This short story was influenced by Ali Smith’s Artful, a novel which plays with time, form, narrative and imagination. My story has the similar theme of grief as in her novel and plays with time to illustrate the narrator’s mourning process over the loss of her loved one.
A Single Moment
Tears roll down my cheeks and drop on to your hands.
Your nails are chipped.
“You should stop that. It’s gross.” I told you.
You paused and slowly moved your hand away from your mouth, half your nail on your thumb already ruined.
You chuckled – the sound deep and low – and shrugged a shoulder carelessly. “Sorry, bad habit.”
I thread my fingers through your hair; it’s still thick. I don’t know why it wouldn’t be. It’s not like death takes away your hair.
“Hey hun, what would you say if I shaved my hair?”
I glanced up from the tv screen and twisted in my seat to face you. You were leaning against the door frame with a hat on your head.
I narrowed my eyes at you. “What did you do?”
A smile played on your lips and you slowly took the hat off. I slapped a hand over my mouth to stop laughing.
“You look like an alien!”
You pouted at my mocking and grumbled under your breath, “It was a dare.”
Your hair has grown back in these six months you’ve been away. Just the way I like it.
I peer down at your face.
Your eyes are closed and they will stay closed forever. I will never see the flecks of green in your hazel eyes again. I’ll never see you blink twice when you are nervous.
I’ll simply never see you again.
“I promise you won’t even know I’m gone.” You said gently, your voice reassuring but your eyes told me another story.
I scoffed. “You’re going for six months. I think I’ll notice, Hayden.”
Your lips tugged up into a smirk. “Well I didn’t think you cared that much.”
I rolled my eyes and reached forward to fix the badge on your uniform.
“I’m your wife. It’s kind of in my job description.”
I can still feel your hands on my cheeks as you told me like you always did before you left, “I’ll come back to you.”
You didn’t come back to me.
You broke your promise.
I sit down on the chair beside your bed and tighten my grip on your hand. You don’t squeeze mine back like you always do.
My eyes dart to the purple bruises that scatter down your left cheek.
“Why… why did you leave me?” I whisper, my voice hoarse.
Your eyes remain closed, your lips stay unmoving and your body not even flinching.
“I told you … I’d come back.” You whispered, your voice raspy as you tried to breathe.
I shook my head, tears blurring my vision of your bruised face. “This is not how I wanted you to come back.”
You gently squeezed my hand intertwined in yours. Your eyes closed slowly. “I always come back, remember?” You murmured.
I sniffled and pressed a kiss to your palm. “You’re not leaving me again.”
You laughed lightly and groaned at the pain. You nodded. “I won’t … leave you again.”
I nodded firmly. “That’s right and-”
It all happened so fast.
You started shaking, convulsing. The heart monitor was going crazy.
Nurses barged in to the room, ripping me away from you.
My eyes were a never-ending ocean as I screamed at the doctor to save you. He yelled at one of the nurses to take me out of the room.
I suck in a deep breath and hastily wipe my eyes. I stare at your face. You look like you are just sleeping.
I wish you were.
The doctor stared at me with sorrowful eyes. “I’m sorry for your loss.”
He mumbled a few more words. I remember snippets of what he said.
“There was nothing I could do.”
“The bullet punctured his lung.”
I shoved past him and stepped into your room. You lay on the bed, fast asleep. Forever.
“They told me to say goodbye. But I don’t know how to.”
You don’t reply.
I guess a part of me still expects you to.
The sound of your heart beat stopping still rings in my ears. I don’t think it’ll ever go away.
Time of death: 8:56pm.