By: Alexa Riley

When I walk into our penthouse, I place my house keys and phone on the table by the door and feel myself frown. The picture I gave her for her birthday still hasn’t been hung. I’d taken a picture of the first place I’d ever kissed her and framed it. It was in the library at her father’s house, a room I knew she loved. I didn’t explain the reason I took it because she seemed so disappointed when she saw it. I just stumbled over telling her it was because I knew she loved all the books. I thought that maybe giving her something that was hers to place in our home would spur her to put her own things around the house. Touches of her. I’d even told her where I thought the picture would look nice—where we walk into our home every day. She’d given me a tight smile, and the picture remains in a box in the corner of the room.

I told her she could do whatever she wanted to our space here, but she seemed uninterested in that idea. We’d talked about getting a place of our own, and that had excited her. She told me details about what she wanted, and so I hired an architect, relayed what she wanted and had him draw it up for me. I wanted to have a place built as the fairy tale she described, and then I’d surprise her with it.

That’s what this coming weekend has been about. Planning everything down to the last detail, all while wrapping up work. For good.

When I walk past the kitchen counter, I notice something there, but I keep on going. I’m too anxious to see Molly to stop and check out something I saw out of the corner of my eye.

Walking into the bedroom, I can tell something is off. I don’t feel her in the room. I flip on the overhead light in a slight panic, and when I see the bed is pristine, a nervousness falls over me.

“Molly?” I call, thinking maybe she’s in the bathroom. But as I start to search the house, I see that every room is silent and empty of her energy.

“Molly!” This time I shout down the hall, letting my panic set in. It’s time for her to stop playing games.

I hurry to the front of the condo, grab my phone, and go to the kitchen. I check my messages but don’t see one from her, so I send one, checking in. She must have forgotten to tell me she was out doing something tonight. Maybe I can meet up with her. I miss her so much already, and I don’t like the idea of her being out so late without me. I should have been here to go with her. I shake my head at myself.

I wait for just a moment, and my eyes slide over to what caught my eye when I first entered. It’s a small piece of paper, and I reach out and slide it toward me.

I feel as if someone has punched me in the gut. I look over to see her wedding rings on the granite next to it, and I fall to my knees. My heart is beating in my ears, and I can’t process what’s happening. It’s like I’m in a tunnel, but I’m falling. My breath comes out fast, and I see black spots in my vision. Just before the blackness takes over, the words flash again in front of me.

I can’t do this. Don’t follow me.

Chapter Three


“Wow, Molly, that’s really good.” I look over at Oscar. He’s holding a white bag that I’m guessing came from Elaine’s Diner, the local eatery only two blocks down from the beach. He smiles at me, the sun hitting his dark hair, making all his grays show.

My eyes go back to the painting I’ve been working on all morning, and for the first time, I see it. It’s a moment in my life I could never forget. Branded. I could paint this in my sleep, if I was sleeping that is.

“I’d love to know what he’s looking at,” he adds, sitting down next to me on the old, white, chipped wooden bench that looks out onto the beach. I’ve come to feel like it’s my bench over the past few months. I spend most of my time on this beach doing this. Painting.

I took up residence on it today before the sun really even started to rise over the endless ocean. Everything around me waking up, coming back to life, leaving me behind in the darkness. I don’t sleep anymore. I don’t know how someone can be so exhausted and not be able to sleep. I just keep thinking I’ll crash, but as soon as I do, I wake moments later. The bittersweet dreams are more than I can bear. Taunting and torturing me.

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