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The Absence of Aurora: A Short Story
It was in that year that he left Aurora. Before he did, he envisioned another life. He believed this to be the best move. With her voice still fresh in his mind, he heard her whisper on occasion to him, or at least he believed so. This is what she would’ve wanted, he thought. She would’ve wanted me to leave…For Rose and all…It’s what she would’ve wanted. The hand that he was dealt was not hers nor was it at the least palpable but rather striking. It had struck with full force upon all of his simple desires of a life much better than present, leaving him with nothing. Only Rose, who embodied all of hope and prosperity, remained. He would leave it all for her. She deserved so much more. In a life that was once serene he had not planned ahead. All that he and Jill had, he salvaged from a life that ended in a seeming blaze.
They met at the senior prom. Underneath the pale of the swinging lights above, his eyes froze dead upon hers. He felt confident, wearing a rented tuxedo he believed to be as the salesman had to be “the best available” and so accosted her, not before glancing over his shoulder to make sure his arranged date was not near. She was wearing a simple red backless dress with bikini straps. She had done the same. They had met in the middle, where the Aurora High School basketball team would tip-off.
“Having a good time?” he asked her.
“I’m having a ball!” she said with a taste of sarcasm. “I can’t seem to find my date. Have you seen him?”
“Who is he?”
“Keith Lowell, you know…He’s a quarterback.” Of course he knew Keith. Didn’t everyone? He knew Keith just like he knew that Keith wouldn’t be too happy to find the two of them talking to each other.
“Right. Well, would you like to get some fresh air anyway?”
“Maybe it’s best if I stay here.”
“Don’t worry, everything will be fine. C’mon, I can barely breathe in here.” Glancing over her shoulders once more, she followed him.
Outside the precinct, the wind blew hard against the oak, causing the last of the clinging leaves to finally carry. The night was cold and had promised neither warmth nor consolation anytime soon; neither did the pale fluorescent lights that lined the ceiling like armed sentinels. There were so many questions that needed to be answered. Somewhere inside, a man cried.
“Would you like something to drink? Some milk perhaps?”
“No thanks…” said Rose.
“How about some cookies, would you like that?”
“Where’s my daddy?”
“He’s fine, princess, just fine…”
“Don’t call me that! I didn’t ask you how he is, I asked you where he is.”
“Okay, fine. He’s in this building, all right? So, if you want to see him again, you’ll answer my questions.” Rose’s eyes dropped at this and she crossed her arms. After a brief pause, her eyes found some inner strength and shot back at the officer, who was startled when she did.
The moon was full that night. The penguins and doves inside seemed to enjoy the world inside than out. It was silent here. Lighting a Marlboro, he searched everywhere but her eyes for words.
“Cigarette?” she asked him.
“Sure,” he said, letting out a plume of smoke.
“When did you start?”
“A year ago.”
“When are you going to stop?”
“Who said I’m gonna stop?”
“I did.” At this, she had his attention. Without losing it, he went over to where she stood and pulled her close, kissing her.
Three hours had past, he had guessed, since they had taken him and Rose into custody. The drone of the fluorescent lights seemed to grow louder with each passing moment. He recreated the entire night over again, just as they had demanded. In his mind’s eye, he saw only frozen images, like scattered Polaroid’s over a cold bed.
He had started smoking again. The smoke had risen like a spirit leaving the body of the fateful departed. Soon, they would be back. They would come back and want to know everything all over again. He just didn’t know. Not anymore.
As if on cue, both of the white shirt and black tie detectives filed in. One sat to his left, the other in front of him. The one in front pulled out a pocket-sized tape recorder. After slamming it home onto the table, he hit the RECORD button. “Talk”, the first detective says.
He heard Jill screaming. The world around him spun a crimson red as he felt for balance being on all fours now. The salt of blood trickled down the side of his mouth. “NOBODY FUCKS WITH MY GIRL!” he heard Keith protest. Another sharp pain, now down by his ribs. “HOW DOES IT FEEL NOW, HUH? HOW DOES IT FEEL?”
“Keith, please leave him alone.”
