eyes still staring straight ahead at the newly bare wall. I take a piece out and quickly pop it into my mouth without hesitating. I chew quickly- this one is a truffle- and swallow hard.

“Thank you.”

Joe nods as I pull my knees up to my chest and reach for another piece.

+++


Sidney

I remember what you wore on the first day
You came into my life
And I thought hey
You know this could be something

Boys Like Girls featuring Taylor Swift, “Two is Better Than One"



We met one summer five years ago. Naturally, he was spending those blistering hot days on a tour with his brothers. They stopped in New York for a few days and were kind enough to do some local morning television shows along with the big names like Regis, Kelly, and Matt Lauer.

I was working at a studio as an intern and so accustomed to doing bitch work- stuff ranging from running everyone else’s errands to fetching coffee and watching the news from the stands instead of being a part of bringing it to the people.

Kimberly Yates called in sick that morning and there were no replacements. They needed someone who knew about music but was young enough to appeal to the adults and their children. The only newscasters available on that morning were grandparents themselves. I told them that they needed me. I made them believe they did.

I watched him from afar, my nervous hands turning white as I gripped the edges of the papers that held my notes. This was going to be my first interview on live television.

His brothers were dressed in plaid, one in boots and the other in sneakers. He sat in a chair behind both of them dressed in a gray jacket. He was trying to balance a plastic cup of coffee on his knee as he sat bouncing, his eyes whipping back and forth as he examined the studio.

I wore a white skirt and a sleeveless peach colored blouse. I stepped onto the set and felt the lights beating against my skin and our eyes locked.

He smiled.

And that was it.

It was just an interview, one check amongst the millions that he’d done before but I couldn’t breathe. Sitting under those lights he looked like he’d been waiting for me, like he had been meant for me.

His brothers offered their hands and I shook them, the smile growing on my face as he inched closer to present his own.

“I’m Joe,” he said as he took my hand.

“I’m Sidney,” I stuttered out. “Thanks for visiting us. We don’t get many big names on such a small show…”

My voice drifted as my throat tightened. I’m not sure which one of us let go first.

“It’s our pleasure,” he said, and I believed him.

The interview was short. I asked them about how the tour was going, what their fans were like and what the future held for them. They were polite and outgoing and they made me laugh.

I couldn’t take my eyes off of him.

A few minutes later and we cut to commercial. The interview was done. His brothers shook my hands, each of them with straying eyes as they reached for their phones. Joe lingered. He told me he liked coffee and tried to visit local places when he traveled. He asked me if I knew of a good one and if I wanted to go.

We went. He never left. I fell in love.

It went by so fast.

The other newscasters elbowed me in the mornings and poked and prodded. My coworkers were suddenly coming to my cubicle with questions and shoving tabloid magazines into my face at lunch. I’d bring them back with me to my cubicle and set them down next to the can of soda and chicken salad I always had for lunch.

The pages were made of glossy paper and sometimes we made the cover. In the beginning, I’d been brave enough to read them.

I don’t think I ever really looked like myself in those pictures.

I could feel myself begin to change. I was suddenly different.

I’d gone from presenting the news to suddenly being it.

+++


I’m upstairs wrestling with another closet full of things I’ve forgotten to pack when I find it.

It’s in the back, hidden behind thick brown winter coats and old sweaters. I take a deep breath as my fingers hook onto the hanger and lift the peach blouse to my face.

It’s covered in plastic from a long ago trip to the dry cleaners. I take one step back, willing my deadened legs to move so that I can fall comfortably.

My breath begins to stifle as one hand reaches back to grasp the end of the mattress.

Then I fall.

I sit down, my eyes slowly glazing over as I continue to stare.

I can’t cry. I will not.

My grip only worsens. My lungs suddenly feel so small. There is no sound except for the plastic as it crinkles beneath my fingers and I clutch it to my chest. This is the only noise that will suffice.

I cannot cry. I will not.

