RATING: PG-15 (some language, referral to sexual situations)
SPOILERS: spoilers through... oh, lets say 'The Fastest Year.'
AUTHOR'S NOTES: Hey there. Its me. I know I haven’t really been spittin out too much fanfic
lately, and I’d like to say its because I’ve been busy, but actually, I’m
just lazy ;D
This story was derived in kind of a weird way. It actually started out as a
graphic I’d done, called ‘Wasted Memories’. One of my friends told me to
write a fanfic to go with it, and since I’ve realized that she knows what
she’s talking about, I did! So, I came up with this ‘little ditty’. Well...
its was supposed to be a little ditty. But you know how it is...
Anyway, its about Carol, and centered around these flashbacks she has of
(duh!) Doug. It takes place in early April of Seson 6 (2000), Doug’s been
gone for 14 months and the twins are about 6 months old. Thats basically it.
The song used is ‘The Way We Were’ by Barbara Streisand.
Thanks go to Jessica, for the idea and the support, and to Tara, just cuz.
Well, I ‘know’ you didn’t come here to listen to me babble so, on with the
SUMMARY: Carol comes across a box of Doug’s old things. She sifts through
the items, each bringing back a memory of him she’d tucked away, and making
the pain of missing him rise to the surface.
Memories light the corners of my mind
Misty watercolor memories
Of the way we were
The rain started slowly and unannounced from the bleak, haggard looking
April sky; a few drops hitting the half open window and running down the
smooth glass in delicate rivers. It picked up momentum, bouncing off the
metal window frame with a cocky “ping, ping, ping.” Then, hurling the
luscious water droplets to the ground, the shower came to its full force and
the cold rain pelted against Carol Hathaway’s kitchen window with the rhythm
of a fleet of marching band drums. It was not the angry sound of the
rainfall that woke her from her sleep, but the chilly spray of water she was
being assaulted with.
It took Carol a moment to open her eyes. She lifted her head from her folded
arms, straightened, and stretched from her hunched position over the kitchen
table. A quick glance at her watch noted that she’d only been napping for a
half hour. With a small groan for the pain shooting through her neck, Carol
stood up, and, running her hands over her arms vigorously to ease the chill
that had accumulated in the small kitchen, walked over to the window.
The rain was still coming down hard, so hard in fact, that Carol was having
trouble seeing out the window through it’s thick, steady pulsing. With one
last shiver, she reached out and pulled the window shut with a ‘bang’.
Massaging her aching neck with one hand, she began picking up the remnants
of the afternoon’s lunch. Half empty formula bottles mulling beside a
forgotten jar of pablum, a soiled baby bib and Carol’s half eaten sandwich
were all carried off to their respective places; the sink, the garbage, the
laundry hamper, the refrigerator. Then a damp cloth was swiftly wiped over
the counter to clear any remaining debris.
Carol wrung out the cloth over the sink and pondered her next task. She
reluctantly swung open the fridge door and examined it’s contents. Making
dinner for one was not the most exciting or rewarding job, and Carol often
didn’t bother with her own meals. But tonight, she could feel the beginnings
of hunger percolating in the pit of her stomach, and she knew that by the
time she made herself something to eat, it would be very welcome. Again,
Carol scanned the items inside her Gerber packed refrigerator. The only
adult food was a small uncooked chicken sitting on top of a carton of milk
and a box of baking soda, and a lonely bag of carrots. She sighed, closing
the door, knowing that she’d end up settling for cereal.
In the distance, the quiet, unthreatening rumble of thunder echoed. Carol
smiled to herself, thankful that her infant daughters, settled upstairs,
were heavy sleepers. Abandoning her quest for a decent meal, she wearily
made her way up the stairs and into the nursery. Pulling her unruly mass of
dusky curls back with an elastic and securing the heap at the nape of her
neck, she leaned over Kate’s crib. The baby was dosing peacefully, her
blanket pressed softly against her plump, ruddy cheek as a comforting
companion, the tiny fingers of the tiny hand delicately twirling the edge of
it. Carol gently traced a finger along her daughter’s chin. Rapping her
fingernails over the deep finish of the wood railing, she moved on to the
next crib. Tess was, as her sister, sleeping soundly, her little chest
rising and falling in synchronization with the breath fluttering from her
They’d be up and energetic in less than an hour, Carol knew, and she was
quite prepared to enjoy the quiet time to herself. She picked up a copy of
“Where The Heart Is” and settled into the big wooden rocking chair in the
corner of the nursery. But even before the book could be opened, an ear
splitting crack of thunder roared mercilessly and the small house was
plunged into darkness.
“Aw, dammit!” Carol spit out angrily as she leapt from her chair. Leaving
the neglected novel on the seat of the rocker, she listened for the cries
she was sure would follow such a loud interruption.
But the air remained deep and still and dark. Since the sun had set only an
hour ago, and the furious clouds from the storm had draped the evening sky,
Carol couldn’t see her hand in front of her face. After making quite sure
that her twins were still, though miraculously, sleeping, she felt her way
down the hall and to the linen closet. Groping in the dark for a few
minutes, she finally came across the object of choice; a flashlight.
Flicking the switch, Carol smiled gratefully as a thick beam of light was
tossed out in front of her, illuminating the small closet space.
“Candles...” the word slipped from her mouth as she searched for the desired
items. But poking through the baskets of cleaning supplies and shelves of
bed sheets revealed not a single stick of wax.
Gripping the appreciated flashlight and the banister, Carol slunk down the
staircase and to the basement door. There were ‘definitely’ candles in the
storage closet down there. She remembered putting them there after the last
power outage. She opened the large door that creaked in its begging for a
drop of oil, and she groaned. The dark, murky basement just seemed to be
waiting to enclose her into it’s sinister depths. She shivered at the way
the thick blackness seemed to swallow the bottom of the steps. ‘Don’t be
stupid’ Carol told herself, trying to squeeze out a laugh. But the beam of
light faltered as her hand shook. A flash of lightening cut through the
darkened house, surprising her, and nearly causing her to loose her balance.
But taking a deep breath and swallowing her jitters, she plunged quickly
down the eerie stairs, leaving the door open so the twins could be heard.
