misseshim.jpg (48003 bytes)

completed December 10, 2002 

 

She reads him books

She speaks his name

Oh every day is much the same

She sighs that sigh from deep within

The one that says she misses him

 

        “The most shocking pain was the least acute: a quick jabbing in her right thigh, sharp but short lived pressure.  She had been poked by something in the right-hand pocket of her jeans and she knew at once what it was.  The car key.”  Ellie read with the proper emotion.  She sighed and set the book down on JC’s knee.  “You really like this kind of book?  Can’t we read a good courtroom drama or romance next?”  She paused, not expecting, or receiving an answer.  “I know… you like these weird thriller books.”

            Ellie didn’t pick up the book right away; she instead reached for a Kleenex from the box she kept handy.  She carefully wiped it across his forehead and let her fingers trace his hairline.  He’d need a haircut soon; she made a mental note to do that on the weekend.

            “You’re looking good today Jace.”  She said softly as she set the tissue aside.  JC stared blankly back at her, as he had for the past couple years.  He heard her, she knew he did, he just lacked the ability to respond back with anything more than a knowing look.

            Ellie gently tucked his hair behind his ear and smiled, “Where were we?”  She picked up the book and continued reading where she left off.  She read until the end of the chapter then yawned and marked the page, she’d finish the book in another couple days if she read a chapter a day.

            “Ugh babe, these windows are looking pretty nasty in here, you can’t even see out them.  How’d we let that get so gross?”  She pushed herself off the edge of the bed and retrieved the cleaner from the cabinet in the kitchen.  As she passed the refrigerator she stopped and stared at one of the many pictures she had taped to the front. She and JC had taken a cruise for their second wedding anniversary, even though it was almost four months after the actual date.  They’d had to wait for JC’s tour to be completed, and since it was the last tour for Nsync, they wanted to make each show special without having to cancel any of them.

            Ellie smiled at the picture, remembering the way he’d used his broken French to ask a local to take their picture as they stood on the waters edge.  The picture was slightly out of focus and completely off center, but she could see his bright smile through the haze and that was the important thing.  His smile.  She missed his smile.

            Emotions threatened to overwhelm her as she stood there so she shook her head and carried the cleaner and rag out to where JC sat.  She squeezed herself between the reclined hospital bed and the wall, and then quickly cleaned the window to expose the manicured front lawn.  The clock down the hall chimed the hour and Ellie smiled.  Two o’clock on Saturday always meant one thing; Chris and Anna would be there any minute.

 

            “Hey my man!  What’s up tough guy?”  Chris asked cheerfully as he let himself in the front door.

            “Hi Chris.”  Ellie smiled and stood up.

            “Hi Ellie.  Here, I brought donuts.”  He handed her a white baker’s bag with a smile.

            “Thanks.”  Ellie took the bag and quickly hugged Anna, “Hi Anna, how was your week?”

            “Ugh, thank God for the weekend.”  Anna laughed and followed Ellie into the kitchen as Chris flipped the TV on and pulled a chair over to JC’s bed.  The Saturday afternoon routine had started.  Ellie and Anna would chat in the kitchen over coffee and donuts while Chris watched ESPN with JC in the other room.  After the first couple visits, Ellie had learned to block out the sound of Chris’ one-sided conversation with JC.  The missing voice always made her sad.

 

            “So Jace check this out. I talked to Justin the other day, he’s getting ready to – “  Chris started as a sports announcer talked in the background.

            Ellie tuned out Chris’s voice and turned to Anna, “You guys really don’t have to come by every week.  I know you have lives.”  Ellie smiled weakly as she poured two cups of coffee and sat with her back to the refrigerator.

            “We don’t mind.  Chris doesn’t want to… I don’t know, lose touch I guess.  He considers JC his brother, and he’d do anything for him, you know that.”

            “I know.”  Ellie sighed.  “I just don’t want him to feel obligated.”

