• June 16, 2024

Only a Fragment of Time in the World – A Drama Short Story by CJ Souza – Reedsy Prompts

“We have all the time in the world,” Caleb whispered those sweet words against my neck during our last moments together.

I dangle my legs down over the side of the porch swing, my eyes looking down at the rotting boards below me. I give a gentle push on the ball of my foot against the floor and provoke the swing to sway me. I pull my legs to my chest and cradle myself in the rocking, like a frightened child needing safety and comfort. The pressure within my heart releases through the tears that flow down my cheeks and stop upon my neck. My neck, where he last placed his words. My mind repeats in gentle whispers the only lie he has ever told me.

Our last day together began as a normal weekend morning. Caleb was still resting when I stepped foot out on the porch. I gazed toward the sky and sighed in relief as I watched the rays from the sun shimmer down on the land, water lifting in clouds from the soaked grounds. A blessed sight after two weeks of heavy rainfall. The gentle breeze flowed across the distant fields, creating a beautiful wave across the tall grass and it gestured the summer weather forward. I took a deep breath of the fresh air; it was a beautiful day.

Though I wanted Caleb to rest after his long work week, I also wanted to enjoy the beautiful day with him. I thought it best to make no subtle noises when rising. In the least of delicate movements, I allowed for the loose-hinged screen door to strike the threshold as I reentered the home. I walked on heavy heels to exaggerate my footsteps, paused as I entered the kitchen, and looked around with a soft smile.

It was a small kitchen and the appliances were old, left by the previous homeowners who may have had the equipment for twenty years or more. Yet, the old machines still performed their jobs well. The stove still functioned enough to fry our dinners, the oven still operated enough to warm our food, and the sink still allowed for our pitchers to be filled and our dishes to be cleaned. The most fine-looking features lay in the details of the cupboards and floors. Beautiful work done by Caleb’s hands. I was thankful for his gifts; I appreciated every fine detail carved in the cabinets and every sturdy floorboard beneath my feet. In a visitor’s eyes, the kitchen seemed old and unremarkable. In Caleb’s eyes, the kitchen held minuscule flaws within his design. In my eyes, the kitchen was a work of art.

I turned the handles of the sink; their shrilling cries were short-lived and too subtle for my intentions. Then the pipes had begun to groan and knock as they stretched and awoke. The faucet squealed as it gave way for the water to flow from the tap. I smirked as I thought, that should do the trick. I filled the pot and carried it toward the maker.

The coffee had begun to brew, and I reckoned that if the thwacking pipes hadn’t awoken Caleb, then the refreshing aroma that drifted through each room of our small home would invigorate his senses enough to encourage him to rise.

I smiled when I heard his footsteps in the hall a few moments later, the boards creaked below his feet. The floors of the entire home were not completed. This was not because of his dedication to our home but because of our funds, or lack thereof. It wasn’t his fault, nor was it mine. To make greater pay in our disciplines we would have needed to travel two hours or more to a nearby city, but what we valued more than any material riches was our time together.

“Good morning,” He gave a half smile as he rounded the corner from the hall toward the kitchen. His hands had run through his hair as he stretched, leaving his hair strayed in all directions.

“Good morning,” I responded. I gave a flirtatious smile stirred by the butterflies in my stomach that grew as I watched his chiseled biceps flex when he stretched his arms above his head.

He smirked and responded with an enticing gaze, “Still not tired of me yet, hm?”

“Not one day in ten years!” I chirped as I made my way to be wrapped in his embrace.

“Not even one day? Really,” He gave me a playful smile as he pulled away to look down at me.

“Nope, not one!” I smiled and I pushed up on my toes so my lips could reach his.

Caleb returned my kiss, and he drew back, “So, why all the noise?” He smirked.

Crap, he knew what I was up to, I thought and pursed my lips, “Fine. Fine.” I held my hands up and made my way back to the coffee pot, “I know it’s early, but I just wanted to spend this day outside, it finally stopped raining.” After I poured the freshly brewed coffee into a mug, I turned back toward him. I fluttered my eyelashes and pouted my lip as I pled, “Please?”

“Babe. Of course.” He shook his head and smiled. He reached out for the mug, turned the mug, and squinted to view what it read, “Looks like this one is quite faded,” he observed.

“Guess no other choice,” I shrugged.

His brow raised in curiosity, “No other choice but to do what?”

“Guess we have to just go back,” I laughed.

He smiled, “I’ll plan a holiday.”

Through our travels, Caleb and I had become mug collectors. I believe every true traveler is a collector of some sort of souvenir. Mugs, magnets, ornaments, t-shirts, or whatever else their heart desires. We were not just collectors for show; we believed we were very practical collectors. Mugs seemed like a sensible purchase as we would use them every day and they would be needed. That mug, as worn as the writing on it was, I knew it was from our trip to the Badlands. The sights were breathtaking there and though all of the other parks displayed similar beauty, the Badlands were the most magnificent of them all. I knew it was not the scenery as much as it was the event that took place at the park that made it the most significant. It was the day Caleb had proposed to me.

My face blushed with the heartwarming thoughts of that moment and while that mug was symbolic of the proposal, so was the ring I wore on my finger. I looked down and studied the small ring on my finger and noticed its brilliant shine. I loved both items so much and I felt guilty that I took only care of the ring. I looked at the mug with sadness, even if we were to get the replica it would never be the same or hold as much importance as the first one.

