Dying was an interesting experience. I hadn't realized I would be aware. Not that my last moments had involved any conscious thought on my part, but I had certainly examined what death would be like during various stages of my short life. You know the typical stuff, white light, long dead family members. Also the more practical stuff, complete nothingness – just ceasing to exist.
But what happened to me was vastly different from what I expected. Suddenly I could see everything, from every different angle, all at the same time, like I was omnipresent. To say it was odd would be a gross understatement.
It started with the parking lot. The instant my world had gone black, it had popped open in more vivid detail and clarity than ever before in my life. Suddenly I could see around every car, every tree, behind the walls of buildings, over the fence at the people still dancing to the driving beat. I could see all of this simultaneously without ever moving…moving just wasn't something I needed to do anymore. It was as if the entire world was in my peripheral and all I had to do was shift my concentration and I could instantly see – anywhere.
But what had my complete attention right now were the three people I cared about most in this world.
Denny's rage was completely sapped; he stared down at my body and his bloody boot in utmost horror. Kellan had frailly grabbed me and was sobbing into my limp shoulder. And then there was my poor broken body. Seeing me from an outsider's perspective was interesting. The rapidly expanding pool of blood around my cracked skull was horrifying. I was grateful that physical pain had not followed me to this state of existence.
I worried that Kellan might try to avenge me, in some silly attempt at chivalry, and the horrific fight would continue, but he didn't seem to have the strength to do anything but cry. It warmed my heart, or wherever love really comes from, to actually see how much he cared for me.
Denny sank down to his knees, my blood staining his pants. His tears were now flowing freely as well. Here was my true tragedy. My heart surged for Denny, for what he was going to have to face now. I desperately wished him the strength to get through it, to come out stronger and find some way to get on with his life. There would be prison, of that I didn't doubt, he may not have been trying to kill me, but a defense of "I was really trying to kill the other guy" wouldn't go over well. I prayed the courts would be merciful.
I found I could no longer watch Kellan and Denny's pain, my lifeless body covered in blood. I let my conscious extend out from me. The world was so beautiful like this. Moonlight flooded and lit everything it touched, turning the whole world silver and sparkly.
I passed over the people I knew, Sam, Evan, Matt, Griffin, Rita, Kate, Jenny and more. I watched them laugh and sing and flirt and smile and…well, I stopped watching what Griffin was doing after about three seconds. I smiled over their merriment, over their simple joy. I hoped the shock they were going to receive in a few hours wouldn't be too hard on them.
I don't know how long I watched people, fascinated by their lives, but eventually I was aware of my body being discovered. Screams from the parking lot ripped my consciousness back there. Neither man had moved. Kellan was still curled around my shoulder, holding me to him tightly. Denny was still kneeling in front of me, his jeans soaked in my blood. Both were still sobbing. I thanked whatever power there was in this universe that in my absence they hadn't turned on each other - not that my incorporeal being would have been able to do anything about it if they had, but it made me glad none the less. Mostly though, I was sad for them, I ached for their pain, wanting it desperately to end, knowing that it wouldn't happen anytime soon.
People from the bar swarmed now, forming a vast circle around the horrific scene. Some women cried and clutched their boyfriends. Some men looked like they wanted to do…something, but the violence was over, there was no one to either fight or restrain, just two men brokenly crying beside a broken body.
Police and ambulances arrived shortly after. Kellan finally started to fight back…at the paramedics who were trying to separate him from my body; he cursed, he screamed "No!" repeatedly, he tried to shove them away with his good arm. He shouted at them to leave him alone…that he wanted to stay with me. I wanted to scream at him to let them help him, he looked so horribly injured. He was too weak to hold them off forever and, although it took three of them, they finally separated him from me and got him to his feet. Still struggling to return to me, one of the paramedics accidentally grabbed his injured arm and the pain dropped him to his knees. Sobbing in agony and grief, he gave up resisting and they were finally able to get him into an ambulance.
While Kellan was being ushered into a vehicle, Denny was slowly approached by an officer. He didn't move. He didn't resist the officer standing him up and cuffing him. His face was astonishingly pale, like he was going into shock. His whole body trembled while the officer led him to his car a few feet away. He glanced back at my body when he was nearly to the car and suddenly lost the ability to keep upright. He collapsed heavily to his knees, the officer not able to move fast enough to keep him standing. He lost his stomach right there near the squad car's rear tire. The officer helped him up and pushing his head gently, placed him in the back seat. I felt like dying again watching him be driven away.
My body, clearly beyond saving, was taken away to the morgue. I didn't feel the need to follow it like I thought I might. It was empty and held no fascination for me - nothing held me to it and I let it go.
