mom to jubilee. widow to quintin duchane. sister to zanna. producer at ALL-CAPS.
would happily watch all the districts burn to the ground,
but for now she'll settle on reporting their children's deaths. hardass, wine mom, bitch, messy crying drunk. workaholic. has two friends. said friends may be her sister & daughter. spite. hate. sorrow. bottling up emotions because she doesn't believe in therapy. late nights talking to a ghost in a bed that's far too big.
She was soft, once. Three years old, babbling, falling over and crying when she grazed her palms. Twenty-three years old, laughing, dancing slowly to music in front of glass windows. She hadn't ever thought that she could shatter. She was stronger than the weight of life. Harder.
Hard on herself, her sister, her parents and the way they raised her. Clenched fists, crossed arms, blushing furiously in a stupid green dress. "This is Xena", that stupid fucking dress. "And this is Zanna."
Bright red cheeks, they clashed with pastel green. She wasn't meant for this kind of life.
She wasn't meant for parties and dresses painted colours of nusery-room walls. Her mother doted and whined and made her look like a doll, until Zanna came along and they left her to her scrapbooks and copies of the Hunger Games and dancing, her first love.
There was something about the discipline of ballet she loved - aching toes and muscles that screeched in protest, she defied the cries of her body and persisted. When little girls groaned and cried at their teacher's corrections Xena straightened her spine, furrowed her brow, tightened her braids and worked.
Six years old girls shouldn't want to spend their days stretching their limbs into ruin and frowning at their reflection in ceiling-high mirrors, but Xena wasn't there for the pretty dresses and fawning parents. She was there to drill holes in her hands and feet and be her own worst critique, her own puppeteer, work until her toes bled and her reflection whispered perfect.
She grew out of tutus and into heels, kissing boys behind lockers and curling her hair. It fell past her shoulders, light brown like her mothers, and she stopped dying it colours of the rainbow at 15 to the horror of her classmates. Her parents are still kind and doting and her teachers aren't quite sure how such a stern, stubborn, furious-looking girl came from the two of them but they tell them what they want to hear at parent-teacher interviews: the truth. She doesn't socialise much but gets on with her work. Aces it, in fact. Becomes a leader in group projects, always turns her work in on-time, has mentioned choreographing the dance team once or twice. Her parents hear what they want to hear.
She gets that from them. That, and her father's brown eyes and olive skin and she's tall, like her grandmother was. Boys invite her to parties and she lingers for a while, quietly sipping sugar-flavoured drinks in the suburbs, wallflower who kisses boys with an empty mouth and leaves the party by herself when nobody's looking. She's pretty, but her little sister is beautiful and that's okay. Xena knew she was meant to be more than a pretty girl in high heels and leather pants who kisses boys and makes them cry.
They told her she could be anything. Empty words, just air and noise - she could be anything. And then they told her who she should be: beautiful, elegant, strong-willed and devout to the Capitol law. She was all of those things but not in the way they wanted her to be.
("You could be a Peacekeeper with that grip" someone nods to her, seventeen and shaking hands with people who are supposed to show her what to become. She just scowled back, "No thanks."
"But don't you want to bring justice to those that oppose Panem's peace, Xena?"
She does, curls her fingers into her palm. Curls her lips into a wicked grin.)
They're the same lips that spat "It's what they deserve" at nine years old -- she's watching tributes drop like insects on barren wastelands somewhere far, far away from her world.
"Why do you say that?" her little sister had whispered in her ear.
She simply turned, steely-eyed - they could have dripped with blood of dead tributes she swallowed with her gaze for hours and hours on end. Smiled at her sweet little sister.
"Because we're better than them."
("But don't you want to bring justice to those that oppose Panem's peace, Xena?"
"Because I'm better than that.")
She could be anything, so she became cruel.
Peacekeeping was for savages, for uncaged violence, for the people of the Districts to tear each-other apart. Her parents may have raised her in lilac skies and shrill-sounding screeches but she wasn't going to waste the education they had given her. Zanna could dance around all she wanted, wafting through dead-end jobs and tea parties, they say the youngest child has always had it easy. Xena, despite her eldest child status, was the one who had it easy. For a while.
