Die With You

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It was prom night, and the girls’ jewels shone like stars. Casey took Jeff’s arm, looked in his eyes, and begged for a dance. As he always did, he gave in to her. Even though he was allowed only under the stipulation that he not strain himself. It was just one slow dance, he told himself, pushing back thoughts of his spreading cancer. His doctor had compared it to an ivy, slowly creeping into hidden corners of his body.

That image had terrified Jeff so much that he completely ignored it. “Screw it,” he’d said. “I’m dying. I’m over it. Let’s move on, shall we?” Casey, thought, had born the diagnoses with less grace. She was dying too, but of a broken heart. Or rather, the anticipation of one.

They made their careful way out onto the dance floor, Casey’s dress--a pale blue dusted with black lace—snagging on every club-worthy sequin number they encountered. Jeff took her in his arms in the one empty spot they could find. The song, a slow rock ballad, blended into the next one. “This song touched me,” the DJ said, and a few boys snickered. “Yeah, whatever, I hope it touches some of you,” the DJ responded, pressing a button and setting his microphone down. When the mic left the general area of his mouth, those nearby heard him mutter what sounded like “Might as well register as a sex offender now,” under his breath.

A plucking guitar filled the speakers, a new song blasting. A voice Casey knew well began to sing, to speak. To describe her situation perfectly. “In this world full of people,” Ryan Tedder sang, “There’s only one killing me.” She smiled, grabbing Jeff’s waist. Tugging him closer. “If we only die once/ I wanna die with you.” Jeff rested his chin on her hair, stifling a cough. It felt like something might be in his lungs, but he wasn’t going to mention it. Casey had looked forward to prom for months—he wouldn’t ruin it. “It’s amazing,” Casey whispered, once the chorus had been repeated after accompaniment, ending the song, “how he knows exactly how I feel.” She smiled, her phone appearing in her hand from an unknown location. Jeff smirked. He would have to look for her hiding place later.

She quickly hopped on the school’s wifi, buying the song. Outasight had already begun to play, and people were jumping up and down. “Let’s get out of here,” Jeff suggested, resisting the urge to clear his throat. “What?” Casey said. “We’ve only just got here!”

Jeff rolled his eyes. “Check the clock, love. We’ve been here two hours. We’ve gotta be home in one hour—don’t you want to use it?” He tried to waggle his eyebrows like a cartoon villain, failing miserably. She pretended to weigh her options, to think it over. Ignoring his protesting lungs, Jeff scooped her up. “Okay,” she said. “Let’s get out of here.”

Grinning at the gawking teenagers, he said, “Good, ‘cause I think they might have had me arrested for hot-girl-napping.” It was cheesy, but Casey oozed out “Aww” like she was supposed to. “’Least you didn’t call me a kid.”

“Didn’t want to ruin my chances,” Jeff laughed, setting her down outside the door, sweeping her against his chest. Her heels made her the perfect height, and he kissed her. Hands clasped, they walked to the car, his precious, aging truck. She got in the passenger seat, closing her own door to conserve his energy. He buckled himself in. She plugged her phone into the recently updated stereo system, smiling at her thoughts. One manicured fingernail pressed shuffle; Jeff’s scarred hands turned the wheel to guide them out of the parking lot.

About three miles from the school, he began to look strained. Casey asked if she needed to drive; he stubbornly shook his head. A few minutes later, he shifted awkwardly. Concerned, she asked gently if he needed to go home. Again he shook his head.

Casey’s newest purchase had just begun when, gasping, he unbuckled his seatbelt, jerking the wheel sharply in the process. She reached over in an attempt to straighten it, but another attack over took him, and he fought her. The dark blue truck careened into the velvety-looking night, headlights starkly illuminating a copse of trees.

Another muscle spasm stomped his foot against the gas pedal, and Casey screamed sharply, drowning out the singer. Into the trees they went. The hood made contact as the song reached its climax. Casey and Jeff shot forward, her banging her head on the dash and snapping her neck, him suffocating slowly, eyes glued on her lifeless form. He took his last breath, or rather had one last contraction in his lungs, as the song faded away a second time.

“If we only live once....”

All the sounds that had previously wracked the forest were silent, appalled by this blatant irony, this mockery of those young lives cut short.

“I wanna live with you.”

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