• Zoe Kerr

Short Fiction Friday: THE OPPOSITE OF ORPHEUS



The problem with saying goodbye isn’t the act itself. Saying the word is easy. Feeling your tongue move from back to front and your lips purse with every consonant is simple.

The real effort comes from looking out the window to avoid saying it directly to the recipient. Unclicking your seat-belt. Picking up your purse from the floor. Opening the car door and closing it without slamming because you know how that annoys him. Realizing you may never annoy him again. Wondering if that’s a blessing or a curse. Picking up your legs, suddenly filled with bricks and lead at the heels, and dragging them one at a time away from the future you had cherished for seven years. That’s the difficult part. That’s the problem.

If anyone had told me how difficult the goodbye would eventually be, how caustic the word would taste and how high-pitched my voice would become as it tripped over two syllables, I may not have said hello to him in the first place seven years ago. I would have kept walking, congratulated my childhood best friend on her engagement, and then headed for the booze. I would have settled for someone else eventually. Not this guy—this man—who would grow and grow to occupy every space in my life, like a toxic mold smothering me in my bed in the dead of night. This person who took every terrible thing in my life, every horrible, rotten thing, and spun it to gold. How dare he. How could he? And the promises he made…

He told me one night that he would do anything for me. It quickly became a game between us, a morbid interrogation that always ended with us naked and grinning.

“I’d do anything for you, sweetheart,” He would proclaim.

“Would you buy me a pony?” I’d respond, smirking.

“What color?”

And we would kiss.

“I’d do anything for you, sweetheart,” He would proclaim.

“Would you kill a man?” I’d respond, not paying attention.

“How would you like him to die?”

And I would laugh, and we would kiss.

The night before, after I put all of my things in storage and gave my mother the key, he held me to his chest and said those words once again.

“I’d do anything for you, sweetheart,” He whispered.

“Would you forget about me?” I asked, hopeful.

He stiffened before rolling over and falling asleep. I went to the bathroom to cry.

“I’d do anything for you, sweetheart.”

I tried to forget those words as I shook the bricks from my toes and made my way toward the prison’s entrance. It didn’t look like the futuristic fascist headquarters I had seen in countless movies and television shows. It didn’t look like much of anything, truth be told. We almost drove past it, it was so devoid of character. If I had to compare it to anything, it resembled my alma mater’s Student Affairs building, all square and squat, with a bland exterior paint job somewhere between beige and orange.

If he’d asked me about my past on that first night, between furtive glances and shy smiles, I would have lied. I wouldn’t have mentioned my past, how lost I was and how desperate I was for a family, no matter how dangerous they were. I would have said something coy like, “I’d tell you about my life, but then I’d have to kill you,” complete with waggling eyebrows to show I wasn’t at all serious even though I definitely was.

I’d hoped he would take my goodbye as a gift, as I imagined it wrapped in brown onion-skin paper with a red twine holding it all together. Before he could respond and unload all the love I detected in his eyes, the stuff that ensnared me that first night when I was so scared and alone, I was gone.

“I’d do anything for you, sweetheart.”

You’ve already done everything.

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