The Gift

by E.M. Killaley


‘Why don’t you stay? Just a little while.’ The weak light of dawn was straining through the clouds outside, covering her in pale blue light.

‘You know I can’t.’ I reached across the bed and touched her face, half buried by the duvet as she always liked it. It didn’t matter if we were in Russia or Thailand, she’d sweat just to be enveloped.

‘Not even one more day?’

I pulled away, shaking my head as I stood. I never let myself look back. I picked up my bag and walked out the door.

At the airport I collected my ticket from the desk, pushing the thick paper into my pocket without glancing at it.

‘Your flight boards at 9:30,’ the man behind the desk told me.

I ordered a coffee and sat by a broad window that faced the planes taxiing towards the runway. The rain had finally broken through, dashing itself across the window in long, uneven lines. Reflected in the glass were people saying their goodbyes, families and friends embracing, and I thought of Wilfred.

‘You don’t have to keep doing it, you know.’ He’d said it quietly, looking into the dregs of his drink. Our paths had crossed for a few hours in Berlin, he on his way home, and I bound for some place I barely remembered now.

‘It’s what your mom wanted for me. To see the world.’

‘But no more than a few weeks in each place?’ He had laid a hand on my shoulder, and in its weight I felt his jealousy, but more than that his pity. ‘It was meant to be a gift, not a curse.’

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