You know how it goes: 2000 words written in no more than 60 hours. To be frank, I wrote this story in 70 minutes. Hopefully it doesn't read like a story written in just over an hour, but it probably does. Edit: tied for 2nd, again, so maybe it doesn't read like it was written in an hour.
<-- All stories much incorporate this photo
and the words Imagine, Sob, & Initially.
Plus, the story is to have a Valentine's Day theme...not my favorite holiday, but I think I made it festive enough =)
Straight Through The Heart
When Ellie broke up with you three days before Valentine's Day, she'd said that she was worried about you. You were, in her words, unstable, if not worse. She looked sad as she said it, a portrait in angst, but she meant it. You were through. Forever. In a teeth-gritting way, you were glad you hadn't married her, because if she sincerely believed you were ill, she definitely wasn't going to live up to the 'in sickness and health' clause of traditional wedding vows.
Maybe it wouldn't have gone down that way if you hadn't been so honest with her. Your mother drilled honesty in all things into your head, and even as an adult who should know better, you found yourself still desperate to live up to parental expectations. So, when you realized that you and Ellie had a deep connection, you told her. Initially she seemed flattered, but as you elaborated, you began to notice that fear was creeping into her eyes.
The break up hardly came as a surprise a few days later. But that didn't mean it didn't hurt. Having your heart ripped out and stomped on, no one gets past that without a whimper or two. Without waking up with the desire to scream when they realize it's all real, not a nightmare that would soon dissolve away.
So, you learned two lessons. One: honesty is not the best policy. Two: when it comes right down to it, Ellie is a bitch. These two thoughts grappled in your mind like dogs fighting, and eventually you began to wonder if revenge was a better policy than honesty.
Revenge sat across from you as you sipped cold coffee and mechanically chewed toast that had been burned because you hadn't wanted to leave the toaster on the setting Ellie had preferred before she walked out on you. And revenge put its arm around your shoulder when you stood in the bathroom and contemplated suicide. The ring that you slipped out of your pocket then, as you thought about it being smeared red, sparkled in the light from the open window. The stone scored well in all the qualities you were supposed to look for, clarity, cut, color, and caret. Sitting in the palm of your hand, it represented 200 hours of listening to people complain. Jared's wouldn't take it back, you'd asked. Begged. Ranted. Been asked to leave the store. Snapping the ring box shut, you walked away from the straight razor, the clock radio close to the bathtub, the bottles of pills Ellie left behind. They'd wait patiently, if it came to that.
If the ring couldn't go back, and the hours it cost couldn't be unlived, and you couldn't unlive either, maybe you could perform alchemy instead. After you called into work, you hit the streets, looking for someone who could help you transform the ring into something different, something that you had more of a use for, considering you weren't going to be asking Ellie to marry you on Valentine's Day.
All the stores along the strip were dressed up like cheap whores, flashes of red everywhere you looked, and you could almost smell the cheap chocolate crammed into every one of them. It didn't matter. Your head was full of 1929, and cheap paper hearts weren't enough to lift your thoughts to the present. But even more, as you concentrated on the task at hand, you were able to ignore the thread that stretched out before you, leading back to Ellie.
It was the thread that had you thinking of revenge, of Lincoln Park, of Ellie...when she broke up with you, you assumed that the thread would snap, that cold and moiraeic, she'd take shears and cut through the fabric of a shared life. It wasn't a literal lifeline, you knew, you were pretty sure, but you'd still worried that the severing would leave you lifeless. It hadn't, and the thread hadn't broken either.
No, instead the trailing light still spooled out in the distance, leading back to wherever Ellie had gone to be a her again instead of half an us. For a while you tried to convince yourself that Ellie was right, and you were becoming unhinged, but you'd followed it again, the day after the jewelry store incident. And there, at the end of the line, she'd been, morosely sipping coffee in Starbucks. How could you have known she'd be there, if the link between you wasn't real? She wasn't such a creature of habit that finding her was more inevitable than chance.
If she hadn't immediately freaked out when you told her about the connection between you, it would have been nice to talk to her about what it all meant. Calmly, rationally, maybe the two of you could have gotten to the bottom of why you'd noticed, just a few weeks before, that a cord of light bound you both. You had your theories: maybe you were seeing beyond the weave of the world, and were noticing something that others couldn't; maybe it was like those people who promised to read your fortune and tell you the color of your aura...that could be an interesting new line of work, better than hearing customers whine, but so far you only saw it between you and Ellie; maybe it was a brain tumor, and if it was, it was pretty low of her to dump you when you were defenseless.
