Nightfall by A.Myers85
Artwork by Susan F. M. T. at FanArtReview.com
Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of violence.|
She never knew I was here.
The reflective fire dances across her face as she lies across the couch. She came down to the common room to study since finals were in a few days, but she fell asleep. As I kneel over her sleeping form, I can’t help brushing my hand against her cheek. She stirs, inhaling and shivering. I move towards the shadows at the sound of someone coming down the stairs, though I don’t need to. Quietly he enters the room and pulls his robe tighter. Sighing, he sinks into a nearby seat and looks up when the grandfather clock strikes midnight.
A muffled moan breaks the silence.
Startled, he turns and sees her stretched out on the couch, an arm tucked under her head as a pillow while her other hand rests in the middle of a book, the page half-turned. Her chest rises and falls from slow and even breaths. Shoulder-length, black hair lays sprawled out beneath her. When he comes closer, it’s apparent she’d been reading The Complete Works of Edgar Allen Poe. As a ritual she began in high school, she reads a story every night before bed. My gaze shifts towards him, but instead of the usual swell of anger, I feel…numb.
He was there when everything changed.
* * * * *
At my old school, I kept to myself, “the alien,” my classmates dubbed me. Dad always worried I was socially deprived, but sometimes I just preferred to be alone. During my freshman year, when I switched schools, everything changed. By lunchtime on my first day, I hadn’t made any new friends. Isolated, I sat at a separate table and picked at my food. From across the room, she noticed and persuaded me to join her. We hit it off immediately, sharing similar interests in reading classical literature, enjoying timeless movies, and playing sports. After school, we developed a routine of studying at either my house or hers for a few hours and then winding down with a basketball game of one on one. The following year, however, he transferred into our grade. Always eager to make new friends, she befriended him and convinced him to join us. From then on, students and teachers rarely saw one of us without the other two.
I missed the days of just her and me.
A week before graduation, he confided in me about someone he liked. I said I liked someone, too. We stayed up all night talking. Neither of us realized we liked the same girl. The next day, she called and suggested having one last hurrah in San Francisco before we graduated and went our separate directions. Toward the end of the evening, he grew restless, and it didn’t help when she mentioned her attraction to exciting and adventurous men. I tried to discourage him, but he shoved me aside, muttering, “Why don’t you stop being such a pussy and be a man?” before snatching my keys and hurrying toward my car, determined to prove himself. During his little “joy ride,” he lost control, and the car swerved off the side of the road. Amongst the shattering of glass and metal crunching, as the vehicle flipped over several times, I remember her screaming before a sharp pain tore through my side. I cried out and doubled over, rivers of blood spilling through my fingers as my vision blurred.
Then I knew nothing.
When I woke, I saw her crying while he held her in his arms. I started toward them, but I noticed the bright flashing red lights and several paramedics lifting someone into the back of their truck. My stomach tightened as I got closer. Although an oxygen mask blocked my view, I knew it was me.
I’d died in the crash.
After my death, she broke off all connections with her friends, locked herself in her room, and rarely left except for meals or school. He tried calling. She never returned his messages. Repeatedly he showed up on her doorstep. Each time she refused to see him. Instead, she spent hours sitting by her window and clutching the picture of us when we went to Disneyland for her birthday the previous year. Dried tear splotches stained various parts of the photo, the edges worn and frayed. While staring at it, she traced my face with her finger and whispered how much she missed me. How much she wanted me back.
Her parents, worried about her failing grades and dramatic weight loss, begged him to visit more often. He tried. Again she refused to listen. Part of me was glad. Because of his actions, he didn’t deserve forgiveness.
Almost two months after the accident, he still dropped by every day. With each visit, I grew even more impatient. Couldn’t he take a hint? She didn’t want him around anymore.
One day he made it into the house because her mother answered before she left for work. Climbing up the stairs, he froze at the sight of her door ajar.
It was always locked.
Nudging the door open, he poked his head inside and stiffened. She sat on her bed, staring at four identical slash marks still bleeding on her arms. Her skin was a sickly pallor. Ripping off his shirt, he rushed forward, pressed it against her arms, and dialed 911. Soon far away, sirens filled the air. He kept applying pressure and talking to her. She stared at him, her eyes glazing with tears.
