A Warm Winter Day

The setting is a graveyard on a sunny, winter day, indicated by a single gravestone downstage, otherwise the stage is bare. C and D are standing over the grave, silently talking to each other, while A and B are able to move around the rest of the stage. C and D are wearing light winter clothing. A and B are dressed in plain clothes, the cool air does not bother them. A is a young father; B is a guide; C is the wife of A; D is a six year old girl.

A: (Begging.) Ten minutes. Just ten more minutes, please.

B: (Emotionless.) No. I told you it is time to go. Or are you trying to get me into trouble?

A: I don’t want you to be in trouble, but can’t we stay just a little while longer. Please. What could ten more minutes hurt?

B:A lot of things can happen in ten minutes. You know the rules. Once a year for one hour. No more. No less. Now come on. We must leave.

A:But look how sad they are, they need me, why can’t I stay just ten more minutes?

B: It will only make them suffer that much more. It will always be “just ten more minutes.” And you will never leave. And they will suffer. Even though they cannot see or hear you, they can sense your presence. You cannot be with them and they cannot be with you. Yet. You must wait again until next year to see them.

A: But they could leave here by then. What if they don’t come back next year? What if they never come back?

B: Then you will wait until they are with you. Time does not last forever on their side like it does on ours. A year will pass in the blink of an eye, ten years in a breath, for you and me. if you are only patient. It is not so bad, you will become accustom to it. They will be gone and then they will be here.

A: But this isn’t living! I don’t want them to be here! I want to be there with them!

B: You know there is no going back. Time only moves forward. Now that you have crossed over, you can live out the life you were never able to. You are meant to fulfill those objectives that were stolen from you. Eventually the pain will ease. For you and for them. Then they will die.

A: But the pain is still here… It’s been a year, but it’s still here. I still miss them. Every time I think about it my heart breaks… And they’ve seem to have forgotten me… after only a year.

B: (Cold with a hint of anger.) You know that is a lie. They visit every Sunday. They bring you flowers and talk to you about the events in their lives. Or have you ignored the Messenger all this time?

A: (Pause. Slowly as if struggling to remember.) They do? I guess they do. Time passes so strangely here… lately it feels like an eternity between each of the Messenger’s visits. At first I refused to hear the messages. Refused to hear what my family was saying to console themselves. I was bitter. It was cruel that I was forced to leave them so early and I didn’t want to hear from them. To be reminded of what I lost… The Messenger was there every time I turned around. And I could not escape him. (Pause.) Then I realized how much I missed them and, suddenly, he wasn’t there. I waited and waited for the Messenger’s next visit. It seemed as if a decade would pass before I had another message…

B: But in your heart you know it was only a week. Every time the Messenger visited you, it was a week after the previous visit.

A: (Startled.) How do you know that? Why do you know that? I thought you were just a guide?

B: It is my job to know everything about you.

A: But why? Why am I important to you?

B:Though I am guide to you in this world, the living world, I am a guide to you in our world as well. I was assigned to you when you first crossed through the gate. I have already accepted my fate, so I was given this job. I am here to help you. You only needed to ask.

A: (Pause.) How long were you there? Before they made you a guide?

B: (Bitterly.) Not long. Only a few hours.

A: You were able to accept this (gestures to himself and the grave) so quickly?

B: That is one way to look at it.

(Pause.)

A: What’s the other way to look at it?

B: It is a punishment.

A: A punishment? For what? What did you do? (Trying to release some tension.) Stay ten minutes too long on your visit?

B: (Pause. Looks over to C and D. Sighs. Turns back to A.) I killed a man.

(A backs away from B, towards his family.)

A: (Starting to rant.) Great. First, I’m dead. Then, I get the psychotic ghost as a guide. What else could go wrong with my death. I turn into a zombie?

B: Now don’t misunderstand me. It was an accident.

A: (Not listening to B.) I was running late. Just running late. Who knew that was a qualification for death?

B: (Pleading with A, trying to make him understand.) I was driving home.

A: I was rushing home from work.

B: It was late.

A: It was this ridiculous meeting.

B: I was tired from working for three days straight.

A: I was late because of a stupid meeting.

B: Our deadline was approaching way too fast.

A: And it was my daughter’s birthday.

B: We only had a week left.

A: How could I miss her birthday?

B: And we’d already had two extensions.

A: She was turning five.

B: There had been too many delays because of small, stupid mistakes.

A: It was snowing and hard to see.

B: I was driving too fast.

