A PALE STREAM OF LIGHT • by Caitlynn Lowe

Cloudy again. But what else should I expect? These days were always like that.

I walked up the stairs of a familiar apartment complex I had never visited before. Once you’ve seen as many as I have, they all start bleeding together, really. Pulling the crumpled-up piece of paper out of my pocket, I glanced down at the number scribbled onto it to refresh my memory: 1022. Apartment #1022. I was almost there. Just a few more steps and I’d be that much closer to finding him.

Once I found myself in front of the door, I hesitated for a moment — this was always the hardest part — before gathering up the courage to knock. A stocky man with a scraggly beard and pale blue eyes answered, opening the door just a crack.

“Yeah?” he huffed, his voice coming out in a deep grumble.

I took a sharp breath in. “Is Mike there? Mike Winters?”

The man raised an eyebrow and stepped out a little more. “Depends. Who’s asking?”

Oh boy. Here goes nothing. “I’m his wife.”

“Wife?” he snorted. “Mike don’t wear a ring. Besides, he never struck me as the settling type.”

“No,” I protested, taking a step forward, “you must be mistaken. You’ve never heard him mention me? My name is April.” I thrust a desperate hand out to the man.

Startled, he shook it, mumbling, “Steve.”

“Well, Steve,” I began again, maintaining a death grip while still inching closer, “Mike’s never mentioned his April to you? Nothing about Washington, or about Crestview Falls?”

“W-well… maybe briefly, but…”

“Great!” I exclaimed, finally letting go of his hand. “Then you’ll let me talk to him, right?”

“Whoa there,” he replied, taking a step back. “I never said that. Even if I wanted to let you in, Mike ain’t here right now.”

“Then I’ll wait.”

“Don’t…” He sighed audibly and rubbed his eyes. “What makes you so sure Mike even wants to see you, anyway? I mean, if he loved you, why would he leave?”

“He never said?” I prompted. Steve shrugged his shoulders. “Strange,” I continued, “he used to be open about everything.” My eyes shifted downward. “I wonder… how much has he changed these past few years…?”

“Years?” Steve chuckled. “Look, I hate to break it to you, but it sounds like Mike has no intention of ever coming back. Just… go home already, hmm?”

I continued staring at the ground, only awakening from my trance when I heard the door start to close. “I was pregnant,” I blurted out before Steve was completely out of sight. The door paused, and through the crack, I continued speaking. “We were living in a bad neighborhood at the time. Me and Mike, that is. One night, when I was seven months in or so, I was attacked on my way back from the store. Stabbed with a knife five times.” I gulped, fighting the lump developing in my throat. “The baby… well, she didn’t survive.”

The door opened a bit more, so I continued, “I was in a horrible state afterwards. I cried constantly, and I couldn’t even look at Mike — it made me think about our child. The child I couldn’t protect. Finally, Mike said we’d move back in with my parents. Everyone wanted me out of that environment as soon as possible, so I was going on ahead first. Mike was supposed to follow later with our belongings. The belongings eventually came, but he never did.”

“Sounds like it was too much for him, then.” Steve’s tone was straightforward when he added, “He left it all behind to start over.”

“No. It was too much for me, and Mike knew it. He just wanted me better. And… well, maybe he thought I’d get better faster if he weren’t around.”

“Then why hasn’t he come back yet?” Steve responded. “You seem better.”

“I don’t know,” I whispered hoarsely. “Maybe he still feels guilty, somehow.”

After a few minutes passed in silence, Steve let out another exasperated sigh. “Look, just give up. I mean, it sure seems like Mike has.”

“Have you ever said goodbye to someone for the last time?” My voice shook. “I’ve never seen a sadder person. I’ve never seen his expression so… tortured, before. It kills me that I didn’t even realize how final he meant it back then.” I looked Steve straight in the eye, determined to sound strong and resolute. “I want him to know that I don’t blame him for what happened — that I never did. And I want him to know that I still love him. I always have, and I always will.”

Steve looked away in response. I finally turned to leave, adding, “When we got married, I swore to Mike that I’d follow him anywhere. And here I am, doing just that.” I started to walk away and concluded, “If he’s not here, then I’ll come back when he is.”

“Wait!” Steve called after me before I got to the stairs. “You won’t find him here anymore. He moved out last week. Said something about Chicago, I think.” I glanced back to see him shrugging his shoulders. “Sorry. That’s all I know.”

“Thanks. I figured as much… seems I’m always a few weeks behind him, at least.”

As I continued walking down the stairs, I heard him call out one last thing. “I lied before! That ring of his never leaves his finger.”

I turned to wave my gratitude and my farewell before walking out toward the parking lot. I glanced up at the still cloudy skies just in time to notice a pale stream of light peeking through.

What else should I expect?

Caitlynn Lowe is a budding writer who enjoys experimenting with various genres, but admits to having a strong inclination towards speculative fiction and romance. She writes short stories of various lengths and is also working on several novel-length projects.

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