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"Love Everlasting" 
by Joyce Williams
(Gayle Hedrington)


"What the hell...." Carol mutters as a figure appears in the heart of the road. Like a statue, it stands still, making no attempt to move out of the Toyota's path. Carol slams the brakes and sends her car spinning into a snow bank. It now sits at a 180 degree angle, half buried and parallel to the frozen lake. She steps down from the car and looks for whoever was standing in the road, but no one's there. Carol kicks the back tire protruding in the air, curses and releases her frustration with tears.

The snow changes to ice -- it stings her face as she tries to get in her car. After several attempts, the door opens. Carol climbs in and reaches for her cell phone. "Shit! No freaking reception!"

A sudden shadow appears on her left. It's a woman standing in the road a few feet away. Her heart jumps along with her body, until she realizes it's Mrs. Borelli, Tony’s mother. Carol rolls down the window. “Mom! What are you doing here?" Mrs. Borelli is the only person Carol ever called Mom, besides her own.

"I work at the inn up the road. Saw the car go into a spin, didn't know it was you. What are you doing here?" 

"I wanted to go to the cemetery, but made a wrong turn. I don‘t think I‘ll get there now."

"Tony wouldn’t want you traveling in this weather. Come with me and warm up. I'll make you some soup." Mrs. Borelli waves her hand, coaxing Carol from the car.

Carol gets out and embraces the woman. The two walk down the road with arms intertwined, keeping each other from slipping, as they reminisce.

“I was crushed when you broke up with Tony. What happened? He didn’t say much. I'd always hoped the two of you would marry.”

“Me too, Mom, however I couldn't compete with his mistress."

"Mistress? Tony wasn't seeing anyone that I know of. Who was she?" Mrs. Borelli appears to be upset at this news.

Carol holds in her tears and attempts to swallow the hard lump in her throat. She's about to start blubbering when the women reach White's Inn. Mrs. Borelli opens the kitchen door and a myriad of aromas saturate Carol's nose -- yeast from fresh made bread, onions and beef from stew, apples from a crisp...and an unusual scent Carol can’t place but knows well. It reminds her of Tony.

"Take off that wet coat, sit down, and I'll get you some soup. I can't believe you're here! How long has it been?”

"Twenty years? I'm not sure, but it seems like yesterday." Carol thinks back to the time she spent with Mom while dating Tony. Mom and Carol would prepare meals, go to the hairdressers, play hearts, and other mother/daughter activities. "How long, have you been working here?"

"Years. Live here, too. The house was empty without the kids or Jerry and this job was perfect. I make the breads, soups, desserts, and salads. Guess it's been fifteen years, give or take a few. I love the work and I can see Tony’s grave across the lake. Can’t see it now, but in the spring you can spot it because I planted red poppies.” Mrs. Borelli points her index finger towards the cemetery through the window. “What about you Carol? Married? Kids?" Mrs. Borelli places a bowl of minestrone in front of Carol. "Mangiare!"

 "I’ve been divorced ten years, no children, one of my many regrets. I never could find another love like Tony." Carol stops and takes a spoonful the soup. "Wonderful soup Mom."

"It was one of Tony's favorites. Remember? You mentioned a mistress of Tony‘s. Who was she?"

"It wasn't a woman, it was...drugs. I'm surprised you didn't know."

"Oh sweetie, I knew. However, I'd always thought he started using because you left him. God, I wish I'd known. You should've talked with me, honey.”

"I know, Mom, but I was scared. It never occurred to me to talk with you. I did everything else -- threatened, screamed, and broke up with him. I thought he'd come to his senses, but he didn't." Carol takes another spoonful of soup. "You're a wonderful cook, always were. Did Tony die from a drug overdose?"

"That’s what they say, but I say he died of a broken heart. He was lost without you. He was clean for long time... and then one night he...slipped. I never told him."

"Told him what?"

"Tony was doing well, but he was lonely. He dated some, but he never found 'the one'. He mentioned finding you and trying to work things out, but he didn't know where you were. One day I ran into your friend Trish, she told me you were living in Boston and gave me your address. I never told Tony. I thought you would hurt him again. I feel so guilty." Mrs. Borelli wipes a tear with the back of her hand. "I'm so sorry, Carol."

Carol gives her a hug. "I'd run back to him barefoot in a snowstorm, if I only had the chance."

"I know that now sweetie. I need to let him know."

"Let him know?"

"Prayers, I talk to him every day, hope he forgives me."

"He'll forgive you, Mom." Carol kisses Mrs. Borelli’s cheek. "But will he forgive me for moving away? Mom, I have to go to the cemetery.”

"Wait, the storm will be over soon."

"No, I must go now. He's waiting for me."

"Carol, you need to wait, now isn't the time," Mrs. Borelli's pleads. Carol runs out the door before Mrs. Borelli gets up from her chair.

*****

"Miss, do you know where you are?" a man's voice stirred Carol.

Carol studies the man hovering over her. “Yeah, I'm in a hospital, or God looks a lot like a doctor.”

“Glad you have a sense of humor. Did you try to kill yourself?” The doctor touches Carol's hand.

“What kind of question is that?” Carol crinkles her brow and her eyes meet his.

“Your car was in that snow bank with the tailpipe in the snow, and your engine was running. Carbon monoxide filled your car. No one drives that road. What were you doing there?"

“Going to Saint Mary’s Cemetery and I made a wrong turn. Someone was standing in the road when I hit the brakes. My car spun and went into a snow bank. I walked to White's Inn with --”

“Can't be. White’s Inn closed seventeen years ago. It’s in shambles, doubt if it’s still standing." The doctor's voice is terse.

"Maybe I imagined going there while I was out," Carol replies, feeling bewildered.

"You've been here for two days, lots of time for dreams. Despite our unanswered calls to your family, someone sent you some flowers.”

Carol turns and sees a huge bouquet of vibrant, red poppies. "Is there a card?"

The doctor checks the flowers, grabs an envelope, and hands it to Carol.

'Neither death nor distance will destroy our love,
It is living and everlasting.
Stay here my love until the time is right,
And I’ll carry you in my arms to heaven
Where we will share our love forever.
Happy Valentine’s Day,
Love T'

© Gayle Hedrington 2009. All rights reserved.

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