Thursday and here’s the fourth flash fiction! Be sure to check out my others — one easy way to do that is to go into the category drop-down on the right and select “Fiction.” Enjoy!
She Was My World
I was late because of the roller-skate. Ridiculous how it all works out that way. So lost in my own thoughts – thinking about her, seeing her, hearing her voice – that I didn’t see the discarded neon orange kid’s skate in the middle of the sidewalk.
I’d landed on my face, crunching my nose on the pavement, and scraping up my chin. It took 20 minutes for my nose to stop bleeding, I was just lucky it hadn’t broken. Another five minutes finding a pharmacy so I could get cleaned up.
She was still waiting for me at the café, but her face was twisted, sour, unhappy.
I saw her before she saw me and, despite her dire expression, I smiled. Smiling stretched my new war wounds, causing pain to sparked across my face, but I couldn’t help myself, she was so perfect, smart, and sweet. I knew, within a few minutes of sitting down, I would be able to get her to smile again. She was always worrying and pessimistic though, it was a good thing she had me to balance her out.
She looked up as I pulled out the chair opposite her. Her face turned from upset to surprise to concern.
“What happened to your face, Molly?” she asked, partially rising, her small caramel-coloured hand flitting up to brush against my crusted chin.
“A roller-skate,” I laughed, sitting across from her and taking her cold hand in mine to warm it up.
She opened her mouth to say something but, instead, settled back against the pristine white wicker chair on which she sat. The server, an overly tall man with soft, flowing curls fit for a shampoo commercial, stepped up to my side. I ordered a salad for myself and, when she didn’t say anything, a salad for her too. I added two glasses of white wine for good measure.
The spring afternoon was warm, but with a chilly breeze that chased goosebumps over my bare shoulders. The air was sweet with the promise of summer – grass, pollen, and the aftertaste of yesterday’s rain.
“My career is over,” she said, small tears trailing down her button nose, down her pointed chin, and pitter-pattering to the glass top of the table. “My life is over. Everything is over.”
The server came back, setting down our salads and then our wine. I waited for him to leave before saying anything. I formulated the rousing speech I would give her. She always got herself riled up this way, expecting the worst, predicting doom-and-gloom at every corner. I knew for a fact that she’d never be fired. She was the head engineer in her company and was heading the most ambitious clean energy project the world had ever seen – hell, she’d been interviewed by Time magazine for her work in the field. The trouble was that she was a perfectionist. Nothing was good enough. She’d set a goal, she’d achieve it and immediately feel that it wasn’t enough, that she needed to do more.
“We – I fucked up, Molly,” she said, looking up at me with bloodshot eyes that glistened with the incoming flood.
“It’s all going to be okay, honey. We’ll get drunk, watch some dumb movie, fall asleep on the couch and wham-bam-thank you ma’am, you’ll feel back to normal in the morning!”
Instead of answering, she pushed a pair of goggles across the table toward me. I hadn’t even noticed them resting on the glass by her elbow. I picked them up with my free hand. They were tinted a deep red, almost black.
“Look up,” she said.
I did and saw the washed-out blue of a clear spring’s day waiting for another heavy rain.
“With the goggles.”
I held the goggles up to my face. The sky turned crimson, the sun black. The breath hitched in my chest. That wasn’t the sun. The sun was over to the west, a small muted ball of pink light. The black hole in the sky was something else, something that was visibly growing larger as I watched.
“We discovered something coming from the stars, something that could only be seen through lenses made of crushed meteorite and glass. It was floating down all over the world, settling on people like dust. We thought we could harness it, maybe it could be used as an energy source.”
There it was. Fine black glitter shooting down from the sky. From the black hole, it was pouring out the thickest, crashing down onto the trees and the ground, coating everyone around us.
“We didn’t know. The barrier, it was so fragile, and we tore it. No one knows. We can’t tell anyone, what would we say? We only found out today, a year after the tear, that the black material coming from the sky was causing cancer in unprecedented rates. Everyone on the team, including me, who came into contact with the material is affected. I’m stage 3 now. But it wasn’t just us. It’s affecting the whole world.”
I put the googles back on the table, picked up my wine and chugged it down. It was cloyingly sweet. I thought of the news, the panic in the newscaster’s eyes as she reported that doctors were now seeing quadruple the amount of cancer cases compared to last year.
“How much time?”
“What?” she asked, the tears pouring as freely down her face as the black dust was from the great hole in the sky.
“How much time do you have left?” I asked, my heart pounding.
She looked down at our intertwined hands.
“Maybe three months. The world? Maybe a couple years at most at the rate the hole is expanding.”
I pulled my hand from hers, ignoring her hurt look. I took out my wallet and threw a fifty on the table. I grabbed her hand again and stood, pulling her to her feet. The world was ending in a few years but mine would be in three months, I intended on spending every last second I could with her.
“Then let’s go. Let’s make those three months that best we’ve ever had!” I pulled her against me, wrapping my arms around her, and kissed her deeply — her lips tasting of her tears and my lips undoubtedly tasting of mine.
x P.L. McMillan