Hey all. I’m crying. August is already HALFWAY THROUGH!!!! How is that even possible? I don’t want summer to end. I don’t want to go back to school, and lunches and timetables and schedules and endless hours at the arena. I want to stay with long, summer nights, warm breezes, my kids turned vampires and no, I repeat, no schedules other than mine!
But, sigh…guess I’ll have to make peace with it. Or go kicking and screaming…yeah, kicking and screaming. Anyway, it’s already time for another music flash fiction. This month’s song is called Rootless Tree by Damien Rice. He’s hilarious most of the time, but here’s the ballad version of the song. And because I’m trying to finish my Halloween story for a collection… no, I don’t have a freaking title yet, thanks for reminding me… it’s going to tie into that. Which actually ties into the picture fiction from this month, as well. More Daniel… which tied into last month’s picture fiction. Yes, I also see the trend here. Work with me, folks. If you want to read the others, here’s July’s picture, and August’s picture. Or just jump right in…
“Thanks for the lift, Arrynn. See you in a couple of days.” Daniel shut the door to her car, taking a few steps away when the window rolled down. He glanced back over his shoulder, doing his best to keep his expression even—same way he had all shift.
Arrynn frowned, staring at the moon heading toward the distant horizon. “I didn’t want to say anything with Jimmy around. Then it never seemed like a good time…”
He arched a brow. “Say what?”
“You should have taken today off. Should have given yourself that luxury.”
His teeth clenched together, and he knew the muscle in his temple was flexing with every damn breath. “I’m fine. Would have stayed home if I thought I couldn’t handle it.”
She snorted. “Fuck, you’re stubborn. It’s not about handling shit. It’s about allowing yourself to be human, you dumb sod.”
“Thanks. I think you’re special, too.”
He cursed as the words came out with more raw emotion than he’d planned. And fuck, he could tell by the way she inhaled, she’d noticed. Hell, she always noticed.
Arrynn sighed. “You’ve got my number if you decide you ever want to…talk.”
She rolled up the window, checked over her shoulder then took off, her car quickly fading into the darkness. Daniel watched until the headlights disappeared before turning and walking up the path to his door. He climbed the short set of steps to his front door, drawing a deep breath before twisting his key in the lock and swinging the door open. A single light burned in the kitchen, the dull glow sending a shiver down his spine.
Didn’t matter that he’d been coming through the door for months, he still expected to see some evidence of Isabel. That despite all he’d done—all Arrynn and Jimmy had helped him accomplish —he hadn’t managed to fully free himself. That a part of her would always live on, even if it was just in his imagination.
He headed for the fridge, grabbing a Smithwicks before continuing into the living room. He kicked off his shoes, placed his feet on the coffee table and relaxed back, taking a long pull of the cold liquid. The beer soothed the edgy feeling prickling his skin, and he closed his eyes, allowing his mind to drift. He still couldn’t believe he’d only been working at Threshold for under six months. God, it felt longer. Lifetimes.
An image of Isabel flashed in his head. One year. Today. Hell of a way to spend an anniversary. Shit, hell of an anniversary to have. He reran Arrynn’s words. Burned his gut that she was right. He’d been off his game today. Distracted. He should have taken the damn shift off. Not put his partners’ safety in jeopardy because he had something to prove. Because he couldn’t admit that he hadn’t wanted to be alone in the damn house all day. That he was scared the voice he’d been hearing was real.
He pushed aside the thought. It was fatigue. Guilt. The fact he hadn’t experienced anything other than random visions, words, was proof that it was all in his head. If she really was still around, surely she’d have made her presence known by now. Broken dishes. Objects out of place. Flickering lights and cold shivers…
You’ll never be free…
He snapped open his eyes, twisting his head toward the echoed sound. Nothing. He pushed to his feet, taking a few steps in that direction when the floor creaked behind him. He spun, blood running cold as he stared at a faded image of Isabel standing beside the window—her head turned away as she stared out the glass pane, her white dress eerily bright.
He shook his head, standing his ground. “You’re not real.”
He gaze swung to him, her eyes filled with sorrow. “Aren’t I?”
“I did everything right. You’re just my imagination.”
She laughed, but it wasn’t maniacal like it’d been before. “Then, you’ve got nothing to be afraid of.”
“What do you want?”
“You know what I want, Daniel.”
“I’m not going with you, Isabel. Figment or not…I know how to protect myself. How to fight back. You won’t find the weak man you left before.”
Her head tilted to the side. “I never thought you were weak. Quite the opposite. You were always too strong. Too dedicated. Out to save the world. Save everyone, except me.”
He raked a hand through his hair, scratching at his scalp. “If I’d known… Fuck!” He grabbed the beer bottle and tossed it across the room, hitting the glass. Liquid splattered against the panes before the bottle crashed to the floor, breaking into a kaleidoscope of tiny shards.
Isabel flickered, winking out only to return. “When are you going to realize you can’t ever get rid of me? That I’ll always be a part of you. It doesn’t matter how much salt you use, what you burn—I’ll still be here. Waiting. I’ll always be waiting.”
He scrubbed a hand down his face. “No. This ends.”
She frowned. “What’s wrong, Daniel? Don’t you want me anymore?”
“You’re dead. I can’t…” He huffed out a breath. “What I want is for you to find peace, Isabel. To cross over. To leave me the fuck alone to try and find some shred of happiness in this life. I need you to let go this time.”
Her image flared then dimmed. “I’m living in Hell, Daniel. You should have to live in one, too.”
She vanished, nothing but drops of beer shimmering on the glass.
He sucked in a few quick gasps, reaching for his phone. He unlocked the screen and hit the contact number before he had a chance to second guess himself. Arrynn picked up on the second ring.
“Daniel? Everything okay?”
He closed his eyes as he released his breath. “I…you want to have a drink? I could really use a drink.”
A pause before her exhale sounded on the other line. “I’ll pick you up in ten. Wait outside for me. And Daniel…I’m glad you called.”
He hung up, heading for the door. He didn’t pause when Isabel appeared in front of him, continuing through her. A shiver of cold beaded his skin but he ignored it. It wasn’t real. None of it was real. He just needed to rest. He wasn’t crazy.
And that’s it for me. Now, I believe most of the other ladies are on deadlines, but Bronwyn has come up with a fabulous story. Check it out.