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Fiction Sad Romance

“Are you coming tonight?” I breathed into the phone after the beep that had become the only sound on the other end no matter what time I called him. “It’s… it’s been so long,” I sighed, “too long… I think you should come home tonight.” My breathing turned rigid as I searched for something else to say, but there was nothing else to say.

 I hung up the phone and stared at it, waiting for him to hear my message and call me back, but he didn’t and I drifted to sleep.

“You haven’t been taking your meds.” His voice startled me awake; I hadn’t heard him come in or felt the bed dip with his weight, but I didn’t turn around.

 “You haven’t been visiting me.” I tried to change the subject.

 “You haven’t been visiting me, either.”

 The silence stretched on for minutes that felt longer than they were. My body was trembling and my eyes stung with suppressed tears, but I held them back along with the screams and accusations and demands.

 “Talk to me…” I could barely squeeze the words through the lump in my throat, but I needed to check if he was still there; he always came and stayed and left so silently. “Please.”

 “You need to take your meds.” He reminded me of my mother when he repeated her words.

 “But, then, you won’t come to scold me for not taking them.”

 “This is not healthy.”

 “Then, stop doing it to me.”

 “I’m not doing anything.”

 “Exactly,” I would’ve chuckled with bitter humor had I the energy to exert enough breath for a chuckle. “You’re not doing anything; you’re not visiting me or talking to me, but I’m missing you and I can’t stop thinking about you and I need you and that’s not healthy, so do something… Please.”

 He sighed with sadness, with pity, with helplessness, the way he always did in goodbye when he’d given up on our conversation before disappearing.

 I held back the tears and screams and accusations and demands and fell back to sleep.

 “Juice?” My mother asked me when I walked into the kitchen the next morning. I didn’t like juice, so I shook my head.

 My mother moved in with me shortly after he moved out. At first, I thought it was merely out of convenience since we were both living alone and it made sense for us to go back to living with each other like we used to before him, but I came to doubt that when his sporadic visits occurred on days she’d deemed me to be my worst and his words coincided with hers and his knowledge of my doings was perceptibly fed by hers. I wasn’t sure if he’d asked her to live with me so that he could always have access to me or if she volunteered that access frequently because she knew that I couldn’t go on without him.

 The day went by routinely slowly. I sat next to my mother on the couch as she flipped through the TV. She eventually settled on something but I couldn’t focus on the images or the noise. I chewed something bland and couldn’t force myself to swallow more than thrice. My mother dragged me to the front porch, insisting that I was getting too pale and needed sunlight.

 The sun was too bright it made my eyes itch, but my body shook with the softest breeze. My mother covered me with a blanket he’d bought me and we sat together on the swing he’d built, silently, just like I often sat with him.

 Three young people were walking by our house, they paused by the front yard and stared until my mother yelled at them to leave before pulling me back into the house, saying that we’d had enough sunlight.

 She asked me if I wanted juice. I didn’t like juice, so I shook my head.

 I turned off the lights, slid under the sheets, and waited for him.

 “You haven’t taken your meds.” I wasn’t sure how much time had passed before his voice startled me.

 “You’ve been visiting me.” I wanted to smile at the fact that he was there to see me for the second night in a row, but my lips were chapped and it hurt to stretch them.

 He sighed and remained silent. I begged him to talk to me and he told me that I needed to take my medication. I reminded him that he would have nothing to reprimand me about if I did, hoping that he would promise to drop by even if I took them, not to reproof me, but just to chat, but he didn’t. He told me that what I was doing wasn’t healthy, and I asked him to stop doing it to me.

 “I’m not doing anything.”

 I tried a different approach against his words.

 “Can you keep doing just that? Can you not do anything? Can you not chide me? Can you not recite what my mother already had of what I should and should not do? Can you not leave me alone?”

 He sighed with sadness, with pity, with helplessness, the way he always did in goodbye when he’d given up on our conversation before disappearing.

 “Juice?” My mother asked me when I walked into the kitchen the next morning. I didn’t like juice, so I shook my head.

 The day went by like so many before it; TV light and noise in the background, tasteless bites, sunlight underneath his blanket and on his swing, and people moving.

 I turned off the lights, slid under the sheets, and waited for him.

 “You haven’t taken your meds.” My heart started at his voice, closer than it had been the nights before.

 “You’ve been visiting me.” I felt my lips bleed as they spread into a grin.

