The Dark behind the Light – by 14 year old, Jessica Matthews
One of the Tenby Young Writers Group 2017 – I am delighted to introduce this talented young writer – Eloise Williams (Young Adults Author)
10 Years Ago
“Where are you taking me?” laughed a slender young woman in the arms of a larger masculine figure. The smell of freedom whipped past them, dodging the elements until it found its path.
“Guess!” the young man smiled.
“Well, Jack. Seeing as we are climbing a very steep mountain in the middle of nowhere, I am guessing you want to show me something.”
“Ooh, how did you guess?” Jack laughed as he pulled his girlfriend closer to his chest. Further they trekked up the mountain side until Jack stopped. “Tia, do you trust me?” Jack asked.
“I suppose I am going to have to” She lovingly teased back. With that, Jack delicately placed one hand over her eyes and took her hand in his; he slowly started to guide her across the flattest part of the land. One step at a time, one of those steps however was straight in to a loose rock. As Tia began to fall Jack managed to graciously catch her, they giggled as Jack pulled her closer and gave her hand a tender squeeze.
“I didn’t just want to show you something; I also wanted to tell you something.” Jack whispered as he slowly removed his hand from her eyes. As Tia opened her eyes a small gasp escaped her gaping mouth. They were surrounded by cliff edges, above and below them which silenced the hollowing wind ripping through the air. A step away from them was an elegant lake which bewitched even the most cautious of minds. The flourishing greenery growing in the most dazzling of places made the place look like a dream, one of the best fantasy she had ever imagined. A single tear dropped from her cheek; with his thumb Jack gently wiped it away.
“Tia, I have wanted to say this to you for so long and I wanted to find the perfect place. When I first met you, I thought I had met an angel. You were the light in my darkness; you guided me to the gates of heaven. Without you I don’t know how I coped, when I thought you were going to leave me I thought my whole world had ended. But you came back, with your halo flashing brighter than every star. Baby, I love you and I want to be with you forever.” Jack whispered, a tear also escaping from his watery baby blue eyes.
“An angel hey, could you not come up with anything better?” She laughed, tears rolling down her beloved face.
“Well, if you want me to do better, how about this?” Jack leant down and placed one knee on the rocky floor. Tia watched in ecstasy and began to jump up and down with more overjoyed tears. Jack reached in to his pocket and pulled out a small silver box lined with ribbon. “My darling Tia Murphy, would you like to be my wife?” He grinned.
“Yes!” Tia shrieked back. Once the ring was on the finger they both pulled each other in to a kiss in this valuable utopian spot. In this blissfully isolated dream, the reflection of a couple in the lake showed the beauty of love and when there is love in life then that is a life worth living.
10 Years Later (Nowadays)
From the start I knew I loved her, I knew I would never stop loving her. They say forever is a long time but that’s only when your alone, without her it would be an eternity but lucky for me I have the woman I love. We always dreamed of growing old together, with our white manes and comfy armchairs. After we got married we decided to live where I had proposed to her, we built a grand house and together our love echoed louder than anything I know. On our 5th anniversary I bought her a golden retriever puppy, she was over the moon, the love and compassion shone in her eyes like the sun. For a while I suspected she loved it more than me but she just treated it like her own child. We weren’t ready for kids as we wanted to embrace life ourselves first. Maybe in the space of forever we will one day choose the life of havoc and tantrums. Up on the mountains we were in our own little paradise that no one knew about. It was our own heaven and she was my angel in the flowing white dress.
Our life was a dream, it didn’t feel real. Our love blossomed like the gods had truly blessed us, perhaps it was just luck but I prayed we would never lose it however with my special lady I felt invincible, up here in our own Shangri-La. Every morning I would plant a kiss on her cheek and move on to her precious smooth lips. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was the luckiest fella on this planet. She made me feel like I was floating through space and time where we had the freedom to confess our love to each other without anyone caring. Our playful pup Max however, he would not mind interrupting us, we couldn’t help but mistake him for our own child some days. We were what you would call ‘one big happy family’ and I would agree with them, always would have.
