Author's note: This book was inspired by the cover of the song "Last Kiss" done by Pearl Jam. Along with a few... Show full author's note »
Last KissLast Kiss
When Sarah saw him for the first time, her heart leapt and became as clear as his ice-blue eyes. Now those eyes lay in front of her, empty and lifeless, yet his face still carried the same look of sincerity she had seen from the beginning. These arms which once held her tight now lay still, too weak to move even an inch. His body, mangled and torn, resembled the remains of their Honda which lay tattered in the dark, wet fields that ran along the small, country road. She had tried
* * *
"That'll be a dollar forty sir."
Embarrassed; the customer at the counter avoided direct eye contact with the cashier. Pulls out coins from his pockets, counts his change carefully and hands it to the cashier. "Here ya go." He says quietly.
Somewhat aggravated the employee counts the various coins laid out in front of her to make sure it's enough, and replies kindly without showing her annoyance, "Have a good night and drive safely sir."
The customer takes his beer and looks outside where he could see all that was waiting for him was darkness. Nights like this were typical in his life though, and as he leaves tells the employee, "Thanks, you too."
In his mind James wondered how often these people actually meant this or how much of the time these people behind the counter were just programmed to say this from fear of being fired from their minimum wage jobs. Either way he thought, as long as I get my beer I'm fine.
When James got to his car he opened up his beer and sat alone and muttered to himself, "Here’s to another boring night in what I call my life.”
Taking a quick sip, he started his car ready to go off into the night and could hear the roars of thunder from an approaching thunder storm.
* * *
"Ryan hurry up man or else I'm leaving your lazy ass, it’s been more than 2 hours and you're still not ready! The graduation started around 7:30 and is probably over by now!"
"Whatever!” shouted Ryan, "I'll be down in a minute I already told you I had to take care of some stuff before I could get ready."
Josh sat there irritated and impatient staring at the large grandfather clock that sat in the living room of their apartment.
"Sure you did man. You're just stalling. Isn't going to your sister’s graduation important to you?" He sat there waiting to hear what Ryan would say, but it was quiet.
Time was of the essence and they were running out of it quickly Josh thought. It was bad enough that they were late, but now he was unsure that going would do anything. Ryan had always been stubborn, but when it came to Sarah he was always there. Whether, it had been at her failed attempt to sing the solo at the school’s annual Christmas concert a few years back, or her newly found passion for volleyball this year. Ryan was there. He was always there to give her praise for doing what he didn’t. That was the one way they did differ. Where Sarah always seemed bold and naturally outgoing, Ryan had been reserved and quiet. But together they were perfect thought Josh.
"Of course it’s important”, he finally heard a response from Ryan, “Why would you ask something stupid like that?"
"I'm just saying its bad enough Ben told her he wouldn’t be able to make it. Imagine how she’ll feel if you don’t even come?”
Ryan finally started coming down the stairs in a quick manner, but still seemed somewhat unconcerned.
"Sure it will Josh and next thing you know Ben will come to the door telling us he proposed to Sylvie finally, which you and I know won’t happen anytime soon, unless he decided to grow a pair."
As Ryan came down, he responded as if blowing off what he heard, even though this was all he could think of for the past couple days. Seeing his sister graduate was the happiest, and yet hardest thing that he ever had to witness. Since she had been six and he was nine, it had been just them two. He never questioned why their parents were taken from them in that car accident, it was all in the past. It affected him more than he could say; maybe that’s why he tended to keep to himself. No one around him could understand how it felt to lose your parents at such a young age. The problem was though, neither could he, because he was too young to know the full extent of the loss; all he knew is the little piece of him that was still right was in Sarah. This night would be the beginning of her new life, a life that might not need him anymore though.
Ryan seemed lost in thought to Josh, but finally he heard him say calmly, “Let’s head out now. If we hurry, we can at least make it to see at least the end and she can think we were there the whole time."
With a deep sigh Josh responded, "Okay man lets head out. You know it takes half an hour to get there.”
* * *
The cool breeze from the wind helped ease the anxiety Ben felt, but the knots in his stomach still remained. He didn’t know where the sudden lapse of judgment came from, but he knew for once he needed to go through with his gut-feelings. Although Ben knew his boss wouldn’t like it, Ben had to miss work just this one time. He was always early and never missed a day before, so it wouldn’t hurt. Besides, the boys at mill could make it without him for a day. It was risky though, but it didn’t matter now that he came all this way. Now if only he could find the right words to tell her, but at the moment he was tongue tied. Ben had always felt like a coward for doubting himself constantly. Hell, everyone around him knew Ben’s streak for fumbling around lost opportunities. Ben was brave in his own way though; he had a heart of gold
He’d only gotten about 3 hours of sleep in the past 36 hours, but he felt restless still. Pacing back and forth along the sidewalk, he teetered on the edge trying to distract himself from the task at hand.
The thought of her sweet smell came to Ben’s mind. Like some of his mother’s fresh peaches she always grew. The soft touch of her long, black hair on his face entranced him. Eyes so green they seemed to be their own shade of green entirely.
Ben and Sarah had been together for over 9 months and they had been the greatest of his life. He knew that it hadn’t been as long as he planned to wait, but timing had never been his forte. Ben knew at this very moment; terrified or not, that he loved Sarah and planned on asking her to spend her life with him.
* * *
Thinking ahead had never really been part of who they were and besides, they had always been there before. This one time they were late wouldn't hurt right? But then why did she feel so crappy?
Sarah had officially graduated from high school exactly 12 minutes ago and counting. These moments after the ceremony were supposed to be ones of celebrating that the trials and tribulations of high school had finally ended. Instead she was outside in the cold just waiting.
The light from the billboard shining at front of the school offered the only sign of life for miles.
Zurich B. Rutherford High School
Looking out to the winding country road which led out to the country side, she felt a slight breeze that lifted her curly hair up. The road stretched for miles. The sky was the clear and the moonlight illuminated the dark so she could see across the fields to the gas station miles down the road. It was the only thing that lay between half hour drive to the school and city.
Giving no more thought Sylvie finally decided to just head inside to shield herself from the coming rain she could feel coming. Hopefully she would by then regroup herself in the next ten minutes so she wouldn't have to face her brother and Josh with a sad face. If and when they did arrive to the small square parking lot in front of the old, one story school high school. She messes around with her golden necklace. It was the only thing she ever had that always remained with her at all times of the day. It was a round locket, embedded with a familiar symbol. A large maple tree; just like the one outside her house when she was a young girl. On the inside though, was an image more precious. The only remaining picture she had of her parents. Though the memories seemed vague and far off, Sarah was sure they were there.
Rather slowly Sarah loosens her grip on the locket, and it falls back to her chest. She turns to make her way back inside. But then, all of a sudden she hears someone yell, “Hey Beautiful!”
The voice was as familiar to her as these hallways she had walked for 4 years. She could have pointed it out in a crowd of people easily. Ben, she thought and smiled to herself.
* * *
He threw out the can and pulls out another beer. James was on a roll, and had no plans of stopping. “Freebird” was playing in the back, and the wind blew threw his open window. The air chilled him though, and made him a bit queasy. The road up ahead looks a bit hazy, but James just shakes his head to rid to himself of the chill that ran up his spine. He rolls up the window as he passes a sign.
Zurich High School 18 miles…
* * *
Finally, thought Ben, as he held Sarah’s hand in his. Their two hands entwined as one; two halves that never should have been split. About a year ago, this was the point in Ben’s life where he had to make all the big choices, but he was too scared. He wanted to run, but there was nowhere to run to. Any place seemed better than here, but no place seemed to within his grasp. It seemed as if he would continue here for the rest of his days. Lost, like a ship at sea; no heading, or even a map to chart his course. That is, if he had any idea of where he was going. That was until he met Sarah though. For once the thought of staying here, in this town that had always caged him in and kept Ben’s dreams at bay, didn’t seem that bad. As long as Sylvie was there to keep him afloat, it wouldn’t be.
“Do I ask now, or later?” Ben mutters to himself, “but how the hell do I ask?” His impulsive behavior had always led him to make split second decisions. So, with no plan Ben just sighs, and tells himself and looks over at Sylvie. She smiles a sweet, innocent smile, and this warms him from the inside. A barrage of thoughts all rain down on his mind, as he looks at an endless road in front of him. The headlight from his car beamed down in front on him, giving light to the surrounding emptiness of the night. He looks up at the moon just for a second, but that’s all it took for the turn up ahead to come up. A car came into view; coming down the wrong side of the road.
Ben’s heart drops. Time slowed, and his eyes looked to Sylvie. Ben felt the two forces coming together. The hot metal and glass exploding around them, but what Ben heard, and felt was more of an implosion. The world around him seemed to flash, and then....darkness.
