“Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it. You must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it.” ― Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love
Sybil lay under her white cotton duvet, listening to the early morning sounds of farm life. She recognized the crowing of the old rooster near the barn and sighed at the sound of the doves cooing under the roof trusses. She glanced over to where Chris lay snoring gently next to her. She wanted to run her fingers through his pale grey hair but she was reluctant to wake him. What had she done to deserve so much happiness? Sybil snuggled a little deeper under the crisp white linen to enjoy a few more moments of bliss. Her peaceful moment was short lived as the mobile phone on the nightstand vibrated and bounced around to get her attention.
‘Oh my Lord! Not now! Don’t they know how early it is on a Saturday morning? We are trying to sleep!’ ‘I’m so sorry Chris… I didn’t mean to disturb you…so sorry my Love.’
‘Good morning, this is Sybil speaking. Do you have any idea what time it is?’ She paced the bedroom floor, shooting worried looks at Chris on the bed.
‘Good morning Ma’am. Am I speaking to Mrs. Sybil Browne?’
‘Yes, yes.. of course you are. I have already told you who I am.’
‘My apologies, Mrs. Browne. This is Myrtle Benning from Visage Promotions. You entered a competition a few months ago when you purchased our full range of facial products. I am very pleased to tell you that you are our prizewinner and you have won a romantic trip to Paris for two people. You….’
‘Are you kidding me? Are you sure you have the right person? Sybil Browne? Woo hoo!’ Sybil catapulted onto the bed and Chris covered his head with the bedding.
‘Chris.. Chris, we are going to Paris, my Love… to Paris. To Paris. Can you believe this?’ The shiny black cell phone slipped through her fingers and shattered into pieces as it slid across the wooden flooring.
‘When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie,** That’s Amore! When the world seems to shine like you’ve had too much wine, That’s Amore! Bells will ring…’ Sybil danced across the room, her hands flying above her head.
‘Wrong country, my Love.’ Chris chuckled. ‘That’s Italy. We’re going to gay Paris!’
He held her in his arms as they moved in unison across the room. The rays of early morning sunshine tried to sneak in between the soft white curtains to join in on the frivolity.
Sybil stopped abruptly and disentangled Chris’s arms.
‘Oh my goodness Chris! I have to phone that woman back! I got so excited about Paris. I’ll have to put the phone together again…’ Laughter peeled from her belly like excited bells.
‘Let me help you. I wasn’t even aware that you’d entered a competition for Paris. I know that it’s been on your bucket list for so many years…. and now. Wow! Isn’t this exciting? Want to hear a little confession?’ Chris glanced sheepishly at his wife.
‘No Chris, please don’t tell me that you had a steamy affair there once in your turbulent youth?’ Sybil threw back her silver curls as she hurled an embroidered cushion at him.
‘I’m going to get you for this…. I’ll just tickle you until you wet yourself’
Sybil ran for the protection of the bed covers, but Chris intercepted her and they both landed on the soft down duvet, giggling and out of breath, in one another’s arms.
‘Chris you need to promise me something…’ Her eyes darkened
‘You are frightening me now, my Love. What is it?’
Please promise me that you will never ever leave me. Please, please, please just promise me.’
Chris bolted into an upright position as his stomach knotted. Surely, she couldn’t have found out already.
‘Why are you asking me this right now? How can anyone make a promise like that? Where is this coming from? Who have you been speak…..?
‘It’s just that I love you so much Chris and I’ll just never ever survive without you. I hope you know that?’ Sybil held him so tight that he could hardly breathe and he sighed with relief that she could not see the troubled look in his dark grey eyes.
Sybil’s leg twitched as she sat in the back seat of the vehicle bound for the airport. She glanced down at the burgundy leather shopper on her lap and bit her lip.
‘How far do we still have to go?’
The departure hall loomed large ahead of her. She wondered if she could face the frenzy here today. She took a deep breath and moved towards the check-in counter.
‘Good day to you. Are you looking forward to your trip to Paris? I see that you have two tickets. Will the other traveler be checking in soon?’
‘ I…. um, …. yes, I’m sure he will be. Do I have to wait for him? I’d rather just board the plane as soon as I can, if you don’t mind.’ Sybil tapped her fingers on the counter top in irritated anticipation of her boarding pass.
‘Are you alright Mrs. Browne?’
‘Yes, yes thank you, just excited to get to Paris.’ Her voice trembled as she spoke.
‘Enjoy your flight. The agent shook her head and a frown wrinkled her young brow.
Sybil took large steps up the ramp and headed toward the final boarding gate. She was always elegant and composed. Now wasn’t the time. She had to get to the huge white bird waiting on the apron. She held her leather bag close to her chest.
‘Welcome on board.’ Another warm smile on a beautiful young face.
‘Thank you.. so much’, Sybil replied as she tried to catch her breath.
She flopped down into her seat. Sybil opened her bag and placed a small wooden casket next to her on the open seat.
‘My Love… I knew that you would never ever leave me.’
(**That’s Amore Song written by Jack Brooks & Harry Warren)
They stood close together, arms entwined, squinting at the sharp ray of sunlight that projected across the aqua swimming pool.