+++


Sidney

Remember all of the things we wanted?
Now all of our memories
They’re haunted

Kelly Clarkson, “Already Gone”



It didn’t happen with fancy clothes or flower petals and candle night.

After falling in love with someone who had most of their life rehearsed and choreographed to the t I knew it was important to make this different. This had to be unique. It had to be on my own terms.

It had to be ours.

So it happened, one night in my house while I was dressed in my favorite pair of blue jeans.

I was the one who asked.

We were sitting on the couch, his eyes so glazed and focused I’d think it was his first time seeing the movie if I didn’t know any better.

Juno. I call it a little overrated but his smile when it comes on is enough to silence any of my criticisms.

I remember that it was terribly late. The clock on the wall said that it was past three in the morning. Two empty glasses of soda sat next to a pile of movies on the coffee table.

A giant bowl sat in the middle of his lap. I watched him as he ate; my eyes more fixated on his face than the screen as one handful of popcorn after another was emptied from the bowl.

“Joe?” I asked as the credits began to roll over the music. His favorite thing about the movie is its soundtrack.

“Hmm?” he replied.

I nestled my face deeper into his t-shirt and his body shifted beneath mine to pull me closer.

“What is it, baby? What are you thinking about?”

I pressed my cheek closer to him, nestling my face deeper into the gray fabric.

“I love you,” I said.

He laughed. “I love you too.”

“Do you?”

“Of course,” he said around another handful of popcorn. “You know that.”

“How much?” I pressed on.

“Lots. Tons.”

I let his words take me under while I listened to the beat of his heart against my ear. The smile on my face grew. The minutes went on.

“Can I ask you for something?”

“Sure,” he said. I listened to his chewing grow slower as his curiosity perked. “Whatever you want.”

I smiled wider.

But I’ll be there forever
You will see that it’s better
All of our hopes and our dreams will come true
I will not disappoint you
I will be right there for you
Til the end, the end of time
Please be mine

Jonas Brothers, “Please Be Mine”



“If you love me-“ I shook my head, laughing at myself for making my proposal sound like a bargain at a car dealership. I had to clear my throat one more time.

I felt Joe shift. His arms tightened around me.

“Whatever you want,” he promised again.

I took a deep breath.

“Do you love me enough to marry me?”

“Marry? What-“

He shifted again. His breathing grew faster now.

“I’m proposing- I guess I should be in fancy clothes or something. Oh wait-“

I could see myself in his eyes. I watched the surprise grace his face, watched his eyes widen as I slid down to my knees to sit at his feet. My hands reached for his and pulled them forward so they could sit on the end of his lap.

“There.” I told him. “Don’t start laughing now…I’m officially on bended knee.”

But the warning was no use. We both started to giggle.

“Joseph Adam Jonas, I know this is totally untraditional and I don’t even have a ring but…I think you’re amazing. I need you to know that. You’re amazing and kind and wonderful. You make me laugh. You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me and I love you. I love you so much that it scares me sometimes-“

I found myself caught off guard when the tears began to surface. My voice began to fail me, the emotion too strong now.

And then I shivered as his hands caught me and held me until I was still. I lifted my eyes to find him smiling back at me, a smile so warm that it made the fears diminish but one so beautiful that I had to work to find my words again.

It was as if I’d been drowning and looking at him was like the first breath I’d taken after my head broke the surface of the water.

The palms of his hands were warm against my quickly flushing cheeks. I smiled as both of my own hands slid up to cover his fingers.

“You were saying?”

The words came faster this time.

“Plus,” -my voice broke twice as I tried to laugh- “...you’re also incredibly hot and you can sing! Looking at you makes me feel like the luckiest girl in the world…I love you so much and I guess what I’m trying to say is that I want us to be like cheese and macaroni for the rest of our lives. Be my husband?”

“Husband-“he repeated. The word slipped so softly through his lips that it was just a breath. His face was like a reflection of mine but with only the best features, all excitement and no worry. He beamed.

