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LOST and FOUND

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posted on Jul, 14 2012 @ 01:26 PM
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LOST and FOUND



PART I

“Please Daddy, just to the park... I'd love to see the wildflowers...”

The man sighed and regarded his tearful daughter as she sat on her bed in the room where she had spent so much time for the past six months. Too much time; time when she should have been out on her bike or at the fitness center, time when she should have been doing all the things high-school senior girls loved to do. But Helen's time this last half year had been spent either at the hospital, undergoing radiotherapy or chemo sessions, or here at home in her room, trying to recover from the ravages of both the disease that afflicted her and the treatments she'd had to endure.

Jack loved his daughter. That sounds clichéd, but it was the simple truth, a truth that only really hit home to him when he went to the specialist with Helen and her mother to get the diagnosis. Was it really only six months ago? Could the world change that much in so little time? Could his daughter's life and all their lives be turned inside out in just those few short but agonisingly long, painful months?

“Please, Daddy,” she repeated. “I feel well enough. Really I do.”

“Helly, you have to rest. You need every last bit of your strength to – to fight your illness.”

It sounded lame even to him, but Jack was caught in that despairing place between wanting his daughter to be free, to be able to do anything she wanted, and the almost instinctive need to protect her and try and shelter her from something he couldn't just grab by the scruff of the neck and hurl away.

Helen bowed her head, the long hair of her wig hiding her face. “I know. But I'm so tired of fighting, Daddy. I'm so tired.”

“Helly...”

“Sometimes I just wish it were over!” she blurted. “Either let me get well or let me die! I hate this... I hate my life. I hate it I hate it I hate it...”

“Sweetheart, please don't say – ”

“Oh – and this thing –” She grabbed her wig in both hands and hurled it across the room.

“Helly, your hair will grow back. And soon you'll be able to do everything you did bef– ”

“I'll never be able to, Daddy.” She looked up at him and her eyes showed something he'd never seen before and it chilled him. It wasn't anger, it wasn't despair or sadness or self-pity, it was a look of absolute Knowing.

Her tone softened as she continued, “There is no soon, there is no later. Don't you see? You have to see.”

Jack couldn't answer that one. He knew – oh yes, he knew, because he'd been told by the specialists almost a month ago that there was very little hope now. They hadn't put it quite in those words but that's what they meant. So he knew, but knowing something and taking it on board were two very different things and in that particular battle between heart and mind, his heart had always won.

Up till now.

Jack felt tears welling up and he couldn't hold them back. He'd always managed before but now, as his daughter forced his mind to win that battle, the tears came. She was his youngest, she was the surprise, the almost-miracle child who came along when his others were already well into their teens. She'd been showered with love by everyone, her three older sisters almost fighting over who would bathe her or feed her or take her out to a park or read her stories, her only brother coming home from college every summer and spending at least a few hours with her almost every day to make up for the lost time while he'd been away studying.

Helen had made them stronger as a family, more together and more loving each for the other than he could ever imagine, and now – now she was going to leave them and Jack cried.

“Daddy?” Helen had never seen her father cry before and it grieved her. Her mother Monika cried often; Helen had heard her at night and seen how her eyes looked in the mornings before she went off to the job she'd taken on to help pay all the bills. But if her father had ever cried, she'd never known about it.

“I'm sorry... I – I'm sorry...”

“Oh Daddy, it's okay...”

Helen got up and went to her father and held him and as he knelt there on the carpet, not even aware that he'd gone to his knees, his daughter held him close and rocked him and spoke softly, words of comfort and calm that he could never recall but in some ways would never forget. The only thing he was able to remember exactly was when she said, “I've not given up, Daddy. When I said I hate my life, I didn't mean it. I just meant – I meant I hate what's happening in my life. But I'll never give up. Just because we know what's going to be, that doesn't mean I won't try and hold on for every last second of life that I can.”

**************************


PART II

About a week later Jack got home from work and Monika met him at the door. He felt a jolt go through him and his attaché case fell from his hand.

