He could no longer remember a time where his body did not demand the constant inhale and exhale of cigarettes and weed. The prick of the needle in his forearm from black market drugs made him feel complete. He wanted to feel anything at all because he had been running away from what had kept him filled with something other than complete numbness. It had been a constant struggle getting out of bed in the mornings without Grace’s warmth beside him, and knowing that she did not want him with her anymore made it even worse.
When he got out of bed the sky was a cloudy gray, but it did not matter. He would only darken it even more with every puff of smoke released from his lips, killing himself slowly, possibly doing the same to a passerby. It was a sort of torture to live ten minutes away from her, but he needed every ounce that was given. Everything that had happened between the two was entirely his fault and now was the time to let her live happily. That was all he ever wanted for her, to be happy, and that was why he left. Leaning against the dirty brick wall of his cheap apartment, he rested his head back and looked up at the clouds. They were dark and ready to pour rain from them, but he stayed against the graffitied wall and took another drag as it started to storm.
The weight on her ribs disappeared days ago, and she was now breathing easily as she sat on a lounge chair that was on the deck, staring blankly ahead at the lawn of her once shared house. She kept a gentle hand on her pregnant stomach, tenderly rubbing in a circular motion, as though she could soothe her baby from the outside. Yet, she always stayed hesitant when doing so. It was also his baby, and she didn’t want to remember him because it always hurt to do so. Everything had been cheerful as he used to comfort her and make sure everything was okay, but then he was once again introduced to drugs, and now she no longer knew where he was anymore. Images flashed through her mind of memories from before, but thinking about them always made her feel worse. Yet, she wanted to feel that way because every petty argument was her fault. He had been struggling with his addiction for so long, and she got tired of it. Every time he relapsed she chastised him for it when all he wanted to do was to recover, and now he was gone. She didn’t even have the bravery to pick up her phone and call him, but yet neither did he. Had he forgotten all about her?
“I know your father isn’t here anymore, but we won’t need him, little girl. I still love him, you know. I still think of him everyday, but I can’t imagine he does the same anymore. This is why I’ll have to love you twice as much, and I’m sorry if it isn’t enough,” she whispered, picturing nothing but his gentle personality and bouncy curls.
She sighed, continuing to look at her backyard as the sky started to drizzle. She didn’t run into the rain anymore because that was always something she had done with James, but now he was gone and there was no longer a reason to. When the thunder erupted, sharp pains flowed through her and she gripped onto the arm of the chair, a moment that took nine months to happen.
It was a full downpour, and it soaked his clothes as he stood outside, taking it all in: the way the raindrops would land on his skin, the smell and excitement of it all. He had always been a fan of thunderstorms, the nature of them in their entirety, but he loved them even more when Grace said they reminded her of his piercing blue eyes. He remembered her chestnut hair, and the way she would carry the faint scent of cinnamon on her skin. She used to make him feel like he was worth something, that he was more than being the guy who sang at local coffee shops for money because he dropped out of college. In their last months together she always said he would never amount to anything, and as always she was right. He was a man heading nowhere inside of a town filled with nothing, and for once he truly felt the part.
But she was different, always looking for more, always being the bright visionary in his life. Making something out of herself was a personal goal of hers, and she ruined it all by choosing him out of the seven billion more qualified people in the world. He thought back to when he used to be enough for her in a time lost between the smashing of dishes and endless fights, and he questioned if she was ever truly happy with him. Lowering her standards by loving him was the worst mistake she ever made, and he allowed it because he was selfish. Letting out a sigh and pulling the lighter she had taken away numerous times out of his pocket, he set fire to the tiny killer, inhaling its toxins despite the downpour. A phone call interrupted his next drag and he dropped the cigarette, starting to run towards the local hospital a few blocks away.
Sweat fell down her forehead as she endured another contraction, her mother now returning after making a quick phone call to hold her hand encouragingly. She had been withstanding immense amounts of pain for the last hour, but she can only think of her and her baby staying in the same hospital he had been treated in numerous times for overdosing. Reliving those memories had become a terrible habit of hers, but she couldn’t help herself.
“I called him,” her mother said softly, brushing back a few strands of hair behind her ear.
She looked at her mother, her face wearing a scowl but the mixed feelings of dread and excitement filled her. It had been a little over nine months since he had been gone, and a few months longer than that when a friend of his introduced him to his old addiction. “I don’t want to see him,” Grace said finally, but regretting the foul taste of those words as soon as they escaped her lips.
“You need him,” her mother stated, offering a sympathetic smile. She sighed and nodded, her hand offering her baby a gentle touch as she covered her stomach before another contraction rippled through her.
Running through the rain for the last half hour had left his golden brown curls wet and clinging to his skin. He was tired, but he had been tired for the entirety of the last year where he was becoming old, reminiscing in tattered memories. Fathered by a mix of pills and narcotics and poisons he did not know how to be a father himself. It was impossible to face the sight of Grace, knowing all the hardship he had put her through, but he continued to run faster than his tarnished lungs could take him, away from the now soaked cigarette lying on the ground.
Tears collected in her eyes as she held her small baby in her arms, but she could only picture James as she did. She was practically a copy of her father, and that made everything worse knowing that despite her mother’s phone call, he still would not come. “It’s just you and I, little girl,” she whispered softly, “but we’ll make it out there. I promise.”
“She looks just like him,” her mother acknowledged.
“I know,” she sighed, “but I can’t afford to think like that.”
Holding her baby closer to her chest she heard footsteps outside the door, stopping once she caught sight of his blue eyes. She studied the changes in his features as he gaped at her and his new baby. Now thinner, he was wearing a slight scruff, his bright blue eyes a dull color as there were mixes of a cobalt etched in, showing the change in him. She wanted nothing more than for him to walk inside, but he stayed behind the closed door, looking so absolutely broken as he stared at her. Despite the fact that her eyes softened, signalling that she wordlessly apologized and was begging for him to walk into the room, he looked down, away from the eyes he hated and pulled out his lighter, pressing another cigarette to his lips.
When he locked eyes with her all he could feel was the guilt. Pain colored those emerald eyes, and he hated it. He hated the fact that he could no longer love her as he had before, but he also knew that if he entered the room all of their lives would be worse. Gripping onto the doorknob, his hand’s knuckles slowly faded from their tainted white, quickly turning into a flushed pink once he pulled away. Exploring the expressions she wore on her face, he tried to decipher if she forgave him or not, but she only looked broken. Her eyes had mellowed at him, a signal he remembered from so long ago that she was close to breaking down and crying. Instead of facing her tears, he turned around and pulled out his lighter. Pressing the cigarette to his lips, he forced himself to forget her over and over again with every inhale of smoke.