For this week's AtoZ Challenge, I'm presenting a 6-part story. Part One, yesterday, is here.
Darrel Preston stood outside the gates of the Compound, hands deep into his coat pockets. It was February Sixth. Seventh. He'd stopped thinking about dates after President Homb's speech yesterday. They just didn't seem to matter any longer. Spend your last days with the people you love, she'd said. He had sat in stunned silence through the whole thing, fully aware of her every word, and as soon as the screen darkened, he stood up, packed a backpack, and headed out the door.
Jodie was a thousand miles away in St. Louis. Traffic would be terrible, Darrel thought, so he hit the road as soon as possible. It had taken two straight days of driving, but he'd made it, just like he said he would. Jodie was reluctant at first, but through the desperation in his voice she'd agreed to meet him. The kids wouldn't be there, she made that clear. Darrel said he understood.
A door slid open and Jodie walked out. She was as beautiful as the day they'd first met. "Hey," she said, pulling a cigarette from her jacket. Darrel had always hated it when she smoked, and she knew it. He let it slide.
"Hey. It's good to see you."
She shrugged, inhaling smoke and tar and cancer. He wondered how long she could keep the bile inside of her. He almost expected to see it leaking out her eyes. "I've got ten minutes," she said, smoke billowing from her mouth as she spoke, like a manhole vent in the early morning. "Maybe less."
Darrel's heart pounded. Things weren't going well. Not well at all. He'd just wanted to come and see his wife and sons, to hold them all again and be a family once more before everything stopped. He'd practiced his apology speech during the car ride until he could say it backwards, but now the words might as well have been in Farsi. Darrel searched her eyes, looking for just a hint of compassion. An impenetrable ocean of black stared back at him.
"I, uh. How're the boys? How are they taking the news?" Stupid question.
"I didn't tell them," Jodie said. "No need."
Darrel nodded. "Good. That's good. I was worried that--"
"If you were worried," her words slammed into him, "then you wouldn't have gone and did what you did. If you would have thought about somebody other than your own sorry self for just one second then you wouldn't have screwed up so bad. But you didn't, and now look at you. You come back here wanting vindication and liberation from your guilt, expecting me to forgive you just cause the world's ending. Well I ain't wired like that, Darrel. I ain't got it in me to forgive you, not after what you did to us. It don't work that way."
Darrel's ears filled with a ringing noise. Jodie was still talking, but her words were drowned from the tinny squeal in his ears. He had to find a way to gain control of this situation before it got any further out of hand. He had no clue what to do. He tried to pull his eyes away, but found that they were stuck. There is true rage behind those eyes, he thought. His face was burning up. This was definitely not going as planned.
"What did you expect me to do? Welcome you in like a returned soldier? Gah." She threw her cigarette down. Darrel stared helplessly at her. He felt like a scolded dog. "My break's up. Goodbye, Darrel." Jodie turned to go. With a will he didn't know he possessed, Darrel reached his hand out and grabbed her jacket, like he could pull her back. He was on his knees holding on with everything he had in him.
"I'm so sorry," he said, tears pouring down his face. Jodie's back was to him, but he could tell that she was listening. "You're right. I didn't think. I never do. I've never deserved your love, and I don't understand why you married me in the first place. You were too good to me, and I took that love and spat in its face. God, Jodie, I am such a fool. It's been three years since I've saw them, since I saw you, and it ain't been an easy three years. I've been meaning to call, but it just ain't ever felt right. But now, that, you know, it's ending, my priorities have came into focus. I'm just sorry that it took this long."
He was still on his knees, holding her jacket in his hands. "Goodbye Darrel," she said, her voice a blank slate of emotions. "I don't want to see you again." She pulled away, stomping back through the Compound's door.
Darrel sobbed freely. "I'm sorry," he choked.