Evaporating Destiny

While Amelia couldn’t quite put her finger on it or explain how the devil it happened, she knew her reality had somehow shifted because the air smelled wrong—not just of engine exhaust but of evaporating destiny and melting fate.

©2020 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

How Do You Mend A Mechanical Heart?

“I met a human after I was granted a second chance via a presidential pardon for violating the first law of robotics and we fell in love but she died unexpectedly and my greatest regret is I had not obtained a lock of her hair to wind it into my broken mecha heart.”

©2020 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

No Clowning Around

I thought I could handle any trouble that came my way but the murder investigation had gone riotous way too fast and I was caught at ground zero.

I tried to beat a hasty retreat to call for backup but standing between me and the Big Top’s only egress was the Circus Authorities, a bundle of fast-moving, nimble as fuck, acrobatic clowns armed to the teeth with corrosive acid pies and rubber chickens filled with ball bearings.

There was no way this was going to end well.

©2020 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Having Heaven 11 – The Blowback

Turning on the television was almost always a bad idea. The one sure thing in all this madness was that every channel with a news outlet, syndicated and cable alike, provided twenty-four hour a day updates of variations on the same stories: people dealing with the spirits of loved ones. The sad fact of the matter was daily life seemed to stop the moment the dead returned to Earth. And that was the good news.

Interspersed between dramatic reenactments of tearful afterlife family reunions was the blowback religion was suffering due to its failure to provide answers for the reason Heaven was destroyed, the purpose of dead spirits returning to Earth and the overcrowding it was causing, and why anyone should continue worshipping if they were no longer a reward for living a righteous life. The suicide rate continued to climb but not all of the disillusioned practitioners were taking their own lives. Some took it upon themselves to express their anger in the form of the vandalization of churches, mosques and religious community centers which quickly escalated to bomb threats, physical attacks on parishioners, then to mass shootings and bombings. In order to minimize the death toll in America, the President passed an executive order to close places of worship and urged other countries to follow suit but failed to gain any traction as religious congregations across the states defied the ban.

Experts assembled comprehensive databases of bombers and mass shooters who aimed their attacks on religious groups or places of worship to try to better understand and help prevent future violence of this kind. They stated, normally the statistics would have indicated the perpetrators being men, mostly Caucasian, single and unemployed, ages ranging from twenty to forty, with histories of mental illness, substance abuse, and victims of serious childhood trauma. Worship murderers also typically fell into one of two distinct categories: ethno-religious hate groups who target a specific group of people to blame for their grievances; or angry individuals in crisis motivated by domestic issues. But new studies showed no gender, ethnicity or age correlation among the offenders. In fact, the common thread seemed to be people prepared to commit suicide who were afraid of dying alone. If they had to exist in void, they wanted to be surrounded by their family and friends.  

To combat the escalating tension, celebrities formed organizations to hold Death of Heaven vigil simulcast on tv, radio, podcast and across all the social media platforms around the world to offer support for those suffering as a result of the loss, as well as counseling for those having difficulty adjusting to having dead abusive spouses and family members return into their lives.

Mayra shut the tv off. She couldn’t be bothered flicking through the channels to find something to momentarily distract her. Even the soaps had been forced to add current events into their storylines, thanks to deceased actors appearing on set and going through their former character motions.

Stretching out on the sofa, her hand reflexively reached out for her smartphone.

“There’ll come a time when you’ll have to face facts,” Bethany said as she crossed from the bedroom, heading for the kitchen. “In your own time, of course, but sooner would be better for your mental state and the baby’s health.”

Damn. She had been busted by her friend once again and though Bethany tried not to sound too judgmental, Mayra felt a sense of shame that she wasn’t strong enough to admit the truth and move on with her life.

“Yeah, I know,” Mayra said, thumb hovering over the number keypad. “I keep going over it in my head, but our lives are too entwined. Gavin hasn’t touched the bank account, not that there’s a lot in there to begin with, so that means he doesn’t have a lot of money. He has to either be crashing with a friend or maybe he moved back to his parents’ house.”

“And you’ve already dialed all those numbers a dozen times. Sure, maybe if you pester them enough someone will eventually break and fess up, but you don’t know what story he spun to them and you could wind up looking like the psycho stalker ex-girlfriend.”

