The following was heavily inspired by this cover of Unchained Melody – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V1Upq3Hy6Ow
Jacob had been humming all morning. He had made coffee, eaten breakfast, and mowed the lawn, humming the entire time. He had driven to the hardware store with the radio on, humming a song that wasn’t playing. Jacob had an earworm.
He set aside his shears and took off his hat, raking fingers through curly brown hair. The sun beat relentlessly down, urging him to go inside and watch the game. Maybe with a cold beer. But inside held too many memories. Outside offered bone-tiring yard work and maybe the chance to sleep tonight. As he picked up his shears, he was humming again.
Hours later, but all too soon, the half acre back yard was pristine. Jacob dragged himself into the house and straight to the guest suite. He avoided looking at the closed door that led to the master bedroom.
As hot water from the shower beat down on him, his humming transformed, “Oh, my love. My darling.”
He choked on the next line, pressed his head against the tiles, and gave in to the sobs he couldn’t yet entirely avoid. One hand reached out and shut off the hot water. A freezing blast slammed into his back. He gasped, no longer wrenched with grief, and stood in the arctic abuse until his shivering became spasms. When he crawled into bed, he was suitably tired and numb enough to slide into oblivion.
Emma listened to Jacob move around the second floor. She heard him crying and knew she could offer no comfort. It tore her apart. She had loved him for most of her life. To see him hurting so badly and be helpless was a hell crafted just for her. She wandered from the living room to the kitchen to the patio doors. He’d always been good with the lawn. Green growing things seemed to curl up and shy away from her, but Jacob could make a garden sing.
She looked up as the shower shut off. Her shoulders sagged. She shouldn’t go to him. She couldn’t go to him. It wouldn’t do any good. And so, she wouldn’t go to him, even it if tore her heart out.
“And time goes by so slowly.”
Monday morning dawned bright and promising. A cool breeze kept the summer sun reasonable. Birds sang their cheerful songs and flowers blossomed in batches of startling colour. Jacob paused as he unlocked his car. He needed to at least acknowledge joy in the world, even if he couldn’t quite reach it yet.
He wasn’t aware of humming again. Not until the incessant morning chatter on the radio annoyed him into shutting it off. The song was back. He sighed, shaking his head. They said you could kill an earworm by listening to the song, but he wasn’t ready for that yet. At the next stoplight, he searched his phone, then connected the bluetooth and hit play. Ministry blasted through the speakers. If anything would clear his head, it was a little Stigmata.
But when he sang along, the words and the melody refused to match, “Lonely rivers flow to the sea, to the sea.”
Emma watched Jacob stop at the car and tilt his head back. It was good to see him take a deep breath and soak in the light. A weight settled back onto her shoulders as he drove away. They hadn’t exchanged a single word in more than a week. Tears filled her eyes. She climbed the stairs and slipped into the guest room.
He hadn’t made the bed. Of course he hadn’t. She was honestly surprised he managed to wash the dishes and take out the trash. From the look of the bed, he’d had a horribly restless night. The covers were kicked half onto the floor and the sheets had all pulled loose from the mattress.
She didn’t care. She burrowed into the mess of linens and closed her eyes.
“I’ve hungered for your touch.”
“Man, you have got to stop humming that song. Now it’s stuck in my head. You watch Top Gun last night or something?” Todd looked disgusted as he refilled his coffee cup.
Jacob laughed, a terrible little sound, “I’m sorry. I can’t seem to shake it loose.”
Todd shrugged, “Eh. We’ll get together and have the whole office singing. Misery loves company, right?” He winced, “How long has it been?”
“A week. A little more.”
“That’s no time at all, son. Are you taking care of yourself?”
It was Jacob’s turn to shrug, “I suppose. How’s Jenny?”
The conversation wandered into safer territory. When Todd went back to his office, Jacob was singing soft under his breath, “And time can do so much.”
Emma paced, her mood shifting from worry to rage. Where was he? Who was he with? It had barely been a week. If he was off with some skank, she was going to lose her grip. He should have been home hours ago. It was well past dark, well past dinner. He was being irresponsible.
She seethed and stormed through the house. A picture of them sat on the fireplace mantle. In a fit, she slapped it, knocking it onto the floor. The sound of shattering glass was soothing. With each passing moment, her anger grew. Where was he? Their first anniversary goblets joined the picture frame on the floor. She moved upstairs, looking for other ways to calm the rising fury, unaware that she was singing.
“Are you still mine?”
Jacob missed the edge of the driveway and bumped over the curb as he aimed the car at the garage. Close enough. He stumbled as he climbed out, trying to stifle a giggle. Todd had insisted on taking him out for a drink after work. One drink turned into two turned into four. They decided the fifth drink should be enjoyed at the strip club across the street from the bar. Jacob didn’t know how much money he lost that night, but the three lap dances were certainly worth it. The strippers had ignored the humming.
He stabbed at the door knob with his key until it finally slid in. One fumbling hand flipped on the light and he was almost instantly sober.
The living room was a wreck. Pillows and cushions were ripped from their place on the couch, shredded and tossed around. All of the knick-knacks and pictures on the mantle were scattered across the hardwood floor, shards of glass glimmering in the light. He blinked several times and carefully stepped in. The TV lay on its back, screen a myriad of broken lines.
Jacob stopped and listened. He had no idea who would do this, or why, but it occurred to him that they may still be in the house. He should call the police. He knew he should. But he still wasn’t thinking very clearly. He grabbed a poker from the fireplace and slowly, carefully, climbed the stairs.
Everything seemed fine on the second floor. It was quiet. The guest suite was empty. The spare room they had used for storage was empty. His home office was undisturbed.
The door to the master suite stood open.
“I’ll be coming home, wait for me.”
Emma stood in the dark, waiting for him. She’d heard him bang into the driveway and bump his way to the house. Her rage had long since calmed, but annoyance flared. Drunk. How charming. She listened to him explore the upstairs and watched him slowly enter the room. He hadn’t stepped foot in here since that night. Neither had she.
She held her breath as he moved to the bed. If he saw her now, there would be nothing but drama. She needed to handle this carefully.
He set down the poker and stared at the bed. With a broken cry, he fell across the perfectly smooth comforter and pulled a pillow close. Harsh sobs filled the air. He curled tighter into the fetal position.
She couldn’t take it anymore. The pain, the grief. Watching him struggle to accept all that had happened. She missed him. She missed his touch and his laughter. She missed being the center of his world.
She stepped out of the shadows and into the moonlight filtering through the window. Her voice was ragged as she whispered, “I need your love.”
Jacob jerked at the sound of Emma’s voice. He had to be dreaming. Or more drunk than he thought. He looked up and his heart stuttered before trying to claw out of his chest.
She stood beside the bed, glowing softly in the near-dark. Her clothes hung from her in ragged, bloody tatters. The left side of her head was caved in and most of her chest was missing. Her left arm hung limp at her side, but her right hand was raising and reaching for him. A strangled plea tore from his throat.
She whispered again, “I need your love. God speed your love… to me.”