“No,” he whispered.

Monika bit her lip. “She's – she's still with us, Jack. She's still with us. But when I got home, I found her lying on the floor in the living room and she was so weak...”

Jack hurried inside and they went up the stairs together towards Helen's room. “Did you call the doctor?”

“Yes, she came right over. She said that – that she could rally again but –” Monika paused on the stairs and wiped her eyes. “Damn these stupid tears!”

He nodded and forced a half-smile. “What else did she say?”

“She said... She said that probably it won't be long now. Maybe – maybe a few days. A week, maybe a little more. She – she said it's hard to say...” She bit her lip. “Oh Jack, what are we going to do?”

He clenched her hand tighter and after a few moments of hopelessly searching their minds for answers they knew would never be there, Jack opened the door and they went in. Helen looked so different from when he'd seen her less than ten hours earlier that it shocked him.

“Hi,” she whispered.

“Hi, champ.” Jack sat on the edge of the bed and touched her cheek. “What's this I hear about you lying around on the living room floor?”

Helen closed her eyes and offered a wan smile. “It seemed a good place to lie at the time.”

“I – I guess it did.” He took her hand and she managed to grasp his fingers for a moment.

Monika came and stood by the bed. “Are you – are you feeling better now, honey?”

Helen half-opened her eyes for a moment. “I feel fine. No pain now. Just need to sleep...”

Her mother reached down and stroked some stray hair away from her daughter's face, wishing as always that it was Helen's own, real hair. “Would you like us to stay with you until you're asleep?”

A slight movement of her head. “I'd like that,” she breathed. Then her smile flickered again and she added, “And don't worry. It won't be tonight. Not tonight. I promise...”

Jack held her hand until she was asleep. As he stood and took his wife's hand and they began to leave the room she whispered, “Shouldn't one of us stay with her?”

He paused and looked back at his sleeping daughter. “I think she wants us to get some rest, too. That's why she told us – what she told us.”

Monika's lips trembled. “Okay.”

The parents left the room and gently closed the door.

****************************



(Continued in PART III)
edit on 14/7/12 by JustMike because: coding




posted on Jul, 14 2012 @ 01:27 PM
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PART III

Early the next morning after Monika had left for work (as she could get home in ten minutes if need be), Jack called his office in the city to let his manager know how things were. Sympathetic, she listened as he struggled to say what needed to be said, then told him that she'd organize indefinite leave for him. “With pay, Jack,” she added. “We can sort out any details when – at some later date.”

She passed on the best wishes from all the staff and after mumbling his thanks, Jack hung up the phone.

Helen was also up early and to her father's surprise she came downstairs for breakfast just a few minutes after he'd called the office. The doctor had said she should minimise her exertions for at least a few days but as she was already up there seemed little point in making a fuss over it. All the same Jack couldn't help asking, “Are you sure you feel well enough to be out of bed?”

“I feel fine...” Helen poured some fresh juice into a glass and took a sip. Eyes twinkling, she added, “At least, I feel fine by my new definition of what constitutes fine.”

Jack sat across from her at the breakfast table and managing a smile he gave back, “Well... Okay, but if you feel the need to stretch out on the living room floor, let me know so I can get you some pillows at least.”

“Will do,” she laughed. Helen took another sip from her glass. Setting it down, she drew a deep breath as if to steady herself then began, “Oh, and about yesterday. I – I was so tired because – because I –”

The doorbell rang.

Daughter and father raised eyebrows and looked at each other with almost mirror-perfect expressions. “You expecting anyone?” he asked.

“No.” She began to get up.

“You finish your juice. I'll get it.”

Feeling annoyed at having to answer the door at 8 a.m., Jack opened it to find a young man standing there, a rather gruff-looking twenty-something.

Jack frowned. “Yes?”

“Ummm... Good morning, sir. Sorry to trouble you at this hour but earlier today I was out in a park and I found this wallet and –”

“Wallet?” Jack peered at him, then glanced at the wallet. Okay, so it looked like Helen's wallet, but she hadn't been out for days and certainly hadn't mentioned losing her wallet anytime.