There was a low murmur building in my consciousness, almost sounding like several voices talking to me at once. I pushed them forcefully away. Whatever that was about was going to have to wait. There were only two voices I was interested in right now, two that needed me now more than ever. I could do nothing for them of course, but as always, I was incapable of leaving them.
I worried for Kellan as I watched over him at the hospital; he had been hurt badly in the fight. I watched his fabulous, yet broken body, get patched up. His ribs taped back together, his cuts stitched closed, his broken left arm casted from his wrist to his elbow. But nothing the doctors did could repair the damaged look in his unfocused blue eyes, his expressionless, empty face.
He clenched the necklace he had given me in his right hand, apparently having taken it from my limp body sometime after the…incident. A nurse tried to take it from him but at his icy glare she left it alone. I ached to kiss his forehead, stroke his cheek, pat his arm and tell him that everything would be okay, but of course, I could not. He looked deader than I actually was.
Seeing that physically Kellan would be alright, I switched over to Denny. Where Kellan looked like death, Denny was its walking incarnation. He was herded into a holding cell with drunks and prostitutes. Eventually someone came for him and he was processed and put in a cell, the heavy door closing with finality. I stayed with him as he collapsed on the mat and sobbed for hours.
My parents and sister flew in of course. Their pain cut me brutally; I wish there had been more time…a way for me to say my peace to these people who had shaped my world. I watched speechless as Kellan brokenly approached them one day and begged on his knees for my body to stay here with him. I desperately wanted to tell him it wasn't necessary, I wouldn't leave him. My parents, bless them, were reasonable enough even in their crushing pain to grant Kellan's plea. I could see in their hearts that to them my body was not my soul and they could mourn me with an empty grave. I thanked them for their kindness to my beautiful, broken boy.
Not too much later, there was a funeral for me. I took an odd delight in watching the parade of sad people. It was heartwarming in a heartbreaking way to see friends and acquaintances mourn for me. It was a bit shocking to see what I had never noticed while I was alive...the warmth that people had felt for me.
The band and most of Pete's came, of course. Evan sweetly held Jenny who cried uncontrollably throughout the entire affair. Matt was quiet and solemn looking, he tried to console Kellan, but was almost rudely rebuffed and eventually left him alone. Instead Matt sat by Kate and held her hand. Griffin was…well, in his own way I'm sure Griffin was sad. He only hit on one or two girls and much to my embarrassment, as I had been paying slightly too much attention, had sex with my sister in the coat closet of the funeral home. I couldn't be too irritated with her though, she was devastated and needed comfort…although I still didn't understand what she saw in him.
A wave of regret passed through me watching my beautiful sister grieve. Regret for the things I had thought of her, regret for the petty jealousies I had felt towards her, regret for avoiding conversations with her. It all seemed so trivial now, that it was too late, when all there had ever been between us was love. I hoped she knew…I hoped she realized how much I loved her.
But my main focus that day was Kellan, comforting him with my thoughts and presence since it was all I could do. He was still battered looking, cut up, his wounds pink and healing. Even dead I couldn't help but notice how achingly sexy he was, almost more so with the bruising. A few women around him had certainly noticed and inappropriately tried to get his attention, until they saw his eyes. Hard and dead, no tears left in them, they did not invite any conversation. They screamed "leave me the hell alone". Eventually everyone did, even Anna who, after her tryst, had tried to sit and comfort him. Once everyone had left him sitting by himself in the corner, staring blankly at my casket, I sat with him so he would not be completely alone in his grief.
At the end of the service, everyone went back to Pete's, which was closed to the public for the evening. Everyone all said a few nice words to my parents who mumbled the polite thank-yous to this room full of strangers that I had loved. Denny's parents had also flown in and I finally, in an odd way, got to meet them. There was some tension among the parents until Denny's Mom had sobbingly thrown her arms around my Mom and everyone had warmly hugged and cried together.
Kellan again sat alone by himself, and drank…nonstop. By the end of the night he could barely stand and Sam had driven him home.
Denny, whose parents had gotten him released on bail, did not attend the funeral or the wake. He was scared of facing everyone. Facing Kellan, facing my parents…and oddly, facing me. He didn't want to be the murderer in the room. Of course, I could never look at him that way, not with the knowledge that what he had become was my fault. I stayed with him as well, while he sobbed in his hotel room and begged ceaselessly for my forgiveness.
I had no idea how much time was passing but the constant buzzing of voices intruded more and more into my life, well, death I guess. It whispered to me, promising me hope and joy and love and an end to pain and suffering. I wanted badly to follow it. This world, while in the beginning, so new and beautiful with my extended sight, was quickly becoming cold and distant. Feeling Kellan and Denny's unending desolation and not being able to affect them in any real way, and I had certainly tried on numerous occasions to make them aware of me, was draining. But I couldn't…I wouldn't leave them. Not now, not broken and fragmented, such as they were. Not when it was completely my fault. I hoped desperately that one day they would forgive me – I wished madly that they would already forgive themselves.
