Engl 307: Fiction Workshop

Dr. MacDiarmid

Fall 2016, Sophmore Year

Prompt: Write a story over 1000 words.  Mine ended up being 5791 words.

A Dance with Death

Hanging limply in my closet, the orange dress mocks me.  I sit on the edge of my bed and stare at it, a hollow feeling bearing into my chest.  Mom would have had it poofy and lovely and ready for tonight.  She would have had a whole list of accessories she would want me to try with the dress on and how to have my hair done.

I close my eyes and imagine her bubbling energy washing over me as she gushes about dresses and makeup and jewelry.  The smile she wears will brighten the room and make me want to laugh.  We laughed so much together, especially when Mom would make me dress up for her.  Stores knew our faces coming in to try on any fun looking dresses.  Our favorite pastime consisted of her picking out dresses for me to slip into and showcase in front of the full length mirrors.  She would love to see me in another dress.  Then again, Mom would never have liked this dress.  It’s too simple— just an orange, flat dress with spaghetti straps and a deep dip in the chest.  If I try to spin, it’ll just flounder around my knees.  Pathetic.

I don’t much like it either, but Mikaela lent it to me, saying it was my color and will fit me “fine.”  Like I really care about being “fine” or pretty tonight.  Dad cares.  Mom would have too.

Mom would have been all over tonight.

Tears prick my eyes as I stare at the stupid dress.  Maybe I won’t wear this one.  Mikaela will be hurt but orange is just too bright.  I’m pale, for Pete’s sake.  Why did she ever think this dress would work on me?  I don’t need brightness in my life right now anyway.  I just want to wallow.

I want my mom.

A knock comes from the door before Dad’s head pokes in.  “Hey, love-bug.  How’s the lady preparation?”

Waving the dripping red nail polish, I force the muscles in my mouth to twist into a smile.  “Oh, you know. It’s fine: all the primping and teasing and what not.  I’m sure Mikaela will be over soon to yell at me to get moving.”

Pushing the door open, he lightly walks up to me and rests his hands on my shoulders.  “Well, you look great already.”  He bends down and kisses the top of my head.  “You should go just in your sweats and flannel.  You’d be a shoo in for Prom Queen.”

I cover his hands with mine, mindful of the wet nail polish.  “Don’t tempt me.  I just might.”

Dad squeezes my shoulders.  “Is there anything I can get you, love-bug?”

“I’m good, but thanks anyway.  I just have to finish painting my nails and hairspray my hair one last time before putting on the dress.”  I force another smile.

His eyes shift from me as a wobbly smile appears.  “That reminds me: there’s something I have to show you.”  After looking at my wet nails, he says, “Will you come to our room when you’re almost ready?  Before you put on the dress, that is.”

Inwardly, I cringe at the plural he uses.  Despite it being four months since Mom passed away, Dad still slips into old habits of “our bedroom” and “we are so proud” and other things that make me want to shut down and cry.  I slip too, but nothing makes the hollow pain any less sharp.

“Of course, Dad.  It’ll take me only five more minutes.”  I put the last red coat of polish on and settle back.  Dad nods as he slides out of the room again.

My phone buzzes as I wait for the polish to dry.  Flicking the unlock button, I sigh at Mikaela’s text.  “Hey Tyra.  Car’s being dumb.  Meet you at the dance.  Sorry! -XOXOXO”

I flip the phone over as tears squeeze my throat again.  Of course Mikaela bailed.  For the past couple months since Mom’s accident, Mikaela dodges me at every move.  At the funeral, she tried to be supportive, but I’m now a broken thing, crying at every car ad or Mom and Daughter commercial on TV.  Once, we were bubbly and happy together, but the constant ache from losing Mom makes it impossible for me to really feel that happiness again.

Swallowing the tears, I test my nails.  Nothing sticks to my fingertips.  I take a deep breath and leave my bedroom.  I have to keep it together for Dad.

