The night came, cold. – A short Story

Happy New Year, dear readers! My new year resolution for A Tale of Short Stories, is to be more present, through writing short stories, as well as continue to review books for you.  To kick off with my new year resolutions, I would like to present to you my latest work. I hope you will like it. Please remember to share it on social media, leave comments and feedback. What worked? What didn’t? spill the beans in the comment section! I am always happy to repay the favor 😉 Happy reading!

– Kalieta

PS: A BIG thank you to Elyse, who proofread my story. You rock! 🙂

1

The day ended abruptly. The streets were empty, with an occasional stray animal breaking the now thickening silence. The city was plunged into darkness, and street lanterns were the only reminder of human civilization. Somewhere within the darkness, tears broke.

+

Anne stood by the fireplace, arms wrapped around her waist, gaze lost in the dancing flames. It had been a day since Michael had left, leaving behind a stream of thoughts and doubts. Had she gone too far this time? Last time they had such a big fight she thought they wouldn’t survive it, and somehow they did. She never thought they could do worse than on that day, but today’s fight seemed to prove her wrong. Was this the last straw, after all? Anne couldn’t say. She stood there, heart heavy and empty at the same time as the grandfather clock stroke the hour. Released from the temporary hypnoses, Anne looked away from the flames and into the stormy night outside of her home. It was ironic how nature was able to match her mood.

Reaching into the rear pocket of her jeans, Anne retrieved her cell phone. She always kept it on silent and consequently, always missed calls. She checked the call log, looking for a familiar name. There were three missed calls: two from her mother and one from the doggy care. None from Michael. She’d hoped he would have called, asked to come back, or told her how much of a jerk she had been. It was true; she could be an asshole sometimes, pushing his buttons when she clearly knew better. Staring at the phone, however, did not relieve her worries. There were no calls nor texts from him. She wondered where he could have gone. Had he had a proper meal? Did he remember to take his heavy duty rain coat? What about his pain medication? It was so strange to continuously worry about someone she had been ready to reap apart emotionally not so long ago. She wondered if he struggled as much as she did at the moment. How could one love and hate someone so passionately at the same time? Between her hands, her phone began to flash away.

“Michael? I was wondering if you were going to call at all…” she blurted out into the receiver.

“Hello?” a coarse voice echoed back.

“Who is this?” Anne was confused. The voice did not belong to her husband.

“Paul, ma’am. I am with the park services. I found the phone on the bench as I was doing my rounds and…”

“Where is Michael?” Anne interrupted.

“Ma’am, that is why I am calling. I haven’t seen anyone since my shift started and was hoping you could help locate the phone’s owner. With the bloody rain outside, I fear the owner might have gone to seek refuge. I’m surprised the phone didn’t drown in all this rain. Would you like to pick it up and return to its owner?” Paul chatted away.

A silence followed.

“Y-yes. Yes, I will be there shortly. Where are you located?”

She wrote the address down, hung up, and headed for the door. The storm was restless, giving the street an ominous look. Anne hurried into her car, anxious to get to the Warren Park, located only a few blocks from their home. It was not the biggest, nor the most entertaining park in the city. On a good day, it gave local suburbans a means to enjoy nature with a ten mile trail that span around the neighborhood. Anne loved to venture there for her morning runs. There was no real scenery, but the park was always well taken care of. Michael loved to sit on the bench, his nose in between the pages of a book, while she was getting her exercise done. Warren Park was part of their routine, something that grounded them to the area. Now, however, it was quite an unwelcome sight.

Anne sat in the parking lot, watching the rain curtain envelop her car. She reached into the pocket of her rain coat and pulled out Michael’s phone. She had retrieved it from Paul, who had been kind to meet her by her car, thus avoiding her to actually face the rain. The phone he’d placed into her hands was in fact her husband’s. Paul reiterated to her that he had not seen anyone outside, considering the weather condition. Anne could hardly doubt him. She looked through Michael’s phone and message logs; the last entries dated from a day ago, before they had the fight. She sighed, wondering how he could have lost his phone, and more importantly, why had he been at the park? Anne went through her pocket, reaching for her phone. She dialed a number, and after a few rings, a woman picked up.

“Beth, hi, it’s me.”

“Hi Anne! Is everything okay?” Beth inquired.

“Yes, everything is fine. Is Michael with you by any chance?”

“No, why? Was he supposed to come over? I’ve been all over the place today! I can’t remember if he was to come by today or later this week?” Beth continued.