“I don’t care what people think. I just need to talk to him. I need that, Bethy, I need it.”

“Sweetie, I’m not telling you not to call, not to try. All I want is for you to be happy and if happy isn’t possible right now then I want you to feel comfortable moving forward without that dead weight hanging around your neck. From what you’ve told me the two of you were more like house mates for a while now. If that’s what you want out of life then go for it and I’ll support you the best way possible, but if you want someone to love you the way you deserve to be loved I think you need to accept the reality that you kissed a frog and instead of getting a prince, you got warts.”

“I know calling him probably isn’t the smartest thing to do, but I need to hear his voice. Don’t hate me.”

“Never,” Bethany said, continuing to the kitchen. “I’ll leave you to it.”

Mayra dialed Gavin’s cell, cursing herself for being a weak-willed idiot.

“The number you have dialed is not in service, please check the number and try again.” The automated voice wasn’t what she expected to hear. She hung up and tried again. “The number you have dialed—” She disconnected and carefully redialed his phone number one more time. “The number you have dialed—” Mayra hurled the phone across the room and screamed, “Fuck!”

Bethany ran into the living room. “What is it? What happened?”

“That bastard changed his number,” Mayra said and suddenly the floodgates opened. Everything she kept bottled up came spilling out. Gavin hadn’t left a note or emailed her or even sent a text message. The very least he could have done if he was at his parents’ house was to have his mother or father call her to let her know he was safe. But no, all she got after five years of dating was an apartment full of the empty spaces he used to inhabit. She ended with, “He’s gone,” before breaking down into uncontrollable tears.

“Yes, he is, sweetie,” Bethany pulled her friend into her arms and gently rocked her. “But you’re not alone.”

***

Bethany had done more than Mayra could ever have asked. She worked out the apartment lease with the landlord, removing Gavin’s name and replaced it with her own, as well as smoothing things over with Mayra’s boss so she could take a few days off and still keep her job. At times Mayra had been overwhelmed by it all, and the complicated emotions that came with accepting her relationship with Gavin was well and truly over came and went like the tides. There were days when she hated her ex-boyfriend—and it had taken a while to adjust to thinking of him as an ex—for what he’d done and the only thing she really wanted to do was to hurt him the way he hurt her. Then there were days when she accepted the way things were, realizing there was nothing she could have done to change what was.

One of the best reasons for having Bethany so close was that Mayra could open the release valve when her brain became too cluttered with random, disturbing thoughts and voice things she ordinarily wouldn’t have been able to speak with Gavin about.

“I’ve been thinking a lot about miscarriages,” Mayra let slip while she and Bethany were working on a jigsaw together. It was a three thousand piece Educa Amsterdam with Red Bike Puzzle. Challenging enough to focus her concentration on since besides the red bike, the rest of the puzzle was in black and white with reflective surfaces. Still, idle thoughts had a way of creeping in.

“What?” Bethany gave her a look she’d grown accustomed to since moving in together, the look of being blindsided. “You shouldn’t be worrying about things like that. Stay positive. Everything’s going to be all right because there’s no reason they shouldn’t be.”

“You don’t understand. I’m not worrying about miscarrying, not yet at least, I was just wondering when life begins. Is it at conception?”

“I—I’m no expert but I’d say, sure, why not?”

“Then why haven’t we seen the souls of any aborted children? Or still births? Is it because their souls hadn’t properly developed?”

“Okay, that’s disturbing on a number of levels. Have you actually been looking for them? I wouldn’t even know what that would look like and I don’t think I’d want to know.”

“You’ve got a point there,” Mayra admitted. “But what about kids? Of all the people who’ve died and returned, why hasn’t anyone reported spotting children?”

“Oh man,” Bethany said. “With all the confusion going on, I never realized all we’ve been encountering are adults. What happened to all the kids? And people are tripping over ghosts outside but I haven’t seen one in our apartment yet. Have you?”

“I—” Mayra began, then thought about it. “No, I haven’t.”

“Somebody must have died here.”

“Bethy!”

“This isn’t a new building, is what I’m saying. What are the odds this is one of the few places on Earth where no deaths have ever occurred?”

To Be Continued…

©2017-2020 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Kiss The Lips of Death

Driven to desperation by your absence from my life, I traveled to Hades in search of the psychopomp for a solution. Know, beloved, that I would not be afraid to kiss the lips of Death itself if it meant I could bring you back for a day, an hour or even a second.

