First, it was only published as an ebook/short story, but then my lovely publisher talked me into adding a few more chapters and soon it was also available in paperback. Writing Remembering Zane tugged at my heart a few times to the point of tears that I had to walk away and take a break. I'm proud of this story and hope someday to see it as a movie. Wouldn't that be freaking awesome!? :)
So, for those of you, who haven't read Remembering Zane, I'm posting my first chapter. If it tugs at your heart too and you want to read more, you can find it on Amazon and Barnes and Noble and Smashword for a steal of just .99 Paperbacks 9.95
As soon as Bonnie Reese opened up the double glass doors she could smell the eucalyptus plant. She knew the sweet scent all too well. It was Zane’s favorite. Over the years, it had grown to be her favorite scent, too. And now…standing here in the foyer….smelling it’s sweet aroma…it became overwhelming. The reality was finally setting in.
“Hello ma’am.” An older gentleman said, as he greeted her at the door. He held out his arm, waiting for her to hand over her coat. She smiled weakly at him as slowly pulled her arms through the sleeves of her black wool coat then handed it to him. She didn’t know why she wore the heavy jacket. It had been unseasonably warm for that October, too warm to be wearing it, but then again, it was the only black jacket she owned. Plus, she hasn’t been able to shake the chills since the day she got the devastating news about Zane. That was a week ago.
Tears started to form when she remembered the day she got the call.
“Bonnie, did you hear?” Her friend Jackie asked immediately as soon as she answered the phone. Jackie had been one of her closest friends since elementary school and one of the few friends that she still kept in contact with.
“Hear what?” Bonnie asked, as she scrambled to set the last bag of groceries on the kitchen counter.
“Zane Withers, he’s been in a car accident.” Bonnie could hear the sorrow in Jackie’s voice. Immediately, her heart sank to the pit of her stomach.
“Wha… what? What did you say?” Visions of Zane quickly filled her mind. She could see his dark crew cut hair, his chestnut brown eyes and his warm smile. He had the kind of smile that would light up any dark room.
“He’s okay, right?” She choked, blinking away her tears. She remembered the silence on the other end of the line. That’s when her knees buckled from under her and she collapsed to the floor, sobbing.
“I’m sorry, Bonnie. He’s dead.” Jackie said sympathetically. She spoke so low, that Bonnie barely heard her. She could feel her mind and body float away as she lay sobbing on the kitchen floor. She didn’t remember hanging up the phone or saying goodbye to Jackie that day. She didn’t remember much of anything that afternoon except that it was cold and raining and the only man that she truly ever loved….was dead.
“Bonnie!” A male voice hollered her name. She turned around to see Jonathan Wood, one of her old classmates, walking towards her. Jonathan was Zane’s best friend.
“Hi Jonathan,” she gave him a weak smile.
“You look lovely.” He said, smiling. She looked down at her navy blue pant suit and smiled shyly. She wished she would have worn a black dress, but all the other dresses that she owned were too bright and colorful.
“Thanks.” She said, bleakly. Jonathan was dressed in a black suit with a light blue carnation pinned to his breast. She choked when she saw the blue flower. Blue was Zane’s favorite color.
She took in a deep jagged breath and glanced over Jonathan’s shoulder, down the hall. The funeral home was packed with many of Zane’s friends and family. Some of the faces she recognized, but a lot of them she didn’t.
“How are you holding up?” Jonathan asked, taking her arm in his as they walked towards the crowd. The air felt heavy as she concentrated on her breathing. Each step she took, her knees became weak and began to shake. She feared that they were going to buckle from underneath her. She wasn’t sure if she could do this. It had been a year since she had last seen Zane. Although, she remembered it like it was yesterday. She was shopping at the mall when she had bumped into him. It was awkward seeing him with his wife and young son, awkward and devastating for her that is. She should have been his wife and the little boy, should have been her son. She cried for two weeks when she saw how happy he was with his new family.
Bonnie met Zane Withers when they were in the fourth grade. At ten years old, she didn’t really understand the concept of love, but she knew that the feelings she had for him were never going to go away. Ever. It wasn’t until they were both in eleventh grade, that he finally took an interest in her. The day that he came and stood by her locker and asked her if she wanted to go to the movies was forever tattooed to her brain. She could still smell his sweet aftershave as they sat next to each other watching their movie together.
And so for the next ten years they were inseparable.
“Bonnie! You came!” Through her murky eyes, she looked up to see another one of her classmates, Cindy walking towards her. She struggled to put a smile on her face as the tears continued to trickle down her cheeks. Jonathan sensed her uneasiness and wrapped her arm tighter around his.
“Yes. I’m here…here.” She choked. Cindy grabbed a handful of tissues that were sitting on a stand beside them and handed them to her. That was one useful thing about funeral homes they were always well stocked with tissues and set at the most convenient places.
