Thirteen Years

Light danced across the picture lined hallway as the stained glass door was opened for a brief moment before being set back in place. In that brief moment, Nancy had come in with her arms filled with groceries and a small tight smile on her porcelain face. Her young figure flowed into the kitchen and set to work.

Jason was sitting in his home office. He wore a blank stare that matched his blank computer screen. His dark long hair was swept perfectly straight down to his shoulders. His face was lean and his eyes were extinguished coal embers. Every few seconds his embers would dart to the clock and back to the screen as if he was expecting time itself to do the work for him. His expression was tired. He was not exhausted and his bed was not calling his name. Yet it was a tiredness that had weighed heavy on him for many days.

Jason cocked his head at an odd angle as the almost unfamiliar sound of humming seeped into his ears. The humming itself was beautiful and carried no particular tune. He grasped the arms of his chair firmly and carefully stood up. He cautiously moved out of his office, being careful not to disturb the hum.

As he inched toward the kitchen the hum grew louder. He eased himself around a corner and discovered his wife delicately chopping celery. With every chop her humming changed pitch slightly as the motion reverberated through her. The scene was beautiful to him, but he did not watch for long. He swept his hair back smoothly with one hand. Then he set to work with a new found purpose.

He started by cleaning the dishes and cutlery that his wife had already dirtied. She glanced over at him and gave him a warm smile. To his surprise, he returned it. He saw cracks in her porcelain face that told him that she was tired too. Once he had caught up to her with the dishes he moved quickly into the kitchen dining area and began clearing off the table. Papers had piled up here, papers and cards. The cards remained unopened and Jason had no particular interest in changing that. He found a shoebox from under their bed and gently whisked the cards away. He would look at them eventually he knew, but right now eventually seemed so far off.

Nancy had two pots boiling now and the smell of chicken and fresh vegetables filled the house. Her cooking projects had always started off simple and then quickly grew in complexity. Now she was making her own dinner rolls, a Caesar salad, and a carrot cake for dessert. She had always buried herself in the kitchen and tonight almost seemed no different.

By the time supper was ready so was the table. Jason had dug out and cleaned the best silverware that they had always kept in the basement, waiting for some special occasion that never came. Jason new today was special. He knew that somehow this meal would be very important. Candles sat on the table ignited, and music whispered gently into the room.

They made up their bowls and their plates and sat down. The table was small and could barely fit the two of them and their food, and yet there were three chairs here. The third chair didn’t match the other two, and as they quietly ate they kept glancing at it. Every time they would catch themselves and quickly look away. Jason’s eyes eventually came to rest upon a poorly made cross hanging on the wall. The cross consisted of two sticks tied together by some simple string. “I have never been much of a religious man,” Jason said almost without meaning to.

“I know, neither have I,” Nancy replied with a weak smile realizing the small bit of humor in those words, “I don’t know where he got it from.”

“I didn’t think that religion was something little boys just found,” Jason said seriously skipping right past any humor.

Nancy swirled her soup in her bowl and said, “He wasn’t so little you know, and I don’t think he ever found religion. It always seemed to me that he just wanted something bigger to believe in.”

“Something bigger than his parents, I guess,” Jason had a distance to his voice, one that Nancy had unwittingly grown used to.

She snapped back, “Well we couldn’t help him. He knew we were doing all we could. He knew that we wanted better for him. We wanted a lot but all he wanted was…”She trailed off.

Jason toyed with buttering his roll, “It’s okay Nancy.”

“No, it is not okay.” She slammed at the table with her fist, “That’s our problem we keep hoping that it will be okay but it will never be okay. We had a son.”

“Yes, we did have a son,” Jason said calmly. Nancy’s harshness did not disturb him. “We weren’t supposed to have a son but we did. He gave us thirteen years of his life. They weren’t easy years. Not for us and surely not for him, but they were given.”

Nancy looked at Jason with something that was almost rage, but she was surprised to find him staring right back. Emotion melted from her face. “It hurts to say this but somehow it just feels like we wasted time.”

Jason let out a tiny laugh, and his face softened, “That is exactly how I’ve felt since Monday, since the funeral. It feels like we spent thirteen years building a house and then it just burned down. It feels like we had nothing to show for it all, but we do. We have that chair that we keep glancing at and we have the cross that hangs on the wall. Cancer can cause a life to end but it can’t steal a life. We aren’t those people from our wedding day, and maybe right now we seem worse off, but I honestly believe that it will be okay,” he emphasized those last four words turning them into a mantra.

A tear dripped down Nancy’s face and into her soup as she locked eyes again with Jason, “How?” She was desperately searching for an answer, an answer that Jason knew he didn’t have.

“I don’t know,” Jason looked lost as he spoke. “All I know is this; for thirteen years we had a son. We had Parker. For thirteen years he was happy. That’s all that matters.”

“Am I being selfish?” Her voice strained out of her throat as her face had turned red and moist.

Jason held his wife and began to cry too. “Shhhh, no hun, you are being human.”

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