“Will you marry me, Joe?” I whispered. I held his hands in my lap now, my fingers squeezing his hand the tiniest bit harder. “Please?”

“You’re serious?” he asked, his right eyebrow perking with curiosity. “You’re not joking.”

I shook my head as each question filled the air.

“I’m not joking.”

“Then you mean it?”

One side of his mouth turned up.

“I want to be your wife. I want you-“

“My wife,” he repeated. His eyes grew brighter as he stared into my face and said it again. “Okay then. All right.”

I leaned closer to him, my hands on either side of his face.

“Then say it Joe. Say it, please-“

He smiled harder, his arms wound around my shoulders lifting me up to straddle his lap. He clutched me to him. His lips were against my lips, my cheeks, my forehead.

“Let’s do it,” he sighed as he stilled beneath my hands. He kissed my eyelids.

I took a deep breath, hugging him closer and pressing my ear against his throat so that I could feel every word as it left his mouth.

“Yes! Yes, I’ll marry you. Let’s do it Sidney. Let’s get married.”

+++


How did we get here?
When I used to know you so well

Paramore, “Decode”



But some stories just don’t have happy endings. Sometimes you don’t get what you ask for.

I remember what it was like to walk into this place for the first time. The images flicker through my mind as I go back, my eyes narrowing as I stare through the hallway out to the front door. My lips tremble into the shape of a tiny smile.

It’s almost like I’m watching my life from another person’s eyes now.

I can see how happy and excited Joe and I were when the real estate lady opened the door. There were smiles and our faces were smooth. No stress. No apprehension. Our hands were clasped, as they always were back then. We walked in with our steps lined up together and our arms swinging. We were young and we were in love.

When I moved into this place I did it with no intention of leaving. This was the house of my dreams and now…

It hurts. It hurts to know that I can’t stand to linger in it. It doesn’t feel like living anymore, not when you have to tip-toe and walk and hide.

A house is not a home without laughter, without forgiveness and reassurance and belief. It’s nothing without the things that makes it what it is. In that sense, I know Joe is right.

This house has really become nothing but a tomb.


+++


Joe

What hurts the most
Is being so close
And never knowing
What could have been

Rascal Flatts, “What Hurt the Most”



Her name was Lily.

She hadn’t been planned, no, not so soon- but she was welcome.

It was the little things that changed everything for me: hearing her heartbeat on an ultrasound and having to fight back the tears because it called to me like a song; seeing her tiny fingers and already feeling so connected to her that it made it hard to breathe; spending time trying to decide on her name and the perfect color for her room; imagining dollhouses and tea parties and packing her lunch and dropping her off at her first day of school; picturing her face.

I taped the pictures from her ultrasound to our fridge and on the inside of each of my luggage cases. I carried one in my wallet.

Lily’s room became my project. My brothers sat on the floor with me for hours helping to put together dressers, a crib, and a changing table.

I held my hands over Sidney’s eyes when everything was finally done and we tip-toed into the room together. She was so excited. Her eyes filled with tears and I watched the pride grace her face as she turned back to reach for me so we could look at everything together.

There was a mahogany crib with green bedding; a changing table and my mother’s rocking chair in the corner, and a Diaper Genie between them; a bright butterfly carpet in the middle of the room.

Sidney giggled and spun on her feet and still I did not let go of her.

She slipped her arms around my waist and sank against my chest, the long curve of her belly made it slightly difficult but not impossible.

“Do you like it?”

She laughed. I kissed the apple of her cheek as she giggled.

She hugged me tighter.

“Of course I do. I love it. Joe, it's perfect.”

“Come here.” I pulled her over to the corner of the room where my mother’s rocking chair sat waiting for us. It was the final touch. She had used it to raise me and all of three of my brothers.

I sat down and guided Sidney into my lap. Slowly and gently, I began to rock us both together.

“Are you scared?” she asked me. Her face was nestled in the crook of my shoulder.

