Roger Marks stepped off the plane, his heart filled with anticipation. As soon as he walked into that airport, he would come face to face with Lea Neilson, the girl of his dreams. Roger and Lea had never physically met, but between all the letters and all-night phone conversations, they knew they were meant to be together. After 7 months of yearning to see her beautiful face in person, Roger was finally here. He walked into the airport, his eyes quickly searching for a tall, golden-brown haired girl, holding a red rose. After a few minutes of hunting, he began to get nervous. Where was she? She wouldn't desert him, would she? As he started to get panicky, he heard a sweet timid voice behind him. "Roger?" He turned around, and looked into the face of the most beautiful creature he had ever laid eyes on. She smiled and looked up at him with her dark brown eyes, and he thought he would die. Speechless, he just smiled like an idiot until she began to chuckle, "You are Roger Marks, aren't you?"
"Yeah, I mean, yes, um, " Roger stammered over the words, growing very embarrassed. Lea just smiled at his cute shyness and gave him a long hug. Her kind embrace instantly calmed Roger, and she could feel him relax. They began the small talk as they walked to the baggage claim. With every moment he had with her, he felt so complete. His hopes had been right; she was the one for him. They walked hand in hand out to her car. As they pulled out of the airport parking lot, Lea glanced over at Roger and smiled, "I'm really glad you're here, you know? I've been counting down the days like a child waiting for Christmas." Roger smiled, thinking to himself how he had felt exactly the same way. He wanted so badly to just come out and tell her what he was thinking - that he was totally in love with her and that he never wanted to leave. But he just squeezed her hand and smiled.
They were talking and laughing about the most trivial subjects, and not more than ten minutes down the road, they came on the topic of driver's licenses. She laughed and said hers was hideous and she wanted to show him. She reached for the glove compartment, and as Roger glanced up at the road, he tried to scream, but it was too late. Lea's hand had let the small car slip into the other lane, right into the path of a semi. Roger grimaced and closed his eyes as the gigantic truck slammed into the car.
Roger's head throbbed as he awoke. He looked around him. He was still in the car, his seat belt firmly in place. He unbuckled it as fast as he could, terror filling his heart, because Lea wasn't beside him. He got out of the car and ran to the other side, screaming for her. His heart fell to his knees when he saw the horrid image that he would never be able to forget. Lea's body was crashed halfway though the back windshield. She must not have been wearing her seatbelt, and the impact had sent her flying through the back of the car. Roger gasped for breath; he knew he couldn't move her in case of neck injuries. He went back into the car and got her cell phone and quickly called 9-1-1. The ambulance was on its way, and Roger just stood there, crying. He held Lea's delicate hand and tried to talk to her, but considering that she was unconscious, he knew it didn't do much good. He regretted a thousand times not saying to her in the car what he had been thinking - that she was his reason for living. He began to cry harder, praying that God wasn't going to take his world from him. His prayers were interrupted by the wail of sirens. A steady drizzle began as the paramedics placed her body into the ambulance and sped off to the hospital. The police held Roger there, asking him multiple questions. Roger was frustrated and scared. He wanted to go with Lea, to make sure she was going to make it. He sat in the backseat of the cop car, quietly crying, when a policeman came over to him and told him he didn't think she had made it. Roger sat there, sobbing, not knowing what to think, to feel. He just sat there, in a daze for almost half an hour. The police continued to ask him questions about Lea. He tried his best to answer them, but they could tell he wasn't up to it. The policeman drove Roger to the hospital, where they were all relieved to find out Lea had made it after all. She was in critical condition, but she was alive. Roger's heart leaped with relief.
He went up to where Lea was, but they wouldn't let him see her. Frustrated again, he sat down on an uncomfortable couch in the small waiting room. He laid his head in his hands, and almost fell asleep, but was awakened by a hand on his shoulder. "Roger?" he heard a small voice ask. He looked up into the face of an older version of Lea standing over him. He quickly stood up as she introduced herself as Mrs. Nielson, Lea's mother. She gave him a warm hug and said she had heard so much about him, and how glad she was to have him there. Roger nodded and attempted to take everything in. He had never met Mrs. Nielson, but after all night together in the waiting room, Roger got to know her, and the rest of Lea's family pretty well.
Early in the morning, the doctor came out to tell them that Lea was starting to wake up. Mr. and Mrs. Nielson and Roger rushed into the room. Roger stopped in the doorway, his heart aching at the sight of Lea hooked up to all the machines. Mrs. Nielson began to cry softly as she sat down beside the bed. No one said anything for a while, and then Mr. Nielson walked quickly out of the room. His wife got up to go see about him, and told Roger to stay and talk to Lea if she woke up. Roger sat down beside her and took her hand in his. Her beautiful eyes began to flutter open. Roger smiled at her, "Hey, sweetie. I am so glad to see those pretty eyes open." Lea tried to smile, but her eyes started to blink shut again. Roger squeezed her hand and begged her to stay awake. He started to tell her everything he was thinking, including how much he loved and cared about her, and that he needed her to hang on because he couldn't survive without her. His monologue was interrupted by the Nielsons coming back into the room. The whole family sat in Lea's room and attempted to talk to her throughout the day. They asked her questions and got her to respond by blinking one time for yes and two for no. It was encouraging for a few days, being able to semi-communicate with her. Roger stayed with the Nielsons and learned a lot about Lea that he didn't know.
