The name rolls off her tongue and sings to her heart. It was one of Jimmy’s first suggestions, liking “M” names more than any other. Lucy had originally dismissed it, but now, sitting quietly in her soon-to-be-born daughter’s room, the name seems to fit perfectly. Smiling broadly, she says the name once more, “Melanie.” Rubbing her belly, Lucy talks to the kicking baby who is rolling around inside of her. “Do you like that name, little Miss Melanie.” Another kick and roll. “Well, then, we’ll just have to ask Daddy what he thinks when he gets home.” Another kick widens Lucy’s bright smile. “Okay now, Melly Belly.” Lucy chuckles softly at the ridiculous nickname she’s just given her daughter. A smile spreads across her face because she knows that James will be pleased with her sudden turn around on his top name choice.
With numb and wobbly legs, Lucy stands to put the piles of clothes away when she hears a knock at the door. Checking her watch, she realizes that it’s past four in the afternoon. She’s been so lost in her baby daydreams that she didn’t realize that she hadn’t heard from James all day. Knowing that he is extremely busy trying to manage this massive project, she immediately dismisses her concerns. No phone calls during the day means that he is guaranteed to chew her ear off at dinner. The man loves his building, that’s for sure.
Brushing her hands over her trendy and modern dark blue maternity shirt, Lucy flattens out the wrinkles that set in as she was draping onesie after onesie across her belly.
As she peeks through the curtain that hangs across the top window of the door, she smiles cheerfully at her husband’s best friend and co-owner of Crane Building Associates, Ray Richards.
“Hey, Ray. What’s going on?” Lucy steps to the side allowing Ray to enter into the small foyer. Closing the door behind him, she continues talking. “Jimmy isn’t home from work yet, but come on in. Can I get you a beer?” Lucy’s bright voice does nothing to lighten the darkness that is cast over Ray’s face.
Ray shakes his head, declining the beer. He looks into Lucy’s bright blue eyes, and says “We need to talk, Lucy.” His voice is even and curt. Ignoring her stunned reaction to his cold demeanor, Ray walks past Lucy into the sunken den of his best friend’s new home - a home to which he’ll never return.
Ray sinks into the old, beat up couch and memories flood his head and heart. This was the couch that they had in their first apartment. It was a rat-hole of a place, but somehow Ray and Jimmy managed to make it work. The couch was a hand-me-down from Jimmy’s parents and survived remarkably well through their college years.
Burying his head into his hands, Ray can no longer contain the sobs that have been threatening to swallow him whole since he pulled in the freshly paved driveway.
Lucy waddles over to the couch and, not-so-gracefully, lowers herself onto the cushions. Tenderly wrapping her arm around his broad shoulders, she says, “What’s wrong, Ray? I’m getting a little worried here.”
It’s not unusual for Ray to stop over, but usually Jimmy is there getting ready for a golf outing or a ball game. There’s something about this particular visit that just feels…wrong.
Her concern only makes him cry more. He’s crying for the loss of his best friend. He’s crying for Lucy, who he’s come to love as his own best friend through the years. He’s crying for the baby that Jimmy will never get to meet – for the baby that Lucy will now have to raise on her own.
Twisting in his seat, he faces Lucy and wipes the tears from his eyes. Lucy’s face pales as all of the blood rushes from it. She can tell that this is not a routine visit on Ray’s part.
“Lucy…” Ray’s words catch in his throat, stuck behind the ball of emotion that’s been lodged there since he witnessed his best friend being crushed by tons of steel.
Lucy covers her mouth with her hands, but her gasp is still audible. “No, no, no, no….” It’s the only syllable her brain can manage. She’s shaking her head wildly as if it will keep away the horrific news that is so clearly etched across Ray’s tanned and youthful face.
Ray wraps his arm around her slumped shoulders and pulls Lucy into a tight squeeze. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. There was an accident and… it’s Jimmy. He’s gone, Lucy.”
With those words, her world changes instantly. No longer able to contain her anguish, her chest heaves in sobs as tears pour from her eyes.
How? Why? What? All of these questions swarm her brain, but the bottom line is that none of it matters. Bits of Ray’s strained explanation filter into her consciousness, but she can’t make any sense of it. Something about a beam, about being in the wrong place at the wrong time, about wanting to come here to tell her himself, about not wanting her to have to drive to the coroner’s office alone, it’s all a garbled mess, because none of it is important. The only meaningful piece of information is that Jimmy, her Jimmy, the love of her life, is gone.
Visions that she will never be able to erase start filling her mind. In a vain attempt to escape them, Lucy shoots up from the couch and begins frantically pacing the room.
But she’s too weak to stand for long. As pain, anguish and loss eat her alive, she crumples to the floor and wraps her arms around her round belly. Again, the only words she can form are, “No, no, no…”
Unable to let her suffer alone, Ray moves next to her on the floor and pulls her into his arms. Cooing softly to her, he tries to calm her. It’s a vain attempt at peace that will never come.
It’s always been Jimmy. He was her first friend, her first love, and now he’s her first true loss.
Calling on an inner strength that she doesn’t truly feel, Lucy tries to stand, but her body rejects the attempt. All she can do is let the sadness swallow her whole and hope that when it spits her back out, she’ll be alive and whole enough to take care of Melanie.