Dad’s bedroom is down the hall from mine.  Walking in, I immediately notice the bed.  The left side is neatly pulled over the pillows and pristine. The right side is disheveled with the comforter folded back and pillows hanging off.  Twisted in the blankets is a white knitted sweater that Mom always wore.  Other clothes litter the right side of the room’s floor, most being Dad’s dirty shirts or Mom’s that had lost its scent.  The rest of Mom’s things sit untouched on her vanity dresser or hang on the left side of the walk in closet.

I flick my eyes away from the bed and notice Dad holding a garment bag.  Tears shine in his eyes as he looks at me.  “Before your Mom—,” Dad stops and takes a deep breath.  “Before your Mom passed, she found this when she was cleaning out Grandma’s house.  She had someone alter it to fit your style a little better.  It’s been cleaned and retouched up, but it’s still very much like it was before, minus the God awful puffy sleeves.”  He stretches his arms out to me.

With shaking fingers, I gently take the garment bag.  Putting the hanger on the bed’s railing, I carefully unzip it.  Immediately, tears pop into my eyes.  Inside is an amber dress with rhinestones dripping from the bodice and a black layered skirt slimmed by a simple ribbon at the waist.  When I was younger, Mom told me all about this dress.  At her Prom, it mirrored the other dresses of the time with thick sleeves and rippling skirts.  She showed me pictures of her standing next to Dad in front of some marble arch.  She looked so happy in those photos.

I wipe away the tears and smile shakily.  “Dad,” my voice cracks, “I can’t believe she—”

I sit on the bed as the hollow feeling bursts into sobs.  Dad sits next to me, wrapping his arms around me and pressing my face into his chest.  Here I am warm and safe to grieve.  My fingers twist into his shirt as my shoulders heave.  His chin rests on my head, his own tears dampening my hair.  My vision blurs with water and the makeup I put on not that long ago.  As I weep in his arms, Dad rubs little circles into my lower back, comforting me.  Slowly, the pain in my chest dissipates until I’m only sniffling into his shirt.

“I miss her so much,” I croak into his chest.  “This would have been her night.”

“I know,” Dad whispers.  A hand gently touches my curled hair. “She would’ve loved to see you in this dress.”

I sit up and smear the black mascara lines across my cheeks.  “I suppose I should go and finish getting ready then.”

“I suppose so.”  He swipes at his own red, swollen eyes and smiles.  “Don’t want to keep prince charming waiting, now do we?”

Snorting, I carefully take the bag.  “I already told you.  I’m not going to the dance with anyone.  Not even Mikaela.”

Dad’s smile falls.  “I thought she was coming over?”

I shrug.  “Not anymore.”

“I’m sorry, love-bug.”  He stands to hug me again.

I shrug.  “It doesn’t even matter anymore.  Mikaela hasn’t really wanted to hang out with me much these days.”  Weakly, I smile.  “Oh well.  It’s fine.  I’ll just do my own thing.”

“Tyra,” Dad says with concern.

“Really.  It’s fine.  Besides, I’ve got this now,” I say as I hold up the bag. “But really, I need to finish getting ready.”  Pecking a kiss on his cheek, I leave his room and go back to mine.

Glancing at the mirror, I rub off the black streaks of my ruined makeup.  Quickly, I reapply the light brown eyeshadow, eyeliner, and mascara, throwing a touch of glitter on as well to accentuate the bright green of my eyes.  My hair is ok yet, the curls still springy.  Staring at the mirror, I pause as I see a glimmer of Mom in my face.  We share the same high cheekbones, almond shaped eyes, and wavy brown hair.  My round face and the slight point of my nose comes from Dad.  All of us share hazel eyes.

Closing my eyes, I take a deep breath and steady the slight quaver in my lip.  The only reason I am going to this dance is because Mom would never have wanted me to skip out on a dance and miss the chance to get all dolled up.  So in honor of my mother, I am going to have fun at this dance even if it kills me.

Slipping out of my flannel and sweatpants, I toss them to the other side of the room.  Carefully, I remove the dress from the bag and slip into it, zipping the side up.  Even though my mom did alterations to it, the dress is still a little baggy around my chest.  As long as I am mindful of it when I dance, it will hopefully stay up.  Sitting down on the edge of my teal comforter, I wrap shiny, black sandals on my feet that show off my toes’ glittery blue nail polish.

