Friday Fictioneers – Running Up That Hill

(Author’s note: Life is doing pretty well. Interviews happening, help to others being given, and with the exception of being clipped by a hit and run driver (no personal damage to body, a little to the back of my van), things are doing well. Here’s this week’s fictioneers!)

k-rawson

© K. Rawson

Running Up That Hill

by Miles H. Rost

Mandy stared into Josh’s eyes.

“You don’t understand me.”
“What do you mean?”
“This. We are standing just below our target’s hideout, and we’re arguing.”

Josh’s face wore blank.

“I just want to know, before we go in, that we’re on the same page.”
“Of course we’re on the same page. We’re going to axe this guy, then get out of the country.”
“Are you sure?”

Mandy just sighed.

“If you’re going to be addle-brained, I’ll do it myself and Leave you behind.”
“You wouldn’t do-”

*BOOM*

Shards of building rained upon them.

Mandy dropped the detonator and walked away.

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Friday Fictioneers – I Still Hear Your Voice

(Author’s note: Heyo! Classes are a bit hectic, but I may actually have some real stories up this week, depending on how things go. I realize that writing a bit longer-form may actually help me with my classes [especially my short fiction class], so be ready for some experimentation to come. Anyhow, here’s the latest Fictioneers offering.)

 

Photo Prompt © Madison Woods

I Still Hear Your Voice

by Miles H. Rost

Deception.

I feel as thought my heart has been pulled from its place, but I know it is still there. Despite what might have been, I still am able to continue on. I am confused as to why you had to go that route, though. Why would you submit yourself to all of that dreck?

I am not sure which direction to go now, as my path has been shaken up. I still hear your voice in the dark night, telling me the things that I want to hear.

But I hear a different voice now, one that says “time to move on.”

 

Solitary Man

Solitary Man
a story by Miles Rost

The smell of the apartment was enough to choke the life out of a thousand hardened terrorists.

I got to this position due to my friendship with Ryan. Ryan could be considered one of my better friends from college. He’s someone who is dependable, friendly, and usually on time with just about everything. He was even at events, on the nose, as they started. The folks at the atomic laboratory could set their clocks to him, and they’d be quite accurate.

At least, that was the case until just about 3 weeks ago. That was when things went pear-shaped.

All through college, Ryan was dating a seemingly nice, yet quite meek girl named Clarissa. They came from opposing high schools in the same town, but started dating just as they ended high school. For the full four years of university, they were together. He had a bit of independence, especially with “safe” friends like me. It seemed that by the way things were going, they would be married after college.

6 months ago, Clarissa changed dramatically. The meek girl we all knew suddenly became vocal, brash, and pretty darn mean. She was also quite controlling, it appeared.

About that time was when Ryan stopped hanging out with us. Sure, he’d be able to sneak away and be able to join me at a coffee shop somewhere on campus, or he’d give an excuse about having me in class, and somehow I was in that responsible circle of friends.

3 weeks ago, the day after we all graduated, I was there when Ryan was given the shove-off. Clarissa dumped him, flat out, and proceeded to kiss her new girlfriend out in the open. As Ryan slowly turned and walked out, I rushed after him to be a friend and help him out. He told me “Thank you”, and proceeded to get into a taxi.

Now it’s 3 weeks later, and I am visiting his apartment. No one saw him, work’s been wondering where he is, and even his mom is worried. So I told her I’d go over and check up on him. As I opened the apartment door, I was hit with the overpowering stench of dirty dishes and overflowing trash.

The room was dark, all of the curtains closed. It was hard to walk around the place without seeing, so I decided to open up the living room window. The sight that greeted me upon illumination was incredibly ghastly. Pizza boxes strewn all over, half-eaten bowls of mac and cheese that had mold and other things growing on it laid haphazardly in various places. Banana peels lay rotting on the carpet, one or two even ground in a bit like they were walked on.

Through all of this, I could hear one sound coming from what I assumed was the bedroom. It was the sound of Neil Diamond’s “Solitary Man” song.

Tiptoeing around the trash, and after opening a window to let the stench out and the pleasant fall air in, I made my way to the bedroom door. I knocked once and asked if he was there. No answer. I knocked a second time, and said that I was coming in. No answer. So, I opened the door and looked inside.