“No.” I said; her hair moved with me as I answered. “I can't wait to meet her.”

And it was the truth. Holding Sidney there and feeling her every curve and every change, I knew that we'd done something together that was so precious, so right that it could not be bypassed by any fears or regret. I hadn't been ready but now I was prepared. I was excited.

She seemed to soften against my chest as she listened. She took my hand and placed it inside of her own and guided both to her tummy.

I felt her breath and her lips against my throat.

“Me too,” she told me.

+++


But Lily was never given the chance to take her first breath and I would never get the chance to hold her to my chest and feel the rhythm of her heart beating in time with mine.

We lost her.

I will never forget the image of my mother’s face, her hands clasped over her mouth and the tears pooling in her eyes as she watched me enter the waiting room. My father pulled her under his arm but she resisted, her eyes fixated on mine, willing them to lie.

“No Kevin,” she struggled, her voice already thick with grief. “Let him say it. Let him tell us.”

I pulled the mask off of my mouth with one hand. My eyes began to fill with water.

“She didn’t make it.” I swallowed hard, my eyes shifting over the circle of people in the waiting room: Sidney’s parents, my parents, my brothers, and my sister in-laws Danielle and Maya, my Uncle Josh and Aunt Angela. They swept over the shape of them, capturing each of their stricken faces until I found my mom again. “Lily- she’s gone, Mom, she’s dead.”

Her hands caught me just as my knees buckled and then suddenly we were on the floor together and I began to cry.

My voice failed me. The broken sound of it began to fill the room as I started to sob. I clung to my mom tightly, the way I would as a kid when I chased after her during games of hide and go seek. I remember clinging to the ends of her skirts or her pant legs until she’d lift me up in her arms, her smiling face glowing with pride as she kissed my cheeks.

“Gotcha!” she would say.

And all I could think in that moment was that Sidney would never get the chance to do that. Lily would never get the chance too. We’d come into this hospital as a couple and would never leave it as a family.

The wave of apologies came over me then, drowning me as I cried harder and harder. Mom rocked me back and forth as the other hands found me too. They reached out for me, trying to hug me and rub my shoulders but my arms were frozen around my mother’s neck.

The voices tried to comfort me. They apologized. They promised it would all be okay.

A tirade of words left my mouth though my voice no longer felt like my own right then. Some words were louder, punctuated by the disbelief and anguish I could no longer bear to hide.

“She couldn’t breathe,” I gasped. “She couldn’t breathe. And the cord, the cord- Mom, she couldn’t breathe. Oh God.”

The umbilical cord wrapped around her throat.

Lily, my Lily, had choked to death.

“I’m so sorry,” she said, unable to afford any other words. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”

I found my dad’s eyes over my mom’s shoulder then. He knelt on the floor beside us and wrapped a heavy, comforting hand over both of us. I could see tears in his eyes too.

“Joseph,” he pleaded with me. “I love you and I’m so-so sorry but you have to go back, son. You have to go back.”

I craned my neck around to peer over at the doors that lead back to the hospital’s admittance rooms. They seemed even scarier and daunting now, like the shambled entrance to some kind of terrifying cave.

And then he said the only words that would ever get me to move, frozen as I was on the linoleum floor.

“Sidney needs you.”


I wanted you to know
That I love the way you laugh
I wanna hold you high
And steal your pain away

Seether featuring Amy Lee, “Broken”



I nodded slowly and reluctantly pulled away from my mother. She nodded too, silently squeezing my hands as I tried to stand. Kevin and Nick helped me off of the floor. Frankie hugged me as I straightened.

“Thanks,” I said when I was on my feet again. I nodded in the direction of Sidney’s parents. Her mom had her face in her hands. “I’ll make sure she’s okay. I’ll let you guys know when she’s ready for visitors.”

Every part of my body felt heavy as I watched the doors open. I walked by other rooms and heard the gentle cooing of parents talking to their new children. There was the sound of a zipper being pulled closed- a couple finally allowed to go home. A woman in a wheel chair sat rocking a baby in her arms, her proud husband behind her pushing and smiling down at the both of them.