Kellan still stayed at his house. He only left it to join his band, or drink – usually a combination of the two. He drank every day and every night, especially hard at night. Sam gave him a ride home from the bar so often that I felt maybe he should just move in and watch over him. I hoped someone would, he was so often alone now. His external wounds healed but his eyes never regained their warmth, never again sparkled like they used to for me. He never smiled. The feeling of wanton sex appeal that used to drift from him effortlessly had turned to despair.
He wore my necklace every day under his shirt, in fact, he never took it off. Something of mine was touching his skin constantly…a never-ending painful reminder. It warmed my heart and broke it at the same time.
His friends tried to ease his pain. Of course, Griffin tried in completely the wrong way for Kellan – mainly a stripper named Glitter. I had to smile at his effort though. Sam, not knowing what else to do just kept an extra careful eye on him. Matt tried to get everyone in the bar to sign his cast, write something nice that he could look at every day, but Kellan would get almost verbally abusive if anyone even got near it, for some reason he wanted no one to touch it. Eventually Evan was the one who seemed to fractionally break through Kellan's fog. He would simply sit and talk to him for hours in a corner at the bar. At first Kellan would just listen, and drink. Eventually though, he started to talk as well. He slowly opened up his pain to Evan who, bless him, took it in stride.
All the while I was tracking Kellan's progress I was keeping my eye on Denny as well.
Denny softly cried himself to sleep every night, his grief and guilt overwhelming him daily. I stayed close by his side whispering soothing words that he would never hear. I ached to hold him, kiss him…comfort him.
While his parents had him out on bail, he never left the hotel room. He talked with them about me briefly only once, before grief had curled him over in physical pain. They stayed by his side constantly which oddly caused him more pain. He desperately wanted them to go back home and stop wasting their hard-earned money on their no-good son. He was only too aware of how much the trip, the lengthy hotel stay, the court fees and the lawyer fees were costing them…which were a considerable amount. They weren't about to leave him alone though and I knew watching them that I never had any reason to fear meeting them. Even if they had somehow guessed my betrayal to Denny, they would have found a way to love me…for Denny. They would do anything for him and I grew to love them immensely.
He had wanted to plead guilty at the trial, but his parents had hired a good lawyer who worked out a plea bargain, voluntary manslaughter with three years in prison, eighteen months with good behavior. I ached for him. It was bad but it could have been so much worse. No friends had come to support him at his hearing, I thought maybe Kellan would, but the drunken stupor he had been in at the time hadn't allowed it. No, aside from his weeping parents and my insubstantial presence, Denny was alone.
He achingly said goodbye to his parents and begged them to go back home. He was carted off to a correctional facility for evaluation and inspection before being transferred to prison. While there he talked with a therapist who seemed as concerned over his lethargy as I was which heartened me over our justice system a smidge.
Sitting behind her desk twisting a pencil between her fingers, she eyed Denny sitting in the chair before her and staring blankly at his hands. "Denny, do you know why you're here?" she asked in a soothing tone, the same tone people used on small children and frightened animals.
Not looking up from his hands Denny replied politely, "Yes ma'am."
"And why is that?"
"I killed my girlfriend."
She watched Denny's unchanging face as he uttered those words. She tilted her head to the side, her graying hair shifting with her. "You unintentionally killed your girlfriend."
Denny shrugged and still didn't look up at her. He still stared at his hands without truly seeing them. "I guess…yes."
She moved her pencil to one hand and tapped it twice on her desk. "There is a fine distinction…do you understand that?"
He finally looked up at her, his dark eyes flat and lifeless, reflecting countless nights of little to no sleep. "I understand…I just don't care. Dead is dead…intentional or not." His voice quieted to a whisper on the end and I ached for the thousandth time to comfort him.
The woman looked almost as if she wanted to comfort him as well, but protocol must be kept. "I can see you're a good man. I'm going to recommend the medium security complex. It shouldn't be a problem if you follow all the rules. You will have considerably more freedom to come and go from your room as you like, you can even get a job-"
He cut her off, "I'm a killer…there is no need for you to make this easier on me." He closed his eyes and dropped his head down again.
The woman dropped her head as well then looked back at him looking like she was suppressing a heartfelt sigh. Softly she said, "Being involved with the death of another does not necessarily make you a killer."
He looked back up at her, his eyes brimming. "In whose eyes?" he whispered. In mine, I wanted to shout at him. I would never see him as a killer.
