The Call

By J. W. Wright

Justin looked at the tattered paper in his hand. The paper was crumpled, having been worn from constant reading.  He unfolded the paper and gazed at the words on the page. The message was a simple one: “NEED TO TALK NOW.” It was written haphazardly in large, deformed lettering, almost illegible, but Justin knew their meaning. He knew their importance.

Justin stared blankly at the paper, wondering how he would ever talk to her. It had been a long time since they ever truly talked. Justin knew that she needed him, but he could never truly bring himself to be able to talk to her. Even now, staring at this message, Justin could not muster the courage to talk to her.

The phone sat just a few inches from Justin on the bed. Justin looked down at the phone. He never had time to speak with his wife Lauren, and even now when she wasn’t here, he couldn’t get the courage to speak to her. 

Justin reached down and checked his phone. The battery was dead. Justin sighed and tossed the phone aside. He reached down next to the bed, and grabbed the phone charger. After a few moments of hesitation, Justin grabbed the phone and plugged it in. He pushed the power button, and the phone turned on with a cheerful chime.

Justin looked down at the screen, and unlocked the phone. He swiped through his contacts and came upon the name Lauren. Justin closed his eyes, and with great hesitation, he pushed the CALL button.

After a few rings, the phone went to voicemail, just as he knew it would. Her voicemail was the same as he always remembered. It was forever etched into his memory. But it was all he had now, it was the only way he could hear her voice.

At the tone, Justin began to speak. His voice cracked as he spoke through sobs, but he needed to talk to her. “I wanted to tell you that I should have listened. I should have talked to you when you needed me.”

The silence on the other end was deafening. Justin’s hands shook, his heart ached. Yet, he continued on. “The boys are doing well. Josh just finished up his first week of kindergarten. And Michael is starting to walk. I know you would have liked to have seen that.”

Justin smiled as he looked over at the picture he kept on the nightstand.  It was a picture of the four of them. They all looked so happy. Justin wondered what could have ever happened to cause Lauren to become so unhappy. Had he failed her? Justin knew he had failed her. This whole thing was his fault.

“They have your eyes, Lauren. Every time I look at them, it’s like I am looking at you. I will never forgive myself… for… for letting this happen. I should have talked to you. I should have listened. But I didn’t… and now you’re gone.”

Justin closed his eyes as he remembered coming home that day. He could remember it vividly. She looked so peaceful as she lay there in the bathtub, the crimson water surrounding her.  She almost seemed as if she was in a better place. Justin wondered if the life he had given her had really been as good as he thought it was.

The day of the funeral, Justin knew he could never forgive himself. He knew he would never be able to explain to his children why their mother had taken her life. As he watched her casket get lowered into the ground, he vowed he would be there to talk to her as long as he lived.

Justin took a deep breath and resumed his conversation. “I wanted to let you know that I am sorry. I love you, and I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me. I was selfish, and I was too wrapped up in my own stress to be able to listen to your call for help.”

Justin swallowed hard. “The boys say goodnight to you every night. I still read them the same bedtime stories that you used to read. They are getting so big now.”

Justin checked the video baby monitor beside the bed. Both boys were sound asleep.

“I have a job interview tomorrow. It’s for that position you told me to apply for.  The one I always wanted, but was hesitant about. They seem interested. Lauren… you always believed in me. I just wanted to say I believe in you. You are a good mother, and the best wife anyone could ever ask for. We all love you very much. Goodbye, Lauren.”

Justin raised the phone from his cheek with tears in his eyes. He hit the END CALL button, and placed the phone on the nightstand on his side of the bed.  He laid his head down on the pillow and looked at the photograph of his once-happy family. He sighed, and turned off the light.