BY CHRISTY LAWSON
I woke up on a strange beach with no memory of who, or where, I was. One
eye squinted at the glaring sun and the other flared in pain as I gingerly
touched its swollen skin.
'What's going on? What happened to me? Who am I?' Questions of every kind
darted through the fog occupying my brain and after countless minutes of
searching, latched onto an answer.
"My name is Teresa. My name is Teresa and I live in . . . in . . . in
Florida. I live in Florida!" Relief washed over me, matched the tide that
caressed my feet and the breeze cooling my skin. I lay there in the
fleeting joy of memory and dug further, pieced back the night before. My
hand carelessly rubbed my stomach and the absence of clothing struck me with
I struggled to sit up, hand to my head, and confirmed my fear. I was stark
naked, unless the ugly bruises marring my skin counted as some sort of
covering. My body started shaking with an intensity I couldn't stop. I
wrapped my arms around my knees and rocked back forth, squeezing tight to
stop the onslaught of tremors so hard my teeth chattered.
A name floated around my mouth and settled on the tip of my tongue - Steve.
In a flash I remembered Steve, a blind date, a disaster. I remembered the
dull dinner and the boring kiss in the car ride to the club. I remembered
drinking a margarita and with mock sadness, telling the jerk I had to go
home early. Important meeting in the morning, I'd said.
He'd smiled and said "Come on, just a quick walk on the beach and I'll take
you right home. It's almost fall and there aren't too many nice nights
The horror of what happened pelted my brain like hail, like Steve's fists,
like his vicious mouth. I tried to stop the memories then, shut them out,
lock them in the attic, become anonymous again. Tears flowed through the
caked blood on my cheek and stung the split in my lip. Trying to move
forward, ignore the obvious, I looked at the sand around me and found my
blouse, minus a few shell buttons.
--The hungry look in his eyes, the strength of his legs straddling my waist,
the ferocity of his hands ripping my shirt.-
I continued my search and found my pants and underwear.
--With one swift tug he jerked my khakis and lace panties down to my ankles,
kicking them off with his feet, the other hand occupied with pinning my arms
down. He forced my legs apart and plunged into me, over and over, pausing
for a slap now and then, until he collapsed with the effort it'd taken to
beat the shit out of me.--
I pulled my pants on and clutched the remains of my blouse around my chest.
I turned to find my purse and the final events of the evening slammed into
me with enough force to knock me down again.
--He fell asleep and loosened his grip on my wrists. I pushed against him
with weakened palms, but he wouldn't budge. I flung my arms out to the side
in frustration and scraped my hand on a rock. Before the curse left my
mouth, I grabbed it with renewed energy and slammed it squarely on the back
of Steve's head. His eyes snapped open and blinked at the blood running
down the side of his face. He fell as he stumbled away, right before I sank
into oblivion. -
Staring at the lump that was obviously Steve, I jumped to my feet and ran,
and ran, and ran. I don't think I've ever stopped.
I stretched my neck and looked up into the sky where a cloud, shaped like
Winnie the Pooh, floated by on the breeze.
"Hey mom" I said with a laugh. "It's Pooh Bear. Do you see him?" My mother
shot a tolerating glance at the sky and returned to the paper in front of
her, buried in self-absorption. I took a bite of my turkey croissant and
wondered again why she'd come here today.
We hadn't spoken much since the divorce. True, I was in college now and
didn't call as often, but she was enjoying her sense of freedom a little too
much in my opinion. She ignored everyone and everything and only did what
pleased her. She even skipped my brother's play because it conflicted with
a hair appointment.
Then this morning, out of the blue, she'd invited me to lunch. No
explanations or apologies, just a "Hey honey, I've missed you. Think we
could do lunch?" My heart soared and images of a wonderful reunion filled
my na´ve head.
I'd received a perfunctory peck on the cheek at my arrival and some trivial
chit chat before we ordered. Then, she'd started reading and only looked up
when her hand missed the food it was aiming for.
I cleared my throat and tossed my balled up napkin on the table in disgust.
"Listen, Mom, thanks for inviting me today and everything, but I've got some
stuff to do. Call me later if you want to."
As I started to stand up, she laid a hand on my arm. Surprised at the
insistence she held me with, I lowered myself back onto the wicker chair.
"Honey, there is a reason I brought you here today. I've just been avoiding
it. Goodness, I'm not doing this right at all."
Thoughts of a new marriage bombarded my mind with pictures of a sleazy
stepfather who drank too much and had an eye on the cute college
stepdaughter. With a sigh, I gave the expected response, "What is it Mom?"
Tears sprang into her eyes and for the first time, I realized how old she
looked, how tired. She took her hand off my arm and started wringing it
with the other one. Her nervousness was sincere.
"I know lately I haven't been around for you guys as much as I should have,
but there's a reason. Me and your dad didn't split up because we'd fallen
out of love. He just couldn't take it anymore. He couldn't stand to watch
me go through this. Don't be mad at him. If the roles were reversed, I
might . . . well, I wouldn't, but that's neither here nor there. Carol,
honey, I'll just say it. I'm dying. They diagnosed me some time back and I
've been through several rounds of therapy. There's just not much hope
left. Those times you thought I was getting my hair fixed or something, I
was trying a new alternative. Now I know nothing's gonna work and I can't
keep it from you anymore."
As if the speech had taken all her remaining strength, I watched my mom
dissolve under a torrent of tears and hide her face with hands that no
longer looked long and elegant. They looked old and shook with fear.
