Jack is dead.
This is the fact I should begin with.
He’s been dead for three month now, and I’m responsible for it. Not that it matters, but I have to tell.
He is not coming back. Even if … He simply was a bad friend, a bad fiancé. An insufferable jerk…
Emily won’t forgive me. If she knew what I did…
Suddenly she calls. Out of the blue, the phone rings twice, and I hear her voice asking my name. “Sam?” She sounds so alien to me. As if she just says it for the first time… Actually she might have… I’m dumbstruck. And happy. I nearly cry. My heart beats to her voice. I… I know something’s wrong, but she calls me… She wants to meet ME… Something’s wrong. Awfully wrong. Can’t put my finger on it. But I will meet her right away.
There. Again – the nagging little voice in the back of my head. I should worry, but can’t. Something’s happening, out of control… Sooner or later, I’ll end up caught in it anyway…
Just keep my mouth shut. Emily needs me, that is all that counts. This is all that ever counted to me.
“There is a park nearby. At the back of the bakery. The one with the chocolate croissants you love.” I tell her.
I use to grab some for her and Jack.
He always swallows them nearly in one bite. But Emily… Oh, she eats them so delicately, with so much care… My eyes stick to her hands and jaws, moving in small elliptical figures. The divine geometry of her gestures, their almost arithmetic order – the hue of her gentleness. The reason I fall for her. Right away.
I use to hide a little flower in her napkin. She never unfolds them. I don’t know if she’ll ever find one… You see, I’m stubborn. I never give up…
Well, that’s not true. I DO give up.
Not only stubborn, but also a liar.
I do give up. There’s no point in bringing breakfast for Emily and Jack anymore. Since he’s dead, and she refuses to eat breakfast brought by me…
“Please meet me… I think, I’m going crazy on my own. You know… I’m haunted, Sam.”
My throat dries up. A grinding goes through my head. It must’ve been my teeth. That sound. It was a bit too loud. Even on the phone. It makes her pause…
“I just have to be with a normal living person,” she begs. How could I refuse her?
The nagging starts again. Something’s wrong… Wrong! WRONG!
W. R. O. N. G.!
I’ll take a header into – whatever is coming.
The sun is setting. Wrong.
The trees wink at me. Wrong.
Emily stands there. Wrong.
Emily just stands there.
She is dressed like one of those joggers, who keep running away from stress. You see them in the twilight, with their distinguished distance to regret. Like a new species. The aura of superiority…
I need to absorb this. Every second! The wrong, that is coming, is going to crash into us. Soon enough.
Get there first!
She has her back turned to me. I used to watch it…
She has lovely freckle on her left shoulder. My eyes find the spot through her sweater. It has the shape of a tulip.
The first time I see it, I walk in on her, while she’s changing. Accidently. She’s scared, then angry. Jack laughs his head of… Bastard!
“There you are!” she flashes a smile. I can tell she’s been crying though. “How are you?”
“Fine. I’m… fine.” The words barely make it out of my mouth. All dried lips and lazy tongue. It sounds husky. It feels ripping. I didn’t speak – not even to her – for so long, it hurts…
On the way, I even pick a daisy. Old habit.
The smile dissolves. Her face returns. Calm, nearly blank. Only her eyes move nervously. Why is she nervous? Whom is she expecting?
Did anyone find out? Is… Is someone following?! Or threatening?!
Did she find out? Would she tell anyone?!
She led them HERE?! TO ME?! There you go – catastrophe!
No! Not now! With Emily so close? I’d just had to stretch my hand and… touch. Who could take her away now?!
“Let’s walk.” She turns abruptly and walks off the sidewalk onto the grass. There’s a daisy. She steps on it. She doesn’t notice. I walk right behind her… Placing one foot after the other in the marks she’s leaving.
“Sam?” she asks. “Why did you? Why…? Never mind!”
All of a sudden, she sounds shaky and afraid. I don’t care where she’s leading. As long as she keeps going, I’ll follow. No people, no dogs, no joggers around.
Nature. Evening. Trees around us, bushes, grass. No one here. Just us. The moon appears on a scrap of night.
“This far enough!” I hear her breathe in sharply. A demand?
“K… I didn’t mean to…”- obtrude…
I step back. I won’t push… Why is she so tense? It’s just us here – and I mean no harm.
A dog barks nearby.
A heavy weight crashes into me. Into my chest, squeezing the breath of my thorax -What was that? Something hit me. A branch? No, not something, it’s Emily. Emily pounces on me, hugs me violently. She’s so wild, that we both fall.
We lie on the ground. The night shakes itself. The moon shakes too. It devised itself, then fuses again, to one body. It stops… Finally.
I feel Emily’s breathing. Her skin on my arms, her back under my fingers, her arms ’round my waist. She’s warm and light. Her hair pours down my neck. The scent cloud makes me dizzy. Is this a dream? It looks like she is resting her head on my chest, to hear my heart. It’s racing. She makes it to.
Is she crying? But why?
“Did I hurt you? Is it – too… much? Can you bear it? Are you suffering, Sam?” She means me… There is something else too, isn’t it?
She pushes her chin between two of my hurting ribs. It stings. Her eyes search for mine. She uses her fingers for the search too. It stings!
Why am I so weak?
Her face grows paler and bigger. It doesn’t have that blank expression anymore. Isn’t tense. She’s relieved… Strange, I can see her eyes clearly now. They glow blue. She looks so attentive. Is it – curiosity? What happened?
“Are you…” Her lips stop mine.
Her hair moves, and I see it! What’s that? Something sticks out. I don’t remember… The shaft of a knife? IN me? Blood… warm, red. It stings! It burns! Emily sticks her index into it, licks…
“Sour, not sweet at all. Tastes like a warm sunny day, badly screwed over.” Is this a dream? It can’t, ’cause it hurts. That wet wheezing sound, is that coming from me?!
“You’ve to sit up, or you’ll have a hard time breathing, Sam.” She states stark.
There’s a firm grip on my shirt, pulling. Ah! Ow!
“You’re heavy, sweetheart! Give me a hand, will you?” I reach out, to pull myself up, but there is only Emily to grab. She helps me to lean against a tree trunk. Her image shakes.
“So… you found out.”
She nods. And cries. Tears leaving her eyes quietly. No sobbing. How strong she is…
“Do you hate me?”
She shakes her head wildly. No. She doesn’t. What a relief! There will be no one… bothering us here. And she did not betray me. She just found out.
“I wanted you. Wanted – to know. That… I did. What I did…” So lazy this tongue. Weak tongue. Thirsty. Shaky? It’s cold.
“I know. Shhhhh! Don’t waste your strength…I’ll stay. Till it’s over. Listen… ” Her fingers caress my hair, cheeks.
Emily, don’t stop. Please… I think, I don’t feel my legs. Won’t need them. Ain’t going nowhere. I stay. And this is maybe the best solution… It could have been such a wonderful night. It could have…
“Open your eyes, Sam. Please! I have to tell you. I learned about three weeks ago, who Jack really was, and what you did for me. Did you ever think I could find out? Since Jack died… I sleep and wake up with death… I don’t even know, if I’m alive or not. Maybe this is all just a bad dream. It sure feels like one… We have a nightmare. Both of us. The same. I dreamed, that I died. Someone else took my place and lived me… Do you understand? Someone else crawled into my skin, and pretends to be me… Am I crazy?”
I haven’t got much strength left. So I shake my head. Come on mouth! Smile! Say something!
“I’ll miss you Sam. I wish, I met you first… We could have been happy, you know. Just the two of us… I’m glad it was you. Sam… Sam?”