Back Again

I miss my wife. I miss everything about her, from the smell of her shampoo that would waft behind her as she walked by me, how the bed of her fingernails were curved and rounded, to how she cooked my scrambled eggs with her “secret ingredient,” which turned out to be dill weed. I miss her more every day and the thought of living the rest of mine without her is sometimes too much to bear.

Grace was died from a brain aneurysm three years ago. She was home alone that because she had the day off work…I forget why, but when I got home from my job a little after 6pm, my wife of seven years was laying face down in the middle of the kitchen floor, the faucet running, and the oven was preheating for whatever meal she was going to prepare for us that night for dinner.

I stood and stared at her on the ground, her limbs contorted oddly around her, and I didn’t know what to do. I was struck dumb by the moment and had no idea what to do. Should I call the police first or 911? If I called the police, would they arrest me because they would think that I had killed her? So many irrational thoughts raced through my mind, but yet, I still stood there and my wife still lay on the kitchen floor.

The autopsy report declared a massive brain bleed. The county coroner said it killed her instantly and she died without knowing what hit her. I think he was trying to comfort me in a weird medical way, and it kind of worked. Knowing Grace didn’t suffer as she left me gave me some peace.

That was three years ago. There are days where I still feel like I did when I first found her: numb, seemingly standing in one spot, not knowing what to do.

I got home from work as usual and had a flash of my wife on the ground again. Those visions have happened more often and it’s driving me slowly insane, I think. I blink my eyes and she’s vanished. I walk over to the cabinet and grab a glass and then to the sink to fill it with cold water, which I drank in four long, greedy gulps.

I step to the fridge and pull out the leftover Chinese food from the other night and plop it in the microwave, hit an arbitrary number on the keypad and the device hums to life, zapping my food. I walk to the kitchen table and turn on the small flat screen television and I immediately lose interest on what’s on. I scan the channels a few times and finally settle on a station that’s playing an old Seinfeld rerun; the one with Jerry and the Pez dispenser.

The microwave dings and I get my food out, burning my fingers on the hot plate.

“Motherfuck!” I howl and jump to the table and slam the plate down on the table and rice flies out. I suck on my fingers to ease the pain of the burn, but it doesn’t help much. I am pissed at myself and go to sit down and pull the chair out too quick and it tumbles over backward. I can feel a stream of obscenities start to rise up from my belly and let them fly as I hastily pick up the chair and slam it down in place before I sit down. The food in front of me is mocking me as the steam rises into my face and I jab my fork into the mound of General Tao’s chicken.

In spite of the scalding hot plate, the chicken is lukewarm, but I eat it anyway, pouting as I stir all the contents of the plate together and shovel forkfuls of food into my mouth.

The show on t.v. has gone to commercial. Lose weight in six weeks with the new miracle drink! Try Charmin Ultra Soft toilet paper! And then the next one caught my attention immediately.

“The pain of losing a loved one is unlike any other. The hopelessness and grief can be unbearable. But there is hope on the horizon, friends. Life After Death is a new service and it will change your life. For eight days, you can be with your deceased parent, spouse, or child. That’s right–Life After Death uses the latest in resurrection technology and can temporarily bring your loved one back to life for eight days. This breakthrough technology has been in development for years in Sweden and is now finally available here in the United States. Call our toll free number to find out more information.”

Stunned doesn’t even begin to come close to how I’m feeling. I could be with Grace again. I could smell her shampoo again, I could caress her fingernails and taste her lips on mine. Without realizing it, I’m dialing the phone number.

“Life After Death, this is Veronica. How can I help you?”

“Uh…” I stammer. “I’d like my wife back, please.”

“Certainly, sir. I’d be honored to help make this possible.”

The rest of the conversation involved me telling Veronica about how Grace died, how long it’s been since she passed, and other details. She then gave me an estimate of returning my wife to me. To be honest, I didn’t have that much money. I mean, Grace and I had made some investments and did well with those, but I had a feeling I wouldn’t have enough to pay for the service.

“One million dollars, Mr. Price.”

The number echoed off my skull. One. Million. Dollars.

“Mr. Price? Are you still there?”

I coughed in reply, “Yes, sorry. Still here. Did you say one million dollars?”

“Yes, sir, I did. As I’m sure you’re aware, this isn’t an inexpensive procedure. In addition to the cost of the medical necessities required, there needs to be several permits filed with the state and lawyer fees, as well. But honestly, Mr. Price, it’s a small price to pay for being able to be with your wife again…”

She was right. I would have paid ten million dollars to have Grace with me again, even for a few days.

“There is, of course, a payment plan that I would be happy to help set up with you, Mr. Price.”

“Okay. Let’s do it.”

Anything for my wife…

***

The next week, I was sitting in the parking lot of Life After Death. It was a discreet, glass-front building on the edge of town in an area of new development. My appointment was at 10am, but I was anxious and the clock on the dashboard read 9:23am.

I had stopped at a gas station earlier for some coffee and even though I hadn’t smoked in over fifteen years, a pack of cigarettes. I had cracked the window and was chain-smoking and listening to the classic rock station. My fingers tapped nervously on the steering wheel.

I couldn’t take it any longer and went inside at about ten till ten. A very pretty young woman greeted me.

“Mr. Price, I presume?”

Her knowing my name took me off guard. “Uh, yeah. That’s me.” I could feel my face flush and the tips of my ears get warm.