I’ve seen messes of undeniable putridness. However, looking into my good friend’s room, I was knocked over by just how bad things got. For a man who was known to be quite clean, this was a level of messy that not even my sister could have achieved.

Clothes, pizza boxes and old pizza crusts, and pudding containers were strewn about the room. The windows were sealed with plastic and duct tape, and the smell of the room was atrocious. I turned on the light, and I saw Ryan, lying in his bed. His eyes were open, and his head was lolling side to side as if he was on drugs. I couldn’t think of much to say.

“Hey, Ryan. We’ve been a bit worried about you. You alright?”

“Do you think I’m alright?” he said, his voice raspy and dry.

“Nope, not at all.”

“Listen to the song. That’s how I feel.”

“Dude, I know the song. That was my theme for a long time. Now you’ve taken it on. I get that. Want to talk about it?”

I walked in, navigating around the land mines of trash that were liable to explode. I felt the edge of the bed to see if there was any trash, and feeling a safe spot, I sat down.

Ryan told me about how crushed he was by Clarissa’s explanation. She said that for the 3 months before us outsiders noticed the change, she was starting to show her true colors. And started having sex with her new friend from the women’s center. He told us about how she controlled nearly everything about life, and how she sent her “allies from the center” to spy on our conversations when we met. As he spilled his guts, the pain and hardship he felt finally came forth and he was periodically wracked with sobs. I offered him my shoulder, so he could help.

“I’ve been listening to this song for 3 weeks. I need to go my own way on things now.”

“What are you saying?”

“I’m swearing off women for a while. Clarissa’s given me a bad taste, and all the stuff she was preaching this past year is really leaving a bad taste in my mouth. Hell, I used to support their ideas at one time, until I realized that their ideas aren’t compatible with my way of life.”

“It’s a good idea. You’ve been badly hurt. What you need to have is time to process with the rest of us guys, and then slowly develop good friendships with women who aren’t going to pull a 180 on you like that.”

Ryan slowly moved, brushing aside the bedsheets and blankets.

“I guess I am going to need to clean up this place. Think you could help me out a bit?”

“Am I not your brother, Ryan? That’s what friends do. I’ll help clean up the trash, you just take a shower and get yourself cleaned up that way.”

Ryan just smiled, a smile that I hadn’t seen for nearly a year.

“After that, we’ll get the vacuuming and steam cleaning done on this place. Then, you and me, we’re gonna go out to the river landing and shoot some cans.”

As the final strains of “Solitary Man” played across the speakers, I turned off his iPod. It was time for some new music for a new life. Putting a crust of pizza into a trash bag, I realized that sometimes, just sometimes, a man needs only one friend at one time to help bring him out of an unresolved situation.

Changing Tides

Changing Tides
(aka Mayumi’s Story, Part II)
by Miles Rost

The old pangs were just like torture.

The old desires, the old needs, all of them were trying to drop Mayumi in her tracks. And damn if she was going to let it.

It had been nearly three weeks since her ex-boyfriend was sent packing across the Outback on his motorcycle, with her hoping he’d never return. She examined herself fully to see how she was, and for the first couple of weeks, it seemed to be alright. She was getting by on her work at the radio station, spending lots of time working radio traffic during the week and hitting up the 7-10 shift at Shine FM on the weekends. With one day off on Mondays, it was a nice job to have, especially dealing with all the stuff she had to deal with.

What she didn’t expect was those old pangs coming back. The feelings that she had still stuck around, the residual mess that was left to be cleaned up.

The pangs were slow to creep up on her. Just a little reminder of the way her boyfriend used to hold her, at a time when she was vulnerable; or a little reminder of the gentle kiss that he’d give her while they watched wrestling on TV. Small things like these kept popping into her mind as the days progressed.

It was a Friday afternoon, and as she got home, that she felt the old feeling of loneliness and desire pop back into her life. The indicators were there before, however.

——

12:45PM, Friday

The papers were all stacked up on her desk. Inputs for commercials and liners were ready to be processed. She picked up one of the requests and started to write on the page. As the pen ran across the sheet of wood pulp, her knuckle started to ache. It was a small ache at first. As she processed each request, the ache got worse and her emotions started to run a bit higher. After a half an hour, she sat back and rubbed her hands across her face, ending with one going through her sandy-gray hair.

“Hey, Mayumi. You okay?”