“Not until he’s dead. You’re next, bitch.” At this, Roman found some strength return. Quickly, he rose and threw one clenched fist through the darkness, finding Keith’s Adam’s apple, dropping him, causing the quarterback to choke on his own blood. Still clutching his ribs, Roman, feeling for Jill held out his free shaking hand. Without hesitating, she took it and they ran.
Frustrated, she pulls harder at the door handle, now jiggling it to no avail. “It’s locked, princess…Why don’t you be a good little girl and have a seat.”
“I WANT MY DADDY!”
“Hey, I told you, not until we’re done.”
“My daddy’s gonna be real mad when I tell him about what you did!”
“Yeah? You think he’ll get mad enough to kill me, like he killed your mom?” Sobbing now, Rose says, “Daddy didn’t kill her, she died in her sleep.”
“If that were true, which of course it’s not, then why did we arrest him?”
“Because you want to blame him for something he didn’t do.”
“Why’d you do it? A man like you in your profession…You come in all shapes and sizes, don’t you killer?”
“I didn’t…Do it.”
“Of course you did, the neighbors heard you, heard you two bark at each other every night. So tell me, who’s Keith Lowell?”
“He’s someone all right. Heard you and him went at it during your senior prom.”
“And you’re slowly sinking in it.”
“You know, holding me and my daughter here…You have no right. I’ll have my lawyer sue your asses—you and your families of pigs.” The detective paid back his favor with a blow to his skull.
“Don’t you tell me, motherfucker, I’ll tell you! Joe! Get this piece of shit out of here!”
Roman chirped the tires of his red firebird leaving the prom with its queen. This is going to hurt in the morning, he thought. After a long silence between them, Jill spoke. “Where are we going?” she asked him. Staring into the dim road ahead, he turned to her and saw that she was staring at him, admiringly. “Anywhere but here…Where do you want to go?” Slowly, she reaches over to his hand that is holding the shifter, the very same hand that had led her here. Small quakes of shock were still quivering through him in the aftermath, but being alone with Jill, it had quickly subsided. She rested her blonde head upon his shoulder and that was all he needed to know.
They found a little place outside of the woods, overlooking the Sound. Their travels had brought them here. Of all places, this had always been the place, although not yet known to them. Our lives could flourish here, we won’t have to change or leave…It’s all right here for us, he thought. Sitting there together, a gust of wind interrupted them. “I’m cold,” she said. He was up, then returning with a blanket in his hands. With trained precision, he placed the blanket around her shoulders. “Here,” she says, sharing the welcomed warmth with him. Down below the high cliff, the angry waves crashed up against the rocks, emitting the pale debris of foam.
“Has he ever hit you?”
“Daddy loves me, he would never hit me.”
“Not even when you’re bad?”
“Has he ever hit your mother?”
“Never. Sometimes they fight. That’s all…How much more?”
“Shhh…Do you think he would hit her if she had gotten him really angry?”
“NO! I told you, no no no. He never hit us.”
“Who’s us? Your mommy’s gone…Now it’s just you, princess. You think your daddy will hit me for being mean to you?” Rose thought very carefully about this while biting down on her lower lip.
Upon the narrow bed of his cell, Roman saw his life upon the casting shadow of himself. He thought about her as he always had and always will. She was beautiful, no matter what time of day it was or what she was wearing. His pulse would quicken every time he saw her. He didn’t know how it had come to be that this angel would choose, over any other guy, him. He thought: She could have anyone and she chose me, the guy no one knows. It was this fact that he had wondered if ever she would leave him. Certainly, such a fairy tale does not exist in the real world, which is filled with elements of a horror story. Almost as to prove it, the memory of her dead body had brought a veil of red before him. She now lay dead, forever burned into the retina of his mind. The shaking began again and he wanted a smoke.
The sting of tears had resurfaced. She never did quite see him cry, neither did Rose. Real men don’t cry, Roman. Real men suck it up. Are you a man, Roman? Are you a real man? The voices had begun to become more and more audible as of late, like a cry in the distance growing closer. Just as hard to do nowadays was to block out the voice inside of him.
