Her

She could not be heard, felt, nor seen.

Her existence simply snuck into my subconscious.

Not “falling for,” but enveloped by

Her sinful seeds implanting shameful joy.

 

I placed her in shadows

Not knowing only my light grew her.

How did I win the lottery

Of a lonely obsession?

 

We laughed at druggies

Needing a quick fix

Clinging to principles more precarious

Than ourselves.

 

Can you recover if you don’t know the addiction?

 

I admitted myself

To her practice.

Bleeding dry,

A cracked carcass shell.

 

She offered an olive branch,

My outreached arms nailed to board.

If I rose reborn

It’d all have meaning.

 

But my phoenix flames

Burnt her branches, her seeds.

She faded as a scar,

Slowly.

But always felt.

Forever seen.

Seven Ways of Looking at #4, Diaz by Charles Biederman

I

 

Diaz floating, pulling

down. Drops trickling through

and latching on. Just

trying to make the journey.

 

II

 

Breathless, the nomads push forward,

fueled by survival,

sustained by love,

taking turns as brunt of the wind.

 

III

 

Beneath him, that’s all she was.

Others had their circles—she had her box.

The bluntness was sinking;

couldn’t they dull her edge?

 

IV

 

Trunks are thickest at the heart

of the forest, like old friends

hearty at another’s presence.

Their life ignites others around them.

V

 

Steel-cold bodies suspended

like lifeless puppets without string.

Beings within move their abacus

and calculate no life worth saving.

 

VI

 

A creator sifts the sandbox of creation.

His twisted logic casting granules

as behemoths.

He directs a play with no acts yet

a captive audience.

The bastard does it just for the questions.

 

VII

 

If pieces from different puzzles

still form pictures,

did we derive insights,

or form something from nothing?

Preserving Memories, Earning Fame, Cherishing Family

A solitary lake sits at the end of every book,

                                     the pristine surface a canvas.

                                                   While some toss wishes in other lakes,

                                                                                          I prohibit such pollution.

 

                                                A man I knew had a fountain,

                                it flowed with fame & fortune.

                My friends and I collected drops in buckets

claiming drivel as nectar.

 

Unknown oceans are unkind to those who barely swim.

                                                Despite the best intention of every wave,

my consciousness can’t withstand

                                strange tides said to be kin.

A Wooded Backyard in Sussex, Wisconsin

The rigid soldiers embrace me,

Solace found in their cold arms,

Hovering over protectively.

Weaving through the ranks

Like a general become scout,

I follow white tails amongst brown.

They lead into comforting unknown.

                                            

My men behind,

Darkness illuminates the way—

A fog of war in times of peace,

Delivering desolate populations

Content with a visiting resident.

 

Kaleidoscope flags echo occupation,

The dead are buried alive.

(Un)Predictable, (Im)Perfect

It was just an ordinary day on the city bus until suddenly…nothing.

Nothing happened because nothing ever happens because life is boring and predictable.

            Every single day it seems I go on the same bus, whisked off to whatever part of campus I need to be on that day.  Usually my friend Jake sits next to me—or stands if life decides to mix things up by stuffing a few more bodies aboard.  That day though, we were sitting.

            “What do you think God is like?”

            Jake didn’t reply.  He was mouthing out the words to whatever rap song he was obsessing over that particular day.

            “Jake.  I asked you a question.”

            Jake kept bobbing his head to and fro for a few moments until he finally decided he felt like talking.  He reluctantly reached under the hood atop his head to pull out an ear bud, “Yeah?  What’s that? Question?”

            “Yeah.  God.  What. Do you think.  He’s like.”

            Jake made a slow blink at me as if to ask “Are you serious?”  I don’t think he appreciates my level of conversation as much as he should.

            “God?  I dunno.  I think of Him as like this white-bearded, big guy, I guess. Like an older Jesus.  Or maybe a skinnier Santa.  Whatever one.”

