As promised, here it is — typos, first draft and all — an excerpt from Terrebonne Parish. For those who haven’t followed my blog, read any of my poetry or spoke with me one-on-one, you’ll not understand from this chapter that Terrebonne Parish is about lost and found. Hurt and healing. But trust me, it is. From here, Karla’s story is full of twists and turns, highs and lows, and unsolved and (sometimes) solved mysteries that lead Karla down a path only God Himself could have cleared.
Well, here it is . . .
He kept his reddish-brown hair short–either a habit from his Marine Corps days or because, as he put it, he was losing it anyway. Whatever the reason, it appeared purposeful and strong. His full eyebrows highlighted his auburn eyes, which captured my complete attention the first time we met so many years ago. They were like sign language—communicating thoughts his chiseled chin and sun-kissed forehead often tried to hide.
He hated that his eyes deceived him, but I was glad they spilled his secrets so easily. They told me when he was lost in deep thought because they dulled slightly. And they told me when he had a great idea because the flecks in his irises flickered like a flame ignited by a small spark; and when he was really excited about the idea, those same flecks jumped and danced like rising embers from a camp fire.
Not only did his eyes communicate feelings his face tried to hide, they communicated words his lips often didn’t. Sometimes, those words were clear and loud, but sometimes, they were soft whispers. My favorite was the way they whispered “I love you.” How unmistakably often they whispered those words.
When Mason realized I could read his eyes, he was careful to look away when he was thinking something he didn’t want to share . . . or when he was trying to protect me. In the end, Mason looked away a lot.
“What?” he asked from his end of the couch, without looking up from the newspaper he was reading.
I had been staring—admiring every feature of his face, and wondering how I landed such a beautiful man for a husband.
He’d sensed my stare. “What?” he asked again, a smile starting across his face.
I didn’t realize I’d been staring until he spoke, but now I thought I’d turn it into a game rather than look like an obsessed fool. I playfully narrowed my eyes and focused on him more intently.
The smile grew on his face. He shook the newspaper in front of him, pretending the paper had his full attention and he was paying no mind to me at all.
I leaned forward and intensified my stare—my face now inches from his. “Ahem,” I cleared my throat.
Mason tossed the newspaper to the floor. “What?” he laughed, his amused eyes finally meeting mine.
I expanded my smile and coupled it with a series of eyebrow raises.
“Oh,” he said, leaning toward me; and in one swift movement, I lay back onto the cushions as he stretched the length of the couch to cover my body with his. He placed his warm hand on my hip. I felt small and fragile under his full frame. “This?” he asked, placing a tender kiss on my forehead.
“And this,” I said, planting a line of kisses along his jaw line.
“And this?” he asked, returning the kisses as he traced my cheek bone with his lips and worked his way toward the corners of my mouth.
“Uh huh,” I groaned.
“I love you,” he whispered as his warm mouth hovered inches from mine.
“I love—,” I began, but halfway through my reply his lips met mine. My entire body responded. I moved my hips toward him, and his hand moved from my hip to the small of my back, increasing pressure between the parts I longed to have touching, skin on skin.
We undressed each other effortlessly — like two dancers who have performed the same dance for years, each time with the same passion. Free of the restrictive fabrics that moments earlier had separated us, we held each other, enjoying the heat only flesh on flesh can bring.
“You smell good,” he whispered, nuzzling my neck. His chest grazed mine as he moved to the other side of my neck, stifling any verbal reply I could have given. I arched toward him as his nuzzles turned into moist kisses.
Within seconds we were rising and falling in a rhythm reserved only for lovers. Our eyes locked as we rose simultaneously. The world spun away, and it was just the two of us—locked together in a glorious moment of rapture. I closed my eyes briefly in complete utter enjoyment, but I quickly found Mason’s eyes again; I didn’t want to miss this moment—this moment when they loudly whispered words no earthly language could ever translate. It was my favorite moment. Always.
His eyes flashed with univented words for love and satisfaction–for adoration and bliss. Then, they contently smiled. He planted a warm kiss on my lips before rolling toward the back of the couch. I rolled to my side with him so we could comfortably fit on the couch together, and I buried my face into his bare chest. He wrapped his arms around me tight. His arms were the only thing keeping me from toppling backswards off the couch. If he let go, I would surely fall.