Mayumi looked at her deskmate, Kelsey. A fresh-faced Sydney graduate, buxom and smart, Kelsey seemed to have a second sense to when problems were about to start.

“Yeah, Kel. Ah just have a lot on m’plate. That’s all.”

Kelsey looked at her through strands of her dark chocolate brown hair, and squinted.

“I don’t believe that for a second. In a half an hour, you can get through a stack like that on your desk. You’ve only gotten through half. What’s going on?”

Mayumi sighed, as she continued to process the paperwork.

“Ah’m just still dealing with my ex.”

“I see. Still haven’t been able to let him go, have ya?”

“Ah let him go. It’s just hard to let the memories fade, y’know.”

Kelsey pursed her lips, as she thought carefully. The brunette scratched her hair with a pencil, while she thought.

“It was two weeks ago, right? And how long were you together.”

“Yeah. And we were “together” for over 8 years. High school sweethearts and all that junk.”

“Ow,” Kelsey grimaced, a slight twinge of pain going through her face.

Mayumi sighed and looked at her friend.

“What’s bad is that ah know when my emotions are overwhelming me. The aching in my knuckle tells me.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, ever since ah had this depressive episode back in ’06. Whenever ah have too much emotion, and ah’m about ready to cry or needing to release, it screams at me.”

“Maybe you should take the rest of the day off. I mean, you haven’t taken a day in the year I’ve been here, and you are probably going through some major league withdrawal if it was that bad.”

Mayumi thought about it for a few moments, and looked at her paperwork. She did get part of it done already, but she didn’t want to leave until she finished her work.

Kelsey looked at her again, and sighing audibly, she put her hands out. She told her, without words, ‘Give them to me. You need rest’.

After a few moments of writing the last page on her desk, she gave the stack of papers to her sympathetic comrade and registered her sick leave request with the manager. Getting it approved. she popped into her vehicle and raced home.

—-

She was already into the apartment when she dropped her keys on the floor. She didn’t even notice them, as she stumbled into her ornately decorated bedroom. Falling upon the bed, she grabbed a full length pillow and hugged it tightly. Tears started to flow down her face, dropping it’s salty emotion onto the sleeve of her light silk blouse. She held onto the pillow for dear life, as her mind raced through the emotions that were bombarding her from all direction.

She cried as she recounted the feeling of his touch on her skin, the longing of wanting that touch on her body. The warmth of his hands on each of her shoulders was still firm in her mind.

Mayumi’s mind was in agony as she went through all sorts of memories. She didn’t know what to do with all of them, with all the extra energy that she had without directing so much of it toward her idiot ex. The “good memories” were the ones that caused her the grief she was experiencing, though at times the bad memories came surging upward, forcing a scream into her pillow as she recounted the numerous numbers of abusive barbs.

You’re not worth the time, Yumi.

That was the one that hurt the most for her. It was one of the last things that the idiot said to her the night before he left for parts unknown. 8 long years, and she had her time wasted.

She screamed out curses at his name, at the memories as the tears poured down her face like a mini-waterfall. Her blouse was becoming soaked with her tears, just like the pillow she held onto.

All of the desire that she had, the lust of her heart, the pain and memories, flowed out of her. The pain in her finger throbbed at all the emotion coming from her.

The culmination of the three weeks of stress and all the old feelings had burst forth from it’s prison. As she sank into what would be called a deep sleep, in the last vestige of her consciousness, she saw a vision of an old tree chopped into firewood, and a hole filled with dirt.

Finally, she was facing all those emotions head on. And the healing would begin in earnest.

Live It Up

by Miles Rost

High school could be a cruel mistress sometimes. For many students, it was the epitome of social alienation and subjection to the whims of those who had the influence.

Kristy Parsons was one of these with influence, and even she fell victim to the whims of others.

It was a cool February afternoon, just after sixth period creative writing class. Kristy met her boyfriend in the hallway close to her classroom. 10 minutes between classes was enough time for her to get some “chest time” with her honey, where she would sidle up to him, lay her head against his chest, and release her stress. She saw him in his usual spot, and she quickly walked over.

He didn’t respond when she approached him. She knew that something was up.

“Well, hello there, Greg,” she purred, “Are you ready for some energy?”

“Not today, Kristy,” he said, flatly, “I’m breaking things off. You’re nice, but I just don’t want to be with you anymore.”

