I thought he was dead, but there he is, right in front of me on the street, smiling at me.

My heart seemed to halt its inner workings and fall right out of my chest and onto the pavement. I am not sure what to do – should I run? Act normal and greet him the way I would under normal circumstances? Slap him across the face and scold him for putting me through so much pain?

He seemed to make the decision for me, cautiously putting one foot after the other as I gawk. I note every detail – his faded red hair, crooked teeth, the crunching of gravel under his shoes, his shadow closely following.


I mimic a goldfish, save for the lack of bubbles escaping my mouth.

“I know. You must be feeling a lot of things – scared, confused, angry – and I’ll address all of your concerns. Let’s get some coffee.”


“Can we get a large bottle of water for the table first, please? Thanks,” Ziggy nods at our server. A smart decision considering I can barely swallow my own spit.

“So, hi. You look… beautiful, no surprise there.”


“Tough room. Okay, I’m sorry. Let’s get right to the point,” he says, cracking his knuckles. His nervous habit.

“I know you thought I was… dead. Everyone did, and I wanted it that way. I know how that may seem extremely selfish and manipulative, but it’s just something I needed to do. I needed to get away and not exist for a while. Reflect on the consequences of my actions in a place where I wasn’t constantly reminded of you or Alex. Get away from my family – you know what my mother’s like.” Ziggy looks at me for acknowledgement. Receiving none, he carries on.

“I know I did some awful, unforgivable things. I hurt people in ways I never realised. I took you for granted and acted selfishly. Even after you confronted me, I kept making excuses. There is no excuse for cheating on you, you never did anything wrong. I was insecure, and I knew I didn’t deserve you, so I self-sabotaged, but you didn’t deserve to be put in the middle of all that,” He continued, reaching for my hand. I quickly retract it under the table.

“Here’s your large water. I’ll be right by the counter whenever you’re ready to order.” The server says, placing the bottle and two glasses between us and quickly makes her exit, noting the palatable tension.

“So your solution was to… fake a suicide?” I ask, my voice betraying me, focusing on not overfilling my glass – anything not to look at him.

“If it’s any consolation, I did fully intend on actually doing it. It just didn’t work out the way I thought it would, so I looked for another escape, the closest thing to it. I couldn’t deal with disappointing my mom and my sister every day while I stayed alive, so I let them think -”

“You let them think you escaped the hospital and drowned yourself in the ocean. Subtle.”

“I know how it looks, trust me. I do. I know this is probably the last thing you needed after finding out one horrible thing about me after another.” Ziggy says, not meeting my eyes. “The harassment claims, the cheating, the lies…”

I snorted incredulously.

“I just thought it was better for both of us this way. I’d get my escape and anonymity after such a high profile life, and you’d most likely reminisce on the good memories rather than all of the bullshit I did at the end spoiling everything for you,” He insisted, earning a scoff from my end.

“Thank you so much for thinking of me. You’re so selfless, truly – a good Samaritan if I’ve ever seen one,” I deadpan, satirically placing my hands over my chest.

“Ruby, please. I’m not asking you to understand, I know you probably never will. I just want you to listen. I had only just reconsidered the whole ‘letting you think I’m dead’ thing when I saw you leaving Sweet Affairs, and just knew I had to talk to you. It was a sign,” Ziggy says, eyes starry. “Remember our date there? You were in such a bad mood, and then we saw that huge rat… scared the grumps right out of you.” He chuckles, pouring himself some water.

“Can we get back on track here? You were dead, remember?” I say, realising that I was unintentionally mirroring him and instantly putting my glass back down, making the table shake.

“Right, sorry. I don’t need you to forgive me – I mean, it would be nice, but I know that’s a longshot – I just want a chance to explain. I wanted to stop hurting you, and the only way I could do that was if I was gone. Yes, thinking I died would hurt, but only temporarily. I wanted you to remember the good things and then move on,” he contends.

“And then pop back into my life after I’ve moved on when you see I’m doing better. Solid plan!” I exclaim, garnering the attention of our server and some customers.

I hunch into my seat and lower my voice. “You really are unbelievable. How do you manage to screw me over even after you’re dead? Only you could manage such a feat.”

“Look, you never have to see me again, unless you want to,” Ziggy glanced at me optimistically.

I barely twitch.

“Noted. I know that I’ve traumatised you enough for a lifetime, but at least now you can ask or say whatever you felt like you didn’t get the chance to. Then, I’ll get lost and never bother you again.”

“Thought that was the plan the first time around,” I mumbled, still not completely used to his appearance.

I focused on the rise and fall of his chest, the gold chain I got for his birthday a year ago moving along with his breath. My gaze rises to the mole on his jaw, then his throat. He swallows. I look back up – he caught me staring.

“I missed you looking at me like that. It always made me feel like a piece of artwork, the way you would give every part of me equal attention and interest.” He seems to be talking more to himself than to me. He must have gotten used to that, being alone all these months.

I toyed with the ring on my pinkie, twisting it around my finger repeatedly, hoping it would give me something to respond to that with, but to no avail. Ziggy clears his throat, willing himself to carry the conversation elsewhere. He was always good at that.

“I went up North. As much as I wanted to leave this country, you and I both know I didn’t have the money to escape that far. Besides, there were so many places in this country alone I hadn’t seen – I think I remember telling you that once. Hung out with some mountain goats, villagers that had never seen a privileged red-haired asshole traversing about their fields with nowhere else to go. Talked to them, learned from them, had them tell me what an idiot I was for doing what I did, to you and otherwise. Oh, and I milked a cow! Not as weird as you’d think, and oddly satisfying to drink the milk in some tea afterwards.

