Their blond heads perfectly matched as they tilted toward each other in an iron embrace. He remembered the day like it was yesterday, the picture clear as the bright blue sky above. He knew right thenâwith every breathâhe loved Melissa. Who gets this stuff at eight years old? He wouldâve laughed at the idea if he had the energy. Who the hell understands what love is at eight? It didnât make sense, but he couldnât deny it.
Watching Melissa and Ali cry over their fatherâs coffin twenty-six years ago was so like today. There they stood, holding each other again, Aliâs hand reached out to Johnnyâs, but her arm around Melissa, their heads together, crying all over again. He remembered how hard it had been for them both. He wanted to cry, too, and he did, for Ali and for Melissa. It hurt him in his soul to see the pain and tears in her eyes.
He looked again at Julieâs shining coffin glinting in the bright sun and wanted to kick himself for thinking about Melissa on this day, the very day he had to put his wife in the ground. If Julie could hear his thoughts, she would hate him. Ironically enough, so would Melissa. Melissa would never respect him, not after what heâd done to her, especially if she knew what he was thinking about now.
How did we get here? How did so many things change since that day? Nothing had turned out the way heâd planned. Back then, and for years after, his future was sure. He never doubted where life would lead him. But how could he regret? How could heâas he stood there with his kidsâregret his family? Regret his life to this point? Regret Julie? No, he didnât, of course not, but regret Melissa? Yes, he regretted losing Melissa. He loved Erin and Cody with his whole heart. Heâd loved Julie, too, but Melissa was different. He couldnât explain it, just different than Julie. Melissa held a part of his soul. To this day, she still gripped it in her hands. That part of him had been missing the day heâd proposed to Julie, and every day since then.
Melissa will always have it, even after she marries that jerk-off from Berkeley. Even then, sheâll still own a part of him. His stomach lurched at the thought of her with him, that puny, little clone with no heart or passion. Melissa was full of piss and vinegar, how long would it take this jerk to squash that out of her.
Is this what it felt like to Melissa? Had she felt this sinking, overwhelming sickness when sheâd found out about him and Julie? Had she been living with it for all these years? Had her love for him been equal to his for her? He couldnât remember if heâd ever told her how much he loved her. Did she know? Did that make everything harder for her? Did Julie understand how much he loved her? Itâs too late to fix thatâsheâs goneâJules is gone. Julie is dead! Did she understand how important she was to him? Even after the hateful things heâd said, he still loved her, and now she was gone.