Short Story: Breaking free

“This is bullshit,” moaned a disheveled, middle-aged man as he slammed another empty glass onto the bar. His eyes were beginning to glaze over, and he had started slurring his speech. “I don’t know why I put up with it!”

“What’s gotten into you, James?” His friend Nelson – this one nursing his first scotch and water – looked on, concerned by how his friend was acting. “Don’t you think you should slow down. You’re hitting it pretty hard tonight.”

“What does it matter? Why does any of it matter?” He slurred. “Give me one more, Gary.” The bartender looked over to the friend, who nodded, and the bartender reluctantly brought over a fresh scotch.

The pair remained silent for a moment, but as soon as James had his drink in hand, he began his complaint anew. “I’ve been there for almost twenty years,” he began.

“And they don’t appreciate what you do for them,” his friend completed the refrain. “Yeah, I know. We all know. Why don’t you spare me the bullshit and just tell me what happened today.”

“Spare you the…, fine,” he sputtered angrily. “I’ll tell you. My tightwad boss yelled at me, wanting to know about the Andrews account. I closed that deal a month ago, he signed off on it, and now he’s pissed off because he thinks we under-charged them. He wants me to cancel the contract and renegotiate. It’s bullshit. They won’t go for that! They’ll find someone else to do business with, and then I’ll get blamed for losing another major contract, all because THEY can’t do their jobs correctly. I’m tired of being their punching bag.”

“Then get out,” a voice cried out from the other side of the bar. James whipped his head around, angry that he had been overheard, though he had been complaining so loud that many people had simply left to go elsewhere for a drink.

“What did you say?” James’ friend  asked.

“Get out,” she repeated herself with an eerily calm voice. She was an attractive forty-something, with expensive tastes. She looked out-of-place in the slightly seedy establishment. Nelson looked at her, and she wore a haunted expression on her face, but other than that, betrayed no emotion, though it was obvious to all that she had been crying recently.

“What business is it of yours?” James spat.

“None, I suppose,” she sighed, “but I think you should listen anyways. What could it hurt?” James shrugged as he started on his scotch. The stranger walked over and sat beside him.

“It’s funny how similar a job is to a romantic relationship. At first, it’s all perfect. You’re in love, after all. He brings you flowers, tells you he loves you. He brings you gifts and treats you like a princess. You get lost in the fantasy. At work, it’s the same, they check up on you, make sure you have everything you need, ensure you’re comfortable. They have a responsibility to you and they want you to succeed because their success is dependant on your ability to do your job.

“It doesn’t take long for the new relationship smell to start to wear off. You don’t notice it at first, but it slowly begins to change. It’s subtle, first he stops giving you flowers, or he stops rubbing your neck at the end of the day. There are no more sweet love notes, or he stops kissing you altogether. There’s a moment when you look up, and you realize that the magic is gone, but you can’t pinpoint when it happened, but you know you want to leave, but he doesn’t let you.

“‘I’ll change,’ he promises. ‘Just give me another chance.’ So you agree, and at first there’s a noticeable improvement. He starts kissing you again, his voice seductive promising you things he promised once before, and you fall for his charm. He comes home at a reasonable hour. He treats you how you deserve to be treated, for a while, but sooner rather than later it goes back to how it was. He neglects you, takes you for granted. You’ve become nothing more than a nursemaid while the jackass goes out to play.”

“I’m not sure I follow,” James groaned.

“Don’t you see?” The stranger said pointedly. “You’re nothing but your boss’s bitch. Sure he may treat you a little better should you want to leave and he needs you, but what’s the point? How many times do you have to do the stupid, little dance? You know what I’m talking about, right?”

“I’ve talked about leaving, sure,” he agreed.

“And what? Did you get a raise, a better office perhaps?”

“And a promotion, but I’m still doing the same bullshit work.”

“Exactly,” she shoved her finger into his chest. “Nothing but trinkets given to take your mind off the fact that they don’t respect you.”

“What do you think I should do?”

“Leave. Get out while you can. It’s a toxic relationship, abusive to the point where you’re losing yourself in drink just to numb the pain. Break up, while you still can, and leave on your own terms. Leave before you lose all sanity, lose all control, and do something you may regret later. You’re nobody’s bitch.”

