I'll love you forever,
I'll like you for always,
As long as I'm living
my baby you'll be.
From “Love You Forever” by Robert Munsch
~ 13 ~
Tim had known loss, more than any other emotion out there. In his life he had experienced three different kinds of loss that had molded and changed him into the man he was now.
The first loss was of material possessions.
His father often punished Tim by taking away things he held dear when he thought his son needed some discipline. It was little things at first. Maybe one of those toys his mother had rewarded him with for learning those stories, or sometimes he was deprived of dessert if he had misbehaved during dinner. When they fled their home, he was not allowed to take any of his favorite toys with him. All was lost, things he would spend hours playing with as a child, left behind.
As he grew into a teenager, his dad upped the ante by using the books on the shelves. If he was too lazy to go out and get firewood, his father would walk over to the book case and without even thinking about it, toss a book or two into the fire. The first time he did it, his mother screamed as if she was the one being burned alive. His father answered her screaming with a firm slap on the face. From that point on, his dad used those books as his new form of punishment. Whenever Tim disobeyed his father, he had to grab one of his favorite books and toss it into the flames himself. When he was really bad, he not only had to throw one of his favorites into the fire, but he would also have to throw one of his mom’s in there too.
By the time he grew into adulthood, his father decided to take things of sentimental value away. Usually they were things that reminded him of home. The old pair of pajamas he had worn on the night they fled was the first to disappear. That was shortly followed by his mother’s cross necklace. When Tim confronted his father, he just said it was for his own good. Why bother getting yourself attached to things, because that’s all they were… things! He said this as he took a poem he had written for Candice, ripped it in half and tossed it in the fireplace.
This is when he learned not to trust.
He glanced over at Nick as he lay sleeping in the truck. The look on his face seemed anything but peaceful. He was holding his stomach with both of his hands and seemed like he was having trouble breathing. “We’re almost there, buddy.” He said, gently placing his hand on his new friend’s shoulder to try to wake him up.
“Nick…” He said once again but the blonde didn’t even stir so Tim decided to just let him sleep until they got back to the cabin.
The second was loss through unexpected death.
Before his family fled, he had experienced the loss of his grandfather. He was only five years old at the time and his death came sudden and unexpectedly. His mother had told him that he was the center of his grandfather’s universe but as much as he tried to remember, he just couldn’t. To him, his grandpa was just a man who would occasionally come over and fight with his father. They didn’t get along very well, the two of them. It was no big secret that he did not approve of his daughter’s choice of life partner. The funeral was short and not many people attended. That was the first and last real funeral Tim ever went to.
His Mother’s death was just as unexpected. She had been reading to him, choosing her favorite book, “Little Women,” over her usual poetry. As she read, she rubbed his back gently and occasionally had to stop when emotions got the better of her. Even though he was twenty one years old, he still fell into the habit of lying next to her on the couch with his head on her chest as she talked, her breathing as her bosom went up and down slowly would lull him to sleep. The sound of the gunshot is what awoke him. He had gotten up and ran into the bathroom to see her lying there in a pool of her own blood, note in hand that simply said,
Tim, I’m so sorry. Please forgive me.
Then there was Candice’s death at the hands of his father. After everyone around him had been killed, and the scent of blood still in the air, he had walked over to his girlfriend and sat with her in his lap just rocking her back and forth as he recited the story “I’ll Love You Forever.” He didn’t cry because by that point there were no more tears to shed. Instead, he went into the bedroom grabbed all his father’s personal belongings and one by one tossed them into the fireplace. After he lit it up, he turned his back from the blaze, grabbed a shovel and went out to dig some graves.
This is when he really became a man.
When they got back to the cabin, after making sure Nick was still sound asleep, Tim gathered the supplies he had bought and started for the front porch. He stopped when he noticed the door was wide open. His heart beat quickened as he dropped the bags and ran inside, “Howie!!” He yelled, worried that maybe a bear had managed to make its way in while they were gone. When he got inside however, there was no sign of a bear or any other creature, including the one he had left tied up.
“Howie!” He screamed again, running into the bedroom and then bathroom before his eyes finally went to the ground where he saw a knife. He picked it up and then noticed the ropes over by the fireplace. “No!” He screamed as he grabbed a flashlight and ran back outside.
His first thought was to run to the back, so that’s what he did, “Howie are you out here?” He shouted flashing the light in front of him as he walked cautiously around the cabin. He saw a few deer scurry past out of the corner of his eye but no sign of his new friend. “Dammit!”