Anne sighed at the other end of the line.

“No, Beth. I – I just thought he might be with you, that’s all. I’ll try Jason.”

“Is everything alright?” Beth repeated herself.

“Y-yes. I will call you back later, Beth. Thank you, and say hi to Tom and the kids.”

“Okay, honey. Will do. If you need anything, you know we are just down the street!”

“Yes, thank you.” Anne hung up.

Michael wasn’t at his sister’s. Nor was he at his best friend, Jason’s. Anne did not want to worry, but she was beginning to feel unease. It was not like Michael to disappear without giving notice. It had been one of the first things Anne had loved about him when they first started dating. She loved how reliable Michael was; how she could always reach him. Now, however, she wondered if something had happened to him.

Jason hadn’t seen Michael since last weekend when they all went bowling. Just like Beth had earlier, he asked her if everything was fine. Anne didn’t want to alarm anyone by telling them the truth: that Michael had left a day ago, and since seemed to be missing. She hoped that he would turn up as soon as he realized he didn’t have his phone. Perhaps he had gone back to their place while she was out to retrieve it? Anne didn’t want to create chaos and have everyone worry over something that might actually be nothing. With this resolve, she drove back home.

+

The hands of the grandfather clock finally aligned. It had now been thirty-six hours since Michael had left the house. Anne had tried to sleep but kept tossing and turning in bed, wondering where he could be. She finally got up, as the clock rung past two in the morning. She looked at her phone for a missed call, but nothing showed. She poured herself a glass of water and slowly moved into the living room, which seemed to be the gravitating point of their existence. Anne wondered if she should call the police. After all, it was not like Michael to disappear. Outside, the rain had subsided. There was no soul to be seen; no noise to be heard. The storm had come and gone, leaving behind darkness and an unusual silence. Perhaps now, he would come? What if he didn’t? What if something had happened to him, while she had been downplaying all the scenarios? Anne began to shiver at the thought of a worst possible scenario. Anne headed for the front door, snatching her parka off the hook, and nervously putting it on. She didn’t care that she was still in her pajamas. She was more preoccupied by the urgency of the situation.

Stepping into the darkness, she walked briskly down the street, hands in her pockets, breathing the cool autumn air. The streets were illuminated by lanterns, shaping a way for her. It was cold, and very quiet. Anne moved as fast as she could. Three blocks down, she turned right and crossed the lawn of a white colonial style house. Without thinking twice she began to knock intensely at the front door. Soon, her knock morphed into pounding. Somewhere dogs began to bark. Finally lights turned on inside, and soon, the door flung open.

“What on earth…Anne!” Beth stood at the door, securing her bathrobe around her waist.

Anne broke into a loud sob as her sister-in-law drew her inside the house. Tom was standing by the staircase. Beth waved him away as both women made their way into the kitchen. Beth pulled a chair, and eased Anne into it.

“What happened, Anne?” Beth asked, as she was trying to calm Anne down.

“He- he hasn’t come home, Beth” Anne blurted in between sobs.

“Who? Michael?”

“Y-yes.”

“Maybe he stayed out late with the boys, you know how men get.”

“N-no. It’s been close to two days now. And…they found his phone.”

“Who?” Beth frowned.

“P-paul…with…the…park services” Anne responded.

She told Beth and Tom, who had finally joined them around the table, the events of the past forty hours. With a heavy heart, Anne finally called the police, reporting Michael as missing. An officer took her statement over the phone and read back to her a case number which she could use to inquire about the status of the report, if needed.

2

The rain had stopped only to pick up again a few hours later. Michael reached for his phone, only to remember that he had lost it the night before. He relied on it for everything, and now, he felt a bit lost. Had Anne called him? Despite the years of being married, Michael still had trouble guessing his wife’s next moves. They had a pretty good fight this time, the kind that leaves you wondering who is the craziest in this fight. Anne had accused him of cheating, and as any man would, he had played the offended. He didn’t want to be the sore loser in this fight, even if she was once again right. Michael thought that if he’d push back hard enough, she would eventually break and feel guilty for having ever doubted his intentions. She had picked up the bait of course, and they fought for a long time, before he took off. It had all been an act of course; he was not at all offended by her accusations, but was once again impressed by how clever his wife was. She never ceased to amaze him. Michael wondered again if Anne was eaten up by guilt, or if she was still mulling over in anger. He should have gone home the next day, but the rain had interfered. Well… the rain, and Veronica.