“Ummm – that's right.” The man opened the wallet to show Jack the ID. “I am at the right address?”

“Yes... Yes, you are.”

Helen came up to stand next to her father and the young man transferred his attention to her. “Hi. I mean – ummm – look, sorry to bother you at this hour but I found your wallet, so I'm just returning it.”

Helen reached out and took it from him and as she turned it over she saw he'd slipped the stem of a small wildflower under the wallet's strap.

Jack saw the flower and rolled his eyes in even greater annoyance but Helen, her voice barely a whisper, simply smiled and replied, “Thank you.”

The man smiled back. “It was in the park. Off one of the main paths.”

“In the park,” she repeated.

Jack glanced at her and back at the young man. “Which park?”

He told them and Jack frowned once again. “That's a good five miles away.” He gave his daughter another glance.

Helen lowered her eyes. “I – I have no idea how it could have got there, over to the other side of town,” she managed. Then she looked up at the young man and as she gently touched the flower she smiled a little more and added, “But thank you for bringing it back.”

“Glad to help.” As if sensing that something wasn't quite right here, the man seemed happy enough to depart as soon as he could. “Umm... Bye, then.”

Helen's eyes were sparkling bright. “Bye...” She even gave a tiny wave with one hand.

As soon as the young man turned to go back down the pathway, Jack closed the door. He stood for a long moment, regarding his daughter as she stood facing him, quiet but resolute, still touching the flower as she stared back at him.

********************************



(continued in PART IV)
edit on 14/7/12 by JustMike because: (no reason given)



posted on Jul, 14 2012 @ 01:28 PM
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PART IV

The seconds passed by and Jack knew that if it came down to a war of nerves then Helen would win. So finally he just shrugged his shoulders and sighed, “Okay, let's go and finish breakfast and we can talk about it.”

She nodded and they went back into the kitchen and took their places at the table once more.

He reached out and took her hand. “Sweetie, did you really go to the park yesterday?”

Helen nodded.

“You took the bus?”

“No... I rode my bike. It was a beautiful day.”

“You rode all the way there and back?”

She nodded again and whispered, “Yes.” She placed the wallet on the table and traced around the wildflower's deep-orange petals with a fingertip. “And around the whole park as well.”

His voice near breaking, Jack pleaded, “But why? Just to see some wildflowers?”

Helen shook her head and smiled whimsically. “Yes, but also no. Not really. I wanted to see life. New life, beautiful life, fresh and colorful and happy life. I wanted to see life that's going on and will go on, even after I'm gone.”

“Helly –”

“I wanted to go because it was maybe my last chance to – to get out there and be me! I was about to tell you when the doorbell rang. I didn't even know I'd lost it... I – it must have slipped out of my pocket or something. I didn't even know it was gone. I mean, when was the last time I even went shopping or anything? I only had it with me because it's a habit and I – and I just wanted to be there and watch the wildflowers growing and see the bees and try and find a four-leaf clover, and lie on my back in all that lovely cool grass and watch the clouds flying across the sky, and the wildflowers – the wildflowers – they're like me, Daddy... They're like me! They're pretty and bright and happy and then – and then they die and they're gone and – and –”

“Oh, Helly...”

“I had to go, Daddy,” she sobbed. “I had to!”

He swallowed. “I – I just didn't realize.”

“I know you didn't. I know... You're not the wildflower. I am...”

Time passed. Daughter and father sat and clasped hands and spent this time with one another and felt the blessings of every second. Finally, Helen carefully took the flower and holding it up, she turned it this way and that and with her characteristic smile, she whispered, “Isn't it beautiful, Daddy?”

“Yes. And so are you.”

She looked into her father's eyes. “I love you, Daddy.”

“I love you too, my wonderful daughter.”

Reaching out, he gently brushed a tear from her cheek.

“Daddy?”

“Yes, my love?”

“At my funeral... Could you ask that people just bring a wildflower? It's only early spring now, so there'll still be plenty around.”

