Good Afternoon Loves!
Today, I'm posting this short story I wrote. Hoping to post one every month. Things have been busy on my end, and some medical issues and my migraines have been kicking my butt, but I still managed to finish it! I'm hoping to get the next LP2T episode up soon as well (comic), but I don't have the exact day down since shading and effects take forever. Haha. In the meantime, here's a bittersweet story.
⚠️ Please be forewarned that the following story might trigger you, AdmFam and visitors, if you have depression, are dealing with loss or have a history of suicidal thoughts. Please take care of yourselves. If you are in danger of self-harm please seek help immediately! We want you to stick around here so please keep fighting!😉💕
Paige remembered the days before the accident in much the same way as one would a sweet dream fading upon waking. She could never forget the way her husband looked at her. Or their long walks and midnight picnics situated under moonlit skies and beautiful mountains scattered across the landscape behind them.
After the accident, however, those days vanished, and the rest of her life seemed to follow suit. In an effort to protect her, her husband Cody had removed all the mirrors, covered most reflective surfaces in waterproof matte film including the windows, and reduced her access to the outside world. It was no surprise that those star-kissed nights no longer existed outside of her memory.
Today was Friday, and Fridays meant the two of them would go to the town. Usually, she was wrapped in bandages with only her hair and eyes in public view from the neck up. But today wasn’t a Friday like the rest. Four years had passed since the accident. And within the first two, she made her husband swear that, come what may, she would show her face for the first time again.
If everyone recoiled in disgust or spoke ill of her behind her back it wouldn’t matter. After all, Cody would be there beside her. He would hold her hand and support her. Just as he had been doing.
She couldn’t say she wasn’t nervous. Truth be told, she was a million more times terrified than excited now that the day was upon them. She didn’t think she could bring herself to look at her reflection, so she would wear a hood and Cody would be there to block her mirrored image on surfaces. She thought his presence would be even more helpful aided by the sunlight dissappearing to make way for the night.
The chances of her having to face her deformities significantly decreased then. She'd waited impatiently since the early morning, pacing half the day. She didn’t know when she'd began picking at her skin. She felt Cody's warm hand on her shoulder. His eyes softened as he looked at her.
"You know it's alright if you don’t want to do this. If you're feeling sick again. Or if you're just not ready--"
"No, no. I just need to take a breath." She shook her head. Clutched her fist in front of her. Ignored her trembling limbs. "I want to do this. I will do this."
She didn’t know if it was out of worry or disbelief. Either way, his gentle smile and melty eyes grew rigid. He sighed in frustration and grumbled under his breath while he fetched her coat. She didn’t know what to say to him. She felt like she owed an apology but she couldn’t think of what to say. Instead, she wrapped her arms around him and went in for a kiss.
He stopped her short, opted for one on the cheek. It stung. Cody was not always the most outwardly effectionate man, but he'd had very little trouble burying her cries in kisses in the confines of their bedroom. Multiple times a week. Or holding her close and telling her she would never be less beautiful, surrounded by a shadowless dark in every corner of the room. So she could try to feel beautiful again while they stared into each other's eyes. Even in the dark where she could hardly make them out, she felt his gaze, powerful and full, trained on her as he spoke until she could finally sleep. If she didn’t feel beautiful those nights she at least always knew his love.
"I- I'm sorry, Cody. Was I--"
"-I'm sorry Paige." He kissed her knuckles. "It's just the day is all." He looked at her for a long moment, his eyes followed an unspoken path across her features. He rubbed some of her blonde strands through his fingers and kissed them too. "Have I told you how pretty you look today?"
She loved this man so much. He was so much more than everything she ever wanted. The kind of man who didn’t pretend to be a prince in a fairytale. But rather, the kind that built one up with his own hands. She was just lucky enough to be swooped along in it. To hell with Prince Charming. Cody, if ever he was snobbish enough to do so, could easily have him eatting out of his shoe.
"I could stand to hear it again." Paige smirked as he slid her coat on her back. He chuckled and swooped her up in his arms. He grabbed his wallet and keys, slid the door closed and rushed without warning to the edge of the driveway. The colors of sunset were fading quickly from the sky.
"My wife Paige is the most beautiful woman on Earth and is looking particularly sexy today!"
