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Drew Ewing, 17 Aug '12

He reached down and brushed the side of her face with the backs of his fingers before cupping her left cheek with his palm. Her skin was cold and rigid beneath his touch, not at all how he remembered her flesh. His eyes were focused on her skin, so pale it had a blue hue to it made by the fluorescent lights. He bit his lower lip, trying to hold it all in; keeping the words trapped was far easier than holding back the well of tears from filling his bloodshot eyes.

“Gabby, I am so sorry I wasn’t there when you needed me the most,” he said. His voice echoed in the room, lined with walls of white tile and stainless steel. The sound startled him, reminding him of where he was. Suddenly, he felt very self conscious of his surroundings. He was alone, at least in the literal sense of the word, but he dare not turn around and confirm it, instead he forced himself to close his eyes.

Inhaling a deep breath in through his nose before letting the cool air escape over his wet lips, he listened to only sound in the room. In the far corner was a large fan circulating the frigid air from the air-conditioning, the metal whine from the blades filled the room and the more he focused on the noise, the louder it seemed to get. The feeling of not being alone surged through him again, almost to a boil now, he wanted to look around but he knew better— he was very much alone.

He opened his eyes but shuttered and began to squint as his eyes adjusted. She looked beautiful — even now. The white sheet was delicately placed over her body, smooth and even, except for the bunching of cloth just below the tops of her shoulders. He had always pictured her wearing nothing but white. Though, this wasn’t how he imagined it, he dreamt of the day she would wear an elegant lace gown, marching to the sound of her sister playing the piano. Now, he would have to settle for the white sheet she was dressed in.

She would never have dared being caught wearing all white, she thought it made her look thighs look chubby, instead, she always wore either black slacks or blue jeans and a vibrant assortment of blouses. He never could understand why she wore shirts that would make every head in the room turn when she entered. She had always been a very shy woman, content to keep to herself. He almost allowed himself a smile as he remembered the day he asked her out, or should he say days he asked her out.

It took a dozen roses, a letter, a poem, the advice of three friends, a mutual coworker egging him on and countless sticks of gum to calm his nerves before she finally said yes. His persistence finally paid off and their romance began on a cool autumn evening three years before. He longed to feel that sense of hope and wonder again but now all he felt was guilt and a stiff chill. He should have taken the coroner’s advice and taken the jacket he offered him back in the office. He leaned down, braced himself against the cold metal table and pressed a kiss on the side of her cheek; his lips lingered there as he closed his eyes again.

As he stood up from giving her his last kiss, he saw something move out of the corner of his eye. He spun around, nearly falling over, bringing his hands up instinctively to his chest, ready to defend himself. But as he scanned the room for the intruder who interrupted his final goodbye — he saw nothing. The room was a sea of white sheets draped over figures lying still on polished chrome beds.
He wasn’t really alone, he was in a room filled with bodies — people who had just days before been sons, daughters, husbands and wives. Now, they were nothing but empty shells waiting to be laid to rest in caskets and urns. This was the first time in the days that lead him here, he consciously realized, he was not the only person who lost someone dear to them.

~

He walked into the kitchen, opened the fridge, made himself a dark meat sandwich from the leftover Turkey and poured himself a cup of coffee from the pot Gabby left for him. He looked over to the far end of the counter and saw her cup, still half full from her breakfast. He smiled, whenever she ran late she had a habit of leaving her cup there instead of rinsing it and placing it in the sink. He enjoyed the thought that she was late because she did not want to get out of bed after a night of lying naked together.

He turned the T.V. on as he walked across the kitchen to retrieve her cup. He picked her cup up, it was hand painted with a butterflies and Aunt Gaby finger painted on the side in misshapen purple letters. She never said a word that her only niece had misspelled her name; she treasured that cup as her prized possession. He smiled as he noticed a red lipstick mark on the edge of the cup. As he walked back to the sink, the scene from the television caught his attention and he stopped and turned to see it. He strained to read the scrolling text on the bottom of the screen; he hadn’t realized that he had left his glasses on the nightstand. All he could really make out was a building mostly collapsed with sections of it burning out of control. He just stood there and stared at the screen waiting for the news anchor to pipe in with details.

“The fires have been burning for almost two hours now. Firefighters are desperately trying to get the blazes under control before they can send in rescuers to search for survivors. As you can see the devastation is extreme, and again according to eye witness reports a blue van exploded after crashing through the front vestibule of the Murdock building. Officials are calling it an apparent terrorist attack,” the T.V. anchor reported.
Terrorist attack, the Murdock Building, he tried to remember. He recognized the name but could not attach any importance to it. It seemed like a poor target to crash an explosive filled van into. Why would anyone crash into a random building? he asked himself, searching the back of his mind for the reason the name sounded familiar.

“The building was home to The Anderson Consulting Firm, Gravestone Analytical, Walters, Hampton and Sievers’ Law Firm and Collins Publishing. Officials are asking anyone who has friends or loved ones working in these offices to not call 911 but instead call 460-555-2310 for information,” the anchor added.

“Collins Publishing,” he said aloud in disbelief. He didn’t notice her cup slipped from his hands, landing on the bridge of his foot before shattering into a mess of clay shards. “Damn it,” he shouted, he looked down and saw what was left of the cup swimming in coffee and the trickle of blood running down the side of his foot. He retrieved the roll of paper towels from the counter, unrolling handfuls of paper as he knelt to the ground to clean up the mess. “She is going to kill me when she gets home.”

Comments · 3

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  • Anthony Blackshaw said...

    Welcome to Burrst Drew. Amazing debut. I ended up reading it again as soon as I got back from work. Can't wait to read more from you.

    • Posted 5 years ago
  • Sue Oldham said...

    I noticed a stray comma or two and turkey, as in the food, does not need a capital. Another intriguing read - I know it's just my tired brain but I don't see the link between Collins Publishing and the connection with Gabby and her death? Anyhow, welll written with some good, descriptive observations. Look forward to reading more.

    • Posted 5 years ago
  • Rachel Anderson said...

    So ... I figured out in the first line that she was dead ... but the ending still caught me off guard. I'm surprised I'm not crying right now. This is good - you really don't spare emotions.

    • Posted 5 years ago