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La Belle Rouge Poetess Of The Heart

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Dust To Dust
By La Belle Rouge Poetess Of The Heart
Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Rated "PG13" by the Author.

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He Would Never Love Again....


Dust To Dust
La Belle Rouge

“Dust to dust, ashes to ashes,”

The somber voiced, dark-robed cleric repeated the ancient burial words, as he tossed a handful of dirt against the casket balanced on brass rails over the open grave.

The day had been cloudy, chilly for March, and now a few drops of rain began to fall as if the sky wept in sympathy with my grief. Funerals had never been especially difficult for me. I often wondered if it was because I was hard hearted or because I was numb from so much loss. I wasn’t yet thirty and already I had laid to rest two brothers and both parents. I’d been alone in the world…except for her. Now she had joined the ranks of those sleeping beneath the red Virginia clay and although no outward tears would come, my heart was drowning in a raging river of sorrow, anger and pain.

So impossible to accept the reality of Toni being gone. She was the most alive person I knew, full of the pure joy of living. Even in still silence, resting in a casket, she was the picture of health and the epitome of beauty, with her dark hair draping her shoulders and long, sooty lashes lying like thick feathers against the warm, coral hue of cheeks that were subtlety painted with blusher.

As the soft-spoken pastor droned on and on about promises of eternal life I closed my exhausted eyes while on the dark screen of my lids a movie of sorts played out, a film of our love. Toni in her wedding dress, her brown eyes so resplendent with love that they took my breath away. I visioned the soft and sultry way they looked up and locked into my blue ones when we made love. The sound of her laughter and that teasing grin that captured the corners of her full lips and made me want to cover them with kisses. Her scent, her taste surrounded me.

Oh God, I can’t stand anymore, I thought as my eyes opened and at last the minister called my name “Mike,” as he laid a hand on my shoulder and directed me toward the grave to lay the single, white rose on her casket.

I tried not to look down at the box and the stark hole that would soon hide her forever from me, as I dropped the single rose from a trembling hand. Turning away afterwards, I shoved my hands deep into my pockets and walked with broad, determined steps toward my car. I had chosen to drive rather than ride in the family limo with her family. Her folks never liked me much, they had higher aspirations for their daughter than marriage to a marine mechanic. I had to get away from that cemetery, fast…. before the unreasonable urge to jump into the grave with her became overpowering.

Why hadn’t I died in her place, or at least with her, in the car accident?

I knew it was a question I would ask forever and never find an answer to. She had died instantly from the impact to the passenger’s side from the drunk driver’s car and I’d walked away without a scratch, except for the wounds on my soul, which I knew would never heal.

What would I do now, how could I live in a cold, gray world without my “Sunshine?”

The house would be cold and empty, filled with mementoes of her. Bracing myself for the worst, I slipped the key into the front door, turned it forcefully and entered with dread.

The fragrance of “White Shoulders*” assaulted my senses and the sight of her sweater draped over the back of the sofa sent my heart into spasms of grief.

I can’t stay here, I thought, have to get away at least for a few days.

Feeling thankful that I had somewhere to go, I smiled briefly at the thought of owning a yacht on my salary. It had seemed completely insane at the time but we bought it for a song. It was an old 40 foot wooden classic in need of major renovation. Six years and unlimited blood, sweat and tears later it was a showpiece, a reward for all our hard work and hours spent lovingly restoring it to surpass its former glory. We named her “Love Sprite” and kept her docked at a nearby marina on the bay, only a few minutes drive from the house. I was thankful that it was a short drive. I was exhausted and a long drive would have been more than I could manage. I needed rest desperately and hoped the lapping of the waves and the gentle motion of the boat would lull me to sleep quickly and if I was lucky, I‘d dream of better times, warm arms and soft lips.

It was twilight but already dark when I arrived at the marina and a cold rain pelted me as I walked from the parking lot to board the boat. The same “White Shoulders” scent floated lightly in the air as I entered the salon, blended with the clean smell of linseed oil, Toni had used to hand polish the mahogany wood.

Making my way to the aft cabin and entering the Captain’s stateroom I laid down sideways on the double bed in the dark. Here the scent of her perfume was stronger and as I pulled her pillow over my face hoping that the dam of grief would break at last and I could sob out my anguish. For what seemed like hours I repeatedly whimpered her name, but no tears, no release would come. It was going to be a long night; I needed a drink, a strong one. The bar was well stocked and I paid little attention to the hefty amount of vodka I downed before passing out at the crack of dawn.