I moved closer and wrapped my arms around a frame I didn't remember being so
fragile. I rocked back and forth, murmured soft comforts, smoothing her
hair with one hand while wiping my own flooded cheeks with the other. Guilt
consumed me as I recalled all the horrible things I'd thought over the past
year. I hoped she'd never find out. Somehow, I felt like our roles had
been reversed. I would now take care of her. Her sobs subsided, and she
pulled back with embarrassment on her face.
"I'm sorry, honey. I didn't mean to cause a scene. I thought I could
handle it better than this."
"Don't worry," I said as I smoothed a fallen curl back from her brow. "From
now on we'll handle it together."
2143 - December 12
The endless vacuum of space threatens to choke me, take the very breath of
my soul. Some are awed by the shimmering sparkle of stars, the fiery tails
of comets, the odd shapes of meteors. Some, like me, feel we are in an
ocean of ink and the occasional oddities only serve to remind us land is
nowhere in site. NASA finally assembled the brightest minds in history to
explore beyond our galaxy. I personally never thought the day would come
when we'd actually be able to travel this far. Sure, I grew up on Star Trek
and dreamed of going where no man had gone before, but I didn't think it
would ever happen. Now, here I sit, in this man-made tomb and drift through
the emptiness that lies beyond the borders of the Milky Way. We've been
traveling for twenty years and have yet to see anything we didn't already
2144 -March 7
There's a star being monitored because of its size. It's quite larger than
most and some people here are excited about the possibility of another sun,
which means planets, which might mean life. I am devoid of hope. There is
no true meaning to life, no higher calling, no E.T. to phone home. We will
come to the star and it will be a big star and the optimists will ooh and ah
and think it's the most beautiful thing they've ever seen and then we will
float some more.
2144 - July 28
The bitterness of it all strikes me as ironic. I looked back through this
journal and laugh at what I now consider to be luxury. The stars, oh to see
a star again. To watch it flicker and shine and give us something to wish
on. I remember the hope everyone held when we came upon the giant star, the
supernova, the bane of our existence. We were sucked in the moment we
arrived. I used to think black holes drained the air from life and
everything pulled in its murky depths would suffocate in a short amount of
time. Instead, you are like an orange slice in a black jello mold. No
movement, no light, no sound, nothing.
Something odd flew over my head and landed in the pile of leaves marking my
path. I turned quickly and caught glimpses of a shadow behind the massive
oaks decorating the dense forest with their fall glory.
"Give it up. I know you're out there." I shook my head in frustration.
Didn't he understand this was something I wanted to do alone? Rob's hand
appeared around the side of the trunk first, held up in surrender. His
guilty face followed and I couldn't help but notice the endearing way
honey-colored hair curled around his neck.
"Caught me, damned rock." He offered a sheepish grin. "I know, I know . .
. you wanted to be alone. I just can't stand the thought of you going
through this by yourself." He approached me slowly, dotting the end of his
sentences with slow footfalls, hands still held in the crisp air. I let him
put strong arms around me and rested my head on his chest for a moment.
"Oh Robbie, thank you for wanting to help me, but can't you try to
understand? This is already hard enough." I could feel the emotion
threaten to choke me and I pushed against his sweater, stalling the
inevitable. Rob looked at my wet eyes and trembling hands and took a step
back. He rubbed my arms and gave a last quick hug.
"I won't go with you, but I'll stay right here, okay? If you need me, I'll
be right here. I'm not going anywhere."
His reassurances were a double-edged sword, cutting and soothing at the same
time. Yes, he would always be here, but my mother wouldn't. She wouldn't
be here anymore to hear my triumphs and failures, to see my unborn children,
to call me every night just to say 'I love you'.
I turned before he saw the tear trailing my cheek and continued along the
path I'd started. After a few minutes, the spot I'd been seeking flaunted
its presence. A fallen tree created a soft bench with its moss covering and
perfect indentions. Two large stumps were situated in front of the seats
and in my mind I saw doilies and teacups on their surface. This was where
all important secrets had been revealed. Where I first heard my mother's
stumbling version of "the birds and the bees", where I learned of an older
sister who'd died before I was born, where I confessed the loss of my own
innocence as she sat wide eyed and smiled behind wrinkled hands, shyly
asking for the details.
I ran my hand over the soft green velvet and sank to my knees in front of
our makeshift table. "Oh Momma, why did you have to leave me? Why didn't
you pay more attention to yourself? You could have caught this in time if
you'd only looked." I unzipped my pack and took out the small wooden box.
She'd wanted it this way. The last good day she had in the hospital, she
made me promise - despite my unrealistic protestations of her long life -
that I would leave her here in our special place, the place she could be a
The tears flowed freely now as I lifted the latch and stared at what
remained. I tilted the end and let some of the ash pour out on our table
and swirled it in the air on the way to our seat. She'll be at a tea party
for eternity, I thought. Self-defense in the form of sarcasm didn't make a
dent in my grief. I wasn't sure I could move. I can't ever remember crying
so hard. I just sat there, rocking back and forth for what seemed an
As dusk settled on the forest around me, I became aware of warm hands
caressing my hair and a husky voice soothing me in small whispers.
"How long have you been here?" I asked, almost afraid of the answer.
"Not long, baby, not long. You ready to go now?"
The sweet strength of his voice caused a fresh wave of tears and calmed me
at the same time. I let him help me up and we walked back to the jeep arm
in arm. He knew enough to say nothing, to let me mourn in silence, and even
that brought memories of her. Momma was right. He always knew what to do.
Momma had liked him; she'd liked him a lot. She'd liked knowing I was taken
care of. And looking up into hazel eyes as wet as my own, I liked it too.