I meandered down the lonely sidewalk, snowflakes creating a cap of white over my loosely braided red hair. I wasn’t sure where I was heading, I just knew I wasn’t ready to go home yet. I’d been all right for a while, had even smiled for a while…But that time has passed. My eyes began to well, though I refused to let a single teardrop fall. I squeezed them shut, feeling the burn of unspent tears as my mind drifted back to the promise of a lifetime filled with happiness and love. In the soft snowfall of the cold winter night, I allowed my mind to drift back to the summer of my eighteenth year…
…long days spent basking in the bright sun, nights spent on the beach, millions of stars bearing witness to the wonders of a first love. Each day more magical than the one before. Even then we knew there was no future. Our worlds were too different. We lived only in the moment.
On a hot August night, bare feet melting into the sand, we strolled side by side along the shore, the crashing waves a musical backdrop softly breaking the silence of the night. He took my hands in his and whispered, “I love you.”
Smiling regretfully I whispered back, “And I’ll always love you.”
I gave him a final kiss and left him standing alone in the moonlight. That was the last time I saw him. I walked away that night never realizing the regret that would follow me the rest of my life.
I arrived at the door of my favorite coffee shop, rubbing my hands briskly as I entered. I passed up the comfort of the leather couches, settling instead at a hightop table. Manny set my usual in front of me. I simply nodded my thanks, my mind not fully in the present.
Lost in bittersweet memories, I heard the jingle of the bell over the door. I glanced up, annoyed by the invasion. That’s when I saw him. Our eyes locked and a smile lit his face.
“Jeannie McIntyre, is that you?” The familiar voice melted my heart.
I stood up. “Jack Lamont? Believe it or not, I was just thinking about you! How have you been?”
He stepped forward and wrapped me in a warm embrace. “Good, good. And you?” He placed his hands on my shoulders and held me away from him. “You look beautiful as always.”
“Thanks. I’m doing…wonderful. So what brings you in for coffee this late at night? You never could handle your caffeine.” My eyes smiled.
“Oh, you know, my wife asked me to swing by for a bag of fresh beans for the morning. She’s just like you in that way…a coffee connoisseur. Remember that coffee shop on the beach?” He chuckled. “Those were the days…”
I nodded and smiled a wobbly smile. “That they were,” I managed to whisper.
“Well, I better get going. Dinner’s at seven and I don’t want to be late. It was good seeing you.”
“Good seeing you, too, Jack. Take care.”
He gave my hand a squeeze before turning to leave. I watched as he vanished into the cold night air, wondering about a life that could’ve been.
I arrived home just in time to see a silhouette pacing back and forth in front of the big picture window. I hesitated a moment, taking a deep calming breath before I continued forward.
My foot was barely over the threshold when I heard his hot seething voice. “Where have you been? I come home from work and you’re not here, no note, no nothing!”
He reached out and grabbed my braid, yanking me further into the room. My feet slipped on the wood floor as I reached my hands up, trying to separate myself from his grip, fingernails tearing at his skin. He withdrew his hand sharply, his face turning a deep purplish red as he rubbed at the fresh pink abrasions that covered the back of his left hand.
I prepared for the punishment I would suffer for my insolence and braced myself for the blow as his arm pistoned forward, his fist twisting before making contact with my face. My head snapped back and my vision went black. I staggered, trying to regain my footing as a warm trail trickled down my throbbing cheek. I wondered if it was broken. The scent of copper filled my nostrils. I held firmly in place, waiting for my vision to clear, imagining that my face must now look like the rest of my body.
“You want drama? I’ll give you drama,” he snarled, grabbing for me again. I took a step back, ignoring the intensifying pain. “Get over here, you lying…!” He reached down and began to unbuckle his belt.
I looked on in horror at the large metal buckle, remembering the last time… I reached a trembling hand into my pocket and pulled out my phone.
His face evolved into a mask of rage. “Put that thing away!” he screamed.
I unlocked it, my hand shaking with every beat of my heart. I held the phone in front of me like a shield, the numbers nine-one-one flashed on the screen.
“Did you hear what I said? Put it away!”
“Take one step further and I’m calling the police.” The warning was a calm, deadly whisper.
He stopped. A guttural growl rose from deep within his throat. “I’m not telling you again. PUT THAT PHONE AWAY!”
“If you come any closer, I swear, you’ll never again see the light of day.”
He ignored the warning and took a hesitant step, wrenching the belt from the loops. “Final warning…Put it away or else — ”
“Or else what? You’ll kill me?”
“You can bet your life on it,” he said with a sinister grin. He looped the belt in his hand and took another step forward.
I hit send and pressed the phone to my ear. “My name is Jeannie McIntyre. I live at twelve Oak Street and I’ve just killed a man.”
A look of confusion passed over his face as I ended the call. I drew my free hand from my pocket and his eyes bulged as reality hit. An explosion shattered the night.
He was thrown backward from the force of the blast, striking his head on the coffee table as he fell. Blood and gray matter splattered the wall behind him.
I inhaled sharply, daring to breathe again before crumpling to the floor in sheer exhaustion and relief. A single tear finally escaped, mingling with the blood soaking my face. It was over. Tears flooded down my cheeks as my mind drifted back to that young innocent girl on the beach, mourning the life that should’ve been.
This story was inspired by the song, Crying by Roy Orbison. It was also written in response to Warrior Writers Prompt #5.
Jennifer Harris (JL Harris) is the co-author of The Fearless Writer Guide, The Providence Series, Sincerely, Grace: And Other Short Stories, and The Catalyst Series. She’s also a writing coach and editor, and you can find her at www.jenniferlharris.com as well as the host of The Fearless Writer podcast.
When Jennifer is not writing or working with clients, you can find her hiking, reading, or playing an Evanescence song on the piano.