College, straight-A's because she had nothing better to do than to rip herself in two like she did her notes at the end of the year. A double-major in Analytics and Creative Management minoring in Gamemaking Statistics seemed like a good idea at the time, ticking enrollment boxes and grinning at acceptance letters. Caffeine heart beat, she'd wake up 2 hours into a 3 hour sleep with dangerous palpitations and decide any sleep at all was a luxury. Being hard on herself was easy. Normal. Bleary-eyed and breaking, coffee for blood, she graduated with no friends and a sheet full of 100's - her parents wept, their beautiful, intelligent, wicked daughter had won the world.
She became a shadow after caps and gowns and ceremony music, following the best of the best. They'd asked her what she had wanted to become and she said a do-er, a shake-er, she wanted to drill people to their desks and make them work for her respect and trust. Internships became part-time, full-time, she stopped hiding in the shadows and stepped out into the light that danced around her, scared of the dark. Scared of her. Little bitch, nasty, kept her head glued to her work and her work glued to her desk and she falls asleep at the office too many nights to count because there's something about drowning yourself in your work when it's all that you've got going for you and she feels like she's working and working to prove a point but it's not to the people around her it's to herself-
One morning she wakes to a hand at her shoulder, twenty-two years old and the smell of espresso finds her on the floor next to her desk. It's 6.05am. A man with glittering eyes and a streak of blue in his stupid hair grins down at her - one hand round a coffee cup, one hand still on her shoulder.
"Hey Xena," he's still grinning, she wants to punch him in the face - what time is it again?
"It's just past six in the morning" he replies - she blinks, he sips his cup of coffee. "Yeah, you said that out-loud."
She snatches the cup, bed-head, yesterday's clothes with a violent blush in her cheeks, and downs the liquid in 6 seconds.
It hits the waste basket by her desk, she picks up a pre-packed bag underneath her chair and heads to the bathroom without saying a word.
"That was my coffee!" he yells - but she doesn't listen.
She doesn't listen to Quintin Duchane for a long time.
He brings her coffee every morning after that. Slips it on her desk when she's not looking. It waits for her, a 'good morning' when she arrives at work, a felt-tip 'Q' at the bottom of the cup that she can never see - but when she takes a sip, everyone else can. She doesn't quite know who leaves the giant cups amongst her paperwork but she has a sneaking suspicion - people giggle as she takes a sip, it scalds her tongue and she keeps quiet, scowling at them all.
Quintin Duchane bids her goodbye as he leaves the offices every afternoon without fail. She waves half-heartedly, eyes never moving from her notes and analytics, ignores him half the time. A giggly laugh follows his farewell and she looks up for half a second, some girl on her tiptoes chasing after him and clinging to his arm. She'd roll her eyes - and he wouldn't take his off of her.
Elevator doors close and she smirks, fidgeting with today's coffee cup long since emptied. Only when she packs up her things, switches off her computer and throws the cup into the bin does she spy a single letter inked in blue at the bottom of the vessel.
Her eyes flit back to closed elevator doors and she blushes in the faint light of a spring evening, brushing the thought of him out of her mind.
But her mouth still tastes faintly of coffee and it makes her smile.
He works in the writing department, of course. The lady at reception points towards the offices four doors down from her office and she wonders why he would ever need to walk through her room and pass her desk to get home. As she strides the answer comes in the form of two cups of coffee in her hands, the letter 'X' crossed in the same hidden fashion as her 'Q'. It's an attempt at being nice, she convinces herself - paying him back for all that money he'd spent on her. The thoughts settled in her mind easier than trying to convince herself she was making friends. A friend.
Finding his desk wasn't hard - blue scarf wrapped around a chair, the same blue as the streak in his hair. "Morning Xena!" someone chirps at her as she places the cup by his keyboard - she nods back, unimpressed at the peppiness in their voice at 6am, and violently storms back to her own work space.
"Cold bitch" the chirper mutters - Xena smirks.
Lunchtime rolls around and Quintin Duchane strolls by her desk, stopping to lean at the divider with an obnoxious grin on his face. She pretends to ignore him and continues typing, only stopping to throw a thumbs up in his direction for half a second.
"Thanks for the coffee, Xena."
"Mhmm" she responds, continuing to punch in numbers and calculations like it was her life's mission. To her surprise and faux horror, Quintin pulls up a spare chair and scoots up right beside her desk.
"Whatcha doing, then?"
"Working, heard of it?" she spits back, sarcasm second-nature. Fresh out of her twenty-third birthday and two departments upstairs are apparently fighting to get her on their team, or so says the receptionist who's an awful gossip.
Quintin doesn't back off like most. That's the first thing about him that she remembers being surprised by. In fact he smiles at her spite, pearly-white grin and dimples, freckles budging together on his nose - as if her coldness tickled his bright soul.
"It's lunch time, give me a break. You should take one once in a while. Try it out. Relax."
"Can't" - robotic, although her eyes slip to the side of her vision to look at him more clearly and her heart so humanly skips a beat. "Too much work."
"Awh, come on Xena" he laughs, resting his elbow on her desk and his head in his palm, "take a break! Don't pass out on me again."
Her boss catches wind of their conversation and frowns, nodding at Quintin. "You can go, the boy's right. Take a goddamn break for once."
She sighs, heavily, looking at Quintin with distaste and annoyance - but he only perks up and blinks long lashes in her unamused direction. "You heard bossman - orders are orders!"
He takes her to a quirky sandwich store and demands she try eight different condiments at once. Awkward and taken aback at spending her time socialising for once, she settles on three and promises to try the other five by the end of the week. Blue eyes study her reaction to every single flavour with keen intent, smiles as she nods in surprise with wide-eyes of pleasure and laughs quietly when she screws up her face and gags. Xena finds herself laughing, ordering two cups of coffee in the mornings, exchanging the odd story about her parents, her work, her family and studies and things she likes to do.
"Dancing?" Quintin exclaims one night, almost choking on his pretzel in the summer air.
"What?" Xena blushes, defensive, speaking through a mouthful of her own snack. "You think I can't dance?"
"I mean, it's not the first thing that comes to mind."
Boots click along on cobblestone streets and they walk in faint neon light past advertisements and fellow Capitolites. She scowls, swallowing hard, "I could dance circles around you."
"Oh," he laughs into the air, staring straight ahead into the outdoor nightlife of bustling shoppers and Friday evening excitement. "I don't doubt that for a second."
They're friends. It's new and fresh and she's not used to smiling so much but she likes it, the way her cheeks tickle and her heart warms, the way her chest aches after laughing and letting loose once in a while. He teaches her to celebrate the small things, find beauty in detail - she teaches him to dance and he's not half-bad. She wears blue to work one day and someone sends a wink her way - she shrugs it off, coincidence. Promotions find her and she moves up one floor, Quintin still waits by the elevator to say goodbye and she finds herself longing for 6pm and then, all of a sudden, terrified of the hour.
They watch the Victor Presentation Ceremony fireworks dazzle in the night sky. They have their qualms about the best parts of the Games, he says the arenas and outfits, she says the deaths, they run their own bets between them on who will go down first and she wins every time. Only when she gazes up at the sky to watch it light red and gold and silver and feels his hand slip in to hers does she realise he let her win for a reason.
She doesn't look at him. Just stares up at the sky, every atom in her body focused on the touch of his hand and how it makes her shiver. She lets go, quietly, and as the show concludes they make their way home and Xena pretends that it never happened, that she wasn't petrified of what he was and what he meant to her.
Denial, she finds coffee on her desk come Monday morning. It tastes bitter today.
He still takes her dancing, invites some of his other friends. She doesn't have any apart from her sister and Zanna is too busy with her own friends, socialising and kissing strangers and living the life she was meant for. So she makes friends with his own, learning names and faces and what they do for a living. He shows her art, music, it's beautiful - tragic, but beautiful.
"Red," she whispers. Her favourite colour, it tumbles out of her mouth quietly. All her words around him have been quieter lately.
"I don't have to guess what yours is, do I?"
He runs a hand through his blue-streaked hair and shakes his head. "Bit of a giveaway, isn't it?"
He's beautiful, she thinks secretly as she watches him from above her wine glass. Freckles and autumn scarves, he points out constellations in the sky of an observatory at 2 in the morning and she laughs, but it's nervous laughter. He's charming and kind, and makes her feel like a half-decent person for the first time in her life. He's infuriating and whimsical and wonderful and he scares her. Shifting tides, she becomes cruel again - bids him a short goodbye and takes the long way home because she can't keep making excuses for his excuses, for her excuses.
"Xena," he sighs in the corridors at work, catching her arm as she walks past. She's 24 and it's been months since they went dancing. Her mouth still tastes like coffee regardless.