            “I mean what He’s like.  Not His physical appearance.  Like, do you think He gets bored?  Because I was thinking, if He exists, and we were made in His image, He could have emotions like us.  So is it a stretch to think that He gets bored sometimes?”

            Again, he gave that look of his.  He sighed, saying, “I guess the big guy could get bored.  Maybe when it’s not Sunday He has like a dry run of people to listen to or something.”

            “Listen, what I’m getting at is a theory I’ve come up with: what if God made matter and started the Big Bang and all that because He was bored?  And then when all this stuff was getting old for Him, He made sure humans evolved so they could make trouble.  I mean, we tend to make lots of excitement ourselves so He doesn’t even have to intervene all that much.  Just like us, He’s probably lazy like that.”

            Jake raised his eyebrow in skepticism.  “You’re sayin’ God made humans so He can watch us like some kind of TV show?  So He doesn’t get bored?”

            “More or less.”

            Jake was cracking up.  He found this humorous somehow.  “Mal, my man, you have way too much time on your hands if this is the kinda stuff you think up.  But I mean, I love this crazy shit, so don’t you ever stop.”  He snickered and went back to listening to his beats.

            I never even told him my whole theory. 

I think God stopped being lazy one day. 

That day, He intervened to make me.

Not much later, I was in Anatomy with Jake.  Of course, he wasn’t supposed to be there.  While my morning had been spent studying alone and his “learning” in Music Theory, he somehow found me when we had respectively finished.  I don’t remember doing as much, but we had apparently made plans to hang out later.  So, for whatever reason, he decided the best way to pass the time was to attend my Anatomy lecture.  Terrific.  Anatomy with Jake.  On Reproductive System Day.

I swear, for every second testicles were mentioned or projected on the screen, there was at least a minute of sniggering or even outright laughter.  Not just from Jake, but from just about everybody.

Come on, people.  It’s the sex organs.  Everybody has one and probably joked about them before.  Why did they continue to laugh and enjoy them when they know what’s coming?  A penis, how hilarious.  It’s not as if half the population isn’t bumbling about every day with one.

Jake looked away from the vagina-filled screen to me for a second.  “Hey Mal,” he half-whispered with tears of laughter pooling in his eyes.  “Why you gotta look that way?  This is some good shit.”

I just looked at him with my eyebrows furrowed.  He looked a bit taken aback, but seemed to still be stifling some laughter.

“I stopped thinking this was funny right about graduation…from elementary school.”

“Well, at least I don’t think we’re God’s little TV show.  You think-” he gave a little chuckle.  “You think we’re gonna get renewed next season?” He gave a bigger laugh but fortunately for him, everyone else’s rowdiness covered it up.  Personally, I had had enough of him and the lecture and left without another word.

“Malcolm!  Over here!”

A girl with vibrant orange-red hair called me over inside the campus Starbucks.  She stuck out clearly from the crowd of Wayfarer-spectacled, scarf-wearing adolescents congregated inside. 

As I approached her table, I said, “Evangeline, I need to talk to you.”  My girlfriend sometimes went by Eve, but I insisted on calling her by her full name; I had never met an Evangeline before and hoped her incidental uniqueness in name and hair would prove her unique as well in personality.  I was right to an extent.

With a smile she said, “You aren’t going to go on a rant about hipsters or, heck, maybe life again, are you?”

“No,” I said sitting down.  “Something more serious.”

“Serious?  Wait a minute, where’s Jake?  I know you didn’t like him, but if we have to talk about hiding the body, count me out,” she joked (I hope).

“Jake?  No, he’s being a bigger idiot than usual so he’s no longer invited.”

“Well, that’s a relief.  But still, you said serious.  Serious in that we need to rush out of here for an emergency, or serious in that you’ll need a few hours to ramble?  Because I’d rather we go back to my place if this’ll be another rambling of yours.”  She darted her eyes about and whispered slowly while leaning in, “I can only handle this hipster atmosphere for so long.”

“I think we should break up.”