He regarded her with new understanding. “Just one wildflower each?”

Helen nodded gently. “Just one. So that the others will live out their lives as they should.”

“Just one each. I promise that's all we'll ask.”

“Thank you.”

They were both quiet for a time, and it was beautiful. And then he asked, “Helly, why did he give you the wildflower?”

From the depths of a wisdom that he might never know, she replied, “Perhaps... Perhaps it's because he was once very close to the same place I am now, in some way.”

“So... He knows why wildflowers are so special?”

Helen turned the flower and the petals reflected fragments of light.

“Yes. He knows.” She handed the flower to her father and as he took it, she whispered, “And that's why I'd like you to keep this one. Forever and ever.”

******************************



Ten days later, Helen's obituary was published in the local paper. It ended with a simple request:

In lieu of flowers, please bring one wildflower of your choice.



Fin




edit on 14/7/12 by JustMike because: It was orange. The flower was orange.



posted on Jul, 14 2012 @ 01:36 PM
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The above story is fiction, as are all the names of characters used within it, but it is based upon a true event that NarcolepticBuddha relates in his thread entitled Walking Through a Cemetery Never Felt So Synchronous. I'd be very glad if people read it, as it helps to explain how my own story developed.

I submitted my story to NarcolepticBuddha before posting and I am grateful to him for his kind permission to use his own work as the basis for my story.

Mike



posted on Jul, 14 2012 @ 02:40 PM
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reply to post by JustMike
 


This was so poignant. It reaches into the heart of ever parent and everyone who appreciates nature. I'm confident that all of us who have been affected by the death of a child can relate to this story in some way.
edit on 14-7-2012 by aboutface because: (no reason given)



posted on Jul, 14 2012 @ 02:50 PM
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reply to post by aboutface
 


I just now read the story which inspired yours. Bravo for the tie-in and the synchronous story. If i could I would give you several stars. Very well done!



posted on Jul, 14 2012 @ 03:37 PM
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reply to post by aboutface
 

Thank you very much for the comments in both your replies. My writing draws upon some of my own experiences. Besides the loss of our first child more than 30 years ago, I have been deeply affected by the passing of other very young people as well. There is often a sense of complete helplessness in the face of such events, but I've learned to count my blessings and truly, there have been many.

In the real world this story derives from, things may have been very different to what I have created on this page. But whatever really happened that led to the girl's passing, I hope they kept that flower. It may have been the last little free-will gift she ever received.

And that's something very special.

Namaste,

Mike



posted on Jul, 15 2012 @ 03:42 AM
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reply to post by JustMike
 


I could tell by the realism of the dialogue that you were affected in some way as well. What is strange is how your story combines your life, my life, and that girl's life (Helen, in your story).

You did such a masterful job of picking out a detail from a picture (my thread) and giving it life (your amazing story.) This ability is what makes a great writer.

I look forward to any other writing you may post on ATS.
.
edit on 15-7-2012 by NarcolepticBuddha because: (no reason given)



posted on Jul, 15 2012 @ 10:43 AM
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reply to post by JustMike
 


I have been lurking around ATS for years and I read posts here every single day. It's just something I do. I rarely post because it's just not my thing.

I ran across this post on the new topics page last night. I was exhausted and just didn't have energy to read it right then but something in the first few lines caught my attention and I opened it in a new tab and just left it open in the browser so that I could read it this morning. I am very glad I did that. I loved this story and I envy your writing ability. It was a very touching story. Job well done!

Even all of that may not have been enough to make me comment. However, the mentioned tie-in to the post by NarcolepticBuddha caused me to also read that post and between the two of you this was an exceptional show of why I come to ATS every day.

The little touches of amazing events and obvious talent that peak through the all craziness and hostility makes it all worthwhile. I hope we will see more short stories from you in the future. You definitely have the gift.

