One Last Day
Marie and I have been best friends for many years. Many movie nights with popcorn scattered all over the floor and both of us hysterically laughing. That was is high school. We are now both twenty-one years old and we still have nights like that, but we just watch Netflix and eat our dinner. Today she was different.
I invited her over for breakfast that morning. We both made it together. Scrambled eggs, french toast, pancakes, bacon, and orange juice. A really big breakfast usually comes when we are together. After breakfast, we went out to go shopping. We arrived at a little cafe to get coffee. I of course do not like coffee, so I got a tea. As we were leaving the cafe, she got a phone call. I have no idea who it was from, but she seemed to be really upset. I tried to ask her about it, but she would get all shy and move onto another topic before I could question her. I just moved on and did not bother her any more. We went clothes shopping in a few stores. By then, it was noon and we decided to get lunch. We went to a cute place to get chicken sandwiches and lemonade. The food tasted amazing. After lunch, we moved onto home shopping. We got cute plates, house plants, and other various items to put around our homes. That took us and hour or two and then we got back in my car and drove back to my house. We watched some of the latest movies, chatted about them, and ate some food. All normal. She seemed normal and happy. After our fourth movie, it was going on midnight and she had to go home to her husky, Winter. He was probably worried because she was gone since nine in the morning. We said our good byes and she rushed to her car and drove off. About an hour later, I got a strange call from her saying to come over to her house, it will be unlocked. Once there, I found a note on Winter's cage.
You may not see me for a while. Things have been too hard on me. I know you have been such a good friend. You were my family and I enjoyed those nights on the couch, the mess in your kitchen after breakfast, and the joy we had while shopping. I just need a break. I need everything to stop. I booked a flight and will be back in a few weeks. Please take care of Winter for me. All of his things are in that cabinet in the corner. Thank you, again. I'll be going, take care of yourself.
Your Good Friend, Marie.
That's the last words she will ever say to me or to anyone else, because after that night, the police found her on top of a wrecked car. Someone had hit her on the way to the airport. All her pain was gone. All her worry was gone.
“I love you.”
That’s what I would have liked to hear.
Those three words.
I had uttered the words to her so many times. So many times.
I meant them every time I said them.
And God, for so long, I just wanted to hear her say them to me.
She loved me, she made a point of showing that to me. She would shower me in acts of love, in long kisses after work and soft singing hums late at night when I couldn’t sleep. She didn’t need to say the words aloud for me to know them. Still, I would have liked to have heard them in some way, in her voice like birdsong.
But she was scared. Scared of what people would think. I’ve always thought that she believed that if she said the words aloud, it would all be released and the entire world would know. It sounds paranoid, but she had reasons. Her family had been staunch Catholics for generations, and to be honest, I didn’t blame them for their disdain. They had been brought up in those beliefs for centuries. Centuries of learning takes a long time to go away. So I understood why she was nervous. And so, I waited. I waited for her to say the words to me as time passed, as we spent late nights together, kissing, happy, free.
We could be free together in the safety of the night. When the shadows of the world mask faces, when all shapes morph together into collective groups, neglecting color and backgrounds.
I can’t lie, I had noticed she was becoming shyer around me. How she would nervously hold my hand, even at night. How she sometimes wouldn’t look at me when I held her in my arms as we watched the evening news. Some optimistic part of me hoped that this change was somehow good, that it meant that what we were doing was becoming more normal. I then remembered: Christmas.
The holiday was approaching rapidly. On Christmas, she would always go to visit her family. I hoped that she was planning to tell her family about us, and I told myself that was the reason she was nervous. I knew it would hurt her. But I had constantly told her that when it hurt, I would be there for her, always. I would hold her as long as she needed.
We wanted to get married someday. Hopefully, someday soon.
While she was packing for go home for Christmas, I came home from work to see a handful of lilacs on the kitchen table. They were a deep shade of purple and smelt of beauty and love. That was all the confirmation I needed. I went to the bedroom, where she was folding a blouse, and I hugged her from behind before pressing a soft kiss to the back of her neck, silently telling her that I understood what she was going to do. When we walked together to the door, she gripped my hand in hers. And then, when she walked out the door, she kissed me deeply.
“I love you,” I told her.
She smiled back at me, and in my head I could actually hear her voice saying the three words to me.
She stayed with her family for a week. I didn’t mind spending the holiday by myself. I had done it before.
