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Napalm & Petrichor

Jude stood on the porch steps looking at Margot and the rain fell in sheets behind him. He was shivering and his hair was wet and plastered to his forehead. His white undershirt clung to his frame, revealing his chest which was visibly inflating and deflating with each breath. His eyes searched but they couldn’t find what they were looking for. Although he looked broken, he wasn’t going anywhere-his stance was strong, and he looked as if he could stand there for a thousand years without a problem.

Margot, in her clean cotton dress, stood with her arms crossed under the cover of the porch. Her brown hair fell loosely around her face, some strands tucked behind her left ear. Her eyes were cold and unwelcoming and they stared at Jude with an uncompromising anger, an anger that Jude himself could not soothe out of her. She looked like a statue; immovable and stony.

“Baby, please don’t do this,” Jude said. His lips hardly moved when he said this because he knew he had been utterly defeated. If it had been drowned by the sound of the rain pounding on the tin roof of the porch or not, he’d never know. His voice would not change Margot’s mind. It did not matter.

“Just go Jude,” she said quietly. Jude didn’t need to hear this. He could read her lips, the lips he knew he’d never kiss again, nor hear her beautiful laugh come from.

He stood there, staring at her, God, wasn’t she beautiful? he thought. Her hair was so pretty and her eyes, although they hated his, were so easy to get lost in. He didn’t want to go. He wished so badly that she would change her mind, smile, and run barefoot down the steps and into his arms, and he’s say he was sorry, he was sorry, he was sorry, again and again and again. And he’d say that he loved her so, so much, and he would never let her go.

But now she was letting him go.

After what felt like an eternity to Margot, he turned and he began to walk away, into the rain, the lines in his strong back clear to her, and the last part of him she would ever see. She hated this.

He did not turn back, like Margot had hoped. She was silently praying that he would turn around just once and see that this was not what she really wanted, somehow see in her eyes that she was begging and crying and screaming on the inside. But she knew very well how she had treated him and knew that he would not come back. Not now, not ever.

She watched his white shirt until it was a speck of dust in the rain and then it disappeared, and just like that, Jude Whitewater became a part of the past. She turned and went inside of her pied-a-terre, and stood for far too long staring at the old blue sofa where Jude first kissed her, the kitchen walls that he painted yellow with her, and the hallway floor where he taught her to dance.

She couldn’t even remember how she got from the front door to the bedroom, or how she had found Jude’s military coat that still smelled like napalm and petrichor. She wrapped it around herself and wondered to herself if Vietnam still smelled like that.

She also found Jude’s old pistol, which had belonged to his grandfather. Margot knew he’d never come back, even for it, and especially not after what she was about to do with it.

Was it selfish of her? No, because didn’t she wait until the moment Jude was gone to do it, right? She was gone to him, right? Or was it stupid? No. Definitely no. It would be the smartest thing she had ever done.

Jude was at the main road by then, but he heard the single gunshot ring out in the air like a bomb, a bomb that that shattered his entire being. He ran back as fast as his legs could carry him, but deep down he knew no matter how fast he ran, it would not change anything.



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