“She came into this world screaming, you know. The nurses said that they’d never heard one scream as loud as she had.”
Marnie leaned back in her seat. She felt the faux red leather supporting her body. It was past 2am, and she was beginning to grow wary. She looked around. She looked at the plant, standing solemnly by the windowsill. She looked at the stools at the bar, standing like soldiers at attention, one after the other. She looked at the florescent sign in the window. Open, it said. Florescent lighting never did her any good. Neither did dairy, though she had chosen to leave the cheese on her sandwich. The grumbling of her stomach told her that she’d made a mistake, but it was the last thing that she cared about.
“I’m glad that you called me,” Elias said, reaching out to take Marnie’s hand. He wore a denim jacket over his rumpled band tee shirt. It was worn through on the elbows, and Marnie noticed the new pins on his pockets. It had been a long time since she’d seen him, but she hadn’t known who else to call but him. A part of her still loved him, even though things could never have worked.
“I’m sorry for waking you.”
“Really, it’s no problem. I brought some of your things.” Even after all this time, Elias kept a spare key to Marnie’s apartment. She’d been such a danger to herself before he left that he needed to be sure that he could get to her if need be. He still loved her too, in a sense.
Marnie looked out the window and onto the street. Glistening with raindrops, the pavement shone under the streetlights as if it had been painted just so for her enjoyment. She loved the rain. She loved the smell it brought. She loved the constant rat-tat-tat on the skylight in her apartment. She loved the lonely charm of it all. She sighed, looking back at Elias.
“I got to look at her hands before they took her away. I’ve never seen something so wonderful in my life. She had these tiny fingernails – can you believe that? Fingernails. What was so remarkable, though, was the age. They were so wrinkled that I could’ve mistaken them for an old woman’s if I hadn’t seen them myself. I know you don’t believe in this stuff, and I know you’re going to think I’m crazy, but I don’t think that this was her first time here. Maybe she just wasn’t ready to be back yet.”
“I believe you. I’m sure I would’ve felt the same way.” He squeezed her hand, wanting desperately to reassure her. He knew that he may never see her again, and this was the best he could do.
“They were going to name her Evangeline, after June’s grandmother. A few weeks ago, I’d knitted a sweater with the name on it. It’s still in my living room,” she paused to gaze once more out the window and sip at her water. “I just don’t understand how it’s possible to be here and then not be. She was here. I heard her from the other room, and just like that, she was gone.”
“Were you alone?”
“Jack was there, but he was too busy working to notice anything. Even when everyone started running. I swear, some people never stop to notice anything, even when they need to.” She was crying now, tears trickling down the left side of her face. She thought of June. June. June, who she had known her whole life, who had always wanted to be a mother. She was 19 when she had decided on the name, Evangeline, and 22 when the little girl began to grow. No, she hadn’t meant for it to be so early, but she decided she could love her just the same. Her father had built a crib out of oak, and her mother stitched blankets from old clothes. It wasn’t much, but it would be enough for Evangeline.
“I should be going soon,” Marnie said, tilting her head as she looked at Elias. “I’m sorry.”
“I’ll miss you.” He began pulling things from his satchel; a blue sweater that she always wore, an envelope full of money that she had been afraid to put in the bank, and a box that held the watch from her grandfather. He set the items on the table, one by one, and Marnie began to collect them.
“I love you, E. Thank you.”
She stood up, and began to walk towards the door, passing the stool-shaped soldiers at the bar and the lonely house plant. She turned around to look at Elias once more, with his square glasses, blonde curly hair, and striking blue eyes.
“It never ceases to amaze me that in a world of 7 billion people, not a single one can slow down, even for a second. I don’t want to be a human being if that’s what it means to be one.”
With that, she was gone. Elias sat comatose in the red faux leather booth. He remembered all of the reasons he had left. He remembered all of the reasons that he’d kept her key. All reasons led to him answering the phone in the middle of the night. She needed others, though she’d never admit it. Marnie loved hard and fast, but she never stayed long.
With a jolt, he remembered Emma, who could have woken in the night to an empty bed. He stood; he didn’t want to keep her waiting.