 Before he could say anything, I forced my body to turn to him. My sudden energy must’ve surprised him, because his eyes were wide as he took me in. Did I look any different than I had the last time we were in that position looking at each other? I hadn’t looked into a mirror in a while. Was my hair messy? I recalled once plucking out a white hair and freaking out about it because I hadn’t wanted him to see it on me. Had it grown back? Were there others? Were my eyebrows craning into one?

 He probably couldn’t detect all of my flaws in the darkness; my eyes had been training against it as I waited for him and I could barely see him. He looked tired, a little blurred by my own exhaustion, but his eyes were piercing as he held my gaze.

 “I miss you.”

 He closed his eyes, shutting out my words.

 My hand reached out on its own, wanting to sink in his soft hair, missing the graze of his stubble. His eyes snapped open before my quivering fingers could reach his face. I quickly retracted my hand, terrified of pushing him away when I hadn’t been that close to him in too long.

 We stared at each other for too long, but it hadn’t been nearly long enough when he began to blur and my eyes began to droop. I didn’t have much time left with him.

 “I love you.”

 I reached out for him, refusing to let him go without feeling him, refusing to accept that I was beginning to forget the feel of him, wanting to touch him just one last time with the awareness that it would be the last time, but he quickly moved away.

 “Don’t go,” I tried to pull him back to me with my voice when my arms failed to. “Stay here.”

 “I can’t stay here. I don’t belong here anymore.”

 “Yes, you do.” I choked. “You belong with me. We are-”

 “We are not together anymore. This isn’t my house anymore. You aren’t my wife anymore.”

 He sighed with sadness, with pity, with helplessness, the way he always did in goodbye when he’d given up on our conversation before disappearing.

 But he didn’t. Instead, he lied in bed next to me, closer than he had been before. He could’ve pulled me into his arms, but he didn’t. He could’ve touched me if he wanted to, but he didn’t want to.

 “Please…” We both begged at the same time, voices too heavy with the same emotion to tell apart.

 I couldn’t force any other words out as the tears continued to drain the last bits of hope and consciousness within me.

 “Take your meds and, then, come visit me.” I fell asleep with him still next to me.

 I woke up the next morning and gaped at the stranger in the mirror. For a moment, I thought my reflection to be a visitor, but the guest’s movements synchronized with my own in the frame.

 My skin was of a sickly yellow color, my eyes were pinned up to my face by two thick, black crescents, my hair was oily, and my body was edgy with bones I had never visualized on it before.

 I screamed and my mother came rushing to me.

 “No wonder he won’t touch me!” I cried as she tried to soothe me. I was ugly and sickly and scary and he didn’t want me.

 My mother offered me juice. She told me that it was full of vitamins and that it would restore me to my health and beauty. I didn’t like juice, but I nodded.

 He didn’t come that night and I didn’t want him to; I didn’t want to see him again until I looked like the woman he couldn’t resist wanting and loving and staying with.

 Over the next few days, my mother and I followed an unspoken strategy to win him back.

 I woke up every morning and took a shower to stay clean. I went downstairs and my mother offered me juice. I didn’t like juice, but I nodded. We ate more than once during the day. Then, in the afternoon, we went for a walk because the sunlight and the exercise could help me look healthy and beautiful and his again.

 As the days passed by, the images and noises on the television became easier to decipher, the meals were easier to swallow, neighbors’ faces were accompanied by names, and our slow walks turned into regular-paced ones.

 I led our walk by his property once. My mother advised me against it, but didn’t say anything when I slowed down when I neared him. I wondered if he could see me, if he could tell that I was drinking juice, taking showers, eating and exercising for him, if he could see the girl he’d once promised never to leave and if he wanted to come back.

 I remembered the first time I told him I loved him. We’d been watching movies the night before in his room and I must’ve fallen asleep. I woke up to find him staring at me with a soft smile that I couldn’t help returning. I wasn’t a morning person, but it felt so exemplary to wake up beside him and I just said it.

I remembered our disaster of a first date. We were both too nervous for the casual conversation that had dictated our friendship for years, I spilled my milkshake on him, and I tripped, ripping my dress in the process and falling on top of him, causing him to fall backwards into a thorn bush. We ended our date with a trip to the hospital to get the tiny prickles out of his back and arms.

 I remembered our wedding day; the flowers and the music and the cheers and our dance and our promises.

 My mother and I resumed our recently-arranged routine. We drank juice and watched TV and ate the meals she used to cook for me when I was a kid and walked around town in different paths every afternoon.

 But one day, my legs just happened to lead the way in his direction.