She was about to say something, but her throat could only give a small shocking “eep”.

Her day proceeded to get worse, and as she was walking down the stairs towards the exit, she heard the whispers of the others.

I hear her boyfriend dumped her for Gina Langston.
No way, it wasn’t Gina Langston. She’s still going out with Mark Blank. It’s clearly Shannon, the head cheerleader.
Poor Kristy, she’ll have no one to take her to the dance tonight.

She quickly ran to her locker, grabbed her stuff, and proceeded to skip seventh period. She arrived home shortly after leaving school, and proceeded to her room to cry. She was not happy with things, and the night was not going to go well either. She was required to be at the dance that night, as she was the head of the design committee and the person for which all music selections went through.

Until an hour before the dance was to start, she cried. Her mom came to comfort her, to give her what she needed to get through the night.

“He wasn’t worth your time, Kristy. I have a feeling that you’ll find someone sooner than you think.”

Great, Mom, Kristi groaned to herself, Old Spinster me is going to emerge soon. I doubt it’ll happen.

She proceeded to get ready for the dance, wearing a beautiful peach-colored satin dress and dazzling up herself as best as she could. She was not looking forward to what was going to happen there at the dance, but she decided to do her best anyways. She could always be sad tomorrow.

She went to the dance, and entered the back entrance of the school. It was customary for those checking the designs and others to be in the back, so she was able to go in without much trouble. After informing the deejay about what he was supposed to play and what he wasn’t, she walked over to the main gym doors. She rapped on the doors twice, and proceeded over to a reserved table, where she sat. And continued sitting even after the first 30 minutes of the dance.

She looked at the people out on the floor, having fun and dancing. Tears slowly fell from her eyes, seeing the fun that she was supposed to be having with her now ex-boyfriend, and she started feeling a bit cold.

How can you see looking through those tears, Kristy?”

She looked behind her, and saw a young man that she never would have thought would even give her the time of day. She figured Brian Treadwell, the captain of the ice hockey team and the assistant editor-in-chief of the newspaper, would be pursuing one of the hockey girls.

“What’s it to you, Brian?”

“Well, I heard about what’s happened in the last 12 hours. A close encounter with a hardhearted man who never gave half of what he got. He’s hurt you, Has made you wish that you’d never been born.”

Kristy hung her head in acknowledgement.

“You pretty much hit it, though you’re a bit blunt about it.”

Brian smiled, and put his hand on her shoulder.

“He’s kind of an ass anyways. He’s not worth all the crying and worrying. He threw you to the side, and that’s a shame cause you got the lot.

Kristy looked at him, and blinked a few times, wondering what he was saying.

I know he’s Australian, but he really needs to start speaking a language I can understand,” she thought.

Brian put his hand on the table next to hers, then moved his fingers on top of her hand.

“Your hands are frigid. Let me warm your hands against the cold.”

Kristi seemed to do nothing as Brian’s warm hands transferred heat into her fingers, giving her new life.

“You, beside the dance floor, what are you crying for? Let’s live it up! What do you say?”

Kristi looked up at Brian. She looked deep into his blue-gray eyes and saw his heart. She knew he wasn’t joking.

“Which song should we dance to?”

“How about the one that’s about to come up?”

Kristi looked at him funny.

“How do you know what song is coming up”

Brian smiled, and snapped his open fingers.

“I know the deejay. He’s a friend of mine. And I told him to put it on when we go to the floor. Which should be now, as this song is ending.”

Brian squeezed her hand lightly and gave her a lift up onto her feet. She looked at him, and put her arm around his back. They walked out to the dance floor, and the deejay started to speak.

“Hey there, kids! Glad to have all of you on the floor. This one is a special request from a guy who thinks that there’s a wonderful girl that deserves better than what she had. Brian, buddy, this one is for you! Let’s live it up!”

With the last word, the song started up.

That night, Brian gave Kristy the night of her life. After having a good time at the dance and the after party, he dropped her off at home. By this time, she was grinning and forgetting all about her ex-boyfriend. This continues to the following Monday morning, when he drove to her house and picked her up for school. As they drove to school, Kristi opened her heart to ask a question.

“Brian, why did you come to me? You are the ice hockey captain, you could have anyone.”

Brian looked at her, and looked back at the road with a smile.