She was supposed to come back home during the day on Monday, when I would be at work. I had missed her in the few days that she had been gone. I missed her presence next to me. I missed her light breathing while she was sleeping. I missed waking up to the sounds of her wandering around the kitchen, preparing tea. I liked my tea warm, she preferred hers cold. Because of this disparity, she would get up much earlier than I to brew some English Breakfast and put her half in the fridge while keeping my half on the stove. I missed her, but I kept myself company with the vase full of the lilacs she had put on the table, the crystal glass scintillating in the filtered sunlight as it sat on a windowsill in the kitchen.
She hadn't called me while she had been gone, but that didn’t surprise me, her family had surely kept her busy. I was looking forward to getting home at the end of the day so I could finally see her, hear her.
Imagine my surprise when my phone began buzzing on my office desk, the screen lighting up with the familiar “<3” of her contact. I answered quickly and held the phone up to my ear.
“Hey, baby,” I said.
God, if I had known what I was going to hear on the other end of that line.
If I had known, I wouldn’t have gone to work that day. I would have stayed at home, waiting for her.
I should have known.
“Esme,” she whispered my name, and I could hear her heavy breathing. My blood ran cold immediately. “Esme, please.” She sounded like she was crying. And judging by the surrounding noises, she was somewhere loud. Windy.
At this point, I had already grabbed my jacket from my chair and was running to the exit, my heeled shoes echoing off the walls. “Baby, what’s wrong?” I asked frantically. My heart was pounding in my chest. She wasn’t one to get upset easily. I might be one who would burst into tears at a simple broken teacup, but not her. She was built to be strong.
“My family…” she said with a gasp. “I told my family, Esme.”
“Where are you?” I asked frantically, now outside the building and running to my car.
“I told my family, and they hate me now,” she continued as if I hadn’t spoken. My heart broke as I listened to her cry. I jumped into my car and turned on the ignition, deciding to go back to our apartment. That’s where she would have gone, right? Home? Her real home? After all, home was were people that loved you were, right?
“Baby, calm down,” I told her, trying to keep my shaking voice steady as I began to drive. “Just take a deep breath and talk to me.”
In that moment, some part of me knew that something bad was going to happen. Buy me some time, I begged the Lord. Just get her to talk to me, until I can be there with her. I wish that I had known that just minutes sooner.
“I… I can’t,” she sobbed out. “Oh God, Esme, the looks on their faces… they were disgusted. Horrified.”
Please, God, I begged.
“Esme,” she cried out my name like it was the last thing in the world keeping her sane. “Esme, I can’t do this anymore.”
Tears blurred my vision as some invisible knife lodged itself in my heart. “No, no,” I chanted in a thick voice. “No, you can’t leave me…” I started crying loudly, which I could tell only increased her own crying. “I love you!” I practically screamed out those three holy words, the words that could change the fate of everyone that heard them.
The cacophony of noises on the other end of the line increased. “I love you, too,” she whispered back. “So much.” She laughed a breathy chuckle. “I would never try to leave you, Esme. I just can’t take this anymore. I need it to end.”
“What are you saying?!” I howled the words as my car swerved in and out of traffic, the speed far above the posted limit in my desperate need to get to her.
“I’ll be going,” she said. “Take good care of yourself.”
The call ended.
What felt like an eternity later, I arrived at the apartment building. I don’t think I really parked, I think I just stopped the car before cutting the engine and jumping out.
I saw a crowd gathered near the main entrance. Uncaring what the commotion was about in my desperate need to get to her, I burst through the crowd, trying to get to the doors.
And then I saw it.
In some vague memory, I remember hearing screaming. Horrific, tear-your-ears out screaming that ripped my heart open. Screaming like the world was collapsing in on itself.
People have told me that it was me who was screaming.
I don’t remember doing it, but the possibility doesn’t surprise me.
Because "I'll be going, take good care of yourself," those were the last words she had said to me or to anyone else, because in that moment, I saw her beautiful body on top of a wrecked car, bleeding after jumping off the apartment building roof. Her eyes were open, and the look in those lifeless eyes was one full of pain and misery.
I have been told I screamed again as I ran to her. I jumped onto the indented car and cradled her still-warm body in my arms. Her blood was covering me, staining my blouse and skirt, and all I could think of was that the love of my life was dead. I kissed her soft lips, smearing the two different shades of our lipsticks together. I sobbed. I screamed. I buried my face in her hair, our shared shampoo scented like lilacs filling my senses. She used that shampoo because she knew I loved the scent, even though it was meant for long hair, like mine, not cropped, like hers.
As memories of her lightly pulling on my hair as we laid in bed together, of the vase of purple lilacs above us, of her smile as she left all flashed before my eyes, I kissed her unresponsive lips again. The kiss became more sloppy each passing second as I lost breath to gasping sobs and screams. I didn’t care what people thought of us. I didn’t care what names they were thinking of. It was, after all, their fault. Their societal judgments had killed her.