Carol was hasty in her spurt to the storage closet at the far end of the
“I ‘have’ to do some spring cleaning,” she resolved, mumbling to herself as
she picked through boxes and containers of old clothes and bedraggled books.
“And where are those damn candles?” Finally, while digging through a box of
her mother’s tattered recipe books, her fingers felt something long and firm
and cylinder shaped. With a triumphant “Ah ha!” Carol pulled the bright pink
candle from its hiding place. But after searching through the rest of the
box and finding no other candles from the bundle, she was mildly
disappointed and confused. “One candle?” she shook her head. “That’s all
you’re gonna give me?!” Sighing, Carol trudged out of the closet and shut
the door. She spied a pile of boxes stacked in the deepest corner of the
little basement, and decided to try her luck with them. There had to be
Her flashlight was beginning to dwindle in strength, so before poking
through the next round of old junk, she found a match and lit the lone
candle. Placing it into a cracked mug and sitting the mug on a shelf beside
her, Carol smiled at how much light it gave off. She nodded her appreciation
to her new companion, the little dancing flame, and bent to her knees in
front of the boxes, sitting on her heels. Most of them were labeled things
like ‘Summer Hats’ or ‘Shoes’, but before she could start to dig through
them, a particular box caught her eye. She dragged it closer to her,
dropping the small affair in front of her knees. Carol bit her lip as a rush
of tingles shivered up her spine and settled themselves at the back of her
neck. She blew the dust off the top of the box and gently traced a finger
over it’s label; ‘D. Ross.’
Scattered pictures of the smiles we left behind
Smiles we gave to one another
For the way we were.
Thunder sounded from somewhere above her, the roar somewhat muffled to her
ears in the cozy basement, but Carol could feel the rumble deep in her chest
and knew the storm was still raging outside.
The cardboard flaps were loose, held together by a single strip of tape that
she easily peeled off. Slowly, uncertainly, Carol unfolded the flaps and
peered inside. She sifted carefully through the items, free and scrambled
haphazardly in the box. There was a few articles of clothing, a loose pile
of papers of different sizes, some pictures and a half pack of gum. She
couldn’t help but laugh at the half ass way Doug had of packing. It looked
like he’d simply dumped his bottom drawer into the box. He’d probably
forgotten it in his haste to leave Chicago.
Carol went through the items with a tentative smile playing on her lips. She
wasn’t really sure if she wanted to be looking through his things. She’d
worked for so long to push the memories, the thoughts of him, into the
depths of her mind, where they wouldn’t patronize, wouldn’t depress,
wouldn’t remind her of things she’d never have. But she was held in front of
the box by some concealed force, willing her hands to search through these
objects. Carol sighed and let her fingers brush over one of his T-shirts.
The soft material felt like butter against her skin. Hesitantly, she lifted
the shirt out of the box, and couldn’t resist holding it to her face. The
fabric was so worn it was practically translucent. But it was for this
reason it was so fine, almost comforting. She held it gently to her cheek
and closed her eyes. With his shirt pressed closely to her nose, the smell
of him was so strong, the embrace of the material could almost be mistaken
for his own hand against her skin. The ineluctable scent of his cologne
wafted through her gently, bringing the aching longing for him with it.
Carol swallowed the lump forming in her throat and fought the nasty tears
that stung her eyes. She pulled Doug’s shirt away from her face and held it
in front of her. It was one of his very favorites. It was light grey and had
a small basketball logo under the left shoulder. Carol starred at the simple
crest, then reached out and ran her hand over it’s raised surface...
“Carol, you home?” Doug’s deep, rumbling voice echoed off the walls of the
“In here!” She called to him as she sliced the sharp knife into the turkey
“Hey...” he drawled happily as he sauntered into the kitchen.
“Hey yourself,” Carol tried to smile as she turned to face him.
She felt his arms encircle her waist casually as he smiled down at her.
“Uh... turkey stir fry, I think. Good day at work?”
“Yeah,” his grin widened. “No dead kids.”
Carol put her knife down and tapped his chest with her knuckles. “Well
that’s always good...”
Doug ticked his head to the side and studied her carefully. “Something
She looked down to their feet so that he wouldn’t see the persistent tears
pooled in the corner of her eyes. “Ms. Brown from the agency called me this
morning,” she said in a whisper. “Tatianna died.”
“Oh, Carol...” In one, swift motion Doug had pulled her into his arms. She
couldn’t keep the tears from falling as he held her, stroking her hair, like
he’d done the first time Carol had lost the little girl.
“I know... I know, I shouldn’t be so shocked... I haven’t seen her in almost
“Its ok, Carol,” he soothed gently as she sobbed out the words.
“And she wasn’t even supposed to live that long! I just– I wish I could have
been there with her... I wish–,"
“I know, I know. But that’s not your fault. You tried.”
“I should have visited her more often...”
“Carol,” he said, cupping her chin with his hand and holding her face near
to his own. “You did the best you could. I’m sure Tatianna knew that too.
Now, when is the funeral?”
“Um...” Carol swallowed. “Friday. Friday morning.”
“Do you want to go?”
She thought for a moment, then nodded up at him.
“Ok then.” Doug pulled her close again. “Its ok. Its gonna be ok,” he
Carol nodded into his shirt, letting her renewed tears fall onto him,
feeling the soft cotton of his shirt against her face. It was that shirt he
always wore, one of his favorites. It was light grey and had a small
basketball logo under the left shoulder. Carol starred at the simple crest,
then reached out and ran her hand over it’s raised surface...
Clearing her throat and running her hand swiftly across her eyes, Carol put
the shirt back into the box. ‘Don’t do this, Carol’, she scolded herself.
‘Its not worth it.’ But the unseen force that held her in place was strong,
deeply rooted, and it propelled her onwards.
Pulling out a stack of pictures, she leaned back on her heels and flipped
through them. There were some of Doug and Mark at the hospital; laughing in
the lounge, playing on the basketball court, grinning at the admit desk with
Jerry and Elizabeth. There were a few of the other staff members at County;
Chunni and Lydia at a Christmas party, Anna and Carter smiling absurdly at
the camera, Peter and Jeanie looking engrossed in their chart reviews. But
the pictures Carol couldn’t help but pause over were the ones of she and
Doug. They were the last in the pack, but set out against the others by
their rough, worn edges and fraying corners. Smiling, she picked up the
first one. It was a slightly out of focus shot of a flurry of moving arms
and legs, Carol’s surprised face, and Doug’s grin...