The days slowly morphed into weeks. I had moved most of my clothing to “Love Sprite” and put the house up for sale. Each day blended into the next, I rose early, worked on marine engines and wiring, ate a micro-waved, frozen dinner and drank myself to sleep. Often I woke in the middle of the night from dreams of holding her close, making passionate love, to the hard, cold reality that I would never hold her again.

Spring came and passed, Summer warmed the air and water. My muscular body tanned brown from the sun but my heart remained frozen and the only warmth I felt was in dreams and in the heat of alcohol that nightly coursed through my veins. I realized I was drinking too much but it seemed to be the only way to dull the pain.

I sat one late afternoon on the open, aft deck of “Love Sprite” as the sunset caused the waves to blaze with color. That’s when I saw her for the first time. A tall, slim figure, clothed in cutoff jeans that exposed her long legs and a halter top that showed off her luscious curves. She was oblivious to my eyes locked on her form as she strolled on the shore, bending occasionally to pick up seashells and place them in a cloth sack she carried in her hand. The crimson light of sunset danced with the flame-red highlights of her straight, auburn hair that flowed like red silk below her slender waistline. All that Summer, I caught glimpses of her walking the shore and while I enjoyed the scenery, I made a solemn vow to myself not to get any closer to the Shell-Goddess; the name I’d secretly dubbed her.

She was a thing of beauty and I had always appreciated beauty, in nature or women. Maybe in a weak moment I’d talk to her someday, if she continued to appear on my shore, but then… maybe not.

Summer became Autumn and early Autumn ushered in tropical storm season. When the brunt of the first and very powerful hurricane of the season, promised to slam into the marina, I worked feverishly for days to prepare the shore, and the boats for the worst.

I was busy piling sand bags against a low bulwark when I felt a hand lightly touch my forearm

“Hello, need some help?”

The feminine voice was melodic, rich, with a smooth, Southern drawl that fell gentle on my ears and heart. I turned to discover the mysterious red-haired shell-goddess and looked directly into the most expressive, light-jade eyes I’d ever gazed into. The light woodsy fragrance of her perfume floated above the smell of seawater. I was only a few inches taller than she and with such a short distance between us, I noticed the smoothness of her fair skin, fullness of her bow-shaped lips, the full swell of her breasts under the tight fitting sweater. She was perfection, except for a long scar raised in a slick, pink line against the smoothness of her slender neck. It alone marred her beauty and even with its distraction, she was more lovely up close than walking a distant shore. My heart, having been caught unawares, fluttered in my chest.

“I’m Natalie,” she said, as she smiled and held out her hand to me. I took it almost reluctantly. It felt delicate and warm in mine. It had been so long since I held, touched, a woman’s hand.

“I’m Mike. Pleased to meet you.”

“Well, Mike, I saw you here slaving with these heavy bags, and not that I thought you couldn’t handle it,” she said, as she glanced with admiration at my broad shoulders. “But I thought maybe there was something I could do to help prepare for the storm.”

She was so close I was intrigued with the scent of her woodsy perfume and for the first time since grief had numbed me, I felt my body react with a slight tremor of desire that built to a strong reaction as I slowly released her hand and heard myself reply,

“No thanks, I can manage and from the force of this wind you should heading back to wherever you live.”

Her eyes reflected disappointment at the short remark and coldness in my voice and she pulled her jacket snugly around her body.

“OK, sorry to bother you, see you around,” she said as she turned and walked away.

I couldn’t help myself, I watched her back as the sway of her rounded hips in the tight blue jeans moved up the shore away from me and when she was at last out of sight, I continued my work, secretly swearing under my breath at life in general and my weakness in particular. I wasn’t going to get hurt again, even if it meant being alone forever.

The house had been sold months ago. I lived on the boat fulltime now and as night fell I boarded “Love Sprite” and cruised her out some distance from the perils of shore. Using the electric windlass to cast out the heavy anchor I prepared to sit out the storm. It was a foolhardy thing to do, stay there on the boat, but in the back of my mind I felt it might be a relief to be done with life and all the pain that accompanied it.

