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Nobody ever dies with an empty heart, with all their secrets shared and their regrets unloaded. I don't give a fuck who you are, you never become truly honest with your loved ones, your friends. Not everything. Maybe it's the secrets, the lies. Maybe that's why we wither in the end. The unrest and the burden weighs heavier over time and unbinds that which holds our minds and bodies together. We rot from the inside. Like old trees, hollowed out and dry and ready to burn before we even hit the ground.

The thought keeps rolling over in his head as he waits at the terminal. The ferry doesn't leave for a few hours, so he's sitting in the cool evening air for a while. It's damp tonight. A sort of clinging moisture that only those who know the ocean can truly appreciate. He opens his shirt – just a little – and lets the air flow in. It feels good on his shoulder.

He's been thinking about her, almost obsessively. Those eyes. Lips. The warmth of her skin as she stood so close to him, eye to eye. He can see the beads of sweet summer sweat on her neck and the shape of her body so near brings a warmth that rises in him almost instinctively. She's halfway between a smile and a question, their hands touching, when Millie's face appears over her shoulder. We weren't up to anything. Not of our own will, at least. We hadn't kissed. We had hardly spoken. He shakes his head.  Didn't matter. It's from the way we pulled apart that Millie got suspicious. We felt guilty, even though neither of us had done anything wrong. And yet, despite the years of tension that followed, neither of them had ever spoken to the other about what they had felt that summer. In that moment. It'll kill me if I don't tell her.

He's called twice more since the first time, but each attempt offers the same resolve. She's out of range. Maybe tomorrow will be a better time to try. Then he'll be able to tell her about going back home, and maybe coming to see her. And maybe then he'll finally tell her what's been in his mind for five years. Finally. But it has to be in person. He has to say it to her face.

He opens up the net on the new smartphone and does a bit of browsing. No huge news, it seems. Scrolling down, he sees a link to an article about a new species discovered in South America. Scowling, he keeps reading down. Through snippets of visual noise. Entertainment news crap, mostly. But then he sees it.

The Halifax story is trending now, and comments on the national news page are multiplying like flies on a carcass. His chest tightens as he reads the line: two RCMP officers , one civilian killed in drug-related shootout. They still haven't been caught, and Al isn't surprised. They're mere hours west of here. Maybe even closer, if they're bent on getting that money back. Maybe they're here. He breaths deep, calming himself for a while until he sees the name posted under a photo of cars with flashing lights.

Kevin Porter.

It's ice in his veins, and fire in his throat. Al neck starts to throb as he stares at the name. Kevin Porter. His mind snaps back to this morning – that awkward call with Jess's mom. Now he understands what she had meant. Kevin Porter. He was there. He's dead.

Everything around him dissolves. The stars, the lights, the cars all in lines. It all goes away into blackness. His world collapses inward, driving from it any sort of hope. Only fear now. Fear and grief, and shame for what he's become a part of. He can hear a tone drifting through the air. A woman's voice, kind but stern. The ferry is starting to load. It's all my fault.

He stands up and walks to the shuttle. I can't stop now. I can't change it. I've already fucked everything up. He takes a last look westward. There's just a hint of sunset. A memory. A shade of black that's just slightly less black near the horizon. He hands over his ticket and sits down, holding his arm.


Submitted: January 22, 2016

© Copyright 2021 keithdaniels. All rights reserved.

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