Zombie Romance Pt. 9









I sit up slowly, no sudden movements, because Maisie still looks like she was ready to run at any second.
She sits on the edge of her chair, hands gripped together, face pale and eyes wide.
This was not the homecoming I’d expected. I thought she’d be more relieved, happier to see me. Lord knows I was relieved. I want to grab her up in a hug, press my face to her neck, and just hold her. But she looks like she would scream if I reach for her.
“Are you real?” she asks into the silence between us.
“Yes,” I say, one side of my mouth ticking up. But then I put a hand to my chest, because everything was weird right now. But I was as solid as the couch I was sitting on.
Her lip started to wobble in that adorable way she cries when she’s trying hard not to. “Then where have you been? What happened to you? Why is there blood on you? Are you hurt?”
I hold a hand up. “The blood’s not mine. I’m not hurt.” But I don’t expand, because I don’t know where the blood came from. And I don’t want to know.
“Then where the hell have you been!” she shouts, fists clenched on her thighs, tears in her eyes.
Her outburst isn’t unexpected. If only I had more to tell her. “I’m sorry, I don’t know. I don’t know what happened. My memory is—spotty. Blank.”
“You can’t just go missing, and then waltz back in here without an explanation to offer me. You’ve been gone all this time, and all you can tell me is you don’t remember where you were? Where have you been?”
I could hear the accusation in her words. Why did you leave me? “I think…I think I’ve been asleep somewhere for a little while.” I put a hand to my forehead, a memory of blinding pain surfacing. But it didn’t hurt anymore. “I think I got hit on the head, so maybe I’ve been unconscious for a few days.”
“Grady,” she breathes out, horrified.
“It’s okay. It doesn’t hurt now—”
“No, you don’t understand,” she says, standing and backing up a step. “You’ve been gone for six weeks.”
I flop back against the cushions, absorbing that bomb, when she drops a bigger one.
“You died. We had a funeral. I wr-wrote your eulogy,” she said, eyes flooding. “You’re wearing—” She gestured at him. “You’re wearing the suit I took to the funeral home to bury you in.”
My eyes won’t leave her face, but my mouth won’t work either. It just hangs open while I try to sort out a reply. I don’t remember.
“I’m sorry.” I rasp.
“I thought you were dead.” She presses her hand over her mouth, trying not to let her sobs out as she stares at me with tearful, red eyes.
She’s telling the truth. I’ve been missing, and she’d truly thought me dead. For six damn weeks.
“I don’t remember anything,” And I don’t. There’s just a heavy blank spot in my memory, and a vague awareness of time passing. But not six weeks worth of time. “It seems like a day, or two, at most.” I don’t remember. I can’t remember. I don’t remember anything.
“Are you freaking kidding me?”
I’m lost at sea, from my blank memory, from what’s she’s told me, from her reaction. “What? Why are you mad at me?”
“Why am I mad? Why am I mad?” She stands up and covers her face with both hands, then she drops them and holds them out toward me. “I’m mad because I thought you were dead.” Her arms flop down to her sides. “I didn’t want you to be dead, I’m glad you’re not, but for six weeks I’ve been dying inside because I thought my husband had been killed in an accident, and then you show up at our door, and can’t tell me where the hell you’ve been, or what happened to you, or why you left, or why we had a funeral for you. So, yes! I’m mad. And confused, and—and scared that I’ve finally lost my mind.” She pushes her hair back from her face as she paces away.
“I truly don’t remember. Please believe me.” I need her to believe me. My memory is blank and I feel a little bit like I’m on a thin ledge above an endless pool of black when I try to remember. I’m going to fall in if she doesn’t believe me, if she doesn’t hold me.
Slowly, carefully, I stand on shaky legs. “But I’m here now.”
She turns back to face me but then takes a step back. She’s ready to run again. Freaked out, understandably. So am I, but they’d have time to work through that, after.