A few days later the family's optimistic view was shattered when Lea's condition worsened. The doctors reduced her survival chances severely. They gathered at the hospital together for the last two days of her life. The wreck had happened the weekend of Valentine's Day, so Roger had brought Lea a present, and he wanted to give it to her. It was a delicate gold ring; with swirling flowers, and two hearts on the top, and the simple words, "I Love You, Lea" engraved on the inside. Tears filled everyone's eyes as Roger slipped the beautiful ring on Lea's small hand. Emotions overflowed his heart, and he left the room, looking for a place to go cry by himself. But Mrs. Nielson followed him; she wasn't going to let him go through this alone. Roger slumped into a couch, and Mrs. Nielson sat down beside him. "I can't do this, " he choked out, "I can't watch her die. She was the only girl who ever truly loved me. A me nobody else could understand. She's too young to die! Fifteen! That's not even a fraction of her life! What did I do to deserve this?" His anger and sadness combined exhausted him, and he began to sob quietly. Mrs. Nielson put her arm around his shoulder and cried herself. "Roger, this is not because of you. God has a reason in all of this. We can't understand what it is now, but we have to trust his judgement and know something good will come out of this. Lea touched a lot of people's lives, and this tragedy may stir something in one of their hearts. You never know." Roger nodded, inwardly still blaming himself. If only she hadn't been coming to pick him up, it would have never happened. He knew he shouldn't blame himself for it but it still bothered him.
The one thing Lea had wanted more than anything was to be with Roger. It broke everyone's heart that they got only 20 minutes with each other, but Roger would cherish those moments for the rest of his life. He would never forget Lea. She was the one for him, and he didn't know how anyone would ever be able to replace her, or even be a part of his life like she was. But he knew he had to find someway to go on. He just didn't know how yet.
The next day Lea Nielson's worn body let go of this world, and went on to a better place. Mrs. Nielson, who was holding her precious daughter's hand when it happened, broke down in sobs. Roger slipped out of the room, stunned and in dire pain. The next day or two was the hardest for everyone. Realizing that they would never see Lea' s beautiful face or hear her angelic laugh was utterly devastating.
Roger sat in the Nielson's kitchen on the day of the funeral, silently staring at the floor while all of Lea's relatives swarmed about the house. He heard the doorbell ring and commotion as apparently another relative arrived. Mrs. Nielson walked into the kitchen and said, "Roger, I think there's someone here you want to meet." Roger stood up and followed her, expecting another aunt or cousin, like he had been forced to hug all morning. When he walked into the den, he got a puzzled look on his face. Mrs. Nielson introduced her as Melissa Loptin. Roger was very surprised to see her here. Melissa was a mutual friend of Lea and Rogers'. Like the other two, Melissa had never met either one of them in person. She had just known Lea the way Roger did. She knew her soul and mind - the true person of Lea. Roger, still dazed, hugged Melissa and went back to the kitchen. Melissa stood in the den, slightly stunned at Roger's greeting. She thought he would be glad she had come out there to be with him and Lea's family. She dismissed the behavior as grief and confusion, and went into the other room to speak with the rest of Lea's family.
Two hours later, the immediate family and friends of Lea gathered in a back room of the auditorium. Hundreds of people lined up out front to go past the casket and pictures of Lea. In the small town of Pierce, Nebraska, where the population was only 1,500, close to nine hundred people were expected to be there.
Melissa walked into the room with Lea's uncle and looked at Roger. He glanced up at her and just stared at her for a moment. Melissa felt a lot from that look. She knew then that he was glad she was there. She sat down and quietly waited along with the others.
Half an hour later the services were about to begin. The family and friends walked out and were seated near the front. The beautiful song, "My Heart Will Go On" began to play as they shut Lea's casket and took her away. The song had sentimental meaning to Roger and Melissa: it had been one of Lea's favorites, had been playing on the car radio moments before the wreck, and it fit the situation so perfectly. Melissa looked at Roger with tear-filled eyes. He had his head in his hands, and Melissa wanted to comfort him, but she just looked away, knowing he wouldn't let anybody help him right now. The funeral was good, praising the wonderful, giving life of Lea Nielson. With a touching poem written by Lea's cousin, the entire auditorium was sobbing. After the funeral, everyone headed over to the cemetery: a quaint peaceful gravesite perched on a rolling hill, surrounded by trees and flowers. Melissa thought to herself that Lea would've liked the place she was laid to rest, in the center of the cemetery, next to two grand trees. The mass of people crowded in around the gravesite. Roger was standing across the way from Melissa, and as the pastor began to pray, he looked up at her, crying, his brown eyes filled with extreme anguish. Melissa let her heart break for him, knowing no one would ever fill the place that Lea had left in his young eighteen-year-old heart.