"I can't-" she manages, shrugging away from his touch. She buries herself in her work and he stops taking the elevator and there's an empty space in her life that he once filled.
He tells her that he loves her every day at 6am, blue felt-tip pen, one initial. She won't listen. She won't let herself listen.
He stops calling. She stops wearing blue. Rips her heart from her sleeve and undoes the stitches he'd left on her skin. Rips him from her heart, undoes all they had built. Fear of failure sits on her shoulders and clings to her throat, suffocating, swallowing words she shouldn't even be thinking, let alone uttering. She's only ever had one friend and he made her feel something, something she shouldn't. Something dangerous, corporeal and unknown and frightening. Something that could ruin the only connection she'd ever had to another person before.
Something that could ruin her.
Raw and bleeding, broken thread limp and scattered on her carpet, she sits in the dark of her apartment building and cries for the first time in a long, long time.
They're unknown lovers. It's his birthday, she has it circled on the calendar in the kitchen and she dumps the rest of the year in the trash can. She gets coffee for one at a different corner cafe. Weeks pass and it's only until they're the last two people left in the building of their creative agency does she see him again - dimly lit hall lights and angst cast themselves across her vision and his sad, tired figure.
She turns to walk away and he catches her again, earnest and demanding - except this time she doesn't shrug him off.
"Talk to me, Xena. Please."
Words fail, he's got her cornered in and his eyes, god, his eyes are hurting like she's never seen before.
"There's nothing to talk about" she mutters, struggling to breathe.
"Bullshit!" - and that's the second time she remembers him surprising her, his violent choice of words so furious in that moment. Quintin Duchane, who plucked beautiful words from his brain and stitched them together to create works of art, who treasured language and the spoken word, so overcome with impatience he almost spits instead of speaking. He heaves in a breath and pauses, calming himself. "I-"
His words are calmer now, clearer, a hand running down his stricken face. "I'm sorry if I scared you away, Xena, but you've got to know-"
"Don't" she whispers. "Quintin, don't."
"For once in your life stop being so damn stubborn and listen!" he cries, louder, and she does.
"I know I was too forward sometimes, I know that. I just... I thought that maybe if I tried to show you how much I cared about you, maybe you'd show me too and maybe you'd yell at me, stomp on my foot and tell me to never speak to you again.
"And maybe that would hurt, and maybe I'd deal with it and get over it and never bother you again. But..."
She knows what hes going to say before he says it, closing her eyes and sighing. He's said it a thousand times in her head, in her dreams. In her fears.
"But this is worse, Xena. The nothing. No calls, no texts, no coffee in the morning. Nothing is far, far worse than the truth."
He chisels at her heart without knowing it. Ice cracks.
"And maybe it's what I deserve. But if you care about me, even just a little bit, even just as your friend, then tell me. Tell me and I'll take what you say and live with it. Just please."
His voice cracks - the third surprise.
"Please, no more silence."
A moment passes. Two. Three. She struggles to open her mouth, to speak the truth, and the hand wrapped around her throat squeezes tighter with every word until she cannot breathe. All she can focus on is the hammering from her heart so violent and heated she thinks it may burn a hole in her chest.
"I'm sorry," she confesses, truth in every word. "I'm sorry."
She speaks to his eyes, his ears, his lips and skin and every trace of him.
"I thought that if I backed away and cut you from my life that it would be easier, that I wouldn't have to think about you and how you make me feel. But I've never been good at making friends and then there you were, so insistent on being around me, and I didn't understand it - but you insisted, and you made me experience things I'd never... I'm not good with words, Quin."
She swallows, hard.
"I can't lose that. I can't lose you on a chance."
"Then take it," he insists, taking a step closer and grasping her hand in his. She gasps, lightly, at his touch - her skin craving his for months on end. "Take a chance on me. On us."
"I'm not one for risk-taking" she mutters to the ground, eyes sealed to their intertwined hands. "You know that." "No," he smiles, his free hand reaching up to cup her chin with his fingertips. "But I am."
"Quin I'm so sorry-"
"Don't apologise. Don't ever apologise to me."
And then he kisses her, and they are everything, and he is everything. Everything.
Red and blue, they breed a purple love.
