This story was a submission to our March 2022 Short Story Contest.
It has now been a few months since I died, and as I watch her smile, I can't help but notice how much she has changed. The last time she had smiled, we had been in the hospital, my condition only continuing to worsen. Lacking her usual sincerity and happiness, the faint grin had felt hollow, no more than a facade. An air of hesitancy seemed to envelop us as we sat in silence. Fleeting expressions of sorrow and despair washed over her features, pooling especially in her cerulean eyes. While she tried to stay strong, such hardship is not easily withstood, and though, with quivering lips, she formed a smile, her eyes told a much different, much sadder story. The glossy sheen of tears shrouded her brilliant blue eyes, and so much of the pain she kept cleverly hidden behind them. And although her tears may have been meaningless to most, I silently wept as the gravity of their significance began to sink in; what little hope was once left for both me, and for us was now gone. So, I let go... In the split second it had taken for a singular tear to roll down her cheek and onto her denim jacket, I came to the decision. I knew I was living on borrowed time and had known ever since I was diagnosed with brain cancer a few years back, but never had my time felt more limited. Suddenly, in a moment of clarity, I realized; even though there was still so much I wanted to do, I was, finally, ready to say goodbye. And so, I slowly allowed the darkness to take over. With my wispy breaths slowing, I barely managed to croak out a shaky, “I love you.“ Only then did her smile grow, no longer a mere facade.
Abruptly, anguished tears flooded her eyes, streaming down her cheeks as she wept into my lifeless arm, the once firm grasp of our hands now loose. A surge of uneasiness overcame me, and the threads holding my mind together began to unravel. It was as though something deep within had finally snapped. My mind began filling with fleeting memories of the now seemingly tainted years we had spent together. As the tears continued, she gripped my hand so forcefully, with all the remnants of our love, I only wished we could have more time. I could feel as the cold embrace of death drew nearer, and as she wrapped her hands around mine one last time, I found I had no power to do the same. And just like that, my hand fell from hers, down, down, down onto the bed. The sound of tears, her weeping, seemed to flood the room. The doctor watched from the doorway, knowing there was nothing she could do. …beep… beep…. beeeeeeep……..
And just like that, I was dead. While my soul proceeded on in a new spirited world, I nevertheless made time to watch as her new life, without me, took root. Over time, she began to meet new people. Happy as I was for her, I found myself growing ever lonelier. At first, days and then months went by, and I found myself growing ever more bored, with nothing to do but think. And although it was over three months ago that we had exchanged those faithful words, 'Forever Together', for the final time, it is only now that I'm beginning to realize she only ever really meant my forever. So in silence, I sit and observe as she spends her time with yet another stranger. Despite the swells of jealousy constantly rolling through my mind, I'm thankful her happiness continues. And now, I watch as that implacable grin that once accompanied tears by my deathbed continues to grow, widening uncontrollably and unwavering- a testament to her true joy.
Nevertheless, in spite of all her happiness, and though to some it might seem selfish, I still yearn for just a little place in her life. To be by her side once again. And while her warm smiles still evoke the same love within me, it is always her eyes that bring the reality of my situation crashing down. After all, it's hard not to notice, as I stare into the brilliant blue of them, that it’s no longer my reflection I see.