the sky wept, creating a sad symphony in unison with his footsteps.

hair, plastered to his head, grim expression on his face, he walked through the steady downpour as if his heart was still intact. head held high, shoulders straight… a masquerade for the benefit of his audience.

do not show weakness.

determined stride.
he could still feel her eyes lingering on his silhouette.

a few minutes ago, he had been warm.
a few minutes ago, he had loved her more than anything.
and then…
seven words had changed his world.

“I think we should see other people.”

out of the blue, she had launched this gut-wrenching missile at him… and it had hit home. hard.
she had been tracing the rim of her coffee cup with her fingers, eyes averted, while he had struggled not to be torn apart.
such agony.

his footsteps guided him through the pulsating rhythm of the streets, bright neon lights illuminating the wet irony of his surroundings.

just one more corner.

a few more steps and he would be out of her sight. a few more steps.
tears formed in his eyes; he did not let them escape.

not yet.

one last step… and…
out of sight.

cradled by the heavy rains drowning him in misery, he allowed himself to fall apart.

the morning after

the early morning sky looked beautiful.
sunny and clear, a light breeze blew stray strands of hair out of his face.
he closed the car door and inhaled deeply, trying to chase away the cold that had settled in his heart with a lungful of crisp air.
it did not work.
a sip of the stale coffee he had purchased at the drive-thru of one of these cheap food chain restaurants didn’t help, either. it tasted bitter in its styrofoam cup, even though he had put lots of sugar in it.
still, it couldn’t mask the taste of bile in his throat.

she had died about three hours ago. died… under sterile, fluorescent lights; to the soundtrack of a monitor, flatlining.
she had died with a tired smile, resting her frail hand in his.

as he approached the front door, he dismissed the mail, bulging out of the dirty-white mailbox, with a single tired glance.

not now.

with shaking fingers, he turned his copy of the key in the lock and pushed the door open to the familiar sound of wood meeting slightly too high carpet.
he was home.

she hadn’t changed much during the years. everything felt the same, looked the same.
the furniture was still familiar; old, but well-kept. even the faint, lemony scent of furniture polish hung in the air. his throat constricted. he swallowed.
he could see himself… an ungainly, clumsy boy, taking the creaky wooden stairs two at a time, eagerly following his mother’s call for dinner. he remembered the slight smile on her face as she told him not to scamper while ruffling his hair.
that had been years ago.

he slumped into the easy chair sitting in the corner by the window; his mother’s favorite spot. scanning the magazines on the small table next to it, he finally gave in to the exhaustion.
the house felt so empty.
her presence no longer lingered here.
she was gone. forever.

what to do now?

smile… remember?

in the blink of an eye, it was gone.
the laughter, the warmth. the feeling of safety.
gone. evaporated. non-existent.

with trembling fingers, she touched her forehead, feeling something liquid and sticky run down the side of her face. a shallow breath escaped her lips.

when did this screaming pain start?

she could not remember. she could not remember at all.
she opened her eyes, tried to focus, raised her hand to her face, concentrating, only to find her fingertips covered in blood.

what is this? where am i?

a blurry shape appeared out of the fog; no¬†matter how much she strained her eyes, she couldn’t focus enough to make out the face staring down at her. she hurt, bad… an agony increased by demanding hands gripping her shoulders, shaking her slightly. the stranger screamed at her. she tried to tell the person to stop, but all her throat could manage was a weak sigh.

if only the noise would stop… it’s too loud!

she turned her head in frustration… and then, she saw it.
through the blood and tears in her eyes, she could make out the smoking wreck of his car. a single sneaker lay on the asphalt, as if carelessly tossed aside. it sat in a sea of shattered glass, metal scraps mixing with something dark and liquid, escaping from underneath the car. through the shattered window, she could see him… the back of his head; his left arm, torn, misshapen, bloody.
he wasn’t moving.

why isn’t he moving?

the stranger, still with her, redoubled his efforts. she did not understand why he would try to hurt her so; he was no longer shaking her, but pressing down on her chest, hard, frequently. it hurt. it hurt bad.
her lips no longer moving, her gaze locked tight on the motionless form in the car, she tried to make sense of all the chaos around her. she couldn’t sort it out.
he had smiled at her, just a second ago. that, she remembered. such a beautiful smile. she had been laughing, too.

and to the sound of a siren drawing closer, the painful, frantic pumping on her chest, her eyesight faded… and she slid, very slowly, into nothingness, the memory of his smile still fresh on her mind.