This story is by Robert Slaid and was part of our 2017 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“Are you sure about this?”
I sigh as I struggle to meet her gaze.
A twitch. The fear flashes in her eyes but only for a moment. I manage to keep my eyes on hers as I get up from the table.
“It’s for the best,” I begin to say.
I hear the sigh escape my lips.
“For the both of us, Sarah. We have to do this.”
Sarah rises from the table and walks toward me. It isn’t until she is right in front of me and I’m staring into her dark brown eyes that she responds.
“No, we don’t. You want to so you can feel better, but I’m happy.”
I shake my head, “I know you. You say that you’re happy, but you want more than this.”
I rub her shoulders, “You deserve more than this. That’s what I want.”
She moves my hands away, “This is what I want. It may not be much, but I’m here with you.”
“Yeah, I know.”
I grab her hands and give them a gentle squeeze.
“I’m sorry,” Sarah whispers, “But I’m scared.”
I pull her into an embrace.
“I know,” I tell her, “I’m scared too…”
“But do we have to do this,” she asks softly.
“We’ll be fine.”
We stand there for a few minutes, and all we can hear is the ticking clock. Each second passing us by.
I feel my shoulder become damp.
“Shh,” I whisper as I nuzzle the side of her head.
I pull away from her and smile.
“What is it,” she asks.
“Let’s get out of here.”
I motion for the door, “The air will do us some good.”
Sarah rubbed her eyes and says, “Yeah, you’re right. I just need a minute.”
“Take your time,” I say as she disappears into the bathroom.
As soon as she’s gone, I rub away the tears that were pooling in my eyes.
“I hate this as much as you do,” I whisper, “But we have to do this.”
I’m taken out my thoughts as I hear the bathroom door close.
“Okay I’m ready.”
I nod and grab our coats.
“Let’s go,” I say as I help her into her coat.
She smiles at me, and I give her a quick kiss.
After turning off all the lights, we leave the apartment.
The hallway is cold. Much colder than it should be for this time of year, but I don’t mind. Sarah always moves closer to me to keep warm.
Her arm snakes her way around mine, and I smile.
We walk slowly down the hall. There’s no one here to see us. Once we leave is another story.
The bright light of the outdoors signals the inevitable. Sarah moves her arm away from mine and takes a cautious step away from me. I open the door and feel the crisp air of the season. I love it, but Sarah wraps her sweater tightly around her.
“It’s almost time for the holidays,” I say pointing to a store window.
“Yeah, I’m probably going to visit my parents this year.”
Her eyes catch mine, “Alone.”
The sting I felt must have shown on my face because she quickly turns her head away.
“Let’s not do this here,” I say.
I see an empty park bench and point to it.
“We can talk there.”
She shakes her head, “We could talk in the apartment, but you wanted to go for a walk.”
I stop walking, and Sarah turns around.
“Don’t make me the bad guy. I know you mean well, but it’s just not a good idea.”
She brushes the back of my hand with her fingers, “Let’s just keep walking.”
I nod and follow her down the sidewalk to a park. I smile as children run past us. Their destination is the playground.
Sarah’s also smiling at them but for a different reason.
“That’s the only thing I can’t give you,” I whisper.
She turns to me, and I immediately kick myself.
“Sorry,” I say, “I didn’t mean for you to hear that.”
“It’s okay,” she says, “There’s more to life than children.”
She and continues to walk to the playground.
I feel dread begin to creep inside of me. She wants to make a point.
Still, I follow close behind, and we sit down on a nearby park bench. We sit in an uncomfortable silence.
“Look, dad,” a young girl calls from the swings.
“Be careful,” the father replies, “You don’t want to hurt yourself.”
The girl laughs, “I’ll be fine.”
She continues to swing for a moment before leaping from the swing. She lands in a crouch and hops to her feet.
“See,” she asks beaming.
Her father shakes his head, “Yeah, I see. Come on, it’s almost time for dinner.”
The girl pouts but still takes her father’s hand, and we watch them walk away.
I feel a smile form on my face as I watch them go. The smile falters just a bit as the truth comes to mind again. I will never be able to give Sarah children.
“That looks nice,” she says.
I nod, “Yeah, it does.”
She turns to face me and places her hand on mine.
I see her smile, and I smile as well.
“I wish this were easier,” she says.
“Me too,” I tell her with a gentle squeeze of my hand.
I look her in the eyes, “But it’ll be worth it. For the both of us.”
She moves her hand away, and we stare at the emptying playground. Parents and children make their way home to their meals and families.
I feel my face begin to sour and Sarah notices.
“Let’s go back,” she says.
We make our way back to the apartment. Once in the hallway, I feel her try to snake my arm with mine.
I move my arm away. I’m not sure why but I don’t want to be close to her right now.
“Don’t do this.”
I keep quiet. As much as I want to apologize, I can’t. I can’t back down from this.
We enter the apartment and take off our coats. Sarah hands me hers, and I hang it in the closet.
She sits down where I was just an hour ago and stares at me.
My eyes scan the small room. Our little hideaway from the world. I want to comfort her, but it’s finally time. We have to make a choice, and that is final.
“Sarah,” I begin.
“Please. Can’t we just talk about this tomorrow?”
I nod, “Sure, but all I want to hear from you is either yes or no.”
She’s not so much staring at me but rather trying to stare at me, but her eyes just can’t seem to focus. It’s almost as though I’m some ethereal thing that she can just barely make out.
I prepare myself for the worst. What I get is a question.
“What do you mean?”
“Either we do this or not.”
She stands to look at me more closely, “And if I say no.”
I my throat begin to tighten and stay quiet. My eyes give me away because I see tears form in hers.
Her stare turns into a glare, and I see tears begin to threaten to fall.
“That’s not fair,” she says.
“It hasn’t been fair for me either.”
I take a deep breath. It’s time to strike, “Either you don’t care or you’re ashamed.”
Sarah takes a step back, and I know why. I don’t really care anymore.
I hear the slap before I feel it and the tears begin to fall.
Except they’re falling from my eyes.
“I love you,” she says, “I have always loved you.”
My eyes are fixed on the floor. It seems that my tears are far more interesting than I give them credit for.
“Did you hear me,” Sarah asks.
“I heard you,” hear myself say.
I bring my eyes to meet hers, “I love you too. You mean everything to me, but I can’t stay hidden away like this. It’s not right.”
Sarah sits down. She taps the table with a finger and lets out a sigh.
“We’ll always have each other,” she says.
My smile is so big it hurts a little, “Always.”
She stands and puts her arms around me. I pull her closer and kiss her. The weight that’s kept us down falls away, and we just stand there lost in our kiss and our love.
Sarah picks the phone and glances back at me. I give her a comforting nod, and she dials the number.
She holds the phone to her ear and each moment that passes makes me more and more anxious. Then the world stops as I hear Sarah begin to speak.
“Hi, mom? It’s Sarah. No, I’m fine, but… Listen, we need to talk.”