Previously, on "Heat":
Ch. 19 (Wish You Were Here)
-Several dozen people, including friends, family members, city officials,
police officers, rescued victims and crew members gathered to attend
-Marley was the first to do a eulogy about the deceased fire captain, making it
clear that Joseph always believed in him and that he won't rest until
they find who's responsible for his death.
-At Marley's request, Luke also spoke about his father, describing him as
his hero, making him and his brothers emotional.
-Sarah threw herself over her husband's coffin, to everyone's surprise,
and Luke had to pull her off before she hurt herself.
-When it was time to close the casket, Sarah panicked, believing
Joseph won't be able to breathe.
-Luke said, "Mom, let him go. He needs to go."
Location: 2100 Edgewood Road
Date: Saturday, 12/24/2011
Time: 7:24 p.m.
Christmas has come, bringing with it a fresh, familiar pine scent emanating from the decorated tree. As the multi-colored lights flicker off and on, Frank Sinatra’s nostalgic voice softly permeates through the house as he sings “The Christmas Song”---one of Joseph’s favorite artists. For as long as they can remember, December has always been the boys’ favorite month of the year. They would help Sarah decorate the Christmas tree while Joseph starts up the fireplace so they can roast marshmallows and sip warm eggnog. This
has become such an ingrained Rossi tradition that even after the boys moved out, they continue to come back to relive the holiday memories.
Despite the Christmas tree, the wrapped presents under it, Frank Sinatra’s soothing voice and the comfort of Sarah’s beloved spaghetti, there’s an undeniable void---Joseph’s absence---marked by the empty dining room chair. Not only does Luke know this, but he can also feel it among the veiled emptiness in his mother’s and brothers’ eyes as they try to sit through dinner. He thought Thanksgiving without his father was tough, but he didn’t expect tonight to be so brutal.
He doesn’t know what’s worse---his father’s permanent absence or the reminders of his presence. In an attempt to liven up the energy in the room, Luke puts his fork down, scans the faces in front of him and says, “I have some good news.”
“Oh yeah?” Sarah looks up from her half-eaten plate.
“Marley put me as lead investigator,” Luke announces with a smile, hoping to infect Sarah and his brothers with his enthusiasm.
“That’s great, hon!” Sarah’s eyes light up, brightening her weary face. “I’m proud of you.”
“Thanks, mom. Ever since he became captain, he’s been needing help with the arson case. So I’ve been working with him in the past month.”
“Congrats, bro.” Nate finally breaks his silence as he gives Luke a nod of
approval, but there’s a tinge of concern in his voice. “Just be careful, alright?”
After the leftovers have been put away and the presents have been unwrapped, Luke joins everyone in the living room to watch the rest of the championship game between the Cowdevils and the Llamas. It seems like yesterday when Joseph predicted that the Cowdevils’ easy start in the season would be their downfall, and the underdog Llamas would make a comeback.
And just as Joseph surmised, these teams are facing off for a spot in the Super Bowl against the Stallions. The empty spot on the couch reminds Luke of his father’s absence again. He takes one look at his mother, who has been very quiet, and asks, “Are you doing okay, mom?”
“Yeah…it’s just…life without your father is really hard.” There’s a hollowness in Sarah’s voice that just tugs at Luke’s insides. She’s trying so hard to be strong for her sons, and he knows this. “I’ve had to take it one day at a time.”
“You’re not the only one, mom. I miss him everyday.” Jake gives Sarah an empathic glance. “Sometimes I’ll expect to see him at the firestation and forget…that he’s not around.”
“I know, baby. It helps that you’ve all been staying with me since the funeral. I
don’t think I could have done it alone.”
“That’s why we’re here. We know how hard it’s been for you.” Nate takes his mother’s hand and gives her a soft peck on the cheek. “You still have us, mom.”
“I l-love you boys so m-much,” Sarah’s voice finally breaks as her eyes well up, unable to contain her emotions any longer. As she squeezes Nate’s hand, she carefully searches her sons’ eyes and whispers, “And no m-matter what happens don’t ever f-forget that you have each other, okay?”
“Yes, maam.” They nod, wiping their own eyes.
