Everything I Am
By A. J. Brown
“What can I give you that you don’t already have?” William asked. He stood in the white glow of a streetlamp. His body cast a black shadow at his feet that copied his arms out in frustration gesture.
She stood in the darkness, outside the circle surrounding him. “Your heart,” she whispered, her voice a soft breeze in his ears.
“It’s all I ask.”
“It’s everything I am.”
“Then I want everything you are.”
His shoulders slumped. The shoulders of the shadow at his feet does the same thing. “Someone else already has it.”
“Yes,” she said, “The one who left you?”
William looked down at the shadow trailing from his feet. He nodded as tears slipped from his eyes. Then he turned and walked away. A moment later, the streetlamp winked out.
“Love is a treacherous thing,” William said into the empty glass in front of him. A scrim of froth clung to the bottom of it.
“What are you on about?” the bartender asked. He took the glass and replaced it with a full one.
William looked at the older man. He had a bald head, and gray hair in his ears. A dirty dishrag was slung over his shoulder. His white shirt had a stain just below the left breast pocket. It could have been ketchup from a burger eaten years earlier. It could have been blood.
“Love,” William said. “That’s what I’m on about.”
“A sticky subject there,” the old man said. He pulled the towel from his shoulder and wiped the bar between them.
“I guess so.”
“Broken hearted tonight?”
William shrugged. “Yeah.”
“Your girl leave you?”
William took a deep breath. Tears formed in his eyes. He swallowed the knot in his throat. “No. I mean, yes.”
The bartender slipped the dishrag onto his shoulder and put his hands on his wide hips. “Did she or didn’t she?”
William licked his lips, then wiped them. “It’s been months since she left.”
The bartender nodded. William picked up the glass and took several deep swallows. It was cold, but not refreshing.
“You need to move on, Mister,” the bartender said. “You only have one shot at this life. Mourning the loss of a relationship will only bring you down. Find another person to give your heart to.”
William laughed, a sound with no joy in it. “That’s the sad thing about all this.”
“I did find someone else.”
The old man smiled, showing he was missing one of his lower front teeth. “Then why are you here, drowning yourself in booze and not out with her?”
William ran a finger along the top of the glass several times before answering. “She wants my heart.”
“Everyone wants someone’s heart.”
“You ever give your heart away?” William asked, his finger still running the edge of the glass.
“Once or twice, I reckon.”
“How’d it work out for you?”
The bartender shrugged, a simple up and down of the shoulders. “The first time, not so well. The second, well, we’re still together, so I guess that one turned out okay.”
“Second time was a charm?”
“You could say that.”
“I should probably leave now and go find her—the second woman, not the first—and give her what she wants?”
“What do you have to lose?”
“I don’t know.”
“Then, what are you waiting for? Give it to her. It’s not like it will kill you to do so.”
William stood and placed a ten on the bar. “Thanks for the ear, man.”
William heard her calling even before he made it to Itsover Lane.
William, why won’t you come to me?
Her voice was haunting and hypnotizing, and was that desire he heard? He wasn’t sure—he hadn’t heard that tone from a woman in what felt like years. Still, he listened to the pull of her voice, to the seductive promise in it.
We can be together, forever, William. Just give me your heart.
William stepped into the road. Just as he did, the streetlamp came on, lighting up the spot where he stood. His shadow appeared at his feet.
“I’m here,” he said, a quiver in his voice.
You came back.
Are you going to give me your heart, William?
“Yes,” he said and slipped the gun from his waistband.
Just take my hand and I’ll take care of the rest, she whispered and stepped from the shadows. She wore a black robe with a hood that concealed her face. She stretched out a thin hand.
Tears fell from William’s eyes. His chest was heavy, and he was suddenly very tired.
Do you give me your heart, William?
“Yes,” he said and took her hand. As he did so, he saw the blade in her hand …
… and the gun went off.
A moment later, the streetlamp winked out.
So often my stories come from singular thoughts I have. In this case, an image of a man with his head down and tears in his eyes popped into my head. It was a black and white picture in my mind. He stood in a white circle, his shadow hooked to his heels. All around him the world was black. Reaching from the darkness was a thin female hand. It was like a comic strip image. Above his head was a thought bubble that simply read, What do you want from me? Another thought bubble appeared, and it read, Everything.
My brain spoke up with a question of its own. What is everything? Well, his heart, his love … his life.
I sat and wrote Everything I Am that night. After I finished writing it, I realized the story wasn’t so much about love, but about desperation. So often love makes us do desperate things, things we wouldn’t normally do. In the case of William, there wasn’t another woman. He was still heartbroken because of the one who had left him. The other ‘woman’ who lurked in the shadows and had a thin, white hand and a black robe was the only way he believed he could get out of the depression and heartbreak: death.
It’s a painful story. It’s a painful reminder of the power of love, and the ruin it can bring if things end in something other than happily ever after.
I hope you enjoyed Everything I Am. If you did, please like the post and leave a comment letting me know you liked it. Also, please share this to your social media pages and help me get my stories out to other readers. Thank you for reading.