            “Ellie…”  Anna smiled with concern, “He doesn’t feel obligated.  He cares about both of you a lot.”

            Ellie nodded and tried to keep the tears back, which was becoming harder and harder all the time.  “I know he does.”  She said softly.

            “Next week though, we’re going to be up north visiting my family.”  Anna broke her donut in half and took a bite.  “I think Chris said something about coming by on Monday when we get back though.”

            “Okay.”  Ellie nodded and took the other half of Anna’s donut.  They chatted more about what was going on with Anna and Chris.  They had been together for five years now and it was looking like Chris might actually be warming up to the idea of settling down with her.

            After a few hours Chris came into the kitchen and ran his hands through his hair, “Can I help with anything El?”

            She shook her head slowly, “I’m doing good.”  She smiled and took a deep breath as she stood up.  “I heard you guys are going up to New York next weekend, that’s great.  It’s beautiful this time of year.”

            “Yeah.”  Chris nodded.  “I’m going to try to come over on Monday though.”

            “Don’t worry about it, we’ll be fine.”  Ellie forced a smile.  “Have a great time.”

            “We will, thanks.”  Chris smiled and leaned against the kitchen door frame.  “Do you want to come?”

            “To New York?”  Ellie laughed lightly, “No. Thank you, but… no, I can’t go.”

            “You have respid care right?  Have you ever used any of it?”  Chris asked as he looked down at the keys in his hand.

            Ellie sighed, she’d had this conversation with so many people she had it memorized, “Yes we have respid care and yes I have used it.”  She poured her coffee into the sink and turned around.  “I just don’t like the idea of leaving for the weekend.”

            “Why El?  You need to get out.”

            “I get out.”  She said defensively.

            “Ellie…”  Chris looked up with sad eyes.

            “I get out Chris.  Don’t worry about me.” 

            “I wish you’d come with us.”  He tried one last time.

            “Maybe… maybe next time.”  Ellie nodded, just to get him off the topic.

            He paused for a second then shook his head, knowing she would never go.  He took Anna’s hand and they headed for the door, “I’ll give you a call later in the week, okay?”

            “Okay.  Thanks for coming by guys.”  Ellie followed them to the door and watched them walk down the brick walkway.  She watched until their car was out of sight, then left the front door open as she went back to JC’s side to turn the TV off, she hated sports.

            “Chris can be a pain in the butt sometimes, you know?”  She managed a tiny laugh before she noticed that his eyes were closed.  “Sweet dreams angel.”   Ellie whispered as she took his hand between hers.  She raised his hand to her face and moved the back of his hand against her cheek as she closed her eyes and smiled.  The warmness of his hand transferred to her cheek and she wished he would just move his finger to let her know that he was still there.

            Everyday she hoped for some kind of a sign, a little movement… anything to show that the JC she knew was still there somehow.

 

She misses his gentle touch

And the way he used to make her laugh

She misses the man he was

In all of those old photographs

So strong so kind, so sweet so smart

The man who stole her very heart

She misses him

 

            “Hi Ellie, this is Lance.”  She could hear the smile in his voice and that only made her tears flow faster.

            “H-hi.”  Her voice cracked as she sniffed softly.

            “What’s wrong?”  Lance asked quickly, immediately assuming the worst.

            “Everything is falling apart Lance.  I can’t do this any more.”  She sobbed as she sunk to the floor in the corner of her room.

            “What happened?  Are you okay?”

            “I’m fine.  I’m always fine.”  She cried.  “This house is falling to pieces and I can’t fix everything all the time.  Lance, I can’t do this any more.  I’m so tired of this.”

            He let her cry for a minute as they both felt helpless, “El, what happened?”

            “The roof is leaking.  I swear Lance, why does this keep happening?  I mean, first it was the floors and now it’s the ceiling.  What’s next?  Termites?”