“And now the purple dusk
Of twilight time
Steals across the meadows
Steals across the meadows
Of my heart
High up in the sky
High up in the sky
The little stars climb
Always reminding me
Always reminding me
That we're apart”
The first Christmas without Joseph proved to be too difficult for Jake, so he went to bed early. Nate followed shortly thereafter to check on him, so it’s just Luke and Sarah in the living room---long after the Llamas beat the Cowdevils 21-14. Luke hasn’t been able to spend much time with his mother---let alone talk to her lately---but her presence brings him comfort. Having to live without the ones they love gives them a common ground they haven’t shared before. “I’ve been meaning to ask you how it went with Lyn,” Sarah finally finds the courage to bring this up.
“Oh.” The mere sound of Lyn’s name coming out of his mother’s mouth leaves him breathless, but he continues to plant his gaze on the t.v. “What about her?”
“I know you’re in love with her, Luke. Your dad told me everything.” She senses his apprehension by his inability to look her in the eye. There was never a right moment to ask him about his personal life, but now she’s more curious than ever. Sarah knows Luke was very close to Joseph and there were certain things that he felt more comfortable confiding in his father about. At the same time, she never wants to lose that line of communication with Luke, especially at a time like this. This is their opportunity to become closer than before. “Did you tell her how you feel?”
“It’s a long story,” he sighs, looking down at the floor, with a look of defeat---and irritation---on his face.
“Luke, look at me.” She gently grabs his chin until his pale green eyes surrender and meet hers. “You can talk to me, son.”
He fills her in about their past life history and the promise that they made to each other before their tragic death. When he got to Appaloosa, he found Brad with Lyn---asking her to marry him. Lyn made it seem like she was going to back to Brad so he left. Then Lyn showed up at his apartment after she found out about Joseph’s death. They made love. It felt right---so right that it almost didn’t make sense why they weren’t together.
He asked her that same question in the morning and she said she didn’t know. She needed more time. This hurt him deeply and he felt that if she doesn’t want to be with him now, she’ll never want to be with him. They got into an argument. She accused him of being a “scared little chicken shit”, and that’s what he does---he pushes her away and runs. He told her to leave, wishing he never met her. She left.
“So let me get this straight,” Sarah mutters, “She came to you when you needed her, made love to you despite what she’s gone through, knowing it’s risking your friendship and you told her to leave? Because she needed more time?”
“You don’t understand, mom. When it comes to Brad, she always gives him a
chance.” All of the frustration returns, leaving Luke just as angry and fed up as the day Lyn walked out of his life. “When they were having problems, she tried to work things out even though he stopped trying. Then he cheats on her. And she still needs time to figure out if she wants to be with me?? I don’t get it! We came back for each other in this life. I’m her other half. And she still doesn’t see that!”
“Luke, I understand that you’re upset. Things ended badly between you two. But let me give you the woman’s perspective.” Sarah had no idea how complex their situation was until now. Now that she heard the whole story from Luke himself, and now that she sees how much this is hurting him. “Despite what you may think, this girl loves you. She may not have said it in words but it’s obvious in her actions. She has become your trusted friend. You may not see her physically because she lives far away, but I know you’ve developed that bond. You probably talked everyday for hours before your fall-out, right?”
He remains silent as he tries to find the truth in his mother’s words---both a source of hope and fear. A part of him is in awe at how she’s able to pick up on his closeness with Lyn. And as much as he doesn’t want to admit it, he finds himself reluctantly saying, “Yeah…”
“She had a miscarriage, she was betrayed by Brad and her sister, she almost killed herself and she’s had to run off to some strange town to start over. On top of finding out about the tragic past life you shared. That’s a lot for anyone to take. To make it worse, you and Brad show up and basically force her to choose when she’s not ready to choose. She hasn’t had time to heal.”
“But I’ve been there for her through it all. I’m the one that really loves her. I’m the one that can give her everything she deserves. Not Brad.”
“There’s no doubt that you’re the better man, baby. Any girl would be lucky to
have you---you are so much like your father. But here’s the thing. She needs to
realize that on her own, when she’s ready. That’s why she needed more
“I don’t know, mom.” Luke stares blankly at the fresh shower of pure-white snowflakes passing by the window. When it’s cold outside, when the autumn leaves are falling, when the rain splatters on the roof---he wishes he can just hold her close and listen to her breathing. “I’m just…I’m tired.”
