It was as if the earth had moved. The sky was shaking, so that all there was left were falling stars. I forgot all there was around me, everything or everyone I had ever seen or heard about just didn’t matter anymore. I had found her. My true and only love. But just like a falling star, it went as fast as it came. And then all there was left was emptiness. A big hole left inside of me. I will never forget her, she saved my life in every way a person can be saved. So this story isn’t really about me. It’s about her, and all that she was. Because what does it really mean to be happy? Is it friends? Is it family? Or is it love? I guess it’s a little bit of everything. Without people around you, you’ll just feel empty and sad. You’ll always feel like something’s missing.
It all started on a beautiful Tuesday. The sun was shining in the sky and the kids were playing in the streets. It was a beautiful Tuesday. Well, to most people at least. Right now I can’t help but wonder what would have happened to my life if I hadn’t picked up the phone or if I hadn’t gone to the park. Then I probably wouldn’t have met her at all. Then she would still be alive right now. Everything would have been different.
Ryan Smith was a nice guy. He said hello politely to his neighbors, he’d help an old lady cross the road, he would even help getting somebody’s cat out of a tree. Yes, Ryan Smith was a nice guy. But even nice guys have their bad days. And this, this was one of those days.
Ryan Smith stood up at the same time as usual that day. He ate the same thing as usual, he watched the same TV program as usual. But that was the problem. He was tired of it, he was tired of doing the same things over and over and over again. All day, every day. He wanted something new in his life, something exciting. He wanted to go to bed, not knowing exactly what was going to happen when he’d wake up. And especially he wanted someone to share it with. Faith was on his side this beautiful morning, he just didn’t know it.
So he took a short, ice cold shower just to do something different that day. Just as he was about to go to work, his phone started to ring.
‘’This is Ryan.’’
‘’Hé Ryan, it’s Johnson. I’m just calling to say that you don’t have to work at the office today. As you know, today is the grand opening of the new park just outside of town. I want you to go there and write an article about it.’’ Ryan couldn’t believe what he was hearing. His first big article! Now, that’s something new and something really exciting.
‘’Really?’’ He asked. ‘’Of course! I’m happy to! Thank you so much John! I’ll go there right away!’’ Ryan heard Johnson laugh. ‘’Well, well. Now that’s the kind of spirit we need more in this world! Good luck Smith. I’m counting on you.’’
Even though Johnson had hung up the phone, Ryan could still hear his voice clearly. ‘’I’m counting on you, Smith..’’ Ryan quickly grabbed a pen and his work map, made a couple of sandwiches and went on his way to the park.
‘’Honey? Honey, wake up!’’ Lauren Sullivan was trying to wake up her daughter.
‘’Come on Melanie, rise and shine! You’ll have to wake up if you want to go to the grand opening of the brand new park!’’ Melanie slowly, but surely started to wake up. ‘’Hmm..?’’
Lauren laughed. ‘’Now come on, you sleepyhead. Time to get up or else I will go without you!’’ Melanie quickly got up and jumped out of bed, feeling a bit dizzy. ‘’Okay, okay.. I’m up.. See? I’m ready to go!’’ Lauren looked at her eight year old daughter. ‘’Don’t you think you should eat and get dressed before we go?’’ Melanie looked a bit confused. ‘’Right.. That’s probably a good idea..’’ She started walking towards the bathroom.
‘’Oh, Tom..’’ Lauren thought. ‘’I wish you could be here to see what a pretty, little lady she is becoming..’’ Lauren quickly shacked the memory of her husband out of her head, and went downstairs to make breakfast.
By that time Ryan had arrived at the park. He was just searching for a parking place, but it was already full of cars. ‘’Oh, god.. It’s still a couple of hours to the official opening. Why is everybody here already?’’ He thought to himself. He felt his good mood slowly slipping away from him. Luckily, he had finally found what seemed to be the only parking place left, that wasn’t a half-hour walk to the park. Ryan never liked walking that much. He preferred driving everywhere.
Lauren wasn’t like that at all. She absolutely loved to walk, and so did Melanie. So it isn’t really a surprise that they decided to walk to the park, instead of driving there.
It was about eleven o’clock when they got there. The official opening started at one o’clock.
‘’Mom! Mom, look at me!’’ Melanie was jumping and running around in the grass, pretending to be a butterfly. ‘’Look mom, I can fly!!’’ Lauren looked at her daughter smiling.
‘’Just don’t go too far, okay? Stay where I can see you.’’ Lauren said, not sure if Melanie even heard her. She found a good place in the shadow of a big tree, where she sat down to read a little before the opening. She grabbed her old version of Jane Austens Pride and Prejudice. Lauren had read all of her books hundreds of times, but never got bored. Yet today she wasn’t feeling the excitement she usually felt when reading a book. She couldn’t even open it. She couldn’t help but think of Tom. She missed him so much, sometimes all she could do was stare out of the window, without even moving an inch. Wondering what If ?
