"Take the damn dress," I order in monotones.
She should be shocked that I'm cursing, but she's beyond shock. "Lorelei, you don't mean it."
"You saw the damn thing first. You take it."
"It's your wedding dress, Lorelei. I know you may hate it, but one day, you'll want to remember it."
"There's nothing to remember. It never happened. Just please get that damn thing out of my apartment."
She looks at me. She thinks I'm about to cry again, but I'm not. I can't. I'm already dehydrated and I've found on multiple occasions today that tears won't come. Usually she would get angry and adamant, because that's the way she usually is. Instead she sighs and sits on the edge of my bed and stares at it. This isn't her. This is the old me. The one who doesn't know what to say or how to say it and kept quiet. We've switched positions and I think vaguely of laughing but I don't think I remember how to.
"Help me get it into the bag," she says dejectedly, but there's an audible echo to the empty victory.
"I can't," I tell her.
She looks at me, and it's that sharp, intuitive glare that so often haunts her vibrant green eyes. "Why not?"
"I can't touch it."
"No. You touch it, Iris. Feel it. Just the texture, the fabric, has the feel of a wedding. That dress feels like getting married. That's the whole damn reason I bought it. The other dresses made me feel pretty. That dress made me feel like I was a bride. I don't… Just, please, Iris, get rid of it."
She gets up and pulls the travel case from the closet and yanks it over the whole thing. "What do you want me to do with it?" She asks softly as the zipper zips and the white of the dress disappears into the black of the case.
"I don't know. I don't care. Just take it with you. Sell it. Burn it. Drop it in the Puget Sound."
She pulls the hanger of the hook on the closet door and drops it on top of her suitcase. "One day, you will fall in love again, and you will-"
"Shut up, Iris," I cut her off sharply.
"He'd be okay with that," she persists.
I look up from the carpeting I've been studying for the past half hour as she's packed. "I have been with him since I was eighteen years old. He kept me stable. He was my life. He was the closest version of a fairy tale prince I have ever known. I don't want to fall in love again. I don't want to do this again. I don't want to let someone I love die all over again and I don't want to be reminded of the things I don't have."
She starts crying then, silent slippery tears bubbling up. "Okay. I'm sorry. My God, Lorelei, I'm so sorry."
I watch her cry and my eyes feel desiccated. I want to cry. I want to crawl up beneath my bed and cry until St Peter opens his gates and lets me in, gives him back to me. Instead I pick up the keys, touch Iris's shoulder, and grab her bag. She gets that damn dress and we drop both into the trunk of my car after managing three flights of stairs, despite falling along the way.
I drive cautiously, but only because I know I'd go insane with remorse and regret if Iris were to die in a collision because I was in a rush to get to Pearce. We're slowly approaching his old street and there's a tug in my gut. I'm masochistic and need to see his apartment one last time before the new tenants come in, with new names and new lives and new voices that won't call me in the middle of the night to talk about the dreams they just had. "Would you mind if…" I can't say the words, but she knows what I mean.
"Go ahead," she murmurs.
I drive slower down his street. Cars line the sides like they have every other day, like today isn't different. I pull over at the other side of the street and down some because that's the closest I can get. "I'll be right back," I tell her quietly and get out quickly before she can protest and try to accompany me.
I want to run through a street full of traffic, to either feel more alive or die completely, but the street is empty. I cross safely and then push open the cool metal door into the small barren lobby. I go up two flights of stairs and pull out my key, the key he gave me when he first moved in and got copies made.
I put the key in, turn it, jiggle the knob, turn it more, pull the key out, and twist the handle while lifting it up in order to get the old door to open. The routine has become like breathing to me. I'm never going to get to do it again. The apartment is empty. I expected as much, as his roommate moved and most of his furniture was given to his mother and the rest dispersed among his friends, but I'm not ready for it.
He loved this apartment. He was so excited to find an apartment so close to his damn office, and the price was perfect for him. He loved the apartment itself too- he loved the blue walls and the clean tile and the way sound resonated through the rooms. We were going to live here after we got married. This should be my home, but now it's empty. My big, empty dream. It's so pathetic, isn't it?