A: I knew I should have slowed down.

B: The road was slick with snow.

A: I was going too fast.

B: I closed my eyes for just a second.

A: I took my eyes off the road for just a second.

B: It was only a second…

A: Just a second…

(Together.) Everything went wrong in that one second.

(Pause.)

A:(Again acknowledging B.) I rounded a bend in the road and the car started sliding.

B: I opened my eyes to find that I was in the wrong lane.

A: There was another vehicle around the corner.

B: There was a car coming towards me.

A: It had started to drift into my lane.

B: I was too close to move.

A: I slammed on the breaks, but I kept moving.

(Pause.)

B: It was a head on collision.

A: (Sniffling, crying slightly and ignoring B again.) It was my daughter’s birthday…

B: (Continuing his story, ignoring A’s cries.) I was told the other driver died on impact.

A: (Engaging with B for the moment.) I did. I blinked again and it was over. I can only remember the jolt of the impact and nothing else.

B: (Bitter. To A.) You were the lucky one.  I guess that my punishment began from that instant.

A: (Angry.) Lucky? You’re calling dying lucky? I knew you were psychotic. First you tell me you killed someone and now you’re telling me I was the guy you killed! No wonder you called your job a punishment.

B: Yes! You were luckier than I. (Cold and ranting.)  You did not have to endure the agonizing pain. Of every agonizing breath, killing you further. As your broken ribs ripped your lungs further apart. Of the cold seeping past your skin. Into your bones. Hoping that someone, someone, would come along and save you. Every second dragging on for eternity! (Pause. Defeated.) Knowing that even if someone did save you, your life was over. You had just killed another human being. You were going to rot in a jail cell if you lived. (Pause. To A.) I called out to you. Hoping that you were okay. But only silence greeted me.

A: (Regretting his anger.) I… I hadn’t realized you hung on for that long…

B: I wish I had not. I did not die until the paramedics arrived… A kind young lady was driving home from her boyfriend’s home and called 911 for us… But in the end I was still alone. She had not realized that you were gone and tried to talk to you and comfort you. Your body was easier to reach than mine had been… I heard the sirens as they approached before moving on…

A: (Shocked.) They told me our bodies hadn’t been found for hours… I’m so sorry… (Puts a comforting arm around B’s shoulders.)

B: (Sighs and regains composure. Brushes A’s arm off and takes a few away.) When I awoke on the other side, they told me that I would be a guide to you. I was not given the same comforts as you. I was schooled in the lessons of the otherworld. That was to be my punishment for stealing your life. I had to guide you along and help you to adjust. To help you accept this. It was meant to give both of us closure.

A: But surely you still had messages from your family? Some small comfort to you?

B: I did not have a family. At least not one that cared about me. I was the black sheep of the flock.

A: What about your friends?

B: Again, I had no one. Only work associates who used me to improve their own careers. At my funeral, there was only a handful of people besides the priest. And they only showed up to improve their appearances. (Pause.) Now do you understand why I called you lucky?

A: I’m beginning to, a bit.

B: You have never known the pain of that loneliness until you had passed. You had always been loved. Always had someone be there for you… Even in death you are still surrounded by people who want to do nothing but help you.

A: I (Clears throat.) I had never realized…

B: That not everyone had the perfect life?

A: Yeah… (Getting an idea.) Hey, would you want to watch the game with me tomorrow night? It’s supposed to be the game of the century. And the lounge is always pretty empty.

B: (Taken aback.) But why would you want to do that? With me that is.

A: (Smiling.) Because I’m pretty sure we both need a friend here. And you’re the only person I know around my age on this side. I’m pretty sure the same goes for you.

B: (Warm smile.) I think you are right. I would love to watch the game with you. (Looks at a pocket watch. Sighs.) Well we’ve already been here an extra seven minutes. Go ahead and say a proper goodbye to them before we go. Ten minutes will not get me into any more trouble than seven will.

A: Really? (B nods.) Oh thank you. (Hugs B. Walks downstage to gravestone and kneels in front of D, giving her a hug.) Hi again girls. I know that you can’t really hear me. But I hope that you both know I’m here.

D: (She is unable to see or feel A. Looks up and says to C.) Mommy. Is daddy with us when we visit him? Does he know we’re here?

C: (Small smile to D.) He’s always with us, honey. Even though we can’t see him anymore, he is always with us. In here. (Points to D’s heart.) And I’m sure he knows that we’re here too.

D: (Seriously.) Do you think he misses us?

