by Brooke Hembree
I couldn't remember exactly what woke me up, I assumed it was a nightmare of some sort. I glanced at the clock on my dresser. Three AM. I started to get out of bed, hoping that maybe Domino was-
A wave of grief washed over me when I realized that Domino wasn't up. She wasn't interested in going out for a drink or going for a run. Domino, the woman who I had finally realized I loved, wasn't anything but dead.
Slowly, the details of the past week returned: holding Domino in my arms as she died, carrying her body back to town, calling Logan. Had my voice sounded like his? So utterly devoid of hope and emotion? And finally, I remembered burying her. Last night was the first time I had slept since Domino had died. And I now understood why. It was hard enough carrying that ache with me during the day, but to forget about it for a few hours only to remember it--That was a brand of hell that no one should have to experience.
I slowly climbed out of bed, planning to go downstairs to get something to drink. A very strong drink.
I had planned on taking the long way down to the kitchen in order to avoid passing by her room. But somehow, I ended up standing in her doorway. Every fiber of my body told me to leave, that this wouldn't help the pain at all. That seeing where she had lived, seeing what mattered to her, would only make the hurt worse.
Maybe that was why I took a tentative step inside. I wanted to hurt. I wanted to grieve for her, because maybe grieving was the only way to keep her memory close to me.
"Nate, I-" Bridge said from the hallway. I cut him off.
"You what, GW? You think that I don't have a damn bit of business here? That it's my fault she died? That I should be the one dead, because I let her down when she needed me?" The words tumbled out over each other. I hated for Bridge to see me this out of control, but I couldn't help myself. "Want to hear something ironic, GW? I feel the same damn way."
Bridge, for his part, took my outburst remarkably well. "No, Nate. I was just going to say that we all miss her, and that no one blames you. Any of us could have been paired with her on the mission and watched her die, or any of us could have been in her place--"
"But for a twist of fate," I said, half to myself.
Bridge laid a hand on my shoulder for a moment, then turned to go.
And I was still left facing Domino's room. Steeling myself, I took an experimental step. When nothing happened, I quickly crossed to the center of the room.
Ok, Dayspring, you've made it this far. Now what? I surveyed her room, taking in the oak bedroom suite, the surprisingly cheery quilt on her bed, the wide assortment of books and magazines, and the dresser, loaded down with different make-up items and perfumes.
I noticed that her bed was unmade immediately. It seemed out of character for her to be so careless. I wondered what had stopped her from making it.
Her stereo caught my eye. I noticed that it was blinking, indicating that she hadn't turned off the last CD she was listening to. I pressed play, eager to find out what she had been listening to.
"The choice was mine, and mine completely
I could have any prize that I desired
I could burn with the splendor of the brightest fire
Or else, or else I could choose time
Remember I was very young then
And a year was forever and a day
So what use could fifty, sixty, seventy be?
I saw the lights, and I was on my way.
And how I lived, how they shone
But how soon the lights were gone"
I hit the stop button with more force than necessary and sat down on her bed, holding my face in my hands. All the analogies about "her flame burning too bright" or "she was just too good to live"--Oath, they seemed so true. But all those pretty words didn't mean anything now. Domino was laying out there alone, in the cold ground. What difference did it make now about whether she was good or bad, how bright her mind was? Who gave a damn now about how much I had loved her?
After what could have been five minutes or what could have been an eternity, I looked up. Laying on her desk, with my name on it, was a large envelope. I retrieved it hesitantly and sat back down on the bed.
When I opened it, several smaller envelopes fell out. Picking them up and flipping through them, I counted six. Grizzly, GW, Hammer, Kane...she'd written a letter to every member of the Pack. Then, I saw one with "Logan" written on it. Of course she wrote a letter to him, idiot, a voice in the back of my mind reminded me. She was almost her father, judging from what she told you. But still, that was only five. The thickest envelope, the one with the most tearstains, was addressed to me.
With trembling hands, I carefully opened the envelope and removed a folded letter from it.
I have a weird feeling about this mission. I don't claim to know or understand much about fate or destiny or that garbage, but I do know that with the lives we live, there's a good chance of a lot being left unsaid. So, with that in mind, I'm writing letters to all the people who matter to me. And I'm going to trust you to make sure that they each read these letters. Can you do that for me? Please?
Your letter is the last one I'm writing. Out of all the people I know, the idea of saying goodbye to you is the hardest. And yet, knowing that I get to say goodbye to you, needing you to understand how I feel about you--that seems to be the most important thing. So, here it goes.
I know that if you're reading this, I'm dead. Or else you're in my bedroom going through my
stuff--either way, someone dies."
I had to laugh at that. My heart tightened--there were so many good memories of her.
"See? I made you laugh, so it can't that bad. Oh, Nathan, this is so hard. To write this letter to you, to admit that I could die before I ever find out how you feel about me--
But that's secondary, isn't it? The important thing is that you know how I feel when I have the chance to tell you. From the moment I met you, you've intrigued me more than any other person on earth. And the more I learned about you, the more I wanted to know. I suppose that, if I could have the strength and the courage to do anything, I would want to walk up to you and tell you how I feel--and then ask how you felt about me. Why can't I? Because the hope that someday we can be together--when I feel like I've hit bottom, that's what keeps me going. And, if you told me that you could never care for me--Well, where would I be then?
