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I wish I could tell you why. Tell you why she had to go. Tell you why I didn't stop it, or why I didn't jump in the way. I wish I could let this go. It has been almost four years. Why can't I let it go? She was my everything, and she was everything I needed. Her hair, it was Auburn. Her eyes, they were a rich dark brown. She was so beautiful. Why can't she be here with me? That b****rd took her life. That f***ing low life. She had the cutest small body and those soft bubbly toes. That’s all gone now though. It isn't going to come back. Ever.
Everything in my life has changed since that day. The way I breathe, how my clothing fits, everything. I stopped wearing my hair long and to the side. She always liked it that way, but I had to get rid of it after she died. She loved how my brown hair was always soft. I'm 5'11" now, a little bit taller than when she was alive. My body slimmed out a bit too because I don't have much of a diet anymore. My clothes are dirty and tarnished now. So is this apartment I live in. The door reads, "Sean Anderson," in black ink that's peeling away from the silver door. There aren't any reminders of her in this apartment except one thing. I had to throw everything else away when I moved. It was all too much. Her gifts to me, spare clothes she left in my closet, her gold necklace.
The apartment is small. There's a living room, kitchen, bath, and bedroom. None have much significance to them. Dirty dishes plastered with take out food and cups smelling of liquor pile up in the kitchen. Whiskey and cracker crumbs are filling in where the grout in the tile has worn. I can see it from where I'm sitting. There's a big blue chair in the living room. It's the only place I can sit in this dump. Blue was her favorite color you know. The couch is infested with bed bugs and covered in dirty towels. I keep the bedroom clean for obvious reasons. The bed was from my parent’s house. A queen sized mattress in the corner of the room. I had sex with a couple of girls on it since I moved in, but it was always nothing. There wouldn't be anything else to do since the television is busted and all.
Life hasn't always been like this. It used to be good. I remember the day of my 19th birthday four years ago. Paige and I stayed at my parent’s house for dinner. They were on vacation so we had the place to ourselves. We had dinner and joked around. It was Chicken Parmesan with little penne pasta. She wore a blue dress that made her eyes sparkle, and I wore a v-neck with a black cardigan. As we sat at the table eating dinner she told me how she loved me, and I said the same thing back. It was all so perfect.
It was getting dark outside when we finished dinner. We took a walk to the park at the end of the street. There was an old swing set there that we sat at and had a smoke. As she lit her cigarette I took another one from the pack and put my lighter up to it. We smoked, talked, and kissed for hours out at that park. The sand under the swings was still warm from the afternoon sun beating down on it. My watch read 10:30 when we were about to leave. The swamp behind the park had an eerie black veil over it. Paige wanted to go for a walk on the parallel path.
We cast away into the darkness. She held my hand so tight that her soft fingers were sucking the warmth out of me. The dirt path was narrow and it seemed to go on forever. After a couple of minutes, the park was out of sight and no house lights were visible.
"Did you have a good birthday? You know, since your parents skipped this one and all."
"I had a great time, baby. I don't think it could get any better."
"It's starting to get cold can we head back home?"
"Of course. Are your feet okay in those shoes?"
"Mhm, I'll be fine don't you worry," followed by a smile and a kiss on the cheek.
We walked for about ten minutes before the park was visible again, but there was someone else on the path now. I couldn't make out a face or anything. It was a tall man who looked like he was in a hurry. Paige squeezed my arm with both of hers. I could tell she was scared. She whispered, "Sean, I have a bad feeling about that guy he's running so fast." I didn't think much of it. Probably someone who got drunk and is trying to find their way home.
The man was about ten feet from us when he stopped. His shoulders were rocking up and down as he tried to catch his breath. Tattoos covered his neck and his arms. The only part of his face I could see had black skin. His skin was tense and rigid. His clothing was darker than his skin. The hoodie and pants he wore were black and covered in mud. His eyes scanned us like some sort of robot trying to figure out if danger is present or not. He started to creep towards us.
"Hey kid, you have a wallet?" asked the stranger.
