I threw it on the ground and burst into tears.
Why now? I wondered as the tears blurred my vision. Why had he waited until today to let me know?
I stared bleakly at the box lying at my feet. With shaking hands, I wiped the tears from my face and bent down to pick it up. It was small and square and wrapped neatly with a red ribbon. I wasn’t sure I wanted to open it, but I tugged on the ribbon nonetheless, and then gingerly lifted the lid.
Inside lay a miniature human heart, perfect in every detail. I knew right away it was Kevin’s, rendered from the 3-D image the hospital had taken when he’d gone for the MRA in his late teens. The doctors weren’t sure how the hole in his heart had gone unnoticed for so long, but its discovery had dashed Kevin’s hopes of playing professional soccer.
He’d pursued a career in medicine instead. That was how we’d met, in a first year chemistry course. I thought it was fitting but I don’t think Kevin really noticed.
There was a lot that Kevin didn’t notice. But of course he did notice Chloe. Everyone noticed her. She was like a bright, shining star. Her strawberry blonde hair spilled like spun gold over her shoulders and her green eyes sparkled with life. Her laugh was like music from the heavens and there wasn’t an item of clothing that she didn’t look stunning in. She swept into Kevin’s world and blocked out the sun.
I was like the Little Mermaid, voiceless and in love with a man who loved someone else.
There was a hole in my heart too, but there wasn’t a medical scan on the planet that could detect it. And every day it grew a little bigger, demanding more, like a tiny black hole. Every time Chloe smiled it raged, every time Kevin kissed her it clawed at my insides, shrieking to be released.
I fed the hole with alcohol and one-night-stands, but still it grew. I threw myself into school, earning top marks and my choice of residency upon graduation, but still it grew. I smiled at their wedding and even made a toast, but still the hole in my heart threatened to swallow me whole.
When I got the news of Chloe’s death, I was stunned, but the hole in my heart felt smaller that day.
I waited for Kevin to notice how I took care of him after she was gone. I helped him with the funeral arrangements, watered her plants, sorted through her clothing and jewellery, dealt with paperwork and prying eyes. I fed him and dragged him out into sunshine and fresh air. Slowly, he came back to life. And I was sure my turn was finally coming.
When he started to talk about a new love, the black hole inside me ripped free. It couldn’t imagine sitting on the sidelines, watching him fall in love again. It didn’t know he had a plan, but it was all there in his letter. I was his new love, the friend that had been beside him for so long, the woman who had saved his life and pulled him back from the brink. He wanted to give me his heart, and so he’d had this pendant made, a gesture of how he felt that meant more to me than he could ever know.
I held Kevin’s miniature heart in my hands and the tears started again.
Why had he waited to tell me?
I turned and looked at his body, lying broken on the floor. The poison had acted swiftly, draining his life almost instantly. I lowered myself slowly onto the couch. Blood raged in my ears, as the blackness in my heart swept up and over me, strangling my tears to finally take its place at the helm.
This is my submission for this week’s Speakeasy challenge #96. Submissions must be under 1000 words and must begin with the following line: I threw it on the ground and burst into tears.
In addition, submissions must reference the photo prompt, which is the following image: