Sleep eludes Matt, while snow falls and his wife and best friend argue downstairs.
Approximately 900 words
Matt pressed his palm against the window pane and let his forehead kiss the glass. Outside, an immaculate shroud of snow enfolded the night-shadowed avenue. Flakes, silent and implacable, wafted through the streetlight's halo. He tilted his head to peer through the window where icy facets glittered like stardust across the drifts.
Voices from downstairs, muffled and indistinct, muttered through the heating ducts. He wanted to scream at them, his wife and his best friend, but no sound would escape his throat. Matt withdrew his hand from the chill glass and rubbed his eyes. His cold fingers soothed the pain that lingered there.
If only he could rest.
He wove through darkness to their bed, the bed he and Marie shared. Weightless, he slipped onto the crumpled linens, but sleep eluded him. He gazed at empty sheets on Marie's side, where the mattress still held the contours of her body. He nuzzled her pillow. Her aroma, bewitching and beguiling, could only arouse memories this night.
The furnace rumbled, and warm air shot across Matt's body. He frowned and thought about opening the window. Marie liked the room warm, too warm for Matt. Wetness slaked his brow, and soggy sheets clung to his naked torso.
Downstairs, the voices ceased their yammer. A door slammed, and a car's engine growled. Matt stumbled back to the window. The headlights of Greg's BMW flashed across the white void. His vehicle pulled from the curb and accelerated. It fishtailed once, slowed, and fled into the gloom. The tires left precise, parallel tracks that defiled the forgiving drifts.
The furnace coughed to a stop, and blessed silence filled the room. A gust of wind keened, and the house shuddered. Frigid arctic air leaked from the frame around the window. The bed beckoned, and Matt returned to the damp and lonely sheets. He closed his eyes and yearned for the reprieve of dreams, but instead relentless memories dribbled across his fractured mind.
He remembered the springtime. April was the kindest month, for that was when he fell in love. They took long walks in the park under juniper and sunlight. They shared the delicate scent of lilacs and the heady aroma of hyacinths. That was when memory and desire blended with gentle rains that chased them to waiting shelters, where they fell laughing into one another's embrace.
The furnace churned back to life and its hot breath flooded across Matt's cold body. He closed his eyes against emptiness and imagined the heat of a summer's evening long past. Waves had crashed across a sandy beach, from an ocean that stretched to infinity. Moon glow had shimmered in his beloved's eyes and desire had blossomed in his loins. They made love that night, under the starry firmament, certain they had found eternity.
The stairs creaked and footfalls sounded in the hall outside his room. She must be coming for him. He knew she wouldn't abandon him. He pictured her as his bride, dressed all in the purest white, bearing salvation. He remembered the autumn afternoon they married, outdoors, in the park. For the ceremony, they had chosen the natural cathedral of the glade where he had first known love. His bride's slow procession down the aisle, framed by family and friends, had quickened his heart. Her shy smile at first hid away, cloaked under her lace veil, and then dazzled as they exchanged vows. At last, when they kissed, her eyes glowed with promises everlasting.
Her footsteps stopped. The door creaked open. Incandescent light from the hallway threw harsh shadows into the bedroom. From downstairs, Roy Orbison's innocent tenor crooned from the stereo. In Dreams. Greg had sung that for them at their wedding. It was their favorite. Strange he hadn't noticed the music earlier.
Marie stood in the doorway, silhouetted in the light. The gentle susurrations of her breath mingled with the sigh of the winter winds.
Matt peered against the glare, but darkness cloaked her features.
She shuffled into the room and leaned over the bed, staring at him.
He longed to touch her hand, but his arms would not move. He yearned to grant forgiveness, but the words would not come. If only he could see her face, but the brilliance glimmering from the hallway obscured his vision.
She reached out and her fingers touched his forehead, between his eyes.
His attention drifted away, toward the open door, toward the light. Perhaps from there he could see her again, at last.
She spoke, and it was with the same endearing voice he remembered. "I hate you," she murmured. "I should have put a bullet in your brain years ago." Her index finger circled the neat hole in Matt's skull, centered between his eyes. Dark blood soaked the sheets, where it seeped from the gaping chasm at the back of his head.
He floated to the doorway, fragile as a dream, silent as an unanswered prayer. He reached out to where she hunkered over his lifeless body. He wanted to tell her he was sorry, to say that he loved her even so, to assure her everything would be all right. But the light, the alluring and irresistible light, summoned him.
It was too late...too late for him, too late for her, too late...for...
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