"Adam, this is Dani," my new manager, Walt, announced, pulling me over to the only other intern in the office as he gave me the grand tour. I was never sure why managers always insisted on a ‘grand’ tour. Just show me the 4" by 4" box I'll be living in for 8 hours a day, I thought to myself. The girl with the short, golden hair, Dani, turned from her desk to face us as we approached, and it took everything in my power not to spill my coffee.
It was her. She had gone by Elle back then, but I was sure it was her. She still had the same deep green eyes, and the familiar little scar above her right eyebrow.
My mind fell away from the gray walls and fluorescent lights of the office, and I was back on our street growing up. We used to run around together in the big field behind our houses where the power lines would buzz overhead when it rained. I remembered the creek we would explore during the summer and the little treehouse we cobbled together from some junk we had found by the reservoir and spare lumber I had found in my dad’s shed. I remembered her coming to my window at night, and sneaking out to play cops and robbers in the cemetery with a couple other kids from the neighborhood. It all felt so long ago. Another lifetime.
She stared blankly back at me for a moment before she spoke, "I'm, uh," she stammered a little and avoided meeting my eyes, "I'm Dani," She brushed her hair aside nervously and gave me an uncomfortable smile.
I remembered that smile too. I had seen that smile a million times. I remembered how it would make my heart flutter when we got a little older. I remembered sledding on the big hill at the park together. Standing there in the dark as tiny snowflakes danced down to the Earth around us. Our first kiss. It was everything I could do, to hold back the tears as the memories flooded back to me.
"Adam," I managed to choke out as the rest of it came back, all at once.
I heard him yelling from inside the house first as I strolled over to pick her up so we could walk to school together like we had every day. Drunk again… I had thought, Jesus Christ man, it's 7 in the morning. Her dad was always drunk back then. Whenever he was not passed out, he was screaming about something. Life had broken him, I supposed, and he wanted everyone else to feel as dead inside as he did. As I had approached the front door, I heard a huge crash, like furniture being thrown across a room, then glass breaking and finally, her shrill, pained scream. Panicked, I pounded at the door but only heard more shouting, more loud banging. I remembered dropping my books and sprinting to the back door, my heart ready to pound right out of my chest. It was unlocked. With a deep, ragged breath, I went inside.
"You'll both be working with Margaret," Walt said, indicating a pudgy, middle-aged redhead sitting at a desk nearby, but I never really saw her. I barely registered Walt's voice. My eyes never left hers. There was still pain in those beautiful emerald eyes, like there had been that morning. I had seen her the moment I came bursting into the kitchen through the back door. She was there, crumpled on the floor against the refrigerator door. Dark scarlet blood smeared across her face, and dripped steadily from the gash above her brow. Her father towered over her terrified form, her shirt collar clutched in his left hand, and his right one raised, trembling with drunken rage, and balled into a white-knuckled first. The kitchen table was flipped and laying in the hallway. The floor was covered with debris from broken plates and glasses, and a broken bottle of scotch lay in a puddle of amber-colored misery right at my feet, near the door.
"Get the fuck outta here, boy!" I remembered him shouting at me. The anger in his eyes was inhuman, like a starving, savage animal, "This ain't none of your business!"
I remembered commanding him to leave her alone. That I was taking her, and that we were leaving. The rest was a blur. The blow to my gut, like a cannonball that I was sure cracked a few ribs. The deafening, dull thuds as he kept hitting her after I dropped to the floor, coughing up blood. The ringing in my ears. The hate. He was going to kill her. I knew it. Then, the broken scotch bottle in my hand. The blood. There was so much blood.
"What did you do?" Her accusing voice was a knife in my heart, "Adam, what did you do?"
Dani reached out to shake my hand, staring daggers at me. My mind could not stay in the present. I was back in the woods again, her hands were covered in mud, and clutched my parents' garden shovel, trembling. Tears streamed down her face, blending into the rivulets of rain as I rolled his limp carcass into the hole we had spent all day digging.
"I love you," I had muttered as I tried to scoop her into my shaking, dirty arms. She just placed one hand firmly on my chest and turned her head away as she pushed me gently away from her.
"We can't ever see each other again," My heart broke, but I understood. No one could ever know.
And that was it. She went home to the hastily scrubbed floors and broken dishes, and I never saw her again. There was no search. No investigation. Not until months later. No one had cared about him besides her. No one had looked. No one had worried.
I remembered seeing her on the news in front of her new dorm three states over. The tears on her face. The pain in her eyes. It was all real. They never found him though. Never even considered that he had been dead for months when they had started looking.
I looked deep into those verdant eyes, sparkling with the slightest hint of tears and she stared back into mine. I reached out finally, and accepted her handshake.
"It's nice to meet you," I said.
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Wow this is a very loaded story. I feel like you could make a novel out of this. And literally I didn’t find one mistake to fix. Well done. I really hope there is a part 2!
Hey, thank you for reading! I honestly was not planning a part two but after I review like that, maybe I'll think about it! =P
This story was nice and short, and that ending was just heartbreaking. Your description is really effective and I could picture everything so clearly. You managed to have my attention the whole time. Amazing work, Adrian!
Thanks so much for the feedback. I'm glad you enjoyed the read! =)