She swallowed and cleared her throat, blinking harshly a few times. "Please try and keep that in mind during your incarceration," she said with a polite but professional voice as she wrote a few notes in his file. When she was done she handed him some paperwork. "You may go now." As an officer approached him and he stood to leave, she told him in a soft voice, "Good luck Denny."
His dead eyes looked back at her a final time before he was ushered from the room. "Ma'am, luck left me a long time ago."
After that he was transferred to Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla for his sentence. The therapist's recommendation was upheld and Denny was taken to the medium security section. He was the walking dead as he padded along the cement floor to his new home, a 9x12 cell with a solid metal door that had a slim window of the inner prison as its only view. He didn't talk to anyone, didn't look at anyone and didn't seem to care about anything. Luckily he roomed with a tiny quiet man who seemed as equally aloof in acknowledging Denny. My heart bled for him and I wanted to wrap my arms protectively around him.
In prison, people mostly let him be. His dead zombie-like trance and uncaring attitude caused no provocation but also invited no friendships. His attractive face did however encourage a few punches; he endured them silently until the guards broke it off. His total un-reaction to being attacked actually helped to deter future incidents. After awhile, people just found no fun in hurting him. Nothing they did to him physically could have hurt his shattered soul anyway.
While Denny endured his grief alone, Kellan, at the very least, had his music. It seemed to be both a spark in his life and a source of great pain. He wrote every day; dark and haunting pieces. He wrote a particularly sad and beautiful piece that he named after me, that warmed my heart a little, a little beauty in his darkness.
The band took a respectful hiatus from playing after the funeral. When they did eventually get together to rehearse, Kellan stood at the mic looking confused and didn't sing a single thing. It seemed like he had forgotten every word to every song he had ever written. He tried several times and when he did remember a word or two, his throat would close up with emotion and he couldn't sing. After a week straight of trying, he finally told the guys he couldn't do it. He pulled Matt aside and begged him to take over. Out of the remaining three members Matt had the strongest voice. He objected at first, but while Kellan didn't need the money the band produced, the other members relied on it and when it looked like Kellan really wouldn't be able to sing, Matt grudgingly conceded.
So at the first D-Bags show after my death, Matt took over vocals. He was good even if his voice wasn't as strong as Kellan's. Griffin took over lead guitar, which caused him an inappropriate amount of glee, and Kellan took over bass, which he could still manage to play with his arm casted. Even slightly handicapped, he played well, but he never took his eyes off the instrument when he played, never acknowledged the crowd. The fans were surprised, and at first dismayed at the change, but eventually they warmed to Matt.
I worried that some amorous woman would take advantage of his fragile heart, which was an odd thought to have regarding Kellan, but women he virtually ignored. He didn't pander to his fans anymore; he rarely even looked at anyone anymore. The women still clamored for their still achingly handsome rock-god, but he had nothing left to give them. That had initially surprised and worried me. Before, I would have guessed that a warm bed would be his first choice to distract his mind, but then, I understood. I had given him what he desired most in the world – to be loved. He couldn't go back to the empty, meaningless encounters he had lived on before. He was lonelier now then he had ever been in his life. It broke my heart.
When he wasn't at home or with the band, he was at my gravesite. He visited me there daily with a handful of fresh flowers, usually roses. I wanted so badly to tell him it wasn't necessary, that I was always with him everywhere he went, that there was nothing here for him but pain, but of course I couldn't. He knelt in the grass, picking at the blades and poured his heart out to me over and over again.
Sometimes he drank while he talked to me; actually he usually was drinking no matter where he was. One cool spring day his drinking froze my dead heart though. He was kneeling at my gravesite holding a half-full bottle of whiskey. I knew what that meant…I knew he had no intention of stopping until either the bottle was gone or his mind was gone. I ached to be able to help him somehow.
"I'm so sorry Kiera…" He took a long swig from his bottle with his dead eyes focused on my headstone. "It wasn't supposed to be you…it was supposed to be me." Tears streamed down his face as he took another long draw. Today for some reason seemed particularly brutal for him. I wished he would stop torturing himself.
He looked around the empty graveyard, the cold grey sky, the brittle green grass. "I don't want to do this without you anymore…" He took another long draw and my dead breath caught at his tone. "I don't want do to this at all…" he whispered. His eyes were dead and flat, his face lifeless as he took a good five gulp draw. He was starting to scare me.
"I'm so sorry Kiera…I'm so sorry…I'm so sorry…" He just kept repeating it like a chant, closing his eyes, tears streaming down his face.
Baby…please stop – it's not your fault, I thought desperately, once again wishing he could hear me.