"--C-Cody!" Paige gasped.
"She's feeling a bit low and terrified today so anyone who disagrees will get a fist to the face!! She's the bravest person I know! Oh, and Fuck you Richard Patterson!!!"
Paige's eyes grew wide, her heart skipped and she cupped her hands over his mouth. When he winked, she quickly burried her face in his shirt. She didn’t know what to think. He'd never done something like that before. She didn’t know what to feel; touched or utterly embarrassed?
"Cody!" She hushed him, slowly removing her hands from his mouth. "What's gotten into you today?"
He looked down at her, his eyes catching a glimmer of moonlight. "You know I'm the luckiest man in the world right?"
"Because I'm the most beautiful woman on Earth or because you've had to come home from work every day worried about me and live like a groundhog afraid of his shadow?"
"Both." He smiled.
"Cody, be serious." Paige frowned.
"I am serious, Paige." He replied quickly, "Absolutely, and without jest."
"You're not making any sense. I don’t understand you."
"I'm the luckiest man in the world because I'm with you. And I'm lucky to have you to worry about. To return home to. Lucky that you're still here, that you are willing to do something most people would never. Today is a big step i worried for a moment that maybe it would be too big. Or that once you were out here again you'd either come to hate this world, or fall in love with it all over again while we lose what has been 'just us' in this house for the past four and a half years. But I realized, the least I could do was lend you a little more strength, a little more courage today. So, I wanted to do something else too. Something big, and just for you."
"You didn’t need to do anything more." She could feel the words become heavy in the back of her throat. "You've given me everything. You keep sacrificing a life out here for me. You come home without fail every day. You console me. You fight away my demons. You could have left me."
"I could not. You and me, we are bound to each other by more than our vows. Right? My love for you didn’t go away the moment you got into that accident. Forever and ever, Paige."
"Forever and ever." She repeated and began to cry. That's right. She and Cody were bound. They'd chosen each other and loved one another harder every day. Though she felt he embodied it more than she ever could nowadays.
Forever and ever. The same words they ended every night with since the day they got married. Even though they were headed out tonight and not off to bed. They never guessed back then that it would become part of an unspoken ritual. Cody never forgot to say it. It never grew old or tiresome.
She closed her eyes as he kissed her salty tears. She listened to his footsteps as he pulled her as close to him as possible and made his way to car. She almost didn't want to let go as he gently placed her down into the passenger seat and strapped her in. She leaned her head against the cool window and kept her eyes shut. Worried she might catch a glimpse of herself as she felt Cody slide into the driver's seat beside her.
She reached her hand towards him as he started up the car and waited for the heat to circulate around them. She almost wanted to watch the warm air chase the frost away from the windowsill too, but didn’t dare. A thought occured to her.
He kissed her knuckles again in response. Each one a roadmap up the length of her arm. She tried not to get distracted. "I meant to ask before but..who's Richard Patterson? Someone from work? A new neighbor?"
For a moment, she felt his grip tighten on her arm before he apologized and ushered it to her lap. "That's the fucker who hit you."
"Oh." Paige mumbled. She'd forgotten the man's name. Perhaps it was a consequence of being loved so well by a man better than a prince. Since those first couple of weeks home and the calls from the insurance companies, she never thought of him again. Even though he was responsible for their current suffering.
"Shit!" Cody exclaimed, suddenly pulling back into the driveway and parking the car with a hard break. Paige almost opened her eyes. "Sorry. One second. I almost forgot to actually lock the door."
"Once they went on the inside they'd turn right back around. It's so dark in there with all that matte." Paige laughed. "What kind of psyco would dare?"
"The kind that loves his wife very much. He's very territorial so anyone else coming into their love nest is bound to be in the pot by dinner." Cody hollered back as she listened to the sound of his feet receeding for the moment.
"I wasn't aware we had a love nest. Wasn't aware that we were cooking people in pots either." Paige made a face. "Now that you mention it, with all the work you missed, I wondered how you kept food on the table. Not eating your beef stew anymore, that's for sure."
Cody let out a light sigh as he got back into to car. "Excuse me? In this relationship we don’t waste food. Besides, it's been four years. You might get the cannibal disease. And~ you love my stew."
. . .
