The Spirit | by Cortney Joseph

The following is part of an incomplete short story I was writing for Christmas 2018. I got a bit discouraged during the process and gave up on the story. However, I thought I’d share it since it was, thankfully, still sitting in my Google Docs. Who knows, maybe I’ll come back around to it for Christmas 2019.

__________

 

Laughter filled the packed automobile as Jude and his friends cruised down the highway, recounting their night of drunken antics. It was nearing three a.m., and all the group of large and gruff men wanted was a hot meal and a place to lay their heads when it was all over.

Jude voiced his opinion once more; thoughts his good friends saw as whining and nagging. “You just didn’t want to go out anyway, and now you want us to feel bad. Shut up.”

He nodded. “You’re absolutely right, Ishmael, I didn’t want to go out. I’m not a ‘going out’ type of person. However, I went, and I enjoyed myself. But that does not negate the fact that I don’t feel comfortable with you driving while intoxicated.”

“I got this!”

Roman cackled from his spot in the passenger’s seat, slurring his words. “He just don’t want nobody driving this raggedy piece of shit, that’s all.”

“You can walk, Ro. In the freezing cold, with snow falling all around, you can walk if you feel that way about my ride.”

“Watch the road, please.”

Ishmael tapped his steering wheel, groaning in an exaggerated fashion, dragging out his words. “Juuuuuude, stoooop bitchin’ Bruh. See if you drank a little more, you’d be feeling good back there, and not worried about messing up our good vibes. Karis, give your boy some of that stuff you got pocketed in your flask.”

Jude slouched in his seat, gazing out the window as he said a short prayer. “I’ll pass.” Around him, his friends continued to talk noise, shouting. Singing loud and off-key as a classic Temptations’ Christmas tune began.

IN MY MIND…” The men roared in laughter, speaking on how dramatic their mothers often acted when Silent Night would begin during family gatherings. “It’s still November, why are they even playing this?”

“You know damn well they been playing this and Mariah Carey since after Halloween. It warmed my Grinchy little heart.” Karis continued, singing loudly. “Merry Christmas…”

Ahmed stuck up his pointer finger, feigning an ability to hit high notes as everyone else continued with secondary and background vocals.

Jude fought hard to keep his eyes open, to keep focused on sights he knew his friends would ignore in their merriment.

And then it happened, in a single blink of his heavy lids.

 

When he could feel them lifting, his vision blurry to his surroundings; Jude found it impossible to do anything more than shift his eyes and head from left to right.

But he could see, and he could hear. And the words that flowed around him were anything but the sounds of love he was accustomed to. Faint voices became stronger, cadences became recognizable, faces became familiar. There were two bodies present, both individuals he cared for greatly. His only family.

“They said it would only take a week to see what was going on and he’d be fine. You’re fine, why isn’t he?! I did not ask for this!”

“Do you think Cara, Symone, and Leah asked for what they’ve gotten out of this? He’s alive, he’s here.”

“He’s hooked up to a machine, and as far as I can see he’s not getting any better.”

“It takes time!”

“That I don’t have. I didn’t sign up for this, I didn’t sign up for a lifetime of this medical hoopla and bullshit, Karis!”

Jude could hear scoffing, pained chuckles before words grew cold and direct. “You signed up for it when you took that ring and walked down that aisle. You signed up for it when you stood beside him as he jump started those businesses, and made all that money, and bought that big ass house. You signed up for it when he was able to buy and supply you with designer items, jewelry, and cars and whatever other useless shit you wanted. Yes, Sister, you signed up for it. For better, worse, richer, poorer, in health and sickness. He needs you now more than ever!”

There was sneering to be heard, heels tapping as one paced the floor, shrill and heartbreaking words to follow. “I signed up for a MAN that was independent and could take care of himself and me. Not an invalid child in diapers and a wheelchair. I am nobody’s caretaker.”

Tears stung the ducts of Jude’s eyes, his world collapsing before he could even consider what brought this moment forward. “He’s your husband, Marleigh! And with all that’s about to be sprung on him, the least you could do is hold a little compassion for the man you claim to love. He needs you.”

“He needs a nanny, and I’m not the one.”

Following the sounds of heels clacking, and a door slamming shut; a deep sigh escaped Jude’s dried lips.

 

Karis, his friend turned in surprise. He rushed to Jude’s bedside, staring down in relief as he touched his shoulder. Jude felt nothing, an odd notion that left him feeling numb emotionally. “Man, I’m so glad you pulled through. I’m so glad I’m not the only one.”

The guilt was tearing Karis apart, though nothing that had occurred just three weeks before had been his fault. It had been of no fault to any of the five men in their party that evening. He struggled with words for a moment before the two he wanted to utter most rushed forward. “Only… one?”

And then came the tears Karis had tried so hard to hide, to fight back. The question of how would he tell Jude that they’d lost their friends rushing to the forefront of his mind. He would blurt it out, to get it out, the way he had with each of their families. Not meant to be uncaring in his tone, just to say it before he lost his nerve. “Ishmael, Ahmed, and Roman didn’t make it. They didn’t make it out the accident.” And looking down at his friend, to know what would have to be explained next; Karis found himself wishing that he hadn’t been the only one to make it out with nothing more than a gash underneath his eye. His scar would heal soon, while others were left with more permanent, and fatal wounds. “Listen Man, before we even get to the hard part; you need to know about Marleigh.”

Tuning in to the sounds of machinery sounding off, and bodies in medical uniforms rushing in, Jude finally understood where he was, where he lay. His wife’s harsh words registering as he came back to the world, back to a newly cold reality. “What’s wrong with me?” Karis remained silent, a little too long for comfort. “What is wrong with me?”

“It’s just that… well…”

“Tell me, straightforward, please.” If anything else was going to break his spirit even further, they may as well get all out in the open right then and there.

Author: mypenwritesnice

Creative Soul. Artist. Perfectionist. Virgo.

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