The Last Reason to Stay

By Nadiya

The rain was pouring heavily. Mary clenched her hands inside the pockets of her old coat and hurried along beneath the awnings of shops that had lowered their shutters. The warm breaths escaping her chest created a small mist in front of her face that would disappear before her next exhale, vanishing into the grasp of the wind.

Her red hair and now-darker curls, saturated from the rain, clung to her forehead. Once again this month, the weather forecast was incorrect. According to yesterday’s news, today was supposed to be sunny. That’s why Mary had put on her linen clothes in the morning. But now, with her feet freezing in soaked shoes and socks, she muttered every curse she knew under her breath aimed at the meteorological office.

At the third intersection, the prolonged honk of a car cut through her thoughts. Before she could lift her head, a sudden pain twisted through her body. The disrupting pain made her smile. “At least I can still feel the pain,” she thought. Feeling something, even if it’s unpleasant, is better than the lack of feelings, the familiar numbness that she is used to.

As she opened her eyes, the black clouds still loomed over her head, and the rain continued relentlessly. Yet, Mary no longer felt anything, neither raindrops nor pain. The pain that had gripped her just moments before had vanished without a trace.

Mary rose from the wet ground and shook off her clothes. She tried to step aside from the middle of the street, but as if an invisible rope was pulling her back, she couldn’t move. Searching for the source of the force pinning her in place, she looked down. She trembled in horror when she found herself lying immobile on the rain-soaked pavement. Her scream echoed through the street. Yet the driver of the car, now kneeling beside her body with his fingers cold and trembling, desperately attempting to place a call on his mobile phone, remained oblivious to her cries. Fear had taken hold of Mary. Her eyes widened with terror as she stared at the scene of her death.

A peculiar sense of understanding rose from the depths of her heart, causing her to feel as though she comprehended what had happened. However, another side of her strongly rejected the truth and resisted acknowledging it.

The driver had finally succeeded in making the call, urgently summoning assistance. He had contacted the emergency services.

Suddenly, time froze, and a chilling noise from behind made her turn around to face the one who had been watching her closely. A woman was standing behind her. A woman with a calm and somewhat carefree demeanor, styled in a 1970s fashion: a white turtleneck, a light blue denim skirt, pink fishnet stockings, and sturdy white canvas shoes. Her jet-black hair, tinted with a rosy hue, fell a few centimeters below her shoulders. Mary could tell that the woman had an alluring and charming presence.

“It’s time,” the woman said.

Oddly, the woman remained entirely dry under the torrential downpour, as if an invisible umbrella shielded her.

While her tears mingled with raindrops on her cheeks, Mary managed to ask her, “Time for what?”

The woman’s lips curved into a whimsical smile, and playfully she gestured toward Mary’s lifeless body on the wet ground. “Time to leave this place,” she replied with a mysterious voice.

She stared deeply into Mary’s eyes and continued, “I don’t think that you’d like to stay. These past few days, as I followed your paper trails, I’ve come to realize you’re not all that content with life. There seems to be nothing but sorrow and grief over losses. Maybe it would be better for you to come with me! Where we’re going, there’s less pain awaiting you.”

The woman was telling the truth.

Over the past year, Mary had lost her job, her reputation, all her savings, and even her house. She had nothing left to lose, not even a friendship. The thought of her loneliness and the emptiness of her life brought tears to her eyes.

With a final glance at her lifeless body, Mary took a step toward the woman, but suddenly, two round and expectant eyes appeared right in front of her eyes!

Milou! Her cat! Milou had been waiting for her at home. Waiting for her to return, so that the moment she opened the door, he could rub against her wet legs and grumble about her delayed arrival. She knew that Milou wouldn’t eat until she came home; even though she always filled his bowl before leaving, the untouched food awaited her return every night.

Milou’s eyes were fixed on her with anticipation and concern. Two round eyes that held worry, innocence, and kindness.

Mary tore her gaze away from Milou’s eyes and turned to the woman. “But there’s someone who is waiting for me at home, someone I want to stay alive for,” she said.

18 November, 2023