The bitter October wind whipped Marigold's chestnut curls into her eyes and a stray piece landed in her mouth. Huffing in irritation, Mari pulled the vicious mane of curls back into a low ponytail. If only the job interview had been a virtual meeting. Then, Mari's hair would have remained pristine and her cheeks rosy red instead of kissed by drops of icy rain.
Seeking shelter under the overhang of a nearby bus stop, Mari sat down on the cold plastic bench, careful to keep her mauve colored Coach purse positioned securely on her lap. The small handbag was a splurge during a dark time. Now it was a beacon of light in hopes of starting over in the small town of Marks Crossing, Wisconsin.
The interview with Mason and Mason, a prominent law firm, had taken less than an hour. It was the waiting now that drove Mari crazy. In her head, thoughts swirled like small tornadoes dancing across the grasslands of her home state, Kentucky. Will they hire a secretary with only one year experience and suffering 80% hearing loss? Would anyone take a chance? Haven't I suffered enough?
The hot tears burned at the corners of her eyes but she refused to have a pity party. The last year had been spent tearing through tissues, keeping the freezer stocked with Blue Bunny, and moving half way across the country to move in with her Aunt Delilah.
But this was a chance for a new normal. A chance to move forward instead of drowning in the past. She was no longer Mrs. Daniel Jameson. Alone, so very alone, she was simply Marigold Flemming-a 28 year old widow with only an elderly aunt for family.
Alone. So very alone.
After a ten minute wait, the pounding of rain ceased and a rare rainbow appeared over the tree-lined park across from the bus stop. The colors contrasted with the gray sky and barren branches of stooped trees.
What would life be like if all Mari could live as color? To hear clearly the laughter of children or enjoy the sizzle of eggs and bacon cooking on the stove? To feel love and be loved beyond measure?
Standing up, Marigold lifted her head high, ready to make the two mile walk back to her Aunt Livy's antique store/apartment. Sneaking one last glance across the street to capture the rainbow in her eye, Mari's gaze caught on a smile.
A devastating smile which cut through the layers of Mari's clothes to slash her heart in half. There, not 30 feet away, he stood.
Daniel. Her Daniel. Smiling that half smile, part smirk which always made him look like he was in on a secret but having too much fun to share.
Marigold stumbled backward, bashing the back of her leg against the side of the bus stop trashcan. She barely registered the pain or acknowledged the bruise which would form on her calf.
Instead, her face was frozen in open-mouthed horror. Mari squeezed her eyes closed while fighting to calm down her heart beat. It was galloping like a horse running the Kentucky Derby. Her throat closed up and Marigold imagined what it would be like to pass out, only to wake up from this nightmare.
Daniel, here? Impossible. Daniel had died over a year ago, the victim of a boating accident. He left on a warm Saturday morning and never returned. No body had turned up but the empty boat and torrid currents of the river had left no other explanation.
Marigold managed to pry open her eyes, yearning to wake up from whatever stress-induced nightmare she was experiencing. Her gaze whipped to the spot across the street but Daniel was gone. Gasping for air, Mari almost sighed in relief until a shadow fell on her left.
A strong hand reached out but Marigold shrank away. Daniel, handsome and strong, smiling right in front of her. Impossible.
The sun-kissed hair which he had always managed to wear a bit long was now almost shaved bare. There was a slight scar over his right eye but the ocean-blue gaze penetrating her soul was all his. All Daniel.
He opened his mouth but Marigold couldn't understand. The roaring in her head was loud and uncompromising. Although not completely deaf, overstimulation could cause the world to black out and fade like the day into night.
Hands quaking, Mari managed to force out the ASL signs for 'stay back' and 'who are you?' Thankful for the community courses on ASL and her best friend Eliza, Mari could sign fluently. But so could Daniel.
Flashes of regret and pain crossed the face of a ghost from Mari's past. A forced smile graced the man's lips. Daniel's lips. Stepping backwards, he gave Mari space. Speaking slowly and clearly, he waited until Marigold's breathing slowed before beginning.
"Sweetheart, it's me. Daniel."
"No." The whisper was wrenched from her throat, hoarse and dry. "You're dead. Gone."
