Friday, September 9, 2016

No Second Chances by Marie McCloskey

Marie McCloskey's character wakes up in the bed of his ex-girlfriend without knowing how he got there, and something is terribly wrong...

I don't understand why I'm here, with her. She's ignoring me and nothing I say seems to get through. It's been over two years since we've seen each other. Things didn't end well. They were never that good to begin with, but I did care about her.

My patience wears through, and I reach forward to touch her. It's been so long, I'm eager to press my fingertips against her bare arms, but there's nothing there.

I can see her clear as ever. She still has those hips I loved to hold onto. Her chestnut hair's shorter now but it wraps around her heart shaped face with a few sexy waves. It doesn't matter; my hand doesn't respond and panic begins to shake me.

I glance down at the hard wood floors. Turning my gaze, I notice the typical living room furniture. A sofa sits against the wall facing a nice flat screen. It would give the place a comfortable atmosphere if I knew what the hell was going on.

How often does a man wake up in his ex-girlfriend's apartment without a clue as to how he got there? It sounds like something from a movie, or an episode of Dateline.

I try to think back, but a shooting pain emanates from behind my eyes. My vision's clouded. Why won't my body respond?

I can't rub my temples, can't reach my hands to my face. Maybe she's gone crazy and kidnapped me. I wonder if I've been drugged or something.

There doesn't seem to be anything masking my mouth, so I try to reason with her. "What the hell, Shawna!"

She doesn't respond. If I wasn't so annoyed by whatever she's trying to pull, I might be up for something kinky.

"What the fuck am I doing here?" I move forward. A churning sense of unease grips me. Somehow I can move, but it's terrifying, like heavy turbulence on an airplane. My body is like pins and needles shaking all over.

Despite an overwhelming bout of dizziness, I head over to her. I get close enough to find myself surrounded by the intoxication of her sweet vanilla scent. It's amazing to know she still wears the same lotion. One whiff and I'm almost ready to forgive her.

Tears dance on the edge of her cloudy grey eyes. It's as if she wants to talk to me, but can't. A rush of guilt hits me. It didn't strike me until now but I realize I really did love her; funny that I think of it here at this moment.

A muffled brushing of steps outside breaks the stillness. The front door jiggles, and pulls my attention away from Shawna as a gangly man in a business suit enters. I hate the scuff of his shiny black shoes, despise his perfectly trimmed beard.

He stops and stares our way. I'm not ready to fight a jealous boyfriend over something I didn't do so I back away. "I don't even know how I got here man." It's a lame excuse, but it's all I can think of.

He doesn't have time to respond as she rushes into his arms. She clings to him and lets the tears flow.

I curl my lip and scowl. None of this makes sense anymore.

"Hey... Shawna... what's wrong?" He rubs her back and kisses her brow. I hate him. He's ignoring me on purpose. This is bullshit!

She shakes her head sobbing.

He leads her over to the couch and pulls her onto his lap. "You can always tell me anything."

I resent him for saying the right words. I never could do that with her.

She chokes back tears and takes a deep breath. "You know I love you. Right, Ben?"

"Seriously? Do you have to do this now?" I ask growing more uncomfortable.

This Ben guy nods with a patience I never had. I can't keep from getting a little jealous. She automatically calms in his arms. "Remember the guy I told you about? The one I dated before you?"

"Greg?" He wrinkles his nose like my name smells bad.

"I'm right here." I wave with sarcasm as I grow unsure of myself. I wonder if I'm dreaming.

Tears erupt from her eyes again, and I hate everything. I hate myself for sleeping around, for lying to her, for showing up drunk in front of her parents. I hate that I ever put my hands on her. All this time I blamed her for making me crazy, but she had nothing to do with it. It was me and I know it.

Ben tilts her chin upward and lets his words come out soft, "Did you see him again? It's okay, I..."

"No," she cuts in with a sniff. "He's... dead."

"What?" I shout. I don't believe it. I'm right here. "This doesn't make any sense! I'm over here Shawna, look at me!"

Nothing.

I attempt to grip the vase on her end table to throw it, or smash it, anything, but I can't. It's exhausting. I doubt I can even piss myself if I want to. The shock of losing control of my physical functions kicks in and all I can do is absorb the scene before me.

"Dead?" Ben's voice distracts me from my outburst. His sympathetic tones grate on my nerves. I'm sure there are at least a thousand things he can say to put me down. Hell, I would, but he doesn't.

"I'm sorry Shawna. I know how hard it was for you to get over him."

These words stick with me. They run circles in my head until I feel like I could explode. The enormity of my regret becomes so great that it clings to me like a blanket of shame.

I left things unfinished. I didn't give her the opportunity to make amends.

I never wanted to hurt her.

I've been telling myself she screwed up, but if I'm dead now, there's no reason left to lie. I can't change any of it. I guess that's why I'm here. I won't get a second chance with her even if I want to.

Dropping back, I scrutinize this Ben guy. He seems to have his shit together. He's giving Shawna everything I never could. As much as I want to hate him, I don't.

She still loves me. I can see it all over her face. She's grieving over my sorry ass, but we'll never be together and Ben gets to play the hero. I can't bring myself to look away as she leans against his chest and wets his shirt with her tears.

Maybe this is hell. Maybe I deserve to watch and know what I threw away. I wonder if I'll live in this moment forever.

I glance at her strained features as she pours her heart out to him, eyes puffy. It's the worst thing I've ever seen. Her cheeks are swollen, lips quivering.

But she brightens up the more his gaze stays locked on hers. There's love there. It's so powerful that I long for things lost, things broken.

"I'm sorry," I whisper knowing my words won't be heard.

Her head jerks up and snaps around. I stare at the light in her eyes, but she doesn't seem to see me. "Did you hear that?"

"No." Ben looks around.

As she nuzzles against him, I find a strange awe at my situation. I'm here for whatever reason. Maybe I can watch over her. I'm glad for it.

She heard me once, it could happen again. If there's a chance that I can help guide her, make her happy in any way possible, I'm ready to try. She tried to do the same for me back when I didn't deserve it.

Now it's my turn.

6 comments:

  1. An effective leap of the imagination that explores one of the most pervasive of human emotions: regret. The fact that it comes too late amplifies its impact. Many thanks, Ceinwen

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  2. Great story, Marie! I love how regret turns into a mission to help her from the afterlife. Thought provoking and positive. So well done!

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  3. First class story. I also thought the idea of helping his former partner from the other side was superbly and credibly realised.
    Mike Mc

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  4. I felt the 'sub' emotion of 'regret', and I liked the way that the reader is informed quite early on in the narrative of 'I's paranormal status - rather than giving a twist to the piece at the finish this astutely offers the s/he opportunities to speculate. The 'rescue plan' is an endearing touch and gives further chance for the reader to go on thinking after they've finished reading.
    B r o o k e

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  5. This was a unique perspective on regret, a look at the finality - or maybe not - of what's left undone from the other side. I thought the story unfolded very well...some suspense at first and then allowing the reader to have time to process the protagonist's feelings.

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