Then the Healing Began – by Eric Janzen

Jeremy’s shoulders rose and fell as he let out a quiet groan. He stared at the red dot on his phone.

“Damn messages,” he said.

He tapped the icon and listened.

“Hey, Jer! Camron here…again. Listen, I’ve got an extra ticket for a concert tonight. You are coming. It’s a new band, Nouveau Coeur. Everything’s in French but it doesn’t matter: they’re awesome! See you at 7:30. I’ll drive.”

Jeremy closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose. He looked at the clutter on his desk, his brown eyes glistening as they inevitably rested on a small, framed picture of himself with…

You can say her name.

He shook his head. Not yet.

Thankful to be working from home, he pushed himself away from the desk, got up and took a deep breath. His hands clenched into fists… once… twice. “Okay, I can do this,” he said.

***

Seven-thirty came quickly. As the doorbell rang, Jeremy checked himself in the mirror one more time. His dark hair was longer than he liked and there was definitely more grey in his beard than there used to be. When did that happen? He straightened his shirt, practiced a smile, then went and answered the door.

Camron was dressed in a dark blue suit, which seemed to make his blond hair even brighter than usual. He smiled at Jeremy and without hesitation gave him a big, crushing hug.

“You’re dressed! This is an improvement over last month when I tried to get you to go to the hockey game,” he said.

Jeremy freed himself from the hug. “We should go before I lose my nerve.”

The drive was about an hour. Camron talked. Jeremy listened. They passed the restaurant where he’d asked… her… to marry him. He pushed the memory away before the image of fading flowers in yellowing grass came rushing in. Too late. He would visit and replace them soon.

Tamp that down, Jeremy.

They arrived at the theater and waited in the line outside. As usual, Camron seemed to know half the people there. Jeremy managed some kind of smile as introductions were made but Camron carried all the conversations. Talking, Jeremy reflected, was like pushing a boulder that never moves. He let out a breath as the line finally started moving.

Their seats were in the balcony.

“We won’t see much from way up here but that’s okay,” Camron said. “It’s the music that matters.”

Jeremy was intrigued. Camron went to concerts as often as most people went grocery shopping. This band had really impressed him. The lights flickered on and off. The performance was about to begin.

“What album are they touring for?” Jeremy decided to ask.

For the first time that evening, Camron hesitated. Jeremy saw it right away. He’d been seeing it in everyone since…

“The album is called Aimée. I’m sorry, man. I didn’t think you’d want to know that,” Camron said.

Jeremy didn’t reply. Do not. Do not say her name.

The lights winked out. The din of the crowd receded. Jeremy sank as far into his seat as he could.

Then the music began.

The stage glowed in clouds of blue and red light. A single tone… deep… low… droning up from the stage and into the ceiling before settling around the crowd like an invisible embrace. A guitar joined, the chords subtle as strings two octaves higher soared above it all in harmony. Drums and a tambourine kicked in at an unexpected tempo. Jeremy’s foot bobbed up and down to the rhythm. He sat forward in his chair. Then a woman, tall with dark hair, stepped up to the microphone.

Then the singing began.

Her voice was music. Beauty that took the form of sound. Jeremy didn’t understand the lyrics but as Camron had predicted, it didn’t matter. The chorus was just one word sung three times: Aimée… Aimée… Aimée.

Jeremy couldn’t explain it when asked later. He sat up straight. His heart raced. The song, the words he didn’t understand, the singer’s voice…it was as though a thief had picked a lock and broken into his grief. He jumped up, rushed out the exit, and into the lobby. He wiped at his eyes. Held his breath. Don’t…

“Jeremy?” Camron stood beside him. His voice was heavy. “I’m so sorry. Maybe I shouldn’t have pushed you to come out.”

Jeremy turned. The tears on his cheeks, running into his beard, were impossible to hold in. He shook his head. “No, Camron,” he said. “No, you were right to but I think I need to go home.”

Camron drove him home. Promised to call him the next day. Jeremy left the lights off as he got ready for bed. He sat there on the edge of the mattress and thought back. The chorus of the song echoed in his ears as though he were still there, still listening, and he could hear her voice singing over him. He closed his eyes. He wept in the dark. He whispered her name.

Then the healing began.

Photo by Harry Shelton on Pexels.com

Eric is the author of two fantasy series, The Dreamtrekker Journals and The Essence Tales. He also writes non-fiction and has had numerous essays on the spiritual life published online in the Clarion Journal of Spirituality and Justice. He lives in British Columbia, Canada, and plans to continue writing… forever.

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