©2020 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

They Come At Night

Photo by @no_faith_left

They come at night.

When they were alive they were families and neighbors who came to each other’s aid and fought for peace and tragically lost the battle before that peace had been established.

Now, they step each dusk from the void of the hereafter to remind us.

©2020 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Earth Day Isolation

The loamy smell of rain-damp soil fills the air of my Earth Day isolation. Birdsong twitters through the brick and mortar forest lining the long abandoned streets, and I sit on my doorstep patiently waiting for the day when I can appreciate nature and the life it gives so freely without hiding behind a mask and latex.

©2020 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Having Heaven 10 – The Hail Mary

It was a twenty minute wait from the phone call to when Bethany arrived and in that eternity the sky darkened and it began to drizzle, water droplets beating a soft rhythm and running rivulets down the clinic’s front window. The change of weather had not deterred the protesters, who came prepared, some sporting rain ponchos and others toting umbrellas.

Bethany was in a right state when she burst into the clinic, causing alarm to the receptionist and the people seated in the waiting area, all except the spirits who patiently waited their turn for a call that would never come. Mayra was struck by a sad reality that this spot might have been the last place some of these people saw while they were still alive, either through natural causes or by violence or by complications brought about by the procedure. There were no babies, though, she was thankful for that. Come to think of it, she could not recall having seen any child spirits. A fleeting thought that was pushed to the back of her mind.

“It’s all right, she’s with me,” Mayra said, rising from her seat, catching the eye of Cynthia the receptionist and the two plain-clothed men stood near the front door whom she had not noticed before who were obviously security. To Bethany she said, “You can’t be busting in here like that. It’s not safe.”

“For who, me? Let them try their luck,” Bethany said, catching her breath. “Sorry I’m late, I had a hell of a time getting out here.”

“No, I’m the one who should be sorry for pulling you out of work. I must have sounded frantic but I didn’t know who else to call.”

“Who cares about that job? I’m more worried about you.”

“Thanks for coming,” Mayra paused and it was pregnant with uncertainty and a touch of shame. “I guess you’re wondering why I’m here.”

“No, actually, I can work that bit out. Between this and that thing you needed to discuss with Gavin before you told me, I think it’s fairly obvious. I only have two questions for you: first, Did you? No judgments, I just need to know what sort of support I’m offering here.”

Mayra shook her head.

“Okay,” there was a note of relief in Bethany’s voice. And if Mayra was being honest, she felt it too. “Second, where’s the prick?”

“I don’t know and he’s not a prick.”

“Did you try calling him?”

Mayra nodded. “Several times but it goes straight to voicemail.”

“He’s not going to answer because he pulled a Hail Mary on you.”

“A what?”

“A Hail Mary. It’s when a guy talks a girl out of having a baby then celebrates by breaking up with her.”

“That’s not what happened.”

“Oh yeah? Tell me if this sounds familiar: I love you very much and would like nothing better than to have kids with you. But, if we have a kid now, that’ll ruin our chances of having a huge wedding, buying a home and raising a big family together. If you do the right thing now, I promise we’ll have as many kids as you want later on.”

“This–this is a thing?”

“A thing that comes prepackaged with a script. I wish you told me about this first, this way we could’ve caught the prick red-handed and stopped him dead in his tracks,” Bethany said, gathering up Mayra’s coat and handbag. “Are you ready to go? I have a cab waiting outside.”

“But how do you know about it?” Mayra asked as Bethany hooked an arm around her elbow and tugged her toward the exit.

“Ain’t my first time at the rodeo, sweetie. Now, where are we headed? Your place? Mine? A bar?”

“My place.”

“Good. If we’re quick about it, maybe we can catch him before he clears out. At least you won’t be alone. Give me the sign and I’m throat punch him for you.”

Mayra let out a small, mirthless chuckle, more out of habit than anything else.

“You’re laughing but I’m serious, one quick rabbit punch to his Adam’s apple—”

They made a mad dash for the taxi because the rain was coming down hard enough now to render windshield wipers and high beams virtually ineffective. Not that Mayra noticed. She sat silently throughout the entire ride mulling over the concept of the Hail Mary while trying to give Gavin the benefit of the doubt. There was simply no way he could have done something as devious as that to her.

