Until The Grave
I stare at the tombstone as the silence engulfs me.
‘Riding the wave until the grave.’
They couldn’t have put anything better on his tombstone than that. It fits, perfectly.
Even though he tried to prepare me, his death still came as a shock. That’s the thing about life, you can’t prepare yourself to say goodbye to someone you love because you’ll be caught off guard every time.
“You going to be okay girly?” Stels asks gently as she places a hand on my shoulder in an act of comfort
The funeral is over and now it’s time I leave.
I nod at Stella and then glance at Ty, the one who had always been closest to Caleb, only to find him with tears in his eyes. I wrap my arms around him, bringing him in for a tight embrace, “I’m sorry,” I whisper as I pat his back in reassurance. “I’m so sorry,” I repeat before giving him words of encouragement, words Caleb would have wanted him to hear.
It’s only a few minutes later when Ty pulls back with red eyes. “I’m okay,” he says softly.
I nod, not wanting to overwhelm him more.
“You packed and ready to go?” Duke asks me just as Jacob brushes away a stray tear.
“Yeah,” I tell Duke, “just have to tie up a few loose ends before going.”
I’ve taken up Caleb’s last advice to me. I’m moving. I’m chasing down my dream. I’m going away to study and when I’m done, I’ll be a marine biologist. It’s about time I start appreciating life more, about time I start living again.
“Who’s going to run my shack now?” Zeke tries to lighten the atmosphere but fails and realizes it. “We’ll miss you,” Zeke whispers in sincerity.
“I’ll miss you guys too, every day,” I admit in honesty before checking up on Jacob. I glance up at my second brother, “Jakie, you gonna be fine, okay? You’re going to be just fine.” I assure him, bringing him in for a side hug.
“It feels like Matt all over again,” he says softly so that only I hear. He knows that I’ll understand, that I’ll be able to relate.
“But it’s not, Jacob. It’s not.” I tell him. “Caleb was ready to go. He was prepared and he accepted that his time was coming to an abrupt end. He’s in a better place now, a place where there’s no longer suffering.”
Jacobs reluctantly nods, “I know. Still miss him though.”
We were all there right beside his hospital bed when he left this world. We all got a chance to say goodbye to him properly, Chase just getting there in time to have his final words with Caleb. I was worried Chase wouldn’t make it, but in the end, he did.
I glance around, missing the same presence, “Have any of you, by chance, seen Chase?”
“No, but if I see him I’ll be sure to remind him when your flight is,” Duke answers on everyone’s behalf, no one having a clue on Chase’s latest whereabouts.
In spite of everything I’ve been through with Chase, I’d still want to say goodbye. I’m now convinced that Chase will never change. He once said that some things just can’t be fixed. At the time, I didn’t believe him. He’s since then proved me wrong.
I shrug in hopelessness, waving the matter off, “It’s fine,” I lie. I start hugging them all goodbye, “In any way, I better be off. There’s one more thing I have to do.”
“I’ll miss you so much!” Stels insists, the others joining in with each of their own memorable comments as they all wish me good luck in taking a stand on my new future.
“It’s about time,” Ty and Zeke say simultaneously as if having the same thought.
I smile, nodding in agreement, “Yeah, it is.”
“You’d better visit, girl,” Duke says sternly, merely teasing me.
“Of course,” I agree, having already planned on visiting as much as possible.
These people are somewhat more than just friends now, they’re family, and family is most definitely worth keeping.
“You sure, Hon?” My mother asks for what feels to be the millionth time. She’s stalling. I’m in a rush. Stella is waiting. Stels offered to take me to the airport and I gladly accepted, but I can’t keep her waiting for too long.
“Yup,” I answer my mother in ease, oddly calm in spite of this chaotic and heartbreaking day. It’s almost as if I’m impassive to it all.
“Alright then,” my mother gives in, drawing me in for a last embrace before she helps me drag all my luggage and belongings to the car waiting on me. She stops me before I climb in, “I’m proud of you,” she says softly.
A slow smile forms on my lips upon hearing her words as I nod back at her, grateful, “Thanks.” I glance sideways to see that Chase isn’t home. His car isn’t there. I wonder if he’s already left. It would be typical of him to do so. He doesn’t do goodbyes and everyone knows it.
My mother must see my apprehension and hesitance because she nudges me forward toward the car standing open, “Don’t stress Gab, I’ll be okay. I can take care of myself.”
“I know,” I say as I get into the passenger seat and shut the door closed after me.
“You okay?” Stels asks yet again, sensing my unease as she drives away. I can’t help but look back over my shoulder to see my mother still frozen on the side of the road as she stares after the car, after me.
I tear my eyes away, bringing my gaze to what lies ahead and not to what is behind me.
“Fine,” I answer, “how about you?”
She takes her eyes off the road to send me a small smile of her own, “I’m always fine, Gabs.”
I grin slightly, “You’re always the optimist.”
“It’s the only way to live.”
“Hey, sorry to bother,” I apologize to the receptionist in front of me, “but is Mr Hill in today?”
She checks a few pages from beneath her glasses before nodding at me, “Do you have an appointment with him?”
I shake my head, “It’ll be quick.”
She shakes her head in protest, “I’m sorry Darling, you have to schedule an appointment. He’s lined up with many clients today.”
She cuts me off, “I can’t make exceptions, I’m sorry, Dear. Perhaps you can come tomorrow. Would you like to schedule an appointment?”
I won’t be here tomorrow.
I close my mouth and shake my head, “Don’t worry about it.”
I turn around and start walking back outside to Stels, feeling dejected on the inside.
I stop walking and spin back around to see the man that had abandoned me, the man that I still can’t help but look up to. He couldn’t handle the pain and left us, yet he’s still my hero. My dad is my hero.
He turns to his secretary, “Cancel all my appointments today and reschedule,” he concludes adamantly.
“But Sir, it’s important clients-“
My father shoots her a flat stare, “I’m busy with Miss Hill, my daughter.”
“Yes Sir,” she finally complies, unaware that I’d been his daughter the entire time I’d been pleading with her to see my dad.
He smiles at me in warmth before meeting me in the middle and embracing me tightly. He steps back to look at me and takes in all the changes in the two years he’s been absent. “I’m so glad you came to see me.”
“Me too,” I whisper, before sitting down to talk with him and finally making peace with the man I call dad.
Caleb was right - it was worthwhile catching up with my father.
“Goodluck Gab,” Stels hugs me for the final time before giving me her last words of reassurance, “I hope you find the peace you’re looking for.”
I suck in a deep breath and smile in confidence, “I already have.”
There’s an ache in my chest as I board the plane, but my determination ends up overpowering it.
Like a surfer always drawn back to the powerful waves in the ocean, I’m drawn out to the powerful wave of life in itself…and I’ve never been happier.
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