As Jasper and Claudia hop from one rock to the next, following the river South, Jasper lets his mind wander to memories of his past.
Jasper remembers holding out her box that she kept all of her favorite dried flowers in up towards the sky that was sending down evil black drifting parachuters. The stench of burnt items clung to the insides of his nostrils and burned with every breath he took. He slammed his knees down in her front yard, as he fell in deep desperation. The rubble and rocks of the aftermath dug into his skin, cutting it to pieces, but he was too distraught to notice the pain or blood that trickled down his knees towards his feet.
He held the tin box out in front of him, looking at each beautiful dried flower that she carefully picked out as worthy of her keepsake.
How did this little box, with preserved life survive the scorching?
His tears fell into the tin, and he wished he could preserve a little piece of him, place it in the box, and let their spirits live on together there.
His mouth fell open as he stared at what was left of his love, his life. Saliva fell towards the front of his open lips and began to pool at the middle part of his bottom lip before slipping out of his mouth, making its slow descent to his legs, where it lay in a pool.
As his spit fell onto his legs, he let out a blood-curdling scream. His anger and desperation came flooding out of his belly and filled the quiet surrounding with sorrow and echoes of a broken hearted man.
“WHY?!” Jasper screamed, with his face tilting up towards the sky, arms outstretched, offering up the tin box.
“WHY HER?!” He gasped, “WHY NOT MEEEE?!”
He began sobbing, using every part of his body to let out his pain. He rocked back and forth on his knees as his whole body was shaking uncontrollably.
“Whyyy?!” His cry grew a little quieter, as he lost his voice and used every bit of his energy to scream out his pain to the silent void.
Jasper didn’t always believe in God. She always urged him that God was true and good and that He always took care of his people. He was never too sure if this was true, but it was hard to argue with her, especially when she believed in it with her whole heart.
There, on her lawn, he screamed out to her God.
“If you are so good and take care of your people, then why did you let this happen?! Why did you let her, who is so perfect and kind in every way, be taken away? She believed in you...”
He never heard an answer back. All else that could be heard was the sound of a crackling fire dying out over all of this now barren land that use to hold so much life, so many people, homes, community. Now? Now, it's all gone, burned to the ground.
Jasper felt empty to the core. His stomach twisted in knots. He should have been here. He should have died too. Or, he should have done a better job of convincing her to leave with him. He will never be able to reverse time and get back those last moments of her life. He won’t be able to ever hold her in his arms again and feel the warmth of her body against his. Or bury his face in her hair, and inhale her smell of lavender and sweat that could only come from her.
A world without her seems like no kind of world to live in to Jasper. She’d been gone for only a matter of hours, days at this point, yet the world lost its luster when she went, and Jasper wondered if he could stay living in a world without her beauty in it.
As he sat shuddering in the midst of this destruction, with no other life around, it began to rain.
His distraught crying turned into a partly joyful cry with a grin on his face. The transition to a passerby would seem insane, but Jasper was thinking about what she said about the rain.
“I am so happy when it rains. It’s when God rains down on all of us like this that I know He is real and good. I feel alive in the rain, Jasper, and I know this life is worth living when I get to experience it,” she would tell him this almost every time it would start raining outside. More times than not she would go out and start twirling in the rain after she’d tell him this too.
Jasper felt like the clouds were weeping on him, for him, for the loss of so many lives, across such a vast amount of land. He felt its cleansing properties wash over his body and soul. His ash stricken face was being spot cleaned by the rain drops.
Jasper raised the tin box up and out away from his body and laid in the child’s pose yoga position, resting the box on the ground and gripping it with his fingertips. Letting his forehead drop down onto the now wet, ashy grass, with his belly and chest cradled in his thighs, he sobbed and sobbed.
“Sadie… Sadie… Sadie…” he repeated between sobs.
“Is this life worth living? I’ll give it a shot, for you Sadie.”
Jasper closed his eyes tight and thought of the memory of her running out the screened porch door after a summer rain began to fall. She was wearing a flower summer dress and twirled around in the yard with her arms outstretched and her face to the sky, smiling. He remembers her looking over at him watching her from the porch, leaning against the post grinning.
“Come on Jasper! Come live with me!” She shouted.
He shook his head and smiled, but she ran up the steps, pried his arms free from being crossed over his chest, and pulled him down the stairs into the rain. She held his hands, leaned back, and they twirled together in the rain.
She laughed and smiled, and then pulled him towards her. Wrapping her arms around his neck, she leaned up and kissed him.
Jasper loved her free spirit. She had so much life in her.
His thoughts are disrupted by a whizzing sound that passes his ear. He grabs up at his ear that feels like it’s on fire. Reflexively, he pulls his hand down and finds it covered in blood. Snapping his head up, he sees a blade stuck in the tree in front of him.
“Run!” He screams out to Claudia.