The power of two words still surprises me. How a thing that someone utters can change your life in an instant. I learned this the hardest way, and it broke my life. Later on it fixed it, but that's for a different story.
It had been a day in late September. It was dreary and my mind was as cloudy and depressed as the weather looked. I had just sat on my sofa, an old antique that my Aunt had passed on to me. Almost my entire house was put together by gifts and the cause was usually pity. Pity I lived by myself, pity that I was poor, pity that I was such a hateful person. For I in reality was hateful. I was stuck up, prideful, and an imp. No one around me liked me, and I didn't even like myself, and I guess that's the cause for this story.
I picked up a book someone had given me, about knitting or something. I didn't really read it, I tried to, just to pass the time. It didn't work. I set it down again. Suddenly the phone rang from the kitchen. (This was in the age before Smartphones.) I sighed as I got up. Why should I even pick up the phone? It was probably just another pitying person, or maybe my mom was checking up on me. Either way, I didn't need it. In fact, I disliked it.
I stumbled into the kitchen and picked up the cream colored plastic landline. I just wanted that annoying, ear-worm-of-a-ring to stop.
"Hello?" I lazily said, not really caring.
"Is this Magnolia?" No one ever called me 'Magnolia' it was always Maggie, unless it was a work call. It was a man's voice, maybe around my age.
"Yes. Is this pertaining to my work?" I was fed up with work, work calls, work meetings...bleh. I considered quitting every time I walked into that drab cubicle, but I knew my mom would look at me with her guilt-creating face and I would regret it. But boy, wouldn't it feel good to have that movie moment where everyone stares at you while you glare at your boss and say with glee, 'I quit.'
"No, actually. This is your mother's best friend's son." If his voice hadn't sounded so serious, I would have thought this a joke or prank call. My mother's best friend was named Edna. She was a Mrs. Lynn (from Anne of Green Gables) kind of a woman. Gossipy, snooty, in people's business. To tell you the truth, I kinda hated her. Why was my mom recruiting friend's sons to check up on me?
"Did my mom tell you to do this? I mean, how else could you get my number? I don't know why she would get innocent bystanders to be in the line of fire..." I was about to hang up on the poor man, but he started talking again, and something in his voice made me want to listen.
"No, it wasn't your mom. In fact, it was just me. I saw your number and name on your mom's table yesterday when I was helping her with some heavy lifting. Next to it was a heart and the words, 'my baby, Maggie, is not dying, but dead.' So I wanted to check up on this 'dead' girl." His voice was lowered, as if someone else was in the room and he didn't want them to hear him.
His words surprised me, but my mom's note surprised me even more. I was in no way dead. My heart was beating, my lungs were breathing, and last I checked that means I'm alive. It couldn't have been another person she was talking about, because it clearly said Maggie. If she was talking mentally and emotionally, then I guess she was right. I was dead. At least in that point of my life.
"Yeah, well, I guess you talked to a dead girl. I mean, what did Mom mean by that? But anyways, was that it?" Now I realize I was rude cutting him off like that, but I've realized a lot of things lately.
"I guess. But I've heard a lot about you, and I was wondering if I could talk to this dead girl, in person I mean? Maybe over dinner?"
His voice cracked, as if he was scared.
"Are you asking me out? I mean, do you know if I'm already in a relationship?" I wanted to trick him and say I was, but even at that time I knew it was going too far.
"I know you are not, your mom told me almost your entire life story when I was helping her move some boxes yesterday." He chuckled.
"Yeah, I should have expected that. I guess it could be good for me to get out." Why was I accepting this? I had told myself that I wouldn't get into a romantic friendship any time soon.
"Tomorrow at six? At the Italian restaurant in town?" Of course I knew which one he was talking about, there were only two restaurants in town, an Italian, and Mexican.
"Sure. Don't have any other outings to go to, or any friends for that matter." I hung up. What had I gotten myself into?
Soon one thing led to another and we ended up together, and eventually engaged. He proposed to me on the top of 'Sunset Mountain'. I said yes, and to this day I don't know why he wanted a brat like me, but he did, and I guess I wanted a saint. Because that's what he was after all, a saint. He was kind, gentle, loving, always home on time, never dishonest. Funny that we ended up together.
One time he came over for dinner at my house. He had brought over tender steak and we were enjoying it profusely.
"This is really good." I said, chewing up the meaty perfection.
"Thanks. I made it myself you know. Without the help of mom or anyone." He smiled.
"Yeah, it's really good." We both chuckled.
