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I’m Still Here

Emily and Mike's day out did not go as planned.

 

Emily was in love. Every morning she awoke and looked at the man that shared her bed. Every morning she smiled and slowly but surely she would end up snuggling into him. She knew that Mike was the best lover, the most attentive husband and the best friend she would ever have. He was one of a kind, her kind.

 

Today was Sunday; there would be no lie-in today. Soon, they would be sat in the car driving the short distance to the shore front. They would park the car, get out and join the many different kinds of people walking along the local promenade; it was their weekly ritual, their together time.

It was a crisp November morning as they parked the car. The sun was up, the air was freezing cold, and the mild dampness clung to their faces and clothes as they donned their padded jackets, gloves, and woolly hats. Emily even covered her neck in a thick purple Mohair scarf. With arms entwined, they took their first step onto the promenade, pulling each other together as they staggered forward.

It wasn’t long before they kissed. As they parted, their frozen breath engulfed them both. They giggled as they strode forward. Mike pulled at Emily’s scarf trying to strangle her. She just giggled even more at his feeble attempt. Her hand reached down to grab his sensitive parts and he immediately recoiled and let the scarf go.

Emily ran ahead of Mike before turning to see if he was following.

She finally stopped close to a bench overlooking the sea. It was their bench, the one they always stopped at. One Sunday, someone else had taken it and Mike, putting on his best knight in shining armour mannerism, asked them kindly if they would vacate the seat for his gorgeous princess and explained the predicament. To his surprise, they smiled and gave up their seat for them.

Emily sat on the bench and waited for Mike to join her. They watched the dirty-brown sea crash onto the shore in silence; silence apart from the constant whooshing of the waves, the intense scream of nearby children and the incessant screeching of the seagulls overhead.

Mike placed his arms around Emily and drew her towards him. He gave her a tender, loving kiss. They both slumped back on the bench and continued kissing.

They never budged at the sound of the car that sped past, engine roaring. It was the pungent aroma of oranges that broke their kiss. Emily looked around. A small boy, around eight years of age, was standing close to them busily eating half an orange while waiting for his parents to catch him up. He was dressed in what she could only guess was his favourite football team colours as he kicked a stone onto the beach and then looked around for the next one. He never seemed bothered by what they were doing.

Mike looked out to sea, focusing on nothing in particular. Emily looked at the boy and watched him for a while. He must have been freezing, she thought to herself. She then turned her attention to his parents and watched them approach. Their argument could be heard, even from that distance. She looked once more at the boy and immediately felt a sort of pity for him.

Emily jumped up off the bench and pulled Mike up with her.

“Come on, time to go,” she told him.

Mike begrudgingly stood up and followed her. While he was quite content to sit on the bench and pass the time of day kissing, Emily was sure to have other ideas.

Once more they strode off along the promenade, this time towards the parents of the boy kicking stones into the sea. The fingers of their hands were entwined, and occasionally they looked at each other, longingly.

A mother, with a new baby in a pram, walked towards them. Emily could not help but look around at the baby as they passed. Mike was ambivalent about babies, and Emily knew it; which was why she always made such an obvious point of taking an interest. The mother smiled at her. Emily smiled back.

“We’ll have one of our own. One day!” Emily bit her lower lip as she chided him.

Mike said nothing in return. Suddenly, she jumped forward to stand in front of Mike, bringing him to a sudden halt.

“We will, won’t we?”

Mike looked at his Emily, he brushed a few strands of her long hair away from her face and hooked them behind her ears. He nodded and then kissed her on the forehead. He squeezed her waist and lifted her into the air. He suddenly let her go, wrapping his arms around her and grabbing her tightly; not letting her feet hit the floor. Emily clenched her legs around his waist as he spun her around a few times before letting her recover. Emily let out a loud cry of enjoyment at her sudden acceleration and deceleration.

A loud thunderous noise startled them, and they both turned to look out to sea. A huge cargo vessel had rounded the point not that far from them and was sounding its horn. It was high in the water; probably empty, thought Mike. The upper half was bright orange while the lower half was a whitish grey, a red triangle was emblazoned on the hull. They both watched it for a while as it dragged its backside into view. It sounded its horn a second time, this time for longer.

