as if the sun,
so far from you
Tick-tock. Tick-tock. The rhythmic sound reverberated in Lily Holliway's head. On the fringes of consciousness, she flinched from the noise in her dream.
Her husband, Gabriel, sat on an outcropping of rock. Desert sand spindrift played around him. An army-issued helmet shielded his eyes from the unyielding sun beating down on the barren earth. An M4 rifle lay across his knees, his suntanned, right index finger curled on the trigger—just in case. Gabe looked straight at Lily, stone-faced and unflinching, as though waiting for her to dream the same ending again tonight. The image flickered like a silent, black and white movie.
She rolled onto her back. In her subconscious state, the word no pulsed in time with the ticking clock. She covered her eyes with her arm, falsely shielding them from the horrible sights and sounds that visited her almost every night.
The ticking grew louder.
"No. Gabe, move!"
She was helpless to alter the outcome; the nightmare unfolded. "No, Gabe, please move out of the way."
The words tumbled from her lips. Her breaths came in short huffs and then stopped. Her body stilled for the denouement.
The vision of Gabe pixilated and dropped to the ground like a curtain of rain.
Limbs flailing, Lily awoke. Oxygen surged into her body in a huge, life-affirming gasp. She shot straight up in bed.
"Gabriel! Oh, my god, Gabe. Why? Why you? Gabe . . ." Sobs wracked her body. She buried her face in her hands and grieved.
"Gabe." His name was a wail, a pitiful plea from a heartsick wife. She fisted her hands in her short hair and tugged with frustration. "Why? Why did you have to die?"
She fell against her bed pillows, anguish twisting her soul like a fatted calf on a spit. Tears, soaked with pain, streamed down her face. And when there were no more to shed, she wiped her face with the sleeve of her cotton nightgown. There'd be more tomorrow, and the next day.
After flinging the drenched garment into the hamper, Lily took a washcloth and dabbed her swollen eyes with cool water. She stared at her forlorn reflection in the mirror, wondering how many more days and weeks would pass before this inexorable ache would ease.
She didn't recognize the pale, hollow-cheeked woman gazing back at her. The almond-shaped eyes formerly sparkling with life were dull, the color of warm chocolate. She ran a finger over her lips. They used to part so easily into a smile. A grim line seemed indelibly etched there now.
Bracing her hands on the bathroom vanity, Lily took a cleansing breath. She closed her eyes and shook her head knowing time would heal this wound. How and when, she had no idea. She was along for the ride. The dreadful, exhausting, excruciating ride