The curtains blew like ghosts through open windows as Janelle wandered naked through the big house. It wasn’t because the summer heat kept her from sleeping tonight, she just hadn’t slept well since the last time Ethan had shared her bed. She took a deep breath, pausing briefly before the windows, staring into the darkness with Ethan’s face before her. Ethan. She would never see him again, never feel his fingers gliding over her skin, never feel his weight upon her, never feel him kiss her again. Janelle wiped a tear from her cheek and walked to the kitchen, putting her empty glass in the sink. She was tired now, so very tired. Maybe she would be able to sleep after all.
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Tomorrow was another day, Janelle told herself as she laid across the bed she’d shared with Ethan for nearly six years.
More than a year had passed since Ethan had been gone. Janelle was surprised when the date came and went, surprised she had survived that long without him. Surprised she had survived so long alone. And she had been alone. Her friends finally quit trying to get her to date, to come out with them. She had turned down every invitation they had extended. She didn’t answer the phone, erased messages from the machine without listening to them, she didn’t go to work anymore. She lived in the house Ethan had built, the home they had made together, wrapped in the memories they had made. She didn’t need any more than that.
Ethan walked through the big house alone. His bare chest bronzed from the sun, his sun-bleached hair falling over one shoulder. Pulling the double French doors open, he welcomed the breeze that brushed his hair back and cooled his skin. He sat on the railing of the big porch and propped up his bare feet.
He had lived alone before and he could do it again, at least he thought he could. He just had to get his bearings, get his feet back on steady ground. He just had to breathe. In and out. In and out. One breath at a time. He could do that. He’d been doing that since he lost Janelle. He could keep doing it. He hoped so anyway.
He padded back to the kitchen and pulled another beer from the fridge. He had the cap off and the bottle to his lips before the fridge door was shut. Beer took the edge off. Beer helped him sleep. But not tonight. Tonight he couldn’t drink enough to get Janelle off his mind long enough to shut his eyes.
A year had passed since the accident that killed her. Since he had killed her. He was driving the car. He swerved to miss the car that pulled out in front of them. He was the one who lost control. He was to blame for Janelle’s death, and no matter what anyone else said, he couldn’t forgive himself for that.