Updated: May 15
It had been three months and four days since Luke died. I stood in the middle of the kitchen in the home we had blissfully shared for the past nine years. It was a modest but beautiful home, built in the 1920s, surrounded by giant oak trees draped in Spanish moss, and nestled in the small town of Covington, Louisiana. We spent most of our nights sitting on the small wrap-around porch listening to Luke's collection of vinyl records play from inside. We would talk for hours about life and our dreams for the future and laugh at each other's jokes as we sipped some of Louisiana’s finest bourbon. It was a happy home, and Luke was crazy about this house, but I didn't care where we lived as long as we were together. From the moment we met, we were inseparable. We adored each other, and our love was as deep and vast as the Indian Ocean.
I stared at the cherrywood dining table, now covered with weeks of old junk mail and unopened bills. "Just breathe, Freya," I whispered to myself. I reached down and grabbed the large, clear plastic bag resting on the latest mound of city coupons. The bag had a strip of masking tape with black writing that read Covington Hospital: Lucas Weston. I opened it and pulled out the neatly folded, black V-neck t-shirt. With my body heavy with grief, my knuckles gripped white as I brought the shirt to my face and buried my nose in the fabric. I took a long, deep breath like it would be my last. His smell filled my lungs, and memories of him flooded my brain, making every inch of my body ache. This torture had become my morning routine.
I felt a hand touch and gently rub the side of my shoulder, snapping me back to reality. Behind me stood my little sister, Jillian. She was twenty-eight and naturally beautiful. She was tall and slender with sunkissed skin and a river of golden blond hair that framed her perfect heart-shaped face. There were only four years between us, but she still felt like a kid to me. She was playful and had a kind heart that was always taken advantage of by less-than-worthy men. We lost both our parents when we were young. So young, I hardly remember anything about them now, except how my father's rough, calloused hand felt when he held mine and the distinct smell of Gardenia perfume my mother used to wear. Luke and Jillian were all I had left, and now Luke is gone too. Jillian decided it would be best if she moved in with me after the accident. Most days, I appreciated her company. Today was not one of those days.
As my eyes welled up with tears, I slowly turned toward her. She looked at me, concern washed over her face, "Freya, honey, are you okay? I'm really starting to worry about you. You haven't been out of the house in weeks," she said. My throat tightened, making it hard for the words to pass my lips, "I just miss him so much. I'm not going to survive this, Jilly. I'm really not. I don't feel alive without him." I said as my voice cracked from exhaustion. Her hazel eyes stared back at me with such a sadness in them that I felt guilty for sharing my heartbreak with her. I could see on her face that she was searching for something, anything to say that would bring me comfort, but she said nothing. We both knew there were no words that could ease my pain. The love Luke and I shared was, otherworldly, a love like something you see in an old Hollywood movie. And now he was dead. Every day without him felt like I was drowning, my grief pulling me deeper and deeper below the surface into the dark abyss.
We stood there for a moment, her not knowing what to say and me quietly unraveling. "You know that Luke believed in past lives?" I said in a monotone as I stared at the floor. "Really? I didn't know that." "He told me that he had spent hundreds of lifetimes searching for me and would never lose me again," my voice shook, and I brought my hand toward my face and cupped my mouth as though forcing myself to shut up. Jillian reached and pulled my hand away and held it. In the sweetest tone, she said, "Freya, the kind of love you and Luke shared will never die. I'm sure you'll find each other again in the next life and the life after that." She let go, took the black shirt I still held in my other hand, and put it back in the plastic bag. I closed my eyes and held my breath as tears traveled down my pale and almost lifeless cheeks. I felt anger creeping up like the flame of a fire, and through gritted teeth, I said, "Life is nothing but a cruel joke. It gives you love and then rips it away just to watch you wilt and die." I don't want to be here anymore, I thought to myself.
Jillian wiped away another one of my tears, and I pressed my cheek into the warmth of her hand. She sighed and shook her head. "I hate seeing you like this. It just breaks my heart." She paused for a moment before speaking again. "Do you know what might make you feel better? Take a hot shower, get out of your pajamas, and leave the house today. Go for a walk in the sun; it will be good for you." She said it as though she truly believed it would make a difference. I pretended to entertain the idea, "Okay, maybe I will." I watched as she walked to the kitchen counter and grabbed her purse. "Good. I promise you'll feel better after you get a little fresh air." She reached into her bag, pulled out her cell phone, and looked down to check the time. "Shoot, I'm late. I have to go to work. Are you going to be, okay?" She asked. "Yeah," I lied.
I waited until I heard the car leaving the driveway. When she was gone, I turned around and headed toward the bedroom. The wooden floor planks creaked under my bare feet as I walked down the long hallway where pictures of my life together with Luke hung perfectly on the walls. Feeling numb, I struggled to reach our four-post bed. I sat on the edge staring at where he used to lay, where his warmth and love would engulf me night after night. Now, it was just a place that was cold and forever vacant. I looked over at the nightstand, and next to a half-empty glass of water and a framed black and white photo of our wedding day were four bottles of pills. Each one prescribed with the promise of making all of this bearable. I reached over and grabbed one of the bottles and held it in my hand. The hollowness of my soul echoed his name. I closed my eyes and sat there motionless, contemplating my life, my death.
