Excerpt from “Forever,”
One of ten short stories in LONG STORIES SHORT
The television screen filled with a picture of a man whose image Denny would never forget. It was the man who had killed Andrea. He felt like someone had punched him in the stomach; the wind knocked out of him. Taking a deep breath, he looked again. Andrea’s killer was dead. He sat down, his eyes locked on the television screen, and trembled. The search had ended. He turned the television off.
As if in a trance, Denny sat motionless, with memories of Andrea flooding his mind. How ironic that someone stabbed the man to death during a robbery. And then Denny did what he often did. He spoke as though his wife could hear him. “The bastard got what he deserved, didn’t he, Andy?” And he could have sworn that the soft ripples of her laughter surrounded him.
He wondered if he should call the authorities, but decided it no longer mattered. The police had tried, but were unsuccessful in finding his wife’s killer. Someone else found him, though. His death was payment for his crime, and he wouldn’t hurt anyone else ever again. Denny would no longer be compelled to stare at every dark-haired, middle-aged man he passed on the street, on a bus, on the subway, in restaurants, grocery stores, banks and everywhere he went. Denny’s search for Andrea’s killer ended when her murderer was murdered.
Denny poured a cup of coffee before he joined Simon to sit in Andrea’s chair. Andrea used to spend hours gazing out through the window in search of rabbits, squirrels, and birds. He stroked the cat’s silky fur only once before Simon began to act like a cat possessed. The cat jumped down from the chair and ran in circles, jumping in the air and batting at something his imagination created. Certain that the little critter was doing his best to draw Denny out of his sullen mood, Denny chuckled, and watched the cat roll on the floor and rub up against the leg of the chair as he continued playing with nothing. Simon made Denny smile when nothing else could.
The feline antics continued for a couple of minutes before Denny stood and called out to him. “Come on, Simon. It’s time to take a shower.” On most days, Simon followed Denny to the bathroom, wondering, no doubt, if it was safe to be that close to so much water, yet often batting at the water that dripped from the showerhead. It was a morning ritual.
Simon looked at Denny, got up and trotted behind him, until a toy mouse appeared from nowhere. Simon pounced on the mouse, threw it up into the air and, when it hit the floor, he pounced again. He rolled with the mouse and then dashed to the corner of the dining room, where he purred and chortled, and rubbed the leg of Andrea’s chair.
For the second time that morning, Denny imagined the sound of Andrea’s laughter, only this time it seemed closer. It sounded like she was right next to him.
“Did I leave the television on?” He looked back toward the kitchen, and he saw her.
Looking exactly as she did on the last day of her life, Andrea sat in the chair by the window. Dressed in her favorite jeans and an oversized white sweater, Andrea was still the most beautiful woman Denny had ever seen.
With a sparkle in her sea-green eyes, her full lips turned upward, she said, “Hey, Denny.”
Just as he remembered it, her musical voice filled the room, as tears filled his eyes. Denny stared at his wife. He knew she couldn’t be there, yet there she was.
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