When they arrived at her house, Mayra half-expected to see Gavin hunched over the keyboard with his face buried in the computer monitor, apologizing and offering some lame excuse about stopping by the house to catch up on a little work and losing track of time, but he wasn’t there. Neither was the computer.

The apartment had an unnatural quietude when they entered. It turned out that Bethany had been spot on in her assessment and Mayra’s worst fears had been realized. All of Gavin’s belongings were gone. He cleared out everything he owned, including that damned computer, which they bought together. There was no way he could have packed everything up and moved out so completely during the time Mayra spent in the clinic, so it was obvious he had been planning his escape ever since she agreed to go along with his plan.

She walked through the living room and into the bedroom. The closet door was wide open and Mayra stood staring into it and now filled with only her clothes it seemed far too big. She pressed her lips into a tight line of defiance, holding back the tears welling in her eyes, as a tightness in her chest constricted her ability to take in air.

“Don’t do this to yourself, Mayra,” Bethany said, gently rubbing Mayra’s shoulders. “The prick isn’t worth it.”

Mayra nodded and turned to Bethany. “I know, I just can’t believe it, is all. I mean, how naïve could I have been not to see through this? He packed his stuff under my nose and I didn’t notice a thing.”

“You had a lot on your mind with the heaven thing, seeing your mother again and being pregnant on top of that, hell, Sherlock Holmes would have missed the clues under those circumstances,” Bethany said. “I could never understand what you saw in him and even I didn’t think he was low enough to pull a Hail Mary. There’s a level in hell for pricks who do shit like that, and if there isn’t, I’ll build one personally.”

“He wasn’t always a prick.”

“Yeah, sometimes he was a cunt, too,”

Mayra smiled despite herself. “I’m serious, Bethy, he was always there for me when things got bad, and not having him here,” she sighed. “I guess I should have known something like this was coming. He’s been disconnected since this whole mess began but I didn’t think he could be callous enough to manipulate me and simply walk away.”

“Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to defend him but the world’s been turned upside down and everyone’s different now. The best thing you can do is put him in your rearview mirror and try to live your life as normally as possible. If you let his cowardice and stupidity get the better of you, you’re going to end up not living at all.”

Mayra sat down on the corner of the bed, her mind whirring. The thought of what lay ahead if worst came to worst put a shudder of nerves through her. “I need to work out how I’m

going to have a baby all alone when I can’t even make the rent on this place on my own.”

“What am I, chopped liver?” Bethany sat beside Mayra on the bed.

“What?”

“It’s something my grandma used to say,” Bethany explained. “My lease is up the end of this month, so if a certain someone was looking for a roomie, say, someone they could trust, I might know someone who would be happy to help out, if needed.”

Mayra smiled and laid her head on Bethany’s shoulder. “Thanks. No promises, though. Not until I get in touch with Gavin and sort this out, one way or the other.”

“You’re better than I am. After what he’s done, he’d be dead to me. Emphasis on the word dead.”

“I just need to talk to him, Bethy, to find out why he felt the need to handle things this way. He owes me,” Mayra placed her hand on her belly. “Owes us an explanation. And if it’s over, truly over, I need to know for sure so I can move on.”

“You do realize that if you take him back after all this, I’m never going to let you live it down.”

“I know.”

“I mean, never.”

“Got it.”

“Super passive-aggressive shots fired every time I see you two together.”

“Understood.”

“And if I ever catch him on his own—”

“A rabbit punch to the throat,” Mayra put her arms around her friend. “I love you, too.”

“Well, you’ve been put through the wringer today so I think you should try to get some rest,” Bethany said.

Mayra sighed but didn’t argue when Bethany had gotten her into bed and sat beside her.

“If I fall asleep, please don’t leave,” Mayra said softly, her eyes fluttering. “I don’t think I can take being alone right now.”

“Just try getting rid of me,” Bethany said, running fingers through her friend’s hair until she eventually fell asleep.

To Be Continued…

©2017-2020 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Having Heaven 9 – The Procedure

As she and Gavin exited the Uber, Mayra noticed a handful of police officers scrambling to move wooden barricades into place before the Pro-Life activists swarmed onto the sidewalk across from the clinic. They wore signs around their necks that read slogans like Abortion Kills, and It’s A Child, Not A Choice, and One Life Taken, Many Hearts Broken.

