Today is Short Story Day Africa. I thought I’d write my shortest piece of fiction yet. Enjoy…
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The tears begin to flow profusely again. The Joe in the photograph is gone forever. And nothing can ever bring him back.
Sitting at the edge of the small bed, Nneka hugs the gilded frame closer to her chest. As she tosses her head back, another sob racking her frail frame, a tear drop splashes down on one of the golden-hued wooden leaves that entwine the photograph. She holds the photo away for a minute, staring through her tears at the features that grace it and another barrage of tears run rivulets down her face.
The fingers on her left hand trace the arms that encircle her in warm embrace in the photograph. The photo blurs into the background as she focuses on the fingers and wrist of her left hand and the burnt, leathery skin that stretches across them. The sun streaming in from the window glistens off the engagement ring and wedding band that adorn her ring finger and the memories come flashing back fast.
Hearing the plane come closer and closer. The loud crash. The front of the house caving in. The heavy smoke. The leaping flames. Slowly clambering over the rubble toward the windows. Giving up. Joseph leaping through the smoke, wrapping her in the curtains and lifting her. His screams as he carried her out of the crumbling building through the flames.
Through the fresh tears, she whimpers…
“Come back to me, Joe. Come back.”
The groan behind her has her spinning around fast. The sound is a welcome, long awaited relief; a deviation from the deathly silence that has for the past two weeks emanated from the immobile, charred frame of her husband.
He will never speak again, not audibly. The fourth degree burns that cover his lips, face and over three-quarters of his body would no longer allow that and many other bodily functions. Much cauterization and excision has been carried out to keep him alive and he is now but a writhing mass of broiled flesh and limb stubs.
Still, she has sworn to herself that she will never leave his side. The fire that has done the worst to his body has only fueled the one in her heart that burns only for him…
And always will.
“For better. For worse. Till death do us part”