She froze and her eyes darted back and forth as if to look for the camera crew in on the joke. “What, are you kidding?”

“No, I’m very serious.”

She laughed, “Mal, you are such a bullshitter. You were just saying the other day how perfect your life is.  You specifically mentioned me.”

Exactly.

“What?”

“My life is so normal.  So perfect.  I have no real financial worries.  I have my health.  I go to a good college.  I have a beautiful girlfriend that just happened to go to that very same college.”

“…yeah, all I’m hearing is good so far.  Where on Earth are you pulling out the break-up card?  I’m thinking you should just sit down.  I’m feeling a rant long-gone from reality coming.”

“No,” I said.  “Listen to me.  My life is too good.  Almost as if on purpose.”

“You mind telling me what’s the problem with that?”
            “It’s so perfect.  So perfect it’s quite boring, actually.  And I think it’s a test.  I think I was made this way for a reason by God.  I think God wants to know what would happen if someone had a life where nothing bad ever happened.  Would they truly enjoy it?  Or are humans destined to be perpetually imperfect beings?”

“So because you’re bored with your life, you seriously think it’s a good idea to go and ruin it by breaking up with me?”
            “It’s more of a test.  And if the predictability of my life continues, I already know what’s going to happen.”

“Say whatever you want about breaking up.  I know you and your crazy theories.  You just want me to say whatever it is I’m supposed to say.  All I know is you don’t really mean it since you’d be miserable without me.”
            “Exactly!  I knew you could never give me a straight answer since no answer would satisfy me.  You know me too well and you know what makes me happy.  See?  Again with my life being perfect.  I probably couldn’t break up with you if I tried.”

“So can we move on with life then?”

“No, I’m not done with this yet.  Let’s go to your place.”

We were outside her door on the twelfth floor.  She was about to put her key in the lock when I put my hand atop hers.   She gave me a questioning look.

“No, we’re not going in.  Follow me,” I said, running down the hall.

“I thought we were going to talk about this?” she yelled after me.  She sighed and followed.

I ran through a door and up one flight of stairs.  I pulled down a cobweb-covered, black ladder.  Evangeline had caught up after I took a few steps onto the ladder.

“What the hell are you doing?”
            “Follow me.”

I pushed open the hatch leading to the roof.  There was a chilly wind blowing across this pebble-covered landscape.

“If you’re trying to climb to God, you’re going to need to get a lot higher than this,” Evangeline said as she stepped out.

“That’s not what I’m getting at,” I said as I stepped closer to the edge and looked out at the city glowing before the sunset.  Evangeline stepped next to me and looked out as well.

“Doesn’t beauty like this make you appreciate being your supposedly boring and pointless life?”

“I never said it was pointless.  There’s definitely a point to it,” I said.  “And the sunset…well, it’s not like I haven’t seen one before.”

“It’s not the same every time.”

“It might as well be.”

Evangeline looked at me.  She seemed to see my face for the first time; to take in every feature as though perhaps they had changed.

“Evangeline, I seriously believe God made me different.  He wants me to live as his little experiment.  He wants me to live that perfect life that no human has lived.  And he doesn’t want it to end before it’s supposed to.”

She looked out at the city again.  “What are you saying, Malcolm?  Why do you keep saying these things?”
            “I seriously don’t think I could even kill myself.  God wouldn’t let me die.  He’d rather intervene to save me than try to make another one like me.”

I turned my back to the city.  Without looking behind me, I took a step onto the ledge.

Evangeline’s eyes grew wide.  “What are you doing?”
            “My life is so perfectly predictable.  What happens if I throw a wrench in His plan and try to make it imperfect in the most permanent way possible?”

“No…” she started.  “No, you don’t need to try doing anything.  Plenty of people have lives about as good as yours.  You aren’t unique.  Your life isn’t perfect.”

“Isn’t it?  What more could I need?  I’m so content, I feel no need to do much else with this life.”

