After fumbling with the aspirin bottle for a few moments, Phillip used his teeth to bite off the top. Cursing, he grabbed 4 aspirins from the spilled contents on the coffee table and took a long drink from the half emptied water bottle, now at room temperature. Kicking off his shoes and removing the revolver from his belt, he laid back on the sofa. He watched intensely at the tiny flecks of dust tumbling and dancing on the small stream of sunlight peeking through the barely closed curtains.
Thoughts of this mornings encounter with Melinda Beecham flooded his mind; in spite of all his best efforts to banish them. Try as he may to block them, it seemed that all the sounds of everyday life going on just outside his window were amplified today. He heard the children squealing with laughter at some silly game. The neighbours dog barking incessantly; no doubt at a squirrel or cat that dared invade his domain. Dave across the street banging and clanking on the motor of that car he was hoping beyond all hope to restore one day. Phillip closed his eyes and let his thoughts drift off to happier days.
The years fell away as Phillip drifted deeper and deeper into his daydream and the chance encounter that would forever change his life. Phillip had gone with his buddies to the bowling alley for beers, bullshit and laughs. Just a few lanes down were a group of girls in candy pink bowling jackets with The Marymount Maulers emblazoned across their backs. He and his buddies had cajoled their way through more than a few pints when one of the guys made the unfortunate remark, quite loudly, that the Marymount Maulers looked more like the Marymount Mini Mice!
A tall blonde and a rather petite dark haired girl turned and glared at Phillip and his friends. The dark haired girl with large brimmed glasses reminiscent of Jiminy Cricket boldly strode over to Phillips table. The guys immediately stopped talking and you could hear a pin drop. Staring directly into Phillips eyes, she placed her hands on her hips and stated as loud as she could for all to hear that as they talked the talk, maybe they would like to walk the walk and accept a challenge from The Marymount Maulers to see just who the true mice here were!
The guys roared with laughter and gladly accepted the challenge. However, Phillip did not laugh. His eyes were locked on this feisty little woman standing before him. Pure defiance and courage in such a little package. She had dark blue eyes and frizzy dark hair, pulled back in a rough ponytail. Her features were as fine as a porcelain doll and the name Rose was stitched across her left shoulder. Rose he thought; how fitting in that pink jacket.
The men learned the meaning of the word “mauled” that day. Bruised male egos abounded while the rest of the patrons of the bowling alley stopped to watch these brash young men get their butts kicked. And the Marymount Maulers did not let them down. But all through the game, Phillip could not take his eyes off of the young girl named Rose. And more than once, he caught her looking at him with a sly smile.
It all started that day, so long ago. And Phillip returned, time and again to that bowling alley with and without friends to secretly see the girl he fell madly in love with. Rose Marie. Although she always really hated her name and tried to supplant it with the more familiar Marie, Rose had stuck. Her friends and family would have no other name for her. Her parents being devoted listeners to Rosemary Clooney songs during her conception, decided to name her Rose Marie. And thus, Rose it was and would be always. She was quick to laugh, and even quicker to cry. Although strong in most things, she had an overly sensitive side to her. With sparkling wit and an insatiable desire to devour any and all reading material she could come across, she was the exact opposite of Phillip. He feigned interest during dinner as she droned on about her newest found literary geniuses. The words did not matter to Phillip. As long as he could be with Rose, he would endure anything. He would move mountains for her, and would do so gladly. She was his world.
Days turned to weeks, and the weeks to months, and their love grew. Phillip found himself impatient to return home to their meager apartment after work simply to be with Rose. Their embraces at the front door, once closed, were mind shattering! They would listen to Carly Simon and drink cheap wine and dream. Money was tight, but their love was strong and they needed very little. Nights of passion were the norm and giggles and tickles at sunrise when a full day of work beckoned were not uncommon. The idyllic days of a young married couple in love marched on.
Phillips promotion to Foreman and Roses promotion to Assistant Chief Librarian brought much needed funds and a desire for Rose to start a family and find a new home. The evenings of experimental food, and more expensive wine, while Carly Simon sang about vainess, came to an abrupt halt the night Rose refused a glass of wine. Phillip asked if she was well. Rose responded with a big smile that pregnant women should not drink! They hugged and cried, and sat quietly in the candlelit living room as Phillip rubbed Roses stomach and repeated over and over how much he loved her.
The pregnancy was not an easy one, and the doctors advised Rose and Phillip that this would be their only one. Although devastated, they decided that this child would be the most cherished child the world has seen. And perhaps in a year or two, they might consider adopting a brother or sister for her or him.
Rose looked very tired and weak holding the infant daughter in her arms. A daughter. Dark hair and pink skin with delicate little features. Her name was Carly. Once again their lives were forever changed. Their home was filled with toys and songs and books as Carly grew into a young girl. She had her mothers’ love of books and her fathers no nonsense attitude towards life. Though a natural beauty, she had no awareness or considerations of such things. She loved her friends unconditionally, and they loved her in kind. Try as Phillip would, she could not see the world as a dangerous place. She loved all, and was convinced that through love and understanding, she could change the world.