One day however, I found out I was not invincible; my wonderland I had lived in for so long was becoming a nightmare in which I couldn’t wake up from. But worst of all, my cherished wife would one day become a treasured memory. I still remember every word she said to me, don’t worry she would tell, everything will be all right. I couldn’t help but feel like a child again however this time I could no longer enjoy my ignorance, I had no parents to shield me from the evil of this world, and I only had my own mind to cope with. Even then it felt like I was in a horror story, the world turning out to be some sickening delusion.
Twenty Weeks Ago
“Hey sweetie, how are you today? You look tired.” Jack asked as he walked in to the kitchen to peck Tia on the cheek. She was sitting on a stool on the edge of the counter when she looked up; she had dark bags under her eyes which made her look as if she had aged considerably.
“Yeah, I am okay; I just probably didn’t get enough sleep last night. You know how much like sleeping beauty I am.” She laughed. As she reached over to pick up a piece of crispy toast, Jack noticed a large bruise on her arm.
“How did you do that?” He nodded towards her arm.
“I am not sure, I must have bumped in to something but I don’t remember hitting it that hard” She sighed.
“Give it here and let’s see if I can spread my magic!” Jack laughed and leaned down to sooth it better.
“Max has been acting really strange around me recently, I had some pain in my joints and he keeps resting his head on paws on those areas. I wonder if he’s trying to be nanny from Peter Pan!” She laughed with a shrug.
“I am sure he is only trying to look after you! How long have you had the pain for? I am certainly no doctor but maybe you should see one?” Jack suggested.
“Well, I have had it for quite a while but I am sure it’s just old age creeping up on me! I will have to buy a walking stick soon! Saying that does my hair look like it’s starting to go grey?” She replied.
“Of course not! Now you’re just being silly, you’re only thirty for crying out loud!” They laughed.
Eighteen Weeks Ago
“Tia, please go to the doctor, you’re not well and you know it!” Jack pleaded with her.
“No, I am fine just stop worrying, it’s probably nothing.” She replied firmly.
“No! You have barely eaten recently, you have gotten so thin and have lost so much weight, and you can’t tell me that being like that is healthy. Not to mention you have had multiple fevers. You know that this isn’t right. You have been fit and healthy for most of your life.” Jack objected.
“Fine! Tomorrow we will go to the doctors to stop you from nagging me!” Tia shouted. She hated to shout at him, but she was so worried. She didn’t want to go the doctors because she knew in her heart that something was wrong. She just wished that her true love would never find out, when everyone told her ignorance was bliss she used to think it was a lie. However everyday she was starting to fear that it was true. She unfortunately would never get that heavenly option, but with all her soul she wanted Jack to.
The Next day
Tia and Jack together they ventured down from their mountain home back to reality and back to the world. The loveable Max pouncing around behind their heels, his tail wagging furiously at the thought of going for a walk. Tia however nervously clutched on to Jack’s hand, they walked in silence as they tried to hope that everything would be fine and that the gods would once again show the light in their favour. Only time would tell Jack thought to himself, if anything was wrong he could fix it, like the time when a window had smashed, or a light bulb had exploded. He was the handyman, always on to fix anything that needed to be fixed or improve anything that could be improved. This time, this moment, he had no control of what would happen.
They sat in the doctors waiting room in silence, it seemed strange compared to all the coughing and sneezing that seemed to make it feel like a radiation zone. When it was finally their turn to see the doctor they both explained the recent symptoms and the decision was made to have a blood test. He came in with a sharp needle and test tubes to his side.
“This will only feel like a slight scratch” the doctor explained calmly. Tia held out her left hand and looked in to Jack’s eyes, his glistening clear eyes. She prayed every day that she would spend the rest of her life with him. The needle slowly crawled in to her skin, piercing the vein. The feeling was strange but she just bit her lip and continued to stare in to her lover’s eyes. Jack also started and squeezed her other hand, he had always adored her qualities but he especially loved her bravery and how she looked like she was so powerful and strong.
