She revved the engine and looked out into the night. The tangle of neon-lit streets spreading out before her seemed to gather at the end of her vision into one single, brilliant point. Finally, she thought, I’ll make it there.
All her life inside the city walls she had been waiting for her keys, for her car, for the ruler who people said was in charge to say, “Go!” But he had never said that word to her; he had never spoken to her at all. So she had decided to find a way out herself, going throughout the confines of the kingdom to barter for a car, to forge its keys, to take one step closer to the outer perimeter, and then another, to see how far she could go before the ruler interfered. She had gotten everything she needed, and he had never tried to stop her. She took that to mean he did not mind much if she left.
He stood nervously on the ledge, his hands flung back to grip the steel railing. It was winter, and he could feel the skin on his fingers stick to the metal. But the cold didn’t matter. He had finally gathered the courage to come out here to the very edge, and all that was left was to take the final step forward. He looked down to the street below. There was no one there. It was just him and the silver light of the stars.
He inched forward so that only the soles of his bare feet remained on the cement. He leaned forward and felt his chest expand at the stretch. He squeezed his hands tighter around the railing. He closed his eyes and breathed in deeply, wanting to feel the cold air flow through his body and into his lungs as slowly as possible. He wanted to feel everything, for once in his life.
One more breath, he thought. One more breath, and then one last step. One more breath, and then…
“Patrick,” a woman’s voice said.
“I’m removing my wings,” she said to the angel beside her.
“Your wings!” he exclaimed turning to look at her. She was beautiful, like they all were, but her beauty was different. It was bold and untamed, contrasting with the faultless uniformity of everything around them.
“I don’t believe you,” he said shaking his head. “No one would ever leave this life.”
She looked around and knew he was right. Here, everything was beautiful. There were no petty wars that caused pain and death. Nothing new or unexpected arose to disrupt daily life. No need, instinct or ephemeral feeling drove angels together. Here, everything was ideal, in all places and for all time. No, no one else would ever leave.
She walked out the door and went to stand by the street. She knew it wasn’t time yet, but she couldn’t wait inside any longer. Perhaps if she waited outside it would make him come faster. It was irrational, she knew, but she wondered it just the same. After having waited for so long for this day to come, she would try anything, irrational or not, to make their meeting time arrive. She felt she could not wait one more second.
But she’d have to wait, because she had been outside for half an hour now, 15 minutes past their agreed-upon time, and he still had not come. Tired of standing and having worn out all her nervous energy by pacing back and forth, she plopped down on the curb. She looked at her feet and noticed the many cigarette butts scattered around her. She had gone through half a pack. “He better come soon,” she said aloud to no one, “and he better have cigarettes.”
She walked in to find him lying face-down on the floor in the middle of the room. The afternoon rays shone directly onto his back as though he was the center of the sun’s attention.
For a moment she stood at the edge of the room watching his torso rise and fall with his breathing. He didn’t sleep much, but when he did, it was deep and it was for a long time.
She slipped off her shoes and crossed the living room to the kitchen. She unpacked and put away the groceries, still watching him. Then she took the unfinished bottle of wine he had left on the counter and went to sit on the floor next to him.
She took a sip of wine as her eyes traveled up his body to rest on his peaceful, beautiful face. She wondered what he was dreaming about. He always said he didn’t remember his dreams – “It’s just blissful unconsciousness, babe” – but she liked to think that as he slept he lived all that he could never quite reach when he was awake: having a carefree smoke with his younger brother who had been refusing to talk to him for the past three years; finally tracking down the man he had foolishly sold his grandfather’s pistol to when he was 19 and in need of money; holding in his arms the baby they had been trying for so long to have. She wished, so much, that in his dreams he would find himself happy.
Ana walked through the revolving door out into the busy street. She was still in her hospital gown, and some people in the lobby stared as she walked out. She didn’t notice.
She paused just outside the door. The sun was bright and beating down on her head but the air was cool. The combination left her perfectly comfortable in her scant covering.
She looked up one way of the street and down the other, watching the people going by in each direction. They were choosing where to take themselves, to one way or the other. Now that she was out, she could choose, too.
She turned to walk up the street. Eventually, probably soon, someone would realize she was gone, and then word would be given to find her. But she still had some minutes to walk freely. She would give herself a full, glorious five minutes of complete freedom before she thought of what was to come next.
She stepped out from the convenience store at the end of the last shift of her life. Immediately, headlights appeared, speeding towards her across the parking lot. She smiled.
The car came to a pause before her. She grabbed her bags, got in, and turned to him beaming: “Let’s go.”
(In response to FranklyWrite’s 50-word story challenge)