In exactly one week I have the pleasure of hosting Kristina on my blog. What’s more (Spoiler!), she’s going to be sharing a bit of Christmas flash in that post. Since she is sharing a story on my blog I wanted to return the favour on hers.
Every year I participate in Loren Eaton’s Shared Storytelling: Advent Ghosts. So far I haven’t figured out what I’m writing for this year’s (good thing I have a few days left!) but I am quite fond of the piece I wrote for last year’s. This story has been described as ‘heartbreaking’ and ‘haunting’, which is my way of warning you, this isn’t a happy little holiday tale, but I hope you like it!
A Million Pieces
by Rhonda Parrish
They say it’s the things which drove you crazy that you miss the most. I never much believed it myself. Not until I lost you.
It’s been a year now. And what a year. A year of rehab and therapy, lawyers and courtrooms. A year of firsts.
My first surgery. First steps without my walker. First birthday without you. First day back in our apartment, alone. First night—
So many things you could have counted. So. Many.
It used to frustrate me so much, your counting, but my love was deeper than my irritation so I stayed. Stayed though you counted every Cheerio in your bowl. All the bowls in the cupboard. Every spoon.
I loved you enough to stay though you counted your pills six times a day. And when you stopped taking them? I stayed then too.
I spent our last Valentine’s Day dressed up, crying and watching you crawl across the floor in your suit picking up each Q-tip from the Costco-sized box I’d spilled and counting, counting, counting.
I stayed through all that, yet you let a drunk driver tear you from me. One. One car. One driver. One crash.
Christmas was always your favourite holiday, and I’m celebrating in style in honour and remembrance of you. I’ve baskets full of Christmas balls scattered throughout the house, festive decorations, and the tree is up and decorated. I think you’d approve. The lights twinkling on it are reflected in the glass globes which adorn it and nearby the fireplace snaps and pops. Outside, snow is falling, piling up in the corners of our windows, and my want for you is so intense it’s nearly a physical thing.
I stare out at the city. From this high all I see is a sea of lights piecing the darkness. Like stars.
I look up, then, expecting to be disappointed; star-watching and snowfall so rarely go together, but through a clearing in the clouds, just to the left of the moon, one star gleams. It’s super bright and though I don’t know its name or if it’s a part of a constellation, I’d bet it’s one sailors use to navigate. To find their way back home.
I close my eyes.
I make a wish.
When I open them, something has changed. Not outside. The moon and star are still there, snow still falls and below steams of red taillights still move alongside the blue-white of halogen headlights.
I shift my focus from beyond the window, to its glass. The change is in here. With us. The window reflects the room back at me. Tree, fireplace, me…and you.
Your reflection is as solid as mine. Distorted ever so slightly by the flaws in the glass, but distinctly you. Your shaggy hair. Your hipster glasses. Your mouth which moves, your voice I hear.
“I missed you—” You reach for me. You reach for me and I panic and grab the basket of Christmas balls from the window ledge beside me. The wicker is hard against my fingers, unforgiving. I turn it upside down, pour out the balls which tumble over one another, and onto the floor.
You stop. Your graze drops to the floor, then back up to mine, reflected in the window.
“I—” you begin, then stop and chew on the corner of your pinky finger’s nail. My chest clenches at the sight, so familiar.
Your indecision is a vacuum sucking all the air from the room, slowing the tick-tock of the clock on the mantle until each sound is a long, drawn-out scream. I can’t move. Can’t breathe. My eyes burn, but I cannot cry.
“One,” you say, kneeling down and disappearing from my sight. “Two—”
I exhale. The grip on my chest loosens and the clock resumes its natural rhythm.
How many balls were there? A dozen? More?
Too few. Too few.
I step back and white heat rips through my heel as the ball crunches beneath it.
Blood stains the milky glass shards, drips from my foot to the hardwood. You reach for a piece, a shard, “Five, six, seven…”
A sob catches in my throat and I snatch a ball from the tree. It’s blue and glittery, the surface rough against my palm. I remember picking it out with you in the antique store we stopped at on our way home from the local theatre’s production of A Christmas Carol three years ago. You’d grinned at me then, so big I could see the gap between your bottom teeth, and your eyes shone with love. It was a perfect moment in a perfect day.
How many more of those days could we have had?
“Eighteen, nineteen, twenty—”
How many were stolen from me?
“Twenty-seven, twenty-eight, twenty-nine—”
I hurl it with all my strength so it shatters. I rip the next from the fir’s branches and smash it too. And the next, and the next.
I scream out my anger. I sob out my sorrow. My blood mixes with the fragments of memory spreading across the floor and woven through it all, your voice. Implacable. Counting.
“Three thousand four hundred and two, three thousand four hundred and three—”
Bio: Rhonda Parrish is driven by a desire to do All The Things. She was the publisher and editor-in-chief of Niteblade Magazine for eight years (which is like forever in internet time) and is the editor of several anthologies including, most recently, Scarecrow and B is for Broken.
In addition, Rhonda is a writer whose work has been in publications such as Tesseracts 17: Speculating Canada from Coast to Coast, Imaginarium: The Best Canadian Speculative Writing (2012 & 2015) and Mythic Delirium.
Her website, updated weekly, is at http://www.rhondaparrish.com