“You’re not done with this life, Malcolm!  You want to know why?  You’re insane!  There, I said it!  Nobody’s perfect, including you.  Maybe your life isn’t as flawless as you think. ”

“God will be the judge of that.”

I looked at her and grinned.  Slowly, I began to tip backwards.  It’s almost unexplainable to just put your arms ahead of you, fall back, and let gravity do its work.  No attempt at catching myself, just falling.  Nothing to break my fall but the ground far below.  Sure, I thought for a little bit on if people like Jake would miss me, would be sorry they didn’t give me respect.  I knew at least Evangeline would be sad.  But I didn’t linger on that for long as what mattered in the moment was the fall.  A bit of a predictable place to land and way to go, but at least going backwards is more memorable than forward. 

Unfortunately, a hand reached out and grabbed mine before I could even get my head below my feet.

“See, I told you.”  I said in a monotone voice. “I can’t even die.  Not yet at least.”

“Shut up.  I’ll drop you.  I’ll do it, you know.  I’ll prove to you what an idiot you are and that you really can die.”

No, you won’t!  That’s the point!  You would never do it and God would never let you do it!”

She stared at me with cold eyes and bit her lip, breathing hard through her nose.

“I can’t believe you.”

She was panting as she pulled me up.  I stayed limp, not allowing myself to help in my success at failure.  I laid on the pebbles atop the roof and stared at the sky.

“If I wasn’t in your life you would have died.  I hope you realize that,” she said, sitting next to me.

“Of course.  But you would have been there no matter what since my life is perfect and you have to be here to save me.”  Although I had to admit to myself the possibility of hitting the ground seemed all too real.

Stars began to come out as the last remnants of sunset faded.

“What if you fell when I was asleep or you killed yourself in your apartment?”
            “I can try if you’d like, but I’d live.  I’m completely sure on that.”

“Please don’t.  If not for your sake, for mine?”

I didn’t answer her.  But the more I thought back on the attempted fall, the more I began to wonder if that was the right way to go about things.

Evangeline rested her head atop my chest and we watched the sky glow as the city’s towering buildings lit up.  I felt my shirt get wet and noticed Evangeline had been crying.

“Maybe killing myself would just be proof to God that no human can handle a perfect life.”

Evangeline had stopped crying and sniffled a little.

“Maybe I can disprove him by truly being perfect.  Living and being happy despite the fact that I already know everything will go my way.”

“You really still believe that, don’t you?”

“Of course.”

We stared into the nothingness above us.

“If you want to still break up with me, I won’t let you, you know.  I don’t know if just anybody would have saved you today.”

I said nothing.  Instead I embraced her.  It was predictable.  And it was perfect. 

And from that, came an unpredictable feeling.

This perfect moment was perhaps deteriorating my faith in my plan.  I began to feel sad, almost as if I were her.  Empathy, one might say.

I began to feel concern that my path to destroy my perfection was impacting the happiness of the one person who seemed to accept me.  What was perfect about that?

And this meant…my life wasn’t perfect.  Not if people like Evangeline are intertwined in it and aren’t happy.

In those final hours of the day, her sadness brought me the happiness I needed to continue my slightly pointless life.

Go figure.

GROWING UP WITH ALEXIS

Navy blue.

            Rain drops, dark streets, and flashing headlights immersed the lone woman clicking her heels down the dimly lit sidewalks.  The scene made her almost depressed and melancholic, but perhaps it was just her memories making her feel that way.  She had been reminiscing lately because of who she would be meeting.  It was why the woman was dressed the way she was.  She felt as though she matched the scenery quite nicely with her black leather, knee-high, stiletto heeled boots, along with black tights and tight-fitting black jacket.  Only her blond hair (with the clear-cut bangs that were all the rage these days) and red-tinted lips stood out from the ensemble.  She felt like a dominatrix.  She also did not like it one bit.  However, it was necessary because the outfit was a test of sorts.  A test to find out if this man was who she suspected—no—who she wanted him to be.

