What is a miracle?
We like to say it’s something huge, but we use the word so carelessly.
Oh man, I got a parking spot right near the building. What a miracle.
Or, They have my favorite sandwich on the menu today. It’s a miracle!
But what about love?
What about babies?
What about kindness or friendship, or just the act of seeing someone else in a way that changes them?
I think all those things are miracles.
But what do I know?
I’m just a woman who died.
~ 1 ~
Life changes in a heartbeat.
I can’t say I had any conscious awareness the last time I was at the Rabbit, that my life was about to change in unimaginable ways. I can’t say I’d been able to entirely wrap my head around the fact that it was now four years later.
“Take it slow.” Charlotte tucked red strands of hair behind her ear. She looked down, watching my steps, speaking softly and slowly as if she were talking to a small child.
I had my arm around her neck and she was supporting a good portion of my weight, and I hated it.
“Just a couple more steps. And just ignore the assholes.” Nora’s tone held fire, but was nonetheless just as patronizing.
Charlotte and Nora are my two best friends. They couldn’t be more alike or different. Nora grew up in foster care, has pink hair, a nose ring, and doesn’t let anyone in. Charlotte grew up with a mom and dad that should not have been together. She endured long nights of fights that sometimes got brutal, and somehow, that made her the biggest romantic dreamer I know.
I’ve known Nora forever, but hadn’t seen her in a few years when I woke up and saw her sitting beside my hospital bed.
I met Charlotte because she was Rafe’s first wife.
Funny how life works, right?
Oh, and the assholes Charlotte was referring to were the gathering media on my front lawn taking pictures of me as I shuffle like an old woman up the steps to my bar. Ignoring said assholes was proving to be harder than the steps, and I wished everyone would just go away and leave me alone.
“Is there really nothing else newsworthy going on?” Charlotte questioned. “It’s Christmas for Chrissake. There has to be something more important than Sabrina.”
~ 2 ~
She looked at me with wide eyes.
I had bigger problems than Charlotte’s words.
I glanced up at Nora, both of us silently asking the same question … Had they figured out who I was?
“One more step.” Charlotte was prematurely triumphant.”
It was an extraordinarily bright day for December, even in Florida. There was a glare on the lawn that made my eyes hurt, but then, I hadn’t been outside much lately.
Or had my eyes open.
I tried to take in the condition of my flower beds as we traversed the porch. They didn’t look any the worse for wear. Hydrangeas, gardenia bushes, bougainvillea, and what looked to be freshly planted pansies overflowed all along the base of the porch.
“We made it!” Charlotte announced the obvious while Nora pulled open the stained-glass door.
The door was decorated for Christmas with a fresh pine garland framing the wood. The scent was unmistakable, and small white twinkle lights were delicately entwined within. It was charming. A soft reminder of the season, the happiness, the hope, the love.
“Now go fuck yourselves!” Nora shouted across the lawn without any care for what anyone thought of her.
I chuckled softly.
“Give them the warmth of the season, hon. Don’t hold back.” I smiled at her to soften the otherwise harsh words.
I noticed the old lion’s head fountain on the wall beside the door wasn’t working, and I saw the addition of patio tables and chairs that Nora had told me about earlier.
In the time I’d been incapacitated, she’d been running the Rabbit, and quite well from what I’m told. She even added a grill with a menu that changed daily with seasonal ingredients.
~ 3 ~
It was impressive.
And all so surreal.
I looked back before stepping inside. They were shouting my name, asking personal questions that were nobody’s business but my own. The media had dubbed me a Christmas Miracle. I assure you, I am not a miracle. But whatever sells papers, I guess… or clicks… or whatever makes them money these days.
The last few weeks in the hospital, the staff was forced to work overtime deflecting the intrusions, something that was not the staff’s job. I suspected it was partly the media scrutiny that made the staff less contrary when I decided I wanted to leave.
I listened to the crowd shouting words of compassion and support, pretending like they understood, but no one could possibly understand.
Probably not ever again.
I moved through the door and released a breath of relief. “Home.”
It was as if I’d walked all the Earth to finally come back home to where it all started … and ended.
The four steps to the front door of the Rabbit was definitely more challenging than it should have been. But now inside, even with the madness out there silenced, I was confronted with possibly my greatest challenge … the place where it all happened.
I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel coming back there again, but I had to. I couldn’t live in fear or denial of it.
“You okay?” Nora’s tone gave me permission not to be, but I refused to take it.
Life has its own plan for us. Maybe that’s God, maybe that’s fate, or destiny. Maybe it’s all just stupid.
All I knew for sure, was that nothing I knew, dreamed of, or had, was the same anymore. I was consumed with a gnawing emptiness blaring far louder than the voices on my lawn. It was unlike anything I’d ever felt
~ 4 ~
before, and I honestly had no clue what to do about it. I wasn’t sure where I go from here. How do I live again?
“Everything is more or less the same.” Charlotte used forced brightness, shaking me back to the present.
We all stood there in silence, staring at the spot where it happened, a spot which now had a ten foot tree decorated for the season. There was soft Christmas music playing in the background, and I could smell a roast cooking in the kitchen. It was a warm, beautiful scene, that I couldn’t connect with at all.