Suddenly he looked down at the bottle in his hands and angrily smashed it against a nearby headstone. I watched him curiously, half relieved that at least he couldn't drink anymore, half concerned over what he was thinking. He held the top half of the raggedly edged broken bottle in his hand and stared at the blood and whiskey that ran down his fingers where the glass had cut him. Now I was getting really scared…what are you doing baby?
"I don't want to do this anymore…" He brought the jagged glass to his wrist.
NO! Baby, no – please! I could only watch helplessly in horror though…I couldn't do anything to stop him.
He shook his head and removed the glass from his wrist, a slight red line there where he had nicked himself. I shuddered with relief that lasted only a half second for he brought the bottle swiftly to his throat instead. "I need to be with you Kiera…I've always needed to be with you…" he whispered as he closed his eyes and tensed his hand.
NO! Not like this Kellan. Please…please, baby please don't… I was helpless. I was dying – again.
He took a deep breath and readied himself for that one fatal push that he would need to sever his artery.
My consciousness and Kellan's head turned as he instinctively responded to his name being shouted. His eyes still dead and glazed, his hand not releasing any tension, he watched Jenny running over the lawn to him. She slid on the grass and stopped by his side squatting in front of him. I would have sighed in relief if I were still breathing; someone who could help him, talk to him…reach out to him.
Kellan's hand still hadn't relaxed and he looked at her without really seeing her. "I'm tired…I'm so tired…" he muttered, as his dead eyes stared through her.
She tried to pull his hand away from his throat but he had his whole arm tensed and she couldn't move it. "Kellan…please…." She had tears in her eyes now. "Kiera wouldn't want you to do this."
She was absolutely right!
His eyes instantly watered and tears dripped down his cheeks again. "It was supposed to be me – he was supposed to take me…I killed her…" he whispered, finally meeting her eye. My heart broke. I hated it when he said things like that.
"No…you loved her. You didn't do this to her Kellan. Please let the bottle go…" She tried again to move his hand.
He flexed and a trickle of blood ran down his neck. Jenny instantly stopped trying to move his hand as I watched in horror. "I just want to hold her again, Jenny."
I started to panic and Jenny started panicking right along with me. Her voice thick with emotion, tears streaming down her face she almost heatedly told him, "That's not a plane ticket you're holding Kellan! There are no guarantees!" Her voice softened although her eyes still searched his frantically. "You have to stay here. You have to have faith. Believe that she came into your life for a reason and believe that she left your life…for a reason…"
Kellan reacted to her words and dropped his hand fractionally. Another trickle of blood rolled down his neck staining the collar of his shirt. I mentally sighed again in relief, as did Jenny. Kellan heartbreakingly said, "I have no faith, in anything anymore…it was all…pointless."
She brought his hand all the way down and grabbing the bottle chucked it away from him. She left his hand in hers. "Pointless? Loving her was pointless? Being loved by her was pointless?" She reached up to tenderly touch his cheek. "I think Kiera would disagree."
Damn straight I did! I also felt like rejoicing that she had finally gotten the bottle away from him.
He stared at his empty bloodied hand resting in Jenny's. "Why is she gone?"
Tears dripped down Jenny's face. "I don't know Kellan…have faith."
He swallowed harshly, panic rising in his voice, "I can't do this…I'm not strong enough…." I ached to hold him.
Jenny had the same instinct. She held him to her in a tight embrace, sinking to her knees before him. "Yes…you are Kellan…you can do this." He clutched at her like she was going to leave him too, like he would be alone again. I could feel the waves of loneliness wash off of him as he sobbed in her shoulder. She cried with him, rubbing his back under his jacket.
Abruptly he pulled back and stared at her frantic, a slight alcohol and pain-induced madness in his eyes. "Bring her back."
He pleaded with Jenny like she was an angel who could somehow revert everything back to the way it was. "I won't touch her this time…I'll stay away…I'll leave …" He grabbed her face and his body shook uncontrollably while he begged her. I felt like sobbing watching his misery. "I'll be good…I won't touch her…save her, please…"
She calmly stroked his hair back and gazed into his eyes. "I can't Kellan…it's too late. She's already gone." Her voice stayed soft and comforting as tears dripped off her chin.
Reality seemed to sink back in to Kellan's features and he turned to stare at my headstone again. Then, as if he were experiencing my death all over again he moaned, "No, no, no, no, no…" He started to sob again and Jenny pulled him back into an embrace.
"I miss her so much…I don't know how to do this without her…" He could barely get the words out around his grief. His pain was killing me over and over again…
Sobbing a bit herself Jenny said, "I miss her too…we'll do it together, okay?"
He nodded against her shoulder and clutched her roughly to him. "Don't leave me…" he whispered and my heart swelled.
