And Rouse the Prince


October 1, 1998


The day was gray and dark, with a chill wind whipping through the air.  The bleakness around him suited Matthew Wheeler perfectly as he stood alone in the cemetery, visiting his wife’s grave on the first anniversary of her death.

It was impossible for him to grasp that an entire year had gone by already.  On one hand, each and every moment that he was forced to continue to draw breath without his beloved was an endless hour of agonizing torture.  On the other hand, the past year was a complete blur, a blink of an eye in the life he had lived.  He tried to remember any particular moment, but nothing stood out.  He felt like he’d been sleepwalking the entire year.

He focused his gaze on the red and white roses that had been placed on the grave before he arrived.  He didn’t wonder who had arranged that; Trixie took care of everything, just as she had done before Maddie died.

Over the course of the past year, Matt had allowed himself to be carried along on the currents of life, without making any effort to guide his own course.  After allowing him to wallow in the penthouse for a week, Trixie had stubbornly kicked him out the door and forced him to return to work.  He had latched onto the meaningless functions of the corporate machine as something to occupy his time and thoughts, and he had returned to the workaholic lifestyle he’d lived as a young man.

The household staff that had been let go to give Matt and Maddie privacy at the end of her life had never been re-hired.  Instead, Trixie continued to take care of his home – cooking, cleaning, and managing his schedule.  When his executive secretary, Margaret, found herself having to clear his appointments with Trixie, she grew frustrated.  She sat Matt down and gave him an earful about the fact that he refused to hire a personal assistant, yet he had Trixie doing the work of one with absolutely no compensation.  Within days, Trixie was officially on the payroll of Wheeler International as Personal Assistant to the CEO.  Nothing actually changed between Matt and Trixie, but his employees now regarded her as the gate through which they must pass to gain access to the big man.

In January, Trixie returned to college.  She arranged her classes so that she was done by noon each day, at which time she went into the office.  She and Matt both worked very late hours, returning to the penthouse with barely enough time to eat a late dinner before calling it a night.  They were consumed by their work.  They spent most of every day together, but all talk was work-related.  They hadn’t had a real conversation in many months.

Matt did nothing outside of work.  He had not traveled at all and had no social life.  He used the excuse of “being in mourning” to avoid charity and social functions.  He spoke to no one on the phone except at the office, and he had Margaret and Trixie handle as many of those calls as possible.  He hadn’t even seen his children since the funeral – just the occasional phone call, and even those he made at the office so that he didn’t have much time to talk.

He stared at the date on the elaborate headstone he’d purchased for his wife.  It was a beautiful granite sculpture, the best money could buy.  All it did was serve to remind him that no amount of money had been able to save Maddie’s life.

One year.  An entire year.

His beloved Maddie had spent her last days teaching him that money wasn’t important… life and love and family were.  And then he’d lost her.

And now he had lost an entire year, without life or love or family, because he couldn’t let her go.

Maddie would be very unhappy with him.

His thoughts shifted to Jim and Honey and how poorly they had coped with Maddie’s illness and death.  He had done nothing for them, given them nothing, had not been there when they needed him.  He had failed them when they had needed him most.

Maddie would be very unhappy with him for that too.

The sun struggled to break out from behind the clouds.  A single shaft of light pierced the darkness, striking the smooth surface of the headstone and bathing it in a pool of light.

Maddie’s last words to Matt rang through his head…

For all your riches, your true wealth is in your heart.  Don’t bury that with me today.  Go on living.  See the sunrises.  Find the rainbows.  Build new dreams.  And most of all, my beloved, love.  Love deeply, love well, love always.

Matt’s eyes followed the shaft of sunlight toward its point of origin.  As he raised his eyes to the heavens, Matt stood tall, holding himself proudly erect for the first time in a long time.  He smiled gently, as he finally said goodbye to his first love.

He had fences to mend and bridges to build.  He had sunrises to see… rainbows to find… dreams to build… and love to give.  It was time to go on living.


Author's Notes:

This is more of  my submission for the Jixemitri 5th Anniversary Celebration.  Thanks must go out to Cathy P for creating the happiest place on the 'net.  There's no place like home, and I'm so happy I moved in.

Special hugs and smoochies go out to Kathy W. (KayRenee), April W., and Wendy (Scarlett).  These lovely ladies did a smashing job of editing for me, but more importantly, they encouraged me to go ahead and submit this story no matter how abnormal it was.  Their love and support mean the world to me.

The title is from Titus Andronicus, Act II, Scene II, line 5




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