My phone buzzes the eight o’clock warning.  Prom started at seven-thirty.  Already late.

Kissing my fingertips, I brush the photo of Mom that stands next to my bed.  Her head is arched backwards with her mouth gaping open in a laugh, the corner of her eyes crinkled with tears.  I keep copies of that photo in my car and in my locker so she is always with me, laughing.  I grab my phone and purse off the desk and make my way downstairs.  As soon as Dad hears me from the living room, he stops me on the last step, brandishing a camera.

“One ritual that will never end,” he states proudly as he snaps a Polaroid photo.  Immediately, it spits out a photo.  Then he takes out his phone.  “And one that I can proudly show off on my Facebook. Have to show the whole world the beauty that is my daughter.”

I laugh.  “Come on, Dad.  I’m already late.”

“So was Cinderella,” he retorts.  “Now be careful.  Deer activity has been up this week.”

I pause in the door.  “Of course, Dad.”  I turn back and hug him as he stands alone at the banister.  “I’ll be fine.  I’ll text you when I get to the dance, okay?”

A sad smile sags his eyes.  “I love you.”

“I love you too.”  I peck his cheek with a kiss before heading for the door.  “Don’t stay up too late!”

I shut the door behind me, knowing fully well he is going to stay up until I am home again.  Every time I leave the house, he always worries about my return.  That’s something that will never be the same since Mom’s accident.  She had said she’d be back soon too.  Then she ended up never coming back because some drunk asshole didn’t see her crossing the street on Main.  All she wanted was to pick up ice cream from Cherry Berry to celebrate my stellar report card and satisfy her sugar craving.

I haven’t wanted Cherry Berry since.

My blue Pontiac G6 waits patiently for me.  I carefully shut the driver door once I am sure my skirt is fully in.  A slight upturn of my lips shadows a smile as I caress the skirt.  Wearing this dress was almost like having Mom with me tonight.  Even if she can’t be here.  Swallowing the knob forming in my throat, I buckle up and roll my shoulders.  Tonight is going to be fine.  With a twist of my wrist, the car purrs to life.  96.9 plays a Twenty-One Pilot’s song I don’t recognize as I pull out of the driveway.

Living out in the outskirts of the suburbs is dark.  No streetlights or neighbors light up the creeping dark.  I watch out for stray feral cats, owls, and the ever lurking deer.  Any glow of eyes slows my tires down.

School is far away from our two story house out in the boonies.  It takes me about fifteen minutes to drive into town.  Fifty during the school mornings because of how bad the highway traffic is.  Tonight, there is little traffic, which suits me fine.

Turning onto the rural highway, I gun the car to sixty.  Meadows line the road before blurring into patches of woods.  I pass a ranch with four horses milling about outside, and the landscaping company that resides a road down from the turn off.  Five minutes later, I stop at the weird, shady car shop that sits next to the stoplights on Breezewood.

“Uma Thurman” by Fall Out Boy floods my car.  I tap my steering wheel as the red of the stoplights washes over my dashboard.  When my face is illuminated green, I turn left onto Breezewood.  Breezewood is my least favorite road due to its numerous potholes, deer traffic, and its annoying narrowness.  In the winter, it’s a hazard as barely six inches are between cars once the banks are full of snow.  Despite the awfulness of this road, it’s the fastest to school and the one less watched by cops.

Barreling down Breezewood, I keep an eye out for any glowing eyes.  The shine of my phone catches my attention instead.  Glancing from the road, I grab my phone with the intention of turning it over.

As I look up, a doe darts in front of my car.  “Oh shit!” I gasp as I jerk the wheel to the right.

That’s before the shatter of glass and plastic.

I open my eyes.  I’m standing on the side of the road.  My car is in front of me, swerved into a tree with a deer mangled in the front.  I don’t feel right.

All I remember is the distant call of Panic at the Disco’s song “Hallelujah” seeming to slow down at “Say your prayers/ Say your prayers/ Say your prayers…”

I see myself in the front seat slumped over the steering wheel.  My eyes are closed while blood masks my face as little flashes of glass sticks out of my skin.  My chest feels funny.  How am I in two places at once?