I swallowed hard as I turned a corner and found Sidney’s room. I stared at the numbers nailed to the door – 708 – and wondered if she could see me from inside.

I took a breath and then finally let the tips of my fingers push the door open.

Sidney was lying in the bed, her arms carefully folded beneath a bundle of white cloth that she held close to her heart.

Our daughter. Our Lily.

“Sid,” I said softly, the tears already eating my words. “Oh Sid.

She looked up at me, her broken eyes finally lifting from the baby in her arms to my face.

“She looks like she’s sleeping. Joe, she just looks like she’s sleeping.” The sentence broke off as her voice did too. “I wish she would just wake up.”

I could hear the disbelief in her voice.

“Do you want to hold her, Joe?”

The question made the air stifle in my throat. It shook me. The tears pooled in my eyes.

“Yeah,” I managed to choke out, sniffling and nodding as I inched closer to the bed. “I want to hold my girls.”

I pulled the sheets back and stepped out of my shoes. The mattress trembled and the wheels inched closer to the right as I got into the bed. The pale blue hospital scrubs still felt scratchy against my skin.

I wrapped an arm around Sidney and pulled her closer. I could feel her wet cheeks against my neck. Our gazes shifted at the same time and our eyes lowered so we could stare at Lily’s face together.

She looked like an angel- it’s the only thing I’m sure of. She reminded me of an angel in one of the oil paintings my mother would place on top of our fireplace mantel at Christmas when I was a kid. The angel in the painting had her eyes down, her cheek resting in the palm of one of her hands.

Sidney had been right. She looked like she was sleeping, lost to dreams and far away from us. She had my nose and my lips. I imagined that she had Sidney’s emerald eyes. I imagined what it would have been like to watch her open them and to look into them and to hear her cry.

I held both of them there for a long while, wishing more than anything else that I could keep us together like that forever.

The nurses came in soon after. I watched Sidney lift our daughter into their waiting hands. Her fingers shook as we watched them take Lily away.

“Please take care of her,” she begged them. “Please.

I watched Sidney’s eyes for a long while as she stared at the doorway they had disappeared through.

“I miss her,” she choked out. “I miss her. I miss our baby. I want them to bring her back.”

My fingers were cuffed around the circle of her wrist, smooth against the hospital bracelet they’d placed there when she was admitted.

“No Sid,” I insisted, my voice breaking twice. “Please. Don’t-“

She started to scream.

“Come back! Nurse! Please, come back.”

Her arms were stretched out towards the door. I managed to pull her back to the safety of the bed just as she began to teeter over the edge of the handle bars.

I wrapped both of my arms around her and crushed her to me, holding her face against my shoulder with one hand. I felt her shaking. The rest of her body went limp except for her fingers which only tightened around the sheets on us.

I listened as her sobbing shook the frame of her body. I tried to hold her as tightly as I could.

I blinked back my own tears as she cried. I felt them touch the tired lines on her forehead. I stroked her hair.

“Lily,” she would whisper every few minutes, the disbelief still heavy in her voice. “Lily, Joe, Lily…”

“She’s gone baby,” I would choke out. I hated that I had to remind her. “She’s gone, honey, she’s gone.”

I kissed her swollen eyes and the bags beneath them, willing sleep to grace both of us so we would not have to linger in our pain a moment longer. If it were possible, I know I would have taken hers and mine and braved it for the both of us.

She clung to my shirt and pressed her nose against my throat. The hours went by as she cried and cried.

+++


[PART TWO: ]
 
 
Current Mood: anxiousanxious
Current Music: [Adam Lambert] [Whataya Want From Me]
 
 
 
😼playcrackthesky on April 5th, 2010 02:23 am (UTC)
OMG, YOU'RE BAAACK.
FINALLY :D

I've missed you sooo much, reading now