Cara Michaels’ Picture Choice: 1
I sit on the bench by the lake. Alone. As is my practice for days when the weather cooperates. Sometimes when it doesn’t cooperate, too.
Today the morning fog hasn’t quite lifted. A drifting mist still softens the edges of everything. Even me. The sun is just rising, and the hue of the world lets go of the night to embrace the cool colors of dawn. On the water, I hear birds splashing about, offering sleepy morning greetings to each other.
The nightmares woke me again. The ones you used to banish with your words and your touch. Memories of war and death I can’t seem to let go. I’m home now, wondering how I can see this green, damp place and still think of endless sand and blinding, burning sunlight. I breathe deep, drawing in the tang of saturated plants and earth.
My left hand rests on the empty half of the wooden slats of the seat. Hard. Cold. Damn thing is uncomfortable. My mouth twitches at the edges, the passing thought of a smile. I imagine sitting here with you. I wonder if you would smile too. If you would tease me out of my melancholy.
My doctor tells me you’re a part of me, a manifestation of my mind. Just a symptom of PTSD. I humor him and agree. Aren’t I a logical and cooperative patient?
I think I know better than ever, though. You are real. Because you didn’t fade away over the course of time and treatment. You vanished. Between one dream and the next. You left behind an empty space, like my soul or heart has been hollowed out. I don’t know how to fill myself up again, to be whole.
In this world, the one everyone insists is real and deserving of my attention, I don’t know how to find you. And I can’t shake the idea something happened to you.
I miss you.
My fingers slip between the slats, wrapping hard around the wood.
Come back to me, I whisper in my mind, the only place I’ve ever talked with you. Please come back to me.
I want you right next to me.
I sit on the bench by the lake. I close my eyes and slip into dreams.
I don’t want to be alone anymore.
Cara Michaels is the author of the Gaea’s Chosen sci-fi romance series and host of the #MenageMonday flash fiction challenge.