A dog barks. Cicadas sing. A car door slams. Footsteps approach as
starlight tickles her skin.“Allen?” she calls out.The footsteps fade.“Allen?” she calls again. “Is that you?”The screen door screeches open behind her, and floorboards creak. A
hand rests on her shoulder, and a brown voice speaks from the
darkness. “You okay out here, Beth?”
She nods. “Yeah, Dad, I’m fine.”
The hand remains. “Were you talking to someone?”
“I thought I heard Allen, here to pick me up for the dance.”
“Beth….” The hand’s grip tightens, and the voice is apologetic. “Allen
died in the accident.”
It all floods back: getting in the car, racing around the curves, a
crash. Waking up in the hospital, asking for the bandages to be
removed but they were already done. And Allen—Allen was gone too. Of
course he wouldn’t be coming up the sidewalk.
“Yeah, I remember.”
But she doesn’t, not really. Not always. There’s so much she doesn’t
even realize she forgets.
The next day, Ms. Someone spends the afternoon with her. Beth’s been
told her name but can’t remember it. But at least she can remember she
can’t remember. Progress.
Ms. Someone chatters on in her yellow voice while Beth knits, one of
the few things she can still do now. “He’s staying with us for awhile,
until he gets his life together. I was against it, but George said it
was a good idea. George said it would do him some good, and wasn’t I
lonely since Nathan went off to college? He’s not all there, but
that’s okay.” She goes on and on, but Beth stops paying attention. And
she won’t remember any of it anyways.
She’s back outside that evening, waiting for Allen to pick her up. Her
dad comes out at one point, at lots of points maybe, and reminds her
that Allen isn’t coming because he died.
“I know,” she tells him. “I remember.”
Each time, he goes back inside, by the murmuring TV. Beth’s stopped
watching TV since the accident; she can’t see the screen, can’t follow
the plot. Like so much in her life now, it’s not worth doing. Better
to sit here and wait for Allen.
“Allen?” she calls out.
Tonight the footsteps approach the porch. “Hi.”
“Allen?” she asks again, although she knows it’s not him. The voice is
wrong; Allen’s was deep, crimson, and this one is mellower.
“My boyfriend. He’s going to pick me up, and then we’re going to the
dance. Are you going to the dance?”
“Sure.” The voice sparkles with amusement. A green voice, she decides,
with hints of purple and red.
“Do you have a date?”
“No.” The purple is more pronounced.
“Nice to meet you.”
The green voice is silent, but the lawn chair next to her squeaks.
“Who are you then?”
“Robert. I’m staying next door, with my aunt and uncle.”
“I’m Beth. I’m waiting for my boyfriend to pick me up for the dance.”
The green voice grunts, then launches into the story of why he’s
staying with her neighbors, why he wanders the neighborhood streets in
He finishes. The cicadas sing. A car honks. The chair next to her
squeaks as someone’s weight shifts.
ED Martin is a writer with a knack for finding new jobs in new places. She currently lives in Illinois where she job hops while working on her novels. She is the author of the women’s fiction novel The Lone Wolf, due out December 2013, and numerous short stories.