Originally published in Microhorror, April 2013
Roy held her in his arms and watched the light go out of her eyes. His life changed.
Today, Roy sits in his pajamas, watching TV with glassy eyes. His fleece vest is buttoned up to his throat; the drugs make him cold. He reaches for the plastic urinal.
“I remember when you used to be shy,” his friend Joe observes.
“Not anymore. Not about this.”
Joe nods. He’d seen the scars; he’d seen it all.
Jessica had been standing on the dock. The moist Pacific wind ruffled the white fabric of her clothing. Her hair streamed out darkly against the sky. Roy had loved her from that moment: black hair, white clothes, gray sea.
“I think you’d like each other,” Joe had said.
That night, Marilyn sits motionless on Roy’s battered couch, her compassionate eyes never leaving his.
“I need it,” Roy tells her.
“If I give it to you, that would be murder.”
He laughs– a croak of pain. “I’m dead already.”
He was– had been ever since the truck had hit Jessica. He’d been just across the street with Joe. He hadn’t seen the impact, but he’d heard the squeal and the bump, the gasp of the bystanders.
He’d found Jessica sprawled on the pavement. She’d looked into his eyes. “My fault,” her lips said, because she had no breath. “Didn’t look.”
“Hang on, sweetheart.”
“Kiss me,” her mouth said.
He tasted iron on her lips. He held her, kept holding her until the eyes glazed. That was his comfort and his curse.
Now he asks Marilyn, “Why shouldn’t I?”
“Because you have friends who care about you.”
Her words soothe, but they aren’t enough.
They had honeymooned in Hawaii. It remained the most spectacular place Roy had ever seen. Even tonight, he recalls it vividly: Jessica on the shore, black sand, big leaves. Colorful birds, salt air. Jessica.
In the hospital, Joe had pulled the slim table closer. “Try to eat something.”
Roy eyed the potatoes dully. “The timing is good, don’t you think? After everything else, to be blindsided by this.”
“People beat cancer, you know.”
All Roy in his shattered body could think was, how glad he is that Jessica can’t see him now.
Now, he says to Marilyn, “Give me the vial.”
Her eyes fill. She isn’t Jessica, but she is kind. She kisses his cheek when she rises to leave. “We’ll miss you.”
There had been a coffee shop on the pier. He could go there in his mind. He can go anywhere he wants to, in his mind.
The vial is empty. The house is profoundly silent.
Jessica stands before him, smiling.
His life changed.