"Hi Paul." Farrah drawled as she exited the corner store, her paper grocery bag cradled in her arms.
He rolled his eyes as he humored his sister's friend. "How's it going, Farrah?" He tapped his cigarette, still leaning against the wall, looking ahead at the open field of golden stalks in front of him. A soft breeze shifted the clouds closer to the town.
She rocked on the balls of her feet, smiling mischievously. "Did you find someone to buy the plot?"
He scoffed. "No, no one wants to move to the middle of nowhere."
He glanced at her, curiosity sparking in his eyes. Attempting to mask it, he took a drag. "What?"
"The new family." She teased as she shifted the bag onto her hip.
Paul stomped out his cigarette and stepped forward, taking the bag from her. They walked side by side down the dirt road.
"Why're you talking like that?" He inquired.
She ignored him. "You haven't met them yet? There are only thirty three people in this town, how have you not met them? Everyone's met them already." She skipped ahead, picked up a rock, and tossed it at Paul's feet. He didn't even flinch anymore. He stopped.
He narrowed his eyes skeptically. "What're you planning?"
She ran back up to him and grabbed the bag out of his arms. "Thanks, bye!" She yelled behind her as she ran to her house at the end of the street.
Paul shook his head as he walked down the adjacent street, hoping to get home soon before it rained.
He sat nervously, waiting for his meal to come. It had been so long since he left. He anxiously felt the eyes watching him. They were probably thinking "Is that Eric? What's he doing back here?" He glanced around the room. No eyes were on him, no one seemed to care that he was alone. They were all absorbed in their own worlds. His shoulders loosened up a bit.
"Here's your tomato basil soup and grilled cheese." The porcelain clanked on the wooden table as the waiter set it down. "Enjoy."
Eric picked up a piece of the sandwich and dipped it into the soup. The aroma wafted through the air as he brought it closer to his mouth. His teeth closed around the soft, yet crispy bread. The second he tasted the tangy soup followed by the buttery bread and gooey cheese, all sense of anxiety faded away and the memories came flooding back.
Every day he had extra cash to spare and time to kill, he spent at this diner. All the jokes he cracked as Macy worked behind the counter. Every cigarette he smoked with Jason out back, laughing about how this would kill them, not the war. Even when his friends left and the town lost more of its heart, this place could always make him smile.
He took another bite, even though the sandwich's heat was starting to burn his mouth. As he took a spoonful of the thick soup, he forgot why he left in the first place, for this was home.
A man stood in the hospital doorway. "Hello mother."
"John. I’m glad you're here. It’s been a while."
He shifted his weight, looking at the floor, refusing to meet her eyes. "When you look back at your life, do you smile? Because when I do, I all I do is cry." He paused, taking a deep breath. "I know you did what you thought was right. I’ve come to terms with that. But I didn’t want you going the rest of your life thinking that after all that you did, I was gonna be okay."
"No! No!" Valerie yelled as she raced towards the closing metal door. It clanged shut as she touched the metal, missing the opening by half a second. The alarms blared, showering the halls in red light. She banged on the door, drawing the attention of May running in the adjacent hall. May turned, a look of surprise plastered across her face as she recognized Valerie. She glanced towards the direction she was heading, beginning to leave, but ultimately gritting her teeth as she walked to the girl.
"I'm not going to help you anymore. I did enough." May turned her back, starting to walk away.
"It's going to kill so many people, please don't do this." Valerie pleaded.
May stopped. "They're not people."
"How can you be sure? You can't base life and death on what you think is humanity. Please. Look at me. I'm one of them." Tears pinpricked her eyes. "If the program takes effect, they're going to kill us."
May stood still.
"Please look at me."
May slowly turned around, seeing the tears now flowing down Valerie's face.
May's stern expression broke. "Okay." She whispered, now running down the opposite hall.
Day at the park
"Jenny, stop throwing sand at me!" Jimmy pouted as his sister violently dug a hole in the park sandpit.
"How else do you expect me to dig a hole fast?" Jenny retorted as she continued digging.
Jimmy scurried out of the line of fire. He brushed off his clothes as he weaved under the jungle gym, avoiding metal poles and other children. The waves of sand slowed his speed as he trudged along. In the grassy field, his mother sat on a periwinkle blanket under a shady tree a few feet away with their baby brother George. Their mother rubbed suntan lotion on her arms as George stomach surfed on the blanket.
She raised her shades as Jimmy approached. "What are you doing back so soon Jimmy?"
"I don't want to get hit by sand as Jenny digs."
"Alright. There are some juice boxes in the cooler. You can play in the field, just play where I can see you and stay away from the burrs."
Jimmy grabbed a box of apple juice and ran into the field.
On the park bench, the cool autumn breeze rustled her hair as she typed up her essay. Laying on a picnic blanket, only fifteen feet away, was him. The clouds mesmerized him, his eyes drooping, his hands cradling his head. His dog-eared book laid on his stomach, his mismatched socks peeking out from his trousers.
She looked up from the computer screen as a stronger gust blew leaves onto her computer, and finally noticed him. So peaceful. So beautiful. She quickly looked away. She pulled her overcoat tightly around her. A tingling began to develop in her stomach, spreading to her fingers and toes. She sighed as she closed her laptop, to take her work elsewhere.
There was a time when she would have talked to him, but now she couldn't even look at him. She could not draw near, for the butterflies would surely come.
False fantasies. Fate for feathers. Faking flight forces failure. Forlorn from flying, falcons fall feverishly.
Goodbye, my dear
Hello, my dear. I know I was never all that you wanted or expected, but I’m glad you‘re here. I wish I could have told you how much you mean to me. But to tell you the truth, I don’t think more time would have given me the courage to say it. All the things I never said will have to die with me now, and that‘s something I’ll have to be okay with. Thank you for sticking around with me, even after everything. I know I wasn’t the best person. I’m so sorry, I love you. Goodbye, my dear.
Me and my boy
Xerxes trotted leisurely, unaware of any sense of urgency on his daily walk.
"Come on," Jack laughed as he slowed his pace so the old dog could keep up, "We have to get back before the sun goes down." Xerxes showed no sign of speeding up, but instead stopped to smell a particularly interesting patch of grass.
"Oh, my boy," Jack chided. He watched as the fat lab took his time sniffing, then looked up at Jack, panting and wagging his tail. He looked sternly at Xerxes, but the dog's expression refused to change. Such a happy dog.
Jack couldn't help but smile. He looked at the sunset. They would miss curfew. Again. But it was worth it for the one he loved the most. Jack and Xerxes walked down the street, illuminated by the setting sun and the streetlights that began to turn on.
The tears streamed down from her face as she felt the rage fill her body. She winced as she hoisted herself up from the ground. Her ribs were cracked, weren’t they? She scanned the alleyway. They just missed her. She almost cried out as she lifted her bruised body out of the dumpster.
She collapsed once she hit the ground, holding herself as the sobs escaped her, the knife tumbling out of her hand. What hurt more than anything wasn’t the physical pain, but the betrayal. Jane sold her out. Jane was the one who killed her sister. The realization was worse than all the kicks she received. Jane, the girl who she laughed with every day, who walked with her to school, who made her lunch when she was running late, who meant the world to her, who she loved more than anything.
But Jane killed her sister. And for what? A ring? Something as worthless as a ring? This wasn’t the girl she once knew. That girl had died long before her sister did.
A newfound strength filled her body as she forced herself off the ground, her head spinning as she stood up. She knew what she had to do, even if it destroyed her piece by piece. The tears wouldn’t stop falling as she picked up the knife, as she limped home, and as she began to plan. She would have to kill her best friend.