So this is how dreams end , l thought , as my eyes clouded.
The household goods were arranged room wise on white tables laid out in our immaculate lawn.
The banner proclaimed , ' Build Your Dreams '.
The furniture including my favourite recliner and our white and gold bed had already been returned. However even the curtains - the lace ones and the heavy silk ones were folded up neatly and kept in piles.
It was too early for the shoppers to arrive so l had that part of the garden to myself. I wandered over to the tables .
My eyes fell on the Dresden china dinner set and the gold and white bone - china tea set - a gift from my parents and the silver ice bucket and cutlery - a gift from Steve's parents. There was also the engraved rice- plate which Steve had got from an antique shop. He had handed it over , whispering against my cheek- " For Sugar n Spice and everything that's nice..." That was what he always called me Sugar n Spice - his version of my name Candy , short for Candice. I saw the matching napkins which Steve and l had found after a long hunt . l felt a wrench as I pictured strangers handling my beloved belongings . But there was no way l could hold on to them .
I got a whiff of my favourite perfume. But all my clothes had been packed away. Was my beautiful wedding dress among them ? It had been my mother's and was very dear to me . Unbidden the image of Steve carrying me over the threshold sprang to my mind. How beautifully the house had been decorated- flowers and fairy lights everywhere. I had truly felt l had died and gone to Heaven.
I quickly averted my gaze only to have it fall on the momentos and souvenirs we had brought from our honeymoon in Italy. There was the Statue of the ravishing Venus de Milo which l had insisted on buying.
" We don't need this , " Steve had said , throwing his arms around me in full view of the other tourists . " l have my very own Venus..."
Every individual piece had a price tag and l knew would be snapped up in a trice - but how could strangers tell that every piece encompassed a story - a story close to my heart ? When we were buying those things we had thought we were building up memories for a lifetime.
The door opened - it was Steve - hanging on to his arm was Juanita, my best friend.
" Happy ?" he smiled down at her.
" Of course !" she laughed her lilting laugh, a laugh l had always found fascinating. " I love the house but l don't want anything that reminds us - especially you - of her . "
" Why would l think of anyone else when you are there with me ?"
She looked up at him . " l knew you wanted to keep some of the sentimental stuff that she loved - but l want to re- furnish and redo the house completely. "
Being the only daughter of a millionaire, she could well afford that and a lot more .
"The new furniture and the interior decorators will be here by the end of the week. So l'm going to be super busy - and you're not to look until l've done up the whole place."
Steve smiled indulgently. " Go ahead - l can hardly wait. "
By this time, they had come into the garden. Of course they didn't see me. They sat close together on the bench where Steve and l had always sat.
" For all her reputed intelligence, Juanita was saying, " She was pretty dumb - she never suspected that our threesome actually a twosome with her being the odd one out . "
Yes, Juanita was right. I had never suspected, not for a day, not for a minute. How could l - these were the two people l had loved best in the world. With my eyes filled with stars, my heart filled with love, my soul filled with bliss - how could there have been place for doubts or misgivings?
Juanita had hosted our engagement party, she had helped me decorate our dream home, she had selected the flowers and music for our wedding, she had been my bridesmaid... I had shared all my hopes and dreams with her. Until that fateful day. It was Steve 's birthday and l had wanted to surprise him with a delicious home cooked meal. I came home early , planning the menu - how many of Steve's favourite dishes could l cook before he returned . As soon as l opened the front door l heard muffled voices .Oh my God ! I remembered thinking , l hope it's not burglars ! Should l call 911 ? Or maybe Steve had left the TV on... Let me handle this Quietly l shut the front door, opened the broom closet and armed with a broomstick, tiptoed inside. No one in the living room, nor in the dining room, may be the kitchen? All clear . The sounds appeared to be coming from our bedroom. Oh my goodness! My jewellery from last night 's party still lay scattered on my dressing table - l had been too tired to put it away. The door was slightly ajar. Holding my breath, l silently pushed the door a little further - and stood transfixed . Steve and Juanita on our bed, locked in embrace, oblivious of the world! For a few seconds l just stood there - rooted to the spot - if it hadn't been so pathetic , it would have been funny. Then like an automaton l silently shut the door and tiptoed out as noiselessly as l had come. I almost stumbled over a chair. Automatically l put the broomstick back, closed the front door softly and got into my car. All l could think of was - get away, get away - put as much distance as possible between what l had just seen and myself. Maybe when l returned l would find this was just a nightmare, Steve would be waiting for me ... l turned into the crowded interstate. I had no idea where l was headed. I could neither see the heavy traffic nor hear it . All l could see in my mind 's eye was Steve and Juanita - like a film shot , in a loop , the scene relentlessly played itself again and again. Of course l did not notice l was in the wrong lane , nor did l see the trailer truck. It was a head on collision. I never stood a chance.
I was jolted back to the present. Juanita was speaking.
" Do you think of her often ?"
" Well..." Steve hesitated.
" Let go, Steve, learn to let go !"
Let go , l thought to myself, let go !! Are you kidding me ? Not on your life, Juanita. Steve will NOT let go .l will not let him .Love is forever - beyond the world of betrayal and heartbreak, beyond the pale of time and place, beyond the realm of life and death - l was together with Steve in life - and here l am together with him in death too.