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Paul sat staring at the wall, his mind blank, his feelings numb. He kept twisting the bottle of pills in his hand, listening to the rattling sound of the pills against the brown plastic bottle. Tears filled his eyes, spilled over and ran down his face. He thought that he was empty of tears; he had cried so much over the last three weeks. His husband of ten years, Mark, had died so suddenly of a heart attack that it seemed surreal. The last three weeks had seemed a sequence out of a bad movie where he had been trapped on the screen and couldn’t get out.

The last year had been the happiest of their lives. Mark had finally gotten his partnership in the law firm for which he had worked for the last seven years. As for him, he had opened his third restaurant, this one in a very affluent area of shops and restaurants attended by the rich and famous. The best part of it all was that their surrogate had presented them with a beautiful baby girl that they had named Skye because of her brilliant blue eyes. They had even remodeled their home and put in a special pink suite for their daughter. Both his mother and Mark’s mother had organized a special christening for their first granddaughter. It had been a wonderful experience for them all. The world had been theirs.

Mark’s hobby had been gardening and he had spent many happy days in their garden planting flowers with Skye in her baby carrier next to him. When he, Paul, had been able to find the time he had joined them in the garden. Mark had even drawn up a plan to make their very spacious backyard into a farming planter box garden to grow organic produce and herbs for him to use to prepare his five-star culinary dishes at home.

Then had come that horrible night, three weeks ago. He had been in the kitchen preparing a special dinner to celebrate the goodness of their lives. Mark had been sitting in the family room sipping a glass of wine. Skye had been asleep in her room. Suddenly Mark had stood up; gave a strangling sound that was unreal; grabbed his chest; collapsed onto the couch and closed his eyes. He had run to him, calling his name in panic. The rest was a blur. Somehow, he had called 911. They had come, but it was too late. Mark was gone. Their mothers had made the funeral arrangements because he had been too numb to function. Now, he wanted to go. How could he go on without Mark.

He laid back on the bed and closed his eyes. He felt as if he was living in a nightmare. He seemed to jump awake. Someone was in the room with him. He looked around in a panic.

“Calm down, Pipsqueak, its just me,” a familiar voice said with an amused chuckle.

“Grandpa!” he said in confusion.

“Of course it’s me. Who else would call you Pipsqueak since you grew up?” the voice replied.

“What are you doing here? You’ve been gone for years!” Paul exclaimed sitting up on the bed and noting the figure sitting in the modern rocker that they had bought to rock Skye to sleep in their room.

“I’m here to help you clarify your life choices,” Grandfather said to him.

“My life choices! I don’t have any choices! My whole life is gone!” Paul heard himself scream into the room. “Mark is gone!”

“Really. You have nothing left of your life so you believe,” Grandfather said. “Let’s take a look and see.”

Suddenly he was watching his parents sitting in a church pew before a casket. He caught his breath when he realized that it was his body in the casket. Mark’s parents were sitting next to them and they were all crying just as they had done at Mark’s funeral. The scene shifted and both of his parents were seated in what he recognized as his lawyer’s office. Their surrogate was sitting there with a man that he didn’t recognize sitting next to her. There were also people that he recognized who had been investors in his restaurants, but he had repaid their investments with interest.

“What’s going on?” he inquired of his grandfather.

“Well, Skye’s inheritance is quite substantial and since she is the biological mother, she wants custody of her and access to her inheritance. The others want to buy your restaurants from your parents at a very low price, rename them and put in new chefs,” his grandfather answered him.

“We had a contract regarding the surrogacy of Skye. She relinquished any and all rights to Skye. Mark drew up the contract!” he exclaimed angrily.

“But you aren’t there to enforce the contract that Mark drew up for your child,” Grandfather commented.

“The investors will destroy my name and legacy and the quality and high standards that I set for my restaurants!” he pleaded in despair.

“Again, you’re not there. Your parents know nothing about the restaurant business. That was your dream and they paid for you to have the education and ability to bring that dream to life. Skye is still a baby,” Grandfather stated.

Paul buried his face in his hands. When he raised his eyes again, they were standing in the garden that Mark had started. Much of the garden had been planted weeks ago and the flowers were starting to bloom. Buds of flowers were pushing their way up through the soil. In his mind’s eye he could see Mark standing there holding Skye in his arms and pointing out the flowers to her.

“It’s your choice, Pipsqueak. Is your life over or is it time to rise from the ashes like the flowers from the soil. Mark loved the season of new life blooming after the season of the earth sleeping. I’ve got to go. I hope not to see you anytime soon”, Grandfather said.

Paul opened his eyes and looked around the room. He had dozed off and had the strangest dream. He stared at the pill bottle in his hand. Pipsqueak echoed in his head, his pet name from his Grandfather. He threw the pill bottle into the trash can next to the bed. His daughter needed him. His family needed him. He would miss Mark for a very long time, but there was more life for him to live. Like Mark’s garden, he was in a stage of renewal. His choice was life.

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