“Life chain!” shouted one of the demonstrators, a heavy-set woman who had an undeniable motherly look about her and in response, the fellow activists linked hands and attempted to march across the street to the clinic and block the main entrance. The police officers used the barricades to quickly to corral the demonstrators and push them back onto the adjacent sidewalk.

When the crowd began to heckle and boo them, Myra felt Gavin tightening his grip on her hand. She tried to focus on the clinic door but it seemed so far away. “Maybe this isn’t such a good idea,” she said.

“I know this is frightening,” Gavin said, draping a protective arm across her shoulders. “And these people aren’t helping the matter any, but don’t let their narrow-minded views decide our fate. Remember our plan? We do it right. Things will be perfect next time.”

“Are we doing the right thing?” Mayra asked, studying the demonstrators. She noticed there were spirits of dead protestors scattered amongst the living and two ghost policemen, who were assisting in keeping the crowd behind the barricades. The activists’ jeers and implorations for Mayra to change her mind were growing louder and louder until it all blurred into a chaotic tangle of white noise.

“Hey, babe, no pressure,” Gavin stepped in front of her to obscure her view. “Whatever you decide to do is fine. I just want you to think it all the way through, that’s all. And ask yourself, is what you’re doing the best possible thing for everyone involved?”

“But the baby—”

“Let’s say you decide we’re keeping it,” Gavin had to raise his voice over the din of the crowd but he was still remarkably, uncharacteristically calm. “The truth is that nothing is guaranteed. You could have a miscarriage, the baby could be stillborn or die of SIDS, or be born mentally or physically handicapped. You never know with these things.”

“I’m just so confused. This is all happening way too fast.”

“Then let’s go inside and sit down. We don’t have to do anything but sit and talk. This way you won’t be distracted by these morons.”

“And we don’t have to do anything?”

“Not if you don’t want to.”

“Okay,” Mayra nodded and allowed Gavin to lead her into the clinic.

Inside, the receptionist glanced at them but didn’t say anything as the couple sat in the corner of the waiting area farthest away from the front window, or rather Mayra sat in a seat and Gavin kneeled before her, taking both her hands in his.

“If you’d rather just go back home, I’m fine with that,” Gavin said. Mayra remained silent, lost in a maelstrom of thoughts, so he continued, “Forget all the confusion going on in the world at the moment and forget about what society or the people outside think is right or wrong. Let’s just focus on what’s important to you and me. Is this the right thing to do? At the end of the day, as much as I support you and want to be here for you, it’s your body so only you can decide that. Emotionally, I think I feel the same apprehension you do. Logically, though, I realize that raising a kid is tough enough under ideal conditions and in light of the way the world keeps changing day by day, I think we owe it to ourselves to do what’s best at this point in time.”

“Maybe you are right. Logically it doesn’t make sense for the two of us to have a baby, but there’s more to this than logic,” Mayra bit her lip hard, willing herself not to cry. “And you can’t feel that same as I do emotionally because there isn’t a defenseless life growing inside of you.”

“That’s not fair—”

“What’s not fair is suggesting I go through with this in hopes of putting it off until everything is fixed,” Mayra said, pulling her hands free from his grasp. “But what if it can’t be fixed? Are you still not going to want to have children with me?”

“Of course, I want to have children and I want to have them with you. The timing just needs to be better, is all I’m suggesting. I’m not going to put off having a family forever if things aren’t fixed. If you’re really ready and one hundred percent committed to starting our family now then we’ll make it work, I swear. And I’m not trying to convince you to go through with the procedure because I couldn’t live with myself if you resented me for it.”

Mayra stared past Gavin and mulled his point of view over in her head. What he said made sense, not in the way he said it but the emotion behind it. When she looked at him again, she could see the certainty was still there. She believed he truly believed it was best for them to wait the madness out and plan properly for the future, that there would be another chance somewhere down the road for the two of them to start a proper family.

“Okay,” Mayra said in a voice barely above a whisper.

“Okay?”

“Okay,” she reaffirmed in a stronger voice as she stood, straighten out her sundress and made her way to the reception desk with Gavin tagging along behind.