Silently, Carol handed Doug the socket wrench from the tool box in front of
her. From her cross legged position beside the large frame, all she could
see of him was a tuft of greyish brown hair sticking up from the edge of the
bedpost. He was lying under the bed, shuffling around in the tight space,
the occasional clanking sound rising from beneath it.
Carol reached for the instrument, then raised her eyebrows with a sarcastic
smirk. “Ha ha, very funny ‘Dr. Ross’.”
“Sorry,” she could hear the impish grin in his voice. “I couldn’t resist.
Will you hand me the seven bolt screwdriver?”
“Remind me again why we’re doing this?” Carol asked as she passed the
screwdriver under the bed.
“As a favor to Mark’s Uncle Roger. For letting us use the cottage. Besides,
this bed frame really needed some repairs, it was about to fall apart! There
are loose screws all over the place, the welding is coming apart, and the
supports are breaking.”
Carol let out a giggle. “You sure we didn’t cause that?”
“Hmph,” she heard a chuckle rise up from under the heavy mattresses. “Not
“Well then,” Carol grinned, “You’d better get it fixed.”
“Yep, I think I’ve almost got it...”
With those words spoken, a loud crack was heard through the room, followed
by a creaky, splitting sound.
“What is that?!” Doug’s worried voice asked.
Carol looked around frantically, finally spotting the point of destruction.
The bed frame was splitting, a large crack forming in it’s middle.
“Oh God, Doug, get out of there! The bed’s going to collapse ontop of–,”
Another, louder splitting sound rang through the air and two huge, thick
mattresses fell to the floor where Doug was inconveniently lying.
“Oh Shit, Doug!” Carol jumped up and tried lifting at the pile. “Doug, can
you hear me?!”
“Ooomph” was the muffled answer.
“Are– are you ok?” Carol straightened and stopped tugging at the bed.
A smile slowly spread across her face as Carol realized the power she
wielded. She dragged the mattresses only a few inches backwards, so that
Doug’s face popped out.
He wrinkled his nose, sneezed and made a face.“Is that the best you can do?”
“Can’t you lift the mattress off by yourself?” This prompted another face
from Doug. Carol grinned wildly.
“You mean, a big strong doctor like you can’t muster up enough strength to
lift this tiny old thing?”
“That’d be because I’m stuck,” Doug enunciated slowly. His limbs were
pressed tightly to the floor. He wasn’t in any danger, but, he couldn’t
Carol shook her head and laughed. “I have GOT to take a picture of this!”
“You’re gonna get it! I swear Carol, I’ll get you back...” Doug couldn’t
keep from chuckling as she bounded happily out of the bedroom.
“Oh yeah?” Carol asked wickedly as she returned with a Polaroid camera.
“Just how do you plan to do that? You’re stuck under a bed, remember?” She
carefully sauntered over to the collapsed heap, twirling her camera on it’s
string. Then, being careful where she balanced her weight, she climbed on
top of the bed.
“Ah! You’re gonna kill me!” Doug protested with a grunt.
“Nope, just gonna take your picture!” she raised her eyebrows and stretched
out so that her head was parallel to Doug’s. Slowly lifting the instant
camera to her face, she balanced herself on the edge of the mattresses. “Say
Doug’s arms suddenly shot out from under the bed, grabbed the shoulders of
his photographer, and pulled her down. The picture was snapped just as Carol
toppled over with a surprised squeal.
She landed with a soft thud, sprawled beside Doug’s upper torso on the
floor, laughing hysterically. Her head was beside his, only backwards and
upside down, her feet up against the wall, one arm across Doug’s chest, the
other clutching her Polaroid camera.
“You monster! I thought you were stuck!” Carol wacked him playfully as she
“I was,” he chuckled and grabbed her hand.
“We, uh, ‘really’ have to fix the bed now!” her laughter quieted as she
looked at him.
Doug nodded, smirking still, and turned his head to Carol so that their
noses touched gently. Carol lifted her head, turning so that her mouth was
pressed against his own, one last giggle escaping from her lips.
Beside them, on the floor, the Polaroid developed. It was a slightly out of
focus shot of a flurry of moving arms and legs, Carol’s surprised face, and
Laughing softly, Carol gazed almost wistfully at the photograph for a moment
longer. Then she placed the stack of pictures back in the box. Rustling
through the slew of other papers and knickknacks, she picked up a pack of
gum. The wrapper was wrinkled and torn, deep creases settled in the light,
slippery, sliver paper, half of the sticks of gum missing. She tossed the
package from hand to hand thoughtfully, speculating just how old the candy
was. With a daring flip of the crinkly paper, she pulled out a stick of the
stuff and popped it in her mouth. It took a good few minutes before the hard
texture was mulled into the soft mass of sugar that Carol recognized as gum.
She smirked a little as she chewed, wondering if Doug had any other moldy
pieces of food lying about anywhere.
She reached back into the sea of hard and soft and sickeningly familiar
objects, looking for something else to make her laugh.
Suddenly, a sharp, precise pain shot through her finger and she jerked her
hand out of the box with a startled cry. Holding her hand close to her face
in the dim candle light, Carol watched as a rich, slender drop of crimson
blood appeared on the tip of her index finger and ran smoothly down the pale
skin. Her brow furrowed as she produced a tissue from her pocket and dabbed
at the blood. Then, poking carefully through the box, she searched for the
Pulling out a small shot glass with a large crack in it’s rim, Carol nodded.
This was certainly the cause of her wound. The edges were sharp and jagged,
nasty and ready to violate a supple canvas of flesh. She began to reason how
it must have broken in the box, with all the jostling it must have gone
through... until she pulled her hand away, and remembered. A single bead of
her blood was trickling slowly down the smooth, clear glass, leaving a thin
trail of scarlet...
The ceiling needed painting. The pale beige paint was chipping off in more
places than one, in the corners, along the edge, but mostly around the drab
lightbulb hanging in the middle of the large ceiling.