“All done” The doctor praised. Tia felt the needle slowly retreating from her skin and cotton wool being pulled over the blood spot. She breathed a sigh of relief and Jack took her hands in his and lightly placed a kiss on them. “The results should hopefully be back in a couple days, it is only a possibility that it could be anything severe but to make sure we will send these off to the labs” The doctor smiled helpfully.
Four Days Later
“Tia, there’s a letter for you; I think it’s from the doctors!” Jack shouted. He walked in to the kitchen and passed the letter to her. She murmured thanks to him and slowly started to tear open the envelope. Her eyes scrolled across the letter and her face began to fall, her hand rose to her mouth and she looked up to Jack.
“What? What does it say” Jack cried snatching the letter and letting his eyes skim through it.
“No, no. It has to be a misunderstanding!” He cried sinking down in to a chair. Tia’s head started to fall and tears ran down her cheek, Jack stood up and closed his arms around her.
“It’s going to be fine, it’s not that bad” She murmured, tears sparkling over her cheeks like crystals.
“I love you so much, don’t you dare forget that” She stared in to Jack’s eyes.
“No, don’t you dare say that! You are not leaving me, you hear that!” He cried.
The Next Day
Once again, they sat in the waiting room, this time knowing what the problem was.
“I am so sorry; if you get the right treatment then you have a large chance of survival.” The doctor announced.
“But are you sure it’s cancer? It could be something else right! You must have made a mistake.” Jack replied, desperately trying to find a solution to a sickening problem.
“I am sorry, but there is a nearly 80% survival rate in leukaemia patients. So if we get you help such as chemotherapy then there is a very low chance that you will die. It is cancer of the blood or bone marrow.” The doctor told them. The shock was unimaginable, cancer was a murderer and killed innocent people as if they were bugs.
Six Weeks Later
I knew she was strong, my beautiful Tia. When we first saw the letter I could see the fear in her eyes and knew that it was bad news. She was a fighter, my fighter. I could no longer protect her from this cruel world, but she never needed me to protect her she just liked to make me think I did. My brave baby I call her, we went through eleven weeks of chemotherapy when they found out that her body had been rejecting the treatment. The cancer had grown stronger than they would have imagined. I once again saw her frightened eyes, like a terrified child looking for someone to protect it. I tried my best to protect her and still am. It was like a knife to the heart when the doctor took us in to a special room, he told us slowly but it never did truly sink in.
“There’s nothing else we can do. The cancer has spread to other parts of your body and we won’t be able to eradicate it. I am so sorry.” The doctor told us, sadness in his eyes. Nobody liked being the bearer of bad news especially if it was between life and death. This time it was death, the world suddenly seemed to get a lot darker and crueller.
Tia was allowed to come home to spend the rest of her days; I couldn’t believe I am saying those words. They sound so innocent and yet there is such a darker meaning behind it, one which I will never be able to comprehend. My poor wife, she looked so fragile, like a delicate ornament that could be smashed any second. I had to guide her from room to room and became her full time carer, she always looked so tired and I knew she hated having me look after her, she always loved being independent. Now she could barely even lift a spoon to her mouth, I loved her though and I always made an effort to make her comfortable. I never wanted to let her go; I didn’t intend to and never will.
Four Weeks Later
She looked more fragile than ever, she was lying down on the sofa snuggling a blanket. The doctor came around and took me in to a room, he told me that she might not have long left and should perhaps start making arrangements. I felt tears start to sting my eyes and looked away. With the time she had left I decided to make the most of it. One evening when we were outside looking out over the cliff tops, me standing up and Tia sitting in a wheelchair huddled in a blanket. She inspired me, even though she had been through so much, she was so brave and said some wise words that I never expected to come out her mouth.
“So I have been thinking” She announced.
