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QUIETUS OF AN ORCHID

by Kelly Peppe about a year ago in grief
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A Story of Love and Loss

Art by author

In silence he finds solace. Since she left, he likes to let himself believe that he prefers the quiet of the house. Her laughter had been silenced years before she’d went away. He loved her with his entire being. After a while, she wasn’t the woman he had married. She hardly resembled her. The sickness ate away at her beautiful soft features, carving her cheeks bones out like jagged ocean rock.

He remembers when her soul left the fight. What was once a wild and vibrant blue jay, turned to a wounded bird bound to her cage. Her wings had been clipped and no longer took flight. But she held on to the feeling of that last great flight. For a little while at least. But when she forgot what it was like to fly, there was no reminding her. She knew she would never take flight again.

She didn’t like to be reminded of how ill she was. She preferred no visitors, her husband especially. She knew any day could be the end and every visit felt like a different goodbye. She grew so tired of good-byes that after each one, she prayed she would quietly pass.

He began to feel that his presence was agonizing to her towards the end. She’d hardly look at him and roll on to her side to face away from him on most occasions. She didn’t want him to see her like that. He began to believe she just hadn’t wanted to see him. His presence seemed to cause stress on her, so he began frequenting less and less. She never wanted to push him away, but she couldn’t help it. This wasn’t how she wanted the love of her life to remember her.

He’d truly believed that his wife was gone quite a while before she actually was. Her spirit was trapped in the confines of her frail, sickly body. She loved him until her last moments. She was never angry with him for leaving her side. Their vows had been till death do them part, and she knew that truly the woman he married had died with her diagnosis. She went from bad to terrible in weeks and hung to life for the next couple years.

She would often recall a childhood dog who fell ill. Her parents had put it down. As a child, she remembers being confused and angry. Robbed of moments with this pet. But eventually she understood and even envied the dead thing. She wished she could have been put to sleep as well.

Today he buried her. The entire occasion covered by a sum of money he’d received in her passing. It made him sick to his stomach endorsing the back. Twenty thousand it read. That’s all his wife’s life was worth to those people. They had struggled financially for years before now, drowning in medical bills. He’d prayed so many nights away for financial help, and finally his prayer had been answered. He prayed for the healing of his wife, of course, but it seems like God only heard one of his prayers.

He received the condolences of strangers and friends. He knew their words and embraces were out of kindness or grief, but he found little of it comforting. He was only 32. He was too young to mourn the death of his wife. He selfishly thinks to himself how he wishes he had never met her and fallen in love. They had only been married two years before they found out how sick she was. Then she was ill for three years after that. They had more painful memories then warm ones as a married couple.

They met in their last year of university. She was already in a relationship and they tried the friend thing for a couple years. But then she had her heart broken and he had been there for her. And he had never taken advantage of the situation, but he knew how he had felt about her for too long to not take his opportunity. So, he had let her mourn the death of her relationship all while sitting by her side. He let her console in him all while reminding her of her worth. He had known she deserved better than a man who constantly did things to hurt her.

He knew from the moment they met he could never hurt a woman like that. He had searched his whole life to find her. And once he finally did, he stopped looking. She hadn’t been his for a while, but she was worth the wait; and he knew the moment they met that they had belonged to each other. He trusted that eventually she would come to the same revelation.

Now he doesn’t understand why he had to feel so strongly about someone he could only have for such a short time. He had lost both his parents young, so when they had been married, she was his family. Now just like his parents, she lives only in his memories.

When everyone leaves, he lays a single orchid and a small black notebook containing both their vows on her head stone. He waits for a sign from her. A brush of soft finger tips across his face, just like she used to, but nothing comes. He lays himself across the mound of dirt in her favorite suit of his. He didn’t care about getting it dirty. He knew this was the last time he would ever wear it. Dirt would come out at the drycleaners, her memory would never. Soft topsoil cradles his body like memory foam. He pretends that instead of lying next to her here, that they are in bed on their honeymoon. It was the softest bed he had ever slept in. He wasn’t a fan of soft beds, but with her next to him as his wife, the firmness of the mattress didn’t matter.

Just like now. He doesn’t mind the dirt because this is as close as he could get to her now. He burrows his fingers into the soil as if to hold hands with her. He snakes his arms deeper and deeper till his forearms are completely submerged. For a moment he lets himself believe he’s holding her. He lye here now embracing the earth that his wife was now one with.

grief

About the author

Kelly Peppe

Writer and illustrator from New York.

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