Knock-knock-knock. The sound of someone at the front door forced my lungs to release a dramatic breath of air as I opened my eyes. "Who the hell could that be?" I said aloud. I placed the pill bottle back onto the nightstand and slowly stood up from the bed. I walked down the hall and toward the front door, still in a haze. I squinted as I put my eye up to the peephole. I didn't see anyone. Slowly, I cracked the door open to take a peek. A gust of wind blew the door wide open until it slammed against the wall behind it. Warm air flowed through the house, and I picked up the faintest smell of Gardenia as the now gentle breeze hit my face and swept through my dirty blond hair. "Hello?" I said as I scanned the front porch and walkway. "Is anybody there?" Confused, I stood momentarily, listening for someone to answer, but there was no one. I closed the door and turned the deadbolt until I heard it click. Then, I started down the hallway again, ready to return to my personal hell. When I reached the bedroom door threshold, my body froze still, shocked in disbelief. Was I dreaming? It was Luke standing by the nightstand.
There he was, right in front of me, beautiful as ever, wearing his favorite blue jeans and black V-neck shirt that fit perfectly on his tall, athletic frame. His hair was jet black like a raven's wings, and his eyes were crystal blue and wolf-like. "Hello, beautiful," his deep velvety voice rang through me like a Tibetan singing bowl. "Luke, what are you doing here? How...how is this possible?" I stuttered. Still not believing my eyes, I cautiously walked toward him, not wanting to disturb this dream, if it was indeed a dream. "I thought you left me," I said as I stared at him, studying every feature on his face, burning him deeper into my memory. Luke smirked with the crooked smile that I loved so much. "Did you really think you could get rid of me that easily?" he joked. He took my face in his hands, looked into my eyes, and whispered, "Freya, I'm so sorry." Then he wrapped his arms around me. I felt instant relief in his embrace as my pain slipped away like it had never existed.
Luke held me tight against him, and with each breath, I breathed deeper, trying to inhale his existence. "I miss you so much," I sighed. "I know you do, baby." His tone was as warm as the amber hue in a sunset, and the word "baby" dripped off his tongue like honey. "I need you. Please don't make me live without you," I begged. He pulled away slightly and gently pressed his forehead against mine, looking deep into my eyes. "Do you trust me?" he asked. "Yes." And it was true; I did trust him. With every broken and aching bit of my being, I did. He pulled me close and brought his lips to my ear. I could feel the warmth of his breath as he said, "I will find you again, Freya." I pulled away and looked at him, searching for meaning in his words.
"Luke, what does that mean? I want you to stay here with me now. Don't leave me. Please, stay with me!" I pleaded. He looked at me and breathed deeply before lowering his gaze to my mouth. He leaned down and pressed his lips against mine, taking my breath away. Kissing him warmed my body like a shot of whiskey. He kissed my lips again and then again before moving up and softly kissing my forehead. He pulled me in even closer, and I put my ear to his chest, listening to the beat of his heart pounding like a drum calling me home. His touch, his smell, his love - it's all I ever needed. A sound in the distance barely registered as I closed my eyes and hugged him tighter, never wanting to let go.
Knock-Knock-Knock. My eyes fluttered open. "What was that? I asked, but Luke said nothing. With shallowed breath, I waited and listened to see if I could hear it again. "Knock-Knock-Knock!" the sound grew louder. Luke looked down at me, brushed a strand of hair away from my face, and tucked it behind my ear. His gaze was captivating, my cheeks flushed, and I smiled; it was something I hadn't done in months. "I love you so much," I said. "Knock! Knock! Knock!" the sound came again. "I don't want to leave you," I said. "Baby, it's okay. Just remember what I said" He looked at me with intensity in his eyes. I nodded yes and turned to look towards the bedroom door. I didn't want to move, but something inside felt like it was pulling me away. I held my breath as my hands clutched the back of Luke's t-shirt. "Baby, it's okay to let go," he said, and I relaxed my grip. Luke gently pulled my arms down to my side and held my hands in his. I inhaled another deep breath and held it for what seemed like an eternity. Then with my exhale, I let go of Luke's hands and turned towards the door. Before leaving, I stopped to look back at him, sadness pooling in my eyes. He stood and stared back at me in silence. Then, his lips moved, and without saying a word, he mouthed, "I love you." I smiled and turned and walked away.
I rushed down the hallway, hurried to the front door, unlocked the deadbolt, and swiftly opened it without looking through the peephole. Again, nobody was there. "Hello!" I shouted. It was dark now, and there was a chill in the air. The scent of Gardenia no longer filled the room, and I could hear the metal chimes I hung last summer banging together in the wind. "A storm is coming," I said to myself. Just then, a crack of thunder hit above the house, so loud it sounded like it split the sky in half. Panic rushed over me like a tidal wave, and I could barely feel my feet beneath me. I slammed the door shut, and with an unsteady balance, I ran down the hallway, knowing something was so, so very wrong. I yelled for him, "Luke! Luke!" When I got to the bedroom, my eyes darted around the room, searching for him, but he was gone. Suddenly, my limbs fell heavy. "Oh my god," I said, my words guttural. "What have I done?" I stood there, anchored in place, staring at the bed where an empty pill bottle lay next to my still and lifeless body.