Against the Wall
“We’re nearly there.” Nervous excitement was clear in Jeff's voice.
“Almost where? What are we doing here? Where are you taking me?” Harold knew his impatience was obvious. He didn’t want to be here. He’d avoided this part of town ever since that dreadful day. He’d always assumed it was the same for Jeff, but clearly he’d been wrong.
“I know what you’re thinking, you know,” Jeff said.
Harold was frustrated. Not being able to see Jeff's face as he spoke because he was pushing Harold’s chair only added to the feeling of powerlessness.
“But it’s time.” Jeff’s voice was soft yet insistent. “You ... we can’t go on like this. It’s been two years and I’ll be damned if I allow you to wallow in your guilt any longer.”
Anger coursed through Harold’s veins. “That’s easy for you to say. You’re not the one who drove that night. You weren’t even there. It wasn’t you who killed her.”
“I know.” Jeff stopped walking. “Neither did you.”
Harold didn’t want to go any further. As soon as Jeff started pushing again and rounded the corner where he’d stopped, Harold would be face to face with the wall he still saw in his nightmares most nights.
Jeff squeezed Harold’s shoulders and must have bent forward because Harold could feel his breath against his ear as he continued talking.
“It’s time to forgive yourself. It was never your fault. There was no way you could have avoided that drunk idiot who drove you off the road and crashed you into the wall.”
“You don’t know that.” Harold growled the words. “Hell, even I don’t know that for sure because I can’t remember any details of that night.” Except for Ciara’s screams just before they collided with the wall; that was one memory he’d never lose.
That night Harold had lost everything. Their relationship had been unconventional but Jeff, Ciara and Harold had made it work. More than that, the three of them had been perfect together. With Ciara gone, Jeff and Harold had lost their way. They still lived together, they even still loved each other but their relationship had lost every trace of passion without their third.
“I know enough.” Jeff’s voice was still soft and gentle but Harold knew him well enough to realize he was close to losing his patience. “I know you were sober. I know you’d never do anything to put our Ciara in danger. I know you’d rather have died yourself than have her die on us.” Jeff’s deep intake of breath sounded like thunder in Harold’s ears. “I know more than Ciara died that night. We died too. And it’s time to start living again.”
Harold’s shoulders felt cold and empty without Jeff’s hands resting on them. When they rounded the corner Harold stopped breathing. The image was huge and vibrant, much larger than life, just as Ciara had been. He remembered the photo and the moment Jeff had taken it. Harold stared at the reproduction of Ciara and a much younger and still mobile version of himself, instantly recognising Jeff’s hand in the artwork. Only when the picture blurred in front of his eyes did he realize he was crying. Harold only slowly became aware of Jeff’s voice filtering through the riot of thoughts and feelings in his head.
“You know she’d kick our arses for giving up on life and each other the way we have. She’s been gone for two years. We’ve been existing rather than living for all that time. I need you back. I can’t go on like this.”
Harold didn’t resist when Jeff lifted him from his wheelchair and pushed him up against the wall.
“Here’s where we start living again. We’ll honour her memory by loving each other.”
When Jeff’s lips connected with Harold’s he surrendered. Jeff was right and for the first time since the accident Harold’s heart and body reacted as he dared to believe the rest of his life might hold more than just pain and regret.
I’m delighted I managed to get a story out this week since I didn’t have anything last week and chances are I won’t have a flash next week either. I’ll be spending a long weekend in Bristol for the UK LGBT Fiction Meet and probably won’t have time to think about a story, never mind write one.
If you go to the Monday Flash Fics Facebook page you’ll find other stories based on this same picture.