Tuesday, September 1, 2009

You're Gone: A Short Story

Once again it's that time of month...September and a new short story challenege. Have I ever said how much I absolutely love these challeneges? Probly..lol but in case you missed it. I freaking love them. You get the chance to come up with something on the fly, or add to a little something you've already started and because last month's piece was intriguing (at least to me) I made this months submission a continuation of last month's. And have I said how much I love to write? I don't care if I suck at it, it gives me great pleasure..so :P lol.

So without further ado...my piece for The Written Voice's September Short Story Challenge:

Lead Me On:
You're Gone

It brought tears to my eyes when I heard the news.

I never thought, not in a million years that Chase would kill himself. I set the phone down and started at it. I don’t know how long I sat there, but it must have been a while. Robert came home, setting his briefcase down on the roll top desk.

“Faith?” he called.

I sat at the kitchen table staring at the phone. I hadn’t even hung it up. It made that irritating busy signal, but it had stopped hours ago. I was numb inside. I couldn’t, wouldn’t believe it. There was no way that one of my best and oldest friends, the true love of my life, was dead.
Robert came into the kitchen and saw me sitting at the table, eyes red and puffy, expression frozen in shock.

“Faith what happened? Are you okay?” he grabbed the phone and hung it up. “Hey,” he said softly sliding his index finger under my chin and raising my face to look at him. “Faith, honey, what happened?”

“Chase,” I whimpered.

“What happened to Chase?” Robert prodded.

“Chase, he, oh god, Robert,” I threw my arms around him and sobbed into his shoulder. The front door opened again and Dylan, Robert's partner, came in.

“Rob? Faith? You guys here?”

“We’re in here Dylan,” Robert called softly over my shoulder. Dylan came to the doorway and stared at the two of us.

“What happened?” he asked, his voice panicked.

“It’s Chase,” Robert said.

I sobbed, feeling as if a knife had been plunged straight into my heart. That was all Dylan needed to hear. He knelt down and wrapped his arms around me.

“Oh sweetheart,” he cooed in my ear. “It’ll be okay.”

“No Dill, it won’t. I won’t ever be okay again.”

With that I broke down. Dylan stood and scooped me up. Robert led the way up the stairs to my room, turning on lights as he went. Dylan followed him into my room and laid me down on the bed.

“Faith, what happened?” he asked softly. “What happened to Chase?”

Robert stood in the doorway, quietly detached from the situation. He didn’t know Chase like Dylan and I did. I clutched a pillow to my chest and sobbed loudly into it.

He sat there quietly rubbing my back for a few minutes, then pulled the blankets over me and went down stairs. I could hear him and Robert quietly conversing in the kitchen, then the beeping of the phone as numbers were pressed.

I lay there listening to Dylan talk to whoever he called. I quickly figured out it was Janelle. I didn’t know why he would call her. We hadn’t talked to her in over three years; ever since her very public, “Faith has never been there for me” speech.

I was surprised when the phone rang this afternoon and her name and out of state phone number popped up on my caller ID. I hadn’t been pleasant when I answered.

“Hello?” I snapped.

“Hi Faith, it’s me; it’s Janelle.” I should have known something was wrong that very second. Her
voice sounded wounded and in pain, but I was too blinded by hatred to see past the past.

“What do you want?” I snarled.

“I have some bad news Faith,” she replied softly.

“Oh let me guess, you’ve managed to find another oh so important date that I wasn’t there for? Are you calling to schedule another public humiliation?”

“Shut up Faith. Sit your uppity ass down and shut the hell up,” Janelle snapped.
I fought to find a vicious enough retort, but she kept on before I had the chance to fire back. “It’s about Chase,” she said.

“What about Chase?” I demanded.

“He’s gone Faith. He, oh good Lord in heaven help me be strong right now,” she begged, “Chase took his own life last night. He passed away.”

“No,” I said, stunned. “No, you’re lying. I just talked to Chase. I just talked to him the other day. You’re lying Janelle. I don’t believe you. Oh my god why are you calling me and telling me these lies. Are you that spiteful, that evil? Oh my- don’t ever, do you hear me, don’t ever call me again.”

I hung up the phone and flung it onto the table, staring at it. I jumped as the shrill ring echoed off the kitchen walls. I’m not answering it, I told myself. I’m not. It’s probably Janelle again, trying to think of a new way to deliver her old hate.

The phone stopped ringing for a few seconds, then started ringing again.

Oh just see who it is, my mind urged.

I reached across the table and grabbed the phone, dragging it towards me. Once it was close enough I flipped it and glanced at the illuminated caller ID. It was Chase’s sister.

“Hello?” I said timidly.

“Hi Faith, its Barb. Did Janelle get a hold of you?” Barb asked.

I whimpered. “Oh no. No, no, no. No Barb, no. Don’t say it. Tell me it’s not true.”

“Faithy, shh, sweetheart. Calm down.” I could hear Barb crying in the background.

“No Barb. Not until you tell me that it’s a lie; that its one of Chase’s asinine practical jokes. Oh God, tell me this isn’t happening.”

“It is Faith. It happened. Chase is gone, sweetheart. I’m so sorry.”

* * *

Dylan came back upstairs and lay down beside me. “I can’t believe he’s gone,” he murmured.

“Dill pickle, what – how? What do I do know?”

