Paulina struggled to untangle herself from the satin sheet. Perspiration beaded along her hairline as she gulped air and flailed her limbs.
Her neighbor freed her legs and she tumbled from the bed, landing in a heap on the floor. “Did you have another nightmare?”
After several minutes, her labored breathing slowed enough for her to talk. “It wasn’t a dream. Robbie was here.”
“That’s impossible.” He stretched across the bed and rubbed her shoulder as she huddled on the ground. “Didn’t you say she died of anaphylaxis years ago?”
“She was my best friend. It was my fault,” she whispered. Whether awake or asleep, guilt always managed to worm its way into her psyche.
“You had no way of knowing the gravy contained nuts. No one could’ve guessed.”
“I need to go for a run.” Paulina scrambled to her feet and headed to the closet, her bare feet slapping on the hardwood floor. Her nightie dropped to her ankles and she pulled a sports bra over her head.
“Why don’t you come back to bed and try a different workout?”
She glanced over her shoulder. Though tempted by his teasing smile, she held firm. “I’m suffocating. I need fresh air.”
“I’ll wait right here.”
She pulled on jogging shorts and grabbed her running shoes and socks. “Maybe you should go home.” She kissed his forehead. “See ya.”
After fifteen minutes, Paulina slowed to a stroll. She fought to catch her breath. Is this how Robbie felt?
Paulina stopped and looked over her shoulder for the source of the voice. The only people around congregated near a group of children playing soccer. No one paid her any mind. She shook her head and continued to a park bench to rest.
Once seated, she leaned over and dropped her head between her knees. Her heart thudded against her breastbone with such ferocity, she half-expected the bone to crack. She tried to soothe her panic, but once again, her thoughts drifted to Robbie. Did her heart feel like it would explode?
“It hurt worse than knowing your best friend betrayed you.”
Paulina’s eyes widened.
“You pay me back in kind and reap just what you sow.”
“R-R-Robbie?” Paulina’s stomach churned and nausea crept upward. “It can’t be.” The clouds shifted, casting an ominous shadow on the ground. A prickling sensation inched up her left arm.
“I’ve waited six years, six months and six days. The man-beast promised the time would come. I’d begun to doubt and thought I’d been betrayed again, but indeed, he planted the seed of guilt and fed it until it flourished.”
“I-I couldn’t go through with our plan. It didn’t feel right.”
“We almost had it all. We could’ve had it all.”
“Robbie, I’m sorry. I feared you’d go through with it anyway, so I added crushed cashews to the gravy. It was an impulsive move that I regret.” Paulina covered her face with her hands to hide her tears. “I miss you so much!”
The sun shone through the clouds again. Paulina felt her guilt ease into a peace she hadn’t felt in years. She rested her back on the bench, lightheaded- almost giddy. She felt a pinch on her arm, followed by an intense burning sensation coursing through her veins. Her throat tightened and panic rose.
“I forgive you, but I made a deal that can’t be undone.”
Paulina tried to form words.
“Her lips are blue!” A shrill voice shouted. “Call 9-1-1!”
She felt breath slide down her throat and compressions on her chest. The sun’s brightness became more intense. For an amount of time she couldn’t gauge, she basked in the radiating heat. Then, she heard a man’s voice announce, “time of death: 8:53 AM; anaphylaxis.”
Is this how Robbie felt?
This time, she had no answer.
This is my response to the Speakeasy weekly prompt, which is to write a piece in 750 words or less (mine is 644) (1) using “The clouds shifted, casting an ominous shadow on the ground.” anywhere in the piece, AND (2) making some kind of reference to the music prompt, which is Adele’s Rolling in the Deep. Oh, and as an added challenge, it’s the last week of “family-free” writing, which means no family relationships.
The challenge is open to anyone, so if you’re curious, click the badge below to check out the guidelines and link your own story!