She sighed and thanked Cindy for the tissues.
“Follow me if you want to see him. The line back there is a mile long.” She informed them with a smile on her face and speaking as if they were getting in line for a rock concert or something. There was no grief or sorrow in her voice, whatsoever. Bonnie nodded her head as her and Jonathan followed Cindy down the hall.
Jonathan leaned over and whispered in her ear, “If you aren’t ready yet we can wait.” She leaned her head on his shoulder and thanked him for being so understanding. All these years, Jonathan had always been so nice to her, saying the sweetest things and always complimenting her, more so than Zane ever did. She could never understand why he didn’t settle down and gotten married like (gulp) Zane did.
“I don’t want to keep you from waiting.” She breathed, using the tissues to wipe away the fresh tears. He smiled shyly at her and squeezed her hand. “I was already in there, earlier, with his wife and family.” She could see the guilt in his dark blue eyes as he bowed his head down.
“Oh!” Her lips formed a perfect ‘O’ when she spoke.
Her heart was pounding through her chest as they continued to inch their way closer to the room where Zane laid. She smiled weakly at the unfamiliar faces that walked past her. Some of them were somber, while others were sobbing uncontrollably.
Her mind raced. All she knew was that he was in a car accident. She had so many questions. Questions she wondered if Jonathan knew. Was it a closed casket? Was she ever going to see his beautiful face again? Maybe she didn’t want to remember him like this…lying in a casket….dead. Jonathan looked down at her as if he read her mind.
“You look troubled. Is there something wrong?” He whispered in her ear. She looked down at the front of her suit and nervously began to rub at the invisible wrinkles.
“Ho…how does he look?” She stammered.
“Oh, he looks good, considering….” He stopped when he saw her green eyes grow wide with shock.
“Considering what?” She choked. He glanced around the crowded room, making sure that no one was listening in on their conversation. They all seemed to be in their own little world, chatting among each other.
“Well….he was partially ejected from his vehicle.” He spoke low. Her breath caught in her throat as she started to choke on her tears. She cupped her hands over her mouth to keep from shrieking, but it was too late. Tears started to stream down her cheeks as she went into a full blown crying fit. All she could envision was her beloved Zane bleeding and hanging out of the shattered windshield.
“Oh, my God!” She sobbed as she collapsed in Jonathan’s arms. Some of the people turned and were staring at the two of them.
“Come on. You’re not ready to see him yet.” Jonathan said. He wrapped his arms around her waist and walked her through the glass doors then down the steps and outside to the other end of the funeral home.
“What exactly happened to him?” She asked as she continued to sob. She was grateful that Jonathan brought her outside. The cool breeze felt good against her clammy skin.
“Sit down.” Jonathan ordered as he pointed at one of the white wicker chair that was in the corner of the porch. She quietly obliged. He took out a pack of gum from his pocket and offered her a piece, but she declined. She watched him carefully as he popped it in his mouth and began chewing vigorously. She could see that he, too, was having a hard time dealing with the loss of his best friend. She sat quietly, waiting for him to speak.
“It was cold and raining that day he was coming home from a football game. From what I was told, he swerved to miss a deer then his car skidded across the wet slippery leaves until he hit a tree head on.”
Bonnie felt as if someone had punched her in the stomach and knocked the breath out of her. She wrapped her arms around her stomach and slowly began rocking back and forth.
“The ambulance crew said he was still alive when they got there.”
She bit her bottom lip to keep from shrieking as she continued to listen to Jonathan. Then he turned around to stare out at the road in front of the funeral home. Bonnie could see the pain in his face and that he was hurting. He was having a hard time talking about it.
“What? What else happened?” Her voice quivered as she stood up from the chair and walked over to him. He sucked in a deep breath and grabbed ahold of the railing.
“The ambulance crew said he was talking and asking for his wife.” He continued. A small tear trickled down his cheek. Seeing Jonathan cry made her heart ache. She had never seen him cry before. She reached over and wrapped her arm around his shoulder, comforting him.
“That’s understandable.” She said soothingly. Jonathan turned around to face her and shook his head. “No, you don’t understand. He wasn’t asking for Leanne…he was asking for you. He kept repeating your name over and over again…Bonnie.” Her breath and heart stopped at the same time, as she tried to grasp what he had just said.
“Whaaa….what?” She stumbled backward and fell into the chair, sobbing uncontrollably.
“Oh Bonnie, I’m so sorry. I knew I shouldn’t have told you.” He cried, pounding his fists on the side of his head.
“Dammit! Dammit it all to hell!” He screamed as he kneeled down in front of her. He grabbed her ice cold hands, “Bonnie, I’m sorry.” He pleaded.
