“He’s fine now. No heart trouble at all. Me neither for that matter,” Charlie said grinning. He sat down next to her and kissed her salty, wet cheek. “I’ll take care of him until you can meet us, Trudy. But in the mean time I want you to marry Mark. You’re right. He is a good guy. He’ll take care of you and you’ll take care of him.”
Trudy watched Mark close the door between them and promptly started crying. She needed him with her, needed to be held by him, needed it more than anything. But there was a ghost in the way. Mark felt it and she felt it.
She sat down in her rocking chair with tears streaming down her face. She stared at the pictures cluttering the top of Charlie’s piano. Charlie stared back at her grinning at the marina, sitting morosely at the dock with a fishing pole in hand, at their wedding with his arm around his brother, on the boat holding up a trout and asleep in the hammock with their angel, little Taylor, cuddled on his chest. They were both in heaven now. And Trudy was all alone.
“I don’t want to be alone anymore,” she muttered as more tears fell along her cheeks. She suddenly got up and took up the picture of Charlie holding Taylor delicately in his arms. She had never seen him so happy. She assumed he’d be happy now that he had Taylor in his arms again.
“I want to be happy, too,” she mumbled quietly. “Would you mind, Charlie? If I...” She bit her lip. She couldn’t ask him that. But she needed to stop the pain inside and Mark was helping to finally do that.
“You know I’ll always love you, Charlie. But it’s so lonesome without you. Cindy introduced me to Mark and he’s such a nice man. He said he knew you,” she said to the picture. She paused as if to allow him a reply. None came and she continued. “He says he loves me and....I love him, too. Please, don’t be mad at me. I want...I need to...to let go of you.”
She collapsed onto the sofa, still clutching the picture to her chest and cried herself to sleep.
“Trudy? Come on, Baby, wake up.”
She blinked and stared up at Charlie, the real Charlie. “Did I die?” she asked stupidly.
He chuckled. “No, funny girl. This is just a dream. I just wanted to see you one last time. I brought Taylor.”
She gasped as Taylor wobbled over to her dragging his baby blanket with him. He grinned up at her. “He’s wanted to see you for a while now, but I told him we had to wait for the right time.”
She scooped him up and held on tightly more tears leaking out of her eyes as the tiny tot hugged and kissed her. She couldn’t speak. She didn’t have to.
“Mama,” Taylor said playing with her hair. His tiny fingers tangled up in her honey-colored locks.
“Oh, my sweet angel,” she whispered, showering him with kisses.
“Really, Charlie? You don’t mind? I’ll always love you. Nothing will make me stop,” she said adamantly as Taylor cuddled with her.
“Of course I don’t mind and neither does Patty. We’ve met up in heaven. She was hoping you two would get together.”
She gaped open mouthed. “Patty? Mark’s Patty?”
“I don’t know any other,” he retorted grinning, “ You gotta be happy, too. He’s happy and you’re happy now that Cindy brought you together. But you have to sell the house. There’s too many memories in here and I don’t want them getting in your way. My cousin Frank would probably like to buy it still. Ask him, okay?”
“I will, Charlie. Thank you. Thank you for coming to me and bringing Taylor. I missed you both so much,” she said.
Charlie’s face fell. “I miss you, too, Trudy, but we have to go now,” he said sadly. He took Taylor from her and stood up.
“So soon? Please, stay a little more,” she pleaded.
“Can’t, Sweetie. Mark’s gonna be here soon and he won’t want to see me,” he said. “Just go back to sleep and start your new life, okay? We’ll always love you, Trudy. Taylor, say bye-bye to Mommy, bye-bye....”
A hard knocking awoke her. She sat up and found herself on the sofa with Taylor’s baby blanket over her chest. How did that get here? The knocking continued followed by Mark’s anxious voice.
“Trudy! Are you all right?” he said apprehensively.
She cleared her head and went to the front door opening it. “Hi, Mark,” she said blinking the sleep out of her eyes. “Kind of early for our date, isn’t it?” she said smiling.
He kissed her lightly and took her hand. He instantly noticed her wedding band was gone and looked up with the silent query.
“Uh...where did it go?” she asked looking around the floor. She went to the sofa where she slept and found it on top of the picture of Charlie and Taylor. “That’s weird. I don’t ...oh...” she said suddenly remembering the dream. She glanced at the picture and back at Mark. “I was saying good-bye,” she explained. She bent down and picked up the picture replacing it on the piano. The piano would have to stay.
Mark smiled and took her hand. He went down on his knees. “Will you marry me, Trudy?” he asked kissing her hand.
She gaped at him blinking stupidly. She wasn’t certain she was awake yet. “Am I dreaming?” she asked.
He shook his head. “I need you like I need to breath. I want you, all of you for always. I want you to be the last thing I see when I close my eyes at night and the first thing I see when morning comes. Please, marry me and make me so happy.”
She smiled and nodded slowly. He stood up and pulled her into his arms sighing in relief. “I was hoping you’d say that.”