We’re bring back an old favorite as part of the photographic short story series her on the Digital Life of Allie Milot. In order to streamline my work, I will be releasing the short stories that have been published already on https://photostoriesbyallie.wordpress.com. Eventually that website will fade out and all of my photographic short stories will be happily living together on this blog site.
Let’s get to the story, shall we?
Beneath their feet, the grass crunches. The pounded down snow supports their weight. Sitting on the weathered wood they attempt to have a civilized conversation.
“I saw her leave, Daniel. Kathryn was with you last night, don’t you dare deny it.”
“Well I’m going to because she was never there. Those shoes have been in my apartment for over six months because YOU never clean up your freaking trash!” Daniel jumps up from the bench and Angela mirrors his actions.
“You’ve been distant, we never spend any time together, all we do is fight. Is this something that you want? Do you still love me?”
“Of course I do, Ang.”
Attempting to take her hand, Daniel reaches out, Angela pushes away. She turns from him, holding in tears as her eyes begin to flood.
“I don’t believe you. Your eyes don’t look at me the same way they used to and your heart clearly doesn’t belong to me either. We haven’t been together in months.”
Unable to find words to defend himself from Angela’s piercing truths, the two of them stand in silence and again, sit back down. A woman dressed in all black, a golden retriever running at her side, pass by the bench without stopping.
Turning their feet away from each other in the silent, winter air, one could hear the slow sliding of Angela’s boots against the snow-covered concrete. Angela stands up and begins to walk up the steep hill back to the gravel parking lot to find her car, keys jingling in her left hand as she pulls them out of her pocket.
“Angela, wait! Come back!”
She turns around after only taking a few steps. Daniel grabs her arm but she whips it out of his grasp.
“Leave me alone. This is the last argument I’m having with you. I want your stuff out of my house by tomorrow night or I swear I will throw it all out or burn it myself.”
“Angela, come on.” Daniel tries to rationalize what might be their fifth fight in only a month, each time coming to the same, quiet park to pan out their problems, sitting and standing near this same bench that they were found at now. No one could hear them scream at each other. Although the sound grew louder and louder each time they fought, the geese and passing dogs drowned out their voices.
Angela and Daniel had met almost four years ago through a mutual friend. Her name was Mae. From the moment they were introduced, a spark was lit between the two college students. Daniel was a junior at a nearby university and Angela was a sophomore. Spending most of their spare time in the same friend group, their relationship was able to speed up much quicker than other students their age.
Daniel was careful to not over step Angela’s boundaries in terms of anything physical or emotional and Angela returned the same respect. There relationship seemed to be indestructible. Nothing shook their rock-hard romance until the accident.
On a late April evening, Angela and Daniel were shaken to the bone when they heard the tragic news about Mae.
A knock was heard from outside their shared apartment. Mae’s boyfriend, Jack fumbled through the door soaked from running through the streets in the pouring rain. His eyes red, heavily breathing. He began to sob uncontrollably.
“Jack, jack, calm down. What happened?” Daniel caught Jack as his knees collapsed below him and he fell to the ground.
“She… she jumped.”
“She? Who jumped?” Angela came closer to the two boys crumpled on the dusty hardwood floor.
“Mae, she’s gone. She told me she was tired and needed to go home. She seemed sad but nothing out of the ordinary for her. We’ve been together six years, I’ve known her when she’s been really bad – today seemed like a good day.”
“Slow down, man. Start from the beginning, what happened to Mae?” Daniel pleaded.
“Mae left my house and walked home. About two hours later, her roommate called me. She was worried out of her mind and didn’t know where Mae was. I grabbed my keys and phone and ran from my house to her’s. On the way over, when I crossed the footbridge over the river, you know the one, right?”
Daniel and Angela nodded, dreading the end of this story. Both of them knew what Jack was about to say but didn’t have the strength to stop him from talking.
“Well I crossed the bridge and something drew my eyes to the water. I saw what looked like a person floating, motionless. I had no idea who it was or what had happened but the body was stuck in between three sharp rocks. I ran to the water and went to see who it was and if they were still alive.” He continued to describe the terrifying experience of flipping the body over and coming face-to-face with his beautiful girlfriend, Mae. Her body cold from the icy waters along with the life that was no longer inside of her. Jack’s cries rang out to the heavens and he sat in the river holding her, hands numb, sobbing into her shoulder. In a few minutes an ambulance and rescue team had come and she was declared dead. The cause of death was a broken neck from impact of the rocks that she was entangled in when Jack had found her.
Angela couldn’t handle the thought of her best friend, Mae, being dead in a hospital morgue somewhere in the city. She couldn’t be gone. She couldn’t have given up her life in a matter of seconds for some unknown reason. No note or warning was left. She was gone. Gone.
Running from her own apartment through the rain, she caught the subway and road it all night. Elbows on her knees, hiding behind her palms, her face became soaked with salty tears. From that night on, she was never the same person, neither was Daniel.
Standing now almost a year later in the last of the winter’s snow, Angela’s heart ached to be ending things with Daniel after so many years of being together, and the heartbreaking experience they had shared. They both had struggled so much individually, but being together was no relief.
In a hushed tone, Angela walked towards Daniel and whispered, “I love you, but we can’t do this. She’s gone. Our first connection has been uprooted and thrown into the fire. We can’t live like this. Fighting at least once a week, we should have our names nailed to this bench for the amount of times we have been here in the past few months. I’m sorry.”
Angela put her hands on Daniel’s shoulders and slowly slid them down the sides of his arms until she reached his hands. She gave them a tight squeeze then lightly kissed him. “I’m so sorry. Goodbye.”
Without giving Daniel a chance to say a word, she turned back around and left in what felt like the speed of light. Daniel took a seat on the bench, his cheek still warm from her lips. He slipped his hand into his pocket and pulled out his grandfather’s pocket knife. He juggled it slowly in his hands for about a minute, then he began to etch out a few letters into the wood he was sitting on. Dry from the winter, the carving was easy. Daniel finished his work, put the knife away and got up. He looked back at the wood aged with memories of sunsets, feeding ducks, reading old papers, playing cards, relaxing after adventures in the river; containing the sounds of the yelling of their irrational and uncalled for arguments. Their first and last kiss was staged in this very location. Under his breath, Daniel let out a soft chuckle and thought to himself, our names will always be here now, no matter what, the bench is ours.
To this day, the letters A&D can be found engraved on the bench boards, now prepared for many more relationships to come.