Here is a story I wrote a while back. It is the continuation to Swinging Shadows. Enjoy.
“What is your problem today?” Elliott snapped at me. His face scowled as he crossed his arms.
“I’m sorry” I whispered. To my horror, I felt a tear begin to spill down my face. Hastily, I wiped the water that had begun to roll down my cheek with the palm of my hand. “I’m fine.” I sniffed.
“Audrey” he continued with irritation in his voice “Why are you crying?”
As his penetrating eyes studied me, I knew he hadn’t forgotten what happened. On this day, just three short years ago, he had received the same heart breaking phone call I had. He heard the same bad news that I was given and he, too, knew that our world would never be the same.
Though he sat on the same hard-backed pew that I did days after Uncle Taylor had kissed death, he did not understand. While together we watched as hundreds walked by an open casket to say goodbye and to console our family, today I was alone in my suffering. Today he wondered what was wrong. He didn’t comprehend why I was crying. It was as if the burning sting of death was not tormenting his soul as it did mine. In this moment, he didn’t realize that I simply missed him.
With his piercing questions echoing in my mind, I pinched my lips together to keep from letting my pain spill into words that I would later regret. As I bit my bottom lip, I clinched my fists as he stared at me.
When I could bear his gaze no longer, I mumbled, “I’m sorry. I’m fine.” Brushing away the final tear that had escaped, I stood up. He said nothing. He simply watched. I took a deep breath while suppressing my emotions as I left the living room.
Grabbing my keys, I pulled a yellow scarf around my neck and tucked my arms into a dark coat. He didn’t stop me. He just stood there as my tail lights disappeared into the night.
As I drove into my local coffee shop’s parking lot, my headlights illuminated the falling snow. I tried to park as close to the door as I could to keep from trampling through the inch of snow that already blanketed the road, but I was forced to pull in near the back of the lot. Getting out of my car, I thrust my hands into my coat pockets and darted across the parking lot. An icy wind blew on my face the whole time.
The air was bitterly cold, with well below-freezing temperatures. I could tell the storm was still brewing and that there would probably be another fresh two inches of snow by morning. The fresh air was painful because of the biting breeze, and I was forced to suppress all of my remaining tears, for they would have frozen right there upon my face. In that moment, though I was running, my world stood still. On that bitterly cold night, my soul caught my falling tears and pain solidified inside of me.
Shivering, I pulled my hand from my pocket only to meet an icy door handle that led into a dimly lit coffee shop. Passing through the door a small bell chimed above me as I stomped the snow off of my boots and let myself in.
I walked briskly toward the counter and didn’t even bother to look at the festive holiday menu. I ordered my usual mocha. Waiting for my coffee to be prepared, I stood near the pick up bar. I noticed a light jazz tune beginning to fill the shop when an expressionless barista handed me my warm drink.
“Thank you” I stated as I placed a sleeve over my coffee cup. From behind her dark rimmed glasses, the barista ignored me and continued wiping down the counter. Deadened to her insensitivity, I claimed a small round table near the far end of the shop. I plopped my oversized purse onto the table, and sank into my chair. I huddled over my mocha and breathed in the fragrant steam as if it were a healing remedy. Yet unbeknown to me, no drink or aroma could free me from my winter prison, for my grief and I were locked behind bars of ice brought in by the winter storm.
Alone with my thoughts, I stared at a crimson colored wall. I wanted to forget all that had happened. I wished today could be like every other day. Everyone else seemed to overlook the fact that Uncle Taylor died, and somehow I was growing cold enough to wish I could too.
Still, I sat for nearly a half of an hour, lost in thought. Yet not a tear was shed. There was no anger, no regret, no longing to see him. For the first time there was nothing. Unresponsive, I lingered at my table only observing the one piece of art hanging on the wall.
Locked behind a thin piece of glass was a photograph filled with color. A dark coffee table stood over a cherry red carpet. Just behind it a cream-colored couch seemed to invite a guest to take a seat. To the left of the couch, an orange and yellow fire was frozen in time within a red brick fireplace.
As I fixed my eyes on the tiny flames that lit the portrait, a curious thing happened. The fire began to crackle and pop. The portrait came to life before my eyes as the fire sparked into flame. My eyes grew large as tiny tongues of fire leapt within the fireplace.
My next breath was deep, yet I felt light. I was becoming one with the air I breathed.
I began to hover over my seat until I was caught up into the photograph I studied. At once I joined the coffee table, couch, and fireplace within the border of the frame.
The flame billowed heat that seemed to roll over my skin. I wanted to hide. I wanted to get away from the burning flame that exposed my wounded soul. Frantically I tapped the glass that imprisoned me. Yet no one in the small coffee shop paid me any attention. With not one reaction, I lifted my voice with a plea for help. Still no one turned to face me. I soon yelled and then again screamed for help—to no avail.
I thought surely if my high-pitched voice didn’t shatter the glass before me, my pounding fist would. In mid-swing, a voice, deep and pure, called out, “You’ve made it.” My blonde hair brushed against my face as I turned to see who spoke. I couldn’t help but timidly smile when I saw a man standing next to the cream-colored couch. I knew him. We had shared a delightful meal once.
Smiling at me, the man looked into my eyes. His eyes were like deep pools of knowledge. In kindness he said, “Every day that you have suffered, I have seen you.”
Normally I would have been tempted to turn my face away, but I couldn’t because of the truthfulness in his voice.
“Audrey, you are not alone in your suffering.” As he spoke, I felt my heart begin to beat with a dull ache. With every beat I was feeling again.
Handing me a small envelope, He grinned. I tore the seal, and studied the small picture it held. He pointed to the photo, “Right now your heart is frozen. It looks like this picture. I know this hurts, but your heart will die if I do not heal you. Today I am awakening your heart.”
“But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.” Psalm 13:5