            “Ohhh, don’t say that.”  Lance tried to keep the mood light.  He knew Ellie was not one to exaggerate, “Where is the roof leaking?”

            “In the kitchen by the back door.”  She said as she tried to catch her breath.  Her bottom lip continued to quiver as the tears fell down her cheeks, “And I called Mario and he said it was because the pipes in the bathroom upstairs are the originals, that whole section needs to be replaced.”

            “Can he fix it?”

            “Yeah.”  Ellie sighed.  “He’s coming this weekend.”

            “Okay, Chris will be there to keep an eye on things, right?”

            “They’re in New York visiting Anna’s family.”  She sighed and let out a deep breath as tears gathered in the corners of her eyes.

            “What time is Mario coming?”

            “I don’t know.”  Ellie said softly.

            “You wrote it down somewhere El, I know you better than that.”  Lance smiled, hoping to make her do the same, “I’ll come by in the morning and I’ll hang out till Mario’s done.  How does that sound?”

            “You don’t have to.”  Ellie said out of habit.

            “I know I don’t.”  Lance answered automatically.  Every time he offered to do anything for her, they always had the same short exchange of routine answers.  “How’s everything else?”

            Ellie sniffed and wrapped her arms around her legs as she whispered, “I don’t know Lance.  This is so hard.”

            “I know it is.”  He nodded.  They all knew how hard it was for her, they’d been there every step of the way.  “But you’re doing great.”

            “What if I can’t do it anymore?”  She whispered so softly Lance almost didn’t hear her.  It was as if she was trying to talk soft so JC couldn’t hear although he was down the hall with a closed door between them.

            Lance thought about his response carefully.  She had held things together for two years since the accident; she’d devoted every hour of every day to JC, which is more than should be asked of any wife.  She was young still, barely twenty eight, yet in many ways she was older than any one.  Ellie had taken over caring for JC at the beginning because her grief was so powerful, she couldn’t imagine leaving him in a residential facility to be cared for by strangers.

            Her heart was in the right place, but it was more of a burden than she’s imagined, “You’re doing great Ellie.”  Lance said after a minute.  “We’re all there to help you and if you need to take a week off… do it.  We’ll take care of everything; get a nurse to come in or whatever.”

            “I can’t just leave for a week Lance.”  She sighed.  “And where would I go?  And with who?  There’s nowhere I want to go if JC can’t go with me and…”  She let the sentence dangle.  They both knew that wouldn’t happen.  “I don’t have any friends Lance.  I haven’t been social in two years.”

            “Which is exactly why you need to go.”

            Ellie closed her eyes tight and inhaled deeply, “So I’ll see you Saturday?”

            Lance frowned with sadness; she always changed the subject when he brought up taking a break.  “Yeah, I’ll bring breakfast.”

            “Thanks Lance.”

            “You’re welcome El.”  He nodded and waited for her to hang up, and when she didn’t, he asked, “Are you okay now?”  She didn’t answer.  “Do you want me to come over?”

            After another minute of silence she whispered, “No.  Thanks Lance.”  Ellie hung up the phone and rested her cheek on her bent knees.

 

They take out his trash

They mow his lawn

Things he can’t do since he’s been gone

She’s grateful that they’re pitching in

And like everyone, she misses him

 

            Lance arrived early Saturday morning to find Ellie standing on a step ladder washing the windows in the front of the house.  “Hey you.”  He smiled and shaded his eyes as he walked up the path.  “What are you doing?”

            “I’m washing the windows.”  Ellie said without turning around.

            “Where – “  He began to ask where JC was, a habit he just couldn’t seem to break.  “Do you need some help?”

            “I’ve got it.”  She tossed her ponytail over her shoulder and smiled at him.  “Guess what?”

            “What?”  Lance leaned on the porch rail and watched her for a minute.  He placed the bag of bagels he’d picked up on the step and smiled.

            “He moved.”

            “He… he what?”  Lance could barely speak with his jaw so close to the floor.  “JC moved?”