Something you should know before we continue. I was raised in an awful home. My dad was abusive, I mean, my mom was alright, until I turned ten. When I turned ten she started drinking, and I got sent to my Aunt, who legally (and emotionally) became my mom. That being said, I had never in my life said the words, 'Thank you.' I didn't think there was importance in them, and I didn't bother waisting my energy on them. I would compliment it, but never thank the person for it. For example, all the furniture I got. I would tell the person, 'Wow, this bed is super comfortable.' But I would never take the time to thank anyone. At all. I must have been hit on the head one too many times by a broken chair leg as a kid, because now I realize something was really wrong with me. I had still never thanked Brad (my fiancé) for anything. Food, proposing to me, being the love of my life, being sweet and adorable, giving to me constantly...He was never thanked. It was a really lopsided, awful relationship, and now I want to apologize profusely, but I can't. But we'll get to that later.
That night he left. He wasn't the smiling happy man he had been when he arrived, instead he looked sad and confused. I shrugged it off and didn't think anything of it. He probably just felt sick or something. I went to bed that night and the next and the next. Each day, for a month, Brad wouldn't call. He didn't send me a letter. I began to worry, this wasn't like him. Finally I called him.
"Brad?" I said as he answered.
"Yep?" His voice was low, tired, and sad.
"Where have you been? Why haven't you called or emailed? I've missed you." I really had, I'd missed him more than any other man or person for that matter. Just then I realized, I loved him. I realllllly loved him. I loved him more than anything.
"Have you really missed me? I wouldn't think so." His voice suddenly sounded angry. What had I done?
"What do you mean?" A tear slipped down my cheek. I watched it fall, as if in slow motion, and splatter on the wood floor beneath me.
"Last month when I was with you for dinner, I realized who you really are. I had never thought about this before, but my mom told me that you never thank anyone, you only care about yourself. You never show affection, you only love your own life. No other human being. All this to say, I thought I loved you. I really did, but now I now it was fake love. I'm breaking the engagement. Thanks for taking up my time. Bye, Magnolia." That hurt. It hurt because he used my formal name 'Magnolia' not Maggie. It hurt because he said he never really loved me. It hurt because that is the first time I realized how narcissistic I really was, I realized that I was a brat. I realized my mom had been right. I was dead, and now I needed to work my way to life, real life. And that hurt. I wanted to call him back, apologize, and say thank you for everything, but my stupid stuck up nature worked against me, and I hate to say I lost him.
Later that night I bought ice-cream. I guess I got my chance at replicating a movie scene, but instead of quitting my job in triumph, I lazily shoved ice cream down my throat. I was the classic break-up victim. In sweats, getting fatter-by the Ben and Jerry's spoonful, and slipping into depression, with no life line to save me.
Ten months of grueling pain and soul searching, ten pounds of fat added to my body, and what seemed like ten thousand sleepless nights passed. I finally decided to call him. I walked over to the phone, ecstatic that I had came to this conclusion. I was getting my fiancé back! I was getting my future husband, dare I say it, my baby. And I couldn't wait. Oh, boy I couldn't wait to embrace my saint!
"Hello?" Instead of Brad's voice answering the line, an elderly woman's. She sounded heart-broken. She had reason to be, I just didn't know it yet.
"This is Magnolia Hert. Or Maggie. I was Brad's Ex-Fiancé. I want to make up with him." I don't know why I added that last part, but now I'm glad I did.
"Sorry, honey. But you can't." I didn't know what she was talking about. Her voice sounded like she was breaking into tears.
"Can you just hand the phone to him please? I'll explain everything." I just wanted to hear his voice, hear him accept my apology.
"I can't." She was crying now. Thoughts rushed through my head. Had he gotten a new girlfriend? Or worse, was he engaged again?
"What do you mean? Who are you to make me wait?" I wanted to just make a move like a character in a movie, and proclaim 'GET OUT OF MY WAY, WOMAN!' But I guess that was my problem, always thinking I was a character in a movie.
"He's dead honey. He died of terminal cancer two days ago. You lost a gem, and the hardest part of it all was his last words, 'Tell Maggie...thank you."
I hung up.
My life was officially broken, dashed into a million pieces. He had carried my life and then dropped it, and now my heart was as dead as his body. I would never get him back, and its all because I never said thank you. I could have married him, I could have held his head as he passed on, but instead I was selfish.
Always say thank you. Always be polite. You never know when you might lose the love of your life.
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This is lovely!
Thanks so much Vrishni! I read one of your stories, 'Eric,' and loved it!
This is a beautiful story full of deep emotions. The message at the end was so beautiful. Good job Rose!
Thanks so much, Roshna! I love your work as well. In each story I write I try to develop a certain theme, this one was definitely emotion!
You are very welcome. If you have time, please have a look at my story. It’s called’ what changed between then and now’. I would love to know your take on it. Thank you Rose! 🌹
Of course! I love to read your amazing work!
This is a beautiful, pathetic, heart-breaking story that does show how we can be ungrateful for the gifts we are given, some that we never recognize.
Thanks, Kristine ❤️!