“Let’s just stay this way forever,” I said, nuzzling deeper into his chest, feeling his soft chest hair against my cheek and knowing I could never bury-in close enough.
“Deal,” Mason said, wrapping his arms around me tighter, securing his promise.
I smiled and let the heat radiating from his entire body cloak me. I was warm and happy. I’d never felt more safe and loved in my entire life. I closed my eyes to cherish the moment, but as soon as I did, the room grew cold. I opened my eyes, but it was as if I hadn’t; the room was pitch black. I felt myself falling backwards, and I grabbed for Mason, but I couldn’t find him. I swung frantically into empty air, waiting for his arms to catch me. I swiped at the darkness and screamed his name, “Mason!”
I felt hands on my shoulders.
“Mason! Mason!” I screamed, still clawing in the darkness.
“Karla!” A voice called out to me.
“Mason!” I answered.
“Karla!” I felt a firm shake. “Karla! Wake up!”
I forced my eyes open; not to find Mason, but my sister, Cheryl, sitting on the edge of my bed. She was staring at me with worried blue eyes.
“It’s okay,” she said, her short blonde curls framing her full face as she rubbed my hand gently. “You were having a nightmare. It’s okay.”
The room was dark with no hint of daylight creeping through the window.
“What time is it?” I asked, rubbing my entire face with my hands.
She looked at the clock by the bed. “Two a.m.”
“I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to wake you.” I sat up and rested my elbows on my crossed knees, still trying to rub the nightmare from my temples.
“No,” she said, putting her hand under my chin and directing my eyes to look at her. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry you’re going through this. It’s not right. None of this is right.” She wrapped her arms around me and pulled me to her, holding the embrace for several seconds before pulling back. “Do you need anything?” she asked, squeezing one of my hands in hers. “A glass of water? Anything?”
I shook my head.
“I love you,” she said, kissing my forehead, then getting up quickly. She crossed the room to the bedroom door and paused in the hall light. “Let me know if you need anything,” she said, keeping her back to me in an attempt to hide the tears I’d already seen.
“I will,” I answered.
“Please don’t shut me out. Let me help. Okay?”
“I will. I’m fine,” I said. But we both knew I wasn’t.
I lay back down and thought about the dream. Was it a dream? I closed my eyes. No, it wasn’t a dream; it was a memory. It happened on a Tuesday. I remembered. It could have been any day of the week—Mason and I making love on the couch—but it wasn’t. It was a Tuesday.
Let’s just stay this way forever, I’d whispered.
Deal. Mason had replied.
Remember that, Mason? We had a deal!
But Mason broke our deal. It wasn’t his fault. It was God’s fault. But Mason was gone all the same.
Mason had let go. He’d been forced to. And just as I knew I would, I fell. I fell fast, and I fell for a long, long time.
I was still falling. I was flailing! But not just because of Mason. Mason wasn’t the reason Cheryl was here. Not this time. The reason Cheryl was here this time was much more terrifying than the day God took Mason.
Apparently, taking Mason wasn’t enough. After the grief He’d already put me through, God still felt a need to—
I shook the memory away. I didn’t want to think about it. I squeezed my eyes shut and willed it to go away–to not be true.
But it was true. And the memory was persistent. I kept reliving it over and over. If I had known, we would have stayed home that day. We would have never ventured out into a world that would swallow us up–that would leave more questions than answers and pile heartache on top of heartache.
I thought about that day and my stomach ached. Guilt gnawed away at my gut, and I felt like I was going to puke.
And for what? A rusty lantern? An old nutcracker?
It wasn’t worth it! I wanted to take it all back. I wanted to erase the entire day and give back all the treasures that drove us to go searching in the first place. And more importantly, I wanted back what God took!
I knew by now God was never going to give Mason back. I’d asked a thousand times, and a thousand times He’d ignored me. But I was done letting Him hurt me. I was done being His pawn—His diversion—while He snuck in and stole. Done!
From this point forward, it was all-out war. I was not going to back down. Not this time! This time, God took too much, and I was going to start taking things back—starting with the power He thought He had over me.
“Okay,” I whispered, pointing my eyes upward. “Let the games begin.”