“Well, that looks like a right mess,” someone says from my side.

I blink at him.  I didn’t notice him standing next to me before.  His hair is black and formed into little spikes, like a hedgehog’s, providing him an extra inch on top of the four inches he already had on me.  His pale skin stands out in the moonlight.

“What just happened?”  My voice sounds off.  I feel off.  What is happening?  Why is my car like that?

“You just died, my dear.  Anyone ever tell you to put your phone away when you’re driving?”  He tsks as he surveys the damage.  “Do you have any idea of how many people I pick up from these sorts of dumb-ass things?”  I notice the glint of a chain hanging from his black leather belt to his jean pocket.  “I’m so disappointed in you, Tyra.”

“I can’t be dead,” I state numbly.

His eyes fix on me then, his eyelashes annoying long and perfect.  The irises of his eyes are as black as the dark that surrounds us.   “Oh yeah?  And why’s that?”

“I was going to prom,” I say before my legs give out.  Gravel shreds the palms of my hands.

He squats to look into my face.  “And why would Death, a.k.a me, care about that?”

I try to focus on his face but a fog blurs my eyes.  “My dad.  He’ll be alone.”

Snapping his fingers in my face, the fog instantly disappears.  He stares at me, a flicker of recognition on his face.  “You recently lost someone.”

I nod as I look at my hands.  “I don’t understand.  If I am dead, why do I still feel?”  I press a hand to my face.  The skin feels smooth despite my body in the car being cut up.

He lifts a thin finger.  “Correction.  In the words of the cheesiest movie around, you are only “mostly” dead.  Freshly dead.  Maybe a piece of yourself still lingers in that.”  He gestures at the wreckage of the car.

“Can I go back?”

Rubbing his face, he looks at me out of the corner of his eye.  A sigh puffs from him before he throws his hands up.  “What the hell.  I haven’t done anything outrageous in a while, and I’m bored as hell.”  He rests his weight on the back of his heels as he crosses his arms.  “Want to make a deal?”

I look up at him.  “What?”

He studies my face.  “I haven’t had a night out of town in decades.  What if I prolong your death, just for a little bit— enough time to go to the Prom?  You can do one last night of blah blah blah before you walk with me.  Seem fair?”

My stomach churns as I look at him.  “I’m really dead?”

He moves his head side to side.  “More or less, yes.”

My shoulders sink.  “Can I have the whole night?  Enough time for me to say good-bye to my Dad?”

Looking heavenward, he presses his lips together.  “Fine.  Until daybreak then.  Fair enough?”

“I guess,” I say, still trying to grapple the fact that I’m dead.

He snaps his finger, instantly changing his jeans and slim black shirt into a black suit and dress shirt.  A gray tie hangs loosely around his slender neck.  “Wonderful.”  Holding out a hand, he waits for me to stand.  As soon as my fingers touch his, my heart begins to pump, forcing a gasp out of my chest.  That was what had been missing.

“Oh my god,” I cough as I press my hand to my fluttering chest.

“Oops.  Sorry.  Should’ve warned you,” he says as he pulls me toward the car.  His hand is freezing as his slim fingers interlock with mine.

I blink in surprise as the mangled scene vanishes.  In the place of my poor Pontiac is a limo.  The door swings open. I pause at the door.  My dress is gravel free and pristine.  The bodice hugs me tighter as the rhinestones glint in the moonlight.  He fixed it?

“After you,” he says with a grin.  “I don’t know about you, but I only want what those cheesy, awful movies show.  I believe limos are part of the tradition.”

“You like cheesy movies?” I say.  I make room for Death, feeling all the more weird that this is happening.  This is happening, right?

He sits down next to me, throwing an arm over my shoulders.  I jump at the intimacy.  “I notice them every once in awhile when I’m passing through the panes of reality and what not,” he says vaguely.  “The better ones catch my eye.  When you’re as old as me, there’s only so many things that’ll keep your attention.”

“How old are you?” I try at conversation.  My voice still sounds off, not fake, but not normal either.  Almost like my ears are plugged.

