When you came home, I once again felt whole. Some people might say it’s selfish of me to want to keep you here, stuck in the middle of last week’s laundry and yesterday’s pizza, but your presence is what keeps me alive. Unlike the usual sigh of relief you give after being forced to interact with the public, there’s a small, triumphant smile on your face. “I made the appointment,” you say. I grin.
“What’s wonderful! I’m very proud of you,” I answer. You smile and hug me tightly when I approach. “We’re one step to getting better.” The words are soft against your ear, and I can feel your smile widen against my neck. When we pull away, you immediately set down your keys and flop onto the couch. Although there’s victory behind your actions today, I know they’ve still drained you.
“When’s the appointment?” I ask.
“Tomorrow at noon. I wanted to get it scheduled before I lost my nerve,” you admit. I chuckle and sit next to you. We spend the rest of the night watching movies and scrounging through the fridge’s meager inventory for something new to eat.
The next morning, I help motivate you out of bed and into the shower. Although the mornings are always the hardest for us, lately, they’ve become easier. You come out smelling clean for the first time in a week with a glimmer in your eyes I missed. “How do I look?” you asked. My grin stretches from ear to ear.
“Perfect. Eat something before you go,” I encourage. You snatch one of the granola bars strewn about the kitchen counter before picking up your keys and grabbing the door handle. “Have fun!”
I can still hear your laughter as you closed the door. That door only opened once more.
When you come back, you are quiet. There is a look of determination etched into your features, and I can feel that something changed over that simple conversation. Without a word, you hang your keys up and begin to scoop piles of trash into garbage bags. “How’d it go?” I ask tentatively. You ignore me and continue your mad cleaning spree.
Hours pass, all silent except for the crinkle of plastic bags and the spritz of cleaning spray bottles. Once you finish restoring the apartment to its original shine, something I haven’t witnessed in years, you sit down. Anxious, I sit next to you. Silence hangs thick in the air, nearly suffocating me, until you ask softly, “when did I first meet you?” Inappropriate laughter bubbles up, too loud and too brash for the quiet seriousness the room adopts.
“Don’t you remember, we were uh… I was…” the words die on my throat before they even fully form. We both remember how we met; I showed up literally out of nowhere on one of the worst days of your life. The timing was so perfect, that we both suspected from the very beginning that it wasn’t coincidental. Years later, we both figured it out. The realization never seemed as sad as it does now. You stand up, and in a moment of panic, I reach for your hand. My fingers slip right through and a hollowness fills me.
“Please, don’t go,” I whisper. You just stare at me, as if this is the first time you realize I’m not real. I can feel the world fade around the edges like a forgotten memory as you continue to stare. Finally, when my vision is almost black, you kneel by my side.
“I’m getting better. Don’t you want that?” you ask. Tears muddy the rest of my vision, but I think I see you cry as well.
“I don’t want you to go,” I sob, trying to grab onto anything. “Please—” Before I can finish the sentence, my entire world goes dark. No more sound permeates my ears, and I wonder if this is the end. Even though I can’t see, I know I’m still crying. I hope wherever you are, you truly are better. I hope that I never have to see you again, even if it kills me to admit it. And I hope, out of everything I dare to want, that no one ever feels the need to call out for someone like me ever again.
Another prompt, another piece. This was good practice for me writing in present-tense, and I believe it helped convey the emotion of the story more. Although it isn’t much of a twist, I do hope that it surprised some readers.