This entry is in response to a Flash Fiction Challenge by Kimberley Crawford using the above picture (courtesy of Fake Believe Photography)
WARNING!!!! It is super sad.
If there were ever a perfect place, this is where it would be. The roar of the water would drown out her crying. The search parties had moved through the area already and focused their efforts down stream days ago. It was here where he was last seen on his school field trip. Her baby was lost. The park rangers assume he fell through the railing into the rushing waters of the creek that ran through the national forest. It was day three. The sky was turning orange. She had not slept, showered, or eaten at all.
She sat down on the wooden path that ran the height of the waterfall with landings and stairs climbing up, up, up to the top. She felt her feet swell upon relieving them of the pressure of standing. She slipped her back pack off, unzipped it, and pulled out a flag folded into a triangle, a picture frame, a notebook, a pen, a lantern, and a bottle of wine arranging them neatly. She also set aside her coat and a pillow with a cartoon Iron Man where his little head had lay. The picture was of her, her late husband, and their one and only son three years ago. She had on a yellow and white, knee length sundress. Her sunglasses hid her puffy eyes and lack of make up. Jake was only five and knew his daddy was going to fly helicopters in the desert. He knew about good guys and bad guys. None of them knew this was the last time they would all be together. Hank’s Blackhawk was shot down. He had not survived. If it were not for Jake, Jessica Warren would not have survived either.
She uncorked the wine. The label was elaborate with her and Hank’s initials in black and red, saved from their wedding. Silent tears streaked her cheeks as she took a long drink from the bottle. She could not taste it for grief had dulled all of her senses. She took a deep breath and looked up at the sky. Blue faded to orange clouds above her. She remembered the camera she had given Jake for their first Christmas after losing Hank. She told him, it was a way for him to show his daddy how he sees the world. Every year after, she printed a book of the pictures for his dad, a coping mechanism. She had her own coping mechanism, her writing. She wrote Hank letters like he was still in the desert waiting for his time to be up so he could come home. Now she would write letters to her baby boy, forever on a field trip to the national forest. The hole in her heart suddenly felt like it would swallow her. It shook her soul and with her tears came a scream so loud that the roar of the waterfall was no match. She pulled the pillow into her and squeezed it so close to her body. She buried her face into the pillow so hard it hurt, trying to smell him, trying to hold him one last time. For hours she sat like this, rocking back and forth, cycling through various intensities of sobs.
The sky was black and the air began to chill. She set the pillow neatly down and wrapped herself in her coat. She turned on the lantern and remembered how she would use it during thunderstorms to keep Jake from being too scared. He was everywhere. There was not one thing in this world that would not bring him back to her mind, ripping her apart over and over again. She took another long drink from the bottle and picked up the pen, wiping her tears with the back of her hand so she could see what was going on the paper.
My sweet little boy Jake,
Where did you go, baby? Where are you? I’ve looked and looked. My heart has searched for you in this wilderness but I still can’t find you. You took a piece of me with you. It was the last piece and Mommy needs it back. Mommy needs you to come back. I promise you’re not in trouble. I promise I will never let you go. I promise that I will hold you forever and never let you go. I promise that you will never go another day without receiving every ounce of love I can give you.
Jakey, Mommy can’t do this without you. You’re the man of the house. Who is going to protect me? Who is going to hold me and let me tell stories about your daddy?
Jacob Henry Warren, I love you with every part of my soul. I cannot go on in a world without you or your daddy. I don’t know where I will go, but I hope it’s a place where we can be a family again. But if it’s not, then I hope you find your daddy and he picks up where I had to let go.
I will always love you my sweet son. Love, Mommy.
Jessica’s tears dropped on the paper, smearing the fresh ink. She reached again for her bag. The bottle rattled as her hand searched blindly until it met her fingers. Lithium had been the only thing to get her through Hank’s death and kept her functioning and healthy so she could care for her son alone. It would help again today. She had refilled her prescription just the day before Jake’s disappearance. She poured the bottle’s content into her hand which threatened to overflow. She emptied her cupped hand into her mouth and followed it with the bottle of wine. Three. Deep. Drinks.
She laid her head on the pillow when the bush beside her rustled . She prayed it was an animal come to maul her to death. Though her vision blurred, she could still make out the red t-shirt, and the little body wearing it.
“Mommy? Mommy! I found you!”