Death tsks.  “Now, Tyra, that’s not a polite thing to ask.  I know your mother taught you better than that.”

Slipping my fingers into the skirt of my dress, I stare at them.  “If you’re death, then you met my mom?”

He drums his fingers on his pants.  “Yes.  Sweet woman.  Didn’t fight me too much when I picked her soul up from her body.”  He glances at the tears that slip from my eyes.  “She loved you both very much.”

Reaching out, he gently catches a tear from my cheek, startling me.  “Some people are just meant to be in this world longer than others.  I’ve had a many talk with Time about it.  She, Time that is, can be a hard head.  She also owes me a favor or two.”  He snickers as he leans back, stretching his lithe frame.  “Time sucks at bets.  Card games, board games, dice games, hell, even football games, she’s awful at judging whose gonna win or not.  Granted, I’ve lost a couple too.”  He quirks an eyebrow as he stares at the ceiling.  “Shit.  I think we’re actually close to even now.  I’ve still got a leg up though.”  Rubbing his sharp chin, he looks at me again.

I open my mouth to say something, but stop as the limo door opens again.  Death scooches out of the backseat and holds out a hand for me.  I allow him to grab my hand and help me out.  People are staring at us as we walk toward the school doors, elbows wrapped together.  The limo drives away.

Four teachers stand at a table, taking and selling tickets to Prom.  The only teacher I recognize is my physics teacher, Mr. Jueld.  When we approach him, his eyes linger on Death.  I fidget with the ends of my hair as he watches us.  It’s weird for me to being going with a guy.  I even vehemently told him the other day how I wasn’t going with a date.

“Hello, Tyra.  Do you and your date have a ticket already?” he says as he continues to stare.  Before I can say anything, Death is holding out two tickets for Mr. Jueld to take.  He takes them gingerly from Death and rips a piece of the ticket, returning the stubs to Death’s hand.

Death grins.  “Thank you.”

Mr. Jueld nods at me.  “Have fun.”

As we walk in, we pass the typical punch bowl, guarded by our P.E. teacher, and some trays of cookies, carrots, and celery.  More people look at us as we move toward the cafeteria.

“Why are they looking at us?” I whisper, unsettled.  When I walk the halls of high school, no one ever pays me a glance.  Now all of a sudden, people have nowhere better to look.

Death suddenly spins me, causing my dress to flare out.  “Because you look great, my dear.  Especially next to me.”  He grins as he intertwines his elbow with mine again.  “They’ll get over it soon.”

The heat of bodies steams the wide windows on the far right side of the room.  Colored lights flare and dance around us as the music resets my heartbeat to its tune.  The clock catches my attention.  It’s nine-thirty.

“Oh, shit,” I gasp as I scramble for my phone.  “My dad must be worried sick.”

Death’s eyes crinkle with amusement.  “I mean, he should be, considering your accident.”

I freeze midtext.  “But he doesn’t know yet that I’m… I don’t want to make it any harder on him than it already will be.”

I type: “Sorry for the late response. At Prom.  Love you.”  I put the phone away.

As I look up from my purse, my eye catches a familiar figure.  Mikaela dances in the middle of a group of guys, radiant in a revealing green dress with her long, blond hair spilling out around her.  Her eyes land on mine and freeze when she notices Death next to me.

Strutting over with a smile plastered on her face, she moves to hug me.  “Tyra! You made it.  And with a guy!”  Her eyes immediately scour over Death’s lean body.  “And who is this?”

My throat constricts as I look at him, lost as to what to say.  I can’t exactly explain everything.

He wraps an arm around my waist.  “I’m Hunter.”  Winking at me, he continues, “I met Tyra not too long ago and wanted to make her night special.  You know, since she deserves it after everything she’s been through.”

“Hunter,” I hiss instantly adopting his pseudo name.

Mikaela’s smile slips.  “I know.”  Her face crumples slightly, a flash of guilt in her eyes.  Before I can say anything, she resurrects the smile and wiggles her eyebrows, typical Mikaela style.  “Well, I hope you two have fun.”  Clasping my wrist, she mouths, “Tell-me-everything-later.”  Then she dances her way back to the waiting guys.