Good Job to both of you!



posted on Jul, 16 2012 @ 07:07 AM
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reply to post by TheLurker
 


He did a magnificent job writing the short story even if my post did not exist. However, it was a privilege to hear his beautiful interpretation of my experience.



posted on Jul, 16 2012 @ 05:49 PM
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Originally posted by NarcolepticBuddha
reply to post by JustMike
 


I could tell by the realism of the dialogue that you were affected in some way as well. What is strange is how your story combines your life, my life, and that girl's life (Helen, in your story).

You did such a masterful job of picking out a detail from a picture (my thread) and giving it life (your amazing story.) This ability is what makes a great writer.

I look forward to any other writing you may post on ATS.


NB, it was strange how this all happened. I simply noticed your story linked in your signature and out of curiosity, I went and read it and it drew me in right away. It's wonderful when these synchronous events occur in such a way, and after reading your story I was initially only going to post a short reply on your thread to express that feeling.

Then, as I thought about exactly what to say and began to wonder more about how it all might have been, I became immersed in the myriad possibilities and the what ifs, all those little details that have to fall into place just so, for such a thing to occur. And it seemed such a special and beautiful thing, a moment of hope and magic, that when the scene that became the opening to my own story simply appeared in my mind, it just seemed right, somehow.

So, instead of composing a short post I began writing the story -- and it just developed from there.

This might sound weird, but very often when I am writing, in my mind I hear the dialogue with all its tones and inflections and emotions, I see the characters and their facial expressions, their gestures, their posture, even little details of their surroundings. It's almost like I'm just writing down what is playing out in front of my eyes. I don't feel as if I am actually inventing anything.

Very often, then, the dialogue is the easiest part; it's fitting in all the little nuances of character and location and interrelationships that takes the time: that delicate but special process of revealing all these things to the reader, so that they see it all and hear it all as I do, but without making it obvious that it's happening.

Granted, I know this story is just a product of my imagination, but it doesn't feel that way for me. It feels like a natural progression from what I read in your own story. It's where I was led. And I'm grateful to you for that.

Namaste,

Mike



posted on Jul, 16 2012 @ 06:52 PM
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reply to post by TheLurker
 

Hello TheLurker,

I very much appreciate your comments. It means a great deal to me when anyone posts a reply to any of my stories and so yours is also very welcome, especially as it's the first time you have commented on one.

I have to admit that I don't feel talented, really. Writing is just something I've always enjoyed. (Okay, and sometimes love-hated! It can be like that!) But I do feel that this story could be taken further. There is so much more that could be done to develop it.

For example, I wanted to include the scene when Helen "escaped" from home that day while her parents were at work and none of her siblings were visiting: the day that left her so exhausted she couldn't even crawl up the stairs to her room and decided the living room carpet looked comfortable enough and would have to do.

In her little speech where she helped her father to understand why she went to the park, we get a hint of how it was for her, and at least that hint had to be there, so we had more insight into her own courage and inner strength and why that secret outing meant so, so much. But oh, I wanted that whole day in the park in the story.

Sometimes I regret having to leave some things unsaid and this was one. It hurt to leave it out. It hurt. But -- it just seemed for the best. If I'd left it all in, the story would have been many pages longer.

Forgive me for raving on (I am a garrulous one), but here's a thumbnail sketch of little more of what I saw in her special day. And this before she even gets to the park:

Helen goes riding off down the road on her bike, her hair streaming out behind her and her helmet done up tight to protect her head and also make sure her wig doesn't go flying off. Stopping down the road a little way from her high school for a few moments, she gets her breath back while she watches all the kids like her going in for another day of schooling that most would love to avoid and she'd love to go back to, that she'd give almost anything to go back to. Then with a long sigh that says so much, she goes on her way, every turn of the pedals making her grit her teeth, fighting the pain but not brought down by it, because at least this time she is hurting for a purpose and going where she wants to go, not just being taken to the depths of suffering for its own miserable sake.

And as one especially harsh avalanche of pain goes through her body she grips the handlebars tighter and says, "Dammit, I am going to enjoy myself even if it kills me!" After a couple of seconds the irony gets to her and she laughs out loud.