Marigold almost wished for the icy rain to return. Then the drops could mask the tears sliding down her chapped cheeks.
Shaking her head back and forth, she felt her strength flee her. Falling to the pavement, she no longer worried about the mud which soaked into her fancy purse.
"You can't..." she couldn't even force out the words. Forming coherent thoughts was harder than the day she had picked out his headstone: Daniel Jameson: Loving Husband and Faithful Servant. Daniel had served as a Lawrence Town for eight years as a park ranger and high school tennis coach. Well liked for his honesty and compassion, Daniel was sorely missed.
It was his memory Marigold was running from. She had sold their small home, a fixer-upper which was more fixer than upper but suited them just fine. She left Lawrence Town one month ago in order to move forward. Mari was tired of living in grief's shadow. She longed to be free from the sorrow which captured her heart and the devastation which tore it to shreds.
Why this? Why now?
"Please, Marigold..." Daniel's voice broke on her name. He dropped to his knees on the sidewalk, facing her as if the weight of the world was on his shoulders. "I can explain."
Those words shook Marigold out of her shock and into a stance feral rage. Anger rushed fierce and strong, turning numbness to power.
Waving her arms wildly, she gestured around them. "You. Are. Dead. They said you drowned. It has been 16 months! 16!" Her voice rose with each word until her brain began to pound from the shrillness of it.
Daniel reached out with both hands, a gesture both supplicating and humbling. "I'm so sorry sweetheart, I'm so sorry. If you let me explain..."
Shoulders shaking, Marigold gasped in rapid breaths, eyes jumping from Daniel to the pedestrians walking behind him towards the bus stop. An elderly gentleman stopped between Daniel and Mari, concern etched across his brow. "Are you ok miss, can I help you?"
Marigold almost laughed at the absurdity of it all. A man old enough to be her grandfather coming to her rescue against the ghost of her past. The ghost of her dead husband.
Voices swirled but the pain at her temples increased, blocking out the chaos. As blackness edged into her vision, Marigold had the faint impression of falling backwards into strong arms, the scent of pine and sandalwood engulfing her small frame.
Slowly coming to, Marigold gazed into the light brown eyes of the elderly gentleman who she had seen on the sidewalk. A young woman is by her other side and helps Mari into a seated position. Marigold read the lips of the woman, "Are you ok? Is there someone we can call?"
Swinging around franticly, Mari searched for Daniel. Yet among the sea of faces, Daniel's no longer there. "Da-niel" she stutters, "Daniel."
Marigold pushes to standing, memories of her interview washed away by a new urgency. Frantically she pushes through the crowd, searching for stormy ocean eyes and a devastating half smirk.
Voices murmured around her. "She needs a doctor." "Someone call for Doc Hopkins, his clinic is right up on the corner."
Aunt Livy pushed through the crowd, searching for her niece. Mr. Nelson, the barber next door had called her, telling her he had found her niece passed out on the sidewalk.
"Marigold," she signs as soon as she finds her pacing in front of the bus stop, "what's wrong?"
Marigold rushed into her Aunt's waiting arms, sobbing with all her might. "Daniel was here. Daniel was here." The soul-wrenching words flayed Livy's heart.
Without words, Livy ushered Marigold away from the bus stop and toward Doc Hopkins' clinic. As they entered through the front door, Doc was already waiting. He took Marigold with him back into his office as Livy signed in at the front desk.
"Another episode Livy?" Rita Walter asked, her mind on things other than just her receptionist duties. She worried about Livy's niece Marigold. This was her third episode in as many weeks.
"I'm afraid so Rita," Livy sighed, heavy with grief for her niece. "I think it might be time for a more serious intervention. The appointments are not progressing as Doc has hoped."
Livy walked slowly over to the waiting area and sat down in the black leather chair. From her bag she pulled out a pamphlet on a specialized clinic for trauma survivors suffering from PTSD. Maybe it was time to accept the help that Marigold desperately needed.
Maybe with therapy and medication, Marigold could work through witnessing the death of her husband Daniel and learn to live in a world with more light than darkness, more hope than fear.