I hope that I've touched you somehow, Nathan. I hope that something I've said or done has affected your life even a little. I hope...This is so hard to even admit it to myself. But I hope that you love me, the way that I love you, Nathan.
I could keep writing this forever, I think. There's so much I would love to say to you, but I just can't keep dwelling on this. And so, I'm going to try to end this.
I'm gone now, I assume. I ask you to remember me, Nathan. To think of me time to time, and to miss me, just a little. I want to be missed when I'm gone, just as I want to be remembered. And I want you to always remember that I loved you, and that I will love you and no matter what happens, I'll always feel that way.
Goodbye, Nathan. And thank you.
I'm not ashamed to admit that I cried. She deserved tears. I owed her at least that much. But even though her loss was like a rip in my soul, an emptiness in my heart that would never be filled, I eventually ran out of tears. Then, I straightened and saw the other envelopes. One with Bridge's name, one with Theo's, one with Hammer's, one with Kane's name...and one with Logan's.
I found Theo and Bridge quickly enough. I didn't stop to talk, I just gave them the letters and left. They deserved time alone with their grief, just as I had taken time alone with mine. Kane and Hammer had gone out that night, so I left them on the table. They would find them when they came in.
Normally, it would have taken me days to track down Logan. But we had told him about the burial, and he knew where we were laying her to rest. I started my car and headed toward the cemetery.
It was almost dark when I arrived. We had buried her on a hill, overlooking a section of the cemetery called "Toyland." The graves there were smaller, with angels, hearts and crosses...even rag dolls and tricycles. You didn't have to look at the dates on the smaller headstones to know that children were buried here. Sitting on the graves were teddy bears, stuffed animals, dolls--memories of childhood.
We- ok, I thought it was the right thing to do, letting her overlook this. To make up for her own lost childhood and innocence, to compensate for the babies she would never have.
I found him there, kneeling by the small, temporary marker that had been placed there. Eventually, she would have a headstone, a nice one, but for now-- None of us had known her real name--not even Logan. So, we had used one of her favorite aliases "Tamara Winters." He was saying something--he might have been praying, he was probably just talking to her.
"You." He didn't look up. His voice was so laced with grief that I had to force my own emotions back.
"I-I'm sorry," I said. I knew his grief, understood it. He was grieving for a daughter--I had stood over my son's grave.
"You should be," he said, finally rising.
"I-I was with her when she died. She--she told me to tell you that she loved you. And that even if she lived for one hundred years, she could never truly thank you or repay you for what you've done." I took a deep breath and reached inside my jacket. "And, I found this in her room. It's for you."
He took the envelope, and turned away as he opened it. I took that time to kneel by her grave, keeping my voice low.
"Dom, babe, I'm sorry. I would have taken your place--really. I let you down--not just by letting you die, but every time I saw you. Every time I looked at you, then turned away--every time I let you think I didn't love you. I wish that I could have you back for even a minute--to hold you, to tell you how much I love you." I trailed off, drawing a shaky breath. "But that's over now, isn't it? You're gone--just like so many other people in my life. And there's nothing more to do or say, is there?" I started to get up, then paused. "Except that I love you--and that I miss you now, and I will for the rest of my life."
I rose just as Logan turned around again. I had always considered him an enemy, someone worthy of respect, but not of friendship. But something happened, and I saw him through Domino's eyes. What to me was just another fighter, another person to deal with, was something quite different to her. His eyes were sad, wise, and I could imagine both love and kindness in those eyes, especially in regard to the young woman who had meant so much to the both of us. That voice, normally so gruff and harsh, tempered by affection.
That's when it hit me--Logan was nothing that extraordinary. Neither was I, for that matter. We were just men, caught in extraordinary situations, trying to stay and alive and catch hold of a little bit of happiness from day to day. And my bitter rival, my enemy? He was only the man who had raised and cherished the woman that I loved. He wasn't a great warrior now, he was just a man mourning the loss of his daughter.
And the real miracle? My understanding seemed to be mirrored in his own sad eyes.
"She--loved you," he said.
"I-I loved her, too. I still do. I just waited too damn late to tell her," I said.
"You were with her when she died, you said?" The question was clear in his eyes, in his voice, so slow and halting.
"Yes," I said. "She didn't suffer."
He nodded. "I'm glad."
We both stood there for a moment, then I turned to go.
"Nathan?" he said, as I was walking away.
He had never called me by my name before--either Cable or Nate. I faced him. "What, Logan?"
"I had talked to her--often, lately. She was happy with you," he paused, "Happier than she would have been in some job I had gotten for her. She had found her place, where she belonged. That's all any of us really hope to get in life. And she loved you."
I nodded, waiting for him to continue.
"What I'm trying to say is that we've been going at it for a long time--and I'm not going to pretend that we're best friends all of a sudden. But you loved her, and I loved her, and you made her happy. As far as I'm concerned, it's over. And if you ever need anything--.well, you know where to find me."
I nodded. "Same here, Logan."
He nodded, and I turned away. Somehow, making peace with him,I felt better. I had done what Domino asked me to do. I didn't regret the time I had known her. I was a better person because of it, but I still felt a raw ache in my soul when I looked for her, when I wanted to talk to her. But, I'd heal, eventually. I'd live--if only to honor her memory.
As I got into my car and left the cemetery, I turned the radio on. The song, one I'd never heard before, seemed to mirror my emotions.
"The good news is I'm better for the time we've spent together
And the bad news is, you're gone."
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