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I don’t know how long I held onto that little girl with the ice cream cone. She had started to cry. She was too young to understand. At some point, the parents of the little girl came to rescue her from my grasp. He father yelled something at me. I didn’t hear him. I needed to get away, so I ran. I kept running, like maybe I could out run the pain and the loss. It was dark by the time I finally stopped.

That was the moment everything started to slip away. I stood on the street corner in some unrecognizable suburb panting and lost. I couldn’t wrap my mind around it. There was no way for me to intellectualize it. No amount of thinking or fighting could fix the hole that you’d punched in me.

They say that anger is a common reaction, a way of coping. I was not angry with you. I was numb. I was standing on a street corner surrounded by a city full of people who had no idea what they had lost. The world had stopped the day you died and no-one knew it but me. The world had stopped, it was all wrong! The only right would be your existence, to have you back, but you are lost somewhere out there.

I called a taxi to take me home, a place you had not been in three months. I went into our closet and looked through your things. I found the dress that you had been wearing the first night we had kissed. We had been friends then, I was not even aware, at that time, that you and I could have been more. I watched you that night in a play, me and a group of your friends whom I didn’t know. You were always surrounded by people. We flocked to you like thirsting animals at a watering hole, you seemed never to be alone.

We waited for you after the play was completed. I sat rigid next to the group of your friends who carried on in their conversation, oblivious to my presence. I watched you as you glided down the steps from the stage, the theatre light casting a flattering light on your elegance. You sauntered down the isles to the only row in the theatre still occupied. We were all there for you.

You were wearing a very immodest black dress with a hem wresting two thirds of the way up your thighs. The thin halter strap wound its way around your neck barely caressing your small breasts, and when you leaned toward me as we spoke my eyes wondered to the unobstructed view of your naked chest. You told me later that you knew I was looking down the top of your dress. You said later that you wanted me to look. You said later that you knew long before that night that we loved each other.

You took the seat next to me and I couldn’t help but notice the way your dress rose to expose the lower curve of your backside as you crossed your legs. You were not wearing panties and I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the view. You were working me then, and I didn’t suspect a thing. I had a boyfriend then. You and I were barely even friends at that point. The possibilities of you and I hadn’t even crossed my mind.

“What’d you think Emily?” Your dark green eyes focused all their intensity on me.

The play was horrible. Sitting through it had been painful. “You were great!” and you had been great.

You smiled a little and batted your green eyes bashfully.

“Everything else was absolute shit though.” I didn’t know what else to say. I thought I had chosen the right words, but your eyes registered pain and before I could say anything further you had gotten up and left.

I was shocked, but I didn’t hurry after you. Instead, i left the group of your friends, my absence as insignificant to them as my presence had been. I snuck out to the street and called my boyfriend, Tom, from my cell phone. He answered on the third ring, he always did that, he had a thing about even numbers.

“Oh Tom!” I said, the exasperation evident in my voice. “I’m so sorry. I think I completely screwed tonight up! I so rude to your sister!” I was near tears. Tom and I had been discussing marriage. That night had been an audition of sorts. I wanted so desperately to fit in with his family. I had no real family left of my own.

After what I’d said, and the way you’d reacted, I had to apologize. I had to make amends. I said at the time that it was for Tom, but it had been for you. I didn’t understand the conductivity between us, but it was there. It was very blatant in its realness. While I couldn’t put my fingers on the reason why, I wanted to see you again.

Tom offered to come with me to your dormitory on campus. I elected to do it on my own. I so wanted your approval, I so wanted to be close to you again. It seemed innocent at the time, but I couldn’t fight this feeling of wanting to be around you. I tell myself that I went to you that night with the best of intentions because I was going to marry your brother. It wasn’t innocent at all, i just didn’t understand the emotions that were rushing through me from the moment you sat down next to me at the theatre. I stopped at my own dorm and removed two cans of beer from my roommates bar fridge then headed to you.

