Short Story by Elena Williams
Her lifeless body in my arms looks more beautiful than it ever did when she was alive.
The sunset casts a glow over the entire meadow, making everything burn golden. The tall yellow grass ripples back and forth as a gentle breeze passes through it. I bask in its warmth and feel its blades tickle my ankles. I want to chop down the stalks and wrap myself in them. The cool dirt under my feet is a deep bronze and I feel at peace in this serene place. I lower myself to the ground and lie down, relishing in this free feeling. I pick up a damp handful of dirt and sift it around in my hands. It spills through my fingers and rains back towards the earth. I can’t help dragging my fingers through the soft expanse, finger painting in the reddish brown mulch. I’m dreaming. I know I must be dreaming because I don’t know where I am or how I got here and everything around me has that odd dreamy feeling, like I’m skydiving with a faulty parachute. I don’t care though. I want to stay here. I want to stay with the sky and dirt and sun and the beautiful, beautiful, grass.
I open my eyes and the sun is still right above me. Except it’s not the sun. It’s a glaring, migraine-inducing fluorescent light. I blink and look around. I’m not in the field anymore. I’m in a cold hospital room. My skin feels raw underneath the itchy, white blanket. The mattress is lumpy and cold and covered in plastic. There are machines of all sizes around me, beeping, flashing, counting. It smells of disinfectant and mothballs and expired food.
A tall, bald man in a long white coat opens the door to the room.
“Oh, look who’s awake,” He says as he flips through papers on a clipboard. He starts talking and I have to force myself to listen.
“You took quite the beating. It’s a miracle you’re even alive.” His bluntness surprises me but I try to concentrate on what he’s saying.
“What happened to me?”
His face became more serious.
“Well you- you were hit by a truck in front of your house.”
A clouded memory slowly comes back to me: I’m running down the steps of my house. My breath is heavy and keeps catching in my throat. I step off the curb and turn to look back at my house for a second and then it all goes black. The memory sends a chill up my spine and I refocus on what the doctor is saying.
“Is my wife here?”
“Yes, my wife.”
“Nobody’s been by but I can check for you.”
“Alright, thank you…” My voice trails off.
Am I going to be okay?”
“The short answer is yes. You are an extremely lucky man, sir. You sustained minor injuries and you should be able to leave tomorrow.”
After listening to him drone on about the specifics for what seemed like forever, I drift off and the next thing I know it’s the middle of the night. I look around the room for a clock but come up empty. I peel away the blanket and step gingerly out of bed. My whole body aches and moans and I have to stop for a second to catch my breath. I step out of the room into a dark hallway. Out of the corner of my eye I see a woman walking at the end of the hall. She’s moving very slowly and she’s hunched over so that her hair is draped across her face. But even in the dim light I can see that her hair is a brilliant blonde. It flows down her back and over her shoulders in beautiful, golden waves. She turns and looks at me with large brown eyes.
I break out into a light run towards her but by the time I get to the end of the hall she’s already whisked around the corner and disappeared. I shake my head at myself and blame my behavior on whatever drugs they pumped into me.
My house looms over me as I wait timidly on the sidewalk. A cold current rushes through my bones despite the balmy air. I live in a brownstone on a street lined with more beautiful brick houses. They’re all different. I’ve always admired that. They aren’t like those horrid developments in dreary suburbs where you could easily walk into somebody else’s house thinking that it was your own. Those places give me the creeps.
I walk slowly up the front steps of my house. The door falls open when I touch the handle and my worry increases. Why didn’t she come? The question that has been echoing in my head for the past twenty-four hours. I don’t feel anger or annoyance towards my wife. I feel concerned. I take my time getting inside. The living room is empty so I check the kitchen. Once I discover yet another empty room my heart sinks into my stomach but just then my wife wooshes around the corner.
“Oh, you’re back!” Her presence is an instant comfort and I immediately forget any uneasiness I had before. I unclench my jaw and release the fists I didn’t realize I was holding.
“I'm so sorry they just called me and I was about to leave when you came in! Are you okay? What happened? God, I’m so sorry.”
At this point she starts crying and I reach my arms out to hug her.
“Don’t worry about it, okay. I’m fine. I got into a minor accident but they said I would just need to rest for a few days and then I’d be fine.”
“Oh thank god.” She mutters into my shoulder. I hold her head in my hand and stroke her soft hair.
She pulls away from my embrace and I wipe the tears off of her cheeks.
“Come sit down and I’ll tell you all about my tragic accident.” I say in mock anguish.
“Oh stop it!” She yells as she throws her head into her hands.
“I’m kidding! I’m kidding!”
