Mr. Ashwood

“Hellooo~ Monster Girl City! It’s 9 o’clock on a Friday night and you’re listening to Jin and Ko Radio. Number 1 radio station in MGC! I’m your host, Jessica Williams joined by the pretty girl with the even prettier feathers, Sarah Johnson!”

“Oh you big fluff ball, you’re too kind.”

The yellow Harpy opposite to Jessica smiled as a small amount blush crept onto her cheeks. “If you’re a regular listener you know what it’s time for. If you’re new to the program then it’s time for the life help segment, where we take calls from around the city and see if we can’t make a small change in someone’s life.”

“And it looks like we’re getting a call right now.”

Jessica said as the phone call came on the air

“Caller 1 you’re on the air”

“Hello?”

It was a young girl on the other end of the line, no older than 7. “My name’s Anna and I wondering if you two could help me?” There was a short pause “My mom died 3 years ago and my dad is still really sad. Do either of you have any ideas on how I could cheer him up?” “Ummm~” Jessica stalled while motioning for Sarah to help her, Sarah chimed in; not knowing what to say.

“Well you could try…”  Sarah was cut short by a new voice on the other end of the line.

“Honey what are you doing up? It’s past your bedtime” Oliver looked down at his daughter with stern expression. “Who are you talking to?” Anna extended the phone to him. He looked at it for a second, sighed and took it.

“Hello?”

“Ah! Yes, is this Anna’s father?”

Sarah asked, relaxing a bit. “This is, may I ask who I’m talking to?” “Oh my name’s Sarah! I’m one of the hosts of the life help segment on Jin and Ko radio. Your daughter was telling us that you’ve been sad ever since your wife died.”

Oliver narrowed his eyes at his daughter. “Ya, I guess I have been pretty sad since she passed”

“Would you like to talk about it?”

Oliver turned around and rubbed the back of his neck “Ahh, I don’t know how I feel about telling this story on the radio.” he felt something grab his leg, he looked down and saw his daughter wrapped around it. Looking at him with her blue eyes.

“Please dad”

she whispered. Oliver sighed, “alright, I guess I could talk for a bit.”

“Great!”

 said Jessica “before we start, what should we call you?”

“Hmm…” Oliver thought for a moment “I don’t really want to give out my name so how about Mr. Ashwood? Ashwood Gray was my wife’s favorite shade of blue”.

Anna uncoiled herself from her dad’s leg and they both moved to the living room couch. Oliver sat down and Anna slithered onto his lap, resting her head on his shoulder. Oliver felt her breath against his pajama shirt. He took a deep breath. “Ah man, where do I begin?” Oliver thought for a moment. “I met her at the beach. I was at some kind of party, I don’t remember what it was for. All I remember was needing to get the hell away for it” He chuckled a bit “I was walking along the beach, enjoying feeling the sand between my toes and the water on my skin, then I saw her. She was wearing a Whipple Blue sun dress with white streaks. I’ll never forget the way the moonlight hit her scales, it made her look like she was glowing. I don’t remember exactly what I said to her but I remember having a long conversation” Oliver chuckled again “So long in fact I sunk into the sand a bit. When I tried to walk with her I fell over, I actually remember what I said too. ‘I’ve never had a woman knock me off my feet like that before!’ For some reason she found that hilarious. And I really do mean hilarious, she gave me one of those full mouth laughs. God she had a beautiful smile; I remember our first date.

I took her to some crappy Italian place down town. I was so nervous, I kept rambling on about random things and stuttering, I sweat through my suit as well. She just kept smiling at me though, giving me a patient look those cherry red eyes of hers.” Oliver closed his eyes and leaned his head back, letting out a happy sigh. “A year later we were married. Ahh I remember our wedding day, one of the happiest of my life. It was at a small church on top of a hill, filled to the brim. My wife was quite the social butterfly. I remember some Harpies had to sit in the rafters. And then I saw my blushing bride… Give me 1,000 years and a team of professional writers and I still wouldn’t be able to tell you how beautiful she looked in her wedding dress. And of course she had a bouquet of blue flowers.” Oliver laughed a bit “If you haven’t figured it out by now, my wife loved blue. Also our first date’s got nothing on our wedding day! I was sweating so much that it smudged my vows, and I was shaking so hard that I dropped the ring when I was putting it on her finger. But she just kept smiling and giggling, no matter how bad I messed up she would always give me the same look, it was a look that told me she loved me no matter what; I felt that love when we kissed”

Oliver looked over at the shelf in his living room. It had amassed quite a few trinkets over the years, in the center of the shelf sat his wedding photo, he held his gaze on the photo for a moment before continuing with the call. “2 years later I found out she was pregnant; man that was a good birthday. It was a surprise party, all my friends were there. I still don’t know how she got them all to come. After a delicious homemade cake I opened my presents, she kept telling me to open her’s last, so I was excited to see what it was. It was a Royal Blue suit with an expensive name on it. To this day it’s still my favorite suit, I wear it to work whenever I can. Underneath that suit was a pacifier, I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t get what she was going for at first. I think I said something like ‘honey why is this in here? We don’t have any kids.’ After I said that I looked up and saw that she had a massive grin on her face. I had never hugged her so tightly before in my life. That was also the hardest I ever cried in front of my friends.”

