Authors: Ruby Reid
This is a work of fiction. Any names, characters, places, events, and incidents are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons—living or dead—is entirely coincidental.
Lost Hearts copyright @ 2015 by Ruby Reid. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embedded in critical articles or reviews.
Book 1 of the
Unknowns Motorcycle Club
Amanda was never let down by the scenery at the cemetery. No matter what time of the year or the time of day, the weather and the grounds of the cemetery seemed pristine when she visited. The grass was always perfectly mowed, the sky was always clear, and the surrounding trees were perfectly shadowing the edges of the cemetery fence. It was always like this—perfection in this place of death. It was almost as if the caretakers knew she was coming and had cleaned the place immaculately for her visit.
Of course, this was a silly thought. There were more than five hundred bodies buried in Mowery Cemetery and there was no reason for the grounds crew to even know who she was…let alone care about her frequent visits.
As she walked out across one of the aisles between the headstones, she felt like she was moving on autopilot. She’d come here so many times over the last three years. At the start, she had actually kept count but it hadn’t taken long to lose count. Eventually each trip to Mowery Cemetery started to feel the same as the one before it.
And today’s was no different. She approached her husband’s tombstone in quiet reverence. She didn’t bring any flowers because she knew Stephen had hated flowers. Instead, she reached into her pocket and took out a peppermint and sat it on the edge of the tombstone. She smiled as she sat it there, picturing him behind the computer with a peppermint in his mouth. She’d always liked that ghost taste of peppermint candy in his mouth when he kissed her.
He’d been dead for three years and she still missed that. In fact, it was the small things she missed—that caused her that unreachable ache—more than the vibrant memories. This seemed peculiar to her but if Stephen’s death had taught her anything, it was that the human heart had a mind of its own.
“So it’s been three years,” she said, looking to his engraved name. “Three years today, in fact. And the longer you’re gone, the sillier I feel coming out here to speak to you.”
She ran her fingers over his name, wanting to cry but not finding the tears. The sad fact of the matter was that she had not cried over Stephen in nearly a year. It wasn’t that she was over him; it was the exact opposite. In some weird way, she felt that not crying over him meant that he wasn’t really gone...that the car accident that had taken his life had not really happened at all.
Yes, she knew it was a stupid way to think. She also knew it was one of the reasons she had considered therapy. She was well aware of the odd and sometimes depressing thoughts that weighed down in her head when she thought about Stephen for too long. She assumed that being able to recognize such thoughts as rather crazy meant that she herself wasn’t actually crazy.
But she did know there was only one surefire way to quell those thoughts. She had been thinking about it for a while now, especially on the nights when she would wake up to go to the bathroom and then return to an empty bed. She remembered his weight on the other side, the smell of his soap, the sounds of his breathing.
She had spent too long missing those things—slightly obsessing over those things. She had come here today to tell him that.
“Stephen,” she said, now looking to the sky. At twenty-nine years of age, she still wasn’t sure if she believed in Heaven, but she found it easier to consider it when speaking to her late husband out here in the picturesque scenery of the cemetery. “I still miss you as if it was just yesterday that I was standing right here in this very spot watching them lower you into the ground. Some days it’s not so bad, but some days it’s terrible. Some days I can barely make it through a full day of work without wanting to scream. I don’t know if it comes down to that selfish streak we all have…the wanting to scream ‘it’s not fair’ at the top of our lungs or what. All I know is that this feeling…this…this trauma, has defined me for the last three years. And I can’t live like that anymore.
“I told you last time I was here that I had taken the sleeping pills out of the medicine cabinet and thought really hard about just taking every single one. Maybe downing them with a few glasses of wine. I came close, you know. And then the razorblades in the bathtub scenario. They’d both be easy. But in the end I couldn’t. Because I knew you’d be disappointed.”
Then, feeling a bit morbid, she leaned forward and kissed the smooth top of the headstone. She sighed against it and then slowly got to her feet.
“So I realized that in a way, you’re holding me back. You’re haunting me, and I’m letting you. And I know you’d be mad at me for holding on…for refusing to move on. So while you know I’m always going to love you and that I will keep coming here to talk to you…well, I think I have to find that love again. I have to move on, Stephen. I have to find someone else to love—someone else to love me.”
She stood there for a moment and realized she was crying after all. She had no idea where the tears had come from; she thought she had cried herself out in the first year after his death. She supposed they probably came from voicing her thoughts of suicide. While they were thoughts that had evaporated a few weeks ago, they still hung around the darker corners of her mind and flashed a smile every now and then.
“I love you, Stephen. But I have to go now. And I have to move on. I’m so tired of being this lonely.”
She waited, as if waiting for some sort of answer or sign. But she got none. She only got the gorgeous blue sky and the perfectly cut grass all around her.
