He could feel her ribs against his own as he held her tight, whispering more words that would hopefully aid in the cessation of her renewed sobbing, when he thought she might break apart into tiny fragments in his arms from the force of her shaking. Shhh, shhh, he heard himself now murmur, his lips against her hair. It was soft against his lips as he gently kissing her head. Extricating himself from her arms he pulled away asking if she would be okay alone.
“Please, don’t leave. I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable.”
“You didn’t,” Christopher said.
Susan pressed him for a reason he would seek to leave and submit himself to the bitterness of winter when he didn’t need to. No words would come to him and instead he found an old stutter, long removed from his speech pattern, resurfacing. Her gentle smile, so calming to him earlier, now felt like lemon juice over raw flesh. Resentment churned inside him, a roiling mass of anger and self hatred, propelling him to curtly give thanks to her before walking out the door.
The wind was a keening force that slapped him in the face as he walked down the street. Trying desperately to hold onto the last vestiges of warmth now flying out and away from him he ducked his head and continued to trudge through the snow. The cold was much worse this time than it was before; his feet felt larger than normal making him clumsy, while his ears and eyes were both raw from the chafing gale. Death, he knew, was imminent if he didn’t find refuge. And he knew he wouldn’t find any – knew he wouldn’t even look for it.
All this time he lived with the images and sounds of that night, relived the costliest of mistakes he ever made, and now all he could think of was a woman who had committed death through nobility. How his was through stupidity. One man dead in the way he wanted; his family dead because they trusted him. There was no reconciling these things for death is something one can not come back from. The dead can not learn, grow, make different decisions. That was the realm of the living and something he neither wanted nor deserved.
He felt the icy cold streaks upon his cheeks, the pulsing in his body telling him sobs weren’t so far behind, and veered off into a desolate patch of trees to sit, letting the cold and the guilt take him.
Please come back on Thursday for the continued story!