“Are you sure this is where you want to be?” Charlotte nervously twisted her fingers.
Somehow, I managed a smile.
I looked around the bar. There were some differences, but not many. The wooden slat walls that were stained and then distressed still held colorful posters, a hint of neon, and old carriage house lanterns that I’d found up in Maine.
I forced myself around the tables and chairs, each chair and table different from the next because I didn’t get them from a warehouse somewhere. I’d scoured the internet, gone to countless estate sales and auctions, and found each one.
As I arrived at the exact spot. I leaned against the old grand piano and remembered it all. I’m told it was 4 years ago, but as far as I’m concerned, it was more like last night. Music was playing, we had a group of polyamorous people in for their monthly meeting. I was talking to Pauline when Rafe joined us and everything began to unravel.
Before that, it had been a triumph of a night. It was the first time I’d hosted the group, and everyone loved the bar, the food, the music. I had a jazz trio in that night, and their music had filled the space so perfectly that I could almost hear them now.
“Honey, we made a room for you in the back so you wouldn’t have to climb the stairs. Maybe we should go get you settled.” Charlotte pushed gently.
It’s not that I didn’t hear her, I ignored her.
A bed in the back, really?
~ 5 ~
I’m not an invalid. I’m perfectly healthy, just a little weak… and slow… but that won’t last forever.
“Is that brisket?” I wasn’t intentionally changing the subject, just the scent was so tantalizing and filling the entire space.
“Yep. It’s the special tonight… but I didn’t know you’d be… I mean, maybe we shouldn’t open.” Nora stumbled over her words, which was so unlike her.
Nora had many times been my hero growing up, because she never seemed to fear speaking her mind. Now she was hedging and rethinking and I hated that I caused that in her.
“It smells wonderful.” I went back to staring at the wood floor.
A part of me could still remember my head hitting those floorboards, remembered Jack scooping me into his arms.
I carefully bent to touch the floor.
You’d think something like that would leave some kind of mark, something that said a life had ended here. But no one would know by looking at the floor, or at me.
But I knew.
I knew and remembered every second of that night, no blessed memory loss for me. I could still feel the energy of that night pulsing in the oak. Still hear the words echoed in the plant leaves around me. Still see the look in Rafe’s eyes that told me everything I didn’t want to know.
“I loved him.” My voice cracked even though I only whispered the words.
I loved him more than anyone could have ever loved another human being. He was a part of my soul and we both knew it. And now I could still feel the physical manifestation of my heart breaking.
I placed my hand over it.
The doctors assured me there was no damage to my heart, but it hurt…
~ 6 ~
“Charlotte’s right. We should get you settled in. Sabrina…” Nora took a step towards me in her take charge manner, but I held up a hand to stop her right there.
“I am responsible for me, not either of you. I don’t mean to be harsh, but neither of you can understand what I’m feeling or what I need. Frankly, I don’t even know. What I do know, is that I needed to be back here again. And if I want to stand here for the next three days, it’s my bar, I’ll stand here for the next three days.”
My voice shook with a mix of emotions from fear to anger with a good dose of exhaustion weaved in between. I truly had no clue which way was up right then, but I did know that I had to navigate this by myself, for myself. I felt a wave of weakness sweep my body and I leaned against the piano for stability.
“Let me at least get you a chair.” Nora moved quickly and grabbed a nearby chair.
“Thank you.” I grabbed her wrist and made her look at me. I wanted her to understand that thank you was for everything.
Truth was, I was only still alive because of Nora. She’s the one that fought with the doctors day and night. She’s the one who refused to remove life-support. She’s the one who washed my hair and sat by my bed talking to me every day.
Yes, there were others, but it was Nora who shouldered the the bulk of the responsibility, and I wanted her to know, somehow, that even though right now I wasn’t not sure it was worth it, I was grateful she didn’t give up on me.
I briefly took in the rest of the bar, there were little flower vases on each table, and some kind of carnival game over by the bar itself, and…
“Is that Tewksbury?” I was shocked.
The man had white hair and silver-framed glasses, rosy cheeks, and when smiled at me, I lost my breath.
“Yes, honey, it’s me. Where did you think I’d be?” He was cleaning glasses behind the bar.
~ 7 ~
I kept blinking, trying to see if he would disappear, but he didn’t.
“He’s been here the whole time. He helped me save the Rabbit.” Nora set the chair beside me.
“Tewksie!” I whined and wished I had the strength to run over and hug him.
“How many times do I have to tell you not to call me that, Miss Sabrina?” He scolded me, but it was our little game and he actually loved it when I called him that.
“I can’t believe you’re here.” Somehow, that made my entire world just a little brighter.
I stared at the chair Nora had placed beside me. I caressed the dark wood frame, remembering what always caught my attention with this chair was the bright orange and purple fabric. It reminded me of something out of Alice in Wonderland.
I loved this bar. It was a labor of love from start to finish. Finding this old building, winning the auction, getting the city council to change zoning so I could create a bar with apartments on top. Every piece of wood I put in this place, every stained-glass window I reclaimed, every tile in the kitchen. I’d never been so passionate about anything in my life.