“I can’t just quit,” James cried. “I have a family to support.”

“And yet you’re here and not with them,” she countered. “Don’t you think this is taking a toll on them? How long before she gets tired of being neglected? Get out while you still have a marriage to save. Or stay and lose everything. I don’t give a shit.”

The stranger got up, paid her tab, and left without saying another word. “What a loon,” James laughed before returning his attention to his drink.

“I don’t know,” Nelson said quietly. “I think she has a point, and I think you need to stop drinking and go home to your family before you end up like me, divorced and alone.”

***

James walked into his house, his children already in bed. His wife was curled up in front of the television, which she had on mute, a book in hand. She barely registered his entrance with a weary nod.

“I think we need to talk,” he said glumly.

“Oh?” she replied, not taking her eyes off the book.

“First, I want to say I’m sorry for the way I’ve been acting, the way I’ve been treating you and the kids. I love you all, and I don’t want to lose you.”

That finally got her attention and she put her book down. “Okay?”

“I’ve been having a hard time at work, and I know it’s no excuse, but that’s why I’ve been so distant lately. I want to change before I lose you. I don’t want to lose you. I can’t bear the thought of losing you.”

“Okay? So what are you going to do?”

“I don’t know.”

“If you think it’s your job that’s at fault, leave.”

“Just quit? I can’t do that! I have a family to support.”

“And you think you’re supporting us by coming home drunk every night? By neglecting us? I hate to break it to you, but you’ve already lost me. I’ve been seeing someone for a while now, someone who’s taken care of me, who treats me how I should be treated.”

“Oh,” James replied, stunned by the revelation, not knowing what else to say.”

“Yeah, you’ve already lost me. I’m just here for the kids, but even for them, I don’t know what more I can take.”

“So, you’re sleeping with him?”

“Not yet, but it’s going to happen any day now.” His wife looked at his compassionately for the first time and smiled grimly. “I love you, too, but I can’t go on like this. You say you don’t want to lose me, this is your chance. Quit your job. It’s either them or me.”

“And what about our mortgage and our bills?”

“We have enough to get by for a couple of years, but you should be able to find a job before then. We’ll have to cut back on a few luxuries, but so what?”

“Wow,” James exclaimed softly, waves of fear, anger, and jealousy over taking him. “So you have someone on the side and you’re about to leave me?”

“I have someone on the side, but I wasn’t planning on leaving you just yet, but eventually, yes. I won’t be treated like this, not by you. If I have to find affection somewhere else, yeah I’ll do it, and feel no guilt for doing it.”

“I – I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what to do.”

“I told you. Quit. If you want me, that’s my price. Quit your job, and come to counseling with me. I’ve been going for several months, alone.”

“I need to think about it. I can’t just up and quit.”

“Suit yourself. You know what’s up. I’ll give you some time, but not much more. I’ll take a poorer man over you if that means I get to have his attention. And just so you know, that trip I was planning for this weekend with the girls?”

“Yeah?”

“I’ll be with him in Vegas, in his arms, in his bed.” She got up and walked out, taking her book with her, leaving him to his confusion.

James picked up the remote to the television to shut it off when a picture grabbed his attention. The same woman who he met at the bar. He turned up the volume to listen to the news report.

“…woman wanted by the police in connection with the brutal murders of her husband and his lover was found moments ago, dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Friends described her as an outgoing, loving person, who had endured years of abuse and neglect, culminating in cold-blooded murder.”

“Chilling, Steve. Next, we check in with Dave for the weather. How’s it looking for the…”

James shut off the television and walked into the bedroom, the brutality of what he saw breaking him. “What’s the matter?” His wife asked, as he sat on the bed, shaking by what he saw on the news. He had just talked to her moments earlier.

“I love you. I’ll put in my notice tomorrow. If you have to go this weekend, I won’t blame you, but I won’t stop fighting for you.”

“Babe, if you choose me, I’ll choose you, too. Just understand, this is your one and only chance, but I won’t guarantee I’ll stay, either.”


Short Stories

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Short story: Segovia’s revenge

“I’m supposed to be married,” the shrunken form of what was once a man uttered bitterly from across the room. He paced nervously, biting at what remained of his fingernails and occasionally drawing blood. He didn’t even feel it anymore. He didn’t feel much of anything except for the loss that drove him into himself.

