This story is by Laura Timpson and was part of our 2019 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
The room was thick with sorrow. As Thomas Walker lay frail on his bed, a small crowd moved close with soft gestures and words. Friends and family looked on with both stiff and unraveled faces at the display of many years that had grown on Thomas, which would soon reach their deadline.
Though people were speaking, Thomas couldn’t hear. He was moving through time, taking a walk through the moments of his life. The moments when he had her. In the room, memories played out in front of him.
The lighting in the room darkened with shadowing clouds. A man and women walked in soaked to the bone. The short young women seemed even small in contrast with the man, yet her stern aura seemed to make up for her height. Normally, the maiden’s face is calm and sharp, but at the moment was wrinkled with frustration.
She paced, “I should be home.”
“Well, at least we’re out of the rain now.” the man put out.
“I really should be home.”
“Here we have somewhere comfortable to wait out the rain”
“But I can’t wait, I need to be home! Where is here anyway?”
“Your house! Oh, now I definitely must leave.” She looked eagerly out the rain blurred window.
“Oh, now you’re just overreacting.”
She looked back at him with narrowed eyes, “You don’t understand, you never do. You dragged me out here to be caught in this storm without thinking. That’s your problem, you don’t think before you do.”
“Calm down, Emma. Things will turn out okay–”
“No, not until you start having some reasoning before your actions–”
The man pulled her into a deep kiss that widened her eyes with surprise. After a moment, she gave into his embrace, then she quickly pulled away breathless.
“How was that for a start?” he asked.
“And what was your reasoning behind that?” she said quietly, still recovering from the shock.
“Only that I love you.”
The room brightened and shifted as the memory changed. Merry music danced throughout the room as a young couple moved hand-in-hand with it. As the sturdy tall man spun the petite woman, her tight blond curls bobbed and swayed. She laughed, and repeatedly glanced at her feet. He twirled her into his arms at the conclusion of the song.
“Is this your way of trying to cheer me up?” the woman laughed, “After all, I just made a promise to put up with you for a lifetime.”
“Well, Mrs. Walker, remember that it was a mutual promise.”
“Seems we’re stuck with each other till death do us part.”
With a low chuckle, the man said, “The problem is, I don’t think even death could keep me from you.”
The air of the room saddened as the scene shifted. The women lay on the bed, with the covers almost completely swallowing her, only her head and arms free. There were a few silver streaks in her disheveled curls, and her once lively cheeks were now deathly pale. She lay weakly gazing up at the man huddled at her bedside. His strong features were riddled with grief.
“You seem too worried.” she said with a sad smile.
He squeezed her hand, “What if . . . this is the last time . . . you will be with me?”
“Last time . . .” she appeared to be staring off at the words examining them carefully, “Who truly knows what is at the end of time? Is there even an end?”
“What do you mean?”
She smiled warmly at him, “Can you really say this is the last of us?” He returned her smile.
The two shared a knowing glance in the stillness of the shabby cabin room. It happened in a moment, an understanding of eternity. When she had passed, it was not the end, and at his end there was another beginning.
The world faded back into the present, leaving the past as a distant road. Thomas moved his eyes slowly across each and every person, and smiled.
“This,” he said in a raspy voice, “Is a moment of beginning for me . . . and should not be an end for you.” He felt the life creep away from him. “Go on through life with acceptance . . . of the future, and don’t feel dragged down by the loss of a loved one . . . for you can never truly . . . lose them.”
His breath was weak and a struggle. He closed his eyes, and pictured her, awaiting the image to fade into reality.
The final breath left in a small wisp, and in a moment, he was gone.