Carol sighed as she starred up at it, absently twirling a strand of already
twirling hair. She batted at her pillow and turned to look at the clock;
3:47. Glancing beside her at the empty bed, she tried to push any threads of
worry out of her mind. ‘You know where he is,’ she told herself. ‘You KNOW
where he is.’
Suddenly, Carol heard the door open and close and quiet, but offbeat
footsteps trudge down the hallway. She closed her eyes, in relief and
wariness. When she opened them again, there was a dark figure standing in
the doorway. He slunk into the room, shrugging out of his clothes as he
neared the bed.
“You’rrrrre awake,” his deep voice slurred as he spoke.
“You’re drunk.” Carol retorted.
“Na,” he smirked. “Na’ really. Me ‘an the guys, we jusss’, ya know...”
She turned away from him and pulled the sheet over her shoulder. “Whatever,
Doug. I don’t want to hear it.”
“Heyyyy now...” he climbed on the bed, one hand on her arm, the other
brushing her hair away. She felt his lips on the back of her neck, caressing
her shoulder, the alcohol on his breath drenching the air around them.
“Doug...” Carol shrugged him off and buried herself deeper under the covers.
But he was persistent. “Com’n Carol...”
“Doug, leave me alone...” she pushed him away with a bat of her elbow. “It–
“Fine then,” he huffed gruffly and promptly retracted his arms. Doug cleared
his throat, slid off the bed, and plodded out of the room.
Carol sighed deeply, throwing away the blankets and sweeping her feet over
the side of the bed. “Come on, Doug!” she called, sitting on the edge. “Just
come back to bed and go to sleep! I have to work tomorrow...”
When he didn’t answer, she hopped off the bed, slipped on one of his
T-shirts and followed him into the kitchen.
He had the fridge door wide open and was rustling through it noisily.
“What are you doing?” was her cold inquiry.
“I’m hungry,” he grunted.
“Can’t you wait until morning? Just come back to bed.”
“I’m hungry!” he repeated, throwing her a steely glance. But finding nothing
of appeal in the refrigerator, he turned and opened the bar. Extracting a
shot glass and slim bottle of vodka, he started clumsily pouring the clear
A fierce anger boiled up inside of Carol as she watched. Suddenly, she
reached out and jerked the shot glass out of his hands, the cool, wet liquid
sloshing onto her shirt.
“Hey, what’re ya doin?” he cried angrily, confusion registering on his face.
“You need to go to bed,” she hissed, just as he made a grab for the glass.
But he was awkward in his fuddled stupor and it slipped from his grasp,
crashing to the floor.
Their eyes locked for a lingering moment. Then, with his hand to his
forehead, Doug turned away. Carol bent down slowly, biting her lip to keep
the sob that ached to escape at bay, and picked up the damaged shot glass.
She gave a small cry of pain as the sharp edge sliced her finger. She pulled
her hand away from the glass. A single bead of her blood was trickling
slowly down the smooth, clear glass, leaving a thin trail of scarlet...
Carol’s hand slowly reached up and clasped over her mouth, pleading with the
painful slices of deceit and anger and turmoil to stay within the confines
of her deepest internal tombs, where she’d banished them long ago. She
closed her eyes against the memory, the image of shattered glass and the
smell of alcohol dancing in the front of her mind.
After shaking her head slightly to compose herself, she wiped the blood off
in one quick swipe of her thumb. She wondered fleetingly why Doug had ever
kept it at all, for all those years none the less. It was far from being
usable and not really a nice thing to look at. Setting the broken glass on
the shelf, beside the mug, Carol made a mental note to throw it out later.
Her scrawny pink candle was giving her it’s all, burning with determination,
little droplets of wax tumbling steadily down it’s sides like solid
Unsteadily, she went back to hunting through the box. Under another one of
his shirts, she unearthed a rusty pair of sunglasses. Carol held them up out
of the box and opened the frames. They creaked when they moved, and she
laughed at their tattered condition. The lenses were big and dark and
masculine, with a rusted metal frame that looked deceivingly sturdy. She
gently rubbed at the filthy lenses with the tail of her shirt, then held the
glasses up to the light and peered through. With a small smile, she slipped
them onto her face...
The radio was blaring, a Michael Jackson song blasting through the jeep, the
base thumping almost in time to the bumps on the road. Carol smiled as she
watched Doug out of the corner of her eye; a contented grin plastered on his
face, his fingers tapping the steering wheel in time to the music, his hair
blowing carelessly in the wind from the half- opened car window. He turned
away from the road for a moment and winked at her from behind his
Rolling her eyes slightly, she reached out and tapped the glasses. “Why’re
you wearin these things anyway?”
“What?!” Doug shouted over the music.
“I said,” she laughed and raised her voice, “Why are you wearing
“These?” he ticked his head, flicked at the glasses and turned down the
“Yeah. It’s not sunny. Not in the least bit.” Despite the hopes for good
weather for their excursion, the sky was overcast and cloudy, and a damp
humidity threatened to break the sky into an unwelcome rain.
“I’m being optimistic.” He shrugged lightly, smiling, and patted her knee.
Carol gave a shake of her head and went back to looking out the window. The
scraggly deciduous trees lining the dirt road flew by quickly with Doug’s
“Maybe we should have just gone to the movies...” she countered.
“Whatd’ya mean? This is gonna be great!”
“Its going to ‘rain’.”
“Aw, it doesn’t matter. This place is gorgeous, you have to see it.”
“Our lunch is going to get soggy!”
Doug laughed and shook his head. “Then we’ll stop at McDonald’s. Don’t
worry! This is your day OFF, remember?”
“Yeah, yeah. I just don’t see why we have to spend it getting wet. Its going
“It is NOT going to rain.”
“Its going to rain.”
“Nope.” Doug grinned and stopped the car suddenly.
“Doug! What are you doing?!” Carol sat up and looked at him quizzically.
“What?! We’re on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere.”
“Ah, but that’s were you’re wrong.” He raised his eyebrows mischievously,
took the cooler of food from the back seat and hopped out of the jeep.
