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The World Ended With Her Last Breath

by Garry Hill about a year ago in Short Story
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The End Comes From Within

As he sat in the driver's seat of his pickup, Jeff took slow shallow breaths. His eyes struggled to focus as he stared at the empty passenger seat. He would never see Pam’s beautiful smile radiating from that spot ever again. He would no longer hear her nag about his fast driving or the way he would tailgate slow drivers just before he changed lanes and sped passed them. Pam would never assume control of the radio stations again. Sometimes he would get irritated when she would change the station in the middle of a song he liked. But, now that was one of the things he would miss the most. His other half, his better half was gone and he has no idea how he will be able to go on without her. For the past twenty years, she was the right side of his brain. She completed his thoughts and filled in the blanks of so many things he would forget. How can he live, much less breathe without her?

People grow up with this ill conceived notion that finding your soulmate and marriage itself is about romance and some fairytale life. But, that’s not what it’s about at all. Of course, there is romance and physical attraction in the beginning. But finding your soulmate and the secret to a lifelong marriage is so much deeper than that. Being in love is one thing but knowing how to love and respect your soulmate as your lover, your best friend and your equal are the keys.

Jeff definitely loved and respected Pam as all those things. Not many guys can say they enjoy kissing their hunting and fishing buddy, but Jeff sure did. Not once in twenty years could he ever recall them going to bed angry with each other. They hardly even had disagreements and when they did the issues were worked out quickly. Pam didn’t always agree with Jeff but she always supported him.

He closed his eyes and let his memory drift off to their first date. Jeff remembered he was so nervous and soon as he saw her in the parking lot of the mall his nerves were more on edge. She was gorgeous with her light brown hair blowing in the Texas breeze as she got out of her 94' Toyota Corolla. They had agreed to meet at the mall and watch a movie because Pam wasn't about to have a stranger pick her up at her house.

Jeff walked up to her car and introduced himself and shook her hand. Pam was pleasantly surprised because most guys try to give a hug right off the bat. But, that wasn’t Jeff’s style at all. He was polite but quiet in a shy but confident way. It was a change from the usual jerks and Pam actually loved it.

They walked into the mall and window shopped a little, as they still had about 30 minutes before the movie started. As they walked through the corridor and glanced at the different stores, Pam stopped at one of the kiosks in the middle of the hallway and admired the jewelry they had on display. There was a small golden heart pendant hanging on a necklace that she held for a moment and then she walked away without saying a word. Their date went smooth and many dates followed afterward.

On their six month anniversary of dating, Jeff stopped by the mall and purchased the heart pendant necklace that Pam had admired for a split second on their first date. He then went home and trimmed out a picture they had taken together in one of those photo booths at the mall and he carefully placed it inside the heart pendant. That evening he gave it to Pam and she wore it everyday for the past twenty years. The necklace was no longer the original because it broke about eleven years ago and Jeff replaced it but the golden heart and photo inside were the same ones he gave her twenty years before.

As Jeff sat in the truck and continued to reminisce , he reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out Pam’s necklace and wrapped it over his rear view mirror. The golden heart locket listened as the summer sun beat down on it. Jeff reached for the locket and opened it so Pam would occasionally smile at him as the heart twisted and turned.

Then he started up the pickup and continued to sit still as the truck idled in the hospital parking lot. As a child, Jeff loved reading books and watching movies about the apocalypse or doomsday. He always tried to imagine how it would be. But , he never imagined it would be like this.

There was no war, no famine, no riots. In fact everyone was going about their daily lives as if nothing happened. Yet, Jeff’s life has just been turned upside down and his heart has been ripped out his chest. His main reason for living was now gone. His whole world was taken away by COVID.

His other half was gone but he could not give up because his children and future grandbaby were still counting on him. They would need him now more than ever. Jeff gently caught the swinging locket in his hand and kissed it. As he released it he said, “You would have made a great grandma baby. I don’t know how I’m going to do this without you.” He let the static of the radio play instead of searching for a station as he shifted the truck into gear and headed home.

Dedicated to my friend Jeff and his late wife Pam.

Short Story

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Garry Hill

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