Michael felt warm hands wrap around his naked torso. He turned in bed to face the half awake, half asleep Veronica. He found his way to her apartment after the rain came down on him and had been here since. Veronica was nice to him. She was young, as they always were, and never asked much. She just wanted them to spend time together, like this, without a care of what tomorrow could bring. Michael liked that insouciance about her, and about their relationship. He knew this was only going to last as long as it could. Perhaps a few months, at best a year, max two. Eventually he was going to leave her, return to his wife and their picture perfect life. He always wondered why other men, who kept a side chick, ever pretended that they would leave their spouses for someone else. Why pretend to want to get back to square one? Who, so late in the game, really wanted to start everything over? Not him. He liked the little system he had created. He had an amazing wife and a wonderful home to come to, and when he got bored by its perfection, because he was human after all, he strayed away. Some might call him an asshole, say he was going to go to hell. Perhaps, but at least he was living. No one could really guarantee what afterlife – if that was really a thing – would bring. Plus, it’s not like Anne was always a gift either, Michael thought.

“What should we do today?” Veronica asked, as she was lazily stretching in bed. The cotton sheet slid down her torso, revealing her small breasts. Michael wandered his eyes over the new vision, before sighing. He didn’t have his phone, and he had been gone for too long. If Anne wasn’t worried by now, she would have at least called Beth or Jason, asking about his whereabouts. He didn’t want to raise more suspicion than was necessary — not after the tantrum he threw trying to defend himself in front of his wife.

“I’m sorry, babe, but I need to head home soon.”

Veronica didn’t argue. She rolled over to the other side of the bed, and without a care got out of the bed. “Suit yourself” was all she said as she vanished into the bathroom.

Michael left the bed and without ceremony, got dressed. He left before Veronica could reappear. The rain was still pouring outside, and somewhat, he was thankful for it. He walked for a few blocks, entered Joe’s Shack, grabbed a few beers, and when he could barely get up, finally left the place, heading home.

3

Anne was sitting in her bed, eyes dried. She stared at the door, which Beth had left open after she dropped her off earlier in the day. She was told by the police that because her husband was not suspected to have been kidnapped and had not been convicted of crimes, the case would be considered as not of greatest importance. The officer on the line wanted to be reassuring, telling her that perhaps her husband had lost track of time and would be back soon enough. They would still run a search on the license plate of his car, in case he was in some trouble. They would be in touch, the officer finally said. Beth had been there while Anne was on the phone talking to the police. She had offered to stay, also worried about her brother’s whereabouts. However, she did not think Michael was in any substantial danger, as did the police.

Now that she was alone in her home, Anne wondered if they were right. Maybe she was overreacting because of how bad her and Michael’s fight had gone. Was it guilt eating her up? Exhausted by all her thoughts and worries, Anne laid back down and tried to sleep. Downstairs, she heard a door opening. Flying out of the bed, Anne hurried to the bottom of the stairs. Lights were on in the kitchen. She proceeded cautiously into the room, anxious to know who had come in. Tom and Beth had a set of keys to their home, just as they did of theirs. Beth had told her she would be coming back later, but Anne didn’t think it would be this late. Could it be Michael after all? As she entered the room, her husband stood in the middle of it, casually spreading butter on his toast. He lifted his head, and their eyes met.

“You’re home.” Anne mumbled.

“I am” Michael agreed.

They stood there, in silence, assessing one other. Anne was slightly relieved to see Michael. He seemed drunk, but otherwise fine. She wondered where he’d been all this time, but also, she didn’t want to know. Perhaps because she knew already; perhaps because there was no point in starting fighting again. A weight that had been there for the past two days slightly lifted off her chest. She slowly made her way to the refrigerator and pulled out eggs and bacon. Without a word she busied herself at the stove. She placed the eggs on a plate and topped them with bacon. She sliced the bread, which she always kept on the counter, and made her way to the table. She freed her hands of the plates and turned to Michael.

“Let’s eat” was all she said.

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07. Ghost of Girlfriend’s Past.

There she was, sitting on the other side of the vitrine, carelessly leaning into her companion, touching his hand with one of hers, while teasing her long dark locks with the other. She seemed engrossed into the conversation, blushing at times, her lips slowly stretching into a smile, while her mouth opened and closed to words that would remain a secret to the onlookers, and more importantly to Jane.

