Bittersweet Farewells

      by Melissa R. Mendelson

      The years had been kind to her. Youth sparked in her eyes, and beauty fell across her smile. Her presence filled the room, and every step was filled with grace. But today, she did not want them to look at her. Time was the cold water that splashed across her face, and a stranger met her gaze. All she wanted was to be left alone, but they were waiting. And they wouldn’t go away.
      A hard knock against the bathroom door brought her back to harsh reality. Muffled words struggled to reach her through the pale walls, but a deep sigh was its response. The doorknob turned slightly but then paused, and she reached for it. For a moment, she held it back, but then the cold metal turned again. And she stepped out into the hall.
      “Are you okay?”
      His voice was full of concern, but anger fired through her veins. Her eyes darted left and right, and strangers in black turned her way. Her feet shuffled against the tiled floor, and her hands felt cold and light. And he continued to stare at her, waiting for an answer.
      “I’m fine.” She glared at him. “Why didn’t you tell me?” His gaze fell away. “I could have said good-bye.”
      “You were still in the hospital, and we were afraid that if you knew, you would let go.” A tear ran down his cheek. “We thought it better, if we didn’t tell you.”
      “Didn’t tell me? I was only married to him for over fifty years. I had the right to know!” Silence fell against them, and she could feel them all staring now. “But I did know.” Her son looked confused. “I felt him go, but I can’t explain it. I just knew.” His eyes met hers. “But you still should have told me.” She stormed away.
      “I’m sorry.” But his words fell on deaf ears.
      Warm hands reached for her, trying to pull her to a seat nearby. Others offered to bring her anything that she needed. Sadness echoed in her grandchildren’s eyes, and she would have given anything to make them smile. But not today. She knew they were there for her, but all she wanted was for them to leave, let her mourn alone. And they would not go away.
      “I need some air.” She looked around the crowded living room. “I’ll be back in a few.” She could hear them say something, but she wasn’t listening. “Give me some space,” she muttered.
      It was cold outside. Winter wasn’t finished yet, and she could taste the snow in the air. The ground was soft and green, but it was winter’s tease. Now who would come and shovel her out? Her son? It would take some time before she could look into his eyes again, but she needed him. And he knew that.
      A gentle breeze stirred against her skin. Tears filled her eyes, slipping across her pale cheeks. Her hands trembled, but she fought to keep them still. And the air smelled sweetly, but it did not carry the scent of winter. It carried the scent of him.
      An invisible arm wrapped around her waist. Her breath caught in her throat. Warmth touched her cheek as if a kiss were placed upon her skin. She wanted to cry. She wanted to laugh, but she remained standing still. And she slowly nodded as the arm slid away from her waist.
      “Good-bye, my love.” She was ready to go back inside. “I will see you again.” She wiped her eyes and stood up straight. “Soon.” She knew it in her soul. “And we’ll be together again.” As she entered the house and the glass door closed behind her, she could almost see him standing there, waiting for her.

Melissa R. Mendelson was a Long Island news reporter and Hudson Valley freelance writer, whose portfolio continues on Yahoo! Voices. Her short stories and poetry have been published online and in print by literary magazines such as Bartleby Snopes and Gadfly Online, and in the anthology Names in a Jar: A Collection of Poetry by 100 Contemporary American Poets. Her writing is also featured in artistic videos on YouTube.

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