Nothing to Offer

Ash was having a difficult go at life when he met Alia. Undoubtedly, they were drawn to each other because they recognized their own desperation in one another. That was no way to start a relationship. He couldn’t take care of himself, so how could he take care of her? And, vice versa.

But…

She latched on to him, in a way that made him lust and cringe. That weakness in her drew him in, even when it repulsed him. His ex-wife was nothing like Alia. She was a fighter. She was strong, and smart, and hard-headed. One might imagine that those qualities in her were what created the barrier between them, but that wasn’t at all the case. It was Sandy. Losing Sandy. Actually losing her – she was just gone. And every time Ash looked into his wife’s beautiful eyes, he saw his daughters’ staring back at him, begging him to find her, asking him why he let her go. That was a barrier he simply couldn’t get by.

So one day he found that he was sitting there with Alia, drinking until he could no longer keep his thoughts straight. And Alia let him. Because she would let anyone do anything. Because she was meek, and timid, and lost. But Ash had found her. And she loved him for it.

He thought about all of this as he stood at the water’s edge. He was swaying back and forth now, likely too drunk to swim back to shore if he wanted to. But just to be sure, he had tied weights to his ankles. Now all there was to do was step in, and keep going. So why was he standing there, thinking about Alia? She would cry. She would quiver, and crack, and break. He would break her. It would be his fault. He didn’t love her. But that wasn’t the point. He couldn’t stand the idea of letting her down. He let down Sandy, his wife, his parents, his dog (where had that damn dog gone, anyways?) – and now Alia. Sweet, sad, Alia. But if he didn’t step in, if he untied the weights and climbed back into bed – dry and alive – well, what could he offer her then?

Nothing. And yet – he just couldn’t step in.

© Shyla Fairfax-Owen

Reruns, A to Z

Apparently, Hunter had not been quite the man he had hoped to be.

Better to admit it now, he figured.

Caressing his own hands, he tried his best to ease the nerves that came with facing his true self.

Downstairs, his father’s TV was echoing reruns of black and white comedies that relied too heavily on the body.

Even in the chaos that was his current mind’s state, Hunter was annoyed by the sound.

Forgetting to lock the door behind him, he swiftly exited the house and headed down the road towards the liquor store.

Gathering his thoughts as he walked, he tried to recall the moment in which everything he thought he knew about himself had collapsed.

Hunter was sure that, at some point, the change had been provoked – but that was mostly because while admission was easy, taking responsibility was not.

Instinctively, Hunter tugged on the heavy glass door and gasped a little when it creaked open.

Just as he had not expected to commit his most recent crime, he had not expected to find the liquor store still open.

Killian was behind the counter as usual, tired and hacking up a lung.

Little else could Hunter say about the storeowner but that the man sure loved his cigars.

Murder, She Wrote moved silently about the small screen propped up in the corner.

Numbly, Hunter gave a friendly nod and continued towards the back, where they stocked the cold beer.

Overhearing two other customers rattle on about the rising cost of Californian wines, Hunter stopped dead in his tracks.

Perhaps it wasn’t her – no; no, it was definitely her.

Quaking under his two sweaters, Hunter glanced back at the exit, wondering if he could make it unnoticed.

Realizing the impossibility of it, he opted to proceed towards the refrigerators, though he did so with much lighter steps.

Soon, he told himself, he’d have his beer in his arms and he’d be out the door; easy as pie.

“Twelve – eighty-five.”

Under his breath, Hunter thanked Killian and gestured for him to keep his change.

Very carefully, he peeked to his left to verify that the movement he sensed was her; she was getting closer.

While it had briefly occurred to him that she might not recognize him after all this time, he knew it simply couldn’t be so.

Xeroxed images of their time together seemed to flash rapidly before him, so that he had to squeeze his eyes shut to rid himself of their light.

“Yeah. I knew that was you. Off the wagon, as per usual.”

Zero sympathy – yes, that was her alright.

Shyla Fairfax-Owen ©