Author: Elliott (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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Summary: Sometimes the only cure is none at all.
The ice cube splintered between her molars.
A sliver pierced her tongue, blood pooling stagnant and thick against her teeth clenched and afflicted with emotional lockjaw.
That's what it was when an antigen invaded your body until it was no longer your own.
Infection breeding rampantly until it could no longer be defeated, until it decided the host it had taken so mercilessly was no longer of use or value and was tossed by the wayside.
Roadkill, decaying and rotting.
Love was an infection too, one that penetrated your pitiful defenses, invaded your body without your permission, without cure.
Miss Parker swallowed, the blood in her mouth like clotted Scotch.
I have written you a thousand times.
This is the last.
I never needed to put my words on paper before - you always knew what I would have said. And so I said nothing.
I don't know what to say now. Maybe all I've ever tried to say to you is that I am sorry. I'm sorry for loving you. And I'm sorry for not loving you enough.
Now I'm sorry for leaving - again. We've left before, both of us. But we've always found each other. At first I thought it was a blessing - now I think itís a curse.
We've been separated but never alone. We've always had each other even when we didn't want to. But now - this is our final parting. Everything is over. We have nothing left. It's time to start over Ė if we can.
What held us together is what drives us apart.
I can't live knowing every time you see me, you see who killed your mother. I may not have pulled the trigger, but I was why she died.
And I can't stay, knowing every time you see me, you see who killed Tommy.
You see, when I first left the Centre, I left you too.
I didnít have a choice, it was one or the other. And as much as I loved you, I loved freedom more.
I couldn't stay and I couldn't return, knowing that all the time I was gone, I was loving you less, and you were loving me more.
I fell out of love with you as you were falling in love with me.
I don't think there ever could be a reconciliation between us - there's too much to forgive and accept. Too much of the past. I can't stay knowing when I roll over in bed and see your eyes, I would see the Centre. I'm not strong. Im not that strong.
I've written you a thousand times, but this is the last because this time you are free and not me. I'm letting you go by leaving myself.
There could never be anything between us, not after all this time.
I love you, but I donít love you like that. I don't love you enough.
Miss Parker swallowed again, saliva and shock.
Bleeding stopped and scars healed.
Most of the time.
She had held Jarod in her hands as the Centre had crashed down around them, but she had never held him in her arms. She had never let recovery heal the old injuries, let the antibiotics of two people together fight the viruses and germs and toxins of the world.
She had never shown him that love was an immunity, not an infection.
She set the letter on her desk, empty save the last and only box of the belongings, the old life she was taking from the Centre.
She opened a drawer with the intention of seizing a sheet of paper, but it too was empty, cleared like strip mining and abandoned.
All that was left were ghosts. And her silver gun.
Jarod retreated to the coast, drained at the toll of the years.
He didnít know why he went, why he subjected himself to the torture of sharing memories with her ghost.
He was free, yes.
But not of her.
Some choices were not voluntary.
Freedom was many things, he had learned, but freedom wasn't about evading restraints.
Being free was knowing what chains held you down.
And being grateful for those chains, those weights that kept you here instead of the dark nothingness of space less gravity.
Of being alone.
He hadn't been to the coast since he had been there with her, watching flames suck the Centre into ash and smoke and memory.
The door knob of her summer haunt Ė Benís cabin, now a resort - stuck to his hand, frozen like wet flesh against winter steel.
But it was summer now.
The rooms were deserted with the season, old with dust and dark.
But she was still there, her presence as vivid as it had always been.
Familiarity overwhelmed him as he walked back, through time, through pretends.
Everything simulated, nothing real.
The woman behind the desk was a child he had returned to her family so many years ago at Benís urging to look into the matter. Now she was beautiful with the security and love he had restored.
She didnít recognize him and simply went through the routine of accommodating another tourist. He dropped his single bag by the weathered cabin and lunged to the beach, pulled as if caught by an anchor, a hook and sinker snagged deep within.
Swallowing the memories like blood.
"We all called her Angel."
He hadn't heard her approach, the daughter.
She didn't sit beside him, but rather stared out at the ocean she had always called home.
"She loved the beach, would sit here for hours and hours. But she hated the ocean."
He remained silent.
"She said some things could never be crossed."
Waves rolled in placidly. All his storms had been scrubbed from the horizon long ago.
But they should have broken, and raged.
"She left this for you."
He took what she offered, left alone with shadows and hypotheticals.
It was a letter.
The sand like bone fragments against his cheek, ashes cremated from his own body.
The letter in his hands, crumbling in the careless fingers of the sea wind and the force of his emotion.
He didnít want to know what it said.
He didnít want to know the truth, if it contradicted the lies he had been living.
Like a scavenger, fueled only by the carcass of the past and the lies he had told her.
He didnít love her enough Ė he loved her too much.
But the letter slid open against his palm, the paper tracing his skin like a caress.
She had written on the back of the letter he had written to her. Certain words had seeped through to her side, inverted and backwards, with the excess ink of his pen. Words like 'curse', 'love', and 'sacrifice' had bled through.
The paper wrinkled with teardrops and darker splatters than ink, maroon instead of sloe purple like juniper.
You never understood - ever.
You were my talisman. You were my link to believing. That there was another world, that there was good, that love existed. That there were new beginnings, a reason for living.
You didnít kill my mother - you redeemed her death, gave it a significance I never believed, but one she would have wanted. And when I finally saw that, I was too late.
It was the same for Tommy. You tried to make me love someone else, but in the end, neither of us could let go of each other.
Without you, I am without myself.
Thatís how itís always been Ė I think thatís they way it will always be.
Certain words have always been linked with other words, to describe certain things - have you noticed? Shards to glass, fumble to zipper, break and ache to heart. I never really knew until now that I always associated you with love.
And I always loved you Jarod. I just never knew what it was that I had, never knew it was love until it was gone. I don't know if I could love someone else - I've loved you so long.
But I don't believe in the impossible anymore.
Because I love you still.
He read the letter again, slowly. And then he read it again and again until the sun splashed below the horizon and cast the world in darkness.
There was no choice in choosing what healed what ailed you.
And some things you never recovered from, some things had no cure.
And sometimes, that was all right.
Because oceans could be crossed.
He was fifty-three.
More than half his life was over.
But it was just beginning.
Please let me know what you thought : ElliottSilver@hotmail.com
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Author's Note: This for all those who kept asking for more stories Ö this may not be what you wanted, or even thought it would be, but thank-you for asking.
Disclaimer: The characters of "The Pretender" are not mine; they rightfully belong to NBC, MTM, and Pretender Productions, as well as the actors and actresses who give paper and ink a life and a voice. I am making no profit from these writings; imitation is the highest form of flattery.