[Original Novella] Exit Party, Part 7

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Previous parts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

My body felt heavier than usual, like the bath sapped away my strength rather than the reverse. My sopping wet arms and legs dripped everywhere as I reached for a towel so I could get my hands dry enough to use the touch screen.

I knew Jorge wouldn’t lie to me about something this important, yet was still unbelieving until I heard her voice. My hand shook so badly I nearly dropped the phone into the bath. She laughed.

I stammered. I gasped.

She laughed again, incomparable music to my hungry ears.

There was a long pause. I could hear her staticky breathing on the other end.

The tears started in again. I’m back in the bath now so it was just more water, I was already soaked anyway. She rebuked me.

I struggled with how to answer.

She didn’t say anything. Just gave me space, which she must’ve known I would fill. It was enough for me that she listened.

There was another long silence. When she answered, I thought I could hear something new in her voice. Frailty, maybe. I winced.

Even now, all I could do was spread my pain to her. In her shoes, I wouldn’t have answered my calls. I wouldn’t have kept talking to me nearly as long as she did.

She cut me off.

I no longer feel nearly so fried. The hot water soaked so completely into my every little pore, I feel like a rehydrated sponge. My erratic heartbeat seems to have evened out as well.

She rebuked me again.

I asked if she was sure. She urged me to come out with it. So, reaching back into my mind, I searched for whatever small part of it I most wanted to say to her in the moment.

Another long silence. Despite myself, I burst out laughing, new tears streaming down my face. Really I felt irritated with her, but it’s so like her to pick at even something heartfelt like that. I couldn’t help but fall in love with her all over again, because every little nuance to how she spoke just reminded me why I fell for her to begin with.

She pointed out that she’d never laughed. That in fact, I’d been the one to. , I confessed. Only her breathing came back, until…

I fell all over myself telling her it was fine. What a strange feeling. Even recently, I wanted her to know what my pain felt like. Now, that’s the last thing I want. I want to wall my pain off from her, so that she won’t be troubled by it. So that she can stay in her beautiful, perfect garden with her husband and children, living the life that she always wanted…which I now realize that I also want for her.

There’s just one problem. Part of her her past is still clinging to her. After it’s cut loose and allowed to fall into the sea, everything will be perfect. Really, the selection letter was merciful. It forced something on me that I should have done years ago. Right after she left, instead of letting it drag on for this long.

If not for the letter, where would I be in ten years? In twenty? One of those fat, balding middle aged losers in a van with a bottle of whiskey and a revolver, except without the divorces. That’s what it spared me.

Back in Florida, I had to sell the only gun I ever bought for myself, because I became certain I would use it. That I would have one of my many long, dark nights of the soul, and in a fit of emotion I would get it down from that shelf and use it.

Every evening as I worked at my computer, then later as I lay in bed, I could feel it softly tugging at me. Whispering sweetly in my ear:

It was a mistake to buy it in the first place of course. The helicopters are really close now, by the sound of it. I can hear Mom chattering fearfully to Dad behind the door. I’m done in here though, aren’t I?

I feel done. As if after all these years, a tremendous weight has been lifted off me that I was trapped underneath. This is as good as it’s going to get, isn’t it? If not now, then when? I toweled off, then hung it up on the rack.

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