He moves in to her apartment and it becomes theirs. Work colleagues raise their eyebrows, take off their glasses, double-take and whisper "Finally" when they walk into work hand-in-hand, X & Q on their coffee cups. The barista had grinned that morning, winking at them as she took their orders without prompt. "So you're Q... and you're X... ahhh" she'd smiled - Xena had blushed.
They danced in moonlight, clinked wine glasses, smiled and laughed and kissed and lived. Jobs came and went with the months and the years and they fell even harder in love. They bickered and fought, mostly at the fault of Xena - stubborn and impatient and crying furious tears as Quintin wrapped himself around her and told her he still loved her. He met her parents and they adored him. She met his and they adored her. And they were good. Beautiful, wonderful, frustrating.
Until blue was all she could think about, vomiting in the bathroom sink three days in a row and her boss sent her home when her lunch met the wastepaper basket by her desk. She held her breath, acted on a hunch, and sat on the bathroom floor of their apartment staring at two blue lines and sobbing into her hands.
Being a mother was never in her plans. He is delighted and she is petrified, they argue more - he blames hormones, she blames her selfishness. She cries more in those 9 months than she's ever cried in her life and when she holds her daughter in her arms she's sobbing, Quintin's lips on her cheeks telling her she's the most incredible person he's ever known. But she still cries, because she never thought she could love like this. Never thought she could love anyone more than she loved Quin. Her daughter proves her wrong, 2 minutes old and she's Xena's whole world - it's scary, but a good scary.
Jubilee Blue is born and Quintin is a work-from-home Dad. Xena forgets what sleep is for a while, but her body is used to substituting rest with caffeine so she dances in the living room at 2am lulling her child back to sleep.
He asks her to marry her on a Tuesday afternoon. Their daughter turns one and Xena wears blue, hands clasped together and vowing to love each-other forever, forever, forever. They dance on the balcony, their daughter in their hands, and for a moment Xena Duchane stops being cruel.
Everything is perfect.
And then perfect ends.
His old work place need an emergency fill-in for a special television segment in District 8. He's thrilled, eyes sparkling with passion - the same sparkle she fell in love with. She kisses him goodbye and he holds their daughter close and he promises he'll call every night before she falls asleep.
The phone rings every night for three nights. They spend hours talking, he tells her about the train ride, how a bird flew right into his hand when they got to Eight, how Jubilee would love them. She smiles into the receiver, he tells her goodnight, she tells him she loves him. He tells her forever.
The phone doesn't ring on the fourth night.
At 11pm she stops staring at the phone. Xena paces around their apartment loft, checks on their sleeping daughter, flicks through television channels until she's not paying attention to the movement on the screen any longer. Consumed with panic, she shakes it off, makes excuses. Forgets to breathe.
At the exhale, 12:51am, the phone rings.
She lunges, breathless, sighing his name into the line.
And a voice she doesn't recognise breaks her heart, and her mind, and her soul.
They say trauma can hide your worst memories. That some things are too awful to remember. She remembers disconnecting, falling to the floor, screaming down the line that they were liars, they were all liars, remembers Jubilee waking up and screaming too. There's no black-out, no fading away from the moment, no passing out on the floor. It's just raw grief, agony, trying to console her infant child whilst she's shaking so violently she thinks the whole building might come down. Quintin Duchane was killed in a mob turned violent, a riot caused by bitter citizens of Eight tired of their treatment. The Peacekeepers had gunned them down but it was too late, too late, she tells them they're liars and sobs, violently, into her distressed child, until dawn greets the two of them alone in their grief.
Trauma doesn't conceal pain for a person like Xena Duchane. Trauma paints itself across her every atom until she is nothing but it. She stops listening to music. She stops cooking. She stops sleeping. She rips the phone off of the wall, terrified of hearing the eerie sound of it ringing. She stops taking her parents' calls, stops letting people in, stops doing anything but look after her child and stare blankly at the walls of her home for hours and hours and hours.
Childishly, she thinks it's all a joke. Closes her eyes and waits for the door to open, for his voice to sing out across the air and to scoop up Jubilee in his arms and kiss her on the cheek and tell them both that he loves them more than anything.
He's not coming back.
And yet there he is. By the window. In the kitchen. In their - her - their bedroom. In Jubilee Blue, laughing at her toys, so blissfully unaware that her father is gone.
She turns up to work on Monday morning and ignores everyone and their pitiful looks until her boss has to push her out of the door, demanding she take the week off, and she vomits in the elevator on the way back down.
