New short story about love and break-ups. In other words, Life. Enjoy.
By Robert C Price
Jackson read the name over and over. He’d chuckle and read it once more. The contact field of the email blazed with her name in bold and black lettering: Rachel Steadman.
It read today’s date and five minutes past the hour. He slumped in his chair at the coffee shop where they would meet. Red eyes burning from staring into a blank computer screen added more discomfort for knowing that she still checks their email account like he does. Two fools in love trying to hold on to lost remains.
Ten months since the decision for all communication to stop and end the relationship. Her choice. Not his. Jackson’s mind swam in dizzying highlights of weekend getaways, pink laced bodysuits and marathon lovemaking drenched in wine soaked sheets, now shattered in fragments of bitterness.
“I can’t do this again”, he said to himself. The insomnia, no eating for days and a brick wall worth of writers block was enough torture in his eyes, but the name stuck out like an ink stain on a crisp white dress shirt. He shook his head, clicked it and read the four sentences:
Hello. How are you? I just wanted to check on you. I hope you’re ok?
I just wanted to check on you.
The statement lingered in the air like mist. Then a meager smile crept onto his face and relaxed the tensed muscles that made deep wavy crevices in his brow.
He began writing a reply filled with questions and answers about their demise. How she never gave them a chance to discuss the decision? Is she still married? When can he see her? Everything he’d bottled up exploded into a mish-mash of ramblings.
He took a deep breath, let it out slow, steady, and controlled. The writer skimmed through the email and shook his head at the wreckage laid out before him. After deleting every incoherent word, Jackson decided on a far simpler approach.
Long time no hear from. I’m well. I’m in the coffee shop writing as usual. Are you ok?
That was all he wanted to say at the moment. He wasn’t expecting her to reply. It was twenty minutes before the popped on the screen.
I’m ok. I passed by there the other day and saw you hitting the keyboard like crazy or lack thereof. I wanted so much to go in and say something to you, but I had an appointment. I didn’t think you would still have the email account. I guess we both think alike.
Unsure of where this was going, he continued the conversation. Charging head first into answers he may not want to know.
So do you miss me?
I think you should know the answer to that question.
So what does this mean? Are you with Matt?
Yes, I’m with him. Everything is good between us and I don’t want to hurt him again. I still have feelings for you. I do, but it’s just not our time.
Not our time?
She stood there moving her eyes across the photograph, studying each line and curve of the figures. She took a sip of her champagne, walked over to the white bench and sat, not once taking her eyes off the picture. A dark curly lock fell into her eye and she brushed it away without hesitation.
Jackson leaned on the column taking in every action she performed. Through the flash of lights and banal conversations, her tight little black dress was the distraction he needed to get through his best friend’s gallery showing.
Feeling ready, he sauntered over to the picture and stood there gazing at the black and white contrast of the photograph, while shifting his eyes every few seconds from the picture to the raven haired beauty. She stood up and drifted to his position, taking a sip from the flute of champagne.
“I love the composition he posed with the couple entwined into one mass of passion. His smooth ebony complexion draped along her alabaster skin gives it such depth. I’m really taken aback with this photograph,” as she turned to Jackson.
“It’s not a bad piece,” he said, “He has a lot more beautiful pictures displayed. You should really take a look at his cityscapes. They’re grittier than the art pieces.”
“Look at you, Mr. Modest. Even though you have your head down in the picture, I can tell that you’re the model. Do you do this professionally?” she took another sip of champagne.
He turned towards her and couldn’t fathom what to say next. Jackson met a pair of green eyes that shined like polished jade. All he did was smile and shook his head.
“Okay. What do you do?”
“Um, yeah, uh, what do I do? Oh yeah, sorry, I’m a writer. Freelance. Also trying to write the Great American Novel. You know, the usual. Um, my best friend Mike, which you’re looking at his photographs, asked me to model for him,” as he took a quick sip of his drink.
“Didn’t you feel awkward standing in front of him naked… and the girl too?”
This is not how he pictured the conversation. Definitely not talking about his nudity and best friend, but she was interested. There was no way he would let those green eyes walk away without him.
“Yeah awkward is an understatement. The male model he hired canceled on him at the last minute. I, unfortunately or fortunately, depends on how you look at it, was there to fill in. He pretty much begged me to do it. I couldn’t say no. He’s been there for me in a lot of hairy situations. It was the least I could do. Also, I told him there was no way in Hell that I was going to model naked. I have a black jock strap on. You just can’t see it.”
“Really? Hmm, interesting,” as they both locked eyes and fell silent.
“I really don’t mean to stare, but your eyes are gorgeous. What’s your name?”
“It’s Rachel and thank you.”
“Do you want to go get some coffee and talk about something other than these pictures?” Jackson asked.
She gently stroked his hand. He felt the smoothness of her fingers gliding across his skin. Goosebumps rose on the back of his neck and arms. There was no turning back. He wanted her more than life itself.
“Anywhere you want,” said Rachel, smiling.
What made you write me Rache? Why do you care if I’m ok or not? You made your decision when you wrote the email. I knew your family was demanding a lot from you. I saw it in your face and the way you treated me. I would’ve let you go to be happy. You didn’t give me a chance. I wanted it to be mutual and not just a goodbye email. You couldn’t give me that much fucking courtesy? Especially, all the shit we’ve been through.
A weight fell off him when he sent the reply. He held that in during those long months and let it fester like an open wound. To finally let it all out was a relief beyond measure.
Thirty minutes passed before she forwarded her reply.
I’m sorry, baby. I had to do it. It was the only way to break it off. If I had seen you, I wouldn’t have had the strength to end it. I can’t be around you Jackson. I just can’t. I’m use to having control. Having it all together. I lose that with you and I can’t have that in my life. My world has been upside down since I was young. I need normalcy. I love Matt. He’s stable. I know what to expect from him. You touch me in places that I thought I buried and I can’t deal with it. Not now. Not with you. You are in my heart always and I will love you until I pass this earth. You won’t hear from me again. I don’t want to hurt you anymore. Goodbye.
Jackson read the word over and over. He didn’t chuckle this time, but became aware just how finite the word can be. He closed his eyes and let the word drift along his synapse. Nothing more he could do. His obsession quelled by the push of an Enter button.
And then a remarkable thing happened. A thought permeated his mind. Something he hasn’t had in those ten months. His eyes widened. Hands became agitated. Jackson looked at his keyboard and began tapping in a fury.
“And to think I was about to delete that email account,” he said to no one in particular.