You were still wearing that dress when you answered the door. You didn’t hesitate, you never hesitated you were always so sure of yourself. Your confidence was beautiful and warranted. You were the most beautiful thing that had ever been. Your eyes found mine, you brought your hands to my cheeks and pulled my face to yours. You kissed me, gently at first and then deeper. I didn’t respond right away. My first thought was to make it stop, then I found your rhythm and I let it happen. It was beautiful. You were beautiful.

* * *

I slept in that dress. I didn’t take it off for a week and a half. I wore it to the grocery store, I wore it to bed, I wore it to work. My boss, Kristie, pulled me aside one day.

“Emily, I’ve been meaning to talk to you,” she began without looking up. “Please sit down,” she gestured with her hand to the seat across from her big desk.

She stared at me for a long moment tapping her pen against her desk. I remembered how you hated that noise, and its repetition made me angry. How dare she disrespect you like that!

“Em,” she began after far too long. You always called me that. She had no right to talk to me with such familiarity. “Listen, this is really hard for me to talk about, and it’s really not my place, but a bunch of us are really concerned for you. What has been going on? Are you alright?” They were concerned? Who were these people? This was bullshit. I was not close with anyone there. They were not concerned for me. How could she be asking me this? Of course I wasn’t alright! How could I ever be okay again? You’d always hated Kristie. You said she took advantage of me. Now I hated her too. Maybe I’d been home that day i would have been there for you, I would have stopped you. If I’d not been at work I could have held you. I could have run my fingers through your hair the way you liked, or rubbed your back until you wanted to stay. I could have been there to stop it. Instead I was at work, surrounded by people from whom I was far removed working for Kristie who didn’t give a god damn about me or you. This was her fault. You were gone because of her!

“How can you ask me that? Why would I be alright? Do you even get it? She’s dead!” Of course Kristie understood it. It was me that didn’t understand. “This isn’t okay! This isn’t something I can just get over! I’m not going to wake up one day and just be okay because I’m not going to wake up one day and find her alive and next to me. She’s the love of my life! She’s everything! How dare you drag me in here like you care and then ask me if I’m okay! I am not okay! This is not okay! She’s dead! Fucking dead!” I was screaming now with tears rolling down my cheeks and falling onto my lap leaving tear stains on your dress.

Kristie just stared at me for a moment. She covered her face with her hands and when she pulled them away again there were tears in her eyes. “Please understand my position here. We’re not close, as far as I know, you’ve never been close with anyone here. Despite that, I do know what you’re going through. More than you know, I do understand.” She stopped to wipe her eyes. I was barely listening to her. What did it matter what this murderer had to say?

“That being said,” the tears were gone. “This is a place of business. You haven’t been turning any of your articles in on time. You’ve been coming to work in the same dress for almost two weeks, and to be quite blunt this is not work appropriate. I have other things to consider here so as much as I understand and sympathize with your loss I want you to take some time off. The company offers bereavement leave for up to a month and you didn’t take any of yours yet. I want you to stay home and take care of yourself Em, and then get back here and do the job I know you can do.” That was it. She thought it was that simple. I would spend one month with myself and you would just be a memory.

“Okay.” I got up and left her office. It wasn’t that simple. One month was not enough time. No time was enough. No matter how much time I spent you were simply gone. This was over. You were over. Where once you had been the pinnacle of my existence, where once I would wake up in the middle of the night and find you sleeping next to me, and be over come, you would never be there again. You were simply gone and that would never change. So much beauty had been removed from the world it seemed so unfair. It seemed so wrong, and this was something that could not be righted. It was all so heavy and there was no escaping it.

I took the month off but never returned. Kristie called a couple of times, but it wasn’t worth it. Continuing was too much. There was no point, your absence was in everything I did. Everywhere I went there was something there that scream of you, something that would catch me and send me spinning. So I just stopped. I didn’t leave the apartment again until the officer came to remove me. I guess I hadn’t paid rent in three months and the land lady had sent me more that one notice of eviction. Our phone had long since been cut off. We had no cable, no heat. I couldn’t keep going without you. So much had changed and yet the world wasn’t making any concessions for what had been lost. I just couldn’t. Now I was sitting and waiting, the last remnants of the life we had shared completely dissolved.

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