Bonnie wanted to stand up and hold Jonathan in her arms and tell him that it was okay…but she was numb. She felt like she was having an out of body experience. She could see Jonathan kneeling before her and apologizing, but she couldn’t move. All she could picture in her mind and hear was Zane’s bloody body calling her name.
“Hey Jon! Are you alright man?” They both turned around to see Derrick, another classmate and a good friend of Zane, standing before them.
Jonathan quickly stood up and wiped the tears from his cheek with the back of his hand. “Yeah man, I’m good.” He choked. Derrick gave him a peculiar look then turned to look at Bonnie.
“Hello Bonnie, nice to see you again.” He said, reaching his hand out for her to shake. She numbly raised her hand. But was startled when Derrick quickly grabbed her hand and pulled her out of the chair to give her a hug. The surprise hug brought her out of her trance.
“I’m so sorry for your loss, Bonnie.” Derrick whispered in her ear, causing fresh tears to emerge. Yes, it was my loss too. The man I was supposed to marry, the man I was to have children with. The man I was supposed to grow old with until we both died of old age. Her heart ached for Zane’s wife and their young son, but her heart ached for herself, too. She loved Zane, more than herself and she always would.
“They are closing pretty soon. Do you want to see him one more time before you leave?” Derrick asked. He had no idea that she hadn’t been in there to see him yet. She nodded quietly then motioned for Jonathan to walk her in. Derrick held the side door open as they both walked back into the funeral home. The place was quieter now. There were only a few people left standing in the hallway. She grabbed ahold of Jonathan’s hands and squeeze tightly hoping it would stop hers from shaking.
Hand in hand, they slowly walked down the red carpeted hall, towards the small gathering of people. Right away, Bonnie recognized Zane’s parents. Her heart ached for them. She could see the grief in their tired old eyes as she walked towards them.
She shuddered when she caught a whiff of the eucalyptus plant as they walked up to the room where Zane laid.
“Bonnie! It’s so nice of you to come.” Zane’s mother, Jean said. She wrapped her frail arms around Bonnie’s shoulders and hugged her tightly. “I was afraid that you weren’t going to make it. My Zane would have been disappointed if you hadn’t shown up.” Her soft voice quivered when she said his name.
“Oh Jean, how could I not come.” She started to sob, but quickly sucked in a deep breath to keep the new tears from surfacing. She felt Jonathan’s hand on her shoulder as Jean continued to hug her. After a long moment Jean finally pulled back to look at her. “Oh, you look so beautiful.” Jean smiled weakly then gently patted her cheek.
Jean was a tall thin woman with grey hair and a button nose. Her thick glasses made her blue eyes more prominent. She smiled at Jean one more time before turning to Blaine, Zane’s father, who was standing next to her. Zane was a spitting image of his father; tall with short dark hair, except his had more grey. The two of them even had the same brown mole just below their left eye.
“So glad you could make it.” Blaine said in a deep voice that sounded just like Zane’s. Without saying a word, she reached up and wrapped her arms around his broad shoulders. It took everything she had to keep from breaking down in front of him. She knew this was hard enough on them losing their oldest son that they didn’t need to see her losing control and sobbing like a baby.
“Are you ready?” She heard Jonathan ask as he tapped her on the shoulders. She turned around and watched him hug Jean then turned and shook hands with Blaine one more time.
She blew out a jagged sigh and nodded her head as they proceeded into the large circular room. She gasped at the sight. There were flowers everywhere, stacked from floor to ceiling. Most of them were vibrant colors of fall; orange, yellow and brown, all but one. There was one green plant sitting on the floor next to the casket. It was the eucalyptus plant that she had sent. She took in a deep breath and inhaled its sweet aroma.
Jonathan wrapped his arm around her shoulder as they proceeded towards the casket. She kept her eyes peeled to the floor, away from the casket. She was still afraid to look. She was afraid of how she was going to react once she saw Zane lying in the casket, lifeless.
“Bonnie!” A female voice called. She turned around to see who it was that had spoken her name and gasped when she recognized the woman’s face. It was Leanne, Zane’s wife. Her heart began to pound against her chest as she stared at the young woman as she walked towards her. A pang of jealousy hit her when she saw how beautiful Leanne was with her long wavy dark hair, piercing blue eyes and perfect petite body. There was no comparison between the two of them. Bonnie was the complete opposite to her, with her short bleached blonde hair, bright green eyes and short stocky body. The longer Bonnie stared at the young widow her jealousy slowly started to fade. She felt remorse and….embarrassed. Did she know that Zane was calling her name out instead of his own wife’s?
Without saying another word, Leanne smiled then gently grabbed her arm and walked her to the casket. Bonnie could barely breathe. What was she doing? Doesn’t she realize how hard this is for me? I can’t just walk up to him….like…like this. She swallowed the hard lump in her throat and stared at her with wide eyes.