The receptionist introduced herself as Cynthia and she had a way about her that suggested she never became impatient or judgmental of the people who sought the clinic’s services. Her attention was mainly focused on Mayra to whom she appeared to give her undivided attention while she patiently helped her fill out the necessary forms. The only time her attention shifted to Gavin was when accounts needed to be settled.

When a nurse came to escort her into the clinic proper, Mayra, not being able to look the woman in the eye, asked, “I don’t know what the protocol is for this sort of thing, but can my boyfriend come with me? Be there while…you know?”

“I’m afraid not,” the nurse said kindly. “He’ll have to wait here but you’ll be in good hands, I promise.”

Mayra turned to Gavin, “You’ll wait? Promise me you’ll wait for me.”

“Where else would I be?” Gavin kissed her for what felt like the first time in weeks. A real kiss, a soul kiss is what they used to call it. It was the way they kissed when they first decided to hook up.

***

Mayra thought she would have been taken straight into an operating room but instead was seated in a smaller waiting area. The room was all white and had a clinical smell to it that set her nerves on edge to the point she found herself pacing.

When the nurse, whose name Mayra could not remember and was embarrassed to ask, returned, she explained the state required informed consent from a patient before undergoing any sort of medical treatment. This meant she had to ascertain if Mayra possessed the capacity to make decisions about her care; that her participation in these decisions was voluntary and she wasn’t being forced or pressured into doing something against her will; and that she must be provided adequate and appropriate information. The nurse then explained that although New York was not a state that required a twenty-four hours elapse between the counseling session and the procedure, it was advisable to take time to give the situation some proper thought.

And for the first time since this whole thing began, Mayra breathed a deep sigh of relief and felt the pressure fall away from her shoulders. She decided to wait, to sleep on it, approach it with a clearer head. Gavin, most likely would not be too happy with her decision but she would find a way to sort things out and hopefully then they could have a proper discussion and weigh out all their options instead of making a hasty decision.

Her confidence, however, turned to confusion when Mayra stepped back into the waiting area to find that Gavin was nowhere in sight. She went to the reception desk but before she could ask, Cynthia said, “Your boyfriend left the moment you stepped inside with the nurse.”

“I-I don’t understand,” Mayra stammered. “He said he’d wait.” She scanned the waiting area, stepped outside to see if he was standing on the street, checked the nearby bodega to see if he popped in to get something to eat or drink, then returned to the clinic and inspected the room again just in case her eyes had been playing tricks on her. Still no sign of Gavin.

“I’m really not supposed to do this,” Cynthia said, reaching for the desktop phone. “But is there someone I can call for you, to pick you up?”

Mayra waved the receptionist off, pulled her own phone out of her pocket, and dialed the only number she would ever dial in a situation like this.

To Be Continued…

©2017-2020 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Having Heaven 8 – The Discussion

The pregnancy test had been burning a hole in Mayra’s handbag since day one despite the best efforts of the fall of Heaven and the spirits of the dead returning to earth. She found herself wishing she had told Gavin as soon as she had gotten the results so that this part, the hard part, the having the discussion part would have been in the past. How easier it would have been to simply slide this card into the deck of the events of the last week to minimize the impact of her boyfriend’s possible response. She meant to practice breaking the news to Bethany but the sudden reappearance of her dead mother put the stick in the spokes of that plan.

Now, here she was standing in the living room doorway, pregnancy test in a white-knuckle death grip behind her back, heart pounding as she watched Gavin type away on his computer keyboard. That was how he spent his time recently, in online forums chatting and debating theories and wading through propaganda with complete strangers about the almost hourly updates that contained more opinions from unqualified experts than facts. The only person he had not had these conversations with was her. Their relationship was changing, partly because she had changed but in his own way, Gavin had changed, as well.

Nothing to it but to do it, Mayra thought and mustering her courage, she cleared her throat, “Gavin?”

“Yeah, babe?” her boyfriend said over his shoulder.

“We need to talk.”

That got Gavin’s attention away from the keyboard. He swiveled in his chair to face Mayra and said, “Uh-oh. We need to talk never ends well.”

“That’s not necessarily true.”

“Okay, prove me wrong. What do we need to talk about?”