It was a black night, no visible lights on shore and the wind howled like a banshee out of Hell. The “Sprite” was a heavy wooden vessel but she reeled back and fourth, up and down, on the white-capped waves like a cigar in a storm drain. I drank, tonight it was rum and Coke* and a lot of it. I’d never felt more alone in my life, lost on the turbulent, black nothingness of the screeching storm. I cringed at the creaking of the wooden boards of the hull and wondered if the storm’s fury would shake her apart and me along with her. I hoped it would; I was sick of just existing and angry, yes I was furious, at an entity who called himself God and allowed someone as young, good and beautiful as Toni to die.

Where was the mercy and justice in that?

My dark emotions raged like the storm and eventually, not remembering how I got there, I found myself on the fly bridge; standing on the pilot’s seat, my fist shaking in defiant rage at the black sky and curses unspeakable bursting from my drunken lips at God and life.

I felt myself slip on the slick wet seat but I was too drunk with pain and rum to care. Suddenly everything was black, total darkness, complete nothingness as the storm raged on around my limp body, tossed on the cold, crashing waves moving toward shore. I had no idea how long I drifted on the chilling waters, mercifully I passed out.

A red light flashed all around me. My head ached and I needed to unload the sickening contents of my stomach.

“More oxygen and tie his hands down, he’s fighting us like a wild animal,” I heard a man’s voice say. “He must have tied a big one on before he fell in, smells like a cheap bottle of rum.”

I did fight with all my might against the restraints, against the disgusting truth that I had survived the fall into the wild waters.

What was wrong with a man that couldn’t even die in a hurricane?

I felt a gentle hand smoothing my dark hair and lightly touching the side of my whisker-stubbled face.

“Shhh, it’ll be alright. You’re Ok now. Try to calm down. I’ll be here to hold your hand.”

The voice was soft and soothing and looking up I found myself lost once more in the warm beauty of her jade eyes just before I lost consciousness again.

I woke in a hospital bed, my hands and legs still clamped in restraints. Turning my head toward the light from a solitary window that was covered by bars and then looking down at my bruised body I realized I was dressed only in a hospital gown beneath the lightweight blanket. Everything ached and I was even more sore all over than I’d been from the wreck that took Toni’s life.

The anger boiled hot once again,

“Let me outa here. DAMN IT, let me out or I’ll sue who the Hell ever is responsible for this,” I screamed as I struggled against the restraints.

The scent of her perfume preceded her movement next to my bed. She gently touched my hand with hers and I felt some of the tension relax as her soft drawl soothed me.

“It’s OK Mike, I’m here. Everything will be alright. We can’t take the restraints off just yet, but soon, I promise.”

“What the Hell are you Natalie, some kind of nursemaid?”

“No, I’m your doctor. I’m the one who found you washed up on the beach and called the ambulance. I’m on staff here at the hospital psychiatric unit and I’m taking good care of you Mike. You just need a little help right now, to get back on your feet. Can we do that Mike, work together to get you some help?”

“I don’t need your help, just get outa here and leave me alone.”

I turned my face toward the wall and refused to look up at her as her warm hand tenderly caressed mine.

“Alright, I’ll order a sedative for you so you can rest and I’ll see you in the morning,” she replied as I felt her presence move away from the bedside and out the door.

The sound of the electronic lock jangled my nerves and then I was alone again in the darkness. A few minutes later a nurse came in and shot a drug into the iv.

No need to shout at her, I thought; so I just lay there quietly until everything went black again.

I woke up later. Obviously it was the middle of a very dark night and I was alone in the room. Flexing my hands I realized they had been untied and I thought about screaming for someone to let me out but decided to wait until morning, so as to appear more sane, then demand that they release me from the hospital. I couldn’t sleep so I watched the bars of the window, waiting for a streak of light to finally appear, thinking this was much like the life I was living, imprisoned in dark grief, waiting for just a ray of light.

Dawn finally appeared, gray and depressing. I heard her footsteps at my door and then the electronic lock opened and she stepped inside.

“Aren’t you afraid the crazy man will attack you? My hands are free, I could easily use them on that pretty neck of yours.”

“I’m not afraid of you Mike,” Natalie replied, as she pushed a lock of red hair off her forehead and took a seat on the chair next to my bed.