“Zane, look who came to see you,” She spoke lovingly to him as if he were still alive. Bonnie kept her eyes glued on the gold handles in front of the casket as tears started to trickle down her cheeks. She listened to Leanne talk to him. “Zane, honey, Bonnie came to see you.”
Leanne turned and smiled at Bonnie, then patted her hands and walked away, leaving her all alone beside him. Her body began to shake as she stared at the dark cherry casket and its gold handles. She could see that the casket was lined with white satin as she slowly moved her eyes all around except for the one place that she dreaded. Near the foot of the casket was a small bouquet of black and gold flowers with a small banner reading #1 fan. She chuckled quietly to herself. Yes, he was a huge Steeler fan.
She quickly shot her attention upward to the huge bouquet of flowers that were resting on top of the open casket. It was a huge casket cover of fall flowers. In the center of it was a yellow banner that read “Son/husband/father”. She shuddered then blew out another jagged sigh as she slowly moved her eyes downwards. She brought her fists to her mouth to muffle the small shriek that had escaped her lips. It was him! It was Zane! He truly was dead! She watched her hands shake as she reached out to touch him. His face was as white as the satin lining in his casket, his short dark hair was speckled with grey, but it was him, the same man she had loved since the fourth grade.
She didn’t remember the drive home, only walking through the front door of her small apartment and tossing her black wool coat over the couch. She was still having one of those out of body experiences, except all she could see was Zane lying in his coffin. He was wearing his beloved Pittsburgh Steeler jersey that was autographed by Jerome Bettis and Hines Ward. She remembered that day at the football stadium. They were both nineteen and full of love and life. Jonathan was with them too. The three of them had driven to Pittsburgh to watch the first home game of the season. They were playing against the Baltimore Ravens and the game ended with the Steelers winning 17 to 7. They had waited 2 hours after the game to get autographs. She remembered Zane’s dark eyes lit up when Hines Ward signed his jersey. He was like a little kid on Christmas morning.
The shrill of the phone brought her back to reality as she pulled herself off the couch to grab the phone.
“Bonnie, it’s me Jon. Are you okay? I was worried about you and wanted to make sure that you got home okay.” A small smile formed on her lips when she heard Jonathan’s voice.
“Yeah, I’m home….but…I’m not okay. I feel emotionally drained, you know?” She sighed heavily as she leaned back down on the couch. Her eyes felt puffy and swollen. She could feel a headache coming on from all the crying she had done tonight.
“Yeah, I know what you mean. I wanted to tell you that if you ever need someone to talk to, you know you can call me right?”
“Thank you Jonathan. I really appreciate that.” She grabbed the black wool coat that was lying on the arm of the couch and draped it over herself to keep warm. The cold chills were coming back.
“Bonnie, you can call me Jon. No one has called Jonathan since high school.” He chuckled lightly.
“Oh, okay. Old habits die hard.” She chuckled weakly. “I guess it has been a few years, huh?” She still had trouble swallowing the idea that they have been out of high school for fifteen years. It seemed just like yesterday that her, Zane and Jonathan were cruising around town in Jonathan’s little blue Ford Escort. God! Where did the time go?
For a moment, there was silence on the phone. Just as Bonnie was about to say something, Jon finally spoke.
“Bonnie, I was wondering…wo…would you like to go out for dinner this weekend?” He stammered.
The corner of her mouth curled up as she felt flattered that Jonathan, er’ Jon, wanted to take her out to dinner. She was just as about to open her mouth and say yes, but she then stopped. What about Zane? Would he mind her going out on a date with his best friend? Tears started to cloud her vision as she sat up on the couch and stared at the blank television.
“Uh…Jonath...Jon, I really appreciate you wanting to take me out for dinner, but I really wouldn’t be much company right now.” She sighed heavily as she glanced around her small living room. It felt empty and lonely….like her.
“Nonsense…we can talk about old times…in honor of Zane. What do ya say?” He tried to sound enthusiastic, but deep down he was nervous as hell. He never told a soul that he had loved Bonnie since the 7th grade. Since the day of the spring dance when she walked into the gymnasium wearing a mint green dress. He remembered how beautiful her hair looked, all curly, framing her chubby cheeks and just enough makeup to bring out her bright green eyes and pink full lips. He wanted to tell her that day that she was beautiful and ask her to dance with him, but couldn’t, not when she was in the arms of his best friend Zane.
“Since you put it that way, I guess we could have dinner…in honor of Zane.” She chuckled weakly. Just thinking about him made her heart ache. She glanced at the clock on the wall. By this time tomorrow he would be buried six feet into the ground and covered with dirt. She took in a jagged breath and could feel another crying fit coming on.
“I gotta go. I will call you tomorrow.” She told Jon then quickly hung up. She spent the remainder of the evening curled up on the couch, crying over the love she had lost forever.