|All Around Me
Author: Anione Graton PM
Jenna Reeves grieves for her husband, Brian, every single day, but after convincing herself she will never move on, Jenna meets Derek Sharp. She is then forced to come to terms with her loss and the possibility of new love. Sequel to Come Back to MeRated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Drama - Chapters: 14 - Words: 61,519 - Reviews: 8 - Favs: 9 - Follows: 8 - Updated: 06-10-12 - Published: 05-16-12 - Status: Complete - id: 3023187
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Her mouth was open, her lips trembling as she choked on her words. She couldn't respond to this officer. She'd heard so many stories about other Marine wives receiving the dreaded visit from the two men clad in service green at their doors. She never thought in a million years that it would have ever happened to her.
Yet here they were, telling her that her world was over.
Jenna could not breathe. She could not speak. She could barely see anything in front of her. The world around her started melting away as the colonel in front of her was saying some words that she could hardly make out. It sounded like she was underwater and his words were a million miles away. It took all of her strength not to pass out in front of them.
"You'll be contacted by…"
Whatever it was, it didn't really matter at that point in time. Jenna's vision was obscured by the tears she hadn't known were flooding from her eyes. She was vaguely aware that someone's arms were around her as her knees smacked brutally onto the cold, hard floor underneath her. The pain, if there really was any, was so nonexistent in her current frame of mind that she didn't think she'd ever feel it. Her body was racked with sobs, and she wasn't sure, but she thought that the officers were long gone, which meant that she was just crying loudly in front of an open door for no apparent reason.
Not that she cared.
Jenna was on the floor for a long, long time, crying and sobbing and heaving and spiraling into a whirlwind of agony. She wasn't quite aware of what was going on anymore and it didn't seem like the outside world would ever matter. Jenna was somewhere lying down, the tears pouring down her face until she lost consciousness and the world slipped away from her.
In a million years she would never forget the nightmare she had during that fitful sleep. She was in a black room, unaware of her surroundings until a light turned on at the end of what appeared to be a very long tunnel. Blinking, Jenna's dream visage stood up and tried to walk toward the light. It grew brighter as she walked further on, and then, all of a sudden, Brian was there.
Brian's broad, muscular shoulders were clad in his standard issue olive green service alphas, Jenna's favorite on her husband's amazing body. He had a beautiful V shape that she loved to let her hands trail all the way down, feeling each individual muscle sculpted underneath the Bravos he wore under the jacket.
Dream Jenna's heart soared as she saw the image of her soul mate, standing there in her dream. He was giving her that smarmy smile she always swooned over, his golden eyes sparkling just for her. He was holding his arms out to her, and she was desperate to feel them around her again. He'd been gone for too long, and she was missing the way he enveloped her against him so securely. She was so small compared to him, and every time she was in his arms she felt safe, secure, and right at home.
"Brian!" she yelled. Dream Jenna started running as fast as she could toward Brian, but for some reason she wasn't moving. She couldn't get her legs to move any faster.
"Jenna?" he called. His face was no longer jovial. Now he was frowning, confused as he called out to her over and over.
"Jenna! Sweetheart, why are you running away?"
"No, Brian, I'm coming! I'm trying!"
Brian's form was slipping away, and she started running harder, this time finally catching up to him. He was fading into the darkness, and she knew if she just ran a little harder, she could make it to him before he disappeared.
But she didn't. And she never would.
Jenna woke with a start the next day, blissfully ignorant for a moment before she recalled the reason she felt so empty and broken inside. Her depression swept over her in such a heavy blanket of sorrow that she knew she'd never be able to move out from under it. She didn't even want to get out of bed to go to the bathroom, but it was something she couldn't put off for too much longer.
She trudged to the bathroom and looked out into her living room, and with a start, saw her three best friends sitting on the couch, talking in hushed tones. She blearily stared out at them, registering their presence and coming to the realization that they had been there when the officers showed up the day before, and must have gotten her to her bed the night before. The fact that they'd stayed the night was enough for her to break down into tears all over again.
Jenna let herself fall into a crumpled heap on the floor, sobbing into her hands. Her friends jumped up and ran over to her, picking her up and guiding her to the couch in the living room.
"He's gone! Oh my god, I can't believe he's gone," she cried, shoving the tears angrily from her cheeks. "I told him that I refused to be a widow, and he always told me I wouldn't be. He said he'd never leave me. Oh my god, he said he'd never leave me and he's gone!" Jenna couldn't speak anymore. Her body was racked with grief, and she didn't fight when Sara pulled her close, stroking her messy blonde hair as soothingly as possible.