She sobbed harder and wrapped her arms protectively around his head. "I won't Kellan…I promise, I won't."
I wanted to cry watching them clutch desperately at each other; so grateful that Jenny had chosen today, at that instant to visit me, so grateful that she was such a warm caring person, so grateful that she wasn't scared of the slight madness in Kellan's eyes, so grateful that I knew she would never leave my broken boy.
And she didn't leave his side after that. In fact, they were pretty much inseparable from that day forward. She often sat with him at his home or at my grave and talked comfortingly to him. He didn't say much at first, but his eyes warmed fractionally. She began finding time to talk with him alone in the bar. Eventually Kellan did open up to her and told her every detail of our moments together, he would sometimes talk about me in embarrassingly gushing ways, then break down and sob in her lap. She would calmly stroke his hair and wait for the despair to pass. I thanked the spirits for her, an angel to watch over my angel.
It never seemed to occur to Denny to end his pain the way it had occurred to Kellan. In fact, it seemed the opposite with Denny. He seemed to welcome the pain; he seemed to want more and more of it. In fact, I think if there had been a way for him to flog himself, he would have done it…repeatedly. He begged me for hours every day for forgiveness…and every day I granted it to him. He viewed himself a monster. I did not; one mistake, albeit a horrific one, did not wipe away a lifetime of goodness.
I ached for his pain un-endingly. Watching him was pure torture. Knowing I had caused this, I had broken this beautiful, warm, funny and sweet man…I couldn't describe the pain it caused me. For him though, I endured it. I would not leave him in his grief alone. I tried feebly to let him know I was with him; let him know I was okay, that the only thing causing me pain now was him. But I was thought, consciousness, and not able to affect a damn thing around me. It was incredibly frustrating. So I did all I could do, I watched and I waited and prayed for my love to heal.
Denny's anger at Kellan had seeped away with the blood from my broken body. Denny felt that what he had done so overshadowed Kellan's betrayal, that he was incapable of being angry at anyone but himself. And in true Denny fashion, it never occurred to him to blame me, as if I hadn't betrayed him just as equally as Kellan had. His blinding loyalty to me warmed me and shattered me.
Kellan seemed to have no anger as well…only crushing grief and guilt. Sometimes Kellan would stare off at nothing and his eyes would start to well. When it happened and he and Jenny were alone, she would immediately pull his head into her shoulder and he would start to sob and clutch at her, while she stroked his back and whispered soothing words. Whenever it happened at the bar, she would grab his hand and take him into the backroom. They usually made it behind closed doors before his tears started falling. She was so good to him it warmed my heart.
Of course, Kellan was also equally kind to her. On occasion she would be laughing at something funny in the bar and instinctively turn to tell me. Then she would instantly remember and her smile would fall and her eyes would water. Kellan would be there almost as if she had shouted for him, holding her and stroking her hair as her tears fell on his shoulder. Sometimes at the end of the night, around the time when she usually drove me home, she would tear up by her car and she would lean against the glass and start to sob. He would appear as if by magic and pull her into him.
Slowly both of their crying spells lessened. They were healing each other. Of course, the whole story of our torrid love triangle had broken wide open in the bar upon my death. It had been major gossip filling almost everyone's conversations for an absurdly long amount of time. But no one commented on Kellan and Jenny's relationship. Everyone just seemed to understand that they needed each other.
Soon after, his drinking lessened dramatically and he started sleeping through the night. It took a long time, much longer then Kellan's long time, but eventually one night Denny also slept the whole night through, not waking in screams for once. It didn't happen again for weeks…but it did happen again. A flicker of hope flared in me. The voices buzzed through every part of me but I pushed them back, demanded that they wait…I wasn't ready to leave yet.
In my complete surprise, one day Kellan asked Matt to take him to a local tattoo parlor that Matt frequented. He had told me once, so very long ago, that he couldn't think of anything he would want permanently etched on his skin and there he was calmly sitting in the chair getting my name tattooed across his heart in intricately swirled letters. I could only gape in disbelief at the depth of his love for me.
One night he found the strength to perform again. Everyone in the bar, besides Griffin who got put back on bass, was thrilled that he was back. The set ended with the song he had written about me. The beginning of the song was slow, haunting. It started with only Matt playing softly and Kellan singing quietly, his guitar slung over his shoulder. His eyes glistened more than they usually did. The words were deeply personal, an almost exact poetic recollection of the last sweet moment he had with me in the parking lot. He was breathtakingly good; the entire bar listened in silence. For once Griffin looked respectful, he watched his friend sing his pain with quiet eyes. Evan and Matt watched Kellan as well, a small smile on their lips.
