Ten days without Nathalie. Ten days in a dark world with no purpose. It’s been ten days too long staying in this empty town, but I don’t have much of a choice. I had to get my shit together before I up and left. I think if I would have driven out of town right after the funeral, they’d have called the cops on me. I have to act normal, pretend I’m okay, to convince them I’ve moved on.
My black bag sits in the middle of the empty room, regurgitating piles of dark clothing. It’s the only bag I’ve allowed myself to pack. Secretly, I’ve been emptying the house. My parents know it’s on the market, I’ve left it up to them to finish the sale and deal with it. It’s about the only thing they’ve ever been supportive of—my leaving for good.
After the funeral, everyone refused to leave me at home alone. Despite the fact that this is my home, the one place that still has signs of Nat in it, they infiltrated it with their presence and hovered.
Today’s the first day I’ve woken up alone. Oddly enough it’s also the last day I’ll be here. I get up off the bed I used to share with Nat and shove the clothes into my bag and zip it up. This little duffle bag is going to be my one possession until I get wherever I’m heading.
I still haven’t figured that out. The downstairs kitchen smells like burnt chicken and lemon-scented candles. Nathalie had been making dinner before she came to pick me up. I refuse to remove the food or change anything in the house. The movers or my parents can do it. I don’t need to.
On the kitchen counter sits a brown paper bag that the hospital gave me. Well, they didn’t give it to me. I hadn’t been allowed to leave my room yet, the night it all went to shit. They wanted to make sure that I didn’t have bleeding on my brain so they were forcing me to spend the night.
Even after my rehab stint, I’d never felt so helpless, so confined. Petey and Sarah refused to leave my side despite the fact that I kept lashing out at them. I had just fixed my relationship with Petey after our falling out from high school. He was able to move past the tragedy with his sister, Sarah and let me back in his life. Sarah always forgave me for the accident, but things were looking up. All my relationships were moving in a positive manner. I remember in the hospital telling Petey what a terrible person he was, and jabbing Sarah with my words of how she’d be settling with her fiancé.
Like me pushing them away would make things better. I hate that I felt the need to assault them with my words. I hate that I made the already tragic situation worse. But at that moment, I was in shock and hated everything around me, mostly myself.
But it kept getting worse and worse. Her parents showed up in about an hour flat. I wasn’t allowed to leave my room, but I recognized her mom’s voice from what I had heard through the phone numerous times. The second I heard it, I almost thought it was Nat; my brain playing tricks on me, teasing me, torturing me. I’d never hear Nat’s voice again.
The orderly’s packed Nat’s belongings in a small Ziploc bag. I pick it up off the ground, knowing there’s only one small item inside. I won’t part ways with it. The last chip of my soul refuses to let it go. I shove it into the side compartment of my bag and zip it up tight, double checking to make sure there’s no way it could fall out.
After deciding to leave the East Coast and place as much mileage between me, and my friends, and family, as possible, I knew I couldn't ditch the truck. Despite needing the fucking thing gone from my life forever, I can’t afford to get a new car and have enough left over from what I’ve saved to live off of.
But first chance I get, it’s gone. It smells like her. Sugar and flowers.
I’ve been meeting with Karen every day since the night Nat was stolen from me. I’m not supposed to call it anything other than an accident, but in my eyes, it could have been prevented. This was no accident. This was a life-changing moment that will forever affect me.
I pull my truck into the office parking lot and cut the ignition. Karen doesn’t work in town—I met her while in rehab two hours away--but she’s been using one of her colleague’s offices to meet with me. She said it was important that I had support. She’d met my parents numerous times and deemed them not responsible to care for me. I can’t blame her. I’d been in recovery twice and both times, they weren’t around.
There’s always this nagging pulling in my stomach before I meet with Karen. I know it’s nerves like she’s going to uncover a deeply-rooted, hidden secret I’m not ready to hear. Not that I think I have secrets because I don’t. I’m a recovering drug addict who’s followed by a curse where I hurt those I love. That’s pretty much the bottom line, although if I said any of that out loud, Karen would scold me for days. Maybe I will say it today since it’s my last day to meet with her before I leave.