The service continued, and at the conclusion, everyone was invited to take a flower from the mounds of arrangements that had been sent for Lea. Melissa went up to take a daisy, which had been Lea's confirmation symbol and favorite flower. She reached for one, and took out a unique stem with three daisy flowers on it. Roger walked up to her and finally spoke. "It's a symbol, "he spoke sadly, "you, me, and Lea," and with that, he walked away again. Melissa tried to smile, but couldn't. She just sighed and went to her car.
Mrs. Nielson had invited Melissa to come over that evening after the funeral, so they could spend a little time together before Melissa's plane left the next morning. Melissa walked up to the house and rang the doorbell, and Alexis, Lea's nine-year-old sister answered the door. Melissa hugged the small girl, feeling bad for her. Alexis smiled; she liked Melissa. Melissa walked into the kitchen, receiving the same round of hugs from all the relatives. She sat down at the table and listened to the conversation, which everyone attempted to keep at a positive tone, but it kept slipping back to Lea. Mrs. Nielson asked Melissa about some of the things Melissa knew about Lea, and Melissa could tell it made Mrs. Nielson feel better to hear these good things about how great a friend her daughter had been.
Roger came into the kitchen about twenty minutes later. He stopped in his tracks at the sight of Melissa. He coughed nervously and took a seat on the other side of the table from Melissa. He sat there silently for the next hour or so, barely answering any questions directed towards him. After a while, he got up and left. Once he was out of earshot, Mrs. Nielson asked Melissa if the two of them had talked. Melissa answered a sad, "No." Mrs. Nielson, the determined woman she was, said that they needed to talk, and told her husband to go get Roger. Melissa attempted to protest; she didn't want Roger to feel forced to talk with her. But it was no help; Mr. Nielson was already on his way to retrieve Roger. A reluctant Roger walked into the room and glanced at Melissa with shy eyes. She got up and walked into the living room with him. They sat on the couch, not knowing exactly what they needed to say. After what seemed like an eternity of silence, they began to talk - but not about anything important. Every insignificant issue was covered, without anything that needed to be said being mentioned. The only reference to Lea that was made was Roger saying she was even more beautiful alive than she was in the casket. After a few more moments at a conversation attempt, Roger stood up and said if Melissa had anything she wanted to say she could come get him out of the den. She said, "OK," and went back into the kitchen, more discouraged than ever. Mrs. Nielson comforted her, assuring her that he would come around soon enough. Melissa nodded, not really believing it. After a few more hours of talking, Melissa hugged everyone, promised to keep in close touch with the Nielsons, and left.
The next morning on her flight home, Melissa sat in her seat, quietly crying, writing letters to Roger and the Nielsons, attempting to explain her thoughts and feelings. She wanted them to understand her side to it all. On another plane, at about the same time, Roger sat there silently, feeling like his heart had been cut off from the world. He didn't want to explain his feelings, he just wanted them to go away. He didn't know how he would learn to cope with this. The only way he could think of was eliminating everything in his life that reminded him of Lea. He felt bad about being so distant to Melissa. She really was a good friend of his, but it was just too much.
Two days later Roger received the letter from Melissa in an e-mail. All the references to Lea and their three-way friendship caused him to cry again, like he had done so many times in the past week. Melissa called and tried to talk to him, but she could tell it was a hopeless cause. Roger was going to attempt to dismiss everything associated with Lea out of his life; and this included Melissa.
A month later, Melissa and Mrs. Nielson were talking on the phone, both of them hurting from Roger's exclusion of them from his life, but they knew this was his male way of dealing with pain. It was horrible enough that she had to lose Lea, but now she was losing Roger, too. If only he could understand that sometimes helping other people, you can help yourself. Building up all those emotions in his aching heart will only lead to a breaking point someday. And Melissa could only pray that she would be able to help him then.
Tears came to Melissa's eyes as Mrs. Nielson told her they had donated Lea's organs, and had just found out that her heart had been sent to a woman in Ohio - in a town close to where Roger lived. So the words to the song played at the funeral were true in all aspects. Lea's physical heart would live on in the body of the woman in Ohio, and Roger and Melissa's hearts would find a way to deal with their loss. However, no matter what happened, they would never let go of Lea's love and spirit. The trio would be friends forever, and their hearts would go on.
~*Also, I didn't make everything to be exactly as happened.. I didn't want every single detail to be exact.. Just because I could never capture the true depth and emotion of the situation.. this is only my mere attempt :) for you, Holls..*~