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Kenzie sat at her window, staring out at the setting sun. He would come soon, she knew. He always came as the sun bowed to the moon. She waited through her days as patiently as she could, though the sun was sluggish and slow, but this day was particularly trying. It seemed to her as if the sun was being deliberately cruel and taking its own precious time. Absently, she wondered if the time had changed. Maybe it was time to “Spring Forward”. She couldn’t be sure, and truthfully it didn’t matter much anymore.
Finally, just as the sun threw its last vibrant rays over the earth, she felt a faint change in the air. It was subtle, barely noticeable, but she had trained herself to recognize it, that sensation of not being alone. She thought that she might even be able to recognize his presence in a room full of warm, thriving bodies.
A smile spread from her lips and she closed her eyes as a strand of her hair was lifted from her face as if by a warm summer breeze and cast back over her shoulder.
“Happy birthday,” she whispered.
“Thank you,” his weak voice whispered back. Her heart gave a dull ache at the sound of it. In her mind he was still that strong-willed, passionate boy that he once had been and when he was away she always forgot that he wasn’t that boy anymore. He must have sensed that sadness in her, for he laid his hand on hers. A strong yen that started smoldering in her hand, danced its way along her body until the she was consumed with the desire to be held in his arms. That yearning only burned brighter when she once more realized that she would never feel those arms again.
The shadow that fell upon her eyelids convinced her that the sun had finally disappeared, so she opened her eyes to search for his face, to feel the comfort it gave her. But, she had been wrong and a few trickles of orange light still fell in through the window to seep through him and lay across the dull floor uninterrupted.
He smiled ruefully as Kenzie considered his watery, translucent form and the bed, easily visible behind him. She remembered how solid he had been three months ago, even laying in that vile bed of satin and oak.
Usually, she would have pushed that memory away, but tonight was different. Tonight was his birthday.
She took a breath, stalling even though she knew she didn’t have to ask, but would anyway. “If you could take it all back, would you?”
He hesitated, unsure of how to answer. “No, I’ve seen the good that’s come of it and it’s a lot more than I would’ve been able to do…so no…” He stopped, looked into the sunset that had almost completely faded, looked at himself, growing more solid as it went, then at Kenzie. “That’s how I’m supposed to answer that question. Self-sacrifice for the good of someone else. Noble…but it’s a lie. If I could go back, let the guy go in my place, I would. No one would choose this limbo… not for the world.”
Kenzie nodded, turning her face away hoping to hide the pain in her eyes. She knew it was hard for him and she wished with all she had that she could help him, but she was basically useless, even unable to help herself.
“But let’s not be so morbid,” he said, reaching to touch her chin and turn her face back to him. She felt the slight tingle of his powerless touch, knew what he wanted and did so. “I brought you a present…well, a flower passes as a present in my world.”
“You brought me a present on your birthday?” she asked instead of “How did you bring me a present?”. She thought the latter might hurt his pride.
He smiled now and nodded. “I can see you wondering just how I managed it…well…” He stopped and they both listened to the feet tapping towards Kenzie’s door. “I’ll tell you in a minute, cause here it comes.”
The feet stopped outside the door and they heard the knob turn from the other side. A shaft of light flooded in as Minnie came through the door, dispersing Tristan’s form as if throwing him into the wind.
“Here you are, sitting in the dark again,” Minnie said as she flipped on the switch, allowing the light to chase Tristan away completely. In her usual bustling manner, Minnie made her routine check of the room, laid the fresh pajamas on the bed and handed Kenzie the little plastic cup.
“You know I trust you its just…”
“You’ll get fired if you don’t. I know, I know,” Kenzie finished for her. She glared down at the little blue pills. They didn’t do anything but make her sick to her stomach, but she swallowed them for everyone else’s peace of mind. Scrunching her face in distaste, she stuck out her tongue for Minnie’s inspection.
“Very good,” Minnie said, nodding her head. As she did, a soft white flower fell from her hair. “Huh,” she said, stooping to pick it up. “Must’ve fallen from one of the trees in the yard… That’s funny. I was only out there this morning. It must have been in my hair all day. Strange it should fall out now. It must belong to you,” she said with a broad grin for Kenzie. She gently placed the flower in Kenzie’s cupped hands.
Kenzie paid her no more mind as she said her goodnights and left the room, but only smiled at the delicate flower in her hands.
“…oh yes, Uhuh, Schizophrenic, yup…” Minnie’s voice drifted in from the other side of the now locked door. Any other night, crippling doubt would have gripped Kenzie at the sound of her diagnosis, but not tonight. Tonight was different. Tonight she could feel him as she caressed those sweet petals.