More than Exist

By: Bethany Lopez

Prologue





What do you do when your perfect life is shattered in an instant?

A year ago, I got the knock at the door that every person fears. It was a rainy Sunday morning and I was lounging around, still in pajamas, waiting for my husband, Ricky, to get home so we could have breakfast. I remember letting out a frustrated sigh when the knock came at the door, angered because I was reading, and things were getting good. I’d bookmarked the page on my Kindle, then threw my fuzzy blanket off and stormed to the door, ready to give someone hell for coming to my house so early on a Sunday.

When I opened the door, my rebuff froze at the sight of a policeman on my front porch.

I crossed my arms, hugging them to myself instinctually in defense, as if I already knew I didn’t want to hear what he had to say.

It’s funny how everything can be so in focus one minute, and a blur of confusion the next. After he said the word accident and motorcycle, it was as if he’d morphed into one of those teachers on Charlie Brown.

Wa, Wa, Wa Wa Wa Wa…

I remember crumbling. Just falling to the floor at the policeman’s feet, my entire body numb as my mind tried to make sense out of what the HELL was going on.

Ricky died on impact. The doctors said he didn’t feel any pain. He didn’t suffer. He was simply there one second, and gone the next. What started as an early-morning ride, ended up changing the course of my life forever.

The ironic thing … Ricky had survived four tours in the Middle East, only to be killed on a stupid motorcycle in the good ole US of A, on a deserted street in San Diego, California. I’d lived in terror throughout each deployment, but it had never occurred to me that I’d lose him at home.





Part I





The Journey





Chapter 1





“Yes, Mom, I’m sure,” I assured her as I tucked the phone in between my ear and my shoulder so I could resume packing.

“I know you think I worry too much, Mirabelle, but driving cross-country all by yourself is crazy.” I could hear the strain in my mother’s voice, and I understood it, I totally did, but I swear, my mom acted like I was eighteen instead of thirty-two. “Why don’t you let me buy you a plane ticket?”

I rolled my eyes, grateful that she couldn’t see the insolent act.

“I don’t want to fly, that defeats the purpose of this trip,” I replied, softening my tone. “I need to do this, Mom.”

I could feel the fight go out of her, even though she was in Florida and I was in California, it was that palpable.

“Okay, Belle,” she said on a sigh. “Just make sure you call me every night.”

“I will.”

“And, have your car serviced before you leave.”

“Done.”

“And, make sure you stop every couple hours to stretch.”

“Mom…”

“And, stop when you’re tired.”

I laughed into the phone.

“I will. Mom, don’t worry, I’ll be fine.”

“I know,” she replied, and I hoped those weren’t tears I heard in her voice. “Be safe, Belle. I love you.”

“I love you too, Mom. See you soon.”

I shut off my phone and stuck it in my back pocket, then looked around the house that had been my home for the last ten years. It was empty now, save the few things I’d kept behind for my trip, and the large open rooms felt as hollow as my heart.

It had been a year since Ricky died, but I’d been unable to think about what to do next, until recently. I’d been comfortable in my grief, and stayed because this is where I felt closest to him.

We’d met twelve years ago in Louisiana, but I moved here once we were married, and the bulk of our relationship was spent here. So when I lost him, the thought of losing San Diego, our house, and our memories, was too much to bear. So I stayed, even though there was nothing for me here any longer.

My parents live in Florida, and I’m an only child.

Ricky’s father passed away four years ago, colon cancer, and his mother and sister, Consuela, still live in Louisiana.

I have no family here, and no one that I would call a true friend. I mean, sure, I’d made some friends at work over the years, but with Ricky gone so often, I mostly kept to myself.

He was not only my husband, but also my best friend, and with him gone I’d went from a loner to a hermit.

I’d started drinking. Initially, to ease the pain I’d felt with his death, but lately, I drank because it was four o’clock, and I had nothing else to do. Plus, I liked it. I liked feeling numb. When I drank the anxiety and panic left me. I knew my limits, too. I knew how much I needed to drink to reach that moment of peace, and when I needed to stop before peace became loneliness and grief.

I’d finally come to the realization that I couldn’t live this way any longer, so I’d sold the house, had our stuff packed up and loaded on a truck, and was about to embark on my first adventure in years.

I think my mother suspected that I was drinking too much, and I knew she wanted to get me in person so she could confirm her fears, but I wasn’t ready to stop. Alcohol had become my friend. The one thing I could rely on to make me feel better, and I wasn’t willing to give it up.

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