“I think you are only a danger to yourself, not to anyone else. How would you feel about staying here at the hospital a while? I can give you a much more cheerful room and we can get you some help with the alcohol abuse.”

“How would I feel? I’ll tell you Lady, I’d feel like someone needs to mind their own business. Yes I drink, damn straight I do. It’s my life and my decision, it’s one thing, maybe the only thing, I still have any control over; whether I decide to face life cold sober or drink the pain away. For right now I choose to drink and it’s none of your damn business. So unless you have some kind of legal right to keep me here I suggest you give me my pants and open that door.”

“You’re right it’s your decision but I was hoping you’d make a wiser one, you could have drowned last night. But if you want your pants, here,” she said as she reached into the closet, recovered my damp clothing and handed it to me. One thing more; here’s my card, call me, Mike, if you need to talk.”

“Natalie, you’re a beautiful lady and obviously a smart one, but I can’t talk to anyone about what I’m carrying around inside, especially to someone I doubt has any idea what this kind of pain can do to a person.”

“If you think I don’t understand pain Mike, you’re dead wrong,” She replied as she looked at me with eyes that had turned cold under some hidden influence, then she turned and walked out the door.

The electronic lock never sounded so I knew I was free to go. I hurriedly dressed and walked out into the gray daylight, hailed a cab at the curb and headed back to the boat.

I mended a few crab pots and cleaned the galley and heads at the boat. Watched a little TV late that evening and visited with Captain Morgan* drinking myself into a stupor that lasted until the next morning. My head ached and I hated to face the day but decided to take a short walk on the beach, maybe I’d see Natalie and apologize for the way I talked to her, but maybe she had it coming.

There was no sign of her along the shore. All seemed deserted except for a kid throwing a stick of driftwood for a big Golden Retriever to fetch. It was a nice picture, a kid and his dog. Toni and I wanted kids bad, but it was never to be. She was three months pregnant when she died. It was a double loss for me. No one even knew but the two of us and the doctor who pronounced her DOA at the emergency room. I asked him not to tell her family, no need to add to their sorrow, or their hatred for me. So it became my secret and my grief to bear alone.

He looked like a nice kid, large, deep-brown eyes and dark hair that hung in curls on his shoulders. When his Retriever came up to me and handed me the driftwood stick, I soon found myself engaged in a conversation with his master.

“Hey, how ya doin? My name’s Mike. Great dog you got there.”

“Hi, I’m Corey and that’s Rusty, yeah he’s a good dog.”

“He’s a big guy to handle! How old are you Corey?”

“Be twelve next month and Rusty, he’s two.”

“You live around here someplace?”

“Yeah, live above the marina office, Gramps, he owns the place.”

“You Ed’s Grayson’s grandson? Live there with your parents? I’ve worked here a while and never met your dad.”

“Don’t have a dad, live here with my mom.”

“Oh, who’s your mom?”

“Natalie Grayson.”

I was completely shocked. Natalie could never be old enough to have a son twelve years old, why she looked barely twenty five herself.

“I’ve met her, nice lady.”

“Thanks, wanna roast some hot dogs with me and Rusty? Got the wieners and bread right here in this backpack.”

“Sure why not? Gather some driftwood and we’ll light the fire.”

It was a great lunch and good company. We spent close to two hours there on the beach, eating hotdogs, telling tall tales. When he said it was time to go home I was disappointed and hoped we would run into each other again. Natalie may need to mind her own business but I had to hand it to her, she had raised a wonderful kid, on her own.

As we turned to go our opposite ways the unthinkable happened, Corey tripped over a log on the beach. I heard him scream out in pain and when I reached his side I realized he had fallen on a jagged piece of glass, slashing his forearm deeply. The sand under him was beginning to turn red with the massive flow of blood. Quickly I ripped my shirt and tightly applied a strip of it as a tourniquet. He was small for his age so I scooped him up in my arms and ran for the marina office, silently praying that Natalie or his grandfather would be there.

Natalie must have spotted us from the window and by the time I reached the office she had run out onto the beach yelling, “What’s wrong, what’s happened?”

“He cut his arm Natalie, fell on some glass. Looks pretty deep and he’s losing a lot of blood. I’ll ride with you to the hospital.”

“Oh Mike thank you so much, thank God you were with him when it happened,” she said, glancing at the makeshift tourniquet.