Dylan ran his hand over my back. “Oh sweetheart, I don’t know. I don’t know where to go from here.”

* * *

Three days passed then on the fourth day Dylan and Robert drug me out of bed and made me dress for Chase’s funeral. I was sitting at my vanity table staring at my ashen reflection, a tube of lipstick in my hand.

I sat there numbly wondering what I was doing with the tube of lipstick. It didn’t matter. No amount of makeup was going to make me look better. I tried to shake myself out of the stupor and focus on my blotchy reflection in the mirror. No matter how much concealer I packed under my eyes, they were still red and puffy.

Thank God for water-proof mascara, I thought cynically. That’s how it was lately; cynicism and tears. And I didn’t care who was sick of it, though I was pretty sure Jesse had about had enough.

Speak of the devil, Jesse appeared in the doorway. I glanced at his reflection in the mirror then turned back to the tube of lipstick I’d been about to apply.

“Faith,” he said softly. I focused on my appearance, choosing to ignore him in the vain hope that if I did, he, this day, would magically go away. I’d have no such luck.

“Faith it’s time to go.”

I blotted my lips and turned my eyes to glance at him, but Jesse had already left the room.

“Okay,” I whispered to my reflection and twisted the blood red lipstick back into its tube.

The beige carpet muffled the click of my heels and the muted blue walls strangled the sound of my tears that lurked just below the surface always threatening to spill.

In the living room Jesse was waiting. I snatched my jacket out his offering hands and stalked out the front door, into the snow and shivered.

Why was he even here? I wondered. I didn’t ask him to come; I didn’t even want him with me today. Since the day Robert called him to tell him what happened he’d been smothering me. I could hardly breathe with all the words I wanted to, yet never did, say to him.

Instead, I climbed into the passenger seat and stared out the window. Jesse got in and started the car. The Jaguars engine purred to life and the car reversed down the driveway.

I closed my eyes, willing this all away; desperately wishing that when I opened my eyes again it would all turn out to be a cruel joke, or a nightmare of the harshest variety.

I couldn’t do this, could I? Could I really stand up in front of Chase’s closest friends and family and say nice things about him?

Of course you can, I told myself. You were his best friend, the one who knew him best. If you don’t do it who will? One of his brothers, cause, yeah that would work so well. Pothead Craig or stick up his ass Brian.

I sighed. I guess it was up to me. Fresh tears welled up in my eyes. In the driver’s seat Jesse sighed. I sniffed and dabbed my eyes with the wad of tissue I dug out of my coat pocket.

Jesse passed the high school where Chase and I graduated so many years ago. And this, of course, brought more tears to my eyes. I closed them and let the hot tears stream down my face.

Fifteen minutes later, Jesse pulled the car into the parking lot of the funeral home. My heart leapt into my throat and I gasped for air.

Who was I kidding? I couldn’t do this. I couldn’t walk in there and stare at my friend lying cold and motionless in some glossy, plush casket. Chase never sat still. It just wasn’t something that he did, not because he couldn’t; but because he hated sitting still.

Chase was the kind of person who wasn’t happy unless he was doing something. Even if it was something trivial; twitching a finger or picking his nails; something on him was always in motion.
Jesse came around the front of the Jaguar and opened the passenger door. I froze, unable to get out of the car.

“Faith, please; I know this is hard and that you’d rather be anywhere but here, but you promised you would deliver the eulogy. Now, come on baby, give me your hand and let me help you through this.”

Jesse stuck his hand into the car and held it there. I glanced at it for a second then took a hold of it and allowed myself to be helped out of the car.

A group of solemn men in dark suits passed up. The shortest one nodded at me, Brian. He was part of our “group” back in high school and as far as I knew, he hadn’t talked to Chase since the second time Chase went back to jail; when he crashed my brand new BMW into a tree after he decided to get high and fly around a curve doing twenty miles over the posted speed limit.

The thought of my totaled BMW still made me bitter, but he was dead now; not much left I could do about it.

Gripping Jesse’s arm, I trailed slightly behind him and we entered the funeral home. Hushed music flowed out of discreetly placed speakers in the foyer and the lambent light glowed, giving a soft hue to the cream walls.

I signed the guest book and shuffled further into the grief. All these faces from the past floated by me; faces that I hadn’t seen since the summer after high school. People who didn’t want anything to do with Chase when he was at his worst and yet here they all were. It made me want to shake them and scream in their faces and demand answers to questions I knew I’d never utter.

It pissed me off, and then I got pissed off at myself for being pissed off. I was stuck on some sick cycle carousel.

Janelle came toward me; her arms open like she was going to hug me. I took a step to the left and her arms closed around empty air.

“Faith,” she sobbed turning toward me.

“Janelle,” I replied frostily.

Of all the people on the list of ‘those who should not attend Chase’s funeral,’ Janelle was at the top of the list. But I won’t go into that now, because right now all I can see, all I can hear, are people crying. Everywhere I look I see women crying into delicate hankies and men standing with their hands shoved in their pockets, unsure if it’s okay to cry or if they need to be strong for their wives, mothers, sisters and friends.

It’s all too much and I can’t take it so I run. I run away from Jesse and my mom, away from Dylan and Robert, from Janelle the evil bitch. Away from Chase and the past; away from my own regrets.

I run, and I do not look back.

Copyright 2009 by Elizabeth James as Common Law Literary Property.

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