He sang of needing me and feeling ashamed for it. He sang of trying to leave me and it breaking him. During a natural pause in the song, he closed his eyes. I knew from rehearsals that the next section was the hardest for him, he had yet to be able to make it through the whole thing without cracking…it spoke of my death. When the song picked up, Evan and Griffin quietly added to Matt's guitar and Kellan took a staggered breath, opened his eyes and started again. He made it through the first couple lines but the next line included the words, 'There's no place for me here…if you're not there'. His voice broke a bit on the word 'there' and he closed his eyes, a couple of tears falling down his cheeks.
Newcomers to the bar seemed confused by the obvious emotion in the song, but several of the regulars, the ones who knew Kellan and had known me, had tears in their eyes. Rita, of all people, was sobbing. Jenny beamed at him, tears dripping down the corners of her eyes.
The song picked up in tempo and strength, Kellan started playing the guitar strung around his shoulder. The distraction helped him sing stronger. I could see some of the people in the crowd start to relax as the emotion of the song relaxed, as it became more of a rock song. The song ended powerfully and the crowd was deeply moved, even the ones who didn't understand how hard that had been for Kellan. If I could have, I would have sobbed.
His pallor returned slowly and his eyes warmed even more slowly. Again the buzzing voices intruded and again I pushed them back…not yet.
Where Kellan's pain had been brutal, Denny's was horrific. Where Kellan had alcohol, music, friends, Jenny and even my grave to lean on, Denny had nothing but an empty, cold cell. I didn't know if he could heal. I was scared for him and watched over him ceaselessly. But all he did daily…was grieve. It tore me to pieces.
I was getting impatient for my men to heal and starting to wonder if they ever would, when while watching over Kellan one day at the bar I saw something that I hadn't seen in so long it hurt my heart, in the best possible way.
He was watching Jenny across the room go about her shift when I saw a slow heartbreakingly sexy half smile come across his face. Miraculously, Jenny turned to look at him just at that moment and looking down demurely, she smiled back. His smile widened and a faint sparkle lit his eyes that for so long had looked empty.
I realized then that he was developing real feelings for her. It warmed my heart that he was capable of feeling love for another. Their longtime friendship was growing into something more. One day it progressed even further.
Kellan was having a down day. He was sitting on his couch beside her when tears started to well. He looked over at her and the tears fell down his cheeks. Instantly knowing where his head was at, she grabbed his face with her hands and kissed away a tear from one cheek and then the other. He closed his eyes and then slowly reopened them, her hands still on his face. Even dead, I could feel the sudden expectant tension in the room. He stared at her, she stared back at him. His lips parted slightly and her eyes tracked the movement.
"Why are you with me?" he whispered brokenly to her.
"I promised I wouldn't leave you," she whispered back.
Then achingly slow he leaned forward and pressed his lips softly against hers once. He immediately pulled back and looked down, seemingly embarrassed. She pulled him in for a tight hug.
It was tender, it was honest and for him, it was astoundingly shy. No jealousy sprang up in me. Quite the opposite, I was thrilled. Elated, that his pain was lessening. It warmed my soul to see life in him again. I had been so worried that he had died in that parking lot with me. My fear that someone would come along and crush the shattered pieces of his soul vanished. I was eternally grateful to Jenny and her good heart. I couldn't have picked a better person to give my tortured love.
As Kellan's heart was thawing and he and Jenny began getting closer, I felt okay to let him go his own way and I shifted much more of my focus to Denny.
Denny did finally join a work program. Oddly he asked to make license plates and I swear he asked for that over a more scenic job of yard maintenance purely so that he could be in such a repetitive state of motion that his mind would be free to drift and dwell…on me. He made it through his work day in a near trance-like state. He kept it together for most of the day that way. In fact, he kept it together until he was lying in his bed late at night, his roommate asleep in the bunk above him, then the tears would come, the tears and the never-ending begging.
Denny never opened up to anyone. He rarely even talked to anyone. The only person he would talk to…was me. Alone in his cell whenever he had free time, which was a considerable amount of time, he poured his heart out to me. Most of it was no surprise. Unlike Kellan, Denny had never kept any of his love hidden from me. He was open and honest and loyal to a fault. While he had some vague fears and suspicions from the beginning, he hadn't actually seen the danger building between Kellan and I until much too late.
He was in absolute shock when he had witnessed us passionately kissing in the parking lot. To suspect something was one thing…to see it quite another. The unmistakable love and pain passing between us had sparked the unresolvable rage that had consumed him. His inability to hurt me, even deeply absorbed in anger as he was, had caused him to lash out solely at Kellan. Maybe if he could have diverted his anger equally between us, things might have been different. But then again, so many things could have been different.