Deep red.

            There was now the sound of sirens and the glow of neon.  The woman quickened her pace and grew uncomfortable and frustrated—both from the setting and the feelings coursing through her.  This wicked and crime-ridden area reminded her all too much of memories she wished to forget, but could not.  If she had learned only a few lessons thus far, it was that authority was not to be trusted, nor the ones you love and think love you back.  Love.   She thought of the sappy story of the agent who had found and imprisoned so many criminals that everybody else failed to capture, and yet could still not find the sister he lost as a child. 

Mr. William ended the interview with this open invitation to our readers: ‘For anybody who has information on my sister Alexis, anything at all since her time at the orphanage, I am willing to give a generous award that can be discussed upon our meeting.’”

The woman had immediately contacted the paper and eventually Max William himself.  Regardless of how this meeting turned out, she was looking forward to it quite a bit.

Glowing yellow.

            The woman arrived at the meeting point: a local coffee shop in a fairly well lit corner.  Not the best quality or cheapest place, but a very safe and almost homey location to meet.  As she opened the door, a small bell dinged atop it.  A couple of people, mainly men, glanced in her direction, with a few too many glancing in spots she preferred they would not. 

Of these people, one sitting at a table in the corner stood out.  He was a man in his late twenties or perhaps early thirties, she guessed.  The clothes he wore showed an element of classy casualness.  His low-key, brown sport coat and jeans showed he was serious about the meeting, but wasn’t trying to upstage her.  He had a bit of scruff on his face and dark brown hair that was getting a bit too long for him; not like a man who was lazy, but more like one so busy pursuing something that he had no time to care for himself.  He didn’t look at her body, but rather at her face and eyes.  The man gave a knowing sort of smile, one that she didn’t know how to take.  It was such a genuine smile, but he had no reason to give one to her.  She detested the way he was looking at her, like he knew who she was.  Had he passed her test?  Perhaps this meant he was—no, you can’t determine these things from just one expression.

She walked over to the man as he continued to look at her. 

“Are you za man known az Max Villiam?” she asked.

His knowing smile went away and a sense of confusion came into his eyes.  Despite this, he did answer, “That’s right.  Are you the person claiming to have info on my sister?”

“Yes, zat vould be me.”

Max stood up to shake the woman’s hand.  “Well, thank you for your cooperation Miss…”

“Werner.  Franziska Werner.”

Max’s eyes seemed to glow again at the mention of the name.  They both sat down at the table.

“I have to sank you for agreeing to meet me in person raser san over ze phone, Mr. Villiam.”

“Oh, it’s no problem at all.  However, before we begin I must make something clear.  I want this to be an open engagement between the two of us.  I don’t think we have any reason to lie to one another, do we Miss Vern—ahem, Miss Werner.”

The woman began to pale as she realized her mistake in pronunciation.

Max laughed, “Don’t worry about it Miss Verner.  I can understand the impulse to have a fake accent and name when making an information deal; particularly one with a member of an international police agency.  You probably had some James Bond-like images when you imagined what I’d be like.  I know I thought this job would be more glamorous than it really is.”

Max waited for an apology, but the woman appeared to be conflicted about whether she wanted to give one.  She stared down at the table for a moment.  Finally, she said something almost under her breath: “Talking down to me like I’m a child.”

Max decided to ignore that comment in order to pursue the goal at hand, “So, do you have information on my sister or was that made up too?”

The woman quickly looked back up.  “Hey!  Don’t even think that you’re talking to some con-artist!”  She jabbed her finger in his face.  “I wouldn’t have set up this meeting if I didn’t have information to give.  But I’m starting to have my doubts about whether I even want to give it to you.”

Max frowned and slowly pushed her finger down.  “You do remember that I’m offering a reward, don’t you?  I’m no con-artist either.”

“I really don’t know if that’s good enough for me.  How do I know you deserve this information?  Maybe you don’t really care about your sister and she’s just another criminal you’re trying to put away?”