I don’t bother knocking or ringing the bell. Ten days of the same thing over and over, I’ve become used to the routine. I walk past the staircase and knock on the door of the office. Karen yells for me to come in, so I do.
“Hi, Sam!” She smiles at me, flashing her teeth as she stands behind the desk and reaches over. I take her hand and shake it. She picks up her green-rimmed glasses and crumbled note pad and walks around the desk. She sits in an identical chair to mine beside me.
“How are you?” I ask her, crossing my arms over my chest.
“Fine, how are you today?”
“Is that because you’re leaving or because you genuinely feel good?” She narrows her eyes. That’s the problem with meeting someone frequently and having them know you; you can’t trick them.
I shrug in response.
“Instead of talking about you today, I wanted to leave you with some knowledge to help you in the future. I know hashing out your insecurities is good, and I love seeing you have a break through. But since you’re leaving, I’m worried you won’t understand the feelings you are going to experience. So, I’ll give you some information to help along the steps today. Sound good?” She flips the page of her notebook, making a crinkling sound as it flies over.
“Whatever you want to do,” I tell her, because honestly, I couldn’t care less. An hour or two more and I’ll be out of here. And an hour or two more after that, and I’ll be free from all of this pressure to be okay.
“I know we touched on the stages of grief before and I had you guess where you were, so I want to start there. Have you given it anymore thought?”
“Yeah, I still think it’s stupid. That chart, those seven feelings don’t really define what I’m feeling. I’ve accepted that she’s gone, but that doesn’t mean I’m over it. I’m not in shock…I know she’s gone. I feel her absence on a daily basis. So, I don’t fucking know where I am.”
“The stages are just a guideline, Sam. I’ve told you this.”
“I know…and it still doesn’t make it any easier.”
“Well, I want to go over them again so you relate to what you’re feeling. I agree that you’re not in the first stage anymore. The first stage you experienced in the hospital. You refused to see people, wouldn’t admit she was gone.” I squeeze my fist so tight my knuckles bloom white. Don’t remember her, I chant to myself, stop thinking of the hospital. No more memories today.
“The second stage is pain, sometimes guilt. Your life is going to be chaotic, a little crazy. You’ll feel guilty, kind of like your curse belief. But it hurts, a lot. The third stage is bargaining. Here is when you’re going to ask questions like, ‘Why me? Why her?’. You’ll probably lash out at people, get frustrated. If you begin to feel this way, try to tamp it down, find something that will calm you down. You don’t want to push away those around you.
“Let’s see…” She flips another page in her notebook and shoves the end of the pen in her mouth, chewing the plastic part. “The next is depression. With your added history of substance abuse, this is definitely a pronounced concern. It is not a question of if you will experience depression from this life-changing event, it’s a question of when. And honestly, Sam, you will need to seek help. Wherever you end up, find a therapist, give them my number, and have them call me. Depression is a legitimate disease and you, nobody, should have to live through the loneliness, despair, emptiness, and unworthiness alone. You understand? You find someone to help you.” I nod. “Say it.”
“I understand. I’ll get help.”
“Swear it to me. When you end up where you think you’ll stay, if you feel the signs of depression, you’ll talk to someone. Please, Sam. You know I care about you. I would hate to see you in the condition we met in. Okay?”
“Okay, Karen.” I widen my eyes at her pushiness. “I get it. I can’t do it alone.”
“It’s not that you can’t, Sam. You shouldn’t have to. You deserve better.” She shakes her head, blinking away tears. “Okay, after that…you’ll hit the upward spiral. You’ll start feeling just a little better every day. Then you’ll start to reconstruct your life, fix things, change things, and move forward. The last stage is acceptance. It’s pretty self-explanatory. But once you’re here, you’ll see hope in the future, understanding, and crave the normal.”
