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Gerard Butler GALS

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Nothing Left to Lose

I walked up the gravel driveway, the uneven stones crunching underneath my feet. I had parked the car down at the first bend in the long winding driveway and taken the last hundred yards on foot. I didn’t know how to explain it. I felt like I needed to proceed slowly to the house; to creep up on it as if it were an apparition that could disappear at any second.

I rounded the final bend and beyond the hill, the house finally came into view. It still looked mostly the same as it did in my memory, aside from the chipped and faded paint, the clouded and dusty glass windows, and the wall of ivy that had grown up and completely engulfed the east side of the house. It had been twenty years since I’d set eyes on it.

I continued my slow approach, my hands, sweaty, despite the chill in the air, clutching the keys. I glanced around, feeling the nostalgia wash over me like a rogue ocean wave that had caught me unawares. Two days ago, I wouldn’t have been able to remember the little details if I’d tried, but now everywhere I looked was a familiar sight: the willow tree towering over the house, the tire swing suspended from the sturdy branch of the huge oak tree in the front yard, the tall, wavering golden grass that even in childhood our Dad had never bothered to cut.

I smiled as I saw the open area in the brush at the back yard that led into the woods and down to the creek where we used to play. Any remnants of the path were long gone, but, as if on instinct, I still knew where it had been.

I hesitated as I neared the front porch of the weathered house. I brushed my dark brown hair behind my ears and took a deep breath. I didn’t even know what I was waiting for, but it was like I felt I needed a moment to prepare.

I had such good memories of the house in Bucks County. This house represented a time in my life where everything had been simple. I didn’t have many thoughts beyond spending the hot summer days running around outside with my brothers and the neighbor boy down the street, except perhaps when to break for lemonade.

So much had changed since then. Every year things seemed to get progressively more complex, beginning when my parents had moved us from rural Pennsylvania into the Philadelphia suburbs. And now, my life felt so complex that I could hardly breathe. Everyday was a restless miasma of unpleasant choices and difficult decisions. It seemed like every year life slapped me down with something unexpected, so painfully I wasn’t sure that I could recover. Every year I had seemed to though, somehow.

I had survived when lung cancer had claimed my father when I was twenty-two. Through my pain, I’d helped my Mom work through the final details, and eventually, life had returned to near-normal, though a little more empty.

I had managed to hold my family together when my husband had lost his job, robbing us of our main means of support. Even though we had to uproot our children from the beautiful house that they had known their entire lives and move across town to something a little more modest, we had made it.

I had been able to keep my life more or less under control when my cousin and best friend in the world had suffered a debilitating bout of depression. Despite working full time while doing so, I had spent every other evening with her, trying to help her through her darkest time.

Still, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to make it through this year. The pain seemed to keep on coming. Looking down at the worn and weathered wooden steps up to the wraparound porch, I realized I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to anymore.

Hesitating no longer, I took the creaky steps up to the front door. I inserted the key and turned it, popping the lock with no difficulty. The door stuck when I tried to push it in; it had swelled some from the moisture in the air. Heaving with my shoulder, I managed to get the door open.

I walked through the rooms like a zombie, the memories rushing back to me without form or shape: playing with my brothers, helping my Mom in the kitchen, Christmas with the deep spicy scent of the fresh cut tree, sleeping a careless dream-filled sleep under the blanket of stars. My eyes began to tear up, though I couldn’t understand exactly why.

Our parents had told us that they had sold the house. I hadn’t once been back to it since we had picked up and left. After awhile, I had all but forgotten it, aside from a random interspersing of memories invading my new life. It was only a week ago when we had read through Mom’s will that we had discovered they had kept the house in Bucks County the whole time. I had no idea why they would bother to keep the house and never return there, and no idea why they felt the need to lie to us about it… and now I would never know.

I finished my explorations through the small house, which hadn’t taken long, and returned to the porch. I walked over to the bench swing and lowered myself onto it cautiously. The screws holding it suspended from the roof groaned in protest but seemed to take my weight, so I relaxed onto it. I swayed slowly, enjoying the cool breeze and letting my eyes lose focus and gaze out into the pink sky as the sun set.