“I know. It’s been hell for all of us since your father died. But Luke, she went to you. She made love to you. She gave herself to you physically and emotionally just to ease your pain. Don’t you get it? She wasn’t ready to fall in love again but she took that risk for you, sweetheart. A woman becomes emotionally vulnerable after that. She gets scared. Lyn was probably scared of losing you if it backfired or if it didn’t work out. And what do you do? You pressure her and kick her out because she doesn’t give you what you want.”
“Why is it so much work just to be with her? It feels like I have to fight for
every little thing!” He buries his face in his hands, letting out another deep sigh, as he shakes his head. “I’m just not sure if it’s worth it anymore. It should not be this hard, mom!”
“Do you miss her?” Sarah asks as she gently rubs her son’s back.
“You miss her, don’t you? The way I…miss your father.”
“Every…day…” Luke’s words get lost in his muffled sobs. He hasn’t cried in front of his mother like this since Natalie. But with Lyn, it’s not a matter of moving on anymore. It’s about surviving another day without her. “Every…s-second.”
“It’s okay, mommy’s here,” Sarah pulls him close and holds him tight, until the top of her sweater is soaked with her oldest son’s tears. She softly kisses his forehead and whispers, “I would give anything…anything to have one more minute with your father. But he’s gone. You, on the other hand, are a drive away from the woman that you love and you’re being stubborn, Lucas Joseph Rossi. Lyn will move on and she will marry someone else. Can you live with that?”
“Sometimes I wonder
How I spendWith you”
The lonely nights
Dreaming of a song
Haunts my reverie
And I am once again
The lonely nights
Dreaming of a song
Haunts my reverie
And I am once again
Location: Bridgeport Eternal Rest Cemetery
Date: Tuesday, 1/10/2012
Time: 4:47 p.m.
New Year’s has passed, but Sarah’s words as she held Luke in her arms remain in his memory, like a thought that refuses to go away. Can he really live with himself if Lyn married someone else? If she had another man’s children? If another man lived his dream? Since she left his apartment---and his life---she hasn’t contacted him. He was hoping for a sign---something---anything that shows she still thinks of him. But to no avail. The days when they used to talk everyday, about anything and everything, seem so long ago, like a distant memory. Memories of that night and morning that they made love with fierce abandon burn in his mind, but there are no traces of it. Had it all been a dream?
Since the funeral, Luke has been avoiding the cemetery. Just the thought of his father being buried underground brings back the pain, and it’s a reality he wasn’t ready to accept yet. Sooner or later, he knew---just like his feelings for Lyn---that he had to face the truth. He hasn’t been sleeping, he’s hardly been eating and he’s been burying himself in work, trying to find the people responsible for his father’s death.
As the snow trickles down, Luke takes a deep breath and walks towards his father’s grave. He doesn’t even care that he’s not wearing a jacket and that it’s 30 degrees outside. When he’s only a few feet away, the sight of Joseph’s name carved in the headstone---along with a vase of pink and white calla lilies sitting directly on the ground---the finality of it starts to sink in.
Feeling like his heart and lungs have just been punctured with a hot pitchfork, Luke drops to his knees and clutches his father’s headstone. As the wind and snow picks up, sending a piercing, icy wave throughout his body, he holds on---to everything he has learned from Joseph, to the wonderful moments between them, to the love that his parents shared and to the future grandchildren he will never get to meet. “I love you, dad. Thank you for everything you’ve done for me. We’ll meet again someday.”
Luke’s thoughts return to Lyn. As much as he wishes things could be different, he knows the time has come to let her go. Can he love another woman the way he loves her? Probably not. But life goes on, and someday he will love again.
Until then, he will turn the city of Bridgeport inside out until his father gets the justice he deserves.
“Though I dream in vain
In my heart it will remain
My stardust melody
The memory of love's refrain”
Author's Note: I was originally going to have 40 chapters for Heat, but I had to end it early because of time constraints. I just wanted to thank everyone who have been following this story. It's been a blast and an honor to share my writing with you :)
"Stardust" by Nat King Cole
Video by: cto10121