_8 Years Later_
Paige could almost weep from the state of him. Most days, she did. When she spoke to him, he walked by without a glance in her direction. He went on a walk yesterday only to return hours later worse than when he'd left. He wasn’t sleeping. He hardly ate.
As she silently watched him pulled out their old photo albums, he smiled for the first time in days. She leaned up against him, watched him shift with her weight. He didn’t recoil. Just continued stroking the photos in front of him. Sometimes he'd stop and reach into his pocket and then repeat the actions in some unforgiving loop. One too many times to count. Each one made her more uneasy than the last. Though she didn’t know why.
"Do you remember this day, Paige?" Cody asked, in a voice too broken and tired to belong to any Prince in a fairytale. But that was okay. He was better than those. Even like this, she would listen to him until he had no voice left. So long as he continued to speak to her.
"Only you could trip us both and send us toppling down the hillside. We ended that trip early battered and bruised strapped onto emergency airlift boards. I don’t know how we survived." He sighed through a laugh. She'd missed his smile, his laugh. She tried to ignore the sadness that weighed it down.
"Of course, I do." Paige nodded into his shoulder, then pointed at the newspaper clipping from the incident.
"You said something strange after we were laid up next to each other in the hospital beds. I'd never forget it. You said..."
"This must be what it feels like to be a boulder." Their voices overlapped, and a silence set in between them. A long time later, Cody's voice whispered their ritualistic phrase. "Forever and Ever, Paige." And though she meant to reply, she found herself drowsy and quickly fell asleep.
When she later awoke to a loud bang, she jumped to her feet in panic. She looked around the room. The photo albums were still scattered around her, but Cody was nowhere to be seen. She willed herself to calm down. She hasn't heard any more noises. Maybe she'd woken up on the tail end of a nightmare without realizing? Was that possible?
Regardless, she wanted to look for Cody. Perhaps he'd gotten upset again and stormed out of the house. By the time she exited the room and started down the hall, Cody exited the bathroom and shut the door behind him. They'd nearly run into each other.
She looked at him, eyes wide, as it dawned on her that they were now staring directly into each other's eyes. A waterline from building tears danced along his gaze. "Paige..."
An acute sense of panic and horror settled somewhere inside her. Something wasn’t right. It had been years and years since Cody looked at her. She felt herself shaking as her hands cupped her mouth. Her breathing became ragged. What was this feeling? "Cody..w-what have you done?"
He ignored her question as tears streamed his face. He grabbed hold of her, kissed her, unfazed by her tense reaction. "Last night. For only a single moment, I'd heard your voice. Realized you were there beside me. For just an instant I saw you, and I knew it would be alright. Even though I was ashamed."
"I don’t understand. Cody what are you--" Paige stammered.
"I was so ashamed. I kept thinking about how long it had been. How many years did you suffer here beside me without my noticing? Without me seeing you? How did you endure the pain?"
"--Cody please." Paige pleaded. What had he done?
He grabbed hold of her shoulders. His eyes shaking wildly in their sockets, tears still falling. His breathing more labored, more terrified than her own. He pulled her to him and then looked her wildly in the eyes. She knew what he was asking, but it hurt more now. She suffered more now.
8 years had passed since that night of bravery. Since he had boldly cursed Richard Patternson and made jokes about his stew. Since they'd had a candlelit dinner on Rebecca's rooftop and surprisingly faced minimal looks in their direction. They'd ended the night with ice cream and snacks, drunk on love and wine. Stumbled in the doors of their home and she hadn’t even thought to look towards her reflection on the way in.
Cody stripped the covers off the bed, started the fire, and threw them and a few pillows from the sofa onto the floor. They clumsily threw off their clothes. She accidentally tossed her coat into the fire and Cody scrambled to put it out. Then they laughed until their stomachs hurt, and found themselves much more sober than when they'd started.
But sober was good. Because outside of their drunken stupor, they appreciated the moment more. They took their time basking in the warmth of the other's skin. They relished every detail of their partner's body and melted in their kisses. Then, they made love.
The kind of love that was without any thought of themselves and made them forget any other thoughts or feelings. Paige couldn’t remember the woman who was afraid of her reflection. There were no burdens from a life outside their living room, no cold beyond the crackling fire. Cody was simply her husband and lover, without any other labels. They simply allowed themselves to love one another. And Cody, somehow, still found it within himself to whisper sweet words into ear until their breaths muddled into one.
