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A Time and Place

The life-long friends had fallen in love. The world had become their time and place.

A Time and Place

by Rumple deWriter

It had all ended. The last hymn faded into silence. The last prayer spoken. The last condolence given. Mike still couldn’t cry—not yet. Back home he fell into an uneasy sleep filled with the same dream.

Flames and smoke boiled from the windows in the back half of the old, wooden church. Framed against the stormy, night sky, the fire so dominated their minds no one noticed the parking lot was empty. All they knew was Sammy’s family might be inside.

They’d just left the party, almost giddy with becoming engaged, eager to tell their parents. Sammy said they should be alone. But their old friend had just made them realize they were in love. Now both wanted him to share the moment.

In their excitement, they almost missed the flames flickering through the rain and tall pines.

A sliding right turn put them onto the short, winding road that lead to the church. The car was racing through the parking lot before Mike tore his eyes from the fire and braked. The old Ford skidded on the wet gravel, slowed, then came to a jarring halt, its left front tire wedged in a ditch swollen with rainwater.

Sammy In his anxiety, struggled with the passenger door. Becky tried to help, then looked over at Mike, her fingertips touched the face of the life-long friend who had, just minutes earlier, become so much more. “I love you,” she said, pushing away a lock of his wet hair.

As their lips met, the door swung open and Sammy clambered out. Becky turned to watch, breaking the kiss. When she looked back, her expression had changed. “Come on,” she said, and scooted toward the open passenger door.

Mike opened his door, stepped out into the rainy night, and stumbled into the same ditch that imprisoned his car. The fall cost him a sprained ankle, one shoe, and time.

He struggled out and hobbled around the car. The rear of the church was in flames, but the sanctuary appeared untouched. In the illumination from a long flash of lightning, he saw Sammy trying to open its double front door.

As Mike limped across the gravel, Sammy triumphed and hurried inside. Moments later, Becky reached the open doors and paused to look back. She noticed Mike’s limp, started to come for him, but hesitated and glanced into the church. Fear for the lives of Sammy’s elderly parents overwhelmed everything else. She motioned for Mike to hurry, and dashed inside.

Later, was it a moment, a second, a lifetime, he’d never know, the old wooden building seemed to groan in mortal agony. Unseen, the fire had spread into the cluttered attic. Flames shot out of holes which blossomed like lethal red flowers on the roof. Weakened by this new assault, it began collapsing around the now useless main support columns.

The building shuddered. The walls began falling in after the roof. The once proud building was becoming a giant bonfire. Mike heard Becky scream, maybe his name. But her voice was lost in a wave of noise, heat, and flying embers as the roof and walls sank into the flames.

A blast of scorched air knocked him down. At first he just lay on the wet gravel, unable, unwilling, to comprehend what was happening to the church, to his friends, to the woman he loved, to his world.

He was up, racing towards the flames. From somewhere came desperate, animal-like screams. “No! No! No!”

Strangled cries of, “No. No. No” woke him.

He dressed and went outside. His old Ford waited in the moonlight, as if it knew he’d be coming and where they were going. It was a short drive. He parked and walked over to the old cemetery’s newest grave—the one covered with fresh flowers.

He stood and stared, trying to make sense out of what had happened. But his mind wouldn’t function.

With mechanical motions, he moved the flowers aside until raw, newly-turned, red clay earth came into view. He knelt and put a hand on the grave. But that wasn’t enough. He lay down, rested his head on the mound and let the cool soil absorb his tears.

And then Becky was beside him: tall, slender, impossibly lovely. They kissed, touched, became as one, and then lay together, talking about what once was and might have been. The time when they were kids and went fishing with Sammy and caught all those little fish. The high school game when she missed that crucial free throw and cried for days. This summer at the lake when he knew he’d always love her. The time they first kissed. When she screamed “Yes!” jumped into his arms, and both agreed they weren’t just engaged, but already an old married couple. And their last kiss, when Becky said she loved him. Those were their times.

A pale light defined the tops of pine trees lining the east side of the cemetery. Mike was alone. Though stiff and damp with dew, he felt rested and at peace. He must have slept. But there’d been no nightmares, just Becky. A blanket covered him; the same old Navajo they always used when, as kids, they camp out at her grandmother’s farm.

It took an effort to force his body into motion. Once on his knees, he folded the blanket, then placed his palm back on the earth above Becky and closed his eyes.

“There’s supposed to be a time and place for everything. I don’t know about that, but it feels like you’re telling me it’s time to begin the rest of my life, such as it’ll be without you. He leaned over, kissed Becky’s grave, and whispered, “But till we meet again, never forget, we are an old married couple and that I’ll always love you.”

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