Those were wondrous years, and Rose seemed to grow more beautiful with every birthday. She delighted in being Carlys best friend, and ganging up on old gruff Dad, attempting to change his cynical ways. The years flew by and Carly was now a college sophomore. Her beauty and easy going manner concerned Phillip, and more than one dinner conversation ended with Carly asking that her Mom intervene and get Dad to chill out. And Rose would always grab Phillips hand and reassure that all was well. Phillip would take solace in that and lightly kiss Rose and agree. Carly would roll her eyes in dismay at the expression of love of such an old couple at the dinner table. And though Carly attended a lot of parties, she always came home early, and sober, which made Phillip and Rose very happy that their little girl was outgoing and well adjusted but also well grounded and wise. But, all that changed one dark and rainy Friday night. It was a call that no parent should ever receive.
Phillip reached out to answer the phone knocking books and glasses to the floor and listened to the caller.
“ May I speak with Mr. or Mrs. Preston please? ” As Phillip assured him that he was, in fact, Mr. Preston, the caller continued.
” Mr. Preston, I am Dr. Goldbloom. I am the Physician in charge of emergency services here at Marymount General Hospital. May I ask you, do you have a daughter named Carly? ”
A wave of panic clutched Phillip as he wildly grabbed for the table light.
“ Yes, she is my daughter. What happened ? ”
“ Phillip, who’s on the phone? ”
Rose saw the look of panic on Phillps face and started to yell, “who’s on the phone Phillip? Where is Carly? ”
Phillip tried to listen to the doctor as Rose kept yelling over and over about Carlys whereabouts till he turned to Rose and blurted out, “ Rose, for Christs sake be quiet! ”
Rose immediately burst into tears and stumbled out of bed to get dressed.
“ Mr. Preston, I’m afraid there has been a terrible mishap. Your daughter is here in intensive care. I wish I had more positive news to give you, but at this time, it doesn’t look good. I will be available to talk to you when you arrive. I am truly sorry Mr. Preston. ”
Phillip jumped out of bed and dressed as Rose raced about the house in total panic, wailing my baby, my beautiful baby. Phillip tried his best to comfort Rose as he quickly ushered her out of the house into the car.
“ You’re going to have to calm down Rose. It seems something has happened. I’m not quite sure what, but I am sure that Carly would not want to see her Mom this way! Everything will be alright. She is in very good hands. ”
The ride to hospital was done with total oblivion to any other vehicle on the road as Phillip raced on. Rose simply cried and whimpered over and over again, Carly, my beautiful baby. Phillip and Rose ran into the emergency room where they were met by a nurse who asked them to follow her upstairs to intensive care. Rose was ashen and shaking uncontrollably as they exited the elevator. A doctor in a white smock was standing outside intensive care talking to a tired looking man wearing a rumpled suit.
“ Dr. Goldbloom? Where is my daughter? ”
Phillip realized that Rose was not beside him. He turned to see her standing beside the elevator door, unable to move, tears streaming down her face. He went back and put his arm around her shoulders.
” It’s going to be alright Rose. Come on now, be brave. ”
In the anteroom beside intensive care, Dr. Goldbloom explained that Carly had taken a massive heart attack after consuming drugs. By the time the ambulance arrived, the damage was too great. She was on life support, but declared brain dead. All hope was lost.
Rose and Phillip sat, numbed from the news, till Rose started smacking Phillip wildly.
“ You said it was going to be alright! You lied! I hate you, I hate you, I hate you! “
Dr. Goldbloom and the man in the suit gently pried Rose off of Phillip who had sat there, taking the beating, without even wincing. The last goodbye to Carly was too unbearable for Phillip and Rose. A room filled with tubes and machines and a solemn nurse who sat at her desk, darkened but for one lamp that barely illuminated the paperwork she was aimlessly rummaging through. One last gentle kiss, and Rose and Phillip were handed Carlys personal effects. Rose was never the same again.
The days that followed seemed unreal; dreamlike; a dream from which there is no waking. The funeral, the flowers, the sandwiches and coffee, the ministers kind reassurances of Carly being at peace in a better place. None of that mattered.
The card that the man in the suit had given to him that night at the hospital was from the Marymount Police, Narcotics Division. Phillip stared at it over and over again. Carly never took drugs. How did this happen? Little to no information was given to Phillips repeated requests at the police station. No information was available at all.
Rose continued her downslide into hell as doctor after doctor and medication after medication failed to restore her. She had become a shell of her former self, and no family member or friend could pull her out of it. Genuine concern for her physical health became paramount, and Phillip was losing way too much work to stay home with her out of fear that she may harm herself.
Three months to the day that Carly was buried, Phillip received a telephone call at work. Rose was dead. She had swallowed a combination of medications.
Alone, on the couch, revolver on the coffee table, Phillip wept like a child. He was alone. Rose was gone. Carly was gone. He was a man with nothing left to lose. He looked at the revolver. It would be over in a second. No one would care anyways. And he would not have to live with these memories anymore! As he reached out to the gun, the phone rang.