The Show is Over, Say Goodbye

Anne stuffed the last piece of clothing in the suitcase and zipped it around. “Finally,” she sighed. “Oh, thank you, God, finally.”

She looked around the room one last time, making sure that there was nothing critical left behind.  When she handled one last task and walked out the door, there was no turning back. She left the bedroom pulling the carry-on behind her.

The photo on the mantel unnerved her.  She picked it up, looked the image of her about-to-be-abandoned husband in the eye and turned it over. “If only it had been that easy to get out of your life.” But it hadn’t been. For months now, with the help of her sister and some sympathetic friends, she had slowly put together the pieces she needed to leave the abusive marriage. She was on her way to another town, another country, and she was not coming back.

Anne put the suitcase by the door and reached under the sofa for a large, life-size box.  It slid out and she lifted the lid, reviewing the figure inside uneasily. Her friends advised against it. There were laws against these ‘imitation humans’. If Max ever figured this out …

On the other hand, she knew that if she simply left, he would be on her trail in the best bloodhound fashion.  Twenty years as a lawyer specializing in defending criminals left him with resources no one could begin to fathom.  He would find her — and Jacques — in no time.  Anne was only too aware that the consequences would be severe. I won’t let him hurt Jacques. And I can’t let him to hurt me — not any more.

The clock chimed the quarter-hour and she started. I’m running out of time. This thing … it’s so lifelike. Well, of course it is! Anne chided herself. It wouldn’t do you much good if it wasn’t. She took a booklet out of the carton and began to read.

First, remove the restraining bolt from the back of the neck. Done. Next, press the switch under the left ear. She felt for it, a slightly raised area, and pushed until she felt a click. The figure in the box moved slightly and grey eyes stared into identical grey eyes.

Activate memory circuits. Anne took a remote control out of a small silver antistatic package and keyed in the code from the book. The figure’s eyes took on a more knowing, sentient look.

Activate motion circuits. It — Anne still couldn’t think of it as a person — sat up stiffly and moved its head back and forth, rhythmically, not smoothly, until repeated movement freed up the servos inside and it’s movement was more lifelike. It stood up and stepped out of the carton.

“Good. Perfect.” She read the final instruction. Activate voder circuit. One more code to enter. As she pressed the buttons, she didn’t notice that her double had walked around to stand behind her. One swing of the simulacrum’s arm and she was on the floor, blood soaking slowly into the carpet around her.

The double surveyed the still form. “I can’t believe you didn’t think this through. You made me just like you. Why would I want to stay here when you didn’t want to either?”

As Anne’s eyelids fluttered, it said “You can’t tell about me. Max won’t know — no one will. And that will solve all my problems.  In the meantime –” It picked up Anne’s passport,  wallet and ID from the table and opened the door. “In the meantime, Jacques will be waiting and I’ll get to enjoy the life you set up — for me, even though you didn’t realize.”

It wheeled the suitcase through the door and looked back. “Au revoir, mon amie. The show is over — say ‘goodbye’.”

The door slammed behind it, and the only sounds were of a car driving away and a woman weeping.

Things Unsaid

When I tell myself I have put you away
I know I lie; all it takes is a brief note of music
or a turn of phrase and you are before me
so vividly you are almost standing there.

I can barely breathe — or find the air to speak;
I never could. Love wrapt in the fear of loss;
a gift I could never give you to open —
that you would not even if I had the courage.

What does it say of us that ‘I love you’
were the only three words between us left unuttered?

A Dance at Midnight

The wind off the lake was ice-cold, slicing through my thin coat like a sword cut.  Part of me wished I’d worn something warmer, but then I realized how silly that was.  If I’d felt better, I’d have laughed.

The city was spread before me in a pattern of dancing lights, alternately hidden and revealed by the blowing snow. At this distance, it was almost beautiful. Of course, the beauty was an illusion, obvious only at a distance. If I stood here until dawn, I’d see the streets below me for what they were. Just as I had, for the past six months, seen life for what it was, finally. Well, no more.

I stepped toward the edge of the building and looked down.  Was four floors enough? I suppose there were guides for these things somewhere on the Internet, but even though I had made a New Year’s resolution I intended to keep, the thought of Googling “Defenestration proper height fatal” was more than I was willing to do. Heaven knows why, but I just decided to take advantage of what height I had access to and go — go on to whatever there was.  I hoped it would be somewhere I could find Martin again.

Out of nowhere, hands closed around my shoulders and gently tugged me back. Damn it! Who’s interfering now? And then the wind brought me some very familiar scents: Bellagio for Men, good tobacco and the frequently-recalled smell of him. “Martin?” And tears sprang to my eyes, tears not caused by the wind.

“Allie, don’t.  Please don’t.”

I turned slowly, afraid to look. But there he was, in his black wool topcoat over the charcoal suit that suited him best, black hair tossed by the wind and a loving expression in the beautiful brown eyes I cherished so much. With a cry, I leaped to him and felt his warm arms wrap around me, shielding me from the cold in my heart. “Oh, beloved, I’ve missed you so!” I wept myself into sobs and finally into silence.

“I never left you.  You might not be able to see me, but I’ve always been there.” I felt his lips softly brush my cheek. He rocked me gently and then stood back. “But this — if you’d done this, I’d never have seen you again.  I couldn’t bear the thought.  So here I am.”

“Everything’s so empty without you.  People try, they do, but it’s just not enough.”

“Please don’t give up, my heart. I promise you that it will get better, that there is something good waiting for you on the other side of this. The pain won’t last forever.”

“Somehow, that’s even worse — knowing that one day, I won’t miss you as much. I love you!”