“I’ve been interested in getting to know you for a good while. You were on my screen since we both met up at freshman orientation. You just were busy with that other guy, and when you were down, I wanted to be the one to help pick you back up.”

She blushed.

“Besides, Ive seen your work. You’re worth your weight in gold. You’re pretty, you’re outgoing, and there should never be a reason for you to cry unless it’s a darn good one.”

She blushed even more furiously at that.

“I’ve had my eye on you for a good while, and I just felt like I needed to take charge and help you move on from this heartbreak. And quickly.”

She turned and looked at him, as they slowed down at a stoplight.

She leaned over and kissed him on the lips.

“Handle me with care, Brian.”

Man of Colours

by Miles Rost

(Author’s note: For Clinton, my brother, a true man of colours)

I sat downstairs, and watched him as he spent the bright afternoon in the beautifully lighted parlor of his home. The natural sunlight was able to put a unique glow on the work of art he was doing.

As a young boy, I was not as interested in what my uncle did. I didn’t really care much as to why he did what he did. I knew he was a painter, and that he did his work diligently, even if he didn’t actually make that much money from what he did. After my parents separated for a time, it was felt that my uncle would take better care of me for a couple of summers. So at the age of 13, they sent me to his manor in the heart of the West Country.

The first few weeks I was there, I didn’t do much with my uncle. I was still a bit frazzled from what was going on with my parents. But, after those few weeks when I ran the grounds and did so much, I finally was able to take a moment and watch what he was doing.

My uncle Charles was a calm man. He barely ever raised his voice, and sometimes didn’t even have to speak to get his point across. He had a silent air about him, but one that allowed for great things to come forward.

“The creative spirit does not allow for anger to fester inside, but is allowed to be spread throughout whatever you work on. In my case, my anger and frustration is carried across the canvas,” he told me, the first day I became interested in what he did, “If you have passion for something, put everything into it. Anger, fear, love, trust, everything. It will come forth in beauty and love.”

That is what got me interested in his painting, and why I got interested in playing music later on.

I lounged on the chaise in the parlor, looking at him as he took a wider brush to a beautiful work-in-progress. It looked like the start of an outdoor scene, with pastel skies and deep green trees. I looked in wonder as he did his painting, marveling at the brushstrokes and how he was able to make a painting come to life before our eyes.

“Uncle Charles, why do you paint?” I asked him, as he worked.

“I paint because it is what I wanted to do in life. I keep my life in this paintbox. When I speak to this canvas, it tells me what it wants. And I follow what it says, because that’s how I work.”

I sat for another half hour while he changed his brushes around and continued to paint. After that half hour, he had me go into the kitchen ahead of him to get prepared for tea time. Margaret, the maid of the house, kept things organized as much as she could, and made the time for tea quite pleasant.

“Uncle Charles, why didn’t you marry?” I asked him.

“I did. Once. A very long time ago, before you were born. Alice would have loved to have seen you. It was very hard for us to separate like we did.”

“You….separated too?”

“She didn’t want to burden me with her problems. She left at the time of her choosing, and went to get treatment for her disease.”

“She’s dead?”

The old man rubbed his failing eyes, and took a moment to think of things. A small tear glistened on the side of his eye, even though he knew that he should be showing it.

“I am not sure how it happened, or whether it was something like shame or the burden of leaving, but she did pass on half a year after leaving. Her heart just couldn’t stand things, I think.”

I just looked up at him, and saw the sadness in his eyes. It finally hit me that the pain of my parents’ separation was hitting him hard too, because it reminded him of his loss of Aunt Alice.

After tea, we went back into the parlor. The sun was in that special place in the sky where it seems to always be the most beautiful. That’s where his hands and inspiration took it’s flight. By the time the sun went down and the lights came on in the house, he had created what looked to be a beautiful meadow with a lone tree. Three people underneath it, one a small boy, or so as I could see.

“I…I am a man, A simple man, A man of colours. And I can see through the years, see through these tears. These are the tears and the years of a man, a man of colours.”

I never knew what he meant when he said it…but he said it in such a way that it seemed that I would finally figure it out down the road.

The artwork he made was given to my parents. When it was done, he gave it to them and told them to take a day and just look at the painting. He told them to contemplate it, and really get into it.

That fall, my parents came to pick me up. They told me that they were going to see a priest about getting things worked out. They wanted to be together, and not to experience pain like they had.

