Breath & Shadow
Spring 2021 - Vol. 18, Issue 2
"This Fading Flower"
J. Elliott Toren
While you stand over me, pausing in this dimly lit bar, I suddenly hold forever in the palm of my hand.
I see our future.
I hear your name: Miranda. I see the child we will have together. I see you taking your own life during postpartum depression. I see myself and our little girl, forging on alone.
I see your future without me. You wither and die like a flower in the cold, sooner even than had I not sent you away. But if I choose you, I choose happiness for you, even if only for a moment.
I look at you, dark hair like spilled ink, eyes chips of summer sky, tongue softly touching upper lip, trim figure in white dress. I know you like dreams but not sleeping, that you stare at stars and wonder if life is there, that you cannot stand to see innocents hurt. You do not know what I see.
And the truth is, neither do I.
I've never felt this. Nothing of its kind has ever happened to me. It's strange--so strange. A glimpse, perhaps, of what it's like to be God? But I cannot question it. I know - know without knowing how I know - that it is true.
I think: do I want this fading flower, this breath in the eyes of eternity? Do I want the pain of losing you?
But then I think of our little girl. Sabrina, we will name her, and she will be the best thing I've ever known. She and I will know a bond unbreakable, something I've craved all my life. She will be good, she will be strong, she will be beautiful. And I will love her.
I meet your eyes and try to smile.
Will I love this fading flower for a moment before it's gone? Will I brave inconceivable pain for the sake of the life we will create? Or will I let you fall away?
For you. For her.
Or for me.
"Is this seat taken?" you ask.
And I choose.
"No." I smile and move over. "Can I buy you a drink?
J. Elliott Toren is 30 and off-the-grid. A ravenous reader of mostly science fiction, he has published two short stories. One, "The Garden," appeared in the Breath and Shadow Winter, 2020 issue. Another, "The Night Warden," appeared in the 2020 issue of The Green Blotter. Disabilities confine him, but not his imagination. Several drafts of novels, more short stories, and poetry wait in the wings for future publication.