"Why does it matter to you?" I snapped.
"Don't use that tone with me you little s***. Now answer my question. Do you have a wallet?"
"Don't worry about it."
"What about your little girlfriend there? She must have money on her." He turned towards Paige. "So what do you say? You got money or not?"
She slid herself behind me and didn't say a word. The stranger didn't look happy with us.
The stranger became enraged. "You little b**** get over here!" He stepped forward. "Give me your money, and give me all of it."
"She doesn't have anything. What don't you understand about that you worthless piece of s***?" I could feel Paige's face on my back when I yelled.
"I'm not f***ing around anymore. Give me your money and give me your little girlfriend's money too. Do you really want to continue this game?"
The stranger started to fiddle around in his pocket. He pulled something out but I couldn't tell what it was. There was a click and I knew it was a gun. It had to be the safety of a gun coming off. My heart began to race. It wanted to get out of my chest, and far away from this man. "Run!" I screamed to Paige. "Turn around and run. F*** Paige run!"
We started running as fast as we could. We ran without knowing where we were going to end up, or who we were going to encounter. No matter how fast we ran, the stranger was still no more than twenty feet behind us. I heard a crack followed by a screech. Paige's heel on her shoe broke and she went tumbling into the dirt path. I helped her up and we kept running with my arm around her. Her face was bloodied from the fall and dirt was in her hair. She began to cry and hyperventilate.
"You motherf***ing kids stop running!" He had to catch his breath in between words. "I mean it god d***it!"
I whispered, "Paige keep running. Please keep running. Don't be scared of this man we can get away. There's an apartment complex up the path some more. People will be there and we'll be safe." All she could do was look at me through her tear ridden eyes and nod.
Her legs were speckled with dirt from the path and my shoes were soaked from stepping into a puddle. The spiral curls in Paige's hair were tangled and knotted from the sweat and blinding wind. The path was so hard to see at that point. What if she fell again? She can barely run with one high heel broken. What if she slips and breaks an ankle? We'd be screwed.
I took my wallet out from my back pocket. It had a picture of Paige and I in there with around a hundred dollars tucked behind. I threw it at the stranger who was gaining on us. He didn't stop to pick it up, he kept chasing us.
"Leave us alone!" I cried from the bottom of my heart. "You have my money take it and leave!"
"You little f***ers caused me too much trouble. The wallet can wait, I want your a** now."
He brought the gun up from his side. I heard a crack of sound worse than a thunderstorm or a car crash. Paige screamed at the top of her lungs "Help!" and she kept screaming.
"Shut up! Shut up, shut up you little girl!" yelled the stranger.
Paige wouldn't stop though. She was hysterical now. The tears were crashing into me, and they began to weigh me down.
I tried to whisper to her, "Paige please stop we need to focus and run faster."
There was another crack. This time I didn't hear Paige cry after. I stopped running and saw her face down on the path behind me. The stranger wasn't far behind her. He looked at her, up at me, then back down to her. There was blood on the path. It was on the back of my legs and all over Paige. The stranger started to freak out. He brushed his shaking hand through his hair. It left a messy frizz. He turned around and ran away from us. Didn't stop to take her money or anything. Just turned and ran away after seeing what he had done.
I rushed to her side. There was a rip in her dress to the left of the spine. I pulled at the tear until the top of her dress came apart. There was blood everywhere. Her soft white skin was stained in red. The tips of her hair were damp with blood splatter. She was still breathing shallow, rapid breaths. When I turn her over, there was more blood on her chest. The bullet went through her. I could see the exit hole on her breast.
"Paige? Paige? Baby, can you hear me?" I pleaded. "Say something, anything. Please Paige do this for me."
"Sean…" There was so much blood in her mouth. "Sean?"
"Yes? What Paige what? Please tell me your okay."
"I… I hope you had a good birthday." She began to cough violently. "I wish we opened presents. I made a photo book for us. You know, of the last three years we spent together.”
"Paige, I love you. Don't leave me. I'm going to bring you to the hospital. The apartment complex can't be more than five minutes from here. Stay with me for a little longer."