“There was supposed to be a band, and cake,” he lamented to no one in particular, and no one in particular listened anymore, each too involved in their own living hell. “We were going to go to Hawaii and then get a house, have kids, and….” His eyes became unfocused as he stared off into the distant past and his voice trailed off.

He fell and lay limp of the cold tile floor. Another patient pointed and laughed, but most had grown bored of his theatrics and roundly ignored them. No one talked to him, each thinking his madness beyond what was permissible, even in the confines of the ward.

“Why don’t we go for a little walk, Mr. Salzburg,”  a kindly tech said as she offered him a hand. “We don’t want to be late again, do we?”

“What?” Mr. Salzburg said, confused by the question, before accepting her assistance. “No, we wouldn’t want that,” he agreed, not really certain to what she referred.

“That’s it. We’ll take a little walk and then you can see Dr. Segovia and you two can have a chance to talk. He’s very eager to hear your story.”

“He is?” The patient lit up, ready to tell his story again. “When can we meet him?”

“Right now, of course,” the tech replied, leading him through a series of locked doors before walking out into a long corridor, devoid of warmth. It was lit with harsh fluorescent lighting, no windows, and painted a neutral beige color which seemed to sap the heat from the patients. They all shivered even though the temperature was kept at a moderate 72 degrees.

Mr. Salzburg shuffled beside the tech who kept a hand on the patient’s elbow, both to lead him and to prevent him from running away. Within minutes, they walked into a waiting room that was locked from the inside, to prevent the patients from trying to escape. The pair sat in the lobby, which was decidedly warming with plush carpeting and a warm color palette, but with little in the way of decorations. The few painting on the wall were bolted in place, and all the furniture was bolted to the floor. Nothing that could be used as a weapon was allowed.

“Jon, thank you for joining me today.” A short man, in his early fifties, walked out of an office and stood in front of the patient. “That’ll be all for now, Edna,” the doctor said to the tech, who merely bowed her head and walked out without another word. “Why don’t we come into my office?”

Mr. Salzburg stood up and shuffled into the office and sat down on a couch across from a large leather armchair, into which the doctor sat. Picking up Salzburg’s medical record, Dr. Segovia scanned the file before setting it down and picking up a notepad. “Why don’t we start this from the top again?”

“The top?”

“Yes,” the doctor replied wearily. “What do you remember? Can you tell me?”

“I was supposed to get married,” Salzburg said, his voice clearly agitated but otherwise remaining calm. “The was going to be a band and cake, and then we were going to go to Hawaii before getting a house and raising a family.”

“I see,” the doctor nodded. “What happened?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, can you tell me why you didn’t get married? Can you tell me why you didn’t get to go to Hawaii and why all your plans fell through? Why are you here instead of with your wife?”

“I don’t know,” Salzburg replied, perplexed by the questions.

“Okay, can you tell me who you were supposed to marry? What was she like?”

“Who I was going to marry? Her name was Laura,” he said with difficulty, straining to pull the answers that were buried deep in his memory.

“Yes, good,” the doctor leaned in, excited at the potential breakthrough. “What else?”

“Laura was a lively girl, always excited to talk to everyone.” Salzburg closed his eyes as flood of memories overwhelmed him. “Yes, she was outgoing, but you see, she chose me. She was popular, but she agreed to go out with me. Why would she do that?”

“Why don’t you tell me?” Segovia urged him gently.

“I don’t know,” he shook his head. “I wasn’t anything special, but I screwed up the courage to ask her out, and we hit it off. We were going to get married, but we didn’t.”

“No, you didn’t,” the doctor agreed. “Tell me more about her and about what happened.”

“Laura loved to dance. She insisted on the band, and I gave in. I always gave in to her. I was powerless to deny her anything, until….”

“Until what?”

“I – I don’t want to talk about it.” Salzburg folded his arms and tried to shut everything out, the doctor and the memories.

“But you need to talk about it. What is it that you’re trying to remember. Speak!”

“I – I can’t,” he cried. “I was supposed to be married. I wanted to be married. I never thought I would find anyone and then I found Laura and now…. Why did she have to die?”

