Chapter 9


Ward is in standstill traffic; numerous cars blare their horns in frustration. He’s dressed in a black suit. He’s sullen. He stares at a memorial leaflet on the seat beside him, at a photo of Alina. The driver behind him beeps her horn, bringing him out of his trance. He creeps forward a few car lengths. He’s feeling overheated, so he rolls down his windows to let in some fresh air. The sound of a honking grows louder and louder. He takes a few deep breaths, but it isn’t enough to calm him down. He pushes his car horn and lets out a loud, agitated wail. Cut to: Ward exiting his car at home, walking up to his front porch, and stopping. He takes three more deep breaths before entering.


In his bedroom, Ward takes off the suit and tucks it away in his closet. Our POV is from inside the closet, and we see the bed behind him as he fusses with the garment bag. He leans in to hang it up, filling the frame, and when he retreats, there’s a woman sitting on the edge of his bed. It’s alarming to us, but not to him. He doesn’t see her yet but he knows she’s there; without turning around, he looks out the corner of his eye, and hesitates. She’s caucasian, dressed very modern, hair pulled back. “Not now, Amanda,” he says as his eyes fill with tears. “Please, just not now. Not tonight.” “If today isn’t indication that life is short, I don’t know what is,” she says without remorse. Ward leaves the bedroom without acknowledging her. She screams after him, but doesn’t leave the room. “Ward! Honey! Ward! Come back here. Where are you going?!” He leaves the house, and sits on the front porch while he makes a call. It rings a couple times, then we hear Helene’s voice: “Ward. Hi.” // “Hi darling. Can I come keep you company?”


“I keep seeing her everywhere,” Helene says, staring into a glass of wine, tucked beneath a blanket in the corner of the couch. “I pray she’ll just reappear. I don’t know…so that I could say sorry, for giving up. Now what? She was the strong one. The brave one. The selfless one. I used to be the rock. When did that change? When did our balance shift? Why did I just throw her away like that? I thought it was good for her, to stop wasting away on me. Now it just feels like I got what I deserve, like I shoved her in front of that truck.” She sniffles: “Sorry, I don’t mean to play the victim here…” The rambling halts, and she offers a long enough pause for Ward to interject: “It’s OK to feel shame, but it’s important to make peace. The sooner, the better.” // “What, with my six or seven months? If I even live that long, I hope it’s because I suffer.”


Helene has fallen asleep on the couch. She’s so much smaller than Ward, which we realize as he lifts and carries her into the bedroom. He tucks her in and dims the light, then goes to the bathroom to fill a glass of water, which he sets beside her. He stares forlorn at Helene, asleep without her other half. There’s a photo on the bedside table; it’s of the four of them—Alina and Helene, plus Ward and Amanda, the woman from his bedroom—they’re all smiling near the beach; it must be Hawaii since they have leis around their necks. Ward turns again to the frail, old woman in bed, leans down and takes her hand. She squeezes, unconscious still, and takes a deep, clear breath—as if she is finally relaxing, for the first time in days. Ward gives her forehead a kiss, and at last leaves her to rest.

Ward goes to the hall closet and pulls out some spare bedsheets; he’s very automatic about converting the couch into a makeshift bed. He turns out the light and wraps himself in the sheets, then rolls over and shuts his eyes. He takes a few deep breaths, then opens his eyes again. Something is weird. There’s someone else breathing in the room. “Helene?” He sits up in bed and looks into the dark living room. There’s a silhouette there—a woman—but Helene’s bedroom door is still shut. He turns on the light next to the couch, and we see her: Alina. Sitting in the loveseat across from him, just like she sat across from his desk. She’s dressed up—a blazer and slacks—her legs are crossed, her eyebrow cocked. She stares at Ward, and he stares at her. Her smile grows, and he mutters “No fucking way.” She mouths back: “Yes. Fucking. Way.”

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