I felt tears rise and fade away. Had I been so passionate about the Rabbit because I was falling head over heels in love with Rafe at the time, and passions I never knew were awakening, or were the passions I had for this bar magnifying my feelings for Rafe?
Was I an idiot who’d just been at such a happy place in her life that she fell for the oldest, stupidest move in the book?
I looked around the bar again and sat down.
So many memories.
“The first time we made love was right here on this floor.” This bar was the most tangible expression of my relationship with Rafe, and every single inch of the place spoke to that.
“Oh, honey.” Charlotte went to hug me.
“Don’t.” I begged her forgiveness with a look. “I can’t fall apart.”
~ 8 ~
“Here you go.” Tewksbury placed a tray of drinks on one of the tables nearby. “Do you need anything to eat, Miss Sabrina?”
I shook my head to try and clear it, but it was never going to be clear.
“No. No food.” My gaze returned to the floor.
It was a nice floor, old, reclaimed wood boards that had probably seen more than a hundred years of human activity on them. Celebrations like births and weddings, and sadness, like death.
Even the thought sent a chill through me.
Charlotte handed me a handblown Mexican glass, clear except for the bubbles, with a purple rim.
“I love this glass.” I caressed it, not realizing I was expressing the thought out loud until I heard my voice.
“We got them on our girl’s trip to Tulum. I was hoping you’d remember.” Charlotte was eager.
I reached out and squeezed her hand.
“It was an amazing trip.”
Nora stared at me as if I was about to break, and maybe I was, but we couldn’t go on like this. I set the glass on the floor and reached out to her hand as well.
“You both need to stop worrying about me and treating me like a Faberge Egg.” I tried to be firm but loving.
They didn’t mean any harm. They both wanted the same, for things to be how they were before. I just couldn’t imagine how they ever would be.
“I don’t know how to stop worrying.” Charlotte spoke honestly.
I saw the tears starting to fill her eyes.
I licked my lips, drew a deep breath and tried to sound as normal as I
~ 9 ~
possibly could, because they needed me to.
“I’m going to be fine. I just need a little time to get back to full speed.” I put every ounce of energy I had into the smile I forced. “I just need you both to take a step back and let me breathe.”
Was I really going to be fine?
I couldn’t see how, but they needed to believe I would be… so I told them I would be.
“Of course. Whatever you need, Sabrina.” Charlotte put her arms around me, and soon Nora followed.
I sat in the midst of their hug, their warmth, their love, but honestly, I didn’t know who I was anymore. I didn’t know what I believed. I couldn’t seem to process everything that had happened, and I didn’t know if I could ever be the person I was before.
And to be clear, that before wasn’t just about Rafe and how I loved him.
It’s before I died, as well, because that’s what transpired that night. I died.
In this bar.
On this lovely oak floor.
And how does one come back from the dead and pick up as if nothing was different?
That was the challenge before me, and I was going to have to figure it out by myself, for myself.
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas faded away on the jukebox, and the sadness of the song wrapped itself around me. I thought of Judy Garland in Meet Me In St. Louis, singing that song for her little sister, trying to convince her it would be okay when none of them believed it would be.
That was us now.
They all wanted to believe this was a miracle, a wonderful gift, but was it?
~ 10 ~
I was broken, at best. Damaged goods that I had very little control over in that moment. How long would it be before they all realized that and started making themselves scarce?
“I closed the bar this Christmas.” Nora looked down at me. “I thought we could just invite over loved ones and have a real Christmas. I’ll make a feast, there can be gifts.”
“I’ll make specialty cocktails for the season!” Tewksbury added his two cents.
I looked over my shoulder at him back behind the bar, then I looked back at Nora and Charlotte. Charlotte’s eyes were so lit up you’d think we just told her Santa was on the way.
“Of course!” I agreed because they needed me to. “It sounds wonderful.”
Inside I wasn’t sure, but whatever they needed. That’s what I’d do.
“So—” I forced a smile. “You said there’s a bed for me down here?”
I wanted to stay there in that spot, but I needed to be alone. I needed everything to be still and everyone to be quiet.
“Yes!” Charlotte sprang to life. “I made it as homey as I could.”
I could only imagine.
I followed her and Nora away from the spot on the floor, that spot I felt most connected with out of everything in life right now. When I looked back over my shoulder, but all I saw was the memory of heartache and death, and nothing could ever again be the same.
~ 11 ~
Additional chapters can be found below.
The Memory of Magic ~ Samantha Lucas
This story is my gift to the world, to remind us all of hope and love and that even crazy dreams come true… if we have the courage to pursue them.
I hope you enjoyed meeting Sabrina, and a couple of her friends. She’s not in the best place and people think she’s the Christmas miracle, when really, she needs one. But read along with me and watch her Christmas unfold.
After you’ve read The Memory of Magic, get ready to come with me on a year long journey with Sabrina and her friends as they reevaluate the meaning of life, discover true friendship, and soul deep love.
Fair warning, there’s magic ahead. Love and blessings to you today and always! ~ Samantha
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