"I can't believe it… Brian… My Brian… Gone…" she whispered, crying herself into another long well deserved nap.
Much of the next few weeks passed in this fashion except for the moments when Jenna had to be semiconscious for funeral arrangements, memorial services, and other matters, such as receiving the life insurance policy and the reading of Brian's prepared will. She barely remembered anything about his will. She used most of the insurance policy to organize his funeral, memorial services, and pay off the rest of the house. After that, she was only left with a meager amount that she stocked into a savings account that never saw the light of day.
Jenna tried so hard to block out every single one of those memories and leave them in the furthest reaches of her mind. She'd started seeing a therapist who had wanted to prescribe her anti-anxiety medication to help her get through the funeral and memorial services, but she steadfastly refused to numb herself, even though every emotion in her broken heart screamed at her to take the drugs. Somewhere in the future, she wanted to make sure she had done everything right for Brian, because as his wife she owed him that much.
Widow. As Brian's widow.
Jenna had gone to her therapist quite frequently in those first few months, and along with the therapy sessions one on one, he had also recommended she start attending a once monthly Marine widow support group. There were several women (and men) that attended the support group that had been going for many, many years and knew how to get through things. He thought it could help her out, since she refused to take anything to help her get through the days.
Those first couple of months she didn't want to do much work. Her thoughts regarding the theatre company as a whole was that it all seemed silly now, the concept of a bunch of singing, dancing people getting up and entertaining other people, people who didn't know the feeling of someone showing up on their doorstep and tearing their lives to shreds. Jenna couldn't take it seriously.
Thankfully, her friends and coworkers completely understood this sentiment, even though they weren't delighted with it. She was their head stage manager, and the best one they had. She'd appointed someone to take her place in the event of her absence, but she hadn't anticipated them ever actually needing to call her up. Normally she was diligent and on the ball, making the theatre her number one priority. Now it didn't matter.
In those days, Jenna visited Brian's grave almost every day. She had picked out a modest plot for him but always made sure to come with roses to adorn it. He'd always loved roses the most, as hard as it was for him to admit sometimes. She laughed at the memory of him admitting that to her before they were married. They'd played a game of twenty questions back and forth through text messages early on in their courtship, trying to get to know each other. She'd asked his favorite flower.
"Okay, don't laugh at me… But I really love roses. I'm not sure why. Something about a beautiful flower protected by thorns just seems so… I don't know, bad ass."
Jenna's eyes filled with tears at the memory of this text message. She kneeled down, touching the outline of Brian's grave with her gloved hand. "Why did you leave me? Why? You promised me that we were going to be together for the rest of our lives. Well, dammit, this is not the rest of my life! I'm still here, Brian! I'm STILL HERE!"
Jenna sobbed over her husband's grave, bending her head down as she allowed the tears to flow freely. She heard someone coming up behind her, but she didn't care to look up and see who it was. It was probably just someone else visiting a plot near hers. She carried on without care.
The whisper was close behind her, and she stopped crying for a moment to look up. She saw Layla, Sara, and Amelia, standing there, all holding a different colored single long stemmed rose, smiling sympathetically at their friend.
"Layla?" she murmured. "What are you guys doing here? How did you know I'd even be here?"
Layla reached down and rubbed her friend's back. "You're here every day, Jen. We wanted to talk to you, and pay our respects." As she said that, she held up a white rose to show Jenna, and then turned toward the grave and setting it next to Jenna's own red rose.
Sara stepped forward with a pink rose and set it next to the other two. She grabbed Jenna's arm and gave it a reassuring squeeze. Amelia stepped out from behind them all, set down her yellow rose, and offered her hand to Jenna to help her up off the ground. She took it and stood up with the other women, and surrounded by her friends, looked back and forth among them.
"I just thought I'd never be alone," she confessed, and then broke into a fresh wave of tears.
All of the women hugged her tightly, assuring her that she was never going to be alone so long as they were there to help her through it.
Shortly after that, Jenna's friends took her home and spent the next few days with her, getting her back in order, handling any other affairs that had come up while Jenna's mind had been gone in her despair. In that time, Jenna also came back to herself a bit. It was right around the time that she decided it was finally time to go back to work. If she could lose herself in her work, maybe it would help to rescue her from the soul crushing depression she faced every time she walked back into her house.
