I opened the door and stared. Torn shirt, tie flung over one shoulder, face covered with cuts and scratches.
“L-lauren.” Greg braced a forearm on the door frame. “Th-thank God.”
“You look like hell. Have you been fighting?”
“N-not a drop.”
“Bullshit.” Greg’s eyes were a bloodshot Halloween horror, and his breath—ugh. I don’t know what he’d been drinking, but he smelled awful.
“Is that blood on your shirt?” I demanded.
He looked down. “Yeah. Yeah, I guess it is.”
I started to shut the door; he blocked it. “Can…can I come in?”
“No. It’s late. And I have work in the morning.”
“Please, Lauren. J-just for a few m-minutes. I swear. I gotta…I gotta talk to you.”
I should’ve sent him on his merry way. I knew that. Unfortunately, my idiocy kicked in. “Fine,” I pulled the door open. “Whatever.”
I led the way to the kitchen, where there are only uncomfortable chairs. Greg stumbled in after me and grabbed the edge of the table.
Not drunk? Right. “You want some coffee?”
“No. No, I…” He gave me a sudden, penetrating look, one that had me crossing my arms over my bathrobe. “I…forgot,” he murmured.
“How b-beautiful you look when you’re all m-mussed up.”
I rolled my eyes. But inside, my idiot heart was pounding. “That’s because you’ve been looking at Julia for the past three years,” I muttered.
“I know.” He sank into a chair and dropped his head into his hands. His knuckles looked like he’d put his fists through glass.
“I’m sorry,” he mumbled. “I…I wrecked our marriage.”
“A little late for regrets,” I snapped. “The wedding’s next week.”
His head came up. “You know about that?” A pause. “She’s pregnant.”
“None of my business. Look. We’re divorced. You’re about to marry your mistress. It isn’t remotely appropriate for you to be here.”
He swiped a limp hank of hair out of his eyes. His complexion was ashen except for an angry red gash above his right eyebrow.
“Please, Lauren. I can’t leave. Not before I tell you how sorry I am.”
I exhaled. “Fine. You’ve told me. Now get out.”
“N-not before you believe me. And…” His throat bulged. “Forgive me. You’re my only hope.”
“Only hope for what?”
He planted his palms on the table and pushed to his feet. He stumbled toward me, reaching out. I stepped to one side and he slammed into the cabinets.
“Jesus, Greg. Go home and sober up.”
“I was wrong,” he choked out. “I took you for granted. I put you down. I cheated on you. You…you didn’t deserve any of it.”
That’s the alcohol talking, I reminded myself. “Really? Last I heard, I was a demanding bitch who didn’t appreciate you.”
“I was an asshole to say that.”
No argument there. “And what? Now you’ve suddenly seen the light?”
He winced and passed a hand over his eyes. “Yeah. Something like that.”
You know what’s pathetic? I’d fantasized him telling me all this. Six months ago, I would’ve fallen into his arms. Or at least, felt vindicated. But now that it was actually happening? The only thing I felt was disgusted.
I turned and walked out of the kitchen.
He stumbled after me. “You have to believe me, Lauren!”
I opened the door and pointed into the night. “Out. Out now.”
“Do you forgive me?”
“Are you for real?”
“Please. P-please forgive me. Absolve me. If you don’t…” A tremor wracked Greg’s body. “If you don’t, I’m going to hell.”
“Great.” I put all my strength into heaving him bodily out the door. “Go to hell. You belong there.”
He pitched forward down the porch steps and fell face-first into the brick walkway. Heaving over onto his back, he reached a trembling hand toward me. “No,” he moaned. “Please, no.”
I slammed the door and slumped against it. Jesus. What had I ever seen in the guy? Outside, Greg continued his pitiful wailing. But me? I was done with his bullshit. I rooted around for some earplugs and went to bed.
The next morning, it all seemed so surreal. Greg, showing up out of the blue to beg my forgiveness? The word “sorry” wasn’t in the man’s vocabulary! I had to have dreamed the entire episode.
I rubbed my forehead. Yeah. That had to be it. Except…when I went down to the kitchen, there was an unmistakable smear of blood on the table.
Ugh. I got a wet paper towel and some bleach cleanser and scrubbed it off. Just as I finished, my phone buzzed. Katie. I picked up.
“Ohmygod, have you heard?”
I froze. “What about Greg?”
“He’s…oh, God, Lauren, he’s dead! Ran his car into a tree last night on his way home from work. They think he was texting or something.”
“Dead?” My lips formed the word but my brain refused to absorb it.
“Instantly! He went right through the windshield.”
Scratched face…a gash on his temple…
The kitchen began to spin. I grabbed the back of a chair. “Wait. D-did you say on his way home from work? What time was that?”
“I dunno,” Katie said. “Around six or seven, I think.”
Six or seven?
Stumbling gait… Slurred speech… A strange odor…
Blood smeared on my table…
“No,” I croaked. “I saw Greg last night. At midnight. He came to the house.”
“Lauren, that can’t be. Greg was dead at midnight.”
The phone dropped from my nerveless fingers.
Dead at midnight.
Dead and pounding on my door.
Where was he now?
Thanks for reading my Flash Fiction!