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Overwhelming sorrow descended upon me, as I sat on the shore with my feet buried in the sand. Soft waves flowed, producing a pool around my feet. I stared at the image of the woman smiling back at me from the photograph I held in my trembling hand. Her curly raven locks with flecks of sun-drenched brown perfectly framed her delicate honey face and caressed her slight shoulders. Her warm eyes were as a pair of onyx jewels set in pearls. Red undertones glistened under her cheeks and peaked at high cheekbones as they rose in her vibrant smile. Full rose-colored lips turned up fully, atypical for that time in her life. Her heart filled with elation as her eight-year old daughter snapped the photo, just hours before the meeting she had been certain would salvage her dying marriage.
An involuntary shiver went through me, as I thought of that afternoon. The woman in the photo was me, and it had only been a year since my Lillie took it. A stray pebble fell into the lake and as the ripples settled, I caught sight of the image that remained. The woman reflected, someone with whom I had lived the last year and had faced one heart-breaking loss after another, I still found a stranger.
* * *
Soft beeps echoed from some unknown place, gradually increasing with resonating sound and dragging me into consciousness. I used the strength of determination to open my left eye against the ton's weight of my eyelid. The glare of the bright lights burned such that hot tears started to well. It was then that I felt the force of water behind my right eye and realized I could not open it.
"Hello Alicia." My heart fluttered at the bass of the voice, which I instantly recognized as my husband's. The screech of his chair scraping against the floor went through my teeth and jaw like chalk against a chalkboard. His aftershave, usually sending welcome tingles down my spine, brought my stomach into nauseous convulsions. I struggled to turn where I felt his presence to the right of my bed, but the intense throbbing in my neck produced a painful but quieted shriek. "I-I'm sorry." I listened to his footsteps as he made his way to the other side of the bed and my heart startled with wonder at what this visit meant. Even with dulled thought, I could surmise that I was in a hospital but I did not know why. Moreover, I did not know what to make of his coming to see me.