The light of the morning brought both pleasure and pain. Dawn had begun to break through the clouds, climbing like the mercury inside a thermometer. The sea had settled a bit, being at low tide. Roman saw, cuddled in a fetal position was Jill, still asleep. I wonder if she’s dreaming right now, he thought. Or maybe I’m the one that’s dreaming? He smiled at this, hurting himself as he did and wrapped his arm over her. The completeness that he was feeling right then was incredible. He could feel a new life beginning for himself, with Jill. Nothing will ever tear us apart. Things don’t have to change with us. Maybe we’ll leave Verona and then we’ll be happy. Whatever he decided, the truth was that he didn’t want any of this to end. Holding her here meant the world to him, just so as they both lived. Roman watched the rising and falling of her chest as she slept. Certainly, he was too.
Awakening, Keith Lowell turned over on his side, reading the alarm clock’s LCD to be 7:06 P.M., which glow, was a burning red. Slow to rise, he shuffled toward the fridge and cracked open a can of beer. A took three-gulp swig and slammed it on the littered kitchen table. His life hasn’t been the same.
He never left Aurora. Something had compelled him to stay. It wasn’t the hecklers in his class, nor was it his father who had found it convenient to ignore him, even after all these years. All of those years he had worked to attract the eyes of division-one scouts all across the country. Or the eyes of the one girl he ever loved. Jill, he thought. She would have made a good life for him, all right. It was Jill that would bring calm to his troubled waters when at times, seemed at the point of boiling. Just to hear her soft voice in his ear had cooled him and cooed him.
But not that night
That night had pulled the beam from underneath him and made his reputable career come crashing down. The telling sight of Jill and the motherfucker kissing! That had brought home the ill-fated reality of it all to home. The stranded helplessness he felt was too much for him to bear. Sonofabitch took a cheap shot at me! Sonofa—But that was all. That’s where it had ended or had left off, like the breath of a short-winded person, which is where it had left off. “There’s work to be done” Keith said to no one in particular. As if confirming it, he got in the shower.
Roman had considered all the possibilities. He rewound the entire night over and over again until he found the beginning and hit PLAY. After some fight they had, Jill had decided that it would be best if she stayed over her girlfriend’s apartment for awhile. Roman had agreed. “It won’t be for long,” Jill had said, “just one night.” Just then, he had suspected something going awry. Time heals many hardships, which is why he believed it when a friend told him that he had saw Jill leaving the apartment of a male friend. “They seemed to be pretty intimate,” Keith said, as a matter of fact. Once more, the crimson curtain fell over Roman.
That had left Rose alone. After packing just a few of her belongings, she was gone, just as sudden as they had met that fateful night at the prom. That was the last time he saw her alive.
He remembered what she had said to him, that brave new day when she awoke. She didn’t want that day to end and neither did Roman. “I remember seeing you in homeroom during freshmen year, sleeping at your desk”, she said, “you didn’t know it, but I was watching you as you slept…You didn’t know that, did you?” And then the words that would take his defensive strength away: “I watched you and realized that you were the one I was going to marry. I knew it then that you were the one. More tears…Everything is going to be perfect from now on. Our children are going to have the best parents…Oh! I can’t wait! She thought, and held him tighter.She had painted him a pretty picture. At a time, Roman wanted the same thing, but couldn’t help feeling that fate would intervene as before. And if it wasn’t fate, it would be someone else or something else. The hand of fate had certainly been the culprit. It was just as he had thought. Angry now, Roman fired: Life can’t be perfect! It can’t be. There will always be faults. Because…Well, why Roman? Because, we’ll always want more…It’s never enough!
It was in that year that he left Aurora. But before he did, he envisioned another life. He believed this to be the best move. With her voice still fresh in his mind, he had heard her whisper on occasion to him; at least he believed so. This is what she would’ve wanted, he thought. She would’ve wanted me to leave…For Rose and all…It’s what she would’ve wanted. The hand that he was dealt was not hers nor was it at the least palpable but rather striking. It had struck with full force upon all of his simple desires of a life much better than present, leaving him with nothing. Only Rose, who embodied all hope and prosperity, remained. He would leave it all for her. She deserved so much more. In a life that was once serene he had not planned ahead. All that he and Jill had, he salvaged from a life that ended in a seeming blaze.
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