BackWash

By CJ Adler All Rights Reserved ©

Romance

The Saints and the Sinner

My heart feels so heavy. Breathing isn’t natural to me anymore. I have to keep reminding myself that I’m still alive.

Everything feels empty.

I feel empty.

It’s been a week since the accident. I’m still here. But Brent, he’s not. He’s gone. His soul is resting. He’s left me.

I’m completely alone now and the worst part is knowing it.

I glance at the red sun setting over the glistening ocean just over the horizon. Brent’s gone past the horizon as Stella predicted. She knew we’d all reach the horizon eventually. But I didn’t suspect Brent to leave so soon. He had always been my life jacket in this thunderous storm of living, of surviving. But I hold onto the comfort that he’s free from the barrier of life. He doesn’t have to live in this cruel world anymore. He can finally sleep. He’s joined Matt.

A dark shadow falls across my position on the golden sea sand. I gaze up to see a seagull flying above me, fighting relentlessly - effortlessly - against the strong winds being thrown off the ocean as if worthless.

It’s almost as if ‘life’ is reminding me that no one cares.

The day is hot, blazing. The sun is blood red, radiating it’s heat on this fine summer’s day. The blue ocean sparkles and reflects the sun. The shore seems to have more color than usual, almost as if I’m treading over a soft golden carpet. There’s even these damn seagulls living to the fullest, taking on the wind beneath their wings, literally.

And then there’s me, sitting here on a beautiful day, remembering that my only friend in life is now dead.

Brent was right that night. He was done. He is done. His fight is over, whilst my fight still continues to torment and plague me with cruel nightmares of the countless memories I once shared with someone special, with someone who loved me - Brent.

Point being, ‘life’ doesn’t care that Brent is dead.

If ‘life’ cared, it would be a stormy day. The ocean waves would be rough when crashing up against the shore. The dull, wet sand would fly up and sting painfully. The sun wouldn’t be out. The sun would hide it’s face behind clouds of tearful mourning - the rain pelting down heavily from above.

In the past, if I dared stumble in life, Brent would be there to catch me and lift me back up. I keep reaching out for his warm smooth hand, even if it’s to feel it for the last time, only to find nothing but suffocating air and absolute coldness.

His face haunts me, his eyes follow me. I see him in everything now.

In my dreams, I keep searching for those emerald green eyes accompanied by that dazzling smile that seemed to revive my spirits, only to come up short. His last expression is tainted - imprinted - into my mind, torturing my thoughts with the vivid image. He had a hopeful expression as he had waited for my answer - one that I didn’t even give. If he died with my answer I’d have more peace and acceptance in letting him go. But Brent didn’t know what my answer was. He died wondering. He died not knowing that I cared.

I stretch my legs out before me on the soft sand, dwelling back to that damned night that destroyed everything I adored, everything precious to me, everything I loved, and all because I created such a scene that he had no other choice but to pull over and try to rekindle our friendship.

It’s my fault he’s not sitting beside me right now.

A week ago:

I glance up at him, taking in his precious green eyes and the hopeful expression lit upon his face, ready to give my final answer. But then I see a blinding light coming from Brent’s side at an alarming speed. My mouth falls shut as I blink and squint a little to readjust my vision, confused. Then like a bucket of ice cold water, it hits me. “Brent!” I scream in panic as I try to warn him to move.

An ear splitting sound is all I’m able to make out as a massive truck swerves right into Brent’s side. Glass shatters around us on impact as a result.

The car shakes and skids roughly across the pavement before coming to a complete halt against the wall of a building, sending the both of us almost flying out the windscreen, the truck still tightly embedded in Brent’s side of the car.

I come back to my senses. Immediately, I move toward the unconscious form before me.

There’s blood everywhere and it’s not mine.

I have relived this scene before…Matt.

I’m not letting this happen again.

I try speaking to him to see if he’s responsive, “Brent?” I say right into his ear, blocking out the picture of dark scarlet liquid running down his head. “Brent!” I raise my tone.

No answer.

I swallow, terrified. I push back the wave of nausea clawing it’s way out the pits of my stomach and force my hand to his bloodied neck, trying to feel for a pulse.

But all I get is a hand tainted with blood along with an extremely weak pulse.

He’s dying.

That’s where the adrenalin kicks in as I begin to panic, unable to open my door since my side is wedged in against the wall we had hit upon stopping.

“Somebody help!” I shout as I try search for my phone, suddenly remembering that I’d left it at home.

This isn’t happening.

Then just when I think things can’t get any worse, a small fire breaks out in the front half of the car. The fuel tank has burst into flames from the violent impact. This car is about to blow!

