If only she’d not been shot multiple times just fifteen minutes earlier. It was her blood on the floor that his right foot had slipped in. She had been in the way when two nervous thieves tried to make a hasty exit from the store with $63.75 and two six-packs of cheap domestic beer. Troy’s face would be the last thing she ever saw, and that only for the briefest of moments. She was dead by the time Troy realized he loved her. She never even told him her name, though he’d learn it later from the local news reports. Their relationship was one left unsullied by such common details.
Troy remained on the floor until police and paramedics separated him from his love. From their questions, it became clear to him that they at first believed he’d been shot too. Then they thought he was in shock, and the police mistakenly counted him as an eye witness to the crime. Over the next few days he did his best to answer their questions in the hope that he would be able to see Elise at least one more time. But soon their questions stopped, and he was forgotten, his request to see Elise ignored.
For the rest of his life, Troy would continue loving Elise, thinking about her whenever he needed a mint or slipped on some blood, and especially when he tried to get close to someone new and couldn’t find that complete acceptance in the woman’s face. The disappointment he felt each time he looked for love and found only doubt and judgment led him back to the memory of Elise. On those nights, he would excuse himself from the date, drive out to a playground at the edge of town and play his special variation of Tic Tac Toe with a young vagabond named Zippy. No one ever won, and he gave Zippy a dollar for the attention.
(Copyright 2018 Michael Doherty)
(Note: I wrote this story while at work on February 13th, and made a few small changes today, Valentine’s Day.)