Their judgments of people who were in just one small way different than them had killed the true love of my life.
They took her broken body from my arms minutes later, and I had just enough time to gently close her eyes with my hand. She had been blessed with the most beautiful eyes I had ever seen. Those people didn’t deserve to see the beautiful orbs that had so captivated me.
Bearly-eyed, I looked around at the faces of the surrounding crowd and I observed the mixture of expressions on their faces. There were some looks of sympathy, some of disgust, and others of contempt. As I looked at the faces, I understood what she had meant. She wanted it to end, and so she ended it.
As darkness began filling my vision and I began to lose my feeble grip on reality, I realized: she had said “I love you.”
Author’s Note: Lilacs are said to be the flower language for lesbian couples.
I woke up, and there was a rose beside my pillow, with a note attached. Go to where we had our first date. Curiosity getting the best of me, I got up quickly and got dressed before heading out the door and racing to the Olive Garden down the street. I looked around curiously, the Rose still in my hand, before a waiter came over and handed me another rose, smiling. The second Rose also had a note. Go to the place where we had our first kiss. I ran out of Olive Garden, and raced to Wilson High School. I found the spot where we had kissed for the first time, the Garden in the back of the school. I found another Rose and read the note attached. Next stop- our favorite spot. I ran to the park, and found another Rose sitting under a tree we used to sit under. I smiled as I picked up the note. Dancing in the rain. I was confused for a minute, but then I remembered. I arrived at the bus stop on the corner of Calder street, where we had danced in the rain on Valentine's Day as a street musician played his guitar. I found a Rose sitting on the bus bench. Take the bus to our mountain. I smiled as I realized what she meant. Then, the bus arrived. The bus driver noticed the roses and smiled. I payed and took a seat. When I arrived at my stop, I got off and walked into the woods, stopping when I arrived at the cliff. I looked around, smiling. We sat here one night, watching the stars. She said it was so high up, it was like a mountain, and so it became our mountain. Another Rose sat beneath a tree. Where we said "I love you." For the first time. I smiled as I ran out of the forest and took another bus to the coffee shop across town. The cashier smiled when she saw the roses in my hand and handed me another one. Buster and Callie. I remember our two dogs, Buster and Callie. I'd already found a clue at home, so maybe this one meant the shelter we bought them from. I raced to the shelter to find a worker waiting for me with another Rose. You're doing great. Only two more stops. You remember where you proposed? Of course I did. The dock by Turtle Lake on the Fourth of July after watching the fireworks. I reached the dock and found a man and his wife sitting on the shore, holding a Rose. The man smiled as he handed me the flower, and I thanked him and read the note. Last but not least. I do. Where we got married. St. Cecilia's church on Milton Road. I said goodbye to the couple, and raced to the church, where I found another Rose at the alter. You did it. I did this so we could go back and visit the places that meant something to us one last time. But now, it's time to say goodbye. The building across the street. Go outside, then check the back of this note. I was scared, and curious, so I quickly raced outside and read the other side of the paper.
I'll be going. Take good care of yourself. That's she last word she'll ever say to me or to anyone else, because after that I saw her on top of the wrecked car, bleeding to death after jumping off the building. The look in her lifeless eyes, full of pain and misery. She wanted it to stop, and so it did.
