I knelt silently before the grave, the small white card a temporary gravestone.
LOVING WIFE AND MOTHER
My eyes couldn’t leave her name. As much as I wanted them to, I couldn’t help it. Couldn’t help but let the torrent of memories rush upon me. I remembered the first day we had met, how I had spilled her coffee accidentally, walking without paying attention to where I was going.
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” I said quickly, taking out a napkin and handing it to her, picking up the fallen cup. “Here, let me buy you a new one.”
I would’ve thought she’d be furious at me, but instead she simply smiled and allowed me to do so. I smiled back, and together we walked back into the coffee shop.
It seemed so long ago now. A lifetime ago. Yet at the same time, it seemed like just yesterday. We shared a coffee together afterwards, and somehow I had had the courage to ask for her number, and even more of a miracle was that she had given me her real one, especially after I had just stained her blouse. That was one of the greatest days of my life.
Then I remembered our first real date…how nervous I had been, how much I had prepared for it. How my best friend Aaron had helped me make it as perfect as possible.
“Dude, chill, it’s going to be okay,” he said to me.
But I couldn’t help it. I fidgeted nervously, wringing my hands together and pacing the backyard. I had set up a table accompanied by candles and a waiter in a tux: Aaron. Every second she didn’t show seemed like an hour.
“Are you sure everything’s okay?”
“Yes, it’s fine! Just look at it, it’s perfect,” he replied. I had to agree, it did look pretty nice. But that didn’t stop me from worrying. I had never felt this way about a woman before. I remembered just two days ago when I had only met her because of my clumsiness. I remembered the lovely conversation we had, where we discovered so many similarities. I remem—
The doorbell rang. The intense desire burned in my heart all the greater and I rushed toward the door.
A tear fell from my eye. She had loved that date so much, the perfect smile of hers always present on her face the whole night. Yet I couldn’t see it now. The memories were all a fog, and no matter how hard I tried, I could not see her face. Why? I asked myself, but could think of no answer. I shook my head quickly, trying to forget, focusing again on the happy memories. Yet that only made it worse as after every smile from every memory I realized that that was what I had lost. Her. Gone forever, those memories the only thing left of her.
I buried my head in my hands as I remembered the day I proposed. A beautiful dinner at a fancy restaurant with a garden and balcony overlooking the ocean. I remembered how happy she had been when I got on one knee, but I couldn’t see it. Couldn’t see her smile, her face.
It was the guilt. I had done this. It was because of me that she was dead. I should’ve listened to her when she begged me to leave my job – an undercover cop infiltrating one of the most vicious gangs in Los Angeles. It was dangerous. I knew that the moment I slipped up, the moment they found out, my family was dead. But I thought I was good enough. Good enough to evade their discovery forever.
I was wrong.
More tears fell. ”I’m sorry,” I whispered to the makeshift gravestone. Hoping I could say it to her, but knowing that I never could. I only wished she knew…knew how sorry I was. But it was too late now. She was gone.
I tried to think of other happy memories – almost every moment we had spent together; our wedding, the happiest day of my life; the birth of our child, the second happiest day of my life. But I couldn’t. Now all I saw was her body with a hole in her head, a pool of blood under it. The duct-tape on her mouth, hands, and feet. The look of fear in her still-open, dead eyes. This picture of her face, her half blown-off face, would be the only one I could ever see again. Never again could I see her smile – only her fear. Her lifeless eyes.
The guilt consumed me.
Aaron approached from behind, probably wondering why I was still here, hours later after the funeral.
“C’mon, man,” he said, “it’s not your fault.”
“But it is.” And I knew that now, because of me, our children would have to grow up without a mother.
~ :: ~
A flash fiction piece I wrote a while ago for the Write-Off theme "guilt" -- saw that it fit the theme "gravestone" so decided to enter it into the contest. Not completely fond of this one, but we need more entries. If I wasn't in the middle of NaNo I probably would've re-written a lot of this, but oh well. Still, at least it's not the worst Write-Off piece I've written.
Comments/etc. are welcome, but preferred in some other works of mine (such as Eldritch Abomination) that can be found in my library, the Shadowy Verge.