My thoughts drifted all around, and although I had come to the house seeking comfort and a return to the innocence of my childhood, I couldn’t help but reflect on the troubles of today.

So much was coming at me at once. Just two months ago my husband had told me that he wanted a divorce, taking my two young sons and leaving me with nothing but a stack of legal papers and an empty house. I hadn’t seen it coming. I knew that we were having troubles, but I had meant what I said when I stood at the altar and pledged to stick with him for better or worse. It was a rude awakening to find he hadn’t felt the same.

My life was already falling apart, and then my mother had been claimed by a heart attack at the age of fifty-five.

I wiped the tears from my eyes as I continued swinging gently, the rhythmic creaking of the chain oddly soothing. It was like my life was being taken from me, bit by bit. Pretty soon, I would have nothing left to lose. Maybe I was already there.

I stopped the rocking of the bench swing and settled my feet on the ground. I let out a deep sigh, pushing my emotions down and resigning myself tiredly. I was about to stand and head back to my car when a voice from behind me startled me.

“Hi there stranger.”

I whipped my head around, surprised. Walking casually up to me through the overgrown grass was a tall dark-haired man. He was wearing a pair of weathered jeans and a long-sleeved grey t-shirt, with the sleeves pulled up to his elbows. I didn’t know him, but something in the back of my mind told me that I recognized him.

He stopped a few feet from the edge of the porch, smiling at me, as if waiting for my response. His eyes were kind and—his eyes. The gorgeous and unusual blue green color of them triggered a memory.

“Jack?” I asked tentatively. Suddenly my mind was flooded with images: a gangly eight-year-old boy with two missing teeth and a skinned knee. My brothers and I used to run over to his house after school and play pirates. He was the boy next door.

He smiled wider. “Hi Sara. I’m surprised you recognize me. It’s been, what, twenty years?” he laughed.

“Well you recognized me,” I pointed out, rising from the swing and stepping quickly down the creaking stairs to the dusty ground in front of him.

“Not at first,” he admitted. “I saw your car and thought maybe some kids were trespassing. I’ve made it kind of a hobby of mine to keep people from messing with your house,” he explained.

I smiled and nodded, a weak gesture of thanks.

“Guess I was always just waiting for you to come back.”

I wasn’t exactly sure how to respond to that. “So, you still live next door?” I asked, glancing over his shoulder at the dim lights glowing from the house in the distance.

“Yup, Mom and Dad passed the house on to me last year,” he confirmed.

“Oh,” I muttered. “Did they…?” I probed tentatively.

“No,” he shook his head. “They just relocated to Florida,” he explained. “How about you?”

“Dad died when I was in college,” I told him slowly. “Cancer.”

“I’m sorry.” His caring eyes did communicate genuine sorrow.

“Mom just passed away too. Left us the house and neither of my brothers wanted it,” I explained sadly.

“That doesn’t surprise me. Your brothers were both so young when you lived here.” There was a silence. “I’m sorry about your Mom,” he went on. “She was the sweetest lady.”

“Yeah,” I sighed. This was the first time since Mom had died that the mention of her didn’t bring tears to my eyes. I remembered Jack helping my Mom bake cookies, in exchange for the right to lick the bowl afterwards. I smiled at the memory.

“So, are you going to move back in?” he asked, glancing at the nearly dilapidated house.

“No,” I answered immediately, shaking my head. Still, I turned and looked back at the house, and suddenly I wasn’t so sure. It seemed like it was the one place in my life that I’d ever really felt at peace. Everything had gone downhill since I’d left it. “Well, honestly I don’t know what I’m going to do,” I hedged.

Jack opened his mouth to speak again, but seemed to hesitate. Finally, he spoke again. “Would you like to come over for a cup of coffee?” he gestured back to his home. “I’d love to catch up,” he prodded.

“Oh, I wouldn’t want to impose,” I said dismissively. “You probably have that wife and kids to tend to,” I added, fishing not inconspicuously.

He laughed at me. His deep rumbling laughter made me smile again, conjuring up more memories.

“No wife, no kids,” he shook his head. “So, come for coffee?” he asked again.

