Rick looked at his bed in trepidation. If he slept would the nightmares come again?
Inky shadows and the eerie blue light of night seemed to paint the picture of a turbulent sea, frozen in time. Perfectly still. His girlfriend lay in that motionless ocean, tangled in the sheets on her side of the bed.
Her pillow was likely wet with tears. Most nights he held her as she cried. He remembered running his fingers along the scars on her forearms, from all the times she cut herself. She said cutting made the pain feel real. It made it into something she could touch, she could understand. The tears… those were more difficult to comprehend. He stopped asking what was wrong long ago. Her answer was always the same: I don't know.
Most nights he held her. But not tonight.
He eyed the plane ticket on the nightstand. Seven days ago he bought that ticket. Seven days ago the nightmares began. He took a deep breath. He would need his rest if he wanted to catch his flight.
He crawled into bed, soothed by its softness. Sleep seduced him into her seductive embrace, as she always did. The bliss of darkness never lasted long however. It was only a moment before the visions began.
He was at the airport.
7:10AM flight to San Francisco.
Some nights he got on the plane. He knew the terror of falling from the sky. The passengers screaming. The painful crack of his bones as the metal behemoth collided with the earth.
Most nights he fled. Running back home.
She held *him* on those nights. "I told you," she always said soothingly. "You never need to get on that plane. Just stay in my arms."
But days would pass and her arms would grow tired. The tears would come again, a dangerous deluge in a tempest of pain. And one day he wouldn't be there to hold her. Maybe he was at work. Maybe he was at the store. And he would find her lying on that bed, in a tangle of sheets, sprawled on her stomach like she always slept. But the ocean-colored sheets she slept in would be black, not blue. Soaked, wet, dripping.
The cuts too deep this time.
He'd hold her body, screaming, oblivious to the blood seeping into his clothes.
"I'd like to upgrade to First Class." This was a dream. It wasn't real money.
The seats were more comfortable than he'd imagined. Why had he never flown First Class before? He looked around at the passengers, a man with a shrewd face reading Newsweek. A mother trying to get her two children to be quiet. An awkward student reading a book.
We're all going to die, he thought.
There was no turbulence. There never was. Only a loud pop. Rick never knew what it was that made them fall from the sky. But he never got used to that weightless feeling in his stomach, his insides floating as his body plummeted. Shrieks, children crying, something loud banging around in the cabin. Rick closed his eyes waiting for the inevitable…
Crunch. The world was agony. Blood filling his lungs. His broken ribs tore through his stomach.
It didn't go fast. It never did.
They would have a closed casket.
Tabatha would wear black. Her tears were different, not the soft leaking and whimpering wail he knew. No, her face was twisted and red, and her sobs were guttural and choked. Snot would come from her nose. It was agonizing to watch.
He wouldn't be there to hold her.
But Ben would be.
She'd cry in his arms this time. And soon, perhaps uncomfortably soon, she'd cry herself to sleep in his bed.
When the tears stopped and she had a moment to rest, she would say this: "I think, seeing someone I love die… I think I appreciate life in a way I never did before."
They'd hold each other every night after that. They'd have two children. She'd love them dearly. And she'd never cut herself again.
Rick opened his eyes. It was 5:15AM. His alarm would go off in 15 minutes. He disabled the alarm and crept out of bed.
If he kissed her goodbye, she would wake up. She would say what she always says. "You don't have to go!" She would beg him to stay. If he woke her, he would crawl back into bed and spend the day there.
He pulled on a shirt and slid his pants on. He didn’t bother packing a suitcase. He knew he wasn't going to need it.
Rick picked the ticket off of the nightstand. He had a plane to catch.