She missed his smile when she did something clumsy as usual, she missed how his hair looked when he just got out of bed. But mostly she missed the way Tom used to looked at Melanie. It was a look full of love. Lauren had never told Melanie she was adopted, she just couldn’t do it. But even though Melanie was adopted, Lauren and Tom had always loved her like she was their own. The reason that they had never told her anything about that, was because of Tom. Tom was adopted as well, so he knew what it was like. He knew what it was like not knowing who your real parents are. He knew how it felt to always think what if ?
What if I was never adopted? What if I met my parents now? What would I do? What would I say? The only thing Tom had known for sure, was that he had a biological twin brother.
But he had never met or seen him. And now it was too late.
‘’Mom? Mom!’’ Melanie was standing over Lauren. Lauren quickly got back to reality and focused on Melanie. ‘’Yes, what’s wrong sweetie?’’ Lauren said worried. She had never seen Melanie look so confused and so excited at the same time. ‘’Mommy, I just saw daddy! Daddy is here also!’’ She said happily. Lauren couldn’t even say anything, she just stared at her daughter. ‘’What do you mean; you saw daddy?’’ Melanie didn’t answer her, but instead started pulling Lauren’s arm to get up. ‘’Come on! Get up! Don’t you wanna say hello to daddy? Don’t you miss him?’’ As Lauren slowly stood up she tried to make sense out of what she’d just heard.
‘’No.. He couldn’t be..’’ She thought to herself. Without even thinking about it, Lauren started to walk along Melanie to wherever she was taking her. Melanie looked up to Lauren.
‘’Look mommy! There he is! You see? I told you daddy was here too!’’ Lauren was so shocked by what she saw, that she just dropped her book on the floor. There, a couple feet away from her was sitting Tom. She couldn’t believe it, though it was right in front of her. It was Tom! It was a miracle, he was back!
‘’Is she alright??’’
‘’Should we call someone?’’
‘’Kid, do you know who we can call for your mother?’’
Lauren slowly opened her eyes. She was lying in the grass, hearing voices she couldn’t quite understand. What had happened? Did she pass out? Tom! She saw Tom! Where was he?
Did he leave again? ‘’Tom? Tom, where are you? Tom?!’’ She looked around confused.
Who were all these people? ‘’Tom!?!’’ She tried to sit up, but someone stopped her. ‘’You should probably stay down for a while, you just passed out.’’ Lauren didn’t listen, she didn’t want to listen. She stood up and looked around. ‘’Tom, where are you? Tom? Where’s my husband!’’ She didn’t see him anywhere, he was gone. When everything was finally going well with her life, he showed up. And now he has disappeared again. She fell on her knees, looked up and started to cry. ‘’Please, please Tom.. Come back to me.. Please.. You can’t leave me here, not after everything I’ve been trough..’’ Melanie looked at her mother insecurely. ‘’Mommy? Daddy’s right here, but he says he’s not daddy…’’ Lauren looked at her. Beside Melanie a man was standing who at the same moment looked exactly like Tom, yet also was a stranger to her. It wasn’t Tom. Now that she looked closely enough she saw it. It wasn’t the man she’d known for all her life. It wasn’t the man she had married. And it sure wasn’t the man who had died in a car accident a couple years back and broke her heart. It wasn’t Tom.
The man sat down beside Lauren. ‘’Are you okay? I don’t know who Tom is, but it isn’t me. My name is Ryan Smith.’’ He looked at her with a worried face. All the other people had left already. She now was alone with Melanie and Ryan. ‘’I’m fine, thank you.’’ She avoided looking at him. ‘’Melanie, you want to go home or stay here for the opening?’’ Lauren asked.
‘’I want to go home, but I don’t wanna walk all the way again.’’ Lauren quickly thought what she should do. She didn’t bring any money, so they couldn’t go with the bus. She also couldn’t carry Melanie all the way. Her thoughts got interrupted by Ryan. ‘’I drove here, I can take you home if you want.’’ Lauren finally looked at him. He probably thought she was some kind of crazy woman. ‘’No, that’s okay. You came here to see the opening, it’s almost starting. You’d miss it if you take us back.’’ The poor guy kept looking like he had to do something, anything. ‘’No, no. It wouldn’t be a problem at all. It’s the least I can do.’’
Lauren looked at him thankfully. ‘’Well.. Okay, I guess. I appreciate it. Thank you.’’
Ryan smiled relieved. ‘’Okay, let’s go then.’’
The drive home was awkward. Lauren didn’t know what to say, neither did Ryan. Melanie just sat silently in the back, still feeling a bit confused. Ryan stopped the car in front of their house. ‘’So.. Here we are..’’ Ryan said nervously. Lauren finally looked him in the eye.
Tom’s eyes.. She felt a familiar pain in her chest. ‘’Thank you for driving us home Ryan. Uhm.. Do you want to come in for some tea?’’ She asked trying to be polite. ‘’No, thank you. I can’t. I have to write an article on the opening. It’s my first real article, so I really can’t miss it, sorry.’’ Ryan responded.