“Where the hell are you taking me Doug?” she asked uncertainly as he opened
her door, took her hand and led her into the forest of trees.
“To the lake, I told you.”
“This is not a lake. This is a FOREST.”
“Wrong again!” Doug seemed delighted in her confusion, and cheerful laughter
rumbled from his throat as they wove through bushes and trees. They came up
to a thick grove of elms and he pushed a big branch back, then pulled her
“What the– ” Carol exclaimed. But her mouth dropped open as they stepped
into a clearing. It was a secluded area, only a few yards both ways. The
trees hung low over a crisp, blue lake alive with motion as a small
waterfall tumbled into it noisily. The water was sparkling over the silvery
quartz of the rockbed and the lush greenery that grew around the lake was
filled with little pink, yellow and violet flowers.
“Oh Doug...” Carol said softly, the trickling sound of the waterfall echoing
around them. “Its beautiful.”
“I thought you’d like it.” He smiled warmly and draped his arm around her
shoulders. “Now, this has gotta be better than the movies, right?”
“I suppose....” she grinned back at him and leaned into his shoulder.
Suddenly, something wet landed on the tip of her nose. Then on her forehead.
And before she could look up, the sky opened up and rain began to pour down
on them furiously.
Carol squealed and clung to Doug’s arm as they were drenched, their clothes
soaked in mere seconds.
“Looks like you were right!” He shouted over the pounding of the rain. But
they were both laughing madly, letting the water drip off their faces
freely. Carol reached up and circled her arms around Doug’s neck. He smiled
down at her and brushed the wet hair from her forehead. Standing on her
tiptoes, she lifted her face to his and kissed him, closing her eyes to the
sweet taste of rain on his skin. He reciprocated tenderly; the feel of his
lips on hers and the rain falling on her face leaving her breathless.
Reluctantly she pulled back, letting the scent of rain mixed with his
cologne fall around her.
“I can barely see you!” she told him, squinting through the thick cascade of
“Here,” Doug pulled off his sunglasses. “I knew these’d come in handy.” With
a small smile, he slipped them onto her face...
The memory was so fresh and vivid in her mind that Carol could feel the mist
of promised rainfall in the thick musty air of her basement. She could smell
the water, the free scent of flowers and trees and rain, and it filled her
with languish. She yearned desperately to be back at the lake, wrapped
tightly in his arms, oblivious to the rain falling around them. In that
moment the longing for Doug was so strong and real that it hurt, a splitting
pain deep in her chest. She was sure that she’d break right in two if she
couldn’t touch him, couldn’t feel his fingers combing through her hair, or
hear his thick voice speaking her name in that tenderly gruff tone.
“Doug...,” she whispered, shaking her head, hoping that speaking his name
would somehow ease the severity of her pain. If there was one thing, one
simple feeling or emotion or passion that could be unearthed from the
memories, it was that of love. As much as it hurt her, as much as it brought
back deep impressions of abandonement, Carol couldn’t deny the fact that she
loved him. Seeing him, even if it was only in the eye of her mind, was so
painfully tremendous that it opened every emotion she’d so carefully bitten
back for a year and a half.
She wished she would have talked to him the last time he’d called. But, as
usual, she’d been stubborn and let the machine answer it. She’d sat eagerly
beside the little black sony answering machine, knowing that it was he who
was calling, hoping that he’d leave a message and she’d get to hear him.
Carol sat there the entire time he was talking,bathing in the sound of his
voice, drinking in his words...
Carol glanced anxiously at the clock perched comfortably on the wall above
the microwave. The long hand was pointing to the 5, the short hand targeting
the 12. It was five o’clock, and it was Saturday.
She glared at the slick white telephone lying silently on the kitchen
counter, awaiting the call that came every Saturday at precisely five
o’clock, without fail. It was around this time every week that the nervous
butterflies crept into her stomach, confronting the excited chills of
happiness that always started to run through her. It was around this time
that she’d put the twins to bed, and spend the wait heavily contemplating
whether or not to answer the call.
It had not been a particularly good day. She’d been vomited on twice at
work, had her hair pulled by a malicious 5 year old, given a lecture to the
new desk clerk about losing phone messages, and to top it all off, Kate was
developing a sneeze. She was anxious to talk to Doug, and she knew that he’d
provide the comfort she was longing for. But it was also because of this
that she knew she wouldn’t, couldn’t talk to him. Being willingly and
readily comforted by a man who was on the other side of the country made her
vulnerable. This was not a state she wished to be in. In Carol’s point of
view, talking to him opened doors she really didn’t want to enter.
“Not today, at least,” she found herself saying as she nervously toyed with
the hem of her shirt.
The phone rang. Carol jumped at the sharp sound and rushed to the phone. But
as her fingers grabbed the smooth white plastic, she reeled and let go.
Summoning all of her self-control, she collapsed stiffly into a table chair,
sat on her hands, scrunched her eyes closed, bit her lip, and waited for the
answering machine to pick up.
With a rattle and a beep, it came to life. After the short answering message
playing Carol’s crisp introduction, Doug’s familiar voice penetrated the
kitchen. Carol sucked in her breath and sat back.
“Uh, hi Carol... its- its Doug. I, uh, I was just, well, its five o’clock. I
guess you’re not in... so, um... how are my girls doing? Did Tess’s rash go
away? I was just thinking about them... I got the pictures you sent in the
mail. They’re really growing fast, Carol. God... I miss them. I was thinking
maybe I’d come up next weekend. It seems like forever since I’ve seen them.
Uh, well, tell Tess and Kate that I love ‘em. And I-uh... I... hope
everything is going okay for you at work and all that. Well... Goodbye.”
The machine clicked off and Carol got to her feet with a smile. God... he
hated answering machines, and she felt bad for making him mumble into hers
like he did. But she always could find a little humor in his lack of
answering machine eloquence.
Bending down over the little black box, she rewound the message. Then, with
a breezy sigh she pressed play. Doug’s voice came again, his choppy words
penetrating the gloom that settled inside her all too frequently. Carol
stood there and closed her eyes, bathing in the sound of his voice, drinking
in his words...
She’d played that message so many times she’d memorized every word, every
uncomfortable grunt, every jagged breath.