‘I really do love you, you know,’ Jonathan whispered.
‘I know you do Jon, it’s just that….’ her voice trailed off as they both heard the gentlest plop in the pool.
Their simultaneous exclamation ‘Jeremiah’ shocked them out of the brief tender moment. They rushed towards the pool gate, hoping that the gate was still locked safely. Jonathan got to the pool ahead of Kimberley and wailed as he saw their precious little boy at the bottom of the pool.
‘Why don’t you get him out of there?’ she screamed.
‘You know I can’t swim Jonathan.’ The worst anguish and fear welled up in her chest. She covered her eyes, not wanting to see what Jonathan brought up out of the pool.
Jonathan surfaced with the lifeless body of their first-born.
‘Save him dammit, Jonathan, only you can do this!’
‘Oh God, Kim, I do not know if I can…’
‘Can’t you remember your first aid training….save him, just save him pleeease, I beg you, don’t let him die…’ Sobs wracked her small frame. Droplets of water formed little rivers and trickled off Jonathan’s wavy brown hair onto Jeremiah as he lay peacefully on the paving.
Jonathan hesitated for a moment, as if trying to recall where to start this crucial feat. As if in a wind tunnel, Kimberley heard the muffled sounds as Jonathan struggled. Repeatedly, he tried to raise up some semblance of life.
‘Jeremiah, please wake up! We love you so much!’ Jonathan begged life back into his son’s little body. He took a deep breath and continued resuscitation.
Kimberley rushed over and scooped the toddler up into her arms, rocking him with all her might in a last ditch effort to bring back his little light.
Jonathan circled them both as they howled together in the back yard of their home.
‘We need the paramedics Jon…perhaps they can do a better job and save him…better than us…’ Kimberley motioned to her husband to get inside and summon the emergency services. She continued to rock her baby from side to side.
‘Oh God… he is all that we have and you know how hard we tried to actually get pregnant with him? Don’t you God, don’t you? Please save him for us, I’m begging you…’
Sirens came to a halt outside.
Kimberly was startled by the rushing feet on the paving stones that circled the swimming pool.
‘Ma’m please could you hand us the child? We need to work on him. Give him to me now please.” The middle-aged paramedic pried the mother’s fingers off the child’s body.
‘Please just give us some space now.’ His voice was kind but firm.
Jonathan held Kimberley close to his chest. He could feel her heart pounding nervously in unison with his own. Fear galloped between them.
They turned as one being as they heard the voice of the paramedic.
‘Ma’m, we need to take him with us to the hospital. We are very sorry for your loss.’
‘No, no, no, no! Please don’t take him away from me!’
‘It is okay Mrs. Taylor. You can hold him all the way to the hospital.’ The paramedic sighed as he ushered the distraught mother into the ambulance.
Neighbours, who had gathered to support the couple, cradled Jonathan and promised to escort him to the hospital.
As the ambulance swayed from side to side, Kimberley prayed, ‘I’m not ready to give him to you yet Lord; I’m going to need your help. Please, please don’t expect me to do this on my own.’ she sobbed.
‘I feel so helpless, Jon. I’m not sure how I’m going to survive this’. She stared down the corridors. Her eyes saw nothing.
Jonathan sat on the wooden bench and sobbed into his wife’s lap.
Kimberley got up, dropping her husband’s head on the wooden slats. She nervously paced the floor, staring at the huge black and white hospital clock above her head. Medical staff went about their duties, oblivious of the torment that the young couple had to endure.
‘How much longer Jon? I can’t stand this anymore.’
Jonathan was numb with fear. Numb with the unbearable sorrow that had moved into his chest cavity.
‘I can’t talk to you right now, Kim. I can’t even breathe properly!’ He gasped as he got up and stumbled towards the nurses’ station.
’ Wait Jonathan, they want us to sign off on Jeremiah forever! And they need your …’
Jonathan slammed his fist down on the white melamine top at the nurse’s desk. The Sister on duty grimaced as the files on her desk slid to the floor.
‘Mr. Taylor, I am terribly sorry for your loss…’ She glanced around nervously. ‘But this behavior will not do you or your lovely wife any good.’
She moved around the desk and gently guided Jonathan back to the bench.
‘Losing a child is the worst tragedy ever… and especially when it is such a young one. I am truly sorry…’
‘But Sister, we struggled to have Jeremiah at all. We tried for years to get pregnant with him… what are we going to do now…?’ Kimberley had joined them on the bench.
The Sister patted the grieving mother gently on her knee.
‘God always has a plan my girl…you will see.’
‘We are ready for them now Sister Lucy. The documents are ready.’ A younger nurse approached with a file in her hands and passed them to Sister Lucy.
‘Would you please come with me, Mr. and Mrs. Taylor? You will need to sign these hospital documents and then you are free to leave the hospital.’
Jonathan sat with his head in his hands.
Kimberley moved to her husband’s side and gently touched him as his shoulders heaved with sobs.
‘I am so sorry my Love… but you have to do this. They only need your signature…’