Lauren actually felt kind of relieved, though she tried not to show it. ‘’Oh, okay. That’s fine, don’t worry about it.’’ She looked at Melanie. ‘’Come on, Mel.’’ Before she got out of the car, she thanked him again for driving them home, since she didn’t know what else to say.
The rest of the day Lauren tried not to think about Ryan. She went to the cinema with Melanie, just for the distraction. Yet as much as she kept trying, she saw Tom everywhere. She thought she saw him when there was a man with the same jacket as Tom used to have. She thought he was sitting behind her when she smelled his old aftershave. She thought she heard him when someone laughed, because it kind of sounded like Tom.
Lauren hadn’t felt this way in a long time and now it was starting all over again. Now that she could think about it, it was pretty logical. She always knew Tom had a biological twin brother. So of course they looked so much alike. What she couldn’t figure out though, was how she just bumped into him. There were so many people in the park at that moment. This couldn’t just be coincidence, could it? Maybe she was supposed to meet him, since Tom never did. But she didn’t ask for his phone number or address. It didn’t even cross her mind until now. If it really wasn’t just a coincidence, she would see or hear from him again. If she didn’t, she just had to forget this whole day.
That night, when Lauren was lying in bed, she just couldn’t fall asleep. And when she finally did, she had nightmare after nightmare. It mostly was about Tom’s accident. She knew how it happened, of course she did. She was sitting right beside him. She still couldn’t fully understand why he had been the one to die and not her. She had felt so guilty for so long. Like it was her fault that Tom died. Like he died because of her. His life for hers. Of course that had nothing to do with it. It sounded so crazy, even when she didn’t say it out loud.
But you can’t just change the way you feel. Or the way you are for that matter. People say it’s so easy to change, like they know what is going on inside your head. They always look at you with criticism in their eyes. Even when they don’t say it, you know it. You can feel it.
If you lose someone you love, everyone suddenly cares. Suddenly everyone wants to help you. But after a couple of months they forget you. They don’t come by to check on you anymore, they don’t call as often as before. They just don’t care as much. Sure, it’s tragic, but you have to move on. A few months is more than enough to grief over your dead husband, your dead father, your dead friend. At least, that’s what they say. Not in front of you of course. Nobody ever says anything in your face anymore. All of it happens behind your back, yet you still know exactly what their talking about. You.
The next morning everything seemed to be going normal again. Lauren was just finishing Melanie’s breakfast, when she heard the doorbell. She washed her hands and went to see who it was, so early in the morning. When she opened the door, there was Ryan. For a quick second she thought, or better said wished it was Tom. ‘’Ryan? What are you doing here?’’ Lauren asked. ‘’Well, yesterday you left your book in the park. I thought you might want it back. I forgot about it when I drove you home.’’ Truth be told, he did not forget. Ryan just wanted an excuse to drive by again. He felt a strange connection to Lauren and Melanie.
He couldn’t explain it, he didn’t even understand it. Lauren looked at the book in his hand.
‘’Oh! Thank you, Ryan. I appreciate you taking the time to drive by.’’ She didn’t really know what else to say. Neither did Ryan. ‘’No, no, it’s okay. I was in the neighborhood anyways.’’
Lauren quickly thought to herself about what she should do. She did promise herself that if her meeting Tom’s twin brother wasn’t just a coincidence, she would see or hear from him again. And now there he was, right at her doorstep. ‘’Do you want to come inside for some coffee or tea?’’ She asked. Ryan couldn’t help but smile. ‘’Yea, sure. I would love to.’’
Lauren took Melanie to school and spent the rest of the day with Ryan. They talked about themselves, their jobs and their lives. They talked about Melanie and at last they talked about Tom. Ryan hadn’t known he’d had a biological twin brother. He wanted to know as much as he could about Tom. How was he like? How did he die? What kind of movies and music did he like? Did he like to write, just as Ryan himself? Had he been happy with how he spent his last days on earth, or was he angry? Sad? Bored? Ryan had watched the photo’s in Laurens house, feeling like he was looking at what could have been him. He could have had a wife by now, a child, a family. But he was alone, because the only thing he had been able to focus on was his work. For the last years he’d spent so much time trying to get a promotion. And then he finally got a chance to write a real article and he missed it. He was too late for the opening, because he drove Lauren and Melanie home. But he didn’t even care. Not really. Because otherwise he wouldn’t be sitting there, hearing stories about the brother he had never known. Otherwise he wouldn’t have met Lauren. For the first time in his life, Ryan understood why people would choose family over career. When he drove home that day, he realized that he’d been so focused on work because he was lonely. But how could he ever meet someone if he was always working? Even when he didn’t have to write something for his job, he did it anyway. Trying to improve, to be better. He has come a long way because of it, he just hadn’t had the chance to show it yet. Until yesterday of course.