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Meredith Linden, 11 Jun '13

When Alex returned to Juliet that summer six years ago, she was spent. Juliet could tell the moment she opened the door and made eye contact. They hadn't spoken in 15 years. It didn't seem to matter to Juliet. She felt like a cliché; it felt like she'd just been in Alex's arms without even a thought of goodbye. Juliet scanned the road in front of her house but didn't see a car. All Alex had with her was a small, not-quite-full backpack, a pair of tattered capris, sneakers, a faded t-shirt, and a mess of blonde hair.

Nothing was said at first. Juliet reached out and gently held Alex's hand to guide her into the house while wondering how she'd found her. Since Alex had left all those years ago, Juliet had lived in quite a few states before finding herself back in Nebraska where they first made their home. Juliet guessed maybe Alex knew her after all; and Juliet had thought her ex was always thinking of herself. She felt a softness open in her belly despite her internal protests. They hadn't exactly parted enemies, but Juliet was left to clean up a mess of hurt feelings. She didn't suppose Alex had any.

Alex had left with her band; music was her calling. She hadn't given even two glances back at Juliet as she was leaving. It was her dream to tour the world and play music all day long. Juliet thought at one point maybe Alex's dream included her, too, but found the truth out the hard way.

Juliet led Alex down the hall to the spare room and helped her undress. Alex was weak, but Juliet wasn't sure from what.
"Do you want to get cleaned up or just lie down first?" asked Juliet.
Alex nodded her head imperceptibly.
"Ok. One question at a time. Do you want to get cleaned up?"
Alex nodded while staring at the floor.

Juliet noticed the scars on Alex's belly and near her armpits. One of them was relatively fresh, within the last month. Juliet didn't want to intrude or force Alex to run again so she said nothing and led her to the bathroom. Giving her a towel and some privacy, Juliet left the bathroom and walked down the hall and out the front door. She breathed deeply for a while and watched the clouds slip by overhead. Whew, she thought. That was the last thing I ever thought would happen in my day.

After a meal and some tea, Alex hit the bed. Juliet found the house energy a little strange but tried to push it away, knowing Alex could be gone by the time she woke in the morning. Roni hadn't said much at dinner, a thank you and that she was glad to see Juliet. With a million questions spinning in her head, Juliet focused on the moment, the food, and not the future. She just had to wait and see where this went.

Juliet heard a knock on her door and looked at the clock. 7:13 AM. The door was already ajar and after orienting herself to being awakened so early, Juliet remembered the night before. She raised her eyes to meet Alex's. Though cleaned up, she still looked exhausted from head to toe.

"Hey girl," said Juliet. "How did you sleep? Come here."
Alex sat on the edge of Juliet's bed and handed her a heart on a ribbon.
Juliet's stomach sank. "Yep. I still have it. Haven't had the guts to hang it on a tree yet. It's the biggest reminder I have of what you meant to me."
"Meant?" asked Alex.
"Shit, woman, you've been AWOL for 15 years. I had to move on. In doing so, I tried to ease the pain with forgetting. And here you are, reminding me big time."
"I'm sorry, Juliet," said Alex. "You really have never left my thoughts. I just didn't have the guts to find you. Until now. And even now I'm not sure it's guts. I know it was crappy, the way I left and all. Damn. It's taken me this long to see how shitty. I really am sorry."
"So if it's not guts, what is it exactly?" asked Juliet.
"A lot of things. I don't know where to begin right now. I'm pretty fried."
"Yeah, I kind of figured that. You look pretty fried. What gives?"
"A lot has happened in 17 years, but most of it is the last two. Do you mind if I hang here for a while 'til I can get my bearings? I don't have any idea how long that might be, though."
"I'd love to say, 'yeah sure, no problem,' but I'm not so certain where I am in all this. So for now I will say, sure. Let's take it a few days at a time. Good?"
"Good."

Alex slept a good portion of her time during the day as well as at night. In between, she sat on the window seat and stared out the back windows overlooking Juliet's beloved Mimosa tree. "Jules, you still like that Mimosa tree, hunh?"
"Pretty much."
"I had one outside my window at the last hospital I stayed at in Louisiana."
"When was that?"
"Right before I came here."
Juliet decided to push a little. "And how did you get here exactly? It looked like you rolled your way here."
"Heh," Alex laughed a bit. "Yeah, I was in a state. It took me a few buses and friendly rides."
"How did you know I would be here?"
"I don't know. Followed the Mimosa? Seriously, I guess I figured you'd never left."
"Well, there you're wrong. I've been all over. I just came back here about a year ago. Figured it was as good a place as any to attempt rooting. Guess that's lucky for one of us, or both."

Alex turned and looked out the window. "What's all that stuff hanging in your tree?"
Juliet explained her latest create and purge technique of hanging things she either owned or found in the road on the tree for a while and, when the time came, she dumped it all in the trash. "That's why I couldn't bring myself to hang that heart out there."
"Ah," said Alex.
"Al?"
"Yeah, Jules?"
"What're the scars from?"
"I had to have my ovaries removed and later some lymph nodes. Cancer."
"Shit. Did they get it all?"
"No," she said, still staring out the window beyond the Mimosa.

Until now, Juliet had been sitting at the table behind the window seat. She rose and sat next to Alex, pulling Alex's hands in hers. Juliet tried to get Alex's eyes to see her but she resisted with a vengeance. Juliet felt the tears trickle down. Yes, she still loved Alex very much, but at this point, she didn't need much from her, which meant she could give her what she needed. So she came here to die, Juliet thought. Juliet could do that for her friend, first lover, and precious being. At least, Juliet thought, Alex knew where home was, even after all those years.

Comments · 2

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  • Orlando Ramos said...

    Wow... I don't even really know what to say here. There was really great narration here, and you seem to have a talent for dialogue. But the ending... wow. Great stuff

    • Posted 8 years ago
  • Meredith Linden said...

    Wow. I don't know what to say! Thank you so much. Really that means a lot.

    • Posted 8 years ago