As Jane stood outside of the small coffee shop, looking in, she couldn’t believe what she was seeing. It had been a long time since they last spoke, but at this moment, everything seemed just like before. Sarah didn’t look much different from six years ago. Her hair was still long, stubbornly curling around her always glowing complexion. Her green eyes were focused, like two moons ready to engulf the darkness. How many times had Jane wiped away their rivers? How many times had she trusted their innocent reflections? As she stood there, slowly letting past memories flood over her, Jane suddenly found herself gasping for more air. Was it just her, or was the air stuffier? Forcing herself to step back from the glass surface, she strode away, putting some distance between her past and what seemed to be her imminent present.

Three blocks later, Jane finally slowed down her pace, matching the ongoing traffic on the sidewalk. She had ran away as if she had seen the devil in person. How was it possible that one person – who had meant so much to her at one point in her life, how could she stir up so many contradicting feelings within her? Jane was puzzled, and even more so, frustrated. Her day had started so well! Now, the sight of an old friend rained on her parade. But why? she asked herself,reaching a familiar place – the local grocery store. As she perused down the produce isle, Jane thought about relationships, and more specifically about bad breakups. They left you empty handed, exhausted and heart broken. There was no immediate cure to pain, nothing that didn’t require time and many hours of counseling. It wasn’t just about past boyfriends, even female friendships hélas! – were not immune to this condition.

Jane was a big proponent of the “everything happens for a reason” ideology. She used it to justify all of her heartbreaks, be they professional or more personal. She thought the Universe was trying to teach her something, that if only she took her time to listen, then maybe she would be rewarded with better opportunities. After all, didn’t they say “when one door closes, another opens”? When she had closed her door (literally) on Sarah six years ago, she was convinced that it was what needed to happen. In her mind, there was nothing left to put back together. No glue in the whole wide world could fix their broken friendship. Jane had had enough of perpetually being trapped inside Sarah’s never-ending drama. She was mentally exhausted of always picking up the pieces, just as she was tired of always being the one to collect all the blame. As painful as it had been to detach herself from the one person she had thought she’d be linked to indefinitely, it was a decision she had had to make. So why was she doubting herself at this moment, when so much time had passed? Seeing Sarah had sown new seeds of doubts.

Of course, Jane knew deep inside, that she had made the right decision for her at that time. As hard as it had been to separate herself from Sarah, she needed to distance herself from the young woman. Sarah always acted with her own interest in mind, not really worrying whether or not she was walking over people. There was always this sense of entitlement about her. That, and also this impulsiveness about everything. One moment they would be sitting quietly in the library, studying for their upcoming exam, and a moment later, they were driving to the next state to crash a party that a friend of Sarah’s was throwing. Sometimes even, Sarah would drag Jane to her blind dates, before ditching her for her beau-du-jour. She never seemed to worry about Jane, never seemed to care whether or not she was putting her through uncomfortable situations. Did she even care? Jane would often ask herself. Sure, Jane too could have protested, thrown her own fits, refuse to tag along, but she hadn’t reached her threshold. She could cope with an occasional incident, she could be the better friend, the plane Jane, the one who made sure they never left their homes without having fully charged phones, or be the one who would ensure they both had a safe way to get back home. There was never a dull moment, it was always a go-go rhythm, and Jane frankly didn’t know how to press on pause. Of course, it wasn’t all bad. Maybe it was the good times that brought her these moments of doubts? Or was it the way she had put stop to their friendship? Jane knew it was mostly the later.

She did miss Sarah at times, especially when a song they both used to like came on the radio, or when someone passed her by, trailing behind the same smell as did her long lost friend. Hélas, too much blood had spilled between them during the last year of their friendship. Too many ugly words were voiced, fingers were pointed, objects were thrown. They had tried their best to patch things up, pretend they were not diverging from one another, refusing to accept that one bad year could undue many good ones. Yet, eventually, there was no more fighting left in Jane. She had given her all to this friendship, and she had to go. So after one last big fight, where Sarah called her names, Jane had had it. She threw Sarah out of her apartment, and before slamming the door on her friend, told her to go fuck herself.

The end of their friendship ironically coincided with the end of their undergraduate degree. Eventually they both moved away, started new lives somewhere, and Jane never thought she’d see Sarah ever again. The world was really a small place to live in, wasn’t it? As she walked back home from the grocery store, Jane stopped. She turned and retraced her steps back to the coffee shop, wondering if she would still find Sarah there. She believed the Universe was testing her resolve to put the past behind, and maybe even give her another chance to do things the right way; to politely part ways? This idea brought her some comfort. But was that even possible, at this stage? She didn’t want Sarah back into her life, of that she was certain, but she also didn’t want to go through life dragging their painful separation, replaying it over and over as a movie of poor taste.