It was short drive to the hospital but a long wait in the surgical waiting room. Natalie and I sat together on a sofa and waited for the doctors to complete the surgery needed to repair a severed nerve in Corey’s arm. Today she seemed less like the unruffled doctor and more like a very real and concerned mother. Dressed in faded, torn jeans and a t-shirt, she still could have passed for a beauty queen in my estimation. As we sat silently and waited I was caressed by the soft scent of her perfume and caught myself more than once studying her beautiful face.

“Natalie, I’m sorry for the way I talked to you yesterday. I’m…well.. it’s just that I’m carrying a load and I shouldn’t have taken it out on you. Will you forgive me?”

“All is forgiven Mike, besides, Corey might have died there on the beach if you hadn’t been there to help him, so how could I not forgive you?”

“He’s a great kid.”

“Thank you, yes he is. He’s the sunshine of my life.”

“Must be hard raising him alone. I still can’t believe you have a son almost twelve, I mean.. you look so young.”

“Well I was young when he was born. Mike would you please reconsider about seeing someone for counseling, if not me, then I can recommend someone that can help. I’ve been so concerned for you since you left the hospital. I’m here for you if you ever need to talk about that load you’re carrying.”

“Natalie, again, I’m sorry for what I said to you about not understanding pain, it’s just that you’re so young and apparently have it all together.”

“Mike can I tell you something confidential?”

“Of course you can, anything Natalie.”

“You think I don’t know about emotional pain. I’ve noticed you looking at this,” she said as her finger lightly touched the deep pink scar on her neck.

“You’re right I’m not old enough to have a son Corey’s age. He was born when I was fifteen. And this scar…it was carved there by his father; a rapist who attacked me and left me for dead. So you see,” She went on, her jade eyes filling with tears, “I do know about pain, loss, and all the anger that accompanies it. It was for that reason I became a therapist. I suppose it was to exorcise my own demons while doing the same for my patients.”

My heart was wounded by her confession of the Hell she had been through and my hand instinctively reached out to clasp hers as my other arm slipped around her shoulder.

“Oh God, Natalie, I’m so sorry,” I whispered.

She laid her head against my shoulder as though it was there that she knew it belonged.

“I’m sorry too, “ she said, for all the pain you’re in and whatever caused it, I only wanted to help.”

“Natalie, when Corey is home and recovered will you come have dinner with me on the boat, there are some things I need to talk to someone about and in the meantime, I think it’s time for Captain Morgan’s visit to end. I need to start over now, not sure how or if I even can but you are the kind of lady I know I can talk to.”

“I’d be honored Mike,” she whispered as she looked deeply into my eyes and lifting her lips touched mine with a kiss of promise, so sweet it took my breath away and made me actually want to believe in life again as tears filled my eyes at last.

© 5-15-2004 La Belle Rouge

       Web Site: La Belle At

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Reviewed by Gene Williamson 5/5/2009
Belle, I don't know why it took me so long to find this,
but it was worth the wait. You write with great talent
and an enormous heart. -gene.
Reviewed by Randall Barfield 1/10/2008
Fantastic! Totally genuine and interesting. Cheers
Reviewed by Felix Perry 1/8/2008
Well done and riveting how it kept the attention with almost non stop action and reaction scenes.

Reviewed by Elizabeth Price 1/8/2008
Heart wrenching to heart warming. Great write. Liz
Reviewed by Chuck Keller 1/8/2008
Sweet, poignant and wonderful...
Reviewed by Carole Mathys 1/8/2008
Excellent story of loss, despair and finding a way back I understand are a true artist Belle!

Reviewed by Georg Mateos 1/8/2008
Lost and found!!! the saga of humanity condensed into the sudden entwining lifes of two strangers each with their own set of emotional baggage. Saddly no everybody get that kind of happy end, but the story takes the brunt of our own thorns.
Oh romantic you!!!
Reviewed by Walt Hardester 1/8/2008
A wonderful tale of despair, redemption, and hope. You are the best.

Reviewed by Karen Lynn Vidra, The Texas Tornado 1/8/2008
Sad write, but so very well written! Great job, Belle; brava!

(((HUGS))) and much love, your friend in Tx., Karen Lynn. :D

Saving this one to read again and again! :)

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