Their bed is an ocean and she is adrift, lost at sea, lost in her thoughts and her insomnia and the lack of him by her side, in her life, alive.
"Come back" she whispers at his pillow - an indent where he used to lie still faintly pressed into the satin and feathers. "Please."
Pillows don't talk. She flings an empty wine glass at the wall and it shatters on impact - Jubilee starts to scream in the room next door. Xena falls asleep on the floor of her daughter's bedroom and wishes it would swallow her whole.
Days turn into a week, she spends the hours holding her daughter close and letting her parents dote on her. The funeral is held on a Saturday morning and she asks guests to wear blue. In her ocean of grief, she drowns in the colour and when the sea of mourners parts and they bury her husband in the ground she sits on the grass with her daughter and sobs, alone with the memories of a ghost that is never coming home.
Time passes and she hauls herself back to work, throws herself into it, becomes a shell. "But I'm in charge," she argues, forcing her coworkers to let her back in so soon. "I have to be here, I'm in charge."
"Xena you don't have to-"
"No, I do," she spits, desperate and hard and cruel again. They don't understand.
"I have to."
She has to think about anything, anyone but him.
Friday night and she downs half a bottle of vodka, his absence still a shock. There's tickets for two stuck to the fridge, she rips them up and burns the pieces in the fireplace then burns the back of her throat with the rest of the bottle.
Jubilee learns to walk. Learns to talk. She is gentle and kind and funny, toddling around their apartment with chubby arms and tiny shoes. With every new moment, every new milestone, every new word, Xena turns to her side for half a second with a smile and it falls when her eyes land on empty space where Quintin should have been.
There's an empty space within her that used to be called love, so she caves into the abyss of a life without him and fills the hole with rage.
She finds a new job. One where people don't stare at her for a second too long, one where there's no sympathy, no second-guessing, no letting it slide because she's still grieving. They come to her, sit her down, interview her about their idea and what they wanted to do.
"No cameras?" she pries, an eyebrow raised doubtfully. "In the Capitol?"
"Oh, but it's all the rage!" they exclaim, passion in their words. "Radio is making a come back - and how many times can you re-watch the Hunger Games, anyway?"
Xena's reply is swallowed, but she nods and accepts the offer. "I'll see you on Monday."
That night she watches the Hunger Games highlights and replays the most brutal deaths, fists clenching at every crack of bone and snap of neck and spear plunged through eyes and chests and hearts.
She'd kill them all if she could, revenge sweet on her tongue.
A ghost sighs in the walls of her home and his voice sounds like the colour blue.
Her daughter learns to say "Mama" and "Gamma" and "Gampa" and "Zan" and she points at all their faces. "Dadda!" she spits one day, a hand extended towards the photograph by her crib.
Xena's eyes spill and she beams, breathing hard, stroking her daughter's hair.
"Daddy loves you" she whispers, her words those from a ghost in her head. "Daddy loves Jubilee." "Dadda Joob!"
She sits in her own bed so vacant of him and sobs quietly, heartbroken for her little girl who will never know her father.
Other nights, when her daughter isn't breaking her heart, she talks to him. Softly, a whisper - her conversations are secrets that cannot leave the room. She asks him to come back, tells him it's okay, recounts all the silly and wondrous things their daughter has learnt. Wedding rings around her neck, she fiddles with the chain absent-mindedly and tells him about her new job, her new recruits, how much potential and passion they have. She knows that he would have loved them, would have loved to have meet them, would have tuned in at every podcast and special broadcast and told him how proud he was of her.
In a box in her bedside table she takes out sheets of paper stained with ink and tears long since wept, traces a memory of him and the beautiful words he wrote with his own hand. My love, it begins.
She falls asleep at the end,
In her dreams, she kills all of those filthy District rioters and brings him home to her. In her dreams, he kisses her forehead and tells her he loves her. In her dreams, the districts burn and she rips parents from children, husbands from wives, makes them pay for what they did to her, fury seeping from her bitter brain and lighting their world on fire. Red, blue. They dance in the ashes, he sighs, she tells him sorry over and over and over again - last dance, and then it's time to go.
She wakes to a world without him, a letter read a thousand times, an empty bed meant for two. It's been 2 years and it still feels like yesterday when the phone rang and they buried his existence.