Back in front of the coffee shop vitrine, Jane took a deep breath in. She peaked through the glass, only to find the seat where Sarah had been sitting moments ago vacated. A wave of relief and sadness washed over her. Relief to not have to confront her past, sadness for not getting a chance to do so. Stepping back from the glass surface for the second time that day, Jane turned away, colliding into a pedestrian. When she looked up, ready to serve her apologies, Sarah stood in her way.

 

Total Word Count: 1,257

06. “I don’t love you anymore.”

I hear you rummaging through the kitchen as you do every morning, always looking for that pot and that cup. Just by the sound of your movements, I know whether or not you are in a good mood. Right now you are absently humming a melody which I am not familiar with. As I lay in our bed, I think of how much I love the sound of your voice, how much I love hearing you laugh. The bedside clock tells me it is eight in the morning. I know that in a few minutes you will come back to our bed, your steaming cup of coffee in one hand and my newspapers in the other. I will pretend to be asleep, and you will slowly lean over me and wake me up with a kiss. You will offer me your coffee, of which I will take a sip and then you will tell me how great today will be. You will take place by my side in our bed, and we will snuggle for another hour. You will tell me that you love me, and I will tell you that I do too. The truth is, I don’t think we ever stop loving the person we once fell in love with. I think we just transform our love into different – other feelings. Right now, at this moment, although I know I will tell you that I love you, I wish I could tell you the truth. This truth: I don’t love you anymore, I want to leave you and move on with my life. Of course, I know I will never tell you this and you will never really know how I feel. It’s not because I am afraid of what might or might not happen, or that I am a coward. It is because I cannot bear in mind to cause you grief. I love the sound of your voice, how happy you look when we are together. I love how everything seems easy and looks beautiful to you. Even I. The man who cannot tell you how much he wants to leave you. The man who lives this life, just so that you can be happy. Because if you are happy, then that makes me less of an asshole, does it?

Sometimes I catch you staring at me, with your cats eyes. They seem to tell me “I know everything”. Do you though, know? Behind all your compliments, your smiles, your projects for us… do you know how I really feel? Who I really am? I don’t know if I want you to. Maybe the real problem isn’t that I don’t want to hurt you. Maybe I am afraid my life will fall apart and lose its meaning the moment I release you from my hold. I know it’s selfish, but I am human. I have to hold on to something, and so I hold on to you, like one holds on to a lifeline. When you take my hand in the middle of a conversation, as to reassure me that everything will be ok, I remind myself of all the reasons that led me to love you that first day of September. We were so young then. You studied creative writing and I was writing my Ph.D. thesis. You couldn’t stop talking about these dreams you had and which had to mean something. Because no one dreams just for the sake of dreaming, do they? You were so convinced that if one only desired happiness, then happy they should be. I think hearing you say that over and over, as if it was some sort of mantra, turned me into a believer. I remember that I couldn’t stop from hearing you talk. And your laugh. It has always been my downfall. Your secret weapon of which you are not even aware of. After all, you are always up there, somewhere, always chasing happiness the way people chase butterflies in the summer. Only now, I tune you out. Most of the time, I have no idea what has been said. Your lips move in front of me, and no sound seems to reach me. I want to shout “I am done! I am leaving you!” but I find myself trapped. When you hold my hand in yours, I try really hard, to get back to you. I try to find all those things that made us “us”. And so I share your laugh, I bring you peonies – because they are your favorites, I pay for those vacations you plan all year round for us. And I keep hoping that one day, I will again feel that spark that turned me into a believer. While I wait for it to happen, I will continue to make you happy, be the man you think I am, the one you vowed to be with until death do us apart.

05. ‘Sister’.

At what point did she change? Truth is, I have no idea. One day, she just seemed different. She looked the same, spoke the same, but something about her had changed. Of course one could easily argue that I had changed, that it was the way I saw her that made me believe that she was not the same person I had encountered and shared most of my life with. And I wouldn’t dispute this belief, because after all, don’t we all change? Maybe, as we interact with others, we slowly change each other, by picking something unconsciously from this one or that one, until one day we are not the person we used to be. Despite the different opinions and theories, the truth was there: we no longer shared the common ideals, the common dreams and view of the world. There was no laughter left, no jokes to be told, no dreams to be exchanged. Only remembrance of the past, of how good things used to be remained behind like ghosts that never wanted to leave.