“I think that’s enough for now,” Dr. Segovia spoke up abruptly. “We don’t need to get there just yet.”

“Why not?” Salzburg yelled indignantly. “You brought it up.”

“Are you ready for the answer? Do you really want to know why she died?”

“Yes – well no,” Salzburg collapsed into the couch. “She really is gone?”

“Yes, I’m afraid she is.”

“And I’m the one that found her?”

“I don’t think you’re ready for the answer.”

“But I need to know. You made me remember. I held her in my arms as she bled, begging me not to…”

“Not to what?”

“I – I killed her,” Salzburg’s face drained of color, his face as stark as the walls of the hospital.

“Yes, you killed her.”

“Why would I do that? We were going to be married.”

“No, you weren’t,” the doctor replied. “She never agreed to go out with you, and she never agreed to marry you. She was engaged to someone else, and in a fit of jealousy you killed them both. You’re here because a judge ordered you here for evaluation. That was five years ago.”

“Five years,” Salzburg closed his eyes and thought back. “Yes, I killed her. Why couldn’t she just love me?”

“I can’t answer that,” Segovia replied, “but I’m satisfied that you remember what you did and are fit.”

“Fit for what?”

“To pay for your crime,” the doctor replied as he filled out a form and then pushed a button on the table next to him.

“What are you talking about.”

“You confessed, did you not? Didn’t you just say you killed her?”

“I did, but what do you mean pay for my crime?”

“Just that. You know what you did, and admitted it. That’ll suffice. You’re guilty and therefore able to pay. You’ve been sentenced to death.”

“I don’t understand,” he cried as two large orderlies entered the office.

“You don’t have to understand,” Segovia admitted with a grin. “You just have to understand the crime, which you’ve admitted to. Good bye.”

“No, wait,” he yelled as the orderlies grabbed him by the arms and pinned him to the couch. “You’re a doctor. Aren’t you supposed to help me?”

“Help you?” Segovia laughed as he pulled a syringe from his desk. “I’m here to help the victims get closure. Don’t worry. It’ll be painless. In a few minutes you’ll be dead.”

“No! You can’t do this!” Salzburg struggled, but he was no match for the men who held him. “You can’t do this!”

“Tut tut,” Segovia said dryly as he chose the vein into which to stick the needle. Slowly he plunged the drug into his arm and Salzburg stopped struggling. “You see? Painless. A better way to go than the way you butchered my daughter. Goodbye.”


Short Stories

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Previous story – In love with Bella

Short story – Harvest Moon

Happy Friday! I’ve been lazy all week. I never got around to posting anything on Wednesday, and it feels as though I’m no doing anything today. Too bummed I suppose. So instead I decided to put up this short story I wrote. Enjoy and have a great weekend!


“You’re so going to get me in trouble,” Evie whispered, before leaning out and kissing the boy standing outside her bedroom window.

“Only if you don’t keep your voice down,” Bryce whispered in return. Evie grinned as she jumped out her window, falling into his arms. She gave Bryce a quick kiss before she took his hand and ran down the driveway, toward his car. She jumped in while Bryce walked around to the driver’s side.

“Hurry, before we’re caught! I’m supposed to be in bed.”

“Calm down,” he said. The boy slowly pulled out, trying not to make too much noise as he stepped on the accelerator. Once he put a few blocks between them and the house, he relaxed and revved up his engine. A relaxed smile replaced the anxious look on his face as he sighed in relief. He’d have to bring her back and help sneak her back in, but in the meantime they had hours to enjoy together.

Bryce followed the road until he hit Highway 11. He then headed out-of-town for a few miles before turning down a dusty county road. After about a quarter-mile, he pulled off into a copse of trees. He knew that they’d be fully hidden from view, miles from the nearest house. The night was dark as the stars were hidden behind a veil of clouds. Bryce turned off the lights to the car and shut off the engine. The only light to be seen came from the harvest moon that had found a break in the clouds.

“Finally,” Evie purred as she jumped onto Bryce, straddling him, kissing him, and slowly grinding against him. He took no time in trying to bring her closer, the sweet vanilla scent of her perfume making him temporarily dizzy. In the pale moon light, Evie seemed to glow, giving her an almost angelic quality.