After he finished drinking his coffee, I knew I would wash the mug and put it away in the back of the cupboard to never be used again. That mug symbolized the value of first experiences. It was our first souvenir, our first travel, and our first step together toward our greatest adventure of all, for all of time. The memories of a first never go away, and the memories never decrease in importance just because other memories are made after. First experiences are always the most daring and courageous feats. I was glad to share those moments with the one I trusted and loved most in the world. When we dared and adventured through all our first moments together, we formed our unbreakable bond. The real practicality of the mugs was the daily reminder of our adventures and our times together.

Before the end of our time together on that day, we shared many laughs while riding around town. We shared many memories while eating at the local diner. We shared our ideas on the plans for our future travels as we walked along the riverwalk. As the sunset came, we sat on the tailgate of his truck, and we talked about scattered topics. I shared facts I gathered about science, and he shared facts he gathered regarding the next head coach up for hire in football. An outsider may have been bored or tired of our talk if they sat with us in conversation. Yet, we always took an interest in what one another said. I listened with a mindful ear as he spoke on topics of work, sports, or future projects for our home. I listened because I took an interest in his mind, the best way to see into another person’s mind and understand their thoughts is to just listen. Not one day did I not want to hear what was on his mind. Not one day did I not want to hear his voice. His voice was often my voice of reason. His voice was always an affirmation of support. His voice was always here to talk with me. His voice was never supposed to run through my mind in torment and pain. It was never supposed to be that way.

We closed up the truck bed, he rushed around to the passenger side to open the door for me, and I climbed in. He jumped in the truck and after he started the truck and put it in drive, I reached over to play the radio. I remember I played a slow country song, and he hummed along as I leaned back in my seat. He placed his hand on the middle seat, held his palm up, and offered a place for my hand to rest in his. I lowered my hand over his and I saw him smile while he continued to watch the road. After a few miles, I grew tired. I scooted closer toward him and rested my head against his chest.

“Do you really think we can make it to all of those places we talked about today?” I asked.

“Financially?” He asked.

“No. How could one travel to all of those places in the next thirty years?”, I asked.

“Thirty years?”, he sounded baffled.

I chuckled in response to his reaction, “Well, what if I’m too tired to walk to those places.”

“Well, I will carry you,” He said with a brilliant smile.

“What if you’re too tired?” I asked.

“I’ll be fine. I’ll climb Mount Everest on my hundredth birthday,” He joked.

I responded in laughter and rested my head on his chest, “I just want to think we can do it all.”

“Don’t worry about that now,” He kissed my head then I felt his warm and soft breath upon my neck, “We have all the time in the world.”

I do not remember the accident that followed, but bits and pieces. I remember his body tensed and he shouted, his arm pulled at the wheel. I remember that I opened my eyes in shock, and I was blinded by the light. When I tried to look up at him through the blinding light, the greatest fear I felt was that I couldn’t see his face. I remember tires that screeched louder than my screams rang out for him. The memory that hurt the most to remember was when I couldn’t feel him near me. The moment I felt his arm release from around me.

I place my feet back down on the porch floor to slow the sway of the swing to a rest and I watch him step out of the house. The screen door closes softly behind him. I know by the look of regret on his face that he wishes he held me closer; I know he blames himself for losing me in this world. I want to tell him it is not his fault. I want to speak with him, but I just watch as he sits down beside me, and I take a sharp painful breath in as I know he cannot see me.

I am with him; I am right here. I just want him to see me. I want him to hear me. This is the first time I have ever felt such an excruciating pain. I believe it is his first time also. I watch him as he drinks his coffee mug. His thumb runs along the etching of the UFO and an alien carving in the ceramic. He gives a vague smile as he pulls the mug back and looks at it with longing. The souvenir is from our adventure in Roswell. I wonder what he is thinking, I wonder what he is remembering,

I want to tell him to talk to me. I want him to speak out loud and to stop being silent. I cannot bear to see him so lonely. He is not alone; I am right here!

I touch his arm; I hope he can feel me, I want him to feel me here. I want to take his sadness away. He looks in my direction, his face right before mine but he sees through me. He shakes his arm around a bit and stares off into the distance again. His face looks so angry, so sad, and bitter. I want him to smile.

I glance down, his hand is resting on his knee. I reach down and place my hand on top of his. He pulls his hand back in startle. He looks around, his eyes staring through me. I pull my hand back and I feel hopeless. Tears well in his eyes, he places his hand on the cushion between us, and he turns his hand around facing his palm up. My eyes widen and light up in hope, my tears release, and I purse my lips as I pray that he is gesturing for my hand. He opens his mouth to speak, and I am ready to listen. I wanted nothing more than to listen.

“You were always interested in spirits; I didn’t understand why. In fact, I thought it was really odd.” He laughs through frustrated tears that begin to surface. He shakes his head in disbelief at what he may be thinking. He tenses his jaw, swallows hard, and then speaks again, “I didn’t understand your fascination., but I listened. As crazy as it sounded.” He whispers as he bows his head, he sniffs back his tears, “If all that stuff you talked about, if all that’s true,” He looks up at the dark sky inhales a deep breath, and then looks back at his open hand, “I hope you’re listening to me now. I hope you’re here now. I’d like to believe you are.” He sighs and continues to hold his palm up. I rest my hand in his. As though he can feel me, tears burst from his eyes, and his cries evaporate into the dark summer night.

I cringe in pain from the agony of his cries, and I continue to leave my hand in his. Wishing I could speak to him, wishing we had more than just a fragment of time in the world.

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