Another time, the next night? it was getting hard to recall the passage of time, but the Valentine's decorations everywhere still, not yet desperately proclaiming "50% off!" said it hadn't been as long as it felt, you followed the thread again, and found yourself standing outside a motel room, looking in through the windows like a peeping Tom. Ellie had been in there, dressed in a white robe you didn't remember, and she managed not to see you. It shouldn't have surprised you, not considering that she'd packed up all her things and left your apartment looking like the scene of a half completed robbery, but in a way it had. You'd assumed that she'd turn to her sister, but she'd ended up there instead. You walked away, hoping she wouldn't look out the window as you retreated.
She hadn't been sobbing. Instead, she'd been reading, and she looked...content. Maybe if Ellie had looked wounded too, you might have relented, but for her to seem fine...Revenge slipped an arm through the crook of your elbow and walked you home.
In the end it was an idiot you'd found on Craigslist that helped you forward your plans. It was hard to imagine that the police wouldn't have beat you to him after reading his ad, since it was unlikely that trading "anything" (and listing what that meant, which was the part you felt would interest the police) for a "good" ring was even legal, but he'd opened the door and welcomed you in, asking to see the ring before the draft from the winter crouching outside had even dissipated.
He'd jabbered about how much his girl was going to love the ring, but you weren't really listening to that beyond wondering if she would. Instead you interrogated him about the list of "anything" he'd mentioned in the ad. No, you weren't interested in the all-star hockey tickets, not the X-Box 360 setup, none of that. You wanted to know about the gun.
Oh, that, it was a beauty he claimed. Guns didn't strike you as beautiful so much as utilitarian, but you let him talk about it anyway. He'd bought it at a gun show after one/two/many TV shows about FBI agents convinced him that owning a glock would be so cool...but he'd never gotten around to learning how to shoot at a firing range.
A smarter man might have asked why you wanted a gun, perhaps recalling that there were waiting periods to buy them, but he wasn't that sort of guy. Instead he'd wrapped the gun up in a soft cloth bag, and handed it to you the moment the ring box dropped into his out stretched hand.
It was heavier in the pocket of your winter coat that you imagined it would be. LL Bean reinforced the pockets of their outerwear, so the weight wasn't a problem, but it made the gun feel very real as you walked back past the tarted up stores. Eventually you passed a newspaper machine and read the date: those desperate signs would be going up bright and early the next morning. That bothered you: if someone passing by had asked the date, you would have thought it was the 13th still. That meant you'd found the craigslist idiot just in time.
Why it had to be Valentine's wasn't something you'd completely worked out in your mind, but it just seemed fitting. Asking Ellie to marry you that day was going to bring you together forever, but she'd wrecked that. She didn't seem to know it, but you were still bound to her, and it was growing unbearable. The light between you hadn't dimmed, not even a little, and it was beginning to frighten you. What if it meant Ellie was your soulmate? A soulmate who didn't want you seemed like a special sort of hell, so you had to do the snipping yourself, and the gun seemed like the tool to get the job done.
You didn't want her to suffer, so it was good that you were a decent shot. Your dad had taught you to shoot when you were small, first with air rifle almost as long as you were tall, and then with live ammo around the time he taught you to drive. Once, straight through the heart, and she'd barely feel it. You didn't owe her much, but you did owe her that.
Waiting was the hard part. Joyful couples streamed the sidewalks, and you couldn't find Ellie then. Well, you could find her at any moment, but it didn't seem wise just then. So you waited, endured watching people kiss, walking by with roses tucked into the crooks of elbows, sharing a love you worried you'd never find again, not while you and Ellie retained an unwanted connection. By then you'd decided you didn't want it either, not if she didn't love you any more.
Eventually the crowds thinned as people went home to fuck. That's when you got in your car and followed Ellie's trail. A worry that following it by car would be hard crossed your mind, but it was no more distracting than GPS so you managed fine. To your surprise, you found yourself in the museum district. Dimly, you recalled hearing something about an Egyptian art exhibit, but you hadn't realized Ellie was interested in that.
You weren't so you barely noticed the art in the windows, samples meant to whet the art appetite, as you made your way to the windows outside the gift shop. Ellie was there, as you knew she would be. Her hand was about to touch a scarab beetle paperweight when something made her turn her head and look out.
Your fingers closed on the gun, ready to pull it out and end what lingered between you. You'd never fired on a living thing before, but this had to be considered self-defense the way she was making you suffer.
The light between you flared up as she continued to turn her head, as the gun came halfway out of your pocket. Her eyes met yours, and you said a little prayer, asking for forgiveness for what you were about to do.
And the cord snapped. There was a bright sparkle as the center was cut, and it quickly faded from both ends, racing back to you, to your centers. In seconds it was gone.
You jammed the gun into your pocket, turned, and walked away, leaving her to stare after you.
"You don't just blurt love is a curse..." - The Tragically Hip, Love Is A First