She paused to catch her breath, then slowly began to undo her top. “I’m tired of waiting. Please, let’s do this tonight,” she pleaded.

Bryce grew silent and swallowed hard, his mouth becoming dry. He wanted her more than anything, but still it would be their first time, and he would have preferred a more appropriate setting. Unfortunately, Evie was not the kind of girl who suffered rejection very well, and he knew that if he didn’t do this soon, she’d dump him and find someone who would.

“I love you, Evie,” he said. “If you really want this, I’ll do it.”

“And I love you, too, baby,” she squealed, delighted by his response. “I only need you. I promise, I’m yours forever.” She said the last words as she crossed her heart. Bryce relaxed a bit, accepting her declaration of love. He only wanted her. Too bad he was only sixteen and she fifteen. They would have to wait to make it official and get married, but at least tonight they would consummate their love.

Being young and agile, they crawled over the seats to get to the back seat with ease. Evie impatiently pulled Bryce on top of her, but they had only gotten as far as kissing each other. For all their desire to finally make love, they did feel a certain amount of reluctance. They realized that it would be a big step in their journey towards adulthood.

It didn’t take long before their hormones and excitement overpowered their sense of fear and trepidation. Instinct took over as they found a rhythm. Bryce began to pull his shirt off when a loud thump brought them back to reality. “What’s that?” She whispered, fearing that her parents had found them, glad that they were still dressed.

“I don’t know,” Bryce replied, his voice a little shaky but trying to sound braver than he felt. “Let me check it out, but it’s probably nothing.” He bent down and gave her a kiss before he reached over the seat to open the driver’s side door. He stepped out of the car and walked towards the back. Evie waited, embracing herself out of fear. She then heard him ask, his voice drenched in fear, “Who – who are you? Wha – what do you want?”

She didn’t hear an answer. All she could hear was a struggle breaking out between her boyfriend and some unknown stranger. It didn’t go on for very long before she heard him cry out in pain.

“Bryce!” Evie shouted, shaking uncontrollably in the back seat, frozen in fear.

“GET OUT OF HERE!” Her boyfriend barked, the pain evident in the way he struggled to shout. “RUN!” He tried to defend himself against an unknown attacker as Evie got out of the car. She immediately saw the cold gleam of steel before it disappeared. The next thing she heard was Bryce’s muffled cry, then the sound of death rattling in his throat.

Panicking, she screamed. She turned to flee, but a hand grabbed her by the hair and pulled her back. She lost her balance, hitting her head on the rear bumper as she fell, ending up on her back, completely dazed. Evie struggled to keep her eyes open as she tried to focus on her attacker. Finally, through her tears, she managed to see who had attacked them, the old druggie that lived outside of town.

“Help! Someone, anybody, help!” She continued to scream hysterically, but the old man only smiled his toothless grin. He then brandished his knife and slashed her throat before stabbing her in the gut.

She cried out in pain, afraid that the end had come.

Moon

Moon (Photo credit: shahbasharat)

Evelyn’s eyes flew open in terror. She sprang out of bed and gasped for air, drenched in a cold sweat. Beside her, her husband slept unaware of the nightmare that tormented his wife.

“It was only a dream. It was only a dream,” she chanted over and over again, trying to dispel the vivid images. The flashes were more than mere memory. She didn’t just remember that night, she had been there again. Twenty years later and she found herself there, reliving the horror as she had every year since that fateful night.

After catching her breath, she rolled out of bed and glided silently out the room. She paused for a moment and took a look at her reflection in the hallway mirror. The same girl who had snuck out of her parent’s house so many years ago stared back at her. Evelyn placed her hand absentmindedly on her abdomen and found the puncture wound where the old pervert had stabbed her. In the mirror, she could see the fresh gash on her neck where the old pervert had slashed her viciously.

She looked away and turned to go out the front door, passing the room where her teenaged daughter slept. A trouble maker, as she had been before the attack. Her daughter was a spitting image of her once wayward mother. She turned her back on her daughter, glad that she wouldn’t have to deal with her at the moment.