“Put away…?  Alright, fine.  As ridiculous as you’re being, I get the feeling you won’t peacefully agree unless I appease you.  Like I said, I have nothing to hide.”  He sighed.  “So—what do you want?  You said over the phone it wasn’t money.”

The woman was a bit surprised that she so easily got what she wanted.  “Well, I’d like to know more about growing up in the orphanage.”

Max raised an eyebrow.  “What?  You want to know about the orphanage?”  Max figured this was better than her asking for information regarding the agency, but it was a strange request—unless his instinct when she first came in had been right.  He decided to tell her, but wanted to hear her reasoning first.  “Why, of all things, is this what you want to know?”

The woman bit her lip.  She had hoped “what do you want?” was more of an invitation than that.  Now she regretted losing his trust with the get-up.  Sometimes she was just so stupid!  Her knuckles turned white as she clenched her fists.

“You don’t have to get upset.  I’m just looking for an answer,” Max said with a little impatience.

“Funny.  I was going to say the same thing.”

Max sighed.  “Obviously you don’t want to tell me your reasons.  I guess I’ll just tell you.”  Not so much out of trust, but more because it doesn’t really matter to me.

The woman unclenched her fists.

 “So, there’s not a whole lot to say, really.  Alexis and I lived together there for two years, never getting adopted.  We were there because our parents both died in a car accident and had no living immediate family.  There wasn’t any will either.  So, we were just kind of stuck there with no other options.  It wasn’t that bad of a life, although the stories of orphanages always having a mean, older woman in charge are true.  She could never understand what we were going through, never gave us enough food, and did a horrible job attracting prospective parents.  I was eventually adopted by the nice William family, but life was never exactly easy.  But I mean, I survived obviously, considering I got through it and am now living a relatively successful life.”

The woman spoke up with a fire to her, “But that’s not the case for everyone, is it?  Some orphans get screwed over permanently and never live the lives they should have—like with your sister.”

Max cocked his head to the side, eyes narrowed, mouth slightly ajar, looking at the woman.  “Well, we were both pretty young at the time we were separated, me being twelve and her being seven.  I could eventually handle this new reality we lived in, but I guess Alexis had a harder time.”

 “Go on,” the woman said.  She didn’t really need him to go on. But she wanted to hear more—straight from him. 

Max had a small feeling he was doing exactly what she wanted, but continued anyway since he saw no harm.  “Well, she would do some strange things.”  Strange?  Is that what he thought?  “Like, she would go above the climbing part of the monkey bars and do these crazy jumps.”  How can you say things like that with such a straight face?  “Then she began to jump off of slides.  Soon enough, she was climbing onto window sills on the second floor of the orphanage, although people would luckily pull her away before she jumped.”  You believed the jumping story just like everyone else?  “One day…I woke up in the middle of the night and Alexis wasn’t in bed.”  Oh come on, I had told you earlier.  You knew about the plan beforehand; you just never listen.  “Luckily, the orphanage director realized what Alexis being missing could mean, and so we went in search of her.  We found her on the nearby bridge, the one high above the local river. She was on the ledge…with one leg sticking out as if she was just going to walk on the darkness rather than fall into it.”  Nothing could make you feel more alive.  “Luckily, the director grabbed her and we went back to the orphanage.”  Nothing could make you wish more you were dead.  “The next day, she was taken away to a mental institution and that’s the last I saw of her.”  Except for maybe that.  “Looking back, I’m not totally sure why she chose that path.  It could have been the TV the orphanage just got.  There were always those sad recounts of kids who would kill themselves after getting bullied or losing their loved ones.  They probably gave her the idea that suicide was an option after losing Mom and Dad.”

Max became silent.  Suddenly, the woman said, “So, that’s it?  You get adopted and live happily ever after as you let your sister suffer in the nut house?”

