I write fiction every now and then. This (very) short story came out well I thought.
Last year was the same as all the years before: when I woke up on June 14th, she was there beside me in bed. She looked fantastic. Her hair, shoulder length and dark, looked as if it had been professionally arranged on the pillow. Her scent was just noticeable, a slight hint of lilac. Her mouth naturally formed a slight pout in her sleep, and her full lips begged to be kissed.
I obliged by kissing her. She stirred, then opened her eyes and smiled. She stretched as she said sleepily, “Happy anniversary, tiger.”
“Happy anniversary yourself. What would you like for breakfast? It’s on me.”
She laughed lightly, not because it was funny but to let me know that after many years she still loved me enough to laugh at my tired jokes. “The usual: eggs and bacon please.”
I got up and went to the kitchen to make them for her. I had considered changing that part, since it held bad memories, but I just couldn’t do it. She had to be true to herself — as true as possible given the circumstances.
After breakfast, we spent the day together. We hiked up to Pilot Rock with a picnic lunch. We ate in silence, but afterward she asked, “How’s your work?”
“Fine. The new experience is coming along nicely.”
“What kind is it?”
“Sort of an adventure/drama. Of course you can never know for sure, but the people who’ve tried the prototypes come out of it with that wide-eyed look that says they’ve seen something that really grabbed them. I think it will do well.”
“That’s great. When do I get to try it?” Okay, so I changed some things. Sue me.
“You really want to? You never did before.”
“You’ve worked so hard. I ought to at least give it a shot. If I don’t like it I can always drop out, right?”
“Of course.” The whole exchange rang false, as usual when I changed something. I wouldn’t be doing that agan.
We walked back after lunch holding hands. The sunlight cast dark highlights in her hair, and her eyes sparkled with life. I almost couldn’t stand it, she was so beautiful. After some small talk about the summer weather, she turned to me slightly and asked in a low voice, “Have you found someone?” I really should fix that, but each time I tinker, I end up frustrated.
“No, of course not. I love you.”
“Even so, you should find someone. This can’t go on forever.”
“Maybe not, but I’m not ready for it to end yet.”
That night I made her favorite fried chicken for dinner. Again, the bitter truth wasn’t lost on me. I almost cried when I served it to her, but it was her favorite, what else could I do? While we ate, I made a point of telling her I loved her. I said it at least a dozen times over the course of the day. I wasn’t going to make the same mistake twice, that’s for sure.
Later we fell asleep in each others’ arms. In the morning, she was gone as if she were never there.
There’s nothing illegal about bringing her back. It’s uncommon, but I’m not the only one. Still, everyone else I know of went all the way — they reintegrate the duplicate into their lives, and after some time everyone looks the other way and treats the duplicate like it was the original.
It’s not, though. There’s no record of what her mind contained the day years of omelettes and fried foods caught up with her. That was long ago, before recordings. Her mind is just my best guess. My idealized version of the truth, perhaps. She’s a memory — a walking, talking memory — better than a regular memory, and at the same time much, much worse.
I can’t lie. I can’t pretend it’s her when it’s not. But I can’t give her up either. It’s been almost eighty years, and I can’t let go. It’s late June 13th, time for bed, and I can almost smell the lilac. I know what I’ll find when I wake up tomorrow.