Everything is back to normal in a few days. I go back to work and my wife finally stops fussing over me. Things are good. On a Sunday about a week after the accident we’re walking around town. My wife drags me to all her favorite stores and we get lunch at a cafe. We walk over to a park to sit down but my wife says she has to pee and rushes off to find a bathroom. I rest my weary bones on a bench and lean back. I roll my head to the side and see that sitting on a bench a few feet away from mine is the blonde woman from the hospital. Her presence does not come as a shock to me. It’s a comfort. Now that I’m seeing her here I realize how anxiously I’ve been waiting for her. I don’t want to scare her away again but I need to get closer. I need to look into her eyes. I need to touch her hair. I slide cautiously down the bench and walk slowly to sit down next to her. Her face looks emaciated and she looks just as disheveled as she did before. Except for her hair. Her beautiful hair still cascades down her back in a smooth, shiny flood. A soft breeze swirls through it and lifts it gently off her shoulders. I can’t help myself. I need to touch it, run my fingers through it, smell it. I reach out my hand and am surprised to see that it’s shaking. My fingers are about to brush the golden strands when I hear my wife call from behind me. “Honey, who is that?”
I turn around to answer, “I don’t know. I saw her when I was at the hospital and now she’s here.”
“Should we go after her?”
I whip my head back around to see a cloud of blonde hair turning the corner down the street.
“No. Nevermind. I think she’s fine.”
“Alright” She shrugs
My wife is at work today and I have the day off so I take advantage of the time alone. I listen to the music she hates and cook the food she can’t stand the smell of. I’m laying down to take a nap when I remember that I have a book upstairs I want to read. It’s not on my bed or my nightstand so I rummage around under my bed to see if it fell down there. I’m elbow deep in shoes and cardboard boxes when I spot the book face down next to the wall. I inch further under the bed so I can reach it when my hand brushes against something sharp. “Damn it.” I hold my hand in front of my face and even in the dark I can see blood beginning to bead at the opening of the cut. I turn my attention away from my hand to investigate whatever it is that just cut me. My eyes land on a glistening bit of metal behind a box. I reach out my hand and carefully grab the blade. I turn it around to hold the handle and slide out from under the bed. I turn the knife over in my hand and observe the dried blood that clings to the steel surface. My stomach churns as I ward off the memories that are flooding into my brain. I shut my eyes and drop the knife on the floor. Hastily, I stand up with the intention of running downstairs but first stop to pick the knife back up. I dash down the stairs and pace back and forth in the hall. Eventually I sit down on the couch to wait for my wife to get home. She probably knows what this is about. I trail my finger up and down on the blade. A realization forms in my head and I sprint back up the stairs, this time leaving the knife. I turn the corner and rush into the bedroom and this time I notice the covers that are pulled to top and the lump lying beneath them. Despite my better judgment I pull back the blanket and let out a feeble sob when I see what lies beneath. The floodgates open and I can no longer ward off the memories. They come rushing in and with them come a second wave of overwhelming nausea. There’s nothing I can do now.
I had just gotten home from work and my wife was already home when I got there. We had gotten into a fight earlier that day about me not supporting her career and about her spending too much time at work. The fact that she was home before me was a rarity and I knew how hard it must have been for her to do that. We exchanged meager hellos and I sat down at the table next to her. Now that I was closer I could see that the expression on her face was not one of someone who was ready to patch things up. I guess she could see the realization hit me because pity crept onto her face.
“I want a divorce.”
It’s so strange how four simple words can end a marriage. How they change someone’s life entirely . I felt sad for a time but that feeling got stamped out by a rush of overwhelming rage. Next thing I know I’m yelling and screaming and she’s crying and I take a carving knife out of the drawer and stab her in the chest. The knife crashed onto the floor along with my wife’s limp body. I fell to my knees with her in a failing attempt to catch her. She laid perfectly still while the pool of blood beneath her grew. The puddle inched closer and closer towards her head until finally it reached the edges of her head. The dark red seeped into her long blonde hair and I scrambled to keep it away from the bloody stream. I suddenly became aware of what I had just done. I grabbed the knife, stashed it in my room, and ran outside to find help. I stepped off the sidewalk and started running across the street and as I took one last look over my shoulder at my house, I heard a car horn blare and then it all went dark.
I feel relieved. There’s some guilt and shame mixed in there but for the most part I feel relief. The fog has lifted and I feel a strange sense of calm as I walk to the other side of the bed. I hold my wife’s body like glass in my arms and I kneel down on the ground. Her whole body has withered and is rotting. Except for her hair. I stroke the glowing locks. I hold them in my hands and rub them against my face. I breathe in deeply and the smell that enters my system is intoxicating. I sit there for hours, my face buried in that lovely hair. I’m back in the field. The grass on my face and the dirt in my hands and wind in my hair. I am consumed by it all. Her lifeless body in my arms looks more beautiful than it ever did when she was alive.
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Elena Williams is a high school student from Maine. She enjoys reading in her free time and aspires to write a book someday.