It is quite tragic, to be honest.

And to think that we once called each other ‘sister’…

I remember when we first met, we didn’t like each other at first. It took our friends to bring us together; before not long, we were always around each other. We were young, we had fun and most of all, we knew we were lucky to have one another. Together with our faithful group of friends we outed, dined, had long conversations, shared our aspirations. I liked her for being stubborn and strong-minded. You couldn’t tell her no, she always has the last word. There was a time when she sat her eyes on the boy I liked, despite being already in a relationship. I knew then that she would have him even though the boy vowed he loved me. Soon enough, they were an item, and I could not get mad at her, after all, she always got whatever her heart desired. To my surprise, their couple lasted for three years. You know at that young age, three years seem an eternity. I imagined them getting married one day, and how I would be the Maid of Honor. She knew how many kids she wanted: three to be exact – two boys and a girl. She was very into american stars at the moment and the names of her future kids had that american connotation. She knew she was going to move to the United States as soon as she would be done with high school. I admired that in her; her certainty about things, about people and even the future, which was still a bit foggy to me. We only had a year left together, a year which I will probably always remember. When I think of our senior year, I slowly realize that things began to change right then. But we were too caught up in our lives to see it coming. We had hopes. We had dreams. We had faith.

Love is blind, I’ve heard people say. I didn’t know love, for me it was a foreign concept. After all, I was young and busy planning my future. There was no room for love. At least not the romantic kind. She did not agree. She wanted it all now or never. And so she made her move, while I busied myself with my future. She gave herself to the boy, and soon everything she knew started to fall apart and the world began to change. For once, I was the one to be certain while she arbored something new within herself. Was it doubt? Regret? Envy? Sadness? I couldn’t tell. All I could see was that something within her was starting to change. The lost love had taken a toll on her, and she had hard time finding her way back to the person she was before. Truth be told, I didn’t want to think of what crossed her mind at that moment. I wanted to preserve her image in my head as the strong girl who was my friend. The one who always dared and laughed when I was uncertain. Although I tried to reassure her that everything would be okay, that she would know a wonderful life just as she had pictured it for herself, somewhere I knew that she did not believe me. She did not believe herself. There is nothing worse than to lose hope at such young age. If I didn’t know it then, I sure do know it now.

At what point did she change? It might have been right then. The moment we parted away. The moment I gave her that last hug before boarding my plane. The moment she saw her life take an unexpected turn and saw all those who were close to her move away, start new lives. Lives that did not take her into account. Feeling left behind, excluded from what used to be her life, might have slowly broke her. It didn’t matter that I tried to call, that I tried to keep up with her as I was trying to go through my life. It didn’t matter that I came back to visit. I had left. And for her, I would never come back and things would certainly never get back to the way they used to be.

You know the sad part? I knew the same truth she did. I knew we would never be the people we were. That we would never laugh at the same jokes, look at life from the same side and dream the same dreams. I knew our roads had taken different turns. I knew that somewhere deep inside she resented me, and that we would never again be the same kind of friends.

And to think that we once called each other ‘sister’…

04. “I took care of it”

“Here, drink this” Robert said, setting on the table a cup with a dark liquid within it.

With trembling hands, Rebecca picked it up, bringing it to her lips. It was warm and she suspected it contained alcohol. A sip confirmed her suspicions: her brother had mixed rum with apple juice, to mask it’s bitterness. Rebecca was not really fond of alcoholic beverages, unless they were mild and made very sweet. Robert knew her better than anyone. Better than her own husband. This realization, made her shiver.

“You’re cold? Want me to fetch you a sweater?” Robert inquired, a worried look on his face.

Rebecca shook her head, holding to the cup as if her life depended on it. The remembrance of her husband brought in a flood of disagreeable memories. A reminder of what had happened; what had lead her to seek refuge at her brother’s place. She took another sip, and another, her hands shaking more and more. Robert extended his forearm and placed a hand on her shoulder, squeezing it slightly. This contact was supposed to be comforting, but it only sent a discharge throughout her arm, making her pull away brusquely, pain crossing her lips.

“Are you hurt?” Robert inquired

“No, it’s nothing. I just hit my shoulder against the bookshelf and bruised myself” she lied.

Robert didn’t seem to buy it. After all, he knew her better than anyone.

“Show me,” he ordered.

