- shade; shadow.
- the invariable or characteristic accompaniment or companion of a person or thing.
It was strange to see a person who was simultaneously there, but not. Eyes open, fully awake, and yet so distant and disconnected.
His smile was virtually the same, just weaker. Even his strange way of lumbering more than walking down a hall remained untouched, but somehow just seemed a fraction slower than usual.
Now it seemed to take a lifetime before he responded, slowly looking up from his book to engage in conversation.
Even his voice sounded off.
It was like those movies when aliens visit Earth only to take on human hosts. Everyone looks the same, but they’re really not. They’re shells of who they used to be.
“Everything okay?” Riley felt nervous even asking the question.
The edges of Perry’s lips began their ascent upwards, but faltered at the last minute, foregoing the attempt to smile.
“Yeah…” Perry blinked twice in the silence before burrowing back into the pages of his book.
Everything looked the same. But it was different.
She wasn’t sure when she had been permanently sequestered from his thoughts or when the umbra of his emotions became off limits. But she was no longer allowed entry into his most personal thoughts.
Riley could see the doors that used to lead to intimate late night conversations in which they shared their dreams, but they were all closed to her now. It was all inaccessible and locked away.
Things like this were normal, all the doctors and specialists said so. But Riley missed her best friend, their inside jokes, and the laughter that made her cheeks sore.
“I’m going to start dinner,” Perry said, marking his page before lodging the book on the shelf. “Go ahead and take two of these for me… please, Ri?”
He pushed the small orange bottle across the table toward her. Small pills sat inside, whispering their side effects, making him more distant.
She couldn’t understand why he didn’t realize that the pills were what was coming between them, numbing them to each other.
Perry slowly moved toward the kitchen as if he were carrying invisible weights on his shoulders.
He didn’t trust her anymore and she didn’t blame him. After what she’d done, she understood that she would need to earn his trust again. But it was becoming apparent that she was the only one who thought enough time had passed for forgiveness and trust to return to their relationship.
Riley easily opened the top with one hand, the way she had for the past seven months. She extracted a single white pill and swallowed it without water, smiling at her growing proficiency.
The aroma of garlic and onions mingled in the air. She extracted another pill, staring at the small solid cocktail between her thumb and index finger.
There was a time she used to sit in the kitchen and watch Perry cook and laugh at his stories. He was a natural in the kitchen. Those used to be the best parts of her day. Now he preferred to be in the kitchen alone.
He was so far away from her now.
A thought began to stir in Riley’s mind. She tipped the bottle, dumping the remaining pills onto the table.
“Only 28 left…” She wish she could be done with the prescription and have everything return to the way it used to be.
Gradually, she moved half the pills closer to her in two straight rows of seven. She brought three closer, wondering if she could swallow that many at once without water.
Perry stood in the doorway looking wearily at Riley, his back to the kitchen a wooden spoon in his hand. His look spoke volumes. She was in trouble again.
He disappeared into the kitchen before returning without the spoon.
She wanted to explain everything to him. It would make sense. She just wanted things to return to the way they used to be.
“This family wants you in it,” Perry said, his voice strained.
Riley could see tears forming in his eyes.
“Promise me you will not do this again!”
She nodded wordlessly.
Perry capped the bottle.
“I promise,” she said, quietly.
Perry shoved the pills in his pocket before heading toward the kitchen. He stopped short.
“I’m fighting for us, Riley, and for our family…but you have to help me.”
Tears spilled onto her cheeks as she sat alone in their living room, missing the warmth of laughter in their household, gentle caresses from her husband, and her children. She covered her mouth as that sharp pain of sadness ripped through her.
More than anything Riley wanted everything to be okay, and alone with her tears and memories, she had to admit she wasn’t sure how to get back to that place.