I found a journal. Not just any journal but an old diary full of secrets and deep stories. I never meant to find the diary, but I came across it whilst hiding from my mom in the attic. I read some of it, but pages were torn and the attic was dark, so I took it to my room. The first thing I noticed was how old this journal really was. I guess you can't see aging in the dark. As I flipped through the pages, something shiny caught my attention. There was a ring, small but beautiful, taped onto one of the pages. Immediately, I read that page, hoping for some sort of explanation, but all I read was "For the distant future that would never arrive." I became curious, so I decided to read the journal from the very beginning. I gathered just from the first page that this diary was written by a man all about the love of his life. In it were stories about their dates, love notes, and even poems. Towards the middle of the diary something changed about the man's writing. He became worried about his love, Scarlet, but shrugged it off as her having family issues. He began asking more questions and talking to Scarlet's friends about her well-being. Her friends didn't know of any issues going on, but advised that he talk to her directly. After speaking with Scarlet one day, the man knew there was something wrong. "The tone in her voice was off, and I thought she wanted to break up with me." He wrote that the next day they would talk about their relationship, and if she wanted to break up, then it would be so. As the next day came, the man told Scarlet what he thought. Scarlet looked sad at what the man said to her, but told him that she loved him, and wasn't quite sure how to tell him. The man was overjoyed and relieved at this statement, and said it back. The man left Scarlet and went home, happy as could be. He decided to set up a date on a rooftop of the highest building in the town, to watch the sunset and have a picnic. After deep planning and consideration, the man thought about marriage. He came to the conclusion that this love would be eternal, and so he should set it in place with a ring. He went out to the finest jeweler in the town, and asked for a diamond ring as beautiful as Scarlet. Now the man was ready, though nervous, for his date and proposal. He told his soon-to-be fiance to wear something stunning, because it would be an important date for them. When the preparations were finally completed on the rooftop, and the sun was about to set, the man called Scarlet up to begin their date. At first glance, Scarlet was absolutely gorgeous, but as the man looked into her eyes, he saw sadness deep within. The man disregarded it as nervousness and carried on with his plan. After dinner on the roof, the man led Scarlet to the side of the building to watch the sunset and propose. As he left Scarlet there and went to the table to get the ring, he happened to turn, seeing tears in Scarlet's eyes. "What's wrong, darling?" he asked. With brief hesitation she whispered, "I'll be going, take good care of yourself."
I stopped reading for a second.
The next words written were "That's the last thing she ever said to me or to anyone else, because after that, I saw her on top of a wrecked car, bleeding to death after jumping off the building. The look in her lifeless eyes was full of pain and misery. She wanted it to stop, and so she stopped it."
I was enraged with the ending of this pure love story. I was mad at the man for not doing anything about the sadness he saw. I went to attic to look for anything else that might have belonged to the man. Without finding anything, I flipped back to the page with the ring. It was beautiful, and I now understood its being there. Now I wanted to know about the man. Why was his journal here? Did he live here before me? I decided to ask my mom if she knew anything about a woman named Scarlet who committed suicide.
As I crept down the stairs, my mom asked where I was. "Just looking around in the attic," I said. "Oh so you found the diary?" I stood on the stairs in shock that she even knew about its existence. "Umm yeah, I-I read it," I stuttered. "And now you're here to ask me what I know about that couple," she said. "Yeah I was just wondering--." She cut me off. "My sister was Scarlet Filmester." She became teary-eyed. "I didn't know that she was in pain. I would've helped her... That man who wrote the diary, did you ever find out his name?" "No," I answered, "he never said his name." Well, your father, Jeffrey Walton, dated my sister Scarlet. He watched her die, and it left him in utter misery. I felt the same way after my sister's death, so we coped together. Years later he asked me to marry him, and here I am." "So that's dad's journal?" I asked. "Yes, honey, I'm sorry this is a lot to take in, but I think it's time you know the truth... your father had a brother as well."
Felt held his head, leaning with all the weight of his chest, against the showers steam fogged glass door. Strands of dark hair writhed wet where they touched as his shoulders lurched. He couldn’t feel the tears, they were drowned by warm water. He wondered whether or not they were actually there. He couldn’t find a purpose he should have invited such an ineffective practice yet the physical symphony crescendoed. Was his heart really in it or was the sensation hollowing inside just hot air filling his lungs?
The water slid inside the tips of his fingers and stripped off his back congealing around his ankles. Sloshing within his white washed cubicle until it crawled cascading under the glass and onto the concrete floor. The water took the matter of ending itself in its own hands, slowly dragging out until the barrened eye of the shower head finally shut. The door proceeded to make an opposing decision with the breaking of what remained of its false suction closed. Felt sighed remembering to breathe. Perhaps he hadn't been crying, he felt nothing now.
In the mirror, he briefly acknowledged the new lack of grease staining the creases in his skin. There was something about his own naked reflection that was focally uncanny and sharply alluring, if that blade like sharp had been incredulously dulled. There was nothing present to prove to Felt otherwise.
“Aye, Needer,” he heard after he had been put in cloth and made himself present to the hall cradling the showers. “We’ve got a domestic, real sweetheart, names Soma. You know her don’t ya?” The man speaking stood half head shorter than Felt but was much larger in structure. His muscular semi-pudgy frame put a vaguely noticeable strain on the brim of his jeans and edges of the black shirt he wore tucked in. His hair was slicked to the side and bounced rigidly as he approached. Felt shook his head.
“I know Soma.”
“Good, looks like you're the only way she's getting out,” The man spoke thrusting a thumb towards the distant tower of the local housing complex. He pressed forward to hand Felt a slip of clean paper. “The address,” he nodded.
“Hey, what do you mean I'm the only one?”