He decided to just make his way completely around the house, stepping carefully over the makeshift graveyard and off to the other side. “Howie, you might as well come out! There’s really nowhere to hide.” He was hoping that would be enough to bring him out of hiding, but he was wrong. “Where did you go?” He continued to talk as he rounded the corner to once again end up in the front of the cabin, “You didn’t actually leave, leave, did you?”
But he knew that’s exactly what had happened. His prisoner had escaped, just something else trying to leave him. He wasn’t about to lose Howie so he started back for the truck only to be stopped by the shaky voice of Nick, “Where is Howie?” He asked as he aimed the rifle at Tim’s head.
The third was loss of his sanity.
Living alone for all the years preceding Candice and his father’s death had begun taking a toll on Tim. Up until that day, he had never spent more than ten minutes by himself. Even if his Father was out in the woods hunting, his mother would always be there. She would even leave the bathroom door opened when she needed to shower, just in case the sounds of living way up in the country became too scary for him. It was a habit she never broke out of, even the day she took her own life she made sure the door was unlocked so he would find her.
That very first night, he had found the solitude liberating. He grabbed books off the shelves, and screamed them out loud as he drank his father’s homebrewed beers until he was so drunk he was seeing double. He figured he could get used to this life. Being all alone was going to be beautiful.
He kept that thought with him for about a week. That’s when the novelty of the situation wore off.
To help pass the time, he started talking to his mother as if she was sitting right next to him. He’d read books out loud and pretend she was sitting there smiling while sipping on her sun brewed iced tea. They’d have conversations about life and mostly about Candice. She appeared shortly after his mother. Since they never met in life, he made sure they became fast friends in death. The three of them hung out together. He made sure he told his mother all about Candice and then he did the same to Candice, letting her know how important his mother was and how much he loved her. It was his Mom’s suggestion that they finally get married so about 6 months after living alone, he asked his dead girlfriend to marry him and she said yes.
Tim began living two lives at that point, his real one and his fantasy one.
In his real life all he did all day was sit outside on the rocking chair, staring out at the woods hoping a deer or bear would come into the clearing. He had always wanted a pet deer or bear but his parents were dead set against it for obvious reasons. They were no longer around to object though so he would just sit there and wait. He figured one day a bear would be hungry enough to make it up to his place and then he could figure out a way to keep it there. That’s when he tried to make a cage. He spent hours gathering wood and hammering away, trying to make something big enough for a bear or deer to live in comfortably. Unfortunately his carpentry skills were lacking so he gave up the idea.
In the world where he was married to Candice, he had three kids, two boys and a little girl. He never bothered to name them. He left it for his wife to decide and she never gave him her answer so they were just ‘the kids’ who would come and go as he pleased. On nights when he wanted to be alone with his wife, the kids wouldn’t exist. Other times when he needed the kind of affection that little ones could provide he would take out a puzzle and get to work on it, making sure his little daughter got to pick out the end pieces as he clapped for her and watched his boys finish the masterpiece. When the puzzle was complete, they would then push all the pieces to the floor and wrestle their father as he tickled them.
This fantasy world went on for about five years or so, before they, like everything else he ever loved, just vanished without a trace. One day he yelled for his mother to show up but she never came, same with Candice and the kids. They left him in the middle of the night, without so much as a simple note or verbal “Good-bye.”
Tim was a smart man, he knew he was slowly losing his mind but he didn’t know what he could do to prevent it. He just kind of figured it came with the territory. All those years in solitude had him yearning for company so that night when he set out to the store and he saw Nick and Howie, he went for it.
This was when Tim learned he had nothing left to lose.
He found himself staring at Nick feeling so betrayed he wanted to just fall to the ground and weep. First, Howie leaves and now Nick pulls a gun on him. He was a good man, why was this happening?
“I said, where’s Howie?”
Tim raised his hands in the air, “Why are you aiming that at me?”
He watched as Nick tried walking towards him. He maybe took three steps before almost losing his balance but prevented himself from falling. “You need to go get Howie and bring him out here to me.” He was breathing heavy and his hands were shaking. Tim knew he could easily overtake the kid but he was so upset that he couldn’t make his own legs move to do it.
“He’s not here. While we were gone helping YOUR friends, he left us. He left YOU!”
At that revelation, Nick slowly put the gun down, just for a second, “He got out?”
“Yes, he left. He’s probably roaming around the woods lost if he’s even still alive. We need to go find him before something else does.”
Tim could tell that Nick didn’t believe him but he could also tell that he had never in his life even held a rifle, let alone knew how to shoot one. He watched as his prisoner took a few more labored steps towards him, wincing and grabbing at his stomach with his free hand.
“I don’t believe you, show me.” He motioned for Tim to turn around and head towards the cabin, but instead Tim bolted towards Nick tackling him to the ground just as the rifle went off.