By: Bethany Lewis
He was almost starting to wish he hadn’t been the one to survive.
Well, all right, that wasn’t quite true. What was true was that he had already had to tell three men’s families about their last moments, and he still had to face two more women.
At least these two would be a little easier, he thought. After all, though Jim and Rob had been from his hometown, like the others, they were the men he hadn’t known personally. Unlike Alan… He’d had to tell his own best friend’s family his last message to them.
Although, after sitting in that tiny, dark space for heaven only knew how long, certain that at least some of them wouldn’t make it out, it didn’t seem to matter much who had or hadn’t known each other before. They had all given each other their last messages, so that whoever survived could pass them on.
The first time he was going to see these two women, they were probably going to end up hating him for reminding them of… their losses.
Hate the message, hate the messenger… is that how it goes? Something like that… I think…
He looked up. A pretty young woman stood in front of the bench he was sitting on. Her red hair was pulled back from her face, and her eyes were almost dry- although she looked like she’d cried, and was trying to cover it up. This must be Rob’s wife… the one he’d once cheated on. Now, if he’d done something like that- if he’d been older and married, that is- he would never have admitted it to anyone, even in a life-or-death situation. But Rob had, in front of the other five men. And now there was a message to pass on.
“…hello,” he said, in what he hoped was a calm, collected way.
“I… I was told to come see you? They said he- he wanted you to tell me something.”
He took a deep breath, then slowly let it out. “Yes. He did.”
“What was it?” Her voice broke just slightly, but she still seemed calm.
At least, Rob said he’d told her…
Her voice broke just slightly, but she steadied it. “Was it anything about his…”
Oh, she knows. All right, man. Let’s do this. “He said to tell you…that he could never have loved her more than he loved you.”
Slowly, more slowly than he would have thought possible, her eyes widened. Her mouth fell open just as slowly, and she raised a hand to cover it. “Her?” she said in a voice that was barely a whisper. “Her?” Then, suddenly, something changed, and she lowered her hand again, balling it into a fist. “Okay then,” she said, her mouth tightening into a thin line. As she walked away she muttered, “He can just see if I care.”
She didn’t fool him, though. Her voice was still shaking.
He’d decided it would be easier, since the message had apparently gotten to Rob’s wife, to stay where he was and let the other woman come to him. Especially since this woman was going to be even harder.
Everyone else had left by the time she came.
After the same sort of conversation dance he’d done the last time (and every time before) she asked, just like the other woman had, “What was it?”
Come on. Just spit it out and get it over with. But he couldn’t make himself do it. This was Jim’s girl. His fiancé. Her blond hair was tousled, her makeup was smeared, and her her nose was red, As he watched she swiped at the corner of her eye, further ruining her mascara. Come on, pal. Put the girl out of her misery.
“He said… he told me to tell you…” He had to smile when he said it. It was just so sweet. “He could never have loved another.”
“Oh my gosh.” Her voice cracked. “How… how dare he! The… the idiot! I just hate-!” Completely forgetting him, she ran off, nearly falling when her legs tangled in her skirt. She was still wiping at her eyes.
He didn’t understand.
He was back in his old hometown, at the amusement park. Bethie and Lindsey had run off for the ferris wheel, Sean was in line for the highest roller coaster, and Amy had kissed him goodbye and taken their youngest, Alana, to the carousel. He was in line for his old favorite ride when he turned and caught a glimpse of a woman standing behind him.
He was almost sure it was her. Her hair was shorter, and her face had changed somehow, but there was something…
She recognized him before he could ask. “You… are you…” She nodded. “You’re the one from the memorial service, aren’t you?”
He had to smile. He knew he’d recognized that blond hair. “That’s me.” I wonder… I know her better than anyone else here. He glanced ahead at the ride, then back at her. “Since you need a partner for this one… Would you?”
She smiled back and when the next train came in they got on together.
The ride was about what he had remembered- a little shorter, but it still took his breath on the plunge into the valley. As they pulled into the station and were getting out, he thought of something. Running down the ramp after her, he planted himself in front of the woman and said, “You don’t have to answer this if you don’t want to, but it’s been bother me for years…”
“Something from that day…”
“Sort of. I wondered…” What am I doing? He stuck his hands into his pockets and looked at the ground. “Never mind.”
She took a breath and let it out in a sigh. “I think I can handle one question.”
He looked up, but couldn’t meet her eyes. “I wondered…why you were…so upset when I told you Jim’s message to you.”
She sounded so confused that he had to look at her. “Yes,” he managed.
“I don’t understand.”
What? “Jim. Jim, your fiancé.”
She shook her head and said softly, “I was never engaged to a man named Jim. My husband’s name was Rob.”