Rebecca knew that her brother was not easy to dismiss, and he would see it one way or another. She let out a sight, resigned and set the cup back on the table, pulling carefully her arm out of the sweater she’s been wearing. A quick look at his face, told her that he was horrified by what he was seeing. Her arm was very badly bruised, but not in an accidental way. Robert took off his eyes from her arm, long enough to ask her the question she knew was coming.

“Did he do that to you?”

She nodded, pushing away the tears that were coming to her eyes at the thought of what had happened.

“That bastard!” Robert shouted “I’m gonna kill him!”

“Don’t” she said, trying to regain control of her shivering body.

“Don’t? Jesus, Becca, look at your arm! And from what I can see, it is not the only thing that you have bruised. How long has he been doing this to you? And why didn’t you tell me? I swear, if I get my hands on him… I will make him regret ever setting his eyes on you!” he was fuming.

Rebecca looked around the small kitchen. She came here to escape everything that had happened. She’d hoped, like a fool, that her brother would have never found what was happening to her, or at least had happened. She’d hoped that she could pretend that she had just had a bad dream. But Robert wasn’t going to let it slide, not if she did not tell him the full story. She had to tell him, before he made a stupid move. Inhaling she finally resolved to speak.

“I took care of it” she finally said in answer to her brother’s questions.

“You took care of it? By running away? Jeez, Becca! You can’t run away from your husband. We have to contact the authorities and have him arrested and as soon as he is behind those bars, we can get you out of this marriage,” he was going on and on.

“I took care of it” she repeated, over and over, like a mantra. She was staring beyond Robert. Robert who now looked more mortified than worried, and who kept calling her name. But he seemed so far away now. So out of reach. Rebecca only saw her husband at this moment. They’d fought that morning. He’d hit her repeatedly as he had done before, and she was trying to protect herself from his assaults. She started counting, waiting for him to stop. When he’d finally left, she found herself unable to get up, tears rolling down as she lay helpless. Later that night as she lay down on their marital bed, she’d pretended being asleep, afraid that he’d do something to her in her sleep. She had hidden a knife underneath her pillow. Just in case, she’d thought. She wouldn’t be the victim anymore. She would fight back. Only a fight never occurred. She had taken care of him in his sleep. Before she knew it she’d slit his throat open, watching him bleed out. And now he stood in front of her, while she repeated over and over her mantra.

03. The Void Space

The room was cold. The walls had been stripped off the frames that had been holding the memories of its previous inhabitants. A thick layer of dust covered the surfaces like a warm blanket meant to comfort. But there was no comfort to be sought within the premises. The sun was slowly setting down, casting its last sunlights on the southern wall which faced the fireplace, which had not been cleaned in ages from the look of it. Then again, the place hadn’t been for a while. Hayley brushed her hand over the dusty surface of the work desk in the corner of the room, while trying to figure out what it is that she was doing here. She’d been on the lookout for a place for her photoshoot, and somehow had ended up on this abandoned side of the tracks. Few were those who adventured themselves on this part of town, and the reasons were many. According to her grandmother, this side of town used to be the home of many colored families, back when segregation was a norm. After it had been lifted, many where those who took the opportunity to leave the tracks and seek a new life far from the constant reminder of their misfortune. Those who wouldn’t move away were soon forced to when the local plant shut down, leaving its employees out of jobs. It was a very dark period for the town. It didn’t take long before this side of town was deserted, young people preferring the hype of the big cities, and old ones trying to move closer to the new jobs to save on commute.  Now the “tracks” as they were called were mostly a ghost town. Hayley didn’t know what she hoped to find here. She mostly felt the sadness of this place. To think that once upon a time there used to be a family sitting around this fireplace, telling bedtime stories and sharing a good laugh around a good meal… She could picture it. Before she knew it, Hayley had her camera out and was snapping some shots. Suddenly the place did not feel cold or empty; she could sense the auras of its owners, see the history unveil itself before her eyes. Soon, each abandoned item had its own tale to share. Soon, she was drawn into the midst of this storyline.Once the sun had completely set, Hayley felt a sudden calm come down on her, a comforting hand that sat on her shoulder, telling her that everything was going to be okay. As she was leaving the premises, she stopped one more time, glancing at the emptiness of the now dark home, a smile slowly drawing on her lips. She had come to the void spaces and was leaving with so much more.

