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Tough Love

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 I remember the events of that fateful night perfectly. Blood-soaked carpets and walls, severed limbs and snapped necks, and a feeling of deep satisfaction. I reflect on it often, how those events forever changed the course of my life. But I am not thinking of it now, on the eve of my death.
No, I am thinking instead of the man I lost because of it. How our story will never play out like it should have.
I met him when I was thrown out of foster care at age eighteen. He was the desk manager at the motel I took up as my home. He had the brightest green eyes, with unkempt brown hair to match. I can still feel the flutter he made my icy heart give.
I knew, in the moment we first locked eyes, that he also thought I was beautiful. It was not surprising; most men were entranced by my beauty, unknowing of the monster that lay beneath my lovely exterior. Of course, I used this to my advantage; I was able to swindle even the most cunning of men out of their wallets, and sometimes more, when I was lonely.
This boy, the only man who has held my heart, took many months of pursuing before he finally caved to my affections. His kisses were the only ones I have ever yearned for; his arms were the only ones I ever slept bundled within.
“I love you, my sweet,” he whispered late at night, when we were drifting off to sleep.
“I love you, my dear,” I murmured back, snuggling tightly into his strong embrace.
I rest my head in my hands as I recall the details of our first fight. He was mad because I hadn’t been home for three days; he didn’t know that I was working out the details of a major drug deal about to go down. I explained this to him, patiently at first, and then with aggression lining my tone.
“I told you not to dabble in that any longer,” he shouted.
“You don’t seem to care when I bring home five grand in a single night,” I yelled back.
“You know I don’t care about the money. I care about your safety!”
“I’ve been doing this since I was thirteen years old and never once have I gotten hurt!”
His face relaxed then, and he pulled me in for a kiss. He knew that I had been fighting, dealing drugs, and regularly getting high for most of my life and that I wouldn’t change for anybody, not even him. He made love to me that night, to make up for his outburst, and never spoke of it again.
On my skin, I can still feel where he touched me. My lips tingle from his kisses, even though I haven’t been kissed in over twenty years. I’ve sat in this dank, cold cell, shut off from the rest of the world. But I clearly remember everything about him, my true love.
My favorite moment with him was the first time we had ever danced together. It was at his mother’s wedding, and I had been sitting, sullen and alone, in a corner all night. My reputation preceded me, so no one had dared to venture near.
“Hello, darling,” he greeted me after hours of neglect.
I rose from my chair. I towered over him in my heels; without them I was already an inch taller than he, but I liked looking down on him, so I didn’t mind.
“Have you been having fun without me?” I hissed, glowering.
“Not nearly as much fun as I could be having with you.” And then he smiled his crooked, heartbreaking smile.
His sweet talking wasn’t the best, but it never failed to turn me into a puddle at his feet. I relented quickly, letting him lead me out onto the dance floor and pull me into his warm embrace. I didn’t leave his side for the rest of the evening, and we cuddled and kissed to the beat of a thousand songs. We didn’t sleep a wink that night.
I glance up now, at the only reminder I have of him: a small photo tacked to my wall, yellow with age. In it, he is overcome with deep laughter, his dimples puncturing his cheeks, green eyes twinkling with mirth. The last time I looked into those eyes, they were filled with horror and hatred.
I groan, overcome with the thought of when I finally lost control of the monster in my heart; the monster that had been festering and growing all of my miserable life. It had cost ten people their lives, and I made sure to take my time in killing them. The only regret I have about that night is that he was there to see it.
  When I look at my hands, I can almost see the blood dripping from them. My fingers curl in toward my palms with the memory of wringing ten necks. Those ten necks cost me the only good thing in my life.
I loosen my fists as I sink into the good memories I have of my love, before things went sour. All of our whispered conversations, the trips we took, the times he helped me outrun whoever currently wanted me dead, nights we spent not sleeping. His marriage proposal, though I had to turn it down, was one of the best things to happen to me. It meant, without a doubt, that he loved me too.
A harsh, humorless laugh escapes my lips. The way he looked at me that night proved that his love, whatever it had been, was stolen like the breath from my victims. I had expected him to be with me through everything, but I was dead wrong.
“Get away from me!” he shouted as I rose from the slick floor. “Stay away!” His hands tunneled deep into his messy hair; horror pooled in his eyes.
“You’re afraid of me?” I asked, shocked. “You know they deserved it.”
“NO! No one ever deserves to be killed!” His gaze drank in the scene before him, the ten lifeless bodies strewn about the floor.
“They had it coming, do not lie,” I hissed. Wiping my bloody hands on my jeans, I stared into his eyes. They were full of loathing, not a trace of the passion I was accustomed to.
“You’re a disgusting, vile creature and I want nothing to do with you,” he snarled. His mouth hung agape, like he wanted to say more, but no words escaped before he bolted.
I’ve been abandoned, I thought helplessly. I was never the one to be abandoned; I always, always did the leaving.
The police arrived a short while later, and I was sentenced to death a few months after. I confessed to my crimes, explaining every last detail. After all, I had nothing to hide.
“From skid row to death row,” I heard a guard mutter as I was hustled to my cell. “No surprise there.”
A sharp noise drags me from my stupor. My head jerks upwards to find three men waiting expectantly for me.
“You’re wanted down the hall,” one of them informs me. He’s dressed sharply in a suit and tie. The other two are guards.
The execution room. Of course. I’ve spent the last twenty years watching my fellow inmates enter the room and never return.
I stand on shaky legs and hold out my wrists. “I thought you’d never ask.”
I’m dragged by my handcuffs to a brightly lit room. My nose inches up as it inhales fresh air – as fresh as it can be on death row – for the first time in two decades.
“Did you know this is the first I’ve stepped foot outside of my cell since I arrived?” I ask.
“Wasn’t aware,” the guard to my left quips.
“Feels good.” I smile sweetly. “Too bad I’ve only got five minutes left.”
Inside the execution room, I’m strapped to a reclining metal chair. The man in the suit stands to the right of me, fiddling with the needles that will end my life. To my right, there is a wall of glass through which I can see the spectators who wish to witness my death.
“I hope they don’t expect me to give them a show,” I comment airily. “I’m prepared to die. Been ready for years now.” Ever since I was abandoned by the only person I have ever loved. 
“You know,” I try again, “my boyfriend saw me kill all those people. He hated me because of it, didn’t think they had it coming. Would you have hated me for killing them? For killing those who had tried to kill me?”
“Yes.” Suit guy throws a look over his shoulder. “Be quiet now. The procedure is about to begin.”
I settle into my deathbed, my eyes scanning the crowd before me. I don’t recognize many of them. A few mothers and fathers, a husband or wife or child. None elicit remorse from my cold heart.
Except one face, one I know all too well. Framed by shaggy dark hair, green eyes set deep, skin aged twenty years since I last saw him.
He came to watch me die.
A tiny prick in my arm alerts me to the fact that the first shot has been administered. My eyes droop heavily, but I fight off the effects of the shot.
The man I love so desperately continues to stare at me, but there is not an ounce of sadness in his face. Instead, he pulls a tall blond woman tightly against him, kissing her forehead.
He doesn’t love me. He moved on.
Another prick, and my muscles are frozen; my breath stalls in my throat. I have no choice but to watch him now.
The last thing I ever see are the bright green eyes of my only love.
And I wish I had drained the life from those, too.

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