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Coren GravesJune, 21 2015

He woke with a start as if shaken from a bad dream. He sighed with relief when he saw her form lying beside him, draped in a soft blue glow from the light of morning. As her eyes opened she smiled lovingly and moved closer under the blanket. He hung his arm over her, fighting back the cold of the Michigan winter.
“I dreamt you left.” he said, his throat still tight from panic.
“I didn't.” she countered playfully and kissed his forehead.

Closing the heavy storm door he made his way back to the kitchen, thumbing through the mail. It was more hospital bills, sympathy cards, insurance forms, and other letters he wasn't prepared to face yet. A sizable pile had formed in the weeks since the accident.
“You can't put it off forever.” she urged with care.
“I know. I won't.” he argued, mostly with himself. “I'm just … one day at a time.” His eyes pleaded with subdued desperation. She reached her hand out, her fingers cold on his skin.
“Take your time.” she said.
“You haven't touched your food.” He said with concern noticing the still full bowl of oatmeal he had made for her. “Not hungry?”
“I haven't much of an appetite.” she said touching her stomach. Worry washed over his face.
“Are you alright? Is something wrong?” he asked, half standing from his chair.
“I'm fine.” she giggled. “I'm just not hungry. I'm fine.” Her reassuring smile calmed his nervous emotions as it always had. He couldn't take his eyes off of her. She had been the one constant in his life. Whatever trouble he faced, she could always soothe his fears.
The phone rang out breaking his hypnotic gaze. They both looked to the flashing red light on the base. Again the phone rang.
“Let the machine get it.” he said anxiously. After another ring the answering machine kicked on, their voices playing through the speaker.
“Hey, this is John … and Abbi” he thought back to when they had recorded the message. “We can't come to the phone right now” they continued, laughing through the greeting as they competed to each be closer than the other to the mic. “Leave a message and we'll be sure to call you back” he said, putting forth his best businessman voice. “Or not” she chimed in. “We will” he countered playfully. “Don't count on it!” she added. “We'll see what happens.” he called out as their voices trailed off in giggles. He remembered that was when she drug him to the ground with an onslaught of tickles.
Beep!
“John.” The moment of fond reminiscence ended abruptly whipping him back into the present. Clark's voice cut through the cold stillness. “John I know you're there. Where else would you be?” His patience and understanding had waned over the last week. His concern turned to apathy. “Work's not gonna extend your leave anymore. You've got 'till Friday then their gonna fill your spot.” He was frozen in place, unready to return to life. His physical injuries had finished healing days ago but his mind needed more time. “Everybody feels bad, man, but … “ He paused, the silence adding to the tension. “Just come back soon, John. You've gotta survive this. Survive for Abbi.” The call ended with a low click, He didn't move. He didn't speak.
“You know he's right.” she said breaking the long silence. Her words cut him and it was clear on his face. She moved close to him, placing a hand on his shoulder. “You have to move past this. Not for me but for you.” Moving behind him, she leaned in and embraced him. His thoughts faded back to the day of the wreck.

The snowfall was heavy and the roads were slick. He drove slower than usual.
“We can get groceries tomorrow.” she offered.
“Yeah, it's getting pretty bad now.” he conceded. “Keep your eyes out for a turn-off.”
He remembered the glow from the other driver's headlights on the thick curtain of snow. It happened too fast for him to react on the icy road. The car lurched backwards with a loud screech of twisting metal. He felt himself leaning back as the car tipped over the edge of the road and slid down the drop-off. The car hit something, starting a violent roll. He remembered glass, snow, and blood in the air then a sudden stop. He faded in and out of consciousness until the medics arrived. The workers struggled to get equipment down the steep hill. While they carried him back up on the stretcher he caught a glimpse of her face before it disappeared within a black, zipper-bound bag.

Now he sat, tear-soaked face, with her cold arms wrapped comfortingly around him.
“You have to survive this.” Her words came with love not frustration. He was silent. “You have to let go. You can still have a good life.” He took her hands in his, leading her to the side to face him.
“You are my life.” he said. “I was nothing without you. I know you're gone. I can accept that.” A genuine clarity shown in him that had been absent since the accident. “But here ... now ... by some miracle you're still with me. Maybe you're just in my head, but you're real to me. I know this won't last forever but I won't let go while I have a choice. Even if you're not really here, this is better than anything I've got waiting for me after you're gone.” He stood and put his hands on her sides. “I will survive, but I'm not leaving you until you're gone.” He gently kissed her frozen lips. Her cold hands softly clasped the back of his head as she kissed back with the passion he had loved her for. For a moment, he felt warmth on her breath.

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