“It hurts. . .” she said, her voice scratchy from crying. “Please…make it go away…make the pain go away.”
His expression pained, and he continued to comfort her. When the paramedics arrived, although reluctant, he stepped away so they could work. After they loaded her into the back of the ambulance, they made him follow in his car because he wasn’t family. Along the way, he called her parents, and they met him at the hospital. All three of them sat in the waiting room, anxious.
He spotted the doctor first. With a curt but reassuring “she’s fine,” the doctor explained her situation and what she needed to heal. Afterward, they were allowed to visit. Even though she ignored his presence, he stayed by her side.
When she was released, her parents begged her to see a therapist; their pleas fell on deaf ears. Again, she locked herself away. Yet, her actions didn’t stop his visits; even though she wouldn’t let him inside her room, he sat outside her door and talked to her, doing everything to salvage their broken friendship. Finally, one night he told her,
“It’s not going to lessen the pain. Hurting yourself isn’t the answer. You need time, time to heal…forgive yourself…forgive me. It’s what he would’ve wanted.”
At first, I bristled at his words. What I wanted was to live. I wanted to graduate high school. I wanted to attend college. I tried to tell her how much I cared. I wanted to date her. Yet, one careless mistake destroyed those dreams. I glanced back at them. I couldn’t be with her anymore, but maybe she didn’t need me anymore…
He remained by her side for the next few years despite her frequent cold shoulder, even when they both enrolled at the junior college. Three years after the accident, they graduated with their AA degrees. Because of her love for writing, she applied to Cal State, East Bay, and they accepted her. However, she never liked commuting, so she lived on campus.
Unknowingly, he transferred to the same school. When she found out, she accused him of following her. He denied it. Somehow, I suspected otherwise. Even after everything that happened between them—us—he wasn’t willing to give up their friendship.
She avoided him for the first several quarters and lived in the dorm farthest from his. If she saw him on campus, she ignored him. Instead, she filled her days with studying, taking more classes than she could handle, and drowning herself with homework, so she wouldn’t have to think about anything…him…me. The girl I once knew, the vibrant, peppy girl who never met a stranger and always greeted everyone with a warm smile, vanished. She even skipped the Homecoming dance—something she never would’ve done several years ago. As a child, she loved dancing, and in high school, she always made sure she attended all the dances; now, she avoided them along with other student activities.
Her joy for life was gone.
Unfortunately, since they were both English majors, they enrolled in similar classes and often saw each other. Additionally, with their last names both beginning with M, teachers often paired them together. At first, she still brushed him aside. Although a little discouraged, he never gave up. His persistence paid off when they developed a cordial friendship. I’m not sure how or when, but with all the time they spent together, their relationship shifted, growing deeper, especially when she forgave him. By their senior year, he had fallen in love with her. Several times while finishing their homework, he tried to tell her how he felt.
But he couldn’t find the words.
* * * * *
She stirs again. As he kneels beside the couch, he tucks a fallen strand of hair behind her ear; instinctively, she moves closer. Lightly, he brushes his lips against hers before standing, and with one more longing look, he whispers three words and walks back to his dorm.
Moments later, her eyes open.
Her expression wistful, she stares at where he stood as her fingers touch her lips. Standing, she picks up her book and heads toward her dorm. I continue to watch from the shadows. Halfway to her room, she changes directions and hurries up a different stairway. Old pain and anticipation tear through my heart as I realize her intentions when she knocks on his door. As he opens it, he looks both concerned and confused. He opens his door wider and invites her inside when she tells him she needs to tell him something. Unexpectedly she wraps her arms around his neck before he can respond and kisses him. When they draw apart, he offers her a hesitant and uncertain smile.
“I heard you,” she says, her voice quiet as she cups his cheek. “I heard what you said while I was sleeping.” He leans into her touch, his smile brightening. “I love you too.”
I watch them hold each other, their thoughts only of each other now. Swallowing hard, I step out of the shadows and move closer, kissing her forehead, and with a whisper of “be happy and live,” the connection tethering me to Earth dims and dissipates.
My time here is up.
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