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The Better Way
I take the glass of water outside, enjoying the icy cold feeling that numbs my hand, already feeling the slick, thin water coating beginning to form on the surface. From a distance, it could appear that I’m merely holding an empty glass, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. In this cup I hold life. In this cup I hold death.
The front door swings shut with a loud bang. Cringing, I check to see if I disturbed her, but she’s still fast asleep on the wooden bench. A cool autumn breeze begins to breathe into life, blowing her fair blonde hair back.
I sit down next to her, watching her for a moment and weighing my thoughts. They’re heavy in my mind, and I know that this action could be the final action. Could I really do this? Am I capable of doing this, no matter how much both my mind and my heart tell me that it needs to be done?
No amount of planning can prepare me for this, I know. No amount of thinking can make a decision that could fix everything.
I make the decision as I watch the calming sunset blur into the sky, blue turning into fantastic swirls of orange, pink, and red. Wind blows through the trees, creating a rustling noise, while birds chirp sweet melodic songs. The air smells of a soft rain that has yet to fall from the cloudless sky and the earth? yes, the scent of earth is all around. I feel the sweating glass in my left hand, and underneath my right, I am stroking her fine hair.
I move my right hand down to her shoulder. “Wake up,” I whisper in her ear, shaking the frail shoulder. “Please, my dear, wake up.”
She opens her green eyes slowly and automatically raises a hand to shield them. “It’s so bright,” she says in a soft voice barely louder that a murmur.
“I’m sorry,” I tell her, wishing that I could dim the light of the sun for her.
Gradually, she lowers her hand and squints away from the light, looking instead at my face. “What’s wrong?” she asks, sounding innocently bewildered. “You look so sad.”
“No, no,” I mutter absently. “I’m not sad at all.”
She looks back towards the sunset. “It’s so bright,” she repeats.
“I know.” Gulping, I ask, “Would you like some water?” I hold the glass out to her, a simple offering.
She takes it smiling nonetheless. “Thank you,” she says. Looking down into the clear substance, she looks as if she is contemplating taking a sip of it.
“Go ahead,” I urge. “Take a drink. You need some water in your system; you look sick.”
That appears to be enough for her, and she takes a drink of the water, swallowing and then frowning. “It tastes weird.”
“I know,” I say. “I know.”
Her eyes widen, and her breath starts coming out in short gasps. “Wh-what’s…?” The unfinished question hangs in the air like a death sentence.
“It’s okay. Just close your eyes. It will all be over soon, I promise.” I take the glass away from her, and watching her confused reaction makes me want to immediately alleviate her pain and call someone, anyone, to help. But I can’t do that. I’ve gone too far, and this will be better for her in the long run.
She tries to breathe, but finds it impossible. As she sucks in more air, her skin turns redder and redder. Shaking uncontrollably, she almost falls from the bench, but I steady her. As quickly as it began, her breathing slows to a barely perceptible stream of air, and her eyes close. “Why?” she asks with her dying breath, confused and afraid. And then, it’s over.
“I’m sorry,” I say to the shadow of the girl I once loved. “You’re going to a better place, though, where you can be like everyone else. Where you can run and talk with all the other angels and where you can remember things. You’ll be able to remember them.”
A single tear drops down from my face, the salty water splashing into the glass of water.
“I know that we won’t ever be together again,” I murmur to myself, wishing she could hear it. “But I can always try to follow you.”
I gulp down the rest of the water, tasting the bitter poison. Dropping the cup of water, I hear the sound of shattering glass. As I feel the effects start to kick in, I watch the end of the last sunset until I close my eyes and immerse myself in the dark that I will permanently be trapped in. That is my penance.
The last thoughts I have, while my oxygen deprived body shuts down, are ones full of her, before the accident. Her bright, shimmering smile that glowed in the darkest night, those intelligent eyes and the witty conversations that went with them, the way she blushed when I touched her smooth skin. These are the memories I will always carry with me, even after the death I am enduring.
It’s better this way.