Still playing his words in her head, Carol turned back to her box. A bright
red christmas ball was nestled between a striped tie and a package of golf
balls. She placed the ball in the palm of her hand. The candle reflected off
the shiny metalic paint, causing the light to dance with phantasmal color.
Carol watched in wonder as the rich red flame flickered in the ball, almost
making in glow...
Carol groaned, her eyes still closed lazily. She could feel his warm breath
tickling her forehead, and fought a smile.
“Wake up, hon. C’mon Carol,” he whispered into her ear.
“I’m sleepy, Doug,” she whined, but a small giggle escaped her lips.
“Ah...” Doug smiled and kissed her sweetly. “You ‘are’ awake.” Carol opened
her eyes and smiled back at him, then burrowed deeper under the warm
blankets and curled up against his chest. “Carol!” he scolded.
She laughed from her cozy nest. “You are such a big kid!”
“Well, we didn’t fight so hard to get the day off, just to spend it lying in
bed! Let’s get downstairs!”
Sighing with defeat, Carol pulled herself upright. “Merry Christmas, Doug,”
she said with a drowsy grin.
“Merry Christmas. Now, get up!” He took her hand and jumped from the bed,
pulling her with him.
“Wait, wait, Doug! Let me at least get my robe!” She grabbed the worn
terrycloth housecoat off the back of the bedroom door as he pulled her
quickly out of the room and down the stairs. “Oh God, its freezing down
here,” she exclaimed, pulling her robe tightly around her shoulders. The air
held that certain, nippy crispness that only tingled one’s skin on Christmas
morning. Carol could remember feeling that same biting cold every Christmas
morning since she was a little girl. The frigid twinge always gave her a
good feeling, a recollection of excitedly opening presents with her sisters
and singing carols with her aunts and uncles; some of the best times of her
“Yep,” Doug agreed, flicking at the thermostat dial on the wall as Carol
shoved her hands into her pockets. “Cold as all hell.” He rapped on the dial
a few more times, then, shrugging his shoulders in defeat, took her hand
again. “I think the heater’s broken.”
“Ah, its ok. I’ll make coffee.”
“Coffee won’t keep us from freezing to death!”
“No,” Doug grinned, ”But this might.” He took her face in his hands and
kissed her explosively. Carol sighed happily as the warm sensation travelled
through her. Who needed mistletoe? Or heaters for that matter...
“You sure are in a good mood!” She stated, smiling.
“Its Christmas!” He said, leading her into the living room. “And we have a
tree. And presents. And stockings. And coffee.”
Bright sunlight was streaming in through the window in thick shafts,
accentuating the diamond-like twinkles of the snow and icicles hanging from
the roof. They stood in front of the big tree, decked in garland and colored
balls and tinsel and little lights. It was a real tree, a big evergreen with
branches so full they’d used more than a dozen boxes of ornaments in
decorating. Boxes wrapped in colored paper were piled underneath it,
waiting patiently to be opened.
“I can’t believe I let you convince me to get such a huge tree,” Carol
smiled as she stooped to fix a drooping strand of garland.
“Oh, come on. You love it just as much as I do!” Doug tilted his head,
taunting her good-naturedly.
She stepped back from the tree, taking in the twinkling lights and sparkling
tinsel. “Yeah,” she admitted, “I haven’t had a tree like this since I was a
“I don’t think I ever had a tree...” he studied it for a moment, trying to
remember. “No... no wait, I think we had a white one. Plastic. But it melted
because the lights were too strong.”
“Oh God,” Carol shook her head, laughing. “How traumatic.”
“It was! After that we had to put presents under my dad’s big reclining
chair.” He laughed as he disappeared into the kitchen. “I’m not sure if
thats a good memory, or a bad one!”
Carol shivered again and flopped onto the sofa, still gazing at the pretty
Christmas tree. She felt happy, genuinely and thoroughly contented. The
feeling warmed her.
Doug returned moments later with an afghan and two cups of dark, steaming
liquid. He handed one to Carol and sat beside her, wrapping the thick
blanket around them both. Carol brought the hot mug to her lips and let the
smooth fluid warm her mouth.
“Hey! This isn’t coffee!” she exclaimed as the shockingly sweet chocolate
flavor assaulted her taste buds.
“Nup. Its cocoa. I thought it would be appropriate.” He sipped his own drink
“I... uh, think you put little too much sugar in it,” Carol tired to keep a
straight face, but failed and burst out laughing.
“Hey! At least its hot, alright?” Doug pouted, feigning offense.
“Yeah,” she giggled, “at least.” Her laughter faded and the room fell
comfortably silent. Carol looked from Doug, to the tree, to the presents
lying under it. As much as she tried to push it away, one thought
persistently crept into her mind. Something was... missing.
“Carol?” Doug asked, ticking his head to the side. “You ok?”
She starred intently into her cocoa, watching as the dark liquid swirled in
little whirlpools, concentrating on the soothing warmth the mug emitted,
letting it seep into her hands. “Yeah, I’m fine... I was just... thinking.”
“I dunno... its just...” She looked up at Doug, his beautiful, deep brown
eyes dancing with the sheer joy of being with her, but etched with concern.
“Do you think that we’ll have a baby by next Christmas?”
“Oh, God... I don’t know Carol. Its possible...”
“But– but don’t you think it would be so great to have a little person to
open these presents? To see his eyes light up when he sees them? To take him
out to the sliding hill with his brand-new sled?”
Doug chuckled and gently stroked her hair. “I think that would be wonderful.
But, if this ‘is’ our last Christmas of ‘just the two of us’ we should
probably enjoy it.”
Carol hesitated, then smiled. “Yeah, you’re right. Whatdya say we open some
Doug nodded. “So what did you get me?”
“Go see for yourself!” Carol laughed, pointing to the pile under the tree.
After starting a flickering fire in the fireplace to warm up the room, they
settled on the floor. The tree was so large that they could almost sit up
under the branches without grazing their heads on the leafy limbs. Looking
up, they could see into the branches, the little lights twinkling with
color, making the whole thing glow with a magic that only presents itself on
“Open this one first,” Doug commanded excitedly, handing her a large green
and red box with a white bow.