I frown at him.  “You didn’t have to do that.”

He moves to stand in front of me, hands still resting on my hips.  I notice the red flecks in his eyes.  “I did actually.  Considering you were wallowing in your mom’s death, it was warranted.”

“How did you—?”

“My dear, Death knows a great deal of things.”  He smiles.  “Don’t ask about everything.”

Then he was spinning me again.  A sudden laugh catches my throat as dizziness passes through me.  When I come back around, he’s moving us in a waltz.  The song playing isn’t even a slow song.

The side of his mouth pulls up into smirk as people move out of his way.  Distantly, I can hear the snap of pictures and cameras.  He stops and dips me.  His arms never waver, easily holding up my weight.

“What are you doing?” I whisper.

He pulls me back up.  “Making a spectacle out of you.  Don’t you see you’ve captured their attention?  Might as well finish making this into a cheesy movie.”

Another laugh escapes me, surprising me.  I haven’t laughed this much in months.  “Why are you doing this?”

He shrugs.  “Like I said, I like cheesy movies.”

The “Cha Cha Slide” begins to play.  Death smirks.  “Shall we join the line?”

And I dance the “Cha Cha Slide” with Death.  It feels ridiculous as we move according to the song, him flourishing his clapping abilities, but I begin to feel better.

If only I wasn’t dead.

Each time my mind wanders to my death, Death crashes in and forces me to dance.  We jump around together, move side to side, and slow dance together.  If he wasn’t Death, it all would feel normal.

“Let’s take an official photo under the arch,” he states after the second slow dance.

“Why?” I ask as I let go of his hand.  He instantly retrieves it.

“Because memories are a powerful thing.  You should build some more.  They’re good for you.”

I press my lips together doubtfully.  “It seems silly considering—”

“Do it for yourself, if not your Dad,” he pleads.  I laugh at his tone.  “Or for me.  I like pictures.  It screws with you mortals.”

“How?”

He raises his eyebrows as he smiles with a full, beaming, delighted smile.  “A photo captures both of my guises: my skeleton frame and this fleshy case.  So it looks like I’m getting an X-ray without the actual machine.  The reactions are great.”

“Fine,” I concede.  I never realized how mischievous Death can be.

We pose under the garland arch the school rented.  I smile as Death wraps an arm around my waist.  There’s a flash.

I blink to clear my vision.  Death pulls me away from the arch and returns us to the dance floor.

The D.J. calls the last song.  My throat clogs as I look at the time.  Eleven o’clock.  How was the night already over?

“Closing Time” plays as couples do one last slow dance.  Death places my hands back on his shoulders before we do a small waltz, not moving anywhere but in our tiny box.

“Did you have fun?” he asks softly, his breath moving my bangs against my forehead.

I pause before I smile.  The hollow feeling in my chest long since relaxed.  “I did actually.  Thank you.”  The smile slips from my face as the thought of my dad bubbles back up.  “I hope he will be okay.”

“Your dad’s a fighter,” he says.  “He has friends and family that will help him through the grief.”

“I don’t know.  He didn’t handle my mom’s passing too well.”  A single tear leaks from the corner of my eye.  “My being gone is going to wreck him.”

Death’s feet stop as he pushes my face up with a gentle finger.  “Make this last night count.”  His eyes catch mine before he leans in and presses his lips to mine.

I pull back, startled, but one of his hands comes up to cup the back of my skull.  I freeze as he blows air into my mouth, like the kiss of life a lifeguard would perform when rescuing someone.  A ringing clogs my ears.  I close my eyes.

When I open my eyes again, I’m standing on the doorstep of my house.  The outside light is still on.  I teeter on the step, trembling.  My stomach rolls and dives as I try to understand what just happened.  Death brought me back.  Now it’s time for me to say good-bye. I lift my hand, delicately placing my fingertips on the door knob, but stop.  Closing my eyes, I try to collect my scattered feelings together.  What was I going to say to Dad?

Opening my eyes, I try to steel myself.  I unlock the door and step through for probably the last time.  Dad’s sitting on the couch, twirling the cap of an empty beer between his fingers as he watches a rerun of Pawn Stars.  As soon as he hears the door close, he looks up and smiles at me.