In the next room, her son sleep peacefully. He resembled his father, in looks and in behavior. He had the same temperament, easy, laid-back, and respectful. He never gave anyone any trouble, but he had no discernible personality. Her son was a blank slate, empty and passionless. She sometimes forgot that she had a son. She felt nothing for him, like she felt nothing for his father.

Finally, Evelyn walked out into the dark night. A blanket of clouds hid the stars from view, but she didn’t need them. She never did. Evelyn could make the walk in her sleep. She walked down the driveway, towards Highway 11. As far as she lived from the highway, it took her no time at all to find her way. Once again, she had made her way back to the copse of trees where she had been attacked. This was where she had witnessed Bryce die.

She walked alone, and stopped inches from where they had parked the car. Then through the darkness she saw it. She turned and walked forward, still in her nightgown and barefoot, inching ever closer. The glow of an iridescent form, lying motionless on the ground, appeared as though it had been summoned. She walked slowly, almost reverently, towards what she knew to be the corpse of her young, would-be lover.

It began to stir. Then without warning he sat up, and his blazing eyes locked onto hers. His eyes were terrible to behold, but she could not look away. His burning eyes would not release her gaze. She remained under his spell, locked by the sadness and the angelic beauty that death had bestowed on him. Then the instant he blinked, the illusion was broken, and Bryce smiled. “I wondered if you’d come tonight.”

“Like I had a choice,” Evelyn replied in a reverent tone. “You summoned me from the beyond. I heard the call and here I am.”

“The beyond,” he spat bitterly, the angelic expession replaced with one of bitterness and contempt. “I’m nowhere. Neither here nor there. Neither alive nor dead. Not of this world nor the next. I’m cursed to stay here, your prisoner in death as I would have been in life.”

“Don’t say that, please,” Evie protested, her voice wavering, tired of the decades old argument. “You can go. You’re free, so why stay?”

“You promised you’d be mine forever,” he reminded his old girlfriend. “Now, I’m afraid, I’m yours. I’m bound to you until you leave this fragile life. My soul is bound to yours. My blood mingled with your blood the moment his knife entered your flesh. I saw it all. I waited for you to cross over to me, but you never came,” he finished sadly. “You never came.”

“You wanted me to die?” She asked as she had asked every year.

“No,” he shook his head innocently, “never, but I do want you with me. I need you with me to move on. That’s why I call you.”

“You know I can’t.”

“But you still showed up,” Bryce smiled triumphantly. “You can’t escape your destiny, although you seem determined to prolong it for some stupid reason. Why? What’s so important that you have to stay behind?”

“I’m married,” she said angrily, but not meeting his gaze. “And I have two beautiful children.”

“You hate your husband,” Bryce’s spirit answered sarcastically. “You only married him because he was the opposite of me. He’s boring, predictable, and safe; he’s everything that I never was. You hoped that you could exorcise me, but instead you’ve brought me in even closer. Your very being calls out to me, too. You keep me here, bound to you.”

“And my children?”

“You daughter causes you nothing but pain. She’s you, and you hate her for it. She reminds you of everything you gave up, everything you rejected trying to get rid of me. You’re jealous of her, and you hate yourself for it.”

“And my son?”

“He’s your husband,” he said coldly.

She turned away from him, not wanting him so see her pain. She wanted to run, but she knew she could never escape him. The truth of his words cut her, but the truth was inescapable. She hated her life. Had she married someone adventurous, perhaps she could have moved on. Maybe if she had found someone she could love, Bryce could cross over and finally be at peace. She felt trapped, trapped by destiny, by truth, and her life’s choices. No matter the truth, she had responsibilities that she could not abandon.

“We don’t have much time you know,” the pale young ghost stated. He turned to where he had been murdered twenty years before. She followed, and could see the faint outline of where his blood had spilled.

“Did it hurt?” Evie wondered out loud.

“It did at first,” the ghost of Bryce admitted, with a shrug, “but only for a little while. Then the pain faded away suddenly, and I felt a warm peace take its place. Then everything turned black before the dazzle of some unearthly sphere blinded me. I was banished almost immediately, and I floated away and found myself here, to wait for you to join me.”

“Why didn’t you keep going then?” She asked, this time directly at him.