If she'd known it would be their last night together, Paige was sure she would have never fallen asleep that night. But she had. And she died. Laying somewhere beside him wrapped in most of their sheets, filled with love and expectations for the next morning that never came.
It wasn’t until later that she found out that she had an infection. Her body had been weak, her immune system compromised, since the accident. Cody was always careful with her. Took care of her the moment she seemed sick. Even that day before their outting he'd mentioned it, that if she wasn’t feeling well again they could postpone their plans. But she always got well again.
Paige thought she should have known that it would eat away at him. Cody was a doctor. His wife died from a reoccuring infection weaking havoc inside her body. It wasn’t as if they neglected the doctor visits. No one knew how bad it really was. Cody was her prince, but they lived outside the realm of magic potions and mystic remedies.
And somewhere in the midst of all of that, time ticked away and she was never able to leave him. Not even years later when a woman began to visit. Who later became his wife.
Paige couldn't find it in herself to hate the woman who tried to rid him of his guilt. She couldn’t hate her for loving him when he was so easy to love, so deserving of every ounce of it that existed. Nor could she dispise her ability to uncover the surfaces in the house and bring back a sense of normalcy to what used to be their nest. Cody never saw her. Perhaps because that's just the way it worked with the dead.
"Vivan was a wonderful person. I knew she was trying to make me happy, and she tried to help me forget..but I couldn't forgive myself. Maybe if I woke up that night I would have noticed something! I kept thinking like that." He wiped at his tears, seemed to try and bury the emotions he felt so he could explain. Even though Paige wasn’t sure she needed one. Nor did she know if she could bring herself to listen. This was not what frightened her.
"Paige, please don't be angry with me. I couldn't take it anymore."
"Cody, tell me you didn't?" She reached past him, gripped the doorknob. "What did you do?!"
He placed a hand over hers, forceful. His tone solemn. "Don't. I don't want you to see it." The confirmation was too much. It hurt. It hurt so much. She'd felt it since the moment she woke up from her place on the floor. Been terrified of the possibility since his eyes met hers.
Somewhere in that bathroom, on the other side of the door, was Cody's body. Paige lashed out in anger at what he had done. She slapped him and punched him in her emotional frenzy. Years worth of pain welled up in her blows. He took them all, almost without a sound. Until she was too tired to do it anymore, and they both slumped down onto the floor and cried together.
At some point, she allowed him to hold her again and they sat there in front of the bathroom door that she couldn’t bring herself to look at. Paige watched a small spider scurry across the floor. She didn't know the last time Cody cleaned up the place. She supposed it didn’t matter now--they were both dead now anyway. Though she never wished for them to be together again like this.
"I'm sorry for loving someone else. Though the truth is, I never managed to love her the same as you, Paige." Cody admitted as he kissed her knuckles. She almost didn't want to hear it.
"It's my fault then. That you both couldn't experience love like you deserved. Vivian was kind." Paige said sadly.
"I don't see it that way." He shook his head. "I wish I never tried. It didn’t feel like our love. Just an escape I could immerse myself in. Almost... like another reality, only one I willingly stepped into if only it could offer me excuses or ways to forget.
"But I never forgot, not really. After every compliment I gave her, every time we shared a bed or she got dolled up for a night out, I could only picture you in front of me. I couldn't bring myself to tell her. Not even the children were excluded. I tried to think they belonged to the two of us."
Paige couldn't hide her surprise. There were moments he looked far away or sad, but she'd thought things were fine. When the two of them had children, she was convinced he had truly moved on from her then. Sometimes, that he may have forgotten her altogether.
"We'd been waiting until you could face the world again to raise a family. We made that promise. And you were fighting so hard for it. That night we went out, I was thinking maybe we were almost ready."
She could hear the pain in his voice. "But in the end, I had them with someone else. And whenever they showed a personality outside of myself and the opposite you -which was to be expected, they'd come from an entirely different woman- it broke apart my fantasy. It saddened me to no end, almost enraged me sometimes.