* * *
He couldn’t tell whether he was awake, or asleep at first. Bright lights and a ringing in his ears were all Ben could make sense of, if that made any sense. Slowly, he felt himself recalling what had just happened. Images flashed before him and sounds echoed throughout his mind as if he were in a cave; screeching tires, the loud roar of a truck, and the cold chill of the icy rain outside were all he could remember. Images flashed in his head, but he couldn’t make any sense of them. Ben didn’t know how long he’d been out here, but he knew this was no dream either.
Ben couldn’t feel an inch of his body. He laid there scared, with closed eyes. Too scared to bare witness to what he feared may be true. Instead, he thought about Sarah. The one good thing he had going for him. He may not have been perfect. He did a lot of things that were bad, but for her, he fought to make something of himself. He still remembered the first day they met, though it may sound cliché, as if it were yesterday.
It was at the library, his sanctum where he was free from the world. Hours upon hours of reading he had done there. It was on the second floor though one day where he caught a glance at her. Probably by sheer luck, considering he had been leaving already, but doubled back to the shelves for a copy of Catcher in the Rye, his most treasured book. It was there sitting across the library where he spotted the girl with the long black hair. She had on a pickle green cardigan, and a beanie. She wore black framed glasses, even though typically she refused to wear them in public.
Ben had probably seen everyone that had ever entered the library after all these years of visiting, but she remained an enigma to him. She turned as he stared, but he was too dumbfounded to realize how silly he looked staring from across the library. The girl must have realized this, but didn’t seem bothered, as she waved at him and smiled that beautiful smile Ben knew so well. He froze and his heart raced. He wasn’t sure whether his heart raced from excitement that she noticed him, or from terror that he didn’t know what to do now.
Ben never did end up doing anything though. Ben exited the library; his heart was pounding, and he was already beating himself up. Why couldn't he find the right words to say to her? What an idiot, he thought. Ben had missed his one shot at talking to this girl.
Just as he exited the building though, he heard a call, “Hey dude!”
Ben stopped, but didn’t dare turn around. He wanted to keep walking, but as soon as he made the move, from his peripheral he caught a glimpse of the same girl coming to a halt at his side. God, he thought, what do I say?
“Hi, uh, did you need something?” he asked.
“Nothing in particular...” She paused for a second and parsed her lips. “Maybe you could tell me something though?”
“Um, sure…” he said hesitantly.
“Any particular reason you were staring at me from across the library?” She said it coolly, but the words melted Ben into a puddle before her.
The breath seemed to be sucked out of his body as each word entered through his ears. He couldn’t tell her the truth…could he? How crazy would that be, to tell a stranger that they blew your mind away? The thought had never really crossed his mind, but then again, why today of all days did he want to choose to be reckless?
He looked at her, and that’s when he first saw her green eyes for the first time and in the light they were shining, like a green star. “Well maybe… it’s because, I don’t know, I guess I thought you were really pretty,” he muttered. The words had actually left his lips. But he heard no reply. Ben could feel himself crashing and burning already. He had flown too close to the sun and now his embarrassment would be branded on his face for months.
“I’m sorry,” he said, “I’ve got to go.”
But as he tried to walk away, she grabbed him by the shoulder and told him, “If you were ever want to, we could maybe meet here again one day.” The words hung in the air and sat there, mesmerizing Ben.
She smiled at him, and started back towards the library, while Ben sat there, contemplating whether their conversation actually happened. Just as he realizes she was leaving, he turned and shouts, “Is Friday afternoon good with you?”
He hears her laugh, and that makes the smile on his face even bigger and goofier. “Yes, that’s perfect.” she yells with a smile just as big, but not goofy like his. It was beautiful. And like that she was gone.
People say that they feel sparks when they first touch, but Ben’s entire being exploded in a stunning show of fireworks when she touched his shoulder. And with that single touch, it’s as if she changed his view on the world around him. It’s as if they were black and white before he met her, but at that one instance she opened his eyes to the colors of the world. A pallet filled with an array of beauty and mystery. He wasn’t sure whether to be afraid, for he didn’t understand the world around him the same anymore, or amazed that a single person could do this to him. But he knew for damn sure he was going to be at that library Friday afternoon.
* * *
He could feel himself losing his grip on reality. The weight bore down upon him as if he were Atlas, cursed to hold the weight of the world alone. Body, mind, and soul; nothing was free of this burden. It was funny he could even feel this, seeing as how not a muscle in his body could move.