But it was time, and she knew that Brian wouldn't want her lying around the house, feeling sorry for herself and crying every second of the day until she drove herself insane. It was liberating to finally feel as though she wasn't going to be living under the crushing weight of her loneliness anymore.
It didn't change the fact that Brian was gone, though. She was desperately missing her other half, her soul mate, the one other person who could make her soul complete. She wanted to wallow in the memories of his presence, but she wanted to force herself past it as well.
It took some time and some serious effort on her part, but Jenna made it through the next few months faking it, like her therapist encouraged her to do. She went to work, did the best job she could do while she was there, and went home. Her life revolved around work, therapy, the support group, visiting Brian… And something she knew she had to get around to doing.
That was probably the scariest part of the recovery process, but she was determined to make it work whether she liked it or not.
After a year had passed, Jenna was finally able to take her wedding ring off and put it on a chain around her neck. This was something that had been suggested to her by the other wives in the support group. They informed her that while she may not be ready to actually take on a new relationship anytime soon, she must accept the fact that Brian was not going to be coming back anytime soon to put the ring back on her finger. She could cherish the memento of their love, but she should take it off so the reality of his loss sank in all the more.
As scared as she was, Jenna knew this was the right thing to do, and she knew it's what Brian would have wanted. So, reluctantly, she wore the simple white gold band around her neck, gently massaging her empty ring finger now, the pieces of her heart breaking all over again.
She continued visiting his grave, though not as frequently. She would go see him in her moments of weakness, stress, or greatest contemplation. After all, when he'd been alive, he'd always been the one she could turn to, the one that calmed her down and understood all of her crazy ramblings when the going really got tough at work. She even had Brian's reassurance in her pocket when he was gone on his long deployments. It had taken her a while to remember not to grab for her cell phone after he had died.
The hardest things to adjust to were the little ones. Jenna was used to rearranging her life for a military man who deployed so often, but there were so many other things she'd forgotten always included him. Movies that they always saw together came and went, and as she discovered their openings, she'd anxiously click to buy two tickets, and then remember that no one was coming with her.
Other things were heartbreaking. Seeing his video games on the shelves, his body wash in the shower, little notes he'd written to her here and there around the house. She'd even kept the simple, nonromantic ones, like 'Don't forget to grab milk!' or 'Gonna be late tonight. Love you.' It didn't matter. Anytime she could find a note with his chicken scratch on it, she clung to it.
Jenna found herself spiraling into depression every time she found something that had belonged to Brian, or smelled something that was vaguely familiar to Brian's cologne, or even heard their song or any other song he'd said reminded him of her… Everywhere she turned she saw reminders, and it was all becoming too much for her to bear at times.
The reappearance of Tom Langley was somewhat of a turning point, however. It had been a year and a half since Brian died, and Jenna's life was somewhat set to a normal pace, though she still grieved for her husband and the life they never had. However, the blast from the past was something that Jenna almost couldn't handle. When Tom was with Layla during the early years of the production company, he, Ryan, and Brian had all been extremely close since they were around each other so often. Brian was thankful to have someone who shared his interest in sports, and Ryan shared his interest in video games. Being around both men at the same time without Brian being there became too much.
On top of that, Layla was being a stubborn, willful child about her feelings for Tom. She obviously still loved him, and she just wouldn't admit it and get over all of her problems. Jenna didn't deny that the abuse Layla had suffered at the hands of her parents was devastating, emotionally, but she constantly had people telling her that she was deserving of Tom's love, but Layla consistently refused to accept it. This frustrated Jenna, since she didn't have a choice when it came to being apart from the love of her life. She wanted to slap her friend, but trying to avoid a breakdown in depression or anger, Jenna chose instead to distance herself from the drama and watch it play out. If her friend truly needed her, she'd be there, without a doubt.
Unfortunately, it hadn't gone the way she'd planned it. Jenna wanted Tom and Layla to be together, since the last time Layla had been truly happy was with Tom, but it didn't seem to be going that direction. Jenna had to apologize to her friend and let her know that she hadn't meant to leave her in a lurch when she was needed most. After confessing to Layla how much she missed Brian, Jenna had reopened the stitched wound on her heart, and decided it was time to see her support group again.
Yet, something had changed for Jenna in the time between her confession to Layla and her visit to the women in the support group. She was smiling. She was talking about Brian freely without choking on her words. She was able to walk by the men's products at the makeup counter of Macy's without fighting back tears. She could even watch their movies without breaking into sobs. She even managed to crack an off color joke with her girlfriends again.
It had taken eighteen months, but she was finally starting to feel like her old self again.