Another warm tear ran down the side of his cheek as he continued to sob and stare at a picture, holding in its frame everything he had loved, and everything he had lost. The frame holding the photograph in place had a fine black finish with the word "Forever" engraved at the top. He found that ironic, because he knew nothing was forever, even the pyramids are falling apart. Every thing has a beginning and everything has an end. That is the way of things, and nothing can change it.
He continued to look deep into the picture, taking in every last detail. It was the last piece of her he had, her blue eyes stared back at him as if she was really looking at him, and it was not just a picture. Her hands were calmly tucked away in the pockets of her black sweatshirt, and she stood next to a tall maple tree just as the leaves had begun to turn beautiful colors of red, orange, brown, and yellow. Her blonde hair rested on her shoulders and her smile was as real as every moment they had shared together, and that was something that no one could take from him. Looking up from the picture and at the clock he had hanging from the rearview mirror of his beat up red pick up truck he sighed. It read 10:45 p.m. He tossed the picture onto the passenger's seat and thrust his hands to his face wiping away his tears and rubbing his swollen eyes. After another long sigh he sat back in his seat and closed his eyes.
"About fifteen more minutes," he said aloud to himself as he rolled his window down a crack so he could listen, instead of watch for his appointment to arrive.
He could now hear the distant sound of waves crashing softly into the shoreline. His car was parked at the edge of the beach's parking lot, but was still close enough to hear the auditory pleasantries of the great Lake Michigan. It almost made him want to sleep, but he tried to avoid that, for his dreams consisted solely on the night he had lost everything. Opening one eye he looked again at his clock, 10:47 p.m. enough time to take a 10 minute nap. He hadn't slept in at least 48 hours and had some time to kill that he didn't want to spend conscious. As he adjusted himself into a comfortable position his breathing fell in time with the rhythm of the lake and he quickly fell into a deep sleep and began to dream.
"That was fun Cody," said Kristine with a big smile.
"I knew you'd like that," he replied proudly, knowing he had done a good job.
They were walking back from the beach along the rolling bluffs, where he had set up a bonfire so they could sit out and look at the stars. She walked at his right, clung to his arm for warmth and affection. His right hand however, was hidden away in his pocket fiddling nervously with an engagement ring. He had it all planned out, they were walking along a hilly road rarely used at night. Up ahead was a bridge running over a river where he planned to propose.
"Why are you walking so fast?" she asked laughing.
"No reason," he laughed pulling her in closer to him
As they approached the bridge he could feel his heart rate getting faster, he knew she'd say yes but he couldn't help but be nervous. It wasn't a bad nervous though, more of an excited nervous, like right before you get on a roller coaster for the first time.
"I love you," she said stopping him. He smiled and caressed the little brown birthmark on her right cheek with his thumb, a beauty mark unique to her.
"I know you do, and I love you to," he said then turning to try and keep walking, all he wanted to do was make it to the bridge; but she held his hand and didn't move, pulling him back to her into a deep kiss. Reluctantly he pulled away trying to lead her a little further down the road.
"What's wrong?" she asked.
"Nothing babe, I just wanna get you home."
"Why? It's not like the house is going anywhere."
"I know but I just wanna get there," he said now squinting at a pair of headlights bobbing in and out of view as the road rose and fell with the lakeshore bluffs.
"Something's wrong, I know something's wrong," she said crossing her arms stubbornly.
"No I'm fine babe, come on."
"No, tell me what's wrong."
"I promise you nothing's wrong, now come on, there's a car coming," their shadows briefly grew larger then shorter as the car topped another rise.
"Fine," she said moving to the side of the road, "I know you to well Cody Thompson, something wrong."
"I know you do, but nothings wrong, let's just go home," he said taking her hands in his, the headlights illuminating her neon orange nails.
"Seriously babe, let's go."
"Not until you talk to me."
"Kristine seriously," he said pulling her hands in the direction of their home.
"No," she said pulling her hands back with a frustrated jerk.
He tried, again to pull her along, but she yanked back again and her hands left his. He watched her stumble backward catching a crack in the pavement with her heel and she tumbled to the ground, right into the beam of headlights as the car topped the rise right near their path.
"KRISTINE!" he yelled looking at her figure slowly rising in between two speeding orbs. As she stood up he ran forward and grabbed her to pull her away. With the sound of squealing tires he suddenly he felt the sensation of going from exactly zero to 40, along with the sensation of the bones in both of his legs snapping. They both tumbled directly into the windshield and over the roof of the car onto the cold hard pavement. He held onto Kristine the whole time. After several blinks to clear his vision he looked down at Kristine.
"Are you okay babe?" he asked through gritted teeth as he turned her over.
"Kristine?" he looked into her face, eyes wide open but not blinking, mouth ajar but not talking, nose dripping blood but not breathing. He looked up, the car had stopped and he had heard a door open and a boot hit the pavement.
"You killed her you bastard!" Cody yelled through a tightened throat, knotted stomach, and tears.