“Of course not!  First of all, it was a few more years before I got adopted.  Second of all, my life hasn’t been all that happy.  Third, the director assured me that Al was being fixed at the institute, so I believed my sister would come see me some day, possibly better off than I was.  I never thought she would escape from there and never be heard from again!”

“You dumbass!  All you care about is yourself!”  The other people in the café had turned to look at what seemed to be a couple fighting in the corner.  “How typical,” they all thought.

“You didn’t even come and visit me once at that hell hole!  I’m starting to wonder why I ever thought you were looking for me!”

 “Al…Alexis!  It’s really you!”

The woman ripped off her blond wig to reveal curly, long, dark brown hair.  “No shit, Sherlock,” Alexis turned the level down a bit, but she gave a deathly stare and clenched her fists tighter than ever.  “You have no idea how much you’ve managed to let me down over the years.  Probably the only reason you told the fucking newspaper you were looking for me was because it was the only blemish on your perfect little record of finding every piece of shit you’ve hunted for in your life!” She punctuated the last word with a slam on the table.

“Hey, hold on a second, Al!  This wasn’t for some silly streak I had going on.  Why can’t you believe I actually wanted to find you because I care?  Can’t we just be happy that we’re finally together again?”

“Are you kidding me?  You spent years building a happy little life for yourself while your poor little sister either rotted away in the mental institute, or if you had ever bothered to notice I wasn’t even there, dead on the streets!”

Max was visibly hurt by that last statement. “Come on, Al.  It doesn’t matter what’s happened in the past, I can make your life better now. We can help each other finally pursue the dreams we couldn’t at the orphanage.”

“How could you ever help me?  You can’t know my dreams now if you didn’t know my dreams then.  You all thought I was trying to commit suicide, right?  But I wasn’t.  I had trouble explaining it to the doctors but I swear it was just gymnastics practice!  The television they installed didn’t make me want to commit suicide; it gave my life a meaning it hadn’t had since mom and dad had died!  I wanted to be a daring gymnast like those women on TV.  Without a real height to give the thrill, I couldn’t ever stick a landing.  Suicide had nothing to do with it.  But you obviously didn’t believe me, just like all the doctors.”

Alexis looked with piercing eyes into Max as he tried to comprehend what he just heard.  The facts he had known for years were no longer true—at least, according to her.  She claimed to never have been suicidal, but normal people don’t need the kind of thrill she was after. 

Alexis sighed.  “There are several things you could say right now to get me to stay.  There are just as many things you could say to get me to leave and never come back.  Please prove to me that you aren’t utterly hopeless.”

Max was still getting over all he had just heard. “No…the doctors’ diagnosis had to have been right.”

“Strike one.”

Max realized that she was serious about leaving.  He took some time to think and said, “Your dreams can still come true, you know.”

“Strike two.  Not what I wanna hear.”

Max began to sweat.  He knew he shouldn’t be having this much trouble asking questions.   He was basically a detective; he should be good at this kind of stuff.  He put some thought into the next thing he would say.  In fact, the two of them just sat for about five minutes in total silence as he thought of what he could say to convince her to stay.  What was she after?  What was she looking for?

At last, he said, “I’m sorry I never got you out of that hell hole.  I could have saved you, but I didn’t.  Please forgive me.”

Her expression didn’t change—she just kept staring at him.  She then closed her eyes in resignation, got up, and went for the door.  The bell chimed as the door closed behind her, and she headed back the way she came.

Max was left in the café with only his thoughts and a latte.  What had Alexis wanted?  He tried to think from her point of view.  All those years alone in the mental institution.  Nobody had understood her.  Nobody had visited her.  Nobody could be trusted.

Glowing yellow.

Perhaps he couldn’t fix everything, but he was optimistic.  

Deep red.

She was sure to be angry at him, but maybe they could meet again.

Navy blue.

She was disappointed he had failed.

Deep red.

But despite her conflicting feelings…

Glowing yellow.

…she felt she hadn’t given him a fair chance.

A small bell dinged atop the café door.