A searing pain shoots through my leg. A sense of fear and dread overwhelms me as the shooters close the distance between us. I inch my way toward the portal, blood soaking through my jeans and slicking the floor. What are they waiting for? They probably want to coax Tom and the rest of the immunes out of the portal. I have a feeling though that once you go in, you can never come back out. If only Tom had left his bomb here with me, I could’ve blown this whole place up and saved all of them. My hand is barely skimming the portal now. Just one more scooch.
Tom calls out to me: Teresa, what’s going on?
Me: I got shot and they’re coming-
Tom: I’ll try to come through.
Me: No! I don’t want you and the others to get hurt.
Tom: I can’t leave you.
Me: Yes, you can. Start a new life without me.
Tom: You have always been a part of my life and I need you now.
Me: I have to try and destroy the portal. Can you get that bomb through?
Tom: I’m trying, but-
Me: There’s no time.
Tom: I love you.
I freeze, heartbroken that things have to end this way and shocked that he said those words. I don’t want to die, but I want to do the right thing and protect my friends. Maybe I can do both. With my last remaining energy, I throw myself at the portal. Another bullet is fired. Burning fire convulses me. Everything suddenly gets very dizzy. Did I make it?
I made it, and least I think I did. I don’t hear any more shots fired, just the sound of waves lapping up on a shore. I must be dead. Beaches don’t exist anymore after the Flare. They were all dried up. My eyes slowly open to a blinding light. It’s the sun. I never thought the sun could appear so peaceful. Sand is beneath me, but it’s cooled. The sand sticks to my clothes like glue. I feel comforted. This must be heaven. I try standing up, but someone rushes to my side, laying me back down into their arms. My eyes have finally adjusted to the harsh sunlight. My mind must be playing tricks on me.
“Is that really you, Tom?”
“Yes, everything is okay.”
“Don’t worry about it.”
“But, was anyone hurt?”
“No one we need to care about.”
I sigh, somewhat satisfied with his answer. Nothing that bad could’ve happened if he’s saying everything is okay.
“I want to forget all this and live,” I say.
“But you are living.”
“Literally yes, but not living a real life, like with real experiences.”
“Oh,” Tom replies.
“Before my mom got sick she showed me photo albums of one of my great-great-great-great-great grandmothers.”
“She went to school and went to dances. She played sports and played instruments. Her biggest problem was remembering to make her bed in the morning.”
“That sounds like a dream.”
“It’s a dream I want, but I’m too late.”
“I’m sorry,” Tom says.
“Everything that happened to us.”
We sit like that, drowning our happy thoughts with thoughts of how we wasted the young years of our lives.
Tom speaks up, “But now we have a chance to write our own story.”
“What do you plan to do first?” I ask, curious.
Tom gets down on one knee, “Teresa, will you go on a date with me?”
“Uh...I don’t know what to say.”
“Yes, I would love to.”
“Great, I’ll pick you up in an hour.”
“What am I supposed to do until then?”
“I don’t know. Comb your hair or something. This is going to be special.”
A smile bursts onto my face, my eyes twinkling with happiness. Tom retreats to a tent where I assume the others are resting. I have an hour. I can’t believe it. I’m going on a date! Giddiness smothers me. My dream is coming true! I run to the ocean and throw myself into the salty water. I open my eyes underwater and it stings, but I’ve never felt more alive. I see a fish and my jaw drops down in wonder. It is striped red and white with big eyes. I swallow some water before I reach the surface for a breath. I remind myself I need to get ready for my date. I trudge out of the water even though I wish I could stay there forever among my new fish friend. My drenched hair is knotted with sand stuck deep in my roots. I start to comb it out with my fingers. After a painful time of ripping out the impossible knots to make my hair look decent, the sun is already setting. Tom will be here soon. I am dry, which is a step in the right direction because the sand no longer clings to me. I tie the bottom half of my filthy and worn shirt so that it fits like a crop top. I accept defeat with my jeans. Maybe I can borrow something from one of the guys. Before heading to the tent, I take the knife out of my jeans and throw it out into the ocean, watching as it submerges and disappears forever. I wish it was that easy to throw away a part of my life.
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