“I’m here, Maisie.” I take another step and reach a hand out. “It really is me. I’m not dead. See?” She lets me step closer and grab her hand. I put it to my chest, my hand over hers. “Feel me. I’m real. I’m alive.”
“You’re so cold.” She looks up at me with those beautiful blue eyes.
“I’ve been outside with no shirt.” Her hand feels so amazingly warm against my skin that it almost burns. Like coming in out of the snow, freezing, and taking a hot shower. “I just need to warm up. I might be sick. Maybe that’s why I can’t remember anything.”
I kiss her forehead, breathing in the scent of shampoo and woman that I never thought I’d smell again.
She drops her hand, less scared, but still eying me like I’m a ghost instead of her husband. But it’s been six long weeks of thinking I was dead for her. She looks exhausted, wrung out. Fragile. She needs some time.
I reach out to brush her hair back, and she lets me, so I take that as a victory. “You look tired. We can talk some more in the morning. We should go to bed.”
She nods but then clenches up.
“I’ll sleep on the couch. It’ll be like we’re fighting,” I add, touching her chin, trying to get a smile out of her.
She nods, but her expression stays stiff, anxious.
“I’ll get you some clean clothes,” she says, and she’s gone with a fruit-scented breeze. I drop my hand.
She comes back with my sweats and a t-shirt. When she passes them to me, I catch an odd sickly-sweet scent.
I bend my head down and sniff, then jerk my head back. “Mothballs?”
She wrings the hem of her night shirt, my t-shirt, and says, “I’m sorry. I just packed them up a few days ago. I couldn’t do it before now.” And she tears up again.
Once more I’m reminded that my wife has been mourning me while I was… while I was what? I don’t know.
“It’s okay. This’ll work. Thank you.”
Before I would have thrown my clothes off right there in front of her, but I go the bathroom to change, because it’s weird now.
We’re married, but we’re strangers. It’s been six weeks since we saw each other last, and it passed in the blink of an eye for me. What the hell happened?
I flick the light on, shut the door, and turn to set my clothes on the counter.
That’s when I see myself for the first time.
In the mirror above the sink, there’s a man that looks a bit like me. But he’s gaunt, pale, covered in dirt with a dark, cracked stain on his chin. His lips are darker and I swear, the brown color of his irises is lighter and washed out. They’re almost gray.
What the fuck.
I back up, and there’s more dirt and stains on my wrinkled suit jacket, on my pants. I look like shit. I look dead.
No wonder I freaked my wife out. No wonder she couldn’t see her husband when she looked at me.
The way I look scares me, too.
I strip down and use a washcloth to quickly wipe myself down. I shake the dirt out of my hair and wash it and my face in the sink, avoiding the mirror.
I put on the mothball-smelling clothes, and almost chuckle, because it’s ironic somehow.
I’m wearing a dead man’s clothes, lovingly packed away by his mourning wife.
My clothes. My wife.
I clench the edge of the sink, trying to get as firm a grip on my emotions.
I put the washcloths in the hamper, but the suit goes in the trash. And the shoes.
With a deep breath, I open the door to see Maisie still standing in the living room, cupping her elbows in that protective gesture she does sometimes when we argue. She looks me over and her face relaxes a bit, and I know it’s because I look more like myself again.
The couch is made up for sleeping, but I walk to her first. I hold my arms out, and for a second I think she is going to just stand there.
But then she flies into my arms, and I’m holding her while she cries. Holding her, the feeling of her arms tight around me, does something for my soul. It’s a pleasure so good it hurts, and I have to clench my eyes shut because suddenly they’re burning.
I’m home. Everything else can wait.
“Go to bed,” I tell her, “You need your rest. We’ll figure this out tomorrow.” Tomorrow, together.
She nods and we say good night. I don’t try to go into the bedroom with her because I’m wide awake. Apparently I’ve been asleep for six weeks, and I don’t want to sleep anymore right now. I need to think.
She slips into the room and shuts the door. I stand there a minute, and put my hand on it. She’s right on the other side of the door, but there’s a gap of six weeks between us. I drop my hand and walk away.