Lying there, he couldn’t see himself through the darkness, but he knew his body was utterly destroyed. Nothing could have escaped a collision like that unscratched. Even if his body wasn’t damaged, his mind was in pieces. Too much came to mind in those moments and James couldn’t focus on anything. Strangely though, he saw flash of light. James saw himself as a young boy terrified sitting at the doctor’s office. The thought made him laugh, or at least it would have, if he had the strength to.
Something inside James pushed and pushed, but to no avail. He knew he wouldn’t be going anywhere, but still his heart fought it. If only his heart had control instead of his weak mind, then maybe he could have had a chance. The only thing left to comfort him before the end was the soft touch of grass underneath him.
* * *
“What the hell?” Ryan shares; shaken by what he had just seen. Smoke was everywhere, fragments of what were cars littered across the road and fields. Rain pours down around them, but does quell the severity of the situation.
He shouts at Josh to stop the car, but jumps out before the car has made a full stop. Ryan stumbles a bit, but quickly regains balance. Racing towards the wreckage, he notices something lying on the ground. A golden necklace scratched up and muddy. His eyes widen with fear as he bends down to pick the locket. Though the locket is dented, he feels the maple tree that’s image was engraved into all those years ago.
Panic runs through his mind, and he chokes up. He wanted to yell, but words won’t come out. Ryan looks around frantically. He looks around for any sign of her. Everything he sees though is broken around him, and only increases his fear. Josh runs up beside him and says, “Oh my god, what do you think happened,” but he doesn’t finish the sentence once he sees the locket in Ryan’s hand.
Josh quickly tells Ryan, “Get up man.”
“Come on man, get up! We’ve got to find her!”
Ryan looks up confused for a second, but somehow regains his train of though. The fields he thinks, remembering the debris he had seen there. Like a possessed man, Ryan sprints towards the side of the road to see if he’ll find Sarah, but instead he finds someone he doesn’t even know.
“Josh, come quick,” Ryan shouts, “There’s someone over here!”
Josh runs up and stops suddenly when he sees the mangled body.
“We’ve got to call someone”, Josh says.
“No time, take him in the truck.”
As gently as they can, Ryan and Josh wrap the man’s body in covers in the back of Josh’s truck and lift him. After they load him, Josh gets in, but Ryan stays.
“What are you doing man? Get in” Josh says.
“I can’t,” Ryan says, “You know I can’t leave her.”
Ryan then runs off into the field and doesn’t look back as Josh drives off. He knows Sarah is out here, and won’t rest until he finds her. The fields come up to his chest, and they trip him every once in a while, but his resolve is relentless.
He sees a patch in the field that been flattened and heads toward it. What he comes to, could never have been feasible in his mind. There, lying under the light of the moon was Sarah with someone in her arms. He falls to his knees, and whispers Ben’s name.
* * *
Sarah clung to a broken Ben in her weak arms. They were talking, as if nothing had just happened. When she had found him, he was lying there with his eyes closed; the sight nearly took the life from her. She called his name and ran to him on wobbly legs, until she dropped. On her knees, she crawled until she reached him. Taking his cold, wet face in her hands, she weeps, “Ben. Wake up Ben.”
She did something you shouldn’t normally do to an injured person and shook him. She couldn’t help herself. The emotion swelled inside her, and tears rolled out of her eyes. But suddenly, she heard a faint sound coming from his lips. Weakly, Ben opened his eyes, and whispered, “Hey beautiful…you’re not hurt…are you?”
Hearing his voice made her smile at least, and with a choked up voice she says, “I’m fine Ben, but I don’t think you are.” Looking down at Ben’s broken body, the sight tears through Sarah from the inside.
He laughs, and Sarah looks up at him with pained eyes. Their eyes meet, and she recalls the explosion of joy she felt the first time they met. Now there would be no joy. No one would be able to rescue Ben. They sat silent and cold in the rain.
The silence is broken though by Ben.
“Reach inside my pocket,” Ben says, “There’s something in there for you.”
Carefully, Sarah goes for his torn pockets, not seeing how anything could have stayed intact in there. Inside, she finds a small ring. It’s humble in size, but the stone is more beautiful than anything she has ever seen. Sarah holds it up as lightning strikes, and the light reflects off the ring briefly.
“I’m sorry that I didn’t choose a better time to give you this. You know I’ve never had very good timing.”
And with that, Sarah is broken. Everything she knew was now erased. She cried, and held him tight. She feels his last heartbeats, in sync with her own. Sarah grabs his face, and leans in to kiss him; their last kiss. And at that moment, she felt Ben’s body go limp, and the last beat of his heart.