            “Yes, this morning.”  Ellie dropped her paper towel onto the growing pile and jumped down.  “I asked him if he remembered that cruise we took and he nodded.”

            “He nodded?”  Lance was astounded; the doctors had said that he may never move voluntarily again.

            “His head tilted forward and he looked right at me.”  Ellie laughed and tucked her hands in her pockets.  “I know, I know, that’s not a real nod, but he did it on command again.  Come on, I’ll show you.”  She pulled the screen door open and Lance followed only a step behind her, forgetting all about the food he brought.

            “JC?  JC honey, look who’s here.”  She smiled as they entered the living room where his bed was set up.  As usual, JC didn’t seem to respond.  She sat on the edge of his bed and motioned Lance over to stand beside her.  “You know Lance, right?  Nod your head if you do.” She urged him on, but JC didn’t move.

            “It’s okay Ellie.”  Lance said after a minute.

            “No, just wait.”  Ellie placed her hand on his arm to keep him there.  “JC?  That was a dumb question wasn’t it?  Of course you know Lance.”  She continued to smile as she reached for JC’s hand.  “Come on babe, just move your head a little bit… show Lance how wonderful you are.”

            They waited another minute with no movement and her smile fell, “El, its okay.  I’m sure he nodded for you.”

            “Just wait Lance.”  Ellie said softly.

            Lance’s heart broke open as he saw her waiting for a reaction she would never get.  JC would never be the man he was before, he would never be the same man who wooed her, or spun her around when they hugged, or whispered tender words in the night.  JC was all he would ever be.  The accident had robbed everyone of the life he had.

            “Come on babe; don’t make a liar out of me.”  Ellie said softly as she cast him a desperate look.  “Can you look at me?  Look at me JC.”

            JC’s eyes closed slowly and when he opened them again he was looking right at Lance, surprising the younger man.  His head dropped forward just the slightest. So slightly that Lance wouldn’t have noticed if he wasn’t concentrating on JC’s face.

            “Whoa.”  Lance said softly.  “Did you call the doctor?”

            “He’ll be out tomorrow.”  Ellie laughed as tears came to her eyes.

            “Wow…”  Lance laughed and kept staring at JC. 

            “He told me not to get my hopes up, but how can I not?”

            “How can you not?”  Lance echoed her words so softly she didn’t hear.  She was too focused on JC and the beating of her heart in her ears.  “Wow…”

 

And yes they’re still together

After all these years

But sometimes you can almost feel

The sadness in her tears

She misses him

 

            Lance heard the news from Justin, and he knew Ellie wouldn’t call to share it.  He waited two days before he picked up the phone and dialed her number.  "Hey El."  He tried to smile when she answered the phone.

            "You heard?"  She asked softly.  Her hands wrapped around the mug of coffee in front of her to try to warm themselves, but the coldness never went away.

            "Justin called, yeah."  He nodded.  "Listen El, it's going to be okay."

            "No it's not.  That was my last hope.  He moved Lance, you saw it.  You were there.  He moved and the doctor said it was nothing."

            "It was something Ellie, it was something to you."

            "But it doesn’t mean anything.  It doesn't mean he's getting better and it doesn't mean he'll ever move again.  One little movement in more than two years?"  She sighed in despair then bit her lip to keep from crying.  "I guess it serves me right for getting my hopes up."

            "There's nothing wrong with hoping.  But… but you need to…"  He didn't want to say 'move on' because that sounded too harsh, but he couldn't think of another way to phrase it.

            "Get over it?"  She asked.

            "No.  That's not what I meant."  Lance sighed and closed his eyes.  "Ellie, you have to go away this weekend."

            "No Lance."

            "Yes.  I can't take 'no' for an answer any more.  This is not doing you any good to be here like this.  You're going to make yourself crazy if you stay in this house for one more week."

            "I can't leave Lance."

