Lyla sat rugged up in front of the television. She stared intently at the screen, even though nothing was playing. It was a habit turned routine that she struggled to break. It had once been their habit turned routine, but that was before… before it happened.
It had been over a year now. One fifth of the time they’d known each other, a third of the time they’d spent living together, and half the time they’d been engaged. Nothing in that year had changed about their apartment, she dared not move a fly on the wall, for this was how they’d organised it. It reminded her of him, and that was all she had now.
It happened on the eve of his thirtieth birthday. She’d organised a surprise party for him, so when he came home, he could count down to the big three ‘o’ surrounded by everyone who loved him. Only he never made it home.
A drunk driver.
That’s all it took.
That’s all it needed.
In a split second the light of her life had been switched off.
She’d spent months crying, and months more praying that she’d wake up from this living nightmare. But reality was as kind as an abattoir, as each day she was forced to walk another mile without him.
The first time she left the apartment for leisure had been the hardest. She barely made it five minutes in the Uber that was taking her to her friends. They’d gone everywhere together, it felt wrong. She’d broken down in the car, sniffling for the driver to return home. She snuggled up in one of his hoodies and fell asleep to a blank screen and eyes flooded in tears. It took a few attempts, but eventually she made it to her friend’s house. The wasted Uber trips had taken its toll on her bank account, but she wasn’t yet ready to drive.
She’d done well for most of the evening, though she could see her friends treading lightly around conversations on their dating lives. She smiled through it all, beckoning them to talk freely. But their conversation only fell on deaf ears, for her mind and heart dwelled on him. Nonetheless she powered through, only allowing herself into the comforting embrace of sobs and tears once she returned home. She didn’t dare leave their apartment after that… until tonight.
Her sister had shown up at their front door holding bags filled with dresses and make up. Lyla was informed that they were getting dressed up and going out, and her sister wasn’t taking no for an answer. Despite rejecting the idea, Lyla soon found herself in front of a mirror wondering if her legs looked ok in ‘this dress.’
She used to ask him that all the time.
His response was always the same. “They get more beautiful with every passing day.”
She had smiled at the memory. It was one of the few times a memory of him hadn’t brought her to tears. Her sister was right, so far, their evening had been a good distraction. It took her back to her early twenties, where the two of them would spend hours trying on clothes and carefully apply make up before heading to whatever nightclub was drawing in the crowds that weekend.
Despite the eternal wait in line, the night had started out alright. Lyla and her sister danced until their feet demanded respite. Obliging they’d found themselves a seat in the courtyard outside the dancefloor, taking a couple of drinks with them. The laughed and drank until her sister’s attention had been swooned away by a young guy with a shirt that had one too many buttons undone. She was happy to sit on her own. She still had her drink to keep her company, that was until she felt movement beside her. Someone had slid into the bench, occupying the seat next to her. She attempted to ignore his presence knowing he was trying to get her attention. She had bopped her head to the music, acting as if she couldn’t hear his greeting. But he had been persistent. He tapped her shoulder. There was no avoiding it now. The minute she turned towards him she was overcome with a sense of guilt. She smiled weakly, remaining polite, looking for a way to exit the conversation before it begun. He introduced himself, but between the loud thumping music, and the boy’s slurred words, she didn’t catch his name. He asked if she wanted to dance. She attempted to decline but was interrupted by her sister who answered for her, urging her out of her seat, towards the dancefloor. The boy smiled warmly, extending his hand towards her, but the minute his fingers brushed Lyla’s, her head began spinning. The tinge of guilt she’d felt earlier erupted, consuming her entire body. One word echoed through her mind.
This boy wasn’t him.
What was she doing? She didn’t want to be out. The elixir provided by experience of a life before him had worn off. All she wanted was to go home. To get out of this ridiculous dress and into the hoody that had comforted her in the long, lonely nights since he’d been taken from her.
She rushed out of the club and jumped into the first cab she saw. She’d gotten halfway through telling the driver her address when she burst into tears. The driver attempted to console her, asking if something had happened. She assured him that she was fine, that all she needed was to get home.
Her eyes had dried out by the time they pulled into the parking lot of her apartment building. There were no more tears left to cry. After a year she’d seemingly run out. All that was left was a void that could never be filled. She felt as empty as the screen in which she stared.
She missed him, nothing would ever change that…