Home > As She Fades

As She Fades
Author: Abbi Glines

PART ONE

Take this kiss upon the brow!

And, in parting from you now,

Thus much let me avow—

You are not wrong, who deem

That my days have been a dream;

Yet if hope has flown away

In a night, or in a day,

In a vision, or in none,

Is it therefore the less gone?

All that we see or seem

Is but a dream within a dream.

—Edgar Allan Poe, “A Dream Within a Dream”

SINCE I WAS a little girl, I’ve loved fairy tales. And I’ve believed in true love. It was easy for me, though, because I fell in love at six years old. Not many people find love so young. Crawford and I believed we were special. That fate shined on us and gave us each other early so we’d have a lifetime together. He was my very own Prince Charming. Not one day of my childhood was he not there with me. Making me smile and enjoying the life we were both born into. But what we didn’t expect were the sharp turns in life you don’t see coming. The ones that knock you off course. The things that come along and change it all forever. We hadn’t been prepared for that.

* * *

OUR STORY ISN’T an easy one. The charmed life we had grown up with was pulled away from us so quickly, we didn’t have time to prepare for it. But no one ever does. That’s the dark side of life.

CHAPTER ONE

THE SMELL OF summer evenings always made me feel happy. Since I was a girl, it was the reminder that school was over and adventure awaited. Swimming in the lake, playing basketball with my older brothers, and of course our annual family vacation. However, this year it meant freedom. A new life, a new beginning. For me and Crawford.

I glanced over at him driving and the warmth in my chest grew at the sight of him. We had been together since we were kids. First as friends, and then it grew into more as we got older. Today we had walked across the large stage set in the center of our high school football field and received our diplomas. We were graduates. Finally.

“Still seems hard to believe it’s over. High school,” I added for clarification. Although I was sure he would understand what I meant.

He cut his eyes toward me and the corner of his lips curved up just enough for his eyes to sparkle the way they did when he was amused or pleased. “It’s not over. It’s just beginning, V. Our life will be exactly like we planned it.”

I wanted to believe that. We were going to the same college. Crawford had a scholarship for football. A full ride. It wasn’t my first choice for school but I wanted to be where he was. We had never been apart.

“Everyone seemed almost scared tonight. Like they were drinking and partying to forget the fact we’re adults now. This is it.”

Crawford shrugged. “I bet most of them are terrified. They don’t all have plans like we do. They have to decide what’s next.”

He was right, of course. He always was. One of the things I loved about Crawford was his confidence. He didn’t worry and back away from a problem. He faced it head-on and took control. I felt safe with him, like he would always have the answer I needed.

His hand reached over and covered mine. “Our life is going to be amazing. College is going to be just what we need. To get out of this town but not too far away. We can spread our wings and still come home to visit easily enough. You’re going to love it.”

And I believed him. My mind was playing through all the fun things we would see and do. Excitement for what was to come bubbled up in me and I was so ready for August to arrive.

Our favorite song came on the radio and Crawford turned it up and began to sing along with his off-key voice. He was a terrible singer, but he knew it made me laugh so he did it often. Joy swelled up in me for the life I had, so strong it was hard to contain it. I began to laugh as he hit another bad note. This was my life and I loved it.

It was then that Crawford slammed on the brakes and the world began spinning. The smell of burning rubber and the violent screeching of wheels took away all my other thoughts. Dreams vanished in that instant. Completely.

* * *

ONE MONTH. TODAY was the one-month anniversary of the car accident that turned our graduation night into a nightmare. I sat in the waiting room—now more familiar to me than my own bedroom—and stared at the white walls. The smell of stale coffee didn’t overpower the sterile surroundings. Those things didn’t matter, though. Nothing other than Crawford opening his eyes mattered.

It would be my turn to read to Crawford soon. I lived for this time of day. To see him and pray he would hear my voice and open his eyes. That we would be together again. That all our dreams were still there, waiting just outside the door of this lonely, cold place.

The doctor had told his parents the morning after the accident that he believed comatose patients can hear. If he heard us talking to him, he’d fight to come back. To wake up.

I shivered remembering those words. Comatose. I hated that. Crawford was so full of life and energy. Seeing him like this was so hard.

The doctor believed he needed to hear several voices he knew and loved. So Crawford’s mother put us on a schedule in the beginning, but then let me come in as early as I wanted to read. But as the days progressed, her schedule had started to change as her health went downhill. Seeing her only child like this day in and day out was weighing on her.

“Still here?” a masculine voice asked. I didn’t recognize the speaker. Normally it was one of my older brothers coming to check on me. Knox, my youngest older brother, was closest in age to Crawford and me, and he came to read, too. Not every day like me, but when he could. I was hoping he would come today. He hadn’t been in a couple of days and I knew Crawford would like to hear him.

I lifted my head to meet a pair of dark green eyes outlined by thick black lashes—pretty eyes for a guy. I’d seen those eyes before. Just as I’d seen the guy they belonged to. But we had never spoken.

“You’re always here,” he said. “There hasn’t been a day in the past two weeks that I’ve not seen you.”

His voice was smooth, but there was a thicker drawl to his accent than most of the guys had in Franklin. He almost sounded Alabama-ish. Was he studying me or was he waiting on me to speak? Probably the latter. I was being rude not responding.

“Nowhere else to be,” I said honestly. Because without Crawford I was lost.

He lifted the corner of his full lips and it looked a lot like a smirk. Why would he be smirking at something like this?

“I can think of a lot of places I’d rather be. But Uncle D is where my loyalty lies. So here I am.”

I wasn’t sure if he meant to be deep and heartfelt, but it didn’t sound that way. I wondered if he was even upset about his uncle being here. Not that it was my business. The guy had an air about him that rubbed me the wrong way. He liked himself. A lot. He knew he was beautiful and he liked the attention it got him. I’d seen his kind plenty. I wasn’t a fan.

“Your selflessness humbles me,” I replied with a heavy dash of sarcasm. The way his eyes sparked with amusement made me dislike him more than I’d already decided I did.

As he crossed his arms over his wide chest, I couldn’t help but notice the way his biceps flexed and the tattoo peeking out of his sleeve. His long dark hair was a little messy and tucked behind his ears. I imagined it would complete his pirate look if he had it pulled back in a ponytail.

“Don’t mistake me for pretending to be selfless. That was never my intention at all. I’m here to see my uncle. Nothing deeper than that. But then, I don’t sit like a martyr in this waiting room day after day and stare at that wall. Selflessness is your thing. Not mine.”

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