            "You have to."

            "No.  I've been here for the past two years.  I can't just get up and leave."  She argued softly.

            "El… we love you.  You know we do… and we're all just worried about you."

            "I know you are, but I'm fine."

            Lance sighed, she was far from fine.  "I'm driving out to the shore on Saturday, come with me."

            "Lance…"  She sighed and rolled her eyes.

            "It's just for the day and one night.  It's not like I'm making you go for a week, it's just one day."  He explained quickly.  "We'll go, I'll run my errands, we can grab some lunch, maybe go to the pier or something.  I'll call Joey and have him come hang out at the house."

            "That's not - "

            "Joey can handle anything that comes up, you know he can."

            "I know, but…"

            "There's no good excuse for you to not come with me."

            "I don't want to go."  Ellie said softly.

            "Too bad."

            "I don't like the shore."

            "Ellie."  Lance took on a warning tone that he usually reserved for his nieces and nephews.  "I'll be there Saturday morning at eight."  He heard her sigh into the phone, but she didn't hang up.  "Pack an overnight bag and be ready."

            "I'm not going."

            "Yes you are El."  Lance smiled.  "Because you know that if you just go this once we'll all stop bugging you."

            Ellie sighed again, if she was going to be honest with herself what she was really concerned with was that she'd go and discover that she did like it.  "Fine."

            Lance broke out into a wide grin and knew he'd just won a small battle; the other guys would be thrilled to hear.  "I'll see you Saturday."

            "Okay."  She nodded and lowered her chin to her chest.

            "It’ll be fine El.”

            Ellie sighed and said, “Yeah,” and hoped it would.

 

She misses his gentle touch

And the way he used to make her laugh

She misses the man he was

In all of those old photographs

So strong so kind, so sweet so smart

The man who stole her very heart

She misses him

 

            When Lance arrived Saturday morning, he let himself in the side door.  "El?"  He kept his voice low so not to wake JC if he was sleeping.  As if he would notice.  "Ellie?"

            No one answered, so he figured she was upstairs in her room still packing.  She procrastinated more than JC ever did, which made them a perfect fit.  Lance smiled and hopped up the stairs to the second floor then down the hall to her room.  "Ellie Sue, are you up here?"  He smiled as he used her nickname from years before.

            Her bedroom was light and airy with the morning breeze coming in through the open window.  Ellie’s suitcase was sitting open on the bed, and even looked halfway packed.  "You're worse than JC ever was."  Lance said under his breath.  "El?"  He tapped on the door frame.

            When she still didn't answer, he sighed and headed down the stairs again to try to find her.  He stomped on the stairs so that if she was in the house she wouldn't be startled if he walked in on her.  Lance passed through the kitchen again, then pushed the door open to the font room of the house where he stopped.

            Ellie was there with JC.  The hospital bed was in its usual position near the window laying almost completely flat with the monitors close enough to touch.  Lance bit his lip as he saw Ellie's shoulders shake with sobs as she pulled JC's arm tighter around her.  She was curled up beside him on the narrow bed, having pushed his legs to the side to make room for her.  Her head was resting on his chest and her hand held two things.  His free hand that had been pulled around her shoulder, and a wrinkled picture.

            From where he was standing Lance couldn't make out the faces, but he knew what it was.  Their wedding picture was never far from Ellie's grasp, and over the years it'd been handled often.  She sniffed again and squeezed her eyes shut against the light coming in through the window in front of her.

            Lance stood motionless by the door as his heart tightened in his chest.  For the first time since the accident he understood why she wanted to be there all the time, to be within sight of JC forever.

            "She misses him."  Lance whispered softly as he let the door swing shut, and let them be.

 

 

 

 

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Copyright 2002, Amy Lynn

 

 

 

Song Lyrics: “She misses him” by Tim Rushlow

Book text: “False Memory” by Dean Koontz  Copyright 1999, Dean Koontz