“Anyways, I planned to stay in the more populated areas near there, but I just had some unfinished business here. I needed closure from this city, and I honestly didn’t think you’d be here right now, it being July and all, I thought you’d be back home. Well, fate and all that.” He concludes, situating a cigarette between his lips.

I watched him light it and courteously blow the smoke in the opposite direction. I eyed the pack he had laid on the table and nicked one for myself, to his surprise.

You smoke now?” Ziggy’s eyes widen as if I had just returned from the dead, moving to grab his lighter as I gesture toward it.

“Yeah, well, you put me under a lot of stress, remember?” I mutter with the stick between my teeth as he stumbles to light it.

“I just never thought I’d see the day where you smoke voluntarily,” Ziggy laughs, watching me in disbelief as I blow out a cloud.

“Yeah, I never thought you would either.” I muse, entertained by his reaction.

“I missed you,” He says seriously, taking a drag.

“Anyway, about my questions,” I say, tapping the cigarette against the ceramic ashtray littered with vivid greens, blues, and hints of red. “You didn’t think it was selfish to leave your mother to fend for herself? You must’ve known she would blame herself somehow.”

“Like I said, I caused her more stress than she needed with everything that happened. I knew that would follow me, she would be helpless, and I would be miserable. It was just better for everyone and I knew she would eventually come to terms with what happened and stop blaming herself.”

“Well, she still hasn’t, just so you know,” I say sternly.

“You’re still in contact with her?” Ziggy’s eyes light up hopefully.

“No, I asked your sister a month or so ago when she contacted me for something university-related.” I felt a perverse pleasure from watching the hope desert him.

“Let’s get something straight. This – us sharing cigarettes and talking – doesn’t mean I’ve forgiven you and that we’re going to go live happily-ever-after in the goddamn mountains. I still very much despise you. I think you’re a despicable person for what you did to me, whatever you did years ago to make those people feel uncomfortable, and for hurting your friends and family by doing this. You’re so selfish – and you almost gave me a heart attack showing up in the middle of the street and smiling like a maniac! You should’ve stayed underground, but no, you wanted to make sure I wouldn’t move on from you. You need help.”

My cigarette had almost burnt out when I put it to my lips again. I didn’t realise I had been talking for that long, but it seemed to have had the desired effect. Ziggy looked burnt out too, like the life had suddenly been drained from him. It was a bittersweet sight.

It’s odd, when someone dies, you think about all the things you want to say to them that you never thought you would have the chance to. I planned out what I would say to him so many times, but now when I finally got the chance to, it came out so garbled and crude as opposed to my thought-out, poised monologues.

“You’re right. Everything you said… you’re right. I’m sorry, Ruby. I know that means nothing and it will never make up for all the shit I did, but I just want you to know that I hate that I hurt you, most of all. I will never forgive myself because you were the last person that deserved it. I don’t want you to look back on this conversation and ever regret what you said, because everything you said is true. I’m sorry, I love- sorry. I’m sorry.”

I stared at my bitten down nails, picking at the torn skin there, unsure what to say next. Ziggy senses that from my expression and turns to dig into his wallet, pulling out a folded piece of paper.

“Here,” he places it in my palm, “It’s for Alex. You don’t have to read it, but you can if you want to. He should know I’m alive, too, it’s not fair on him. He’s still my best friend. I had a few things left to say to him, hopefully this is enough,” Ziggy murmurs, pulling out a few notes of cash for the water and the server.

Is this it? The last time I’m ever going to see Ziggy?

“So, this is it, huh?” He smiles sadly, his pupils dodging from left to right as he tries to read my expression.

“I guess so,” I can barely make out the words, swallowing stubbornly. I watch him take a napkin and scribble something on it before sliding it across the table.

“In case you have anything left to say.”

“I don’t.”

“I know. Just in case.” Ziggy reluctantly rises from his chair, putting the cigarette pack and his wallet back into his pockets as I watch from my seat.

“I’d stay and wait until you wanted to leave, but I wasn’t bullshitting when I said I had some stuff to take care of here. My train leaves at eleven-thirty, in case you have any parting words.”

“I don’t.”

“I know. Bye, Ruby. I – I love you. I’m sorry.”

Ziggy’s eyes linger on mine for a few seconds before he turns away, putting one note from the table into the tip jar on the counter, leaving the server with a smile and a nod.

The door opens, and I wait for him to turn back and look at me a final time. He doesn’t. The door closes.

I let out a laboured breath I did not know I was holding. After looking at it for a second, I crumple up the napkin and throw it into the bin behind my chair. All that is left on the table is the note for Alex.

I unfold it to read, and then impulsively give it the same treatment as the napkin. I had just read the last line above where he had signed his name.

I love you. I’m sorry.

July 31, 2020 11:21

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Katrina Lee
01:11 Aug 06, 2020

I really like your descriptive style that shines through especially when you use actions to subtly convey a character's emotions and intention 😊 I also find you way you construct your dialogue smooth and impactful, once we unpack it to really get into the psyche of the characters, and it's as if we're in on their shared history. Good job, keep going!💪🏻 BTW if you would be so kind to check out my story, I'd appreciate it immensely!💕


Rida Arif
22:07 Aug 07, 2020

My first comment on my first story! Thank you for writing such a lovely one. I'm so glad what I was trying to convey got through! That's exactly what I was trying to accomplish. I really appreciate your feedback. Also, already checked it out! <3


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Aditya Pillai
06:09 Aug 09, 2020

A really well written story! I guess I am on a streak of luck, I was just reading through random stories when I came across this gem. What really impressed me is the writing style—you clearly understand and weild the language well, through dialogue and through the protagonist's voice. The little bits of thoughts you put in, like "I felt a perverse pleasure from watching the hope desert him" are so good and give us an insight into the undercurrent of the conversation. Really great read. I sympathize with the main character- the guy just s...


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