dedication by juleshg

23 May

Claire knocked quietly on the door and pushed it open to peek inside.

“Hello….”

A thin woman with short dark hair approached her with a hand extended.  “Hi, you must be Claire.  Thanks for coming.  I know this was quite a trip for you but it means a lot to him.  I’m Joan – Brian’s wife.”

Claire reached out to shake the hand that was offered to her then turned to the man lying in the hospital bed.  He looked familiar yet painfully different.  Over the past twenty years Claire’s mother had insisted on sending her newspaper clippings about Brian’s rise to success as a district attorney and then a judge but nothing prepared her to see the shell of a man who lay before her.

Joan noticed her gaze and cleared her throat.  “He has really gone downhill over the past six months.  Until then we had no idea he was even sick even though the cancer was quite far advanced.  I don’t know if it is the disease or the treatments that have been harder on him.”

“How long does he have?” Claire asked quietly, not sure if she really wanted to hear the answer.

“A few weeks, maybe a month.  Right now he is concentrating on saying his goodbyes and tying up loose ends.”

Joan walked over the bed and kissed Brian gently on the forehead.  “Sweetheart, wake up.  You have a visitor.  Claire is here.”

Brian reached out and found Joan’s hand giving it a squeeze as he opened his eyes.  He stared at his wife with such a look of tenderness that Claire felt like she was intruding on a private moment.  Joan kissed him again and then went to work arranging his blankets and raising the head of the bed.

“Well, I have been sitting here all morning and I am in desperate need of caffeine,” Joan said looking back and forth between them with a smile.  “Brian, since you have someone here to keep you company I am going to take this opportunity to get some coffee and maybe some fresh air.  I’ll be back in about half an hour.”

Claire watched the door close behind Joan and then turned to Brian unsure of what to say next.  “Joan seems lovely,” she commented trying to fill the void.

“She is.  We have been married for seventeen years and we have two kids.  I am surprised you didn’t recognize her.”

“Should I?” Claire asked nervously.

“Joan Adams.  She went to our high school; she graduated two years behind us.”

That’s Joan Adams?!?”

“That’s her.  You always said I would marry someone born and bred in Cranton Creek,” Brian laughed.  “You were right.  I just didn’t want to admit it at the time.”

“I am glad.  You guys look really happy together.  You deserve it.”

“Claire, don’t… I didn’t ask for you to come back so you could apologize.  Actually, I wanted to apologize to you.”

Claire let out a nervous chuckle.  “Whatever for?  You didn’t pull up and leave with only two weeks notice.  I treated you like I was quitting a part-time job not leaving a marriage.”

“You did the right thing,” Brian said.  “Look at you.  You’re a successful writer.  You have published almost a dozen books.  You live in New York City. It’s exactly what you wanted.  I married a small-town girl and joined my parent’s country club.  We both got our dreams.”

“You say that like it was easy,” Claire answered.  “That first year at NYU was crazy.  I lived in a shithole, I didn’t know anyone and the program was harder than I could have ever imagined.  New York was much more fun when I was there with you.”

“But you survived,” Brian reminded her.

“Barely, I spent five years writing smutty ‘romance’ novels under a fake name in order to make ends meet!”

Brian laughed.  “I know.  Joan bought them all and we used to and give them to my mom as stocking stuffers at Christmas.  You were her favourite author but she never would have admitted that if she had known it was you.”

Claire laughed and shook her head.  “I am sure your mother hated me for leaving you.”

“Well, there were some unkind words but you know that my mom never really saw us together.  I think she was less surprised than I was that you wanted out of Cranton Creek,” Brian conceded.  “Part of me wonders if she wasn’t jealous that you had the courage to walk away when she never could.”

“I don’t know if it was courage or stupidity.  In the end though, I knew I didn’t have a choice.  I would have made both of us miserable if I would have stayed.”

“I hated you for a long time,” Brian said staring at his hands as they smoothed his crumbled bed sheets.  “I could not forgive you for leaving me, for breaking my heart.” 

“I hated myself for that too.”

“I know – that’s why I asked Joan to find you and have you come.  I wanted to say goodbye and to tell you I forgave you.”

“Why?”

Brain pointed at a small dresser across the room.  “Can you please open that top drawer for me.”

Claire crossed the room quietly and opened the dresser to find tattered copies of her last two novels.

“Open it up – either one – and read the dedication,” Brian said quietly.

“I never imagined that you would ever see this.  I never expected that you would…”

“Read the dedication.  Please.”

Claire cleared her throat.  “To B.  I will never forget what could have been. “

She looked up slowly and stared him in the eye.  “I guess you already know that I put this line in ever y one of my books.”

He nodded slowly. 

“Claire, I know you regret hurting me and I wanted you to come here and look me in the eye and know that everything turned out OK.  You don’t have to carry that guilt or regret anymore.”

“Brian,” she crossed the room and sat down gently on the edge of his bed nervously grabbing his hand.  “I am glad I came.  I am glad I had the opportunity to see you and Joan together and know that you have the life I never could have given you.  But that dedication… It’s not the ‘I’m sorry’ you think it is.  It’s the ‘thank you’ I never had a chance to say in person.”

We first met Brian and Claire last week in Breaking Free.

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3 Responses to “dedication by juleshg”

  1. jmforceton May 27, 2010 at 1:56 pm #

    How often we think we know someone or something, and yet, how seldom we know the truth. A thoughtful theme well written once again.

  2. juleshg May 31, 2010 at 1:49 pm #

    This was actually the first of the three stories that I ‘saw’ so I needed to work backwards for week one to figure out how we got here.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. worlds apart by juleshg | the character project - June 1, 2010

    […] Dedication we catch up with them twenty years later to see how their separate lives turned […]

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