After Emily left, Jack made his way to the bedroom. His legs felt like brittle twigs and his head was on the verge of floating away like a balloon. It took much effort to get into the bedroom, and he all but collapsed into the bed when he’d finally made it. He laid there for what felt like hours and watched the white ceiling turn to coal. His hands and feet alternated through bouts of tingling and numbness while a chill seeped into his body.
Jack had never encountered a sickness like this before. It was like experiencing a hangover and hypothermia at the same time. He realized he had to go to the hospital, but he couldn’t take himself. With numb fingers he fumbled with his phone and managed to focus his eyes long enough to bring up his contacts list. He hit the letter E and pressed Emily’s name.
Up popped a picture of them from their recent trip to the mountains. He made this her contact picture because he loved seeing how happy they were whenever she called or texted. If only he could go back to that moment. If only Emily were by his side, smiling and laughing as all their worries faded away.
The thought of them together brought a smile to Jack’s face, but behind it was fear. He stared at the picture and then at the green call icon. If he called her he would have to break his silence. He would have to tell her what was wrong and confront the problems he had been ignoring. If he didn’t call, he might miss his chance to make things right.
He pressed his finger against the screen. After a few moments of waiting anxiously for it to ring, the call went straight to voicemail. Of course she wouldn’t answer; she’s at work. Jack felt like a fool for not thinking this would happen, and now he was confronted with the soundless void on the other line. Even worse, his vision was starting to blur and he felt like he might pass out at any second. He had to say something. Anything. So he did. He said the only thing that ever really mattered.
Emily came home an hour late. It had been an exceptionally busy day at work and she had to stay over. The bad day coupled with the thought of another night of silence with Jack had her in a foul mood. Her mind was no longer on mending damaged hearts but instead on lashing out to relieve her own aggravation.
“She knew that would tear his heart to shreds; just as his silence had done to her.”
She stormed through the front door and slammed it shut. There were no lights on and the living room was bathed in a beautiful orange hue from the setting sun pouring in through the windows. She knew Jack was home because his car was in the driveway.
Emily dumped her purse on the coffee table and stomped into the kitchen. She yanked a bottle of water from the refrigerator and pushed it shut with a metallic thud. Her hope was that if Jack was too stubborn to talk about their problems, she would piss him off enough to yell about them.
After making as much noise as possible without response, Emily’s irritation bubbled over and she rushed into the bedroom with a full head of steam. The curtains in the room were covering the windows and drenched the room in blackness. It took a moment for her eyes to adjust, and when they did she could see the outline of Jack in the bed.
“Sleeping again?” she asked sarcastically.
As expected, he didn’t say anything.
There was a strange coldness in the air that caused the hairs on Emily’s arms to raise. The moment she had thought about for so long had finally arrived. “Jack, we need to talk.”
It took all the courage she could muster to say that. For even though rage had guided her into the room, it left her the moment she needed it most. She waited nervously for Jack to reply, to finally say something, but there was nothing but silence. That same silence that hurt her so much in the past.
The emotions welled up in Emily’s chest until she felt like she was going to burst. She dropped onto the bed and did her best to keep from sobbing. “Jack, please. Just say something,” she pleaded.
There was only silence.
The tears flowed freely down her face, but now they were brought on by anger. “Jack!” she screamed in near hysterics.
She grabbed his shoulder and shook, but it wasn’t that of a warm, malleable body she grabbed. It was different. It felt wrong. Emily’s heart sunk as she jumped up and turned on the bedroom light. When the light came on all the strength left her body and her knees buckled.
“Oh, Jack. Please no.” Emily rushed to his side and shook him again. His body was ice cold. His neck bent awkwardly to the side. “Please Jack. Just say something,” she pleaded again with tears blinding her.
She held Jack’s lifeless body for a long time. A thousand thoughts and memories rushed through her head. At that moment, all Emily wanted to do was hear Jack’s voice. To know that everything would be okay and that he would always be there for her. But she couldn’t. He was gone forever—engulfed in a world of permanent silence.
At some point Emily had run out of tears and an indifferent numbness had taken over. She collected herself enough to grab her phone to call 911. It was still turned off from when she was at work, so she pressed the power button on the side. After it powered up, she noticed a blue dot blinking near the top. She swiped her finger across the screen to reveal she had a missed call and a new voicemail. It was from Jack.
“Oh my god!”
She hit the voicemail button and held her breath while it went through. What could Jack have said? What were his last words? She couldn’t help thinking that whatever it was would surely destroy her. If he called her for help during his last moments alive and she didn’t answer, she couldn’t live with herself. If he was calling to tell her he didn’t want to be with her anymore, and those were his last thoughts, the devastation would be too great to overcome.
The voicemail finally came up and the robotic operator went through the playback options. Emily mashed her finger against the number one while mentally trying to hurry the operator along. After what seemed like a lifetime, the message finally came up. And it hurt Emily more than anything ever had or could again.
“Emily,” Jack’s voice struggled, “I’m sorry.” His breathing was heavy. “I love you.” There was a short pause and the sounds of his labored breaths quickened. “I always loved you, and I always will.”
Only the sounds of his diminishing breaths followed until the message hit its run-time. Then the robotic operator came back on with more options, but by this time Emily was already a heap upon the floor. All she could think about was the look in his eyes as she left that morning. He was scared, and he was looking to her for comfort. Why had she turned away from him? What were they even fighting about that was so important? She couldn’t remember.
Emily couldn’t remember what started the fight, or why it was so important for her to continue it, or why she felt so hurt by his silence. Words never mattered as long as she had him. And only now did she understand that that’s how Jack felt all along. He didn’t want to talk about their problems or run from them. He just wanted to be with her and be at peace.
Now he would be at peace forever. But Emily, all she had were his last words. And from that moment on, whenever she felt the world was getting to be too much, she would go into a quiet place and whisper, “Just say something.” Then she would listen to his final words, and that would bring everything back into perspective.
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