02. A Note From The Past.

Elena Kovinski was daydreaming in the winter veranda, enjoying the quiet atmosphere of the cold day. From time to time kids’ giggles would reach hear ears, reassuring her that everyone was fine. Her husband had gone into town with their youngest son Bryan, and she was left at home with her two eldest – Joshua and Eric. She felt very lucky to have boys that could behave. Most of the time she didn’t have to worry about them doing stupid things like breaking an arm or leg. Of course as young boys they were full of energy and sometimes they even fought, but Elena was never too worried about that; after all she herself had been pretty active when she was their age and she could not remember the number of times she had got into trouble with her brothers. It was all part of the life cycle. Luckily for her, her sons did not give her as much trouble as she used to give to her parents, growing up. This realization made her smile. As she reached for the cup of hot tea, a loud noise of crashing and breaking glass reached her ears. Her heart stopped for a second and as she was jumping on her feet, it began pounding faster and faster, matching her quick steps towards the source of the noise.

“Josh? Eric?” she called out, reaching the entrance of their big colonial house.

The boys stood around the grandfather clock, which had been in her family for generations. Shattered glass laid across the wooden floor, and Eric was sobbing aware of the mess and the trouble that awaited him and his brother. Elena’s heart jumped again at the scene before her and she rushed towards her boys, checking them for any potential injuries.

“Are you alright? Did you get hurt?” was all she could ask over and over. Joshua kept reassuring her that they were fine, that they hadn’t been that close to the clock when it fell down, but she could not stop making sure that they were alright. Eric on the other hand could not stop crying. At six years old, he was still a baby – her baby. She grabbed her sons and covered them with kisses and hugs, relieved that nothing bad had happened to them.

“It’s okay, baby, you’re fine” she kept saying to Eric, whose tears were now turning into soft sobs. Joshua looked as miserable as his brother, but being three years older was way over crying for random things. “Mommy… we are really sorry. We didn’t mean to…we just were playing” he was pleading. She looked up to him and opened her free arm, inviting him for a group hug. He hesitated a minute before rushing into her arms.

“It’s okay. I am glad you were not injured. That’s all. Plus, things fall and brake, that’s life. Now, how about you take Eric back to your playroom while I clean up? We can then have some chocolate cake” she offered, knowing how much hey boys loved her homemade chocolate cake. Joshua looked into her eyes to make sure that it was okay to leave and that she wasn’t mad at them before taking his little brother by his hand and guiding him back upstairs.

Once they were gone, Elena took in a deep breath. She had had the scare of her life. Now that everyone was good, she looked at the mess around her. Her great grandfather’s clock was laying flat on the floor, and she would need to wait on her husband to get back to be able to lift it back to its position. The only thing she could do right now was to sweep the broken glass. As she was sweeping off the floor, she noticed that the clock had cracked on a side and she sighed. This clock was their family’s inheritance and she hoped the crack could be fixed before her mother or any other member of her family noticed it. Her cousin had been pretty upset when everyone agreed to give the clock to Elena and she did not want to give any one of them a reason to not trust her with family belongings in the future. As she got closer to the crack, she noticed that it was actually a small trap that had unfastened, revealing a small hidden compartment. Intrigued, Elena reached into the small space with her fingers and retrieved a piece of paper. Excitement grew inside of her as she looked unfolded the paper. To her surprise the letter was addressed to her.

“My dear Elena,

I hope this letter finds you in time. I have been diagnosed with terminal cancer and as painful it is for me to know that I will not watch you grow up and become the wonderful woman that I am sure you will turn up to be some day, I am glad I was able to see you come into this world. I know your great grandmother Theresa would have loved to have this opportunity. We haven’t had a girl in our family for four generations now and you can hardly imagine how much joy you brought into our hearts. I hope that life blesses you, my dear granddaughter and that you grow up to be everything you want. Your mom is a very strong minded person, and I am sure she will raise you right. I hope God will bless you with a loving family and a good life, my dear. Please remember us, because you will always be in our hearts. Your great grandmother left you a necklace to remember us by, and if you look closer into the grandfather clock that should have passed on to you, you will find it stored within its walls.

With love,

Your Great Grandfather, Luke.”

Elena stared at the piece of paper, reading it over and over. She didn’t notice her wet eyes. She never expected to find such a beautiful testimony of love, and it was dedicated to her. She slowly lowered herself to the level of the lying clock and with her right hand brushed the wooden surface of the clock. “I love you too, papi” she murmured. She considered moving the clock on her own, but knew it would be pointless as it would probably result in her pulling a muscle. She held the piece of paper close to her heart, and with a smile went back to the veranda.