A Death in Winter

By
The way the wind swept through the trees, howling like a banshee, one would think it would be a night for murder or some sort of tragedy. The full moon half hidden by secretive clouds, the streets silent as the catacombs of Rome, it was like a setting from a novella or a play.

She had felt the approaching storm for weeks, begging that it would turn away, hoping it would not disturb the sunshine that had reigned for so long. There is little to be done, however, once the beast has been unleashed.

It was fitting that a love born in the chill of winter should die at winter's approaching return. Love was a temporary gift of Fate, or perhaps a Trojan horse to drive Fate's victim to the point of madness. Whatever the reason, she could feel the chill settling into the world, into the house, into her very heart. She missed the warmth of summer. Summer had been so joyous, filled with laughter, sunshine, lakes and love. Oh, the love that had been that summer, as sweet as chocolate, as warming as hot cider, and as near to perfection as a mere earthbound mortal may reach. In reality, nothing trapped within a mortal coil can approach perfection; it only wears a mask, hiding the grim and painful truth. As the rays of the sun distance themselves, so does love fade as time moves on.

She closed her eyes, wrapping the afghan around herself to fend off the chill of autumn, and watched the memories flash by. That first date, she could remember how she nearly got frostbitten feet, walking all over town in the snow, not caring about anything except that he was beside her. Ducking into a coffee shop and splitting a hot chocolate, then trudging their way back in the snow. A tear escaped her eyes, as memory after memory came flooding back. Happy memories that made her feel so much pain. How could it have gone so wrong?

She could see them both holding hands, walking down the street as they listened to their song, a song she could no longer hear without feeling the shattering pain in her chest. There had been late nights on the phone, talking about the distant future, dreams and plans and wild adventures, and promises of love and forever.

They had been too young to make eternal vows of love. Neither "eternal" nor "love" can be comprehended at such an age, much less promised.

The memories of movie ticket stubs and bowling alleys as the snow melted away, afternoons just talking at the park, teasing and stealing kisses before they were forced to go their separate ways.

She remembered the day he gave her the ring, the ring she still wore on her finger. One of their first fights had been about that very ring, as she insisted her not get her anything so expensive, and he insisted he did. Despite her protests, she had been so happy that day. That was the day she believed anything was possible, even happily ever after.

She held her head in her hands as she began to cry, knowing she had been a fool. And still the memories kept coming. She could remember days at the lake, simply reveling in each other's presence, not needing anything more, until that terrible day…

He wanted more, and she, like a fool, gave more. It was here her sorrow turned to revulsion. She felt sick at the thought; how could she have been so idiotic? She told him afterwards she couldn't do it again, and he had claimed to understand. That was the night she knew there was no such thing as a fairy tale, and the night she began to smell the storm on the wind.
They gradually stopped talking.

She had called him and tried everything she could to reach him as he grew distant, but it was all to no avail, and the storm kept growing as she felt its approach. After a week of silence, she tried to deny the truth she knew would come. After two weeks, she begged him to talk to her.

Now she was sitting on her porch at midnight, praying for him to call her as she cried, a warm afghan wrapped around her, as if to fend off the chill creeping into her very core.

After an hour of excruciating silence, her cell phone went off, playing Death Cab for Cutie's "I'll Follow You Into the Dark." She picked it up, and took a deep breath before speaking.

"Hello."

His voice came across from the other side. "Hey…" He paused for a moment, and she waited for him to speak. "I'm sorry I haven't been talking."

"It's no big deal." Came her lying reply. "Are you okay?" She attempted to maintain a normal voice, as if she couldn't hear the thunder.

There was silence for a moment. "Yeah, I'm fine. Listen, we need to talk. I…I don't see this working."

She covered the mouthpiece of the phone as she choked back her tears. The storm was beginning, and she couldn't pretend anymore. "What do you mean?"

He sighed, and she could picture him raking his fingers through his hair. "I've been thinking a lot, and I don't want to hurt you, but…this just isn't working. We don't see each other often. And honestly, if you don't want to be any more physical than just making out, I can't see us as being more than friends. I'm sorry. I don't want to hurt you, but this is how I feel."

"You're…breaking up with me?" As if she needed clarification.

"I don't want to…I still love you, but I just…I don't see this working."

"Are you breaking up with me or not?" Her voice was a hoarse whisper as she tried to keep herself from crying on the phone.

"I don't see it working any other way. I'm sorry."

She couldn't listen to him any longer. She couldn't hold back the wave of emotion threatening to drown her. "I...I'm going to go now..."

"Come on, don't do that. I'm sorry…are…are you going to be alright?" She could have laughed out loud at how concerned he sounded, as if he truly cared.

"Oh, yeah, I'll be fine…I'll, um, I'll talk to you later." She flipped the phone closed and began sobbing. Tears blurred her eyes as she stood up, stumbling away from the big wrap-around porch of her parents' Victorian home. The sound would make one think her very soul had been ripped out, the wounds bloody and gaping, as she drew each ragged breath. She fell against a telephone pole, sliding to the ground and hunched over her cell phone as she felt her heart snipped out of her chest, piece by piece.

"Why?" came the incoherent wail, the cry of one abandoned. It was a pitiful sound, like a lost lamb. She was illuminated by the headlights of passing cars, each filled with apathetic shadows, nonchalant about the crumpled girl by the side of the road.

She lay there for several hours, well into morning, unmoving except for her trembling figure with each sob that tore through her. As the numbness had settled in, she haggardly drew herself to her feet, and began walking again, holding the afghan close.

He had thrown everything away. A car drove by, and she only sobbed harder when she heard their song playing as it sped past her.

Until two weeks ago, everything had been perfect. She thought they had been in love, but he threw it away like food or trash.

She didn't see the second car coming down the road; she couldn't hear the whine of the engine. At that moment, if she could have, she wouldn't have cared. And as she stepped out into the path of the car, the tires screeched in a desperate attempt to avoid her, but it was too late. And after that brief moment of physical pain, the abyss she felt within her heart faded to black, and the afghan lay by the side of the road, tattered and muddied.





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