“And what? Nathalie’ll just be a distant memory?”
“Of course not. You’re stages of grief have nothing to do with her memory. And just because you accept that she’s gone doesn’t mean you forget her. In fact, I urge you to remember her, remember the good things. In a healthy way of course.”
“Of course.” I nod, mocking her.
“I also want to mention something. The chances of you relapsing at a time like this are astronomical. I think the rates are at about fifty percent during times of stress and within the first year of sobriety. However, I need to explain what will happen if you were to relapse and go back to cocaine.
“Because your body has no cocaine systemically any longer, your chances of dying during a relapse skyrocket. I’m sure you were used to injesting large amounts at a time. If you were to take what you were taking at your peak using time, you’d most likely die, right?”
I nod. My heart spikes and my palms sweat. It’s too real. But even talking about it makes me want to try it just to remember the feels. I miss the high. I’ve been low for so long now.
“Odds are, someone you will meet uses cocaine. It’s the second most used drug in the country. But you’re a strong man, Sam. I believe you won’t go back to using. And I hope you’ll find what you’re looking for.” Heavy tears slide down her reddened cheeks.
“Why are you crying?” I ask her in a voice that can only be described as emotionless. I clear my throat, holding it in.
“I’m going to miss you,” she blurts out. “I know you’ve been through hell and back. But I’ve enjoyed getting to know you, Sam. I hope I’ve helped you in even the slightest way possible.” She places her notepad beside her and leans forward. Her arms circle my neck and she tugs me against her. She squeezes and then pushes me back.
“You’ve helped me,” I say. “You’ve helped me a lot, Karen.”
“You have my number, right? You have everything? Money?”
“I don’t need your money, Karen. I have enough to get me across the country and be fine. Don’t worry about me, okay?”
“Of course I’ll worry about you!” She slaps my knee. “You’re a great man, Sam. You’ll make someone happy. First, you have to find your own way. And stop worrying about this curse. You aren’t cursed, I swear. You have your new therapist, so call. That’s an order.”
“Got it.” My throat swells a little bit, tastes salty. Truth is, I’ll miss Karen. I’ll miss all of them. But this is for the best. I have to separate myself. This is for their own good. Damn, I’m doing this for them!
I slam my lips together, blink once to stop my emotions, stand, and leave the office for good. I won’t be coming back here. And I won’t see these people again.
© Taylor Lavati 2017
What Readers Have to Say...
"An absolutely heart wrenching read that shows us that at times no matter how much we hope, darkness will find its way to win. "
-Blogger's From Down Under for A Reliant Love
"So this book is the ultimate love story. I like how two ordinary people who is so different and still so alike in so many ways can overcome everything together."
-Angelica Berglund for For The Love of Hockey
"I never thought I would read a "zombie book", much less love one. The Last Legacy really surprised me. Even with the whole people-eating-people thing, it was a fantastic book"
-Melannie S for The Last Legacy
"I could not wait to start book two. If this book was as good as book one, then I knew I wouldn't be disappointed. It wasn't as good as book one...it was better. "
-Keely Retchloff for Finding Sam
"The powers, the love, the excitement, the drama kept me so enthralled. If you are looking for a GREAT series about true love and mythology, look no further... I wish I could rate 10 stars! Definitely recommend this whole series to all my book loving friends!"
-The Book Blog for A Curse Books Trilogy
"For the Love of Ash" by Taylor Lavati was a rare 5-star read for me. I honestly find many typical romances rather dull and predictable. This was not the case at all here; there was nothing average about the romance, overall storyline, and the long list of supporting characters."
-Summer's Book Blog for For The Love of Ash
"Wingless isn't what I would normally pick up and read, but thought I'd try it out and I am so glad I did. The characters and "worlds" she creates are done so well that you can actually picture them and feel like you are there right along with the characters."
-JLH for Wingless
For The Love of Hockey | January 2016
The Price of Love | 2017