Carol took the package and started to carefully unwrap it, first tugging off
the bow and ribbon, and then peeling away the paper. “You sure wrapped this
well,” she commented.
“Are you kidding?” Doug grinned. “The only thing I can wrap is a sprained
foot in an ace bandage. I got it done in the gift centre in the mall.”
“I should have known.” Carol laughed with him and finished taking off the
wrapping paper. “Oh Doug! This is what I wanted!” She pulled a brand new,
shiny toaster oven out of the box, a wide smile stretching across her face.
“How did you know?”
“You only told me 20 times,” he teased, shrugging.
“Was I that obvious?” she blushed.
“No,” he shook his head. “I just... you know, you kept saying how the
toaster always burnt the bread...”
Carol plodded into the kitchen, her new toaster oven in tow.
“Don’t you want to open the rest of the gifts?” Doug got up, following her.
“Not right now. I want to make toast!”
“Do you even know how to put that thing together?”
“Can’t be too hard!” She set the contraption on the counter and plugged it
in. “There. Nothing to it.”
“You sure its working?” Doug asked, skeptical.
“Just give it a minute to warm up. I’ll get the bread.” She rummaged through
the cupboard and pulled out a loaf.
“Carol? What’s that smell?” his brow furrowed as the scent of smoke wafted
through the air.
“I– I don’t know. I haven’t put the bread in yet!” She set down her bread
and quickly opened the toaster oven door. Billows of thick grey smoke poured
out, stinging her eyes. “Something’s burning! Get the fire exting–!”
Doug had alread lunged for the fire extinguisher behind the sink. With a
grunt he released the plug and white foam sprayed out with a vengeance. They
stood there, stricken, in front of the smelly mess as the smoke cleared.
Then, silently, Carol reached through the collapsing foam, into the little
oven, and rooted around for a moment. Then, with her mouth hanging open, she
pulled out the remains of a small piece of paper. Holding the dripping thing
in front of his face with one hand, the other firmly planted on her hip, she
shook her head in astonishment.
“Doug, you left the receipt inside.”
His eyes grew wide with her cool statement. “Oh God, Oh Carol...” he looked
from the charred machine to Carol’s bemused expression. “I’m really
His face was so pitifully woeful that any anger or disappointment Carol
could feel was washed away. She looked up at him, a smile slowly spreading
across her face. “Guess we’ll have to settle for burnt toast this time,
With that, Doug smiled too. “I’ll get you a new one as soon as the stores
open on Monday.”
Carol nodded, threw a towel over the sticky, goey mess, and jammed the two
pieces of bread into her old toaster. After a moment, they popped up, black
Giggling a sigh, she placed the toast on a plate and followed Doug back to
the sofa. The fire was burning nicely, glowing a wonderfully cozy heat,
settling the room with a comfortable atmosphere. Carol and Doug nestled into
the plush sofa, abandoning their earlier present opening plight. He took her
hand and she let her head drop to rest on his shoulder as she crunched on
her blackened toast.
“Been a pretty good Christmas so far, huh?” Doug asked softly, his thumb
absently rubbing over her knuckles.
“Considering we’ve only been up for 15 minutes, yeah,” she smiled. “Mark and
Rachel are coming over for dinner, right?”
“Yep,” Doug nodded. “They’re bringing the turkey. God, Mark trying to cook a
turkey... I think we’d better have a backup plan.”
“Well, there’s always Magoo’s!” Carol laughed. Just then, a small red ball
fell from the lower branches of the Christmas tree and rolled across the
floor, settling near her feet. She stooped to pick it up and placed the ball
in the palm of her hand. The fire reflected off the shiny metalic paint,
causing the light to dance with phantasmal color. Carol watched in wonder as
the rich red flame flickered in the ball, almost making it glow...
Carol sighed with gravity for the lost feelings of contentment she’d felt
back then. It had been little more than a year ago, and yet, it felt like a
lifetime away. She couldn’t help but wonder if those sure and steady
feelings of security were nothing but an illusion, a falsified picture Doug
had welcomed her into. And then she’d have to ponder whether she was ever
really happy at all. But when she thought back to those times, even though
she seldom did, the sheer happiness she felt in remembering was enough to
convince her otherwise.
Their ‘Christmas wish’ had come true that year. The next Christmas, there
were two brand new baby girls to share the holidays with. But with the
additions to the ‘family’ they’d also lost one member. Carol remembered last
Christmas well. She’d been up all night with the newborn twins, Kate with a
cold, Tess with colic. The next morning was spent in a flurry of feedings
and clothing and crying. When she’d hoped for a baby to spend Christmas
morning with, she hadn’t once imagined that it would turn out like it had.
There were many times in a week, in a day, in an hour that these despairing
thoughts would plague her, and the depression that always loomed in a dark,
clouded aura set in. Carol often wondered if she’d be unhappy the rest of
her life. She knew that she was supposed to be experiencing the joys of
motherhood, and felt horribly selfish and guilty that she was still so
discontent. She loved her children, there was no denying that, but she ached
to have a gentle hand to smooth back her hair and reassure her when it
became too much.
The only thing that kept her from running to Seattle was the threads of
anger that still clung to her battered heart, and the solid pride that had
presented itself the moment Doug had announced that he was leaving. It had
taken her awhile to figure out why exactly she was angry with him. In her
head, she knew that he couldn’t have stayed at County. She even knew that
she could have gone with him. But the betrayal she felt had initially
clouded her judgment. It had seemed that, just when she’d finally allowed
herself to trust him, when she’d finally accepted the fact that he’d
changed- that he was going to stay with her, that they’d get married and
have a baby and have the life she’d always wanted with him- he left. It
looked to her like he was abandoning every promise he’d ever made to her,
just as he’d done before. But with time and loneliness also comes
understanding. The months apart had left her heart heavy, but her mind
clear. She knew that she had little reason to be mad at him. Outwardly, she
still pretended to be angry and hurt by never speaking about him to anyone.
It was easier this way. She could avoid the awful questions. But inside...
she was dying.
Carol placed the little red Christmas ornament she’d been clutching very
tightly back in the box. She took a deep breath and ran her hands over her
cheeks to wipe away the tears that had so sneakily found their way from the
curdled mix of emotions of her insides.
