Drenched in sweat, I rolled over to glance at the clock. 2:17am. Tears immediately began to flow as soon as I realized once more that I lay alone in our queen size bed. I refused to change the sheets, afraid that the remaining hint of his scent would flutter away like a butterfly. He always smelled like cocoa butter and Ivory soap. It was a scent that comforted me completely; begging me to curl up within his arms and drift off to sleep. Sleep had been so easy then. Nowadays, it was impossible to grasp.
The shadows that traced the bedroom floor danced with uncertainty as the crickets sang a solemn song of loneliness outside. Nightmares filled my dreams these days. It had been three and a half weeks since Marc had passed away. Three and a half weeks of complete and undistinguishable darkness that left me unwilling to eat, sleep or interact with anyone. And when I did, it was a robotic motion, not a human one.
Rolling onto my side, I looked over at Mitzie, our two year old Westie. She had sensed Marc’s absence these past few weeks. Although she had never been allowed to sleep on our bed, that rule had changed recently. I needed her with me, and it was obvious she needed me too. She slept on his side of the bed each night, curled up with her nose tucked under her tail. Sorrow seemed to fill her dark brown eyes.
“Come here, sweet girl.” I patted the bed, calling Mitzie over to me. She stood up sleepily, wagged her tail and made her way over to my arms. I hugged her close, and kissed her warm, fuzzy head.
I felt my stomach turn as I closed my eyes. The past several weeks had left me feeling overly tired, hormonal and queasy. My willingness to eat had subsided out of distinct depression; it was obvious grief had taken a toll on my body. I knew there was no way I could reach out to sleep, so I decided to reach out to my best friend Natalie for a late night pep talk instead.
Swinging my legs over the side of the bed, I suddenly felt dizzy. I had to eat something, even if my stomach begged me not to. Nothing sounded even remotely appetizing, but I pushed myself forward anyone.
Slipping on my house shoes, I felt my way through the dark room towards the kitchen, Mitzie’s claws clicking across the hardwood floor behind me. I grabbed the phone and dialed Natalie’s number as I rummaged through the pantry for a snack. Two rings in, I heard her voice groggily pass through the receiver.
“Nat, it’s me. I’m sorry to call so late. Just needed to hear your voice, I guess.”
“Hey…no problem, Reece.” I heard her yawn, causing me to yawn back in a repetitive fashion.
“So, how are you holding up, sweetie?”
I took a bite of a stale chocolate chip cookie before answering, “Awful. But, I’m trying. And these days, that’s all I can do. Try.”
“Are you thinking about going back to work anytime soon? I mean, just for the distraction. It might be good for you, Ree.”
Work. I loved my job. I was a freelance writer for the local newspaper here in Charleston, South Carolina. Writing had always been a love of mine, and the pay wasn’t too bad either. It was just enough to cover some of the basic expenses Marc and I had. Not many individuals could say that they loved their job, but I could. And Marc had been so supportive of my writing, every piece of it. Without his relentless support now present, I felt like a part of my love of spilling words across the page had withered away.
“Yes Nat, I have thought about going back, but Mr. Hoffman said to take my time. That’s what I’m doing. Taking my time. I just don’t feel ready yet,” I replied, a quiver in my voice.
“The time will come. Just take it one day at a time. You know I’m here for you.”
Natalie was an amazing woman. We became friends instantly our junior year of high school. She was sweet, forgiving, smart and ravishingly beautiful. Her dark auburn hair and evergreen eyes spoke of elegance and a genuine spirit. And genuine, she was. Without her shoulder to cry on, I knew my loss would have cut so much deeper. She understood what I was going through, every piece of it.
I took another bite of the stale cookie as I rummaged through the fridge for the orange juice carton. A wave of nausea caused beads of sweat to form above my brow.
“Oh gosh…,” I spoke into the phone, quietly.
“What’s the matter, Ree? You okay?” Natalie spoke, concern in her voice.
I sat the half eaten cookie on the counter, pulled out a kitchen chair to sit down, and clutched my stomach.
“I have these waves of nausea and I’m completely exhausted. I know grief can take a toll on someone, but I never expected to feel…ill.”
“Have you been eating? Like, an actual meal, Reece?”
I knew the answer to her question, and it was an absolute no. I couldn’t even remember the last time I had a full, square meal. A handful of chips, a half of an apple, a jar of olives…that was how I had survived the last three and a half weeks. That explained my ill state completely.
“No, not really Nat. It’s easy to let breakfast, lunch and dinner pass by without a second thought these days.”
I heard Natalie chuckle on the other end of the line as my fingers traced the grain of the kitchen tabletop. “Maybe your pregnant, Reece!”
My breath caught in my throat at her words. Could that even be possible? The thought had never even crossed my mind. Marc and I were always careful, most of the time. I stood up from the table and walked over to the calendar that hung on the wall next to the kitchen sink.
“Nah, there’s not a chance. I mean, it could happen, but I don’t feel pregnant,” I replied back, smoothly.
“You don’t have to feel pregnant to be pregnant. Just a thought, although I’m sure it’s just this huge change in your life. Understandable.”
I ran my hand across the month of March. My last period had been on the third. Today was April 9th. I was late…almost a week late. Panic filled my thoughts as tears welled up in my tired eyes.
“Reece, you there?” she said, with grave worry and hesitation.
“Um, yeah…yeah. I’m here. Just…looking for a snack,” I laughed aloud, trying my best to make light of the fear that pulsed through my veins.
“Stay away from the sweets. Have an apple and a cup of hot tea. That will help you sleep.”
Eating anything strayed away from my thoughts completely, but I wasn’t about to tell her so. “Sounds great actually,” I lied. She seemed to buy it, or so I hoped.
“I should let you sleep. You have work in the morning. Thanks for talking to me.”
“Anything for my best friend, you know that. Listen, I’ll drop by after work tonight. We’ll grab some Thai food for dinner. My treat,” Natalie spoke, sweetly.
“That sounds amazing. I look forward to it. Love you!”
“Love you too, Ree. See you tonight.”
I hung up the phone with a worrisome grin written across my face. But instead of making myself a cup of tea or heading back to bed, I grabbed my car keys. I prayed the pharmacy down the street was open at this hour. I had to know…now. Even though my heart already seemed to grasp the truth of reality. And it scared the living daylights out of me. Completely.