“Davy was supposed t’ handle it but the little lady made a request. She’ll only step out for you. Ya know how it is, not healthy to avoid light that long.” The man made a move to leave.
“Whats she need from me?”
He answered with a wide grin “Suppose you'll have to figure that one on your own. Better get over there Romeo.”
The walk pulling Felt to the address printed on the now crumpled paper in his pocket was suffocatingly scenic. Flora and fauna peacocked the peripherals and flowing streams bent along either side of the path. This all to funnel him to an open lot where the falling sun could lap colors at the sky as it sulked off behind perfect mountain tops. He removed the contents of his pocket to read the print once more. It was on the seventh floor.
His knock upon her wide door felt hollow as one would expect, save the perceived depth of its ricochet. He felt a shuffle from behind the door and the vibration of a voice he could only assume was asking his name. “Hey... uh… It's me. Er, it's Felt.” The knob clicked unlocking. A button nose poked out the crack created in the doorway making itself visible. The lips below it let out a strained faintly heard voice.
“You… want me to come out?” Felt nodded. The figure disappeared from the light, leaving the door gently to sway. After a long pause, Felt inched his way cautiously through the door.
She was sitting, her knees tucked against her chest, on the floor at the other end of her bed. A television played static a few feet on the floor in front of her illuminating her full profile against the dark. Aside from a few stray socks the room was kept extraordinarily tidy.
Felt gently pressed the door closed behind him and slowly made his way across the soft white carpet to sit beside her. He looked past the hand, maned in the dried residue of bleeding nails, which lay on her cheek at the red puff in her eyes. They stayed fixed on the tv screen.
“Soma I…” She lay her head suddenly in his lap. Felt held his breath thrusting his hands above his head. His eyes hurriedly scanned her face for any hint of intention. Her eyes remained glued to the screen.
“R.. run your hands through my hair,” She gently demanded. Felt moved to speak but his voice had been taken. “What? You haven’t spent too much time jacking on pretty machines you can’t give a girl a kind touch h.. have you?” She let out a small singular laugh deep inside her throat while she shuffled to find warmth against his legs. He gradually let the air from his lips as he lowered a hand to her head. She shivered in his lap as his fingers ran through her hair.
“Soma, whats going on?”
“You’re falling in love with me.” He paused.
“I don’t know you.”
“Do you know anyone?” He didn’t respond. Absently he lifted a lock of her hair twirled around his forefinger. “Why do people I don’t know have to care so much about me? So much, it hurts.” Felt dropped the lock.
“Kindness is a virtue, we all work together to ensure the happiness of…,” he stopped. He looked deep inside the TV static. His hand continued to comb her hair.
“It hurts, Felt, I don’t know why it hurts. There's no reason for it too, not this much. What's the point of leaving this room? To get sunlight? To have all my needs catered to? Have you ever felt hungry? Or… or cold or sad? Have you ever felt pain?”
“Yes.” She readjusted her head closer to his torso.
“Where does it come from? The pain? What's the point of it? Why won’t they let me feel it? What am I to them? Why have they robbed me of my pain? Do they think they can manage it better? How is that moral? How is that just?” Felt remained silent. She climbed to her feet. “Do you even know what we're doing here? What are our options? What are we working towards? I can see an option and, Felt, I think I want to be someone who makes that decision.” She picked up his hand and lead him out the door.
It was raining outside, water showering over the concrete protrusions covering the metal walkway attached to the side of the complex outside the door. She turned and looked him in the eye. “I… I think this will show them they don’t own me, that their kindness can’t buy my soul.” She stepped atop the railing at the edge of the walkway. Felt stumbled madly to pull her down. She quickly shoved a hand out to stop him as she found her balance.
“Soma, this isn’t the way to do that. Nobody owns you, just… step down.” Felt begged glancing up and down the walkway for help. She moved to swing a shaky foot around and kneel down slightly to meet his eyes. She slipped on the rain wetted rail. Felt rushed to grab her. Clinging desperately to her sleeves he allowed her to stabilize.
“Come on,” He gasped trying to pull her off. She pushed dangerously away from his efforts. “Okay… okay. Just relax.” He moved closer, wrapping her in his arms.
“I… I think this is who I want to be,” she leaned into his embrace. Their cold lips touched gently. She whispered softly “I’ll be going now, take good care of yourself.” Those were the last words she ever said to him or anyone else. After that, he saw her jump from the building wrecking a car under the weight of her body. The look in her lifeless eyes full of the pain she had spoken of but also with the subtlety of a smile. She wanted it to stop, so she did. The water stopped falling. She had been a Needer too.