“Bye, sweetie,” she said, reaching out and touching the gravestone.
She walked slowly away, back down the aisle between countless other loves from lives lost. She looked out to her car parked along the curb and gave a slight smile. It was bittersweet to let Stephen go in such a way, but by speaking to his ghost or his memory or whatever it was she thought she was speaking to when she came here, she had managed to dig up something within her heart that she had not felt in a very long time.
It was a feeling without a proper name but it felt a lot like freedom.
When she pulled out the photo albums back at home an hour later, she wasn’t going back on the vow she had made at her husband’s grave. Quite the opposite, actually. Looking back over their seven years of marriage through photos was a way of cleansing herself…just another way of saying goodbye.
It was Saturday, so she allowed herself to uncork a new bottle of red wine shortly after one o’ clock. She sipped on the wine and watched her and Stephen grow slowly older in the photos: there she was with that God-awful haircut with the ridiculous bangs five years ago; there was Stephen during his weird
I’m growing a beard no matter how dumb it looks
phase; there they were posing at the beach; there they were kissing at an Orioles game.
She managed to get through the two photobooks and the few folders of files on her laptop without crying. When she was done, she stared at the desktop image of her and Stephen sitting in a large cabana on their honeymoon in Jamaica. She smiled at the picture. In it, she was about twenty pounds lighter and Stephen was wearing a smile that had been rare on him.
Slowly, she went through her computer settings and changed the background image. The screen flickered and the picture of her and Stephen was replaced with a scenic meadow in fall. There were pictures of Stephen everywhere in the house, so this one change really didn’t make much of a difference. But it was a baby step. She was proving to herself that she could do this. She could reclaim her life. She could have a “life after Stephen” that might be just as good, if not better, than the one she’d shared with him.
Her pain boiled down to two simple truths, neither of which she was proud to admit even to herself. The first was that she was very much alone. She had a few friends at work but Stephen had been her best friend and they had spent a great deal of their time together, never really needing friends to have a good time. She wanted a male companion—someone to speak to, someone to rely on.
Secondly, she missed being held. She missed being kissed. She missed being pursued in that way women cherish when they first start dating someone they know right away is going to turn out to be someone very special. She’d never get that to the extent she’d had it with Stephen, but she didn’t see the harm in trying.
By dinnertime, she had drank the whole bottle of wine. She didn’t drink often so when the wine was gone, she was feeling very tipsy. She was listening to 80s music at a loud volume while she made herself dinner: steak, asparagus, and steamed carrots. She celebrated the dinner because she told herself over and over again that this would be the last dinner she had by herself…the last dinner where there wouldn’t at least be some indication that a man might at some point in the very near future be a part of her life.
Sunday morning, on a strange impulse, she went to her computer and booted it up while her coffee brewed. She had a slight hangover which she tried to chase away with a tall glass of water and lemon juice. When the coffee was done, she poured herself a tall cup and headed to the computer.
She knew she had to act fast before she chickened out. She felt foolish even thinking such a thing but she couldn’t help but wonder.
She pulled up the first dating website that came up from a Google search. She then clicked
before bothering to read over the home page. Then, sipping from her coffee and feeling warmed by the morning sun slipping through the blinds, she filled out a profile. She uploaded a recent picture of herself for her profile, a picture that, she thought, shower her best qualities: her blonde hair was up in a ponytail, her smile wide and just barely touched with lipstick, her blue eyes sparking in the sun. It had been taken at a work picnic two weeks ago and she honestly couldn’t even remember what she had been smiling about.
She did fine until she came to the part where they asked her what her perfect man was like. She stared at the blank field for several minutes, her fingers hovering over the keyboard. She started typing a few times only to promptly delete what she had written. Then, after about five minutes of this, she typed a single word:
She then closed out the brand new account and killed the browser. She looked to the empty house and tried to think of what to do. A run, maybe. A run would perk her up. And if she planned on hitting the field again and looking for someone special, she could probably stand to lose a few pounds.
She went into the kitchen and poured herself another cup of coffee. As she did, her eyes fell on the bag of peppermints in the pantry. She laughed softly at them before selecting one, unwrapping it, and popping it into her mouth.
God, how she missed his kiss.
As she dressed for her run, she examined herself in the mirror. What she saw wasn’t bad at all and she knew she had the sort of figure most men would grant a second look. But she had never cared about that before because she’d had Stephen. Now she had to reconsider all of that.
She sucked on the peppermint and headed out, doing her best to think of a plan of attack. She thought about it quite hard because she knew the other thoughts that lingered behind it, lurking in the shadows of her mind. It involved the sleeping pills and wine, the razorblades and a hot bath.
And she was not going back there. Not ever again.