For reasons unknown to even herself, Carol had been avoiding the last item
in the box. It was a small wooden plaque, painted white, with a piece of
embroidered cloth tacked to the front. The cloth had a small, simple pearly
dove stitched on one corner, and a few lines or verses written in the
center. Turning the plaque over in her hands, Carol saw where Doug’s mother
had signed “With Love, Sarah” in a black calligraphy pen. She ran her hand
over the smoothness of the sanded wood. It was scuffed slightly in places,
like it had been around for awhile.
She bit her lip and turned the plaque back around, so that she could read
the words. But the light from the candle was dimming, and she had to stand
up to get a better light. When the flame was near enough, she could make out
“Fear not, for I am with you.”
It was a bible verse. In all the years Carol had known Doug Ross, never once
had she seen him read a bible. Reading the verse again, she had to choke
back another wave of tears.
“Fear not, for I am with you.”
A burning anger quickly rose into her throat. All the reasoning and rational
conclusions she’d made were blown away and only one thought pounded in her
head. ‘It was a lie.’
“No, Doug, you are not,” she found herself whispering, her voice cracking
with wild emotion and anger. “You’re not with me. I’m doing this all alone.
And I am scared.” With a choked sob and shaking hands, the plaque was hurled
at the tattered carboard box at her feet, the corner chipping off and
bouncing across the cement floor. It was a lie. Everything he’d ever told
her was a lie, every promise he’d whispered, every time he’d told her he
loved her. He wasn’t with her. She needed him, their baby girls needed him,
and he wasn’t there.
She had all these memories of him, memories of happy times, memories of
painful times. But every memory, every look he’d given, every time she’d
tasted his kiss, were etched strongly and permanently into her mind. These
memories were wasted, useless. She would never, could never be with him.
They would never amount to anything– he was gone. They were only meant to
taunt her with the happiness she’d once felt.
Carol couldn’t stop the anguished sobs from erupting angrily from the depths
of her soul. She stood limply over the box and wept, crossing her arms to
the cold chill that had suddenly become apparent in the musty basement. A
deep rumble of thunder echoed from the forgotten storm, and it snapped Carol
back into reality. She covered her mouth with her hand, closed her eyes, and
swallowed her sobs. With certain purpose, she went to the storage closet and
extracted a role of thick tape. Bending over the ‘D. Ross’ on the box, she
thrust the scattered objects back inside it, pausing only fleetingly when
her fingers brushed over the soft material of the basketball shirt. She
pulled the flaps closed and began to tightly wrap the tape around and around
its cardboard walls. With one last bitter sob, she pushed the box into the
darkest corner of the basement, and the little pink candle that had burned
for so long flickered out.
Another crack of thunder, this one much louder, rattled the house. Right on
cue, two sets of cries cut through the air. Carol closed her eyes and
sighed. Then, with one last glance into the dark corner that held her
memories of Douglas Ross, she trudged up the basement stairs.
Memories may be beautiful, and yet
What's too painful to remember
We simply choose to forget.
Carol reached into the crib and lifted a howling Kate into her arms. Then,
standing above the next crib, Tess, who’s cries had diminished to a few soft
whimpers, was quieted with a few gentle words and a reassuring pat on the
Settling into the rocking chair, she prepared for a long hour of sitting
with Kate as she cried. The baby was stubborn, and when she was frightened,
it took a lot to reassure her. Slowly, Carol started rocking. She let the
gentle swinging motion calm her frazzled emotions as well as her crying
“Its alright, Katie,” she whispered, lifting the baby up so that her head
rested on Carol’s shoulder. She gently ran her hand in tiny circles over
Kate’s sleeper-clothed back. “Its only a storm. It’ll end soon... It’ll end
The baby smelled of talcum powder, the sweet scent almost a comfort as Carol
rocked her. Her cries were diminishing slowly.
Another clap of thunder blasted the quieting room with the loud noise, and
Kate began to shriek again. “Aw, its ok baby. I’m here. I’m right here.” The
verse from the plaque popped into her head, and before she could stop
herself, she was whispering the comforting words to her daughter.
“Fear not, for I am with you.”
Swallowing the lump in her throat, Carol lifted the baby girl off of her
shoulder and into the crook of her arm, so she could see the tiny face. Kate
was getting more relaxed, only small, soft whimpers escaping her tiny,
The realization hit her like a flash of lightening. Her lips... they were
just like Doug’s. Exactly like them. These were Doug’s children. As much as
she battled the fact that he would never be their ‘father’, he did make
them. All those memories she had couldn’t really have been wasted. Those
very memories brought her these children to love. These two helpless baby
girls that would be with her for the rest of her life, that would never
leave her, never lead her on. She was a mother, their mother, and if bearing
years of memories of a man she’d never be with gave her that title, then
wasted was not the word.
Carol stood up slowly and placed a sleeping Kate back into her crib. Then,
taking the discarded flashlight from its position beside the rocking chair,
she made her way back down the basement stairs. Crawling into the dark
corner, she extracted the box. Unearthing a jack knife from a toolbox, Carol
ripped away the thick tape and pulled the box open almost frantically.
Knowing exactly what she wanted, she pulled out the old T-shirt with the
small basketball logo below the shoulder. Then, taking off her own
long-sleeved blouse, she slipped the shirt over her head. That same
wonderful aroma filled her with the most amazing sense of peace as the
delicate material passed over her face.
With a newfound resolve, Carol stood back from the box, relinquishing the
soft feel of the worn shirt and smell of Doug’s cologne.
She’d always thought that she could sort out her feelings- whether they’d be
anger or resentment or forgiveness- of the situation she was in with Doug
when the dust settled. But the dust had settled, and she wasn’t any surer
now than she’d been when he first left.
She’d never been able to find the proper place for her memories either.
Stuffed in a dark corner wasn’t the right one. But if one thing was certain,
if there was one thing that she could hold onto, it was that she did have
memories. And maybe they were just that. Not wasted, not useless, not
painful or wonderful, not meant to be ignored. Just memories.
So it's the laughter
We will remember
Whenever we remember
The way we were
Yep, thats all folks! Now, I want to hear what you thought! E-mail me at
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