This story is by Alana Xanthe Smith and was part of our 2017 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Her inscription reads: Autumn Payne, January 1, 1967-August 22, 2000, ‘Devoted In Love.’ The sun and moon were visible in the clear blue early morning sky; Jimmie looked out amongst the graves and monuments as he felt the coolness of the air against his face. The freshness of the flowers brought back memories of their wedding day. After placing flowers on her grave, he stood looking down at Autumn’s head stone. It showed a bit of discoloration from the weather and the leaves of the maple tree that hovered over it. He spoke quietly, “The children are doing well; Rachel’s a senior in college and will be applying to Law School soon. Brandon is working at the Mastermind Accounting Firm as a CPA.” He looked out amongst the cemetery shaking his head mournfully with tears in his eyes. “It was hard raising the kids without you; I spent a lot of days crying and thinking about what I could have done differently to avoid that drunk driver. He killed you on our 5th year Anniversary, that was the worst day of my life,” Jimmie cried aloud. “I have been trying to mask this pain of living without you by becoming a workaholic. Autumn, it’s been 17 years and I know you would have wanted me to move on with my life. I found someone I love and want to spend the rest of my life with her,” he expressed. “I plan to propose to her soon, however, I wanted to talk to you about it.” He paused, looking around to see if anyone was listening as he spoke softly. “Her name is Susan; she was my high school sweetheart. Our relationship began to fail during her sophomore year in college; as a result, we went our separate ways. I met you a few years later and didn’t see Susan again until I went to my high school alumni event,” he continued. “Autumn, I’m lonely, and I want to know what it feels like to be loved again,” he confessed as he walked away with tears in his eyes.
“Sgt. Jimmie Payne, Sgt. Jimmie Payne #0000”, Lt. Nook repeated continuing down the roll call list. “Here sir,” Jimmie replied, as he snapped out of deep thought, contemplating whether he should propose to Susan or not. They rekindled their love after seeing each other at an alumni event at Triumph High last year. He pulled the neatly wrapped ring box out of his pants pocket. He worked long hours in the Criminal Investigative Unit as well as ticket details to pay off the balance. Jimmie looked up; suddenly realizing roll call was over. Lt. Nook told them to make sure they had their rain gear and flashlight because it looked like a thunderstorm was coming in. He was so excited about the ring he forgot to check the weather and left his rain gear at home.
Jimmie started toward his squad car after gathering his personal belongings. He checked his phone to see if Susan had called or texted because she’d been MIA (missing in action) at night for the past few weeks. He tried calling her but the call went straight to voice mail. “Maybe she went to bed early,” he thought to himself. He looked at the picture he and Susan took last week at a fall photo shoot. During the last six months, she continued to suggest they get married. She mentioned several times about having a fall wedding at the Arboretum Nature Center in November.
He put his key in the ignition of the squad car, cranked it and pulled out of the parking lot onto the street. “I need to get at least one ticket written before it starts raining,” he spoke aloud. A vehicle was approaching Jimmie in the opposing lane. The driver was driving erratically across the road in what appeared to be excessive speed. He made a U-turn, got behind the vehicle, activated blue lights and siren. The vehicle pulled off to the side of the road. Jimmie approached the vehicle, “Good Evening sir, I stopped you because you were drifting from side to side in the opposing lane driving at an excessive rate of speed. I need to see your license and registration please?” Jimmie watched the driver open the glove compartment to retrieve his registration. He looked over at the passenger and wondered why his girlfriend Susan was in the car with this man. She attempted to shield her face so Jimmie wouldn’t recognize her. “Susan, I have been calling you why haven’t you been responding to my calls or texts,” Jimmie asked? “Hey Jimmie,” Susan stuttered. “This is my husband Clark, we have been separated for over a year and I honestly thought we weren’t going to get back together,” Susan explained. “I told him everything about us, I am so sorry I didn’t tell you this before,” Susan added. Jimmie was glad the rain was coming down so Clark and Susan couldn’t see the hurt flowing from his eyes. Jimmie took the wrapped ring box out of his pocket tossing it into the vehicle. “I won’t need this anymore, he mumbled, have a good life.” Jimmie walked back to the car and drove away. Susan picked up the ring box from the floorboard and opened it up. Tears flowed down her face as she thought, “he was finally going to ask me to marry him.”
Jimmie tired and exhausted, headed back to the precinct to turn in his paperwork. After conversing with some of the officers Jimmie decided to go home so he could sleep away the hurt and pain Susan had caused. He was awakened by the ring of his cell phone. Jimmie sat up; the light from the sun was blinding him. He must have fallen asleep as soon as he laid down; he had so much on his mind. Jimmie looked at his cell phone; it’s a call from the doctor’s office. “Hello,” Jimmie answered. “Mr. Payne, this is Doctor Collins, I apologize for waking you up. I’m calling you regarding the test we ran on you last week. The results show you are suffering from chronic hypertension. In other words Mr. Payne, you may want to think about retiring if you can. Over the years, the stresses of life have caused your health to deteriorate. You could possibly suffer a heart attack or stroke if you don’t minimize the stress in your life, along with putting down those cigars.” “Yes sir,” Jimmie agreed. “I also need for you to stop by the office about three o’clock so we can run a few more tests,” Doctor Collins continued. “Sure Doctor Collins, see you then.” Jimmie replied as he hung up the phone. Jimmie got up to go to the bathroom to take a shower. He looks at himself in the mirror, he thinks, “Can this week get any worse?”
Jimmie sat at his desk, staring out of the window; he retrieves his retirement papers out of the desk, signs his name and placed it back in the envelope. His cell phone begins to vibrate, he looks to see whose calling, and it’s Susan. “Hello,” Jimmie answered. “We need to talk,” Susan mumbled. “About what,” Jimmie replied angrily. “You made me look like a fool Susan; you should have told me that you were still married. I really loved you and wanted to spend the rest of my life with you. I made dinner reservations for us and planned to propose to you, but, you are still married,” he yelled. As they argued back and forth Jimmie felt a diagonal line of pain cut across his chest, making it impossible to inhale. “Susan, I think I am having a heart attack,” Jimmie mumbled as he dropped his cell phone. Susan called out, “Jimmie, Jimmie, Jimmie,” there was no response. She grabbed her keys, ran out the door and rushed to the car as not to get wet from the rain that had been falling all day. Tears began to flow down Susan’s face as she reflected on the events of the previous day when Jimmie saw her in the car with Clark. As she neared the street in which the police headquarters was located, she tried to swerve to avoid a vehicle as it drove through a red light. Before she was able to react, the vehicle crashed into her driver side door pushing her into oncoming traffic.
Susan Brown, February 14, 1964-September 22, 2017, ‘Forever In My Heart’, Jimmie read as he stood in front of Susan’s grave site. He had been in the hospital recovering for over a month and had missed the funeral. As tears begin to flow down his face, he thought to himself, “will I ever fall in love again?”