My sudden, unexpected move to save Kellan had come just seconds too late for him to stop the final maneuver. He knew he was going to kill me a half second before he did. He died right there as well. I wanted to die again every time he repeated that story.
Just when I was thinking that nothing in Denny's life would change, that he would never heal…one day he went the entire day without begging for my absolution. Hope flared in me again. During his free time he started to read instead of converse with a dead girl. His mind occupied, with other thoughts then my brutal end, his face returned with some small semblance of life. He started going outside more often, sometimes he'd read out there, sometimes he'd exercise, sometimes he would just sit and stare at nothing, but I still felt it was an improvement from his cold, lonely cell. Once during one of those times outside, a bird had landed close by him and he absentmindedly had smiled at it. I thanked God for that beautiful bird. Eventually the sleepless nights, tears and even the begging slowed to a trickle.
He was still horribly broken but I began to believe that he was on the path to recovery….or at least able to see the path. My biggest regret with Denny was that I could never tell him that I wasn't going to leave him. Well, that and a big huge heaping "I'm sorry for cheating on you…repeatedly". But mainly, I regretted that he would never know that in the end, Kellan had been leaving and I had been staying…with him. I hoped someday Kellan would tell him, that I was going to let Kellan go and live out my life with him. I didn't know if he would find comfort in that or not…but he should know.
The voices lifted in earnest and the buzzing snapped into perfect clarity. I could understand each and every one. There were calling to me, promising me peace and love and indescribable joy. I wanted to go with them, I knew how. It would be so easy to turn and leave this now cold and barren world, follow their warm voices. But I couldn't leave my loves just yet. Something held me back.
So much time had passed while I waited patiently for my men to heal, that Denny's incarceration was finally over. He ended up only serving just over a year, lamentation considered very good behavior, I guess. Overcrowding also played a role in his early release, which gave me an odd happy-sad feeling; happy that he was finally free, ecstatic really, and sad that there were so many other lost souls that they had to kick the lesser evil of the lost souls out. He looked better after so much time, all things considered. His skin was paler, he was thinner, his eyes a little duller, but overall still a beautiful man. I could feel the fear radiating from him though. I could see it in his countenance. He didn't know what to expect from the world now and he was deeply afraid. I ached with him.
The prison gave him money for a bus ride home, gave him a short pep talk and then showed him to the door to reenter society. He walked awkwardly out the front gate not knowing what to do or where to go. His monstrous mistake had cost him everything; his career, his friends, his self-respect…me. Then his eyes spotted him. On the other side of the road Kellan was leaning against his car waiting for him. His face was unreadable, he simply waited. Denny looked scared, really scared, but eventually he crossed the street and went to stand before Kellan.
With no words and no strength left, Denny sank to his knees and began to cry softly.
I knew then that this was the moment I had waited for, why I couldn't yet leave. My loves had healed, or were beginning to heal, but I needed their friendship to heal as well. Could something so ripped and shattered ever heal though?
If I were still a breathing person, my breath would have been held watching Kellan look down at Denny. Slowly he sank to his knees before Denny and paused. Then, he put his hand upon his shoulder. My heart soared. Denny started weeping in earnest and sobbed apologies to Kellan.
Kellan did what I had wanted to do for so very long, he reached out and hugged him close. Kellan's anger at himself for all those long months had left him with no hate in his heart for Denny. Even now, he felt nothing but guilt, mutual loss and sympathy for his friend, his brother. I could feel the monstrous gap between them healing in that embrace. It would take an agonizingly long time, years, maybe even decades and it probably would not be easy, but I knew that the friendship would survive.
I finally knew that they would be okay. I finally felt okay. The voices overwhelmed me while I watched Denny and Kellan kneeling on the pavement. I smiled and finally truly listened to them. I shifted my focus and turned to follow those warm fascinating voices home, to a beauty that I would never have believed possible.
'I love you both…forever', was my last thought to my two loves as I faded from their existence.
I guess I had never really been able to choose between them; my comforting water, my passionate fire. Always bouncing between the two, I had broken them both and destroyed myself. I had left this world with them fractured and bleeding, but now hope sparked. Without me there was a chance, maybe just a small one right now, but a chance for them both to be happy. I truly believed that they would heal. In the end the love that had destroyed them would turn full circle and heal them. Heal us all. As Jenny had once said, I had faith that everything would be okay.
Huh, I chuckled at my own melodramatic thoughts. Interesting how death had made me such an optimist.
Thank you for reading! I know, sad ending. I changed the final draft for multiple reasons, but ultimately, it was because I wasn't completely satisfied with this one. I decided to leave it up on my profile for the people that loved it though.
For those of you hoping for Denny's story, sorry. That probably won't ever get done now. Just know that even in this sad story line, he ended up happy.