Emily stood at the edge of the promenade. Mike’s warm arms engulfed her from behind; his chin snuggled into her shoulder, nd his face contacted hers. Emily closed her eyes and relaxed back into Mike’s arms. She found herself smiling at the closeness and the intimacy. He nibbled at her ear, which made Emily giggle. Neither of them said a word for a good minute while they both watched the cargo vessel plod its way forward along the shoreline; though she did have to readjust Mike’s hands once or twice as they inevitably wandered over her body.

It was Mike that broke the embrace, more because of the sudden sniffing at his backside than anything else. A large brown and black Alsatian dog had taken a fancy to his blue jeans; and always to those parts of the body that causes embarrassment, as dogs do. Mike stepped to one side and saw the owner busily running along and shouting for the dog to come back to him; it was rapidly attached to its lead when it did. The dog looked at its owner with those ‘what have I done now?’ eyes. Mike could tell the dog was gutted to have been put back on the lead. It was written all over its face.

Mike and Emily continued on. A white van passed them throwing out a jingle into the air. They watched it come to a halt at the end of the road. Children rushed to it as it stopped while their parents followed closely behind.

One child was led away by his mother. He was crying incessantly. Another child, probably his brother, looked at him from the safety of his pushchair and wondered what all the fuss was about. His friend watched him as he stood next to his mother waiting in the queue; concern was written all over his face and he did not understand why his friend was crying. The noisy scene unfolded slowly in front of them, and Mike and Emily hurried past without getting involved.

They wandered along the bank and up onto the small hill overlooking the point. They walked towards the small lighthouse that sits on the promontory; its sole purpose was to warn the vessels of impending doom if they travelled too close to the land. Mike always thought it strange that the deepest part of the channel was so close to the land while further out lay dormant sand banks, waiting for their prey. It was asking for trouble, and yet, the largest boats he had ever seen in his life, carried their cargo along this route, day after day.

Emily and Mike pulled their woolly hats down a little and Emily lifted her scarf around her neck. The wind chill on the point was noticeable. Mike leaned in to Emily and cuddled her; protecting her to the best of his ability from the biting wind.

Once more they looked out to sea. In the distance, light glanced off the large suspension bridge that spanned two countries. Below them were two fishermen. As Emily and Mike watched they leaned backwards and with a jerk of their bodies, threw their lines out to sea. Each of them secured their rod to the apex of the frame and sat down on the damp rocks. Neither of them uttered a word or looked at each other. It seemed that fishing was one of those quiet sports where no-one talked unless absolutely necessary.

Yachts appeared from around the point and were sailing into the channel. Even in November, people go yachting, thought Emily.

Mike and Emily looked at each other and decided to head back to the car. They turned around and waddled as if they were one organism with four legs; shielding each other from the cold, biting wind.

They looked at each other as they approached the squealing mass of children. Mike sighed and wondered whether the voices of the children could be compared to a nuclear reaction, once past their supercritical mass, the sound would be unbearable.

“You don’t want any like that do you?” Mike asked.

“No, not like that.” Emily looked around trying desperately to find one that she did want.

“One like that,” she said as she pointed to a little girl with her mother; both were sitting quietly on a rock eating an ice cream.

Mike had to concede, the scenario looked quite normal, almost serene. They watched as the girl jumped off the rock and started to dance; being careful not to drop her ice cream. She stopped several times and took another swipe of it with her tongue, before sitting back down with her mother.

They walked past the white van that was still parked at the side of the kerb. Both of them nodded to the man in the back. The queue had vanished. Emily looked around and could see that even the boy who was crying earlier, and his brother, were both finishing off an ice lolly. Obviously their mother had buckled under the constant threat of nuclear war by paying for their cold treats; either that or some other mother that could not see their own child’s friend go without. Whatever the reason, the outcome was the same.

Mike and Emily walked a good hundred yards past the white van when Mike suddenly stopped. He turned Emily around to face the van.