Frantically, I search around for a way out. The truck driver is gone, leaving his vehicle behind. There’s no one to help. Brent’s life is in my hands.

I place my feet upon the windscreen, kicking with much force as possible until finally the glass gives way and clashes down into the car.

Hearing the ambulance siren in the background, not far from here, lights a flame of hope from within.

Feeling newfound strength, I reach out and grab hold of Brent’s upper arm, pulling with all my might so as to get him out this car before it explodes. The flames are already nipping away at our flesh and it’s excruciating. The only glass protecting us from the harsh flame has just been kicked out. But I had to do it. It’s the only way out. And I need an out.

Brent’s muscular frame stays put, rooted in his pained position.

I’m not strong enough.

I try again, pulling with everything I have before his neck collapses limply onto his chest. I let out a gulp of terror as my eyes trail down only to see it now: A large shard of glass is dug deeply into his chest.

Immediately, almost on instinct, my hand takes hold of his, searching for a pulse. His weak pulse indicates that he’s still alive. I need him to stay with me. But this time upon checking, I retrieve back scarlet hand with absolutely nothing - no pulse.

“Brent!” I shout, begging him to come back to me, despite my heart knowing that he’s already gone.

I stay put, trapped in a trance, as I keep trying to revive my friend. But then I wake up from it all when I’m yanked out of the car by men with strong grips on me.

The ambulance is here.

I struggle against their force as I try to get back to the vehicle that now resembled anything but a car. “Brent!” I shout, reaching back out to the car, “I have to save him. I won’t let him die! I can’t!” I shout in an ear-piercing voice unrecognizable to even myself.

They simply ignore me, pulling me further from the wreck of flames that now - no doubt - eats away at Brent’s skin. No one seems to care. No one is even making the effort to save him.

“He’s gone. He’s gone,” a voice keeps telling me, but I’m so out of it that I can’t register the meaning behind the words ‘he’s gone’.

Not everyone can be saved. Matt couldn’t be saved, but Brent, he can be saved. They have to help him!

“Please!” I let out a sob, grovelling and begging with all my soul.

My cries fall on deaf ears as my pleas are headed.

I’m forced to watch as the car finally erupts into a fiery, gruesome explosion. I’m left painfully breathless and terrified as a result.

“No!” I shout as it hits hard home. I’ve watched too many people I love leave me.

Brent was still in there. If he wasn’t dead before, he definitely is now.

After that, the tears began to spill out uncontrollably.

I even have to be restrained from returning to the car - the burning pit of hell that stole my friend’s life.

It hurts thinking about it. It’s only been a week since the funeral.

His parents had cried. My mom had cried. His friends had cried. Logan had cried. I had cried. Of course I cried. I cried so much that I was sure I’d be weeping blood soon.

No one knows that he had proposed to me just before he died, not even his parents. I cried harder for that reason alone. I didn’t get the chance to give him an answer. He deserved an answer and I was too selfish to just give him.

A couple days later, four days ago to be precise, I got an unexpected phone call.

“Is this Gabriela Hill?” A voice asks me over the phone in a professional-like tone.

“Yes it is.” I answer back truthfully, flatly. I haven’t been coping well.

“This is Brent’s lawyer. Could you meet me at my office immediately. I have something urgent to discuss with you.”

He gave me the address and I was there in a flash, wondering if there were any legal problems going on in the back scenes.

His office was spacious and neat. He sat me down after having greeted me. “What is this meeting regarding?” I ask, skeptical and worried.

I don’t need legal trouble on top of it all.

He shakes his head as if sensing my thoughts, “No legal trouble. This matter is regarding Brent’s will.”

I furrow my eyebrows. Then why’d he call me? “What of it?”

He sucks in a breath before handing me a document.

I read the writing on the doc before me. My breath leaves me, my hands trembling in disbelief. I cannot quite fathom what it is that I’m reading.

How could Brent have done this? Why the hell would he do this?

“His wealth, his personal belongings, his home - he left everything to you.” Brent’s lawyer informs me.

I shake my head as my eyes begin to water with a newfound respect for my deceased friend, “Why would he do that?” I ask in a choked off voice, finding this extremely difficult to understand.

His lawyer shrugs, “I don’t know. But maybe you do.”

The ring.

The proposal.

Brent thought I was going to be his wife.

The traitorous tears now spill over all the more as it strikes me in the heart painfully. I could have had a future with Brent as his fiance - if I’d said yes and if he hadn’t left me. He was so certain that I’d be his. If only I’d given him my bloody answer in time. After all he’s left for me, he at least deserved a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’. I’ll never be able to move past that.