It has been many years since my uncle Charles passed away. He never remarried, but he made an impact on people that he knew. When we went through his things after he died, we found out that he had almost 200 paintings from when he was alive. 150 of them were donated to various universities and charities. The University of Buckingham even decided to keep 15 of his paintings up as a permanent exhibit. The other 50, according to his will, were to be auctioned and sold. I was to be the beneficiary of the wealth, his will stated.

I don’t think about the money, though. And when I go to Buckingham with my friends from college, we always stop by my uncle Charles’s exhibition. The world appreciated what he did. And I did too.

 

Against All Odds

by Miles Rost

“Shandie!”

Brian Charles looked up at the second-floor bedroom window of his ex-girlfriend’s house.

“Shandie! C’mon! We need to talk!”

No answer came.

“Shandie, if we talk this out, you won’t have to see me again. I just need to get this out.”

After a few moments, “Shandie” came to the window. A beautiful redhead with long hair, she wore the mean look of an Irish lass.

“You got me here, Brian! Spill!”

Brian looked up at her with eyes that were near overflowing to tears. This was a man with a mission whose heart seemed to be ready to pop things open.

“Do you want to know why I did not make it to the hospital to pick you up?”

“Does it involve some lame excuse? If so, I don’t want to know!”

“This is the problem, Shandie! You won’t listen to what happened! If you were willing to take a second and actually hear what happened and look at the report in my hand, you’ll know that there was a very good reason why I was not there.”

“I’ve seen you do this before, Brian! You did it to Elena before you met me! You did it to Raisa! And now you’re doing it to me! I don’t want to hear it!”

How can you just walk away from me? How can you do this without even letting me tell you why I wasn’t able to make it there?”

“You’re going to say something fantastical, Brian, and try to get me to forgive you. Well, it’s not happening! I don’t want to hear your excuses!”

You coming back to me is against the odds! I see that! I don’t care if we’re together anymore! I just do not want to this to end with miscommunication!”

“Miscommunication? MISCOMMUNICATION? YOU LEFT ME OUTSIDE A COLD HOSPITAL IN A FOREIGN TOWN! There is no excuse for that!”

Brian tore at his hair, frustrated and about ready to burst. Shandie looked back at him, a slight smirk on her face.

“Couldn’t handle the truth? That is why I won’t believe you!”

She turned around and

Brian growled and threw the paper-wrapped tennis ball into her room. He grabbed his hair and screamed at her.

“IS THIS WHAT YOU WANT? TURN AROUND AND SEE ME CRYING, WHY DON’T YOU! I DID NOT PICK YOU UP BECAUSE I WAS ON THE SIDE OF THE ROAD. AFTER I KILLED SOMEONE!”

Shandie stopped smirking. As his loud sobs resonated through the neighborhood, she slowly walked back and picked up the paper. She looked at it, a police report. She noticed the time and the date, the location, and what had happened. It was as though everything she had thought about started to crack right at that moment.

She looked down at him, and those cracks in her mind got larger, and more spidery.

“Brian,” she said, a bit softer, “I…I think I need to hear what you have to say after all.”

Brian choked out the story in between tears, about how he was running late due to a long line at the local Target store. He tried to use a shortcut, but it was blocked by a creek that was flooding due to an ice jam. He drove down a hill and lost control of his vehicle as it slid downhill. He cried as he recounted the old man who just entered the roadway just at the moment he reached the bottom of the hill, and how he went through his windshield, and how Brian went unconscious after the car came to a rest in a yard.

“I…” she mumbled, “I remembered what you did before, with all these fantasy stories with your past girlfriends. I thought that it was just the same thing.”

Brian sniffled, and looked at her with a sorrowful but hateful glare.

“You thought wrong,” he said, his voice calming down, “You’ve always jumped to conclusions about things. Even after we started dating. And now, after today, I don’t want think about you ever again. Not after what you have done.”

Shandie did not know what she could do. She wanted to run down there and comfort him, but she also knew that she couldn’t. He was right, she didn’t listen. And it cost her a relationship.

“Brian, I am….I am sorry.”

Brian just turned around and started to walk out of the yard. He cleared his conscience, she got an explanation, and he found out just how it was to truly end a relationship with honesty. He looked back up at her one last time, and called back.

Take a look at me now. There’s just an empty space there, now.”