The flowers moved. I rubbed my eyes. Desperate to know the truth, I brushed my fingers across the wallpaper. Nothing happened. Taking another step, my eyes locked on the picture trapped inside the red frame. My husband carried me on his back, both of us laughing. That had been a good day. It had been the last good day.
“Kimmy, come back to your room.” The nurse held one hand behind her back. The second she got a hand on me, she’d stick me with her hidden needle and pour poison into my arm.
The wall tickled my fingertips. Jerking them away, I stared at the flowers on the wall. One leaf broke off the bough I’d focused on and drifted to the floor. It pitched and twisted like a feather. I gasped and stepped back, hitting the wall behind me.
“Did you see that?”
“See what?” The nurse took a step toward me and reached out for my hand.
“It’s a message from Jake.”
“Jake’s dead, Kimmy. He died three years ago.”
I cringed away, not sure which I hated more: the needle or the truth. “That doesn’t mean he can’t speak to me.” Glancing at her, I saw pity ooze from her every pore. Instinct told me to run, but I had nowhere to go. The hall ended with a locked door. She could stick me during a struggle, or if I tried to shoulder past her. Someone else would knock me down if I managed to escape her.
The nurse sighed. “What’s the message?”
People had been humoring me for a long time now. Unwilling to look at her face again, I touched the glass between me and the picture and met Jake’s frozen, unblinking eyes preserved with paper and ink. Falling leaves meant nothing to me. Jake and I never had a special understanding or code about that. His favorite songs and bands had nothing to do with that, and neither did his favorite shows or books.
I wanted to break the glass. “He’s not gone.”
“No, Kimmy, he’s not.” She’d said these words a thousand times, and it showed. “He’ll live in your memory forever.”
Jake’s picture winked at me. I grabbed the frame and smashed it on the floor before the nurse could stop me. “He’s real!” While I knelt and pushed the shards of glass aside, the nurse crouched beside me and jammed her needle into my thigh.
“Oh, Kimmy.” The nurse sighed. From her tone, I knew she’d rolled her eyes.
I didn’t care. My blood smeared the glass, an offering for whatever would take me to Jake. I fished his picture out and clutched it to my chest. Darkness writhed around the edges of my vision and my limbs tingled.
When the nurse reached for me, I lurched away and landed on my face. Usually, everything went white. I wondered what it meant that darkness closed around me.
Strong arms wrapped around me. My body went numb. The light fled. Warm breath caressed my neck and I thought I’d sat up without noticing.
“I love you, Kim.”
“I love you too, Jake.”
Lee French has published several fantasy and superhero novels. She’s a member of the Edgewise Words Inn staff.