“First, I need you not to freak out or get mad at me for not telling you sooner but with all the craziness going on there never seemed to be a right time,” Mayra pulled the pregnancy test from behind her back and held it out to him. “But, congratulations, you’re going to be a dad.”

Gavin stared at the test for a long moment and exhaled slowly.

“It’s wrong, a false positive, because you got the implant—” he said.

“It isn’t one hundred percent foolproof.”

“But we barely—”

“I know, but it doesn’t only happen based on quantity, sometimes it’s just the quality and you’ve got powerful swimmers,” Mayra said, hoping for a laugh to lighten the moment but all she received for her effort was a stone-faced glare. “Well, aren’t you going to say something?”

“How long have you been sitting on this?” Gavin asked.

“Just before the Heaven thing.”

“So, you’ve had time to process but you left-field me and expect me to have a prepared response for something like this?”

“No, I expect you to tell me how you feel, what you’re thinking, anything! Just say something.”

“You want to know what I’m thinking?”

“Of course, I do.”

“You won’t believe me.”

“Try me.”

“At that exact moment I was thinking, I love you.”

He was right, Mayra wasn’t buying it, but decided to test the waters, asking, “Does that mean you’re happy about the news?”

“I’d want nothing more than to bring a baby into the world with you. But I was also thinking about us.”

“What about us?”

“You’ll be going back in school in a little bit and I’m trying to launch my career so what kind of life could we provide for a baby?”

“We’d make do like everyone else,” Mayra said with far more aggression than she planned.

“I don’t want to be like everyone else. I don’t want to squeak by and live paycheck to paycheck. And look at this place—”

“What’s wrong with it?”

“It’s a dump! I don’t want our child living in a place like this. I know it sounds old-fashioned but our child should be living in a house with a swing in the backyard. We should be married, and have money in the bank and a college fund for an ivy league school.”

“We could get all those things,” Mayra said.

“When? With what? Forget your gap year, you’ll have to put school on hold indefinitely, and the little bit of money I’ll be making will be stretched so thin we might as well be on Welfare.”

“So, what are you saying?”

“Maybe, you know, we should, I don’t know, get it fixed?”

“Fixed?” Without realizing it, Mayra’s hand rested on her stomach. Was it too soon to be experiencing a strong maternal instinct?

“Wait, before you fly off the handle, I need you to hear me out,” Gavin rose from his seat, took the pregnancy test out of Mayra’s hand and placed it on the coffee table before leading her to the couch. “Think about what’s going on in the world at the moment. No more Heaven, ghosts are popping up everywhere and who knows what else is waiting around the corner. For all we know the worst may be yet to come. Normally, I’d never consider asking you to do something so drastic but everything is different now and it’s changed my view on a lot of things, one of them being I’m not certain I want to bring new life into this world if when they eventually die they’re just going to wander the earth endlessly. Watching videos of people losing their shit after encountering loved ones they’ve laid to rest is heartbreaking and I can’t do that. I don’t want our child living with our ghosts and god forbid something happened to our son or daughter I wouldn’t be strong enough to deal with the daily reminder of his or her spirit.”

Mayra had never seen Gavin’s eyes so full of fear and pain. “But what if that doesn’t happen?” she offered weakly.

“You mean if things get better? If we discover a solution? Then we try again but we plan for it this time. We start on the right path, get married, finish school, put some money aside for a college fund, build a line of credit, buy a house for our new family.”

“You want to get married?”

Gavin slid off the couch onto the carpet on one knee, dug into his pocket, produced his set of keys and systematically began removing keys from the keyring one at a time. “I’ve been mulling this over in my head since all this craziness began and the only thing I’m certain about is no matter what lies in store for us, I want to face it together with you.”

“Gavin—”

“I haven’t had the chance to pick up a ring, so this will have to do,” Gavin held up the empty keyring between his thumb and forefinger. “Mayra Critchlow, will you marry me?”

Mayra looked down at the carpet, trying to work out how to sort through all the thoughts buzzing in her head. “I-I don’t know,” she muttered.

Gavin gently place his hand beneath Mayra’s chin and brought her head up until she met his gaze. Was it her imagination or was there a light shining in his eyes, eyes now moist with tears?

“If you make an honest man of me, we can start again and get it all right this time around,” Gavin said. “I’ll be the man you need me to be. I’ll be the husband that will make you proud, I swear.”

To Be Continued…

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