Coming up to a stop sign a few moments later and seeing no traffic at all on the road she's entering, Helen breezes right past without stopping, grinning hugely at how good it feels to disobey a mindless sign that takes away peoples' need to use their own good sense and awareness -- and to have respect for one another. "Cars did that to us," she murmurs. "Cars and always wanting to go faster and damn everyone else. Never had stop signs back when we rode horses..."


That was a little look. But I left all that out. Her short speech at the breakfast table had to be enough.

I hope it was. I hope you and everyone sees her as I do.


Namaste,

Mike
edit on 16/7/12 by JustMike because: (no reason given)



posted on Jul, 16 2012 @ 07:18 PM
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This story has absolutely made my day. Very well written and very touching. Puts life back into proper perspective when you read things like this. S&F is all I can give you but you deserve so much more. Thank you.



posted on Jul, 16 2012 @ 07:27 PM
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reply to post by XxRagingxPandaxX
 

Wow... Thank you also. That means a lot to me.

Truly it does.

Namaste,

Mike



posted on Jul, 17 2012 @ 12:47 AM
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reply to post by JustMike
 


Do you have a draft with the outdoors scene in place? I'd like to see it, even if just in a private U2U. It sounds like it could be a very exciting and beautiful part of the story.

I think you should consider adding it in if you can make it work and be satisfied with it.

My poetry teacher in college had a wonderful thing to say about going back to older works and revising them even after they've been finalized and/or published. He would say "Your writing is never finished, just abandoned."

Don't be so quick to abandon your story (even though it is great the way it is). Remember that all writing is a living piece and that certain details might catch your attention when going back to look at it a year from now, 5 years, etc.



posted on Jul, 17 2012 @ 01:33 PM
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reply to post by NarcolepticBuddha
 

I had it in one of my early drafts but I've hunted around and can't find that one, so what I wrote above was just from reviewing the scene in my mind and writing down a few details. Trouble is, I took the whole story from first lines to posting in just a few hours and had various revisions.

At first I had the scene placed between what became Parts I and II, then I moved it and tried to make it go in the scene at the door just after she says, “In the park,” but it seemed to break up what is a short but crucial scene. It took too much tension out of it.

Soooo...
I thought to move it to the beginning of what became the last part. That seemed okay... It seemed to work. It didn't spoil the "at the door" scene by pre-empting it in any way. While Jack stood staring at his daughter and pondering and while Helen stared back, she recalled all that happened the day before.

But in the end I left it out because it was quite long. True, I could redo it and in fact I might: I haven't really abandoned it. Just taking a break from it for now.


Mike

edit on 17/7/12 by JustMike because: !



posted on Jul, 17 2012 @ 07:20 PM
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reply to post by JustMike
 


Hey, if it doesn't fit in and breaks up the pace of the story, then it doesn't need to be in there. I trust your judgement as it obviously lead you to a great product already.

If you do revise and create any other drafts..be sure to send em my way!



posted on Jul, 23 2012 @ 04:38 PM
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reply to post by NarcolepticBuddha
 

I'll certainly do that. Thank you.

You know, pondering over all of this, I'm beginning to understand Helen a little better. I see where she was coming from, I'm starting to understand the real "why" that was behind her own actions in going to the park. In fact it only came to me while I was writing a post on another thread that a little bell went off in my head... (Not literally!)

Sometimes when I write stories I really don't know what the deeper message is, or even if there is one. I just write what comes to me at the time and it can be a long time later that I really begin to see other aspects. I'm woefully lacking in insight, really, so I bet others often get it before I do!

Mike

edit on 23/7/12 by JustMike because: (no reason given)



posted on Apr, 2 2016 @ 05:35 PM
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So touching. Made me cry knowing how profound love is, how fleeting life is, yet beautiful. Deeply touching!



posted on Jan, 2 2017 @ 02:07 PM
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a reply to: Night Star
How did I miss this for so long?

Thank you, Night Star. That means a great deal to me, coming from you.



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