Oliver looked at his daughter, now sound asleep on his lap, her face buried in his shoulder. He smiled, kissed the top of her head, and tousled her hair. “9 months later my baby girl was born. She’s a splitting image of her mother, the only difference is that she has my eyes. I’m so proud of her, everyday it’s something new. Whether it be an “A” on a test or a new friend she’s made she always just makes me so proud; I love her with all my heart and then some.” Oliver laughed a bit “sorry, looks like I got a little off track.”

“Oh no it’s fine! It’s great to know your daughter is so loved.” Sarah said

“Anyways, we enjoyed 5 wonderful years together as a family, snow days were my favorite. As you probably know, Lamias and cold weather don’t mix. Some of my favorite memories were waking up and finding my wife and daughter snuggled up to me; cold blooded but warm hearted is what I always say.” Tears began to fall down Oliver’s face and his voice began to tremble. “And then she got sick…  

I found her on the bathroom floor one morning. She had collapsed, she kept on insisting that she was fine but I knew better. I took her to the hospital and she was admitted the same day. Things only went downhill from there. She just kept getting sicker and sicker, to the point where I didn’t even recognize her anymore. Her scales and hair had lost their white sheen, now they looked dull and grayish. Those red eyes that had given me so many loving looks over the years looked empty. Despite all that she still managed to stay positive. Whenever I came to see her she would always give me a big smile and even bigger hug. I remember the walks we would take when she felt well enough, they would always make her so happy. Needless to say I was a wreck during this, I tried my best to hide it but she knew how much I was hurting. I was never good at hiding my feelings from her. I remember being in tears whenever I’d come home from the hospital. The love of my life was dying and I couldn’t do anything about it.”

Oliver started sobbing “I never even got to say goodbye… I was in the hospital’s cafeteria when Anna came up to me. She said that ‘mama wasn’t waking up’” Anna was roused from her sleep my her dad’s sobs. It was a sound she had grown used to ever since her mom had passed. Only half awake, she hugged her dad’s neck and whispered in his ear.

“Don’t cry dad; I hate hearing you cry.”

With his free hand Oliver pulled his daughter in close. He took deep ragged breaths and began to calm down. After a minute he continued with the call. “Sorry about that” He took a deep breath. “After she passed I was in an even worse spot. I spent most of my time crying and sleeping, as well as dealing with the occasional suicidal thought. If it wasn’t for my daughter we probably wouldn’t be having this conversation.”

Jessica and Sarah both looked at each other, tears streaming down their faces. “After about 2 years I knew I needed to make a change in my life. I tried to find a girlfriend. I could sit here and list all the ways I screwed up but let me sum it up with one story. I was on a date with a Manticore I knew in college. Nice dinner, nice conversation, things were going pretty well; until I brought her home. When we got to the bedroom she saw the picture I kept on my bedside table.

‘You didn’t tell me you were married!’

‘No, no, no it’s ok, my wife’s dead.’ That was last year and I haven’t talked to her since.” Oliver sighed, “I guess if I had to sum this whole thing up, I’m in a better spot then I was 3 years ago but I’m still sad and lonely.” Oliver looked at the clock, it was 9:45.

“Oh wow I’ve almost been talking for an hour!” Oliver laughed “heh, sorry I guess I forgot this show was for advice; do you two have any for me?” There was sniffling on the other end of the line, Jessica was the first one to speak

“Well, I’m not a psychiatrist but to me it sounds like you’re hiding behind your wife’s death. You’re using it as an excuse for not improving your life even when you’re trying to.” Sarah chimed in

“We’re not saying you need to forget about your wife. But we are saying that you should take gradual steps to phase thoughts of her out of your day to day life.”

“Is that what you think?” Oliver said dryly. “I guess I could give it a shot.” Oliver sighed “That’s just a real tall order, ya know?” He looked at the clock, 9:55. “Well I should get going, my daughter needs to go to bed and I need to do some thinking. Thanks for listening to me talk.”

“It was no problem!”

Jessica said

“Please call back anytime”

“Is there anything else you’d like to say before you go?” Sarah asked, Oliver didn’t have to think of what to say. “To any married person listening to this. Spend as much time as you can with partner as you can; you never know when it might end…” Oliver hung up the phone.

Anna wrapped herself around his arm and leaned into his chest. He stood up and walked up the stairs towards her room. Oliver pulled back the covers on her bed. He laid her down gently and tucked her in. He kissed her forehead and turned to leave.

“Dad?”

Oliver looked back at his daughter. “Are you going to start feeling better soon?” He gave her a small smile and flicked on her nightlight.

“I hope so sweetheart…”

“I love you dad”

“I love you too baby, sleep tight.” Oliver walked down the hall to his room. He flicked on the light beside his bed and got under the covers. He grabbed the photo on the table. It was a picture of him and his wife, he was hugging her from behind. She was laughing and wearing her favorite sun dress; that was a great vacation, Anna and him should really go there again someday. Oliver looked at the photo for a while then set it back on the table and turned off his light. He put his hands behind his head stared at the ceiling. He heard a buzz, it was his cellphone. “1 new message” Oliver opened the text, it was from Sam. Sam was a Cheshire, mischievous but always well meaning. She was one of Oliver’s oldest friends.

“Hey! Was that you on the radio? Because that sure sounded like you. Wanna get some coffee tomorrow? It feels like it’s been forever since we last talked”

Oliver thought for a second “I’d love to! It has been a while hasn’t it.” Oliver sent the text and rolled over on his side. For the first time in a long time Oliver didn’t drift off to sleep unhappy. He wasn’t happy but he felt something else… Hope.                                     

                     

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