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🖤 Sometimes, Love Doesn't Die
He was alone, yet would never be alone again
He spent his days bargaining with death and his evenings dancing with it. He'd never expected his life to travel this dark path, yet here he was and now he saw no other alternative.
It had been such a long day. There were times he really hated his job. Yeah, he helped a lot of people get closure. There were even happy endings, sometimes. OK, rarely. Very rarely.
Today had been one of those days that didn’t end with puppies and rainbows. He had suspected that his client’s husband hadn’t simply decided to vanish one afternoon. From what he could tell from the interviews with his family, friends, and coworkers, he wasn’t the type to run away and leave his family with no warning.
He had been right.
Giving the family an answer was a good thing, but it wasn’t what they had hoped he would find. But, at least now, the mystery was solved. Even after all these years, he still didn’t handle the grief of others very well. He never knew what to say or do. Human emotions were messy, and he had always struggled to find the right ways to behave and respond.
So, he mumbled vague condolences and left. No one wanted a private investigator hanging around after the job was done. The family needed time alone to mourn.
He was quite familiar with loss, and his own grief had lasted for years. But that didn’t make it any easier. Some pain faded with time but never fully went away. Now, it was time to go home and face the daily reminder of his ultimate failure.
He walked down the gloomy tree-lined street to the spot where he had parked his old pickup. Her midnight blue curves gleamed under the glowing lampposts. It would often raise eyebrows if his clients saw him arrive in it. Why would a PI drive an old truck like that? And that — precisely — was one reason he did.
The other reason he kept his truck was that the four-wheel drive and aggressive tires were perfect for the weekend getaways in the mountains they used to enjoy so many years ago. But he couldn’t remember the last time he’d left the city to go camping in the northern wilderness. Shaking his head, he pulled away and drove across the city to the neighborhood where people like him lived.
He parked around the corner from his apartment building, nestled into the deep shadows under an old oak tree that had grown there for as long as he could remember. Sitting for a few minutes in the dark, he waited and observed the street in both directions to see if anyone had followed him. Old habits died hard.
Sighing deeply, he pushed the truck door open and grabbed his long coat from the seat. It was already growing colder, and the wind rattled the branches of the old tree overhead. He pushed the door closed with a silent click and stepped up onto the ancient sidewalk, buckled up over the swelling roots. His brownstone building was down the block and around the corner.
Pulling his keys out of his pocket, he let himself in, checked his mailbox in the hallway inside, and walked over to the stairwell entrance. The elevator would certainly be a faster way to get to the 7th floor, but he always forced himself to take the stairs and add more physical activity to his days. The pounds were getting harder to keep off with every passing year.
Huffing and puffing a bit after the flights of stairs, he stepped into his hallway and walked the last few paces to their apartment. His apartment? Damn it. He still didn’t know how to think about it. Theirs. His. It didn’t really matter much anymore.
He braced himself, unlocked the door, and slipped inside. Tossing his keys into a bowl on a nearby shelf, he shrugged out of his coat and hung it up. He leaned his stout wooden walking stick against the door frame, giving it a brief disgusted look before turning away.
The apartment was cozy and quiet. He liked to keep one reading lamp on near his armchair, but everything else was blanketed in silken darkness.
Pouring himself a neat drink, he eased into his favorite leather chair and kicked off his shoes. He took a sip, closed his eyes, and exhaled a weary groan. What a day.
A cool breeze tickled the back of his neck, making the hair stand up. It twisted playfully around him, causing him to shiver and tousling his salt and pepper hair.
“Hey, baby. Sorry, I know it’s late. Long, long day with that client, as you can imagine. You remember how it could be.”
The cold air swirled around him, and flipped the pages of the book on the nearby end table. He took another sip and slumped back into the chair. Tired. He was just so damn weary all the time.
“I just can’t tonight. I don’t have it in me. Wish I could, but I really need to get to sleep. Ok?”
Apparently, it was not. The air in the room whipped into a tiny cyclonic fury. One by one, books toppled off the shelf against the wall and dropped onto the rug below.
Thud. Thump. Thunk! Bang!
Great. Just great. That went about as well as he thought it would.
Soon, the air stilled, and the room grew quiet. He felt completely alone. But, even when he was, he wasn’t. And when he wasn’t, he was. He didn’t know to think about this anymore, either. His fatigued brain, lulled into a fuzzy warm stupor by the drink, couldn’t process the concept. Screw it; he decided to call it a night and go to bed.
Shuffling into the bedroom, he undressed and slid beneath the heavy blankets. He fell into a deep sleep aided by more scotch than anyone should drink every night. But it helped him with his insomnia. Enough drinks, and the dreams wouldn’t come again. At least, he hoped they wouldn’t.
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