I normally didn’t get this upset when a resident of the senior’s home I worked at passed away. It was expected and while it was sad, it had happened often enough that we’d all learned not to get too attached.
But Madelyne West had been more than just a resident to me.
The television flickered gently in the darkness of the living room, more a light to keep me company than anything else. I had the sound turned down, because my niece and nephew were sleeping down the hall and I didn't want to wake them on a school night. A commercial was showing at the moment, an animated toothbrush dancing gleefully with a tube of toothpaste.
"Lew, aren't you on the morning shift tomorrow?" my mother called gently to me.
"Yeah," I called back quietly.
The light coming from the arched doorway dimmed slightly and when I looked up, I found her watching me with sympathy. "You don't have to go to the visitation if you think he'll be there."
I shook my head. "I'm going." I'd loved old Maddie, even after I'd stopped loving her grandson.
Oh, who was I kidding? I'd never stopped loving Micah West, not even after he'd dumped me for a career in Hollywood. I just hated him now too.
It was complicated.
Mom sighed and turned away, and moments later I heard her footsteps heading down the hall. She was probably going to bed. I should go to bed too.
At least get off the main floor of the house so that I wouldn't wake anyone up if I got stupid.
Wouldn’t be the first time.
I turned the television off and told myself I wouldn't hurry down to my little suite in the basement. But my feet had minds of their own and I was downstairs just in time to catch the end of the opening monologue of the late night talk show I'd been telling myself I didn't need to watch.
Mike’s was the first interview of the show.
Damn, he still looked good.
Around here, everyone knew why I wouldn't go see a Micah West movie. It was like local legend, sunk deep into the bones of the town. They all thought I was still mad at him.
They were half right.
Oh, I was mad all right, but it had worn down over time, like a rock in a river. And underneath it, the thing that still fed my anger and kept it simmering along, was the love I couldn't carve out of my heart, no matter how hard I tried.
But no, it wasn't so much that I was mad. I was afraid. Terrified that the anger I nursed, that kept me from collapsing under the rejection, would disappear if I saw him again. Heard his voice.
Woke those memories.
God, he was beautiful. The perfect Hollywood romantic lead. Dark hair, chiseled jaw, eyes you could fall into for days. He still looked like Mike from high school, but sharper, more polished. A new, improved Mike. I slumped on my bed and stared at the screen, mesmerized.
I couldn’t see him.
But I also couldn't miss Maddie's funeral. I wouldn't. She'd been a rock the past five years of my life, even more than my parents had been. She'd understood, in a way that my electrician dad and store manager mom couldn't.
But then, she'd been one of the big names when Hollywood itself was still only a little one.
I watched Mike being charming and funny, the devilish grin, the shape of his hands sparking off memories of how the feel of them against my skin had made me beg.
Eventually, I couldn't take it anymore and I turned the television off, then rolled over to bury my face in my pillows and scream until I cried, and then cry until I slept.