A: (Forgetting that they cannot hear him.) Of course. I miss you both very much.

C: I’m sure he does. But he also knows that we will see him again someday.

(Pause.)

D: (Curiously.) What do you think Heaven’s like?

A: (Eagerly.) It’s wonderful, honey. You can have all of the toys you want. And they will never break or get boring. And you can check in on the people you leave behind. You can rest easy knowing that they still love you and miss you as well.

C: I think it’s a place where you will never need to want anything and you will always be happy.

D: I hope daddy is happy. He didn’t get to take his toys with him.

C: I’m sure he is getting along fine with the new ones he was given.

A: You would love the new toys I have been building for you, sweetheart. I have my bedroom covered in little toys now.

D: (Brightly.) I want to make toys like daddy did someday. Do you think you could teach me mommy?

C: I can try and teach you, honey. I was never much good at that though. We’ll have to ask grandpa to help. He’s the one who taught your dad.

D: I would like that. I want to be like daddy and make toys for the other kids.

A: (Beaming.) That is a wonderful idea, sweetheart.

C: (Smiling.) I’m sure daddy is very happy knowing that you want to help people like he did.

(Pause. A gets up and pulls B over to his family. B looks puzzled but doesn’t say anything.)

A: I know you two can’t hear us. But I want you both to meet my new friend. He doesn’t have a family, so I would be happy if you two would think of him when you think of me too. He’s lonely and would like to hear some messages too.

B: (Surprised.) Wha—

A: (Jokingly.) Shush you. Just listen.

D: I hope daddy was able to make up with the person that hit him. They must have both felt really bad about what happened.

C: (Confused.) What makes you say that, honey?

D: Well you said that they were both driving bad and that I should never drive when I’m tired or to drive too fast. Right?

C: That’s right, honey. That’s why your dad crashed.

D: Well, that’s why I hope they made up. Because they were both doing something they shouldn’t have. Neither of them meant what happened.

C: (Smiling.) I think your dad would be very proud of you, sweetheart. You’re very kind to people you don’t know. (Hugs D.)

A: (To B.) Do you see?

B: (Tearing up.) Yes. You wanted her to think of us as the same. To not think of me as the “bad guy.”

A: Mhm. I realized when I was talking about the toys that she could understand my feelings. Even though she couldn’t understand me, she understood the feeling of joy I get when I think about making toys.

B:  I think that because she is so young, your daughter is able to sense our presence more than adults. You are certainly lucky that you can still share something with her.

D: Mommy? Next week can we visit that person also? I want to say that I’m not mad about the accident. I know it wasn’t on purpose.

A: That’s my girl.

C: If that’s what you would like to do… ( D nods vigorously. Sighs.) Then I don’t see why that would be a problem.

D: ( Looks back towards her father’s grave.) Good. Everyone needs a friend to talk to them.

B: (Bows head.) I do not know how I could ever thank you for your kindness.

A: You just need to be my friend. (Pause.) You made me realize that I’ve been selfish this past year. Even though I’m gone, I still have the love of my family. And that has kept me going. I don’t know what I would have done if I’d been in your position. If anything, I should be the one asking for you to forgive me. Like you said before, we were meant to help each other in this.

B: After all this, we are still in the boat together. Except now we know how to get along.

A: (Laughs) Yeah, I think you’re right.

B: (Looks at watch again.) I’m sorry to say, but we really must be going now.

A: I think you’re right.

(Pause. A and B continue move back to their original positions watching C and D for another moment.)

C: (Looks at watch.) I think it’s about time to go, honey. We don’t want to be late for our own party.

D: I guess so.

C: All of you friends will be happy to see you. And your cousins are driving a long ways just for your birthday. (Beat.) Don’t you want to see them?

D: I want to see them, mommy. I just wish daddy could see them too.

C: I know, honey. I miss your father too. (Sigh.) It’s been a long year.

D: (Pats C’s arm.) It’s okay, mommy. We’ll see daddy again. I think he would want you to be happy. You still have me.

C: You’re right, sweetie. Daddy would want us to be happy that we still have each other.

B: I am sorry. It is time to go.

A: I know.

C: We really need to go now. Say goodbye to your father, honey.

D: (Smiling.) Goodbye daddy. We’ll see you again next week.

A: Goodbye, sweetheart. I love you.

D: I love you, daddy.

Fin.

* * *

If you enjoyed this short fiction, be sure to check out my other works under Short Stories.

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Copyright ©  Sibille Rose – October 2014

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