“Hey, love-bug.  How was Prom?”

My face crumbles as I begin to cry.  Immediately, Dad is there, holding me and whispering for me to tell him what’s wrong.  I answer by wrapping my arms around him and squeezing him hard.  I bury my face in his chest, breathing in the smell of his earthy cologne and constant mint smell.  The beat of his heart is like music to my ears.

“I just miss her so much.  It was fun,” I sniffle, “but I still miss telling her about what happened.”  It was only half a lie. I still miss Mom, but now I’m more worried about Dad.

“I know, Tyra.  I miss sitting here with her too.  But at least we have each other.”  He kisses the top of my head.

I smother my face in his shirt as I struggle with what to say.  What am I supposed to tell him?

“I love you,” I choke out finally.

He pets my hair.  “I love you, too, love-bug.”  Another kiss to my forehead.  He holds me close, encasing me in his warmth.  If I could freeze this moment, I would.

“I’m probably going to be up for awhile yet.  If you want, you can go change and then come and watch some stuff with me.  If you feel like it, I mean.”

I nod as I smear the tears into his ragged Packers shirt.  A black stain from my ruined makeup marks the ERS.  “Just give me a few minutes.”

I return to my room and shed the dress, laying it on my desk chair.  Slipping back into my flannel and sweats, I tear out the clips in my hair and wipe off the makeup.  When Death comes for me, I don’t see the need to be dolled up.  I kiss my fingertips and touch Mom’s photo.  Soon I can see her again.  I swallow at the thought.  What was she going to say to me?  I shake off the thought.  No.  Dad needs me now.  Mom later.

In record timing, I jog down the stairs and tackle my dad in a hug.  An oomph escapes him before he laughs.  “What are you, five?”

Smiling, I curl up next to his side, his arm wrapping around my right side.  This is enough.  I just want to enjoy his company and soak up his love one last time.  In this, he also knows that I love him.

The TV flickers over us as Rick makes a deal with someone over a check signed by Babe Ruth.  Trivia flashes across the screen, but I’m too tired to read it.  At this point, I don’t even care either.  Dad absent mindedly mumbles the answer under his breath as he rubs the small of my back.  His head begins to bob the later the episode trails on.  I can’t pay attention as I burrow into Dad’s side, dragging a fleece throw over us.

I rest my head on his chest and feel safe in his embrace.  Soon, I can hear him snoring.  I listen and memorize the sound and the feeling of him. Absorbing his warmth, I sigh as his snoring lulls me into a calm state.  Yes.  This was love.  From this, the hollow feeling in my chest is nonexistent.  I close my eyes for a brief second to fully appreciate the sound, the TV long forgotten.

When I open my eyes again, light is seeping into the living room.  I jerk awake, panicked as I look around me.  The clock on the TV says ten a.m.

Dad walks into the living room, yawning with a bowl of cereal and mussed up graying hair.  “Morning, love-bug.”

I stare at him.  “Morning.”  Shakily, I stand up.  I’m still here?  As I walk by him, I side hug Dad.  He grunts in return.  He doesn’t pay attention to me as he sits at the end of the couch, munching on Lucky Charms.  His eyes are still drooping with sleep.

In a daze, I make my way upstairs, the familiar creak of the wood acting as my soundtrack.  I pass through the frame of my doorway, staring at the peeking sun in my window.  As I further peer out the window, my stomach flips as my car sits unscathed in the driveway, like nothing ever happened.  What?  Daybreak means dawn, right?  Aren’t I supposed to be dead?

I sit on the end of my bed, staring at my prom dress.  Looking in my room, I scan over everything.  Prom really happened, right?   I glance over at my mom’s photo.  My stomach drops as a piece of paper that wasn’t there before sits folded neatly with a black ribbon tied around it.  With shaking fingers, I pick it up, not sure if it was going to start on fire or something.  I undo the string and carefully unfold it.  I stare at the winding cursive that’s penned onto the crisp sheet.

“Time owed me.  I’ll come back later.  Make memories,” the paper read.

Signed, Death.

 

 

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