The man called out to a passenger, "Call an ambulance!" he shouted as his voice cracked. Cody could hear a woman sobbing and the man panicking, but they were both quickly drowned out by the sounds of Cody's hysteria and cries.
He woke up in a cold sweat, with flashes of the memory still clear in his head, as clear as the night it happened. He punched the dashboard in anger, rattling the contents of the glove box and bruising his fist. Holding his throbbing knuckles he looked up at the clock, 11:06 p.m.
"Fuck!" he said opening the door of his truck and stumbling out. He looked out toward the lake, scanning the shore until he saw them, his appointment. A young couple around the ages of 20 or 21, they had been coming here every night for the past week. Always holding hands and looking at the stars. The same thing he and Kristine used to do, and she was taken from him. Why did they deserve it and he didn't? Well they didn't, no one did.
He walked around to the back of his truck and looked into the bed pulling from its depths a dull black shotgun. He sighed. He had been doing this for about 6 months now. Why should he be the only one to suffer? Everything has an end, and people needed to realize this.
He loaded three shells into the shotgun; he only needed one, but being prepared never hurt. He then grabbed the homemade license plate covers from the back of his truck and carefully placed them over both the front and back plates. He used them in case worst came to worse his truck would be less identifiable. Looking back towards the couple he pumped the shotgun and began his descent upon them. His tactic was simple, he would only kill the woman, and the man would hold her as she died the same as he had done for Kristine. He didn't want to do anymore than he felt was fair. He didn't go to the trouble of disguising himself, he barely cared, sure the man would live but he had no intentions of ever seeing him again. He didn't wear a mask or anything to really hide his face, he wore beat up white sneakers, jeans and a black button down shirt with the sleeves rolled up. Before he got to close, he stopped to look over the man and his lover, she wore a nice white sundress and matching flip flops with her straight brown hair blowing in the wind off the lake, and he, a plain white t-shirt, shorts, and bare feet. Neither of them heard him approach due to the sound of the lake and the wind.
"Get on your knees," Cody said startling them both. As they turned around she screamed almost instantly as he gave the usual male reaction.
"Hey, take it easy man, we don't have any money," this reply almost made Cody laugh, but he rarely laughed anymore. The girl's eyes were a deep blue but what caught Cody's eye was the tiny brown spot on her upper right cheek. Suddenly Cody felt a surge of rage pulse throughout his body, his face flushed and his teeth clenched. That was Kristine's mark, her unique feature. How he longed to stoke the cheek that bore such resemblance to her, and yet how he longed to destroy the face that played host to the mark belonging to her, and belonging to him.
"Just get on your knees," answered Cody in a much angrier tone than last time. Without a thought, the man side stepped directly in front of the woman, something he had never seen before. Usually his victims were so scared they complied with everything he commanded of them.
"What are you doing?" asked Cody.
"Leave now or I'm going to hurt you," the man ordered boldly.
"Ummm, that's an odd thing to say to the man holding the shotgun," said Cody condescendingly. With that the man charged Cody, grabbing the barrel of his shotgun and tackling him to the ground before he even had time to react. As he wrestled with the man over the shotgun Cody pulled the trigger and the sand next to them flew up with the loud blast. The man continued to yell "run" and she continued to decline his order with a concerned, weepy "no." Still in shock over this man's bravery, Cody didn't notice the fist flying towards his face, striking him right under his left eye, causing him to lose grip of the shotgun. The man fell back and fired the second shell catching Cody in the side. He rolled over in pain clinching his teeth. Looking up he saw the man, looking back at him, he had tossed the shotgun aside.
"Call an ambulance!" the man called to the woman.
"Go ahead and kill me," said Cody. The man smiled and put his hand in Cody's. His hand was warm, one of the most soothing feelings he had felt in a long time, it made him feel good and the pain was gone.
"Everyone deserves a second chance Cody," said the man still smiling. Cody opened his mouth to ask this man how he could have known his name, but his eyelids dropped like a rock in water and he slipped into unconsciousness.
He awoke in a hospital very confused. He wondered what day it was. Where was he? How long had he been here? Were the police coming? Through blurred vision he looked at the doctor to his left fiddling with his IV bag.
"What happened?" he asked drearily.
The doctor looked over surprised he was awake.
"You were in a car accident last night; you and your girlfriend were hit by a drunk driver. Do you remember?" the doctor asked. Cody looked around ferociously, startled by what he was hearing.
"What?" Cody asked a little bit frightened.
"Kristine Miller, do you know who that is?" the doctor asked as if speaking to a child.
"Yes, yes, she died she…" Cody began, but the doctor cut him short.
"No, no, she is alive and stable, do you know where you are?" the doctor asked still analyzing his state of being.
"Yes, I'm in a hospital," Cody replied clearly frustrated. "Where is Kristine?"
"She's in the other room, she's been asking about you as well, but she's fine. You are both very lucky you know. Most people don't survive those kinds of accidents."
Cody looked at the chair to his left. His clothes were folded nice and neat on the seat of the chair. He reached over grabbing his pants and reaching into his right pocket he removed the ring, he smiled and began to cry.