His heart thudded steadily against my hand. His smell and warmth nearly overwhelmed me. His breathing matched my own, though my heart beat much faster than his.

I opened my eyes.

He was gone.

I stared at the empty half of the bed, my hand thrown over the place where he once laid.

Emptiness was left in his place.

I sat up and placed my bare feet on the floor.

Coldness replaced his warmth.

I made my way to the kitchen, the scent of coffee becconing.

Routine was the only thing keeping me sane.

I poured myself a cup of the hot, black liquid.

His presence had become a shadowy memory instead of a touchable reality.

My hand shook, holding the carton of milk over my cup.

Would I ever let him go?

The mere thought turned my body to ice, and the carton fell from my fingers and crashed onto the floor. Milk splattered up onto my legs and pooled coldly around feet. I stared at my hand as if it were a foreign object, watching it tremble, feeling its fear. I slapped my hands onto the counter and leaned between them, closing my eyes, my head bowed to the floor.

I could never let him go.

...

My husband died last year.

Most people would remember the date and time of death and so on, but not me. I made myself forget that much. But I could not forget his touch. The way he held my hand. The way his rough lips brushed tenderly over my neck and face. The warmth of his body against my own.

Such things that seem trivial and unimportant, such as the way his voice cracked when he spoke of my relatives, the way his nose turned red when he laughed, and the way his fierce, green eyes filled with tears whenever tears filled my own...Such are the things one does not forget. Such are the things that haunt you.

...

Days turned to weeks, weeks to months, months to years. Work was a chore and just one of the many things to check off of my check-list.

Life had become a mere existence instead of an enjoyment or pleasure.

Days blurred together. I could not keep track of the day of the week, nor did I bother to try. The only thing I kept track of was the time. When to wake up. When to eat. When to be at work. When to go home.

But every day at the same time, my heart would stop. For five full beats, my heart would just freeze. Dizziness and panic would flood into my body, but I knew it would pass, same as it had every other day, so I would lean against a wall, a table, a door, just until my heart resumed beating.

I tried not to think of it, but my subconcious mind understood it all too well.

My heart would stop at 2:38pm every day for five heart-beats.

...

Years ago at 2:38pm, my husband died.

Blood ran down a gash in his forehead.

Sirens wailed all around us. The screams of a child pierced my ear-drums.

I turned my head to look at him. He was unconcious. I pulled my shaking hand out from under the air-bag and placed it onto his chest.

Under my hand, I felt the last five beats of his heart.

I whispered his name, but he never answered.

...

People tried to tell me I needed help. That my misery was bad for business. That I was depressing my family with my moping. That pills and therapy would do the trick.

Damn them.

I got fired from my job. My family isolated themselves from me. My bills kept piling up. I had no money. No job. No husband. No life.

...

I went into my medicine cabinet one day and considered taking everything inside.

...

"It's sort of romantic, don't you think?" I had asked him one day while we watched Romeo and Juilet, snuggled together on the couch.

"What is?" He had asked, tilted his head to look at me.

"Suicide," I had replied.

He had fallen silent for a moment, staring at the television.

"I think it's more of a duty," he had answered.

"What?" I had sat up to look at him, puzzled.

"If you were to die," he had turned to me. "I wouldn't hesitate to follow you. Not for romances' sake, but just out of duty."

"But what if we have children?" I had asked. "Would you kill yourself then?"

"I...I can't have kids, remember?" His nose had blushed.

"What if we adopt?" I had prodded.

"Families are meant to be together," he had replied after a long minute. "Even if death is what keeps them together."

I understood. He would die if I died so we could be together. It was a duty. It was part of a check-list. It was for love.

...

But I had been too much of a coward to kill myself after the accident. I didn't realize he had truely died until I woke up three days later in the hospital, asking for him.

The nurses saw my panic and never left me alone. They knew I might do something crazy. And I would have tried, if they had ever left.

But as his death settled over me like a gray mist, as I began to accept instead of deny it, my will to live drifted out of my soul.

I did not die. They would not let me. I did not kill myself. I had lost the desire.

Leaving the hospital a few weeks later, I had no purpose to live except to live. So I did just that and nothing more, with my heart fluttering out of focus every day at 2:38pm. Constistantly reminding me of my pain.

...

I stood staring into the medicine cabinet, eyeing the various drugs and toothpastes wondering what would kill me.

As I picked hairs out of my hardly-used toothbrush, I realized that drugs might not kill me. It could just make me sick and send me to the hospital.

But a gun would kill me for sure.

...

In the bottom drawer by the kitchen sink, a pistol waited for me.

I went to it, answering its call by opening the drawer and taking the cold metal in my hands. Its weight was awkward and unsteady in my unpracticed hand, but it was also comforting.

I knew it would all be over soon.

I went to the couch and sat, propping my feet automatically onto the coffee table. I stared at my feet, wondering how they got there. I wondered what my feet thinking, trying to relax like that. It was totally unacceptable.

Scowling, I checked the gun for bullets and cocked it. I stared down at the pistol, holding it in my lap, until determination arose in me. The gun suddenly felt much heavier as I raised it to my head.

I licked my lips. A chill ran through my spine as I invisioned his lips kissing mine. Warm. Wet. So gentle and loving... But never again.

My hand began to shake. But it was too late to turn back. I put my finger on the trigger, pushing the barrel into the side of my skull.

I closed my eyes. A tear ran down my cheek.

I pulled the trigger.