I couldn't control myself at this point. My tears were cleaning little streaks of blood off her chest. I took off my cardigan and tried to clean off her face with it. The ground under her was getting saturated with blood from the gunshot. I managed to get my cardigan under her so she wasn't lying in the mud.
"I love you, Sean. I love you so much."
"Paige don't say it like thats the last time you're going to. Nothing else is going to happen to you. Everything is going to be okay I promise."
She started closing her eyes. It was a struggle to keep them open. My hands were covered in blood. I had to keep pressure on her chest so the bleeding would stop. She already lost so much blood. I kissed Paige on the lips and it left a ring around my lips of blood and dirt. She looked so miserable.
"Sean I don't know."
"Don't know what?"
"If" She fought for a mouthful of air. "If I'm going to be alright. I'm so dizzy."
Her eyes closed. I began to cry even harder. They dripped down into her dress and cleared away more of the blood. Every tear that hit her made her chest spasm a little bit. Finally she stopped breathing.
"Paige? Oh my god Paige say something. Breathe! Cough! Do something to tell me that you're alive. Wiggle your finger. Do anything. Please don't leave me here." I started shaking. "Paige… Paige please give me another kiss. I need to know that you're still here."
She never did kiss me back, or wiggle her finger. That last crack of lightning silenced my thunder. I put my hands to my face and started to cry even more. The blood and dirt got all over me. In my hair that was hanging just below my eyes, in the stubble on my neck, I became engulfed in it.
I had to leave her, though. I ended up walking to the apartment complex soaked in her blood. We called the police and they found her body, cold, dirty and lifeless on the path. An ambulance took both of us to the hospital where they cleaned me up. The only wounds were scratches on my knees from falling down at Paige's side. Her body was taken off into a private sector of the hospital where she was pronounced dead. She died at 11:50 by my side, and officially died at 12:30 by a doctor’s side, who knew she was gone a while ago.
Then there was the investigation of it all. Police officers, detectives, friends, our parents. They all asked me what happened and if I could identify the man chasing us. I never could though. It was so dark that night. Therapists tried to help me cope with what happened, but it never worked. That night has haunted me ever since.
A lot of time has passed since then. My hair doesn't flip to the side anymore. It's cut somewhat short and tidied up. I teach English and Creative Writing at my old high school now. About halfway through my first year there and it's great. I just wish I could come home to Paige at the end of the day. My parents try to get me to date new people but I can't get myself to do it. I keep the photo album Paige made me for my 19th birthday by my bedside and I look through it everyday, sometimes even two or three times.
Coping with loss is hard. Everything around me is falling apart because I don't give a f***. What's the point? Why keep a clean apartment if there isn't anyone to entertain? The only thing that gets my mind off her is the stories and poems my students write. I teach them, and they teach me. That’s the only way to clear my mind.
Some nights my mind can't be cleared. All I can think about is finding the guy who killed her. Trust me I've tried, but I can't find him anywhere. I searched that path for months looking for clues. A foot print, hair, anything. The police found the gun shell casing but never did much a gun with it. Forensics found a hair on Paige's arm. After they tested it and traced it to a source it was all lost time. It was my hair that came off when we were running. A little hair that grows behind your ear when you haven't gotten a haircut in a while. The police did find an abandoned bottle of Vodka and a small bag that had the remains of marijuana in it. The b****rd was too stoned to even realize what h*ll he was going to put Paige and I through.
I can't find a cure to this pain. I'm going to sit and rot in this apartment for the rest of my life. I've been talking to myself again. Telling this story to myself like I am right now. F*** man, I don't know what to do. I don't f***ing know what to do. I don't know. What is there to do when you lost a loved one? Wait for the pain to suppress and move on like nothing happened? Conform into the rest of everyday society and work until I'm old and crippled? This isn't my life anymore. My life was taken from me that same night Paige lost hers. I'm a wondering spirit in a realm with no relief. I’m the oil ridden ocean with no life left in it. Paige, why can't you be here with me? It's so cold.