 I remembered our conversations vividly. I remembered the way his eyes sparkled when he talked of things that he loved and the way they aviated in random directions when he was lying, I remembered the way his lips twitched slightly to the left when I was trying to make him laugh and he was trying to stay angry with me, and I remembered how warm his embraces were, but I couldn’t remember him.

 Didn’t all eyes sparkle with passion and avoid direct contact when fabricating? Didn’t all lips involuntarily wobble with suppressed laughter? Weren’t all hugs comforting? These things weren’t him.

 I could remember the color of his eyes, but I couldn’t trace a shape to them. His voice was deep and low, but I couldn’t remember anything past these two adjectives that fit most male tones. I couldn’t remember what he felt like when I had felt so many things since him.

 I felt my eyes well with tears, but I held them back.

 I couldn’t walk by him every day; if he saw me every day, then he wouldn’t miss me enough to come see me.

 I waited a week before passing by him again and my body was too heavy with longing for my legs to carry. I wanted to talk to him, to tell him that I loved him and that I missed him, but I kept walking.

 I waited for him every night, but he never came. I was too fatigued with missing him to keep my eyes open for long, but I’d missed him enough to summon him into my dreams.

 I couldn’t remember what I was so angry about, but I was so angry and I was taking it out on him. He tried to calm me down, but his understanding and kindness shamed me and I kept yelling at him, throwing his own faults in his face so that I could feel better about my own by having him join me in mutual failure.

 He left the house and slammed the door behind him. The room shook and I fell down to my knees and cried, wanting to take every word back, wanting him to come back and hold me and stay with me.

 It was the last time I saw him.

 A sob shook me awake.

 I woke up one morning feeling rested and blithe until I rolled to my side and didn’t find him there.

 I got out of the bed and stared at the mirror. My skin was back to its normal tone, my eyes were wide, my hair was clean, and my body was soft with the same curves I’d always had during our marriage. I was the girl he’d fallen in love with again, so why wasn’t he there loving me again?

 “Juice?” My mother asked me when I walked into the kitchen. I didn’t like juice, but I nodded.

 The memories were too strong that morning and I didn’t like that. I declined the meds to escape the clarity of reality, but it was there regardless.

 I thought about taking the pills and visiting him, maybe then he would congratulate me and hold me instead of rebuking me and pulling away.

 I opened the cabinet, but the bottle of pills was nearly empty.

 I heard my mother gasp behind me and I turned to find her looking at me with fear and guilt, the glass of juice she’d brought me shaking in her hands.

 “It’s in the juice, isn’t it?” My chest rose and fell rapidly in panic. “You made him go away!” I screamed and pushed her out of my way. I heard the glass of juice break as I ran out of the door.

 I ran to him, wanting to tell him that I hadn’t knowingly taken the meds, that I wasn’t the one who pushed him away, that I didn’t mean to lose him.

 I ran past rectangular houses, each designated for one occupant only, until I saw his name.

 I pounded my fists against his stone, wanting him to answer me, but he didn’t, and I hated how accepting my mind was of the fact that he couldn’t.

 Had we not fought, had he not left the house… He never would’ve been there, he never would’ve had to be cut out of the car seat with a pile of flowers in the passenger seat beside him.

 I cried. I cried because I missed him, because I loved him, because I’d taken the meds and could no longer see him, because I’d been feeling better even without him, because I knew that he would’ve been angry at me for not forgiving myself for something that wasn’t my fault when he’d attempted to make it up to me when it was, because he couldn’t hold me and go home with me, because I knew that he wanted me to get better and I was letting him down, because he wasn’t there anymore and I was - for the first time since he left - aware of that.

 I didn’t know for how long I cried, but I couldn’t cry anymore. When I lifted my head up, I saw my mother standing next to me. I met her gaze and she hugged me until I decided to move on with my day.

 “Juice?” My mother asked me as we walked between the graves and pulled out a bottle. I didn’t like juice, but I nodded.

July 29, 2021 01:09

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4 comments

Tricia Shulist
00:46 Aug 05, 2021

That was a poignant story. I enjoyed it. Thank you.

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Fatima Aladdin
11:57 Aug 05, 2021

Thank you so much! I'm so glad you enjoyed it!

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Alice Richardson
03:45 Aug 03, 2021

An excellent, well written story. The repeated lines make a thread that holds the whole thing together. I didn't realise he was dead until the very end.

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Fatima Aladdin
15:55 Aug 03, 2021

I'm so glad you enjoyed it! I was a bit worried about seeming repetitive, but repeating some lines felt important to properly demonstrate the intensity of her mental state. Thank you for easing my worries!

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