This story is one of the November Writing Challenge entries chosen to be a featured story.
I lost him.
She looks up from her journal and shivers in the spring breeze. Snapping a photo of the crimson leaves in Portland, Rose stands up from her park bench and begins to walk along the sidewalk littered with suicidal worms. Pulling his jacket around herself tighter, she blinks away the growing pool of tears in her eyes. The pain in her chest throbs once, twice, and subsides, wracking her body with an unrelenting hurricane of loss.
Finding the next park bench, she sits, stashing her camera and opening her journal.
There are two sides to Sam. Light and darkness coexist in him, eternally fighting. He was so warm, and at one time there was nothing more petrifying than his arm not around me. But at the same time he was icy like that one depressing day every December when the holiday spirit hasn’t kicked in and the world is just as cruel as you imagined when you were a kid, hiding under your bed in the thunderstorm. They say love will prevail, but frankly, good and evil are choices. It is up to you who wins, and more often than not evil still lurks in every corner of this sad world.
Stashing her pencil once more, Rose walks, her eyes dry with anger. Anger not at Sam, but anger at everyone with their evil. Anger at herself and her own evil. A wave of warmth cascades over her loose curls as she enters Pip’s and orders their specialty: chai tea and donuts. Perching in a quiet corner, she pulls out her diary and opens her mind.
He gave me his coat. I didn’t even know him very well then, but that afternoon on Cannon Beach would’ve frozen my feistiest Cuban aunt.
“Here, take my jacket. You look cold.”
“Oh, don’t worry about me. I’m fine.”
“Here, take it,” he told me with an affectionate nod.
So I did.
From the sandcastle building contest with mutual friends to volleyball as the sun set to the midnight bonfire, we just talked and everything felt right. I know, cheesy, but he was lovely, like that moment when the day morphs into night and the last rays of sunlight reach out in vibrant fading tentacles of hope in a beautiful tomorrow.
She rises, composting her coffee cup and pulling up the hood of his jacket as she emerges into the downtown drizzle. Setting off towards her apartment, she sees a little boy in a yellow raincoat splashing in a poor excuse for a puddle under the streetlamp. He looks up at her, smiling, and jumps again. Innocent thing. He does not yet know about the monsters. They’re real.
Crossing the street, she trudges up the hill, eyeing the graffiti proclaiming “l o v e,” “death,” and “chemicals will kill you.” She casts a glance behind her to the Glenn Jackson Bridge and turns into her apartment complex. Scraping her key into the lock, she pushes her door open and drops her satchel onto the carpeted floor.
Our first date was to the farmers market in Esther Short Park. We walked through the aisles, listening to the busker with his wailing violin, the high school double reed ensemble playing “Pink Panther” and collecting money for the next trip, and the thirteen-year-old girl singing with her amped up keyboard. We saw the florists with their vibrant bouquets, the booths selling diverse foods, the wood carvers, the kale lady, and the family who sold honey sticks.
I remember him walking me home and thinking: Is this what love is? When time warps and problems fade and you feel like you’re floating?
It is not.
She turns on the stove to high heat and places a pot of water to boil. Opening her freezer, she pulls out three-cheese ravioli and leaves them on the counter while she opens a jar of marinara. She unbuckles her boots and plops onto her beanbag, stroking her rabbit. The little bundle of fluff nibbles on his jacket, but Rose just watches, then stands up to set up the playpen and continue cooking. Dumping the stuffed pasta in, she grabs her journal and flips to previous days.
February 29 –
Black eye. 4”x 4”.
I will be okay.
Seven stages of grief in seven seconds of torture.
March 1 –
We break up.
I am heartbroken but not broken. I am vulnerable, but not a helpless damsel in distress for he is no knight in shining armor.
She pulls her jacket around herself tighter.