Hello & Goodbye
by denise Leora madre
All characters property of Stephenie Meyer. No copyright infringement intended.
She stomps up the walk, slamming the front door. The sound echoes through the empty house, mocking her.
She is a fool.
She regards the living room furniture—the worn sofa with the garish pattern she never liked, the ancient floor-model television, the armchair she couldn’t bear to sell—and huffs past it to her bedroom. A sanctuary-turned-sarcophagus, it is the place her past died, her present simmers, and the future rests in her hands.
|Image by Amy Loves Yah|
She crosses the threadbare rug in the center of the room, its erratic pattern a testament to her state of mind, and sits on the bed. Its weary squeak resounds in the empty house, and memories fly through her mind unbidden, and she buries her face in her hands.
“What a beautiful mess.”
The candle on her makeshift vanity flickers, and her warm skin erupts in gooseflesh. The homemade curtains are motionless in her open window; the dark autumn night is still.
Yet there is wind, subtle, shimmering wind carrying vestiges of a life once lived. She inhales deeply as the fragrant air passes her face and freezes.
She would know that scent in a thousand.
But that is impossible, for he is long gone, his departure stamped on her life in thick, black ink.
She leaps off the bed with her heart in her throat, eyes darting in every direction. Seeing nothing, she runs a shaky hand through her dark hair.
“It’s the guilt talking,” she concludes. “There is no one here, least of all…”
This time, she screams from the bottom of her soul, releasing every ounce of anguish she retains. She screams in desire and dread, hoping and fearing she is not alone.
“Would you mind not screaming?” he asks cautiously. “My ears are more sensitive than they used to be.”
She clamps her lips immediately shut, turning slowly toward the direction of his voice. Keeping her eyes on the ground, she is stunned when they land on a familiar pair of shoes.
The last pair she ever saw him wear.
“Oh, my go—” The words leave her lips on a strangled breath. “Is it really…”
“Yes, it is I.”
His familiar smile nearly splits his face, and she falls to her knees, sobbing. “Oh, God!”
“Darling, no.” The endearment only succeeds in making her cry harder. “Please do not so.”
“I can’t... I can’t believe you’re here…”
“No!” She wipes her face to no avail. “You don’t understand… for you to be here tonight… after I…”
“I know, darling. I know what happened.”
“Please.” He reaches for her hands then thinks better of it. “Sorry.”
She meets his eyes then, studying the familiar lines and planes of his face. “Are you unable to touch?”
“It’s not that.” He looks away. “Things are not just… as they were before.”
She licks her dry lips, unable to refute him. “I have questions, so many things I promised to ask if ever given the chance. But now…” She shakes her head. “I can think of only one.”
He smiles, and the sight of it breaks her heart. “Why am I here?”
“It’s the most relevant right now.”
Though overwhelmed, she notices his tone. “Right now?”
“Or should I say, in light of most recent events.”
It is her turn to look away, seeking refuge in the opposite corner of the room. “I do not know what you mean.”
“You are many things, woman.” His voice is gruff with emotion. “But a liar is not one of them.”
She wraps her arms around herself. “I cannot discuss this with you.”
“But you must.”
“Darling.” He moves toward her, chagrined when she flinches. “I’m sorry.”
“No, I’m sorry!” Her shrieking returns. “This is why you cannot be here! Anything I say or do would hurt you, and that’s the last thing I want.”
“Do you know what hurts me?” He advances again, this time with one small step. “Seeing you like this, tonight. That’s why I did not visit before. You didn’t need me then.”
“But I did. I do.” She closes the gap between them, ghosting her fingers across his cheek. Their literal shock is mutual when she makes contact. “How is this possible?”
“I cannot answer that.” He closes his eyes, reveling in her heated caress. “But I can answer your question.”
She hears but does not register his words, marveling that his skin feels the same.
“Yes?” Her voice registers high to her own ears. “Uh, yes?”
His throaty chuckle wraps around her heart. “About tonight…”
“I came because you’re making the wrong choice.”
She drops her hand as if singed. “What do you mean?”
“I know what happened tonight, and…”
She stalks to the window, staring into the evening sky. “I do not want to talk about that.”
“We must.” A shiver trickles down her spine, and she knows he is closer. “It is why I came.”
She swallows past the lump in her throat. “There is nothing to talk about.”
“Why do you do this?”
“Deny yourself the final measure of happiness?” His voice is low, but she hears. “Are you doing it for me?”
The ensuing silence stretches as she struggles to create an acceptable reply. When creativity fails, her shoulders slump in defeat, and she makes her way to the bed.
“I know everyone thinks I’m okay. That it’s been long enough, and I’m ready to move on.” She turns to face him. “But how could I do that? How could I do that when I… when I still miss you?”
|Image by The Raggedy-man|
“You may always miss me.” He takes his customary place beside her, though the bed registers it not. “Part of me hopes you do. But you cannot allow that to stand your way.”
She looks down, shaking her head. “I made a promise.”
“To you.” She indicates a frame on her bedside table, a frame bearing witness to the happiest day of her life. “I made a promise, and I will not go back on it now.”
“Then you condemn me to an eternity of this.”
She gapes at him, her dark hair briefly obscuring her face. “What?”
“I cannot move on until you release us.”
“Us.” He eyes her carefully, and she covers her mouth with her hands. “You mean my life is…”
“Yes. Until you are free from our bond, I am stuck here. Like this.”
“What if he did not exist?”
“But he does.”
Her eyes well with frightful tears. “But I…”
“Do you love him?”
She blinks them away. “What?”
“Do you love him?”
“It does not matter.”
He smiles, and the sight breaks her heart. “Then you know what to do.”
“But he’s your…”
“I know.” He reaches for her hands, and she is paralyzed by their touch. “And that is why I accept this.”
“You left so long ago,” she whispers. “But I’m not ready for goodbye.”
“Yes, you are.” He strokes her cheek with the pad of his thumb. “And I love you for saying otherwise. But it is wrong to toy with a good man who wants to love you until his last breath.”
She parts her lips to speak, and no sound escapes.
And the candle on her table flickers once more.
“I will love you no less,” she finally says. “And I will never forget.”
“I expect no less. Now accept my blessing, darling, and be happy with him.”
She holds his eyes for an endless moment then nods. “I will.”
He releases her face, and she feels faint. Retreating to the shadows of the room, he looks at her one final time. “Goodbye, darling.”
Tears stream down her face and onto her chest. As she blinks them away, another wind blows through the room, and he is gone.
She wraps her arms around her trembling frame, bracing for the implosion. She expects melancholy, dejection even, as if she has lost him afresh. But though there is pain and sadness, the surge of hope is stronger. And with that hope, she reaches for her phone.
“Hey, it’s me… No, no. I’m fine. I know it’s late, but I just called to say… Yes. Yes, Charlie Swan, I will marry you.”
As the Chief’s exuberant reaction floods her heart, Sue sends one final thought into the Ever-After. “Goodbye, my darling Harry. And thank you.”