In true Lancelot style he announced, “My lady, I shall go forth and force the white dragon to succumb to my superiority. I shall fight it, bring it to its knees and then I shall gather up its remnants into a cone and bring it to you.”

Emily shook her head. At that precise moment she believed that Mike had completely lost it. “You’re mad,” she declared.

Mike laughed and proceeded to gallop off.

“Wait!” she shouted. “A good night cannot go into battle without a lady’s favour!” she exclaimed.

Emily brought out a handkerchief from her padded jacket, she grabbed Mike’s hand and tied the handkerchief around his finger.

“Now go into battle and use your lance wisely,” she told him.

Mike couldn’t stop himself from laughing as he galloped off to face the white dragon and its fury, while holding his finger high in the air, his left arm clasped around his chest holding tightly onto his virtual shield.

Emily stood there and waited for him. She watched him wiggle his way to the white dragon. She watched him battle with the dragon and as promised she saw the dragon relinquish two cones filled with white, iced, cream. A brown icon of chivalry protruded out of the top of each one.

Emily never heard the squealing noise as the tyres twisted and contorted on the road behind her. She was not aware that a rubberised surface was attempting to keep its blue chunk of metal attached to the tarmac. She didn’t see the desperation on the driver’s face as she struggled to come to terms with the unfolding events; every turn of the wheel, every turn of her head, every glance of her eye lasted an eternity. Yet the whole proceedings were over and done with, in seconds. The driver’s widened eyes were fixed directly on Emily as her car overturned and left the ground.

Mike saw everything. He saw the car slip and slide on the damp road surface. He saw it twist and turn before it left the ground. He dropped the ice creams on the floor and opened his mouth, aghast at what confronted him. At last, he shouted out Emily’s name in some kind of desperate attempt to get her to move.

Emily, saw the cones hit the floor, she noticed the anguish on Mike’s face and she turned around quickly. She wished she hadn’t. The last thing she saw was the bright lights in her eyes as the car crashed through her knocking her to the ground. The car proceeded over the edge of the promenade and bounced onto the beach. It rolled several times until it came to a stop.

The whole place fell silent even though everyone was shouting. People were running towards Emily. On the beach, people were running towards the now stationary car. People were just running everywhere. Even the white dragon opened its doors and let out its owner who quickly picked up his mobile phone and rapidly punched in some numbers.

Sirens eventually rang out into the relative quiet of the morning. Blue flashing lights bounced off the surrounding buildings and cars. Emily was loaded, like a rag doll, into the waiting ambulance.

oOo

Bright lights overpowered Emily’s retina as she listened to Mike’s words. Mike eventually stood up from his chair, his head obscured the lights, forcing a shadow over her face. He squeezed Emily’s hand tightly.

“I’m still here, for fuck’s sake, talk to me!” Emily screamed in her head. “Don’t go – talk to me, please, talk to me…” Her words were angry yet they trailed into a whimper inside her head; inwardly she sobbed.

Emily could see him clearly. She watched the doubt and uncertainty on his face as he desperately tried to have a positive attitude. Though, even she had to admit, his acts of tenderness had become more distant over the last few weeks. The time he spent with her was decreasing, or so she perceived. Recently, he just seemed to sit there and say very little. She knew he was hurting too, he had told her that a long time ago as he sat there weeping.

A compassionate expression was drawn across Mike’s face as he kissed Emily on the forehead. He let go of her hand after one more squeeze and left the room.

Every Sunday was the same. Emily relived the same memories, the same course of events, the same ending. The same nightmare.

She felt the same agony and emptiness every time he left. The white glow of the hospital room invaded her eyes once more. The constant drone of the life support system and the incessant bleeping of the cardio monitor, once more, drowned out the remnants of her memory until the next time.

Emily notched up another tick on her virtual wall, reminding her of how many days she had been here, in this god-forsaken place.

One hundred and Eighty one, thought Emily.

One hundred and eighty fucking one days, she repeated to herself, as she cried, inwardly.

This story is protected by International Copyright Law, by the author, all rights reserved. If found posted anywhere other than storiesspace.com with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.

Copyright © Martin W. All rights reserved. This story or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the writer.

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