A stab of regret pierced deep into my marrow. I knew I was risking a return of the worst style of panic — the recurring nightmare of that night three years ago — but I also knew I was too drained for it to have any real power. I waited for a few cautious minutes, repeating her name like a desperate plea for salvation, over and over, my lips shaping the syllables silently against the chilly autumn air.
The panic tried to lift its head, but it was too weak and disappeared into an exhausted pool in the darkness of my brain. It would be back though. It always was.
I pulled the sketchbook from my jacket and flipped through the pages slowly. Reflections of Elaine passed me; a flipbook of her various emotions. Smiling, laughing, beautifully worried, angry, all the facets that had made her so wonderfully complicated, and yet so simple at the same time. I’d always known what she was thinking, her face open to me like a flower tilted to the sun. She was a frozen ray of sunshine in my otherwise bleak life, a moment of bliss permanently preserved in my dark timeline.
I flipped through the pages until, finally, I came to the sketch I was looking for. It was rough, the lines imperfect and filled with angst. To anyone else, it was a less than impressive display of my fancy education. But to me, it was the most accurate detailing of Elaine’s soul. A close-up of a carefree expression thrown over her shoulder as she laughed, her hair flying wildly around her in an invisible wind, one large Plumeria flower tucked securely into the strands behind her ear. I’d stared at this sketch for hours, and yet today, her eyes seemed to bore into me. Their depths screamed with accusations never said, judgment, and a melancholy wish that things had been different.
I wondered vaguely if death by stone was a painful process. The skin over my abdomen grew tight, ceasing to move. I didn’t have long. Once the grey fingers reached my chest, I wouldn’t be able to breathe. My heart couldn’t keep pumping. I’d die.
Looking at Elaine’s picture, I kind of hoped it would hurt. I deserved for it to hurt.