“I know that.  I love you, too.  My love for you didn’t die just because I did.”

The chimes began from St. John’s Cathedral. Martin tipped his head back to listen, and I saw moonlight reflected on his face. It was midnight. As the chimes ended, on the street below a car stopped and music drifted up to us where we stood.

“Let’s dance, Allie.  One last time.” He enfolded me and we danced slowly together, my face tucked in the crook of his neck. When the music stopped, he stepped away from me. “Promise me, dear one.  Never again. When the day comes that you cross over to where I am, I want to be with you.”

I felt a wrench in my heart at the thought of him leaving me again, but the sadness in his eyes moved me to promise. “One day, Martin.”

“One day, Allie.”

He blew a kiss to me and vanished in a swirl of snow.

Three Word Wednesday, 12/8/2010

Judge nightfall safety

“I wish you’d let me walk you home.”

Mary looked at him, irritated. “I’m sure you mean well, ” she said, trying to conciliate him despite what she considered his over-solicitous behavior. “But I don’t turn into a helpless damsel just because it’s nightfall.”

“I don’t know that you’re the best judge of that.” James tried to convince her. “I’m only concerned about your safety.”

She ended the argument by closing the door.

* * *

Her heeltaps echoed off the walls of the deserted street. The rhythm changed, became syncopated, as another set of steps joined in, someone moving faster than she. Determining the direction was difficult, as the echoes made the steps sound as though they were behind her, in front of her, all around.

Mary slowed, listening, then paused, then began to run. She came to an abrupt halt when she catapulted into the man on the sidewalk in front of her.

“You should have let me walk with you,” James smiled, cutting off her scream as the knife descended, the first time of many. “I told you it wasn’t safe.”

Three Word Wednesday, 11/17/2010

Clutch, Delight, Happy

Today is “letting go” day.

As I turn on my laptop, the extra monitor I use comes up first, and there is his picture on the screen, smiling that wonderful smile at me, and I feel pain clutch my heart. I don’t want to do this, I really don’t. But if I don’t do it now, I never will. I’ll go on imagining that I have a future with him and my present will float by me, pointless and unregretted until it’s too late to get it back. So I right click on the screen and change the image. Then I delete it from my hard drive. So there’s that.

Online, I unfriend him, unfollow him … all the things we do these days to the people in our lives when we don’t want them there any more.

It didn’t start out this way, but then, it never does, does it? It was a delight to wake up in the morning and think of him, to check online and see there was a message or a ‘like’ of something we both enjoyed. Then I made mistakes, and he made mistakes and what was shiny and new got tarnished in a hurry. The day came when I badly embarrassed him, not meaning to, and since then we’d hardly been in contact at all. In fact, if we wound up in the same place recently, one of us usually left. Him, because he really didn’t want anything to do with me and me, because I hated how uncomfortable he was when I was there.

My friends told me he’d get over it, but he didn’t. So today is the day I wipe him out of my life. I imagine he’ll be relieved.

As for me, well, I know one day I’ll be past all of it. You think you will hurt forever. You don’t. It just seems like it. Even though I know that, I wonder if I’ll ever be happy again.

Six Sentence Sunday, 10/24/2010

“You didn’t mean any of it, did you?”

“I guess I did at the time — at least a little.”

They stood there, looking at the stores, the ground, the ebb and flow of the crowd around them; everywhere but at each other.

“I shouldn’t have trusted you,” she said. “Should I?”

“No, I guess not, ” he replied, as he turned and left.

All In A Touch

“Try to understand. This isn’t a debate. Nothing you say will affect my decision.”

“Then why did you even tell me, Danielle?”

She turned away, her voice taut. “I had some rudimentary idea of fairness, I suppose. And because Michel thought you should know, that he would want to in the same circumstances.”

“Hurrah for Michel. How did he become part of this?”

“How do you think?” She tried unsuccessfully to keep the contempt from her voice.

Luc stood with his back to her, watching her in the mirror across from him. “This was the one thing I didn’t want. I thought I was clear on that from the beginning.”

“You said you didn’t want it. Not that you wouldn’t want to know if it happened.”

“I would have thought that the one implied the other.” He ran his hands through his thick black hair in desperation and then turned to look at her, to survey the face he had loved once and bruised more than once. “So now what I am to do?”

“I don’t know. I don’t expect you to know right now, either. I know I just dropped quite a bomb on you. It’s no surprise that you would need some time to think about it. I’m not sure that there’s anything for you to do.”

Merci bien for that consideration, at least.” He took his blazer off the chair where he had thrown it and walked to the door. “I’ll be in touch when I’ve figured out how I feel — though how it matters, I can hardly imagine.”

Cher, wait.” Her voice softened. “I tried to think how you would feel ten years from now if we ran into one another and you found out.”

He turned back to face her. “Yes, there is that. I suppose it would be quite a shock then. And oddly painful, as well, to know you kept it from me.”

They stood across the room from one another, no longer lovers, not friends, but not quite antagonists.

“Luc — ” She paused, suddenly unsure.  “Despite everything, I still… love…  you enough not to want to be the one who hurts you. I hope you one day find the man you could be, that I believed you were.”

He watched her tunic jump as the baby turned inside her and pushed his hands outward, reaching for the world awaiting him.

He slowly extended his own hand, almost expecting a rebuke, but she didn’t move — nearly a miracle, really, when you considered how many times his gestures had been much less gentle. He stepped forward and touched his son’s hand through her for a brief moment, whirled away suddenly and walked out the door.

He made it to the sidewalk before his tears began to fall.