“We’ve been waiting for you. Please, have a seat and Mr. Jeffries will be with you shortly.”

“Thank you,” I said and sit down in a plush leather chair. I pick up the latest copy of Time Magazine and thumb through it, just looking at the pictures. A few minutes pass and the same gentleman I saw on the commercial last week comes walking towards me with a warm smile on his face and his arm already outstretched for a handshake. I stand up and offer my hand in return.

“Mr. Price. How wonderful to meet you. I’m Scott Jeffries. I’ve been extensively involved with your wife’s return. She’s almost ready for you.”

His words caused a lump in my throat and I started crying. My wife is waiting for me.

Jeffries placed his strong hand on my shoulder and began patting it.

“I know you must feel overwhelmed and extremely excited to see her again. It’s been three tough years, I imagine.”

He had no idea.

After I regained my composure, he led me through the doors he came out of and we walked down a long corridor. It was shiny and sterile-looking. White floors and walls and tasteful stainless steel furniture lined the way. We approached a giant stainless steel door and Jeffries reached forward and pulled it open. Behind the door was a room that resembled an elaborately decorated hotel suite. Dark mahogany furniture, real flowers decorating expensive vases, and plush couches and chairs everywhere. In the corner, was a room divider, like the kind you would see Bette Davis come out from behind in one of her movies, and I half expected such, but I knew Grace would instead.

“Please, have a seat. I’ll bring your wife to you shortly.”

Again, his words affected me, but this time, I fought the tears back. I didn’t want Grace to see me crying. Not yet, at least. I quickly wiped my eyes with the back of my hand, and not a moment too soon. My wife came into the room.

She looked exactly as she did the day before she died, the last time I had seen her alive. Her chestnut-brown hair was down and flowed over her shoulders and she was wearing a beautiful and simple white dress. She looked ethereal. I stood up too fast and promptly sat back down on the couch. Grace laughed her delicate laugh and my heart melted.

“Hello, stranger. Long time, no see.”

The sound of my wife’s voice pained me, but in a good way, like when something is so incredible it hurts a little.

“Grace…” was all I could manage. She chuckled again and came towards  me on the couch, and sat next to me. She placed her hand on my knee and I was taken aback that she was warm to the touch. I don’t know why, but I expected her to be cold…to be dead feeling.

“Welcome back,” I said softly, reaching up to touch her face, to feel her soft skin under mine.

“It’s good to be back, even if it’s for a short time.”

I smiled at my wife and leaned forward and kissed her full lips. Again, I was surprised at their warmth.

We heard someone clear their throat and Jeffries was standing in the doorway.

“I’m sorry to intrude, but how is everything going?” he winked at us.

“Just fine. No, more than fine. It’s…incredible. Thank you so much, Mr. Jeffries. I have no words to describe how happy you’ve made me.”

“Please, call me Scott, and it’s my pleasure, Mr. Price. Us here at Life After Death are honored to have served you.”

***

I took Grace home after that. I had racked my brain for days prior to picking her up on all the things we should do together in our eight days, but the more I thought about it, the more I just wanted to be at home with her. I didn’t want to share her with anyone else. I know this is probably selfish of me, but I didn’t tell Grace’s family I was doing this. I knew they would vehemently disapprove, so I decided to keep quiet about it. Grace was all mine for eight days and no one was going to come between us.

I could go into elaborate detail of what we did during those eight days, but some things are best left in private. Let me say that the week and one day I had with my wife were the happiest I’ve been since her death. We fell back into our same routine immediately it seemed. Everything was in its right place again. I had my wife back.

The eighth night was rough, though. I had to take her back to Life After Death in the morning and I was dreading every second that ticked closer to that time. I knew the risks of having her back would include the heartbreak of losing her again, but this time would be different. I’d get to say goodbye to her and to let her know I loved her. The sense of closure this was going to give me is insurmountable. Second chances come rarely and I was getting mine.

The alarm went off the next morning and I woke to Grace sitting on the edge of the bed, already dressed.

“It’s time for me to leave you again, darling.”

“I know. But this time, I’m ready for it.”

We rode in silence to Life After Death, but Grace was clutching onto my hand the entire way. I was rubbing her fingernails. I loved how they curved.

We parked and walked into the building where the same woman who greeted me eight days prior did the same.

“Good morning, Mr. and Mrs. Price. Welcome back,” her smile illuminating her entire face. “Mr. Jeffries will be with you soon.”

Grace and I sat side-by-side on the loveseat like two teenagers on their first unsupervised time alone. Jeffries came out five minutes later.

“Good morning, my friends. I trust your time was well-spent together,” he winked at us again.

“Yes, again, thank you for this,” I said. This time, I made no attempt at stopping my tears from flowing. This man had given me the most wonderful gift anyone could ever give to me and for that, I will be forever grateful.

“I hate to say this, but it’s time for Grace to come with me, Mr. Price. I’m sorry it has to resort to this, but…”

“No need to apologize. You’ve done so much for me. Thank you, Mr. Jeffries. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

Jeffries smiled and reached for Grace’s hand, which she accepted and he pulled her up from beside me.

I stood and took my wife in my arms one last time and I grabbed her face in my hands and stared into her green eyes.

“I’ve been waiting three years to say this to you, Grace.”

“I love you and goodbye.”

 

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