"Eventually, I began to distance myself more and more from them. Rejected the dream, the alternate reality I'd been more than willing to escape to before. Until there was nothing left. I lost so much time. I hardly remember those days. We got a divorce. I retired early. Emptied the house of anything outside of our life together."
Paige remembered some of it. She had holes in her memory, but she was there too, when his ex-wife and the children left the house for the last time. And she remembered Cody sitting at the front door the entire night until he got up to take a shower. Then, he left and didn't come back for days. She wanted to ask where he'd gone but decided against it.
"I arranged every detail of the house the way I remembered. From when our love -when you and our dreams, were still alive. I waited. And waited. Passed the time talking to you and looked through our photo albums. Anything I could do within the bounds of this house. And when I felt too restless, I went for a walk. To places we'd been.
" Even cried on the sidewalk like a madman when Rebecca's closed down a year ago. Sometimes, I was so lost in retracing moments from our past I could barely find my way back home when it got too late."
"I'm so sorry, Cody." Paige sobbed. She placed her hands on his cheeks and looked into his eyes. She truly suffered more now than any moment since her death. She didn't want him to spend the rest of his life stuck in place. She had wanted him to live.
"I'm not." Cody shook his head. "Maybe I'm supposed to be, but I'm not." He kissed her and and they rested their foreheads together in a bittersweet silence. Somehow it upset her more that his kiss was just the same as she remembered. Like no other woman came between them at all. What was she to do? She couldn’t make him regret his decision and it was already too late.
"How long do we have left?" Cody asked, suddenly breaking their silence.
"Left until what?" Paige asked, as he shifted and led her up from their spot on the floor.
"I guess, until we move on to the next place?" Cody shrugged.
"I don't know what's true and what's not. I know nothing about the next place, but I've never left. So, I haven't a clue." Paige answered quietly. The thought of anywhere else unsettled her. She didn't like how they'd gotten back together, but she wasn’t ready to leave. What if they were separated?
Cody hushed her. He placed his hands in hers to stop her anxious picking. "It's alright. We'll deal with it if it ever comes. For now, let's go for a walk."
"I've never gone outside." Paige shook her head. "Maybe we'll be stuck in here."
"We won't know until we try." Cody smiled. In that princely way of his that made her believe their life was better than fairytales. Only, it wasn't their life anymore. And this wasn't a fairytale. They were dead. Nothing would bring them back to their old lives. And somewhere on the other side of the bathroom, her husband's body had probably gone cold.
"Worst case scenario, we stroll around our own backyard. It's a win-win." He reassured her on their way to the door. "What do you say? Today is Friday after all."
"Friday..? I guess it wouldn’t hurt to try." Paige conceded. She didn’t understand how he managed it. He wasn’t worried about anything. In fact, he looked happier now than the last couple years combined. She wondered if she would ever feel differently about this. He'd said he used his ex-wife to escape his pain. Did he not also just do the same thing? He'd escaped living painfully by suicide.
But what if she had been gone? Generally, there's no reason to believe there's any happy ending awaiting you on the other side. If he had never seen her, would he have taken this route? Or was this an inevitable ending because he'd given up on life and succummed to his guilt? Was it a consequence of their love?
Paige supposed she had a long time to question it, maybe even ask Cody after some time passed. For the moment, regardless of how it came, she wanted to take another big step with the man she loved and loved her endlessly. She never thought about what would happen after, but it felt like it brought an entirely new meaning to their words.
Almost as if he'd been thinking of them too, Cody kissed the tears lining her cheeks as they stepped out onto the porch. "This time, you won't get to leave me behind. Forever and ever, Paige."
She couldn’t help but laugh. "I didn’t try to leave you. Don't talk like it was on purpose."
"I don't know. I distinctly recall you saying you wouldn't eat my stew anymore. We go out to dinner, have a good time and then you left me behind the day I was going to make it for dinner? You must admit that's pretty suspicious." He laughed.
"I love you. Forever and ever." Paige smiled.
"I love you too." He replied, holding her hand as they walked down the steps and into the grass. "But if you keep looking at me like that we'll never go on our walk. Unless you're trying to get me back in front of the fireplace..."
This story actually has love bits in it 😀. I hope you were able to enjoy it. Sorry for the rollercoaster. Paige and Cody are such a duo. I love their banter. Even though their situation crushed me. How did you like it?