I put the key down on the counter in the kitchen that he loved. I run my finger down the Formica and think of all the cooking disasters we had here, cooking disasters that left no trace. The floors crackles slightly underfoot and I remember the way he pulled me in to dance with him once after we did the dishes, and then the tenants below him complained about the noise. They've moved.
The door opens. I don't bother turning around. "I just need another minute." I try to absorb everything there is in this apartment from the colors to the smell to the taste of the air, but it only lasts as a memory ephemerally. Even the feeling of the key, still moving between my fingers, seems distant.
"Um… who are you?" I spin around, my eyes wide. It's not Iris standing there, but a man and a woman, only slightly older than I. The new owners. I'm ruining their first time in as official owners. They're ruining my last time as officially relevant, though, so we're even.
"I'm sorry. I just wanted to see this place one last time. I'll just leave now." The words are cracked and laced with embarrassment and I hastily make my way out. I pass them and start down the hallway.
"Oh, wait," the man calls. I stop and turn, uttering a silent prayer that they won't ask who I am. "Can we have your key?"
The forgotten metal, once innocuous and cool in my palm, suddenly burns. It isn't mine. It's not supposed to be theirs either, though. It was his. It's the last connection I have to his life here, and I can't stand it.
I toss it to him but my fingers don't stop tingling. "Take it," I say unnecessarily, and then I turn and start down the stairs quickly because I don't want to hear their smiles and laughter and all the things I was supposed to have in that apartment that I won't have now. I trip down the last three steps but it doesn't matter because no one's in the lobby and outside bruises don't matter much now anyway.
Iris is still waiting in the car, but she's taken the driver's seat. I slip into the passenger seat and wipe my dry eyes with my sleeve by reflex. She doesn't say anything, but she doesn't have to, because words have become superfluous. We drive in silence through a damp Boston. It rained during the funeral and they had to put the coffin down in a mud pit instead of a clean hole. It's stopped raining but the water hasn't gone away yet.
Iris finds a good parking spot and we get out. I hate airports. I take the suitcase and she takes the dress back and we stand in silence as the birds chirp and other cheerful animals make noise in the elevator. I wish they would just play normal elevator music. I want to complain to Iris about it, but it hardly seems to matter, and anyway, I don't think I can speak right now.
We wait in line and she gets her boarding pass. The man behind the counter looks a little like him so I look away, even though I know he's staring at me because he thinks I'm weird. Iris checks in her suitcase but not the dress. I don't know if she feels obligated to care for the dress or if she's trying to make a point, but I don't care.
We go to security but there's hardly a line there. She turns to me for a final goodbye and drops the dress, using both her arms to hug me. "Take care of yourself, okay?" She says, and I know she's worried about me.
"I'll survive," I say, because 'I'll be fine' would be an obvious lie.
"If you ever need anything, there's dad and Sarah and all your teacher friends, and they'll all be there for you. And you can call me anytime- I'm a phone call and a few hours away but if you ever really need me, I can be there just half a day." She pulls me close again. "There's no right way to mourn," she whispers, and I know that she knows what this hole feels like, but I wished neither of us knew.
And with that she kisses my forehead and goes through security and disappears with a sad wave goodbye.
Iris will go back home to Seattle and Peter to be met with love and laughter and I'll go back to my small, empty apartment to be met with more silence. I walk back to the car slowly, because there's nothing to rush for; the world's kept going without me, and I just don't have the energy to even try to catch up.
I make a wrong turn and freeze when I see the people milling around outside the terminal, waiting for loved ones to come out the glass door. They're greeted with hugs and kisses and exclamations. I should have been one of these people a week ago. They don't bring the body bags through these doors. Instead, they take them to the antithesis of this happy, hopeful place, and it's dark and cold, rather like a dungeon. And instead of kissing loved ones you cry and sign the form that says yes, this is him, this is my dead fiancé.
Yes I used old characters. I didn't want to kill Pearce but it helps set up for later. And don't worry, it will get less depressing. Please review! I can almost guarantee I'll end up reviewing back.