I need to find a way to acknowledge what Amelia brought to my life, but the story I tell of her, isn’t one of inspiration. In reality, the story I tell of Amelia is one I don’t tell. Yes, I told Daniel, and yes, my therapist knows, but that is everyone on the planet besides the doctor who performed the abortion. At least now I can think the word, even if I still never speak it.
So much of the world has turned against the rights of women with horrible comments that women should just keep their legs together, without ever realizing that it is a huge sacrifice – not just an easy choice. I try to remind myself of the family, wherever they may be, who received a beating heart instead of Amelia. I often find myself Googling information about transplant stories hoping I may stumble upon theirs, but in the end, my story is exactly that – an ending.
As I look at my beautiful mountains, contrasted against a clearing, blue sky, I imagine my Amelia’s spirit is flying over them, her arms outstretched as she swoops and swirls like the birds who get to rise above the peaks. I still remember what a thrill it was in my childhood dreams when I possessed the ability to fly, just with a few steps running and leaping into the air.
I imagine she gracefully passes over the Cloud Peak, over the tops of the lodge-pole pines, circling around the Medicine Wheel, diving over Shell Falls, and spending time with the bighorn sheep that supposedly wander the canyons. Perhaps I need to return to the Medicine Wheel and dance around it and send my love for Amelia into the wind. I almost miss my exit as I daydream about my baby girl.
Daniel rouses himself once we slow down to the stop sign at the bottom of the ramp.
“Hey, handsome,” I greet him.
“Dibs on the shower when we get there.”
Knowing I showered, and of course, shaved every strategic inch of skin before greeting my husband after his absence, there was no need for me to fight him for it.
“I did make some early dinner for us, in case you happen to be hungry.”
“You cooked?” He asked slowly, incredulously.
I parrot his tone. “I cooked.”
In fact, given the mound of work I accomplished during his time away, making time for cooking is as surprising as my actually, you know, cooking.
“Besides,” I add, “I really want to tell you about the highlights of my new job. I think I mentioned a couple things already, plus what I mentioned on Thursday.”
“Babe, I cannot even tell you what day was Thursday, much less what I did, much less what you told me.”
I’m sure he did not mean to slight me, but it stings a little anyway. I decide to just let it drop and wait for him to ask. Damn it, I hate when I belittle myself, but I have to keep in mind that he just traveled for two straight days across half a planet, so I guess that’s a dozen time zones. This isn’t a time to be selfish. Still, I wish he feigned some excitement about the little details I want to share.
As we pull up the street he finally asks, “Are you excited about the new job?”
“Excited? Yes. Scared? A little bit. Nervous? Yeah, a whole bunch.”
“Amazing? Absolutely.” He speaks slowly and emphatically, squeezing my arm and I know he cares despite his total exhaustion.
I carry his backpack through the garage and down the stairs, while he manhandles his suitcase, eventually dropping it at the back end of the closet. I presume all the clothes are dirty.
“Do you want me to start a load?” I don’t think he knows I followed him this far, especially since I left my shoes at the back door and my socks allow me the advantage of stealth. I start unzipping the bag and picking out each article of clothing, haphazardly folded, but folded nonetheless.
I hear him turn on the shower. I’ll wait to start the load, but I at least sort the contents waiting to be washed, put detergent and the first batch into the machine, and I carry his dop kit to the bathroom. The glass doors are foggy near the top and glistening where the water splashes against them. I stop in place, gazing at his tall, perfect body, naked in my midst. I linger far longer than the time it takes to set his effects on the counter. I finish emptying his bag and I come back for a second peek as he turns off the water.
“Someone said something about a late lunch or an early dinner.”
“Someone made white chili and I’m hoping it tastes good.”
“So, this is a chili experiment?” He questions me while he towel dries as if this will determine his decision to partake.
I sit on the bench at the foot of the bed, peering around the corner of the bathroom wall, watching the towel rub against every part of his body that I would like to rub against. I attempt to focus on the topic.
“I wouldn’t say it’s an experiment as much as it’s a new recipe for me, which I am told is pretty decent.”
“And who told you that?”
“Archie. And apparently he’s won a few cook-offs with this recipe.”
He wanders into the closet and returns wearing soft clothes and damp hair. I stay sitting to keep myself from running my hands on and in both.
“I think I’ve met Archie.”
“You probably have. He spent this past week training me on my new job.”
I recall that Daniel told Aaron about his absence before he left and word got to Archie, so in this small club, it it’s likely that he’d met him at some point.
My current train of thought switches up our conversation.
“So, you called my boss and asked him to keep an eye on me while you were gone?”
By the time I begin my inquiry, we are heading back downstairs. At his first stop, Daniel removes the top of the slow cooker, taking a whiff of the results. He ignores my question in the way that makes me wonder if we will get back to it, or if he is choosing not to discuss his actions. Regardless, I decide to wait him out by gathering dishes from the cabinet to begin serving our meal.
Deep individual bowls, cold beer, large spoons, napkins, placemats, trivet, serving dish, ladle, and dinner rolls are ferried about the room as I combine setting the table, serving the food, and saddling up next to the man I have spent the past two weeks missing. A meal together in our home, not just a quick sandwich on the drive, is how I prefer to welcome him. At least, it’s the second best option.
The smells wafting from the cooker, and now the serving bowl, include twangs of pepper and rich aroma of cream. I lay a bed of corn chips in the bottom of each of our bowls, Daniel watching me as if he’s worried with each step I may ruin the feast. The heavy sauce drips only once from serving bowl to portioned entrée and with my own serving, I bring my bowl close enough to avoid the same.
The swift hiss that follows his opening of each beer (with his hand, of course, as opposed to my needing an opener to do the same) provides an audio accompaniment to our simple meal. I take a sip before sitting, as if taking the edge off before he can critique my culinary effort. He dips his spoon into the soft, steaming creation, gathering up a crunchy piece from below, and taking a moment to blow a cool breath across the first taste. Honestly, he even eats both slowly and seductively. Clearly, I have missed this man.
NEXT: Baggage – Part 18