Short Story | ‘Too Short A Goodbye’ by Thomas Rooney, Illustration by Mike S. Young
Sophie had forgotten him by then. Not completely, he would have returned eventually, but enough for now. It would surprise her how easy it had been to forget, as if her body had ignored a wound. At no precise moment, some kind helper in her mind had draped a sheet over the pain. Let it be for now, she doesn’t have to see it tonight. It was not going anywhere today, and in some ways never would, so let her rest for now, let it be. And there it would have lain all night, until she lay in bed waiting for sleep, if there had not been one final scene to play.
She had shut out the world, closed her door against it and blocked it from view behind her walls; but she could not take it away as he had. It did not vanish when she closed her eyes, there were no arms for her to fall into. Defiantly, it remained there, in all its infuriating reality, waiting to claim her again. For there was a crack in her fortress: a window, ready to prove that the world remained. It called her, forcing her into that last scene, to finish what she dreaded to face.
Perhaps it had been the rain. There had been no need for her to leave the warm, comforting glow of her laptop. So perhaps it had been the rain that lead her to go look out through the window and see him, standing in the downpour. He was across on the other side of the street and did not seem to have expected her to appear, although it was hard to tell through the rain. Why had he come? What did he expect to happen? There had been no text or phone call, not even an email to warn her. He had seemingly just showed up, or waited out there for however long, letting the rain drench him through his hood and jacket. She could not see his eyes from this distance, but she knew in the light of the window, framed by the darkness outside, he could see hers.
It had not been clean. An angry, loud end to their months. And then, before that, arguments, of course, but still their time. She had still been happy. And then, further back, the beginnings, the bliss brought to an end. But still, only a natural argument, and a deliciously sweet return to each other afterwards. And then, before that, the perfect time, there was only room for happiness then, the very best memories. And yet, they had dimmed now, obscured through the lens of everything that followed. The memory of the memories then, that was the best, while they could still be remembered in their purity. That was the journey of their happiness. But not their love.
No, not their love, here it was still. Even at the end, after the end, making him stand there in that cold and dark and rain. What end then? There did not have to be an end. He loved her and if she just went out into that storm to him he would be hers again, she knew it. With that she could wipe away that end and make it just another fight, a bad one, but over now, beautifully, wonderfully over. If she would just venture out into that storm again.
The rain dealt heavy blows. Each drop was thick and bloated, and beat down on the window, sluggishly rolling across it, falling further down, hurried on by the wind. There was no sign of it letting up. The occasional calms were lies. The rain would continue to fall and cover and and soak and drench and deal its heavy blows. It was in that storm he waited. To be in those arms, meant being held in the rain once more.
They were inseparable now. The reminder of what Sophie had lost, the offer of a return to love, also reminded her of what it had been, the return: one to everything that had come with it. If she could accept that, shoulder it again, then no matter what else she would not be alone. There was no need to lie by herself in this room, waiting for morning to come. They could escape from bitter thoughts and muffled pain and simply have each other again. But they would have to leave her room eventually, and it might rain again tomorrow.
The moment broke. Even from where she stood, Sophie could see something change in his stance. He slowly pulled a hand across his head, pulling the hood back enough to show his face and expose it to a fresh deluge of rain. He brought the same hand to his face, cocking his head without moving his eyes. Then, he firmly kissed the hand, extended the fingers, and blew.
Sophie pressed a palm against the window, a mute wave. Then there was nothing else, and she turned away before her tears had a chance to fall, becoming a rain of the room’s own. She sat down again on the bed and felt her life break. Her present had become her past, it had snapped off now to be its own fragment. She was not living it anymore and stood at the beginning of an entirely new, entirely unknown present.
But, and with a horror the thought tore her, she had not finished it. That last kiss, the window, part of the fortress she had hidden herself in would have stopped it. His last gift, proof that it had been more than that last bitter time would be lost in the storm. Sophie ran across the room to throw the window open, trying to return to that part of her life as it drifted away like an iceberg. And she threw open the window, but the street was empty, and he was gone.
Illustration by: Mike S. Young