Featured image by Kouji Tomihisa
“Why would I ever leave—”
A gentle spring rain brought a cool dampness to the evening. Lizzy and Clay sat watching the final rays of sunshine sink behind a wall of dark clouds on the horizon. The setting sun seemed to meld with the light rain, creating a brilliant display of red and purple that looked as if it would hang around forever.
The young couple pressed their warm bodies together under the protection of an old farmhouse porch. Lizzy snuggled against Clay’s chest—pressing her cheek against the soft fabric of his shirt—and listened to the rhythmic thumping of the large antique rocking chair they sat in. Every so often she stole a glance up at him, but he was gone—lost in the moment as if he were someplace else.
The beauty of the sky mesmerized Clay; he couldn’t take his eyes off the ever-deepening purple of the clouds. If it wasn’t for the relaxing pitter-patter of rain hitting the porch roof, it’s possible the heavens would draw him in like a moth to light.
“Tell me you love me,” Lizzy whispered, snapping Clay out of his dreamlike state.
“Even if you don’t mean it,” her voice cracked quietly. “Tell me you love me.”
Clay looked down and saw a swell of tears filling her eyes; normally a vibrant blue, they looked gray like a calm sea before a storm.
“You know I love you.” His words seemed to hurt her more than if he didn’t say anything at all. It was as if they pierced her heart with one swift thrust. “What’s wrong?”
The swell of tears broke into a great wave and ran down her cheeks. “Then don’t leave me. Please—” she choked up, barely able to finish, “just don’t leave.”
“I don’t understand.”
Lizzy buried her face into his shirt and sobbed. The tears seeped through the fabric and touched Clay’s skin with a heavy warmth. Until this moment, he hadn’t noticed that this was the first physical sensation he felt in a long time.
“Why would I ever leave you?” Feeling as if he’d just woken from a long sleep, he took stock of his senses and how his body felt in the moment. It was all so strange to him. He sensed he didn’t belong here. “I told you I love you. Always and forever.” He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her in close.
Suddenly he felt an energy pulsating through his body that wasn’t there before. It was her energy—her feelings flowing through him. “But you will leave. You have no choice,” she cried, speaking to his chest because she was too afraid to look into his eyes.
“Why would I ever leave—”
A cold rush of air swirled between them. Neither had noticed the sun was now gone—leaving behind an empty darkness that engulfed the world. Lizzy shivered from the chill and clung desperately to Clay’s shirt for warmth, but it was the only thing left of him.
She raised her head and relished the cool wind drying her eyes. Taking a deep breath in, Lizzy squeezed the tear soaked shirt in her left hand, then exhaled softly. Her grip relaxed and the shirt unfurled. The wetness made the dark green fabric appear almost black at the center—blending in with the letters ‘USMC’ emblazoned across the chest.
The rocking chair felt emptier than it ever had. For Lizzy, she only sat in it once a year. This was the fifth time she cried in the chair since Clay held her last. The fifth time since he told her he loved her. The fifth time since he lied and said he would come back to her. This was the fifth time she sat and cried for a man who could never return—clutching the Marines training shirt he left behind.
The wind picked up in strength and the rain began to fall in torrents. Splashes of water started creeping up the porch toward Lizzy. For a moment she looked at the dark sky as if she were seeing through the clouds to the other side. Then she draped the shirt across the back of the rocking chair, turned, and went inside the house.
The front door shut with a quiet click, and all was dark but one flickering light in an upstairs window. The rain pounded the front door and saturated the shirt. Then the chair started rocking, even after the wind had finally calmed down.
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