Monday, March 14, 2016

Holding On

“..If there is anyone in attendance who has cause to believe that this couple should not be joined in marriage, you may speak now or forever hold your peace.”

I held my breath as I looked at Newton, remembering how sure I was someone, namely his freak of an ex-wife, would show up and start causing a scene. I offered him a smile and faltered as a commotion in the back reached my ears. I turned, heart thundering in my chest, certain I would see Charity there, tears streaming down her plump cheeks, her short hair bobbing up and down as she sobbed and declared her undying love for Newton in a voice that was like a fork being dragged across a porcelain plate.
 I gasped in disbelief as a familiar figure stood, his arms crossed over his chest in that annoying way that used to just piss me off. Eyes of muddy brown met mine, and he smirked. “Yep, I have a problem with it.”

“You’re supposed to be dead.” I heard myself say the words and realized how stupid they sounded.

“Melissa, honey, you ought to know by now you can’t get rid of me that easily.”

“Who is that?” Newton asked, his faced scowled in annoyance.

“Its Royce.” I muttered, “its Fucking Royce…”

“I thought he was dead.”

“Me too.” I wanted to hug Royce and punch him at the same time. I felt the tears stinging my eyes and I felt the anger bubbling up, “How dare you come here now? How dare you?”
 I lifted my dress and stomped down the aisle towards my dead husband, rage driving away the knowledge that everyone was staring at me. “Six years you’ve been gone, I waited for you, Royce, and I mourned for you! You have no right to come back now and shout out ‘surprise!’ like it was all some big joke!”

Royce met me at the aisle, his voice low and surprisingly gentle, “I know, baby, its okay. I just wanted to let you know I kept my promise.”

“What promise?!” I was choking on my own tears now. I had imagined Royce coming back all these years and I knew it was illogical because people didn’t just survive airplanes blowing up in the sky.

“I told you I would come back, Melissa.” He said softly, “Don’t you remember?”

I did remember. His promise was sometimes the only thing that had kept me going while I mourned his death and tried to find a reason to keep going. Hearing the words broke something in me. I collapsed in his arms, the fight draining from me as I held tight, breathing in his familiar scent. The ache that I had been carrying around with me for six years was more painful than ever and I just knew that at any moment I would waken and see that it was just another frightfully realistic dream.

“Melissa…” I jerked my attention back to Newton’s concerned face. He was watching me with confusion in his eyes of gray.

I realized I was still standing at the altar, our wedding guests all in the pews. Royce wasn’t there though. The minister was staring at me intently, “Madam?”

“I have cause to believe… this isn’t going to work.” I felt tears spill from my eyes as I looked upon Newton’s shocked expression, “I’m not ready, Newton, I’m so sorry…”

Never Stop

Entering me in the contest was a practical joke my best friend Robyn was playing on me. The odds of an ex-smoker, former obese, middle-aged woman winning a spot on the Olympic Torch carrying team were pretty far-fetched. We laughed about it when the letter came in announcing I was a finalist. She knew I was not a runner, God had gotten generous with me up top and unless I used duct tape to strap the girls down, running was not something I did voluntarily.
So how did I end up here in South America, standing on a dirt road with a camera crew on hand and spectators sipping on water bottles and shouting in a multitude of languages, with me only understanding English and a smattering of Spanish words? It all comes down to pride. Somebody told me that I would fail. Do you  want to know how to motivate me? Tell me I can’t do it, tell me I’m going to fall and people will laugh, challenge me that way and you can bet that I’m going to try all that much harder to prove you wrong.
However, my pride was not enough to keep the reservations away. Despite losing over a hundred pounds and beating a smoking addiction, I still looked in the mirror and saw the woman I used to be. I could feel the eyes of the crowd judging me, criticizing my ample chest, my thick thighs and the telltale rasp of the beginnings of emphysema. What was I doing here? I know they were asking the questions because I was asking the same thing. It wasn’t too late though, I could step away, feign a stomach bug or just admit that I shouldn’t be there.
I was nearly to that point when I heard the cry of the crowd as the other runner came in site, torch flickering in the late afternoon sun. My heart started racing as I took my position and waited, my hand outstretched waiting for the smooth metal of the torch I would carry into the night. Pounding footsteps came up behind me, the sound of heavy breathing and the slap of metal hitting my hand. My fingers curled around it and I started to run, and caught my toe on the hard dirt surface of the road. I did a whole lunging forward kind of motion, with the crushing knowledge that I wasn’t going to catch myself before slamming into the ground in front of hundreds of strangers. The stones that dug into my knees and elbows were sharp, my face burned in humiliation and I looked up to see I had somehow managed to keep the torch upright. A gasp had rippled through the crowd and all I could think was that I needed to disappear fast!
I jumped up and gave my cuts a cursory glance, the gasp turned to a cheer and I put one foot out and then another, determined to do this. As I faded into the darkness, running my shame into the ground as I allowed myself to laugh and a new sense of determination filled me