I thought for a minute. What reason did I have not to? I didn’t need to rush home, since the only thing that was waiting for me there was an empty house.

“I’d love to,” I nodded appreciatively.

He smiled broadly and we both turned and headed across the field to his house. When he put his arm around my shoulder as we walked, it didn’t even feel unusual. I felt a tingle travel from the location of his touch down through my entire body, all of my nerve endings standing at attention. I looked over into his eyes, and it dawned on me…

Maybe I wasn’t losing everything in my life.

Maybe I was just making room for something new.


Steph
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SWEET SWEET story, Steph!! It hit home with me because I lost my father to cancer when I was 32. I also remember going back to the old homestead when my mother died. Your "memories" were right on. It is the little things that you look for. The things you took for granted when you were young. Now I want a sequel to this story. You can't leave us hanging as to what happened between Jack and Sara. But then again, that wasn't the point of the story. It is about life renewing itself. Good job on this, Steph!

~HUGS~ Kathy

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Thanks Kathy!

So much of my writing lately has been around the theme of starting over, and reflecting on the lost innocence of youth. I guess that's where I am right now... Hopefully I can move past it soon so I can write some new stuff!

A sequel? I can't see it for this one. I think you'll just have to imagine what could be in store for Jack and Sara and let that be that! But hey, if a storyline pops into my mind, you'll be the first to know!

Steph

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Thanks Kathy!

So much of my writing lately has been around the theme of starting over, and reflecting on the lost innocence of youth. I guess that's where I am right now... Hopefully I can move past it soon so I can write some new stuff!

A sequel? I can't see it for this one. I think you'll just have to imagine what could be in store for Jack and Sara and let that be that! But hey, if a storyline pops into my mind, you'll be the first to know!

Steph

You are right Steph, some things should be left to the imagination and like I said before, that is not what the story was about. Writing can be soul searching which is why so many people wrote in diaries in the past. It helped to put feelings down on paper so you can see where you are in life and where you are headed. It also helped in venting frustrations, when you finished and put the diary down you also put away the frustrations, for good. People should get back to diaries. I used to have one and so did my grandmother. It was a wonderful way for me to read about her life and the changes she went though over her lifetime. In some respects that is what you are doing in your stories. You put a little of yourself in each story.

~HUGS~ Kathy

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I actually have kept a journal for a long time now. I fill up one every year, and I've been doing it since 2000 (my sophomore year of high school), so this is my tenth installment. The things I write in my journal are a combination of describing major life events, working out big issues, and writing out things I could never tell anyone else. It is so cathartic, and I love looking back on old entries. Plus, it ends up being a good way to keep track of dates and such. I know that May 11, 2009 was the date when I first "discovered" Gerry, because I wrote about him in my journal right after I finished PSILY! I also treat it kinda like a scrapbook in a way, adding pictures, poems, song lyrics, and collages as the spirit moves me. I love my journals. I've always said that if my house were on fire and I could only grab one thing, that's what I would take! Of course now that there are ten of them it's a little trickier! :lol:

Anyway, I appreciate your comments as always!

Steph

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I actually have kept a journal for a long time now. I fill up one every year, and I've been doing it since 2000 (my sophomore year of high school), so this is my tenth installment. The things I write in my journal are a combination of describing major life events, working out big issues, and writing out things I could never tell anyone else. It is so cathartic, and I love looking back on old entries. Plus, it ends up being a good way to keep track of dates and such. I know that May 11, 2009 was the date when I first "discovered" Gerry, because I wrote about him in my journal right after I finished PSILY! I also treat it kinda like a scrapbook in a way, adding pictures, poems, song lyrics, and collages as the spirit moves me. I love my journals. I've always said that if my house were on fire and I could only grab one thing, that's what I would take! Of course now that there are ten of them it's a little trickier! :lol:

Anyway, I appreciate your comments as always!

Steph

Good for you, Steph!! You will cherish those journals even more in years to come!! It is your life on paper!!

~HUGS~ Kathy

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You are such an inspirational writer steph, writing in journals can help you with ways of being creative and I also have a journal to write stories as well, but you are such a good and talented writer, lass :bow2::goodjob:

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