“I can’t accept this.” I say, shaking my head, pushing the documents back, refusing to sign them. “It should all go to his family.”

“His family doesn’t want any of it. They want you to have it all because that’s what Brent would have wanted. Besides, he left everything to you in his will. You’re legally entitled to it all.”

I may be entitled to it, but I sure as hell don’t deserve it.

I shake my head, “I’m sorry, but I can’t sign this.”

I had cried only to come back to sign it days later when Brent’s family had begged me to accept Brent’s will in respect of him, to honor his will and last wish.

And now, now I’m stuck with loots of money, loads of his belongings and his house - but not him.

I’ve put his money aside in a trust fund for the meantime. I plan on using it for something meaningful, something that was important to Brent. It would have to wait for now.

As for his belongings, I just haven’t’ had the heart, nor the courage to step inside his empty house and go trough all of his things.

The wound is too fresh.

I can’t do it right now.

Maybe not ever.

This is the first day I’ve left my room in days. My mother has been extremely worried about me. I’d be lying if I said things were getting better, easier.

I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to move on now.

I glance back down at the purple velvet box in my hands nostalgically. I have been clutching it all the while since I arrived here at the beach front. It’s smudged and stained with droplets of Brent’s blood. It’s the last thing Brent gave me. I haven’t been able to separate from it since. I take it everywhere with me as a reminder.

But I don’t ever open the box. I can’t. It will crush me. I keep it closed and it will stay closed until one day I feel strong enough to see what’s on the inside. If that day ever comes…I’d just have to wait and see.

“Didn’t think you’d be here, ever,” a cool detached voice says when I hear the heavy trudging of feet through sand.

My eyes snap up to find blue eyes zeroed in on me.

Chase

Immediately I hide the velvet box from his view, placing it in the golden sand beside me for the meantime until he decided to leave - shouldn’t be long. I don’t want an interrogation. I am currently too weak for it and no doubt if Chase had seen the box, he’d ask questions. He’s always been the inquisitive type. He doesn’t let things go easily - something we have in common.

I don’t say anything back, instead I merely shrug in return, surprised that he is even speaking to me.

I don’t miss the dark rings under his sea blue eyes, nor his crooked frown, nor his emotionless eyes, nor the alcohol bottle in his right hand.

I see it all.

He’s been drinking, but I can tell that’s he still with it. He’s still sober. He’s far from being drunk. He’s never been a lightweight. He only drinks when he’s upset.

Without another word, Chase mindlessly takes a seat in the patch of golden sand beside me. I notice that he doesn’t sit too close or too far.

But what counts most to me, is that he’s here.

He takes a swig of his alcohol before leaning forward, his gaze set on the waves developing some distance away, “Life has a funny way of screwing you over. ‘Life’ likes to play around with you. You believe that you’re going down a path and you spend several years walking it, sure that you’re going down the right way. But then all of a sudden, unexpectedly, you come across a dead end. It proves to be the most giant obstacle of all. ‘Life’ reminds you that you’re not in control. Fate is. You’re tugged off your path - your journey - and forced to start a new one, to go in the opposite direction.”

I listen to his words, caught off guard. The Chase I use to know was never capable of being this deep. Never.

“Brent was…” Chase trails off, keeping his gaze set on the sea and the colorful sunset before us. “He was one of the good ones.” Chase admits, despite his bitterness he always held for Brent.

For some reason, his words bring some sort of reassurance and comfort to me. His words are kind and his tone warm.

“There are only two types of people in this word, the saints and the sinners. It seems like all the saints are being taken up, leaving all us sinners behind to suffer. And hell do we deserve it. Brent and Matt are better off in heaven than here with us on earth.”

It’s the first time he’s mentioned Matt without this turning into a full blown argument.

He manages to bring me to tears all over again. His words are beautiful. He makes me feel something that no one has ever made me feel - he makes me feel better about Matt and Brent not being here anymore. He makes me feel better about being alone.

Chase doesn’t take notice of my tears, nor my silence as he glances my way with a hardened stare, “Brent, Matt, they’re all saints. They may not be with you physically, but truth is, they’ll always be with you in your memories, your dreams, your wishes…the hope you hold.”

I nod meekly, agreeing, thankful for his words of wisdom.

He gets up after that and dusts himself off.

I’m sure he’s about to leave without so much as a goodbye - like always, but he catches me by surprise when he shoots me a look filled with strong determination, hope. He hesitates for a second before whispering in immense conviction, “You’re one of the saints, Gabby.”

And before I can process it all, he’s gone.

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