“Well, firstly that’s dangerous” I laughed. There was always room for humour even if it was poorly timed.
“Well, death is not the end, only the beginning of a new story. And grief will one day fade and only happiness will remain however it just takes time as it is one of the greatest healers but is also mistaken as one of the most brutal destroyers.” She told me while staring into the distance and watched as the sun began to set. I was truly touched and the words began to circle in my head, these were the words that I would never forget.
“I love you Tia, and I love that wonder filled mind of yours.” I commented.
“Jack, you promise that you will never forget me right.” She stared at me, my eyes began to water and I knelt down and kissed her on the forehead. I used to believe that if I planted enough kisses, one day they would all grow to become one big wall that could defend us from all the troubles of life.
“Of course I will! But you do not need to ask me! You are not giving up and you are going to keep fighting. I am not going to let you give up, okay?” We both let the built up tears escape our grasp as we cuddled together, Max nuzzled his head on top of Tia’s lap and in return she stroked his head, she smiled graciously and I knew how much they would miss each other. Our moments were priceless and I wanted to cherish them forever. I wanted to wind back time when everything was okay but sometimes we don’t have that luxury in life, we can only dream and those who do have a harder time finding it back to reality.
Two Weeks Later
I knew she was a fighter, a fighter never loses they always used to tell me. A fighter, someone who never gives up and she truly were. But this game she lost, it was a peaceful loss and she took it kindly as if it was a gift. I suppose in some ways it was, she was no longer in pain, she no longer needed to be pumped with drugs now she could just be in peace and sleep for a long time. I found her in the morning, she was lifeless. I scooped her in to my arms as I cradled her, the doctors were on their way but she didn’t need their services, she was already gone. Bitter tears dropped from his eyes, she was gone. He couldn’t believe it. I vowed to meet her again one day, wherever she was I would find her in the afterlife. I knew she was watching me though; she was always the best at looking after me. If she was here she would tell me to be brave, like I used to tell her.
When the doctors finally came they gave me permission to bury her near the house. They took her cold body though until I got the arrangements sorted. I dug her grave myself; I didn’t want a stranger to do it. I wanted to put all my love in to giving her a goodbye that would be special and make her happy. Max sat and watched occasionally coming to give me a cuddle. He missed her as well, I sometimes found him looking around the house for her, but it wasn’t until her coffin was lowered in to the grave that he finally realised. Every morning I found him sitting there, at the edge of the grave with his chin resting on the soft newly placed earth. We all missed her.
I found a large rock and began to engrave a poem that I had created for her. It told of our life story and my love of drinking especially my love of toasting random things, she knew how much of a terrible writer I was but I think she would have liked it.
And the dog,
No troubling children yet,
Just the love and compassion,
It never faltered for a second,
When the hard times came and went,
Our love burned just the same,
But fate made this end,
Good times never last,
Goodbye my love,
I laid the stone on top of her grave and also placed the most beautiful flowers I could find. She had changed my life and for that I thanked her, I just never realised that even when she was gone she would continue to change my life.
I climbed to the top of the cliff; I looked up and stared at all the glistening stars in the sky. I found the brightest and knew that it was my Tia staring down and watching me. Her words she had told me reminded me of all the touching moments we had had together, the good and the bad. Without a word I pulled out a flask and toasted to her, a while ago I had thought about jumping but a life with love is a life worth living as the phrase goes. Even though she was no longer with me I could feel her presence everywhere I went, she wouldn’t have wanted me to jump because of her. Instead I took a swig and made plans for the future; in memory of her I wanted to create the perfect place for other people who had illnesses like hers to go when there was no other solution. I wanted to share our paradise, I knew she would have approved. Nobody deserves to die in an ugly hospital knowing that there is no way out, instead they could come here and live the rest of their days in a peaceful place
where reality couldn’t hurt them.
I am glad I didn’t jump; I wanted to dedicate my life to helping other people. She was right, death is the start of a new story and my new chapter was about to begin.