“I didn’t want to leave you alone,” he replied, taken aback by the question. “Until the last ties that bind me to mortal life are severed, I’m trapped her. I thought it was obvious. I’m now forced to wait for you so we could cross over together. I’m still waiting for you, you know?”

“I know,” she sighed. “I wish I could help you move on, but it’s not my time.”

“Your time came then, too,” he responded matter-of-factly. “That’s why you show up every harvest moon. All you have to do is to let go.” He held his hand out, inviting her to him. She smiled and tried to hold his hand, but couldn’t. “As long as you remain tethered to life we cannot be together. Why you choose your tortured life, I’ll never know.”

“It’s not so easy,” she cried. “I can’t leave mom alone. I won’t put her through that kind of loss again. She almost lost me once, and now I’m all she has left.”

“And what of my parents!” Bryce exploded. “They lost a son, but I still had the good sense to leave. They got over it.”

“I know, but I’m here, and I won’t do it to her. Not yet. I’m not ready to go.”

“I’ll drop it, but it’s not easy being stranded here in between life and death. Is this limbo or is this purgatory?”

“I don’t know,” she whispered. She turned and saw where she had been attacked and winced. The wounds physically healed, but she still carried them inside, a permanent part of her psyche. “They finally executed your murder,” she said casually.

“So? He scoffed. “He can no longer touch me here.” He saw her face fall and closed his eyes, overcome with understanding. “Ah? He could still hurt you, couldn’t he?”

“I saw him put down,” she said barely above a whisper, but he heard it clearly. “He looked at me, leered at me, defiling me all over again. He didn’t want me to die, you know. He wanted to screw with me, and he did until the end. He took my gift to you, and he took you from me, and left me to live a tortured life. I’m glad he’s finally dead.”

Bryce said nothing. He sat down on a fallen tree and stared at the dark sky. “I’ve sat here for twenty years, waiting for you to give up. I hate coming in second to that sorry excuse of a husband.”

“Second? You are my first, my true one and only. I don’t love him, not like I love you, but I can’t just die. I’m alive, and I have to live. If you truly loved me, you would let me live.”

“Then live! Stop coming here, but you know you can’t. You’re life ended when mine did. Why can’t you just accept it and come with me.” He stood up and walked up to her. “Go back to your life then, if that’s what you honestly want. What’s a lifetime when compared to eternity. Live your life, but don’t waste it. Embrace your passion and stop living a life that isn’t yours to live. Maybe you got a temporary reprieve, but you’re living on borrowed time. Maybe you have the choice to go or stay at the moment, but soon you won’t get to decide.”

“I love you. I’m yours forever.”

“As long as you’re his, I can’t be yours,” he sighed, ” but I love you, too.” He looked towards the horizon. “The sun is about to rise. It’s time for you to go if that’s what you want. I guess I’ll sleep for another year and hope that you’ll be ready then.”

He walked away, not giving her a chance to say anything, and faded from view, his light extinguished for another year. All she could see now was the failing light of the harvest moon leading her to where Bryce’s light had faded, beckoning her home.

She turned instead towards her house and instantly found herself in her bedroom. She looked down at her husband and regretted ever going out with the bore. Beside him, she saw her thirty-five year old self sleeping fitfully. She could see the faint lines around her eyes and her mouth, and a few gray hairs above her ear. She could see the scar of where her throat had been slashed. More importantly, she could see the ghost of her fifteen year old self yearning to be set free.

She froze, for the first time unsure of what to do. As much as she gripped, she still loved her children. Could she actually abandon them? And her husband? He had done the best he could do. He gave her everything he she asked for, everything she needed. She wanted for nothing, except perhaps some excitement every now and then. For all her complaints, she loved him, too, in a way.

She stood there, unable to make up her mind. She knew she had to decide before the sun broke over the horizon. Already the night sky began to give way to the telling hues of dawn. She had mere moments to decide, knowing that if she stayed she would enlist for another year. If she left, it would be over, and she would finally be able to rest.

She looked at herself asleep in bed and then out the window. The night slowly receded. She closed her eyes, trying to make up her mind, willing herself to come to a decision. She didn’t know what to do until the final moment before dawn broke.

The rooster began to crow in the distance. Evie opened her eyes. She had made her decision.