Deleting Rachel

This is a story I write about three years ago. So, in an attempt to populate my site with content, I give you Deleting Rachel.

Thomas stood in his kitchen wearing a happy face and five days unshaven; a stark contrast to the black suit and red tie that he wore. He smiled fake as people wandered; talking to each other about uninteresting things. He didn’t blame them. He didn’t want to talk about what brought them there as he stared at the photo he could see in the other room. Rachel.

We’re all here for her. She’d have liked that.

The last people left; strangers Rachel must have known. They said goodbye and he closed the door, relieved at last for the silence. He removed his coat and tie and walked back into the kitchen, silently noting he had messages on his answering machine.

Thomas pressed the button.

“You have three new messages.”

He pressed it again.

“Hi Thomas, it’s Aggie. I’m so sorry. I wish…”

Skip.

“Hey Tom. Listen, we’re having beers down…”

Skip.

“Hey babe, it’s me. I’m running late tonight .Gotta pick up stuff at the store after I’m finished jogging. See ya soon. Love ya.”

He pressed it again.

“Message saved. End of messages”

Thomas walked to the cupboard and grabbed a bottle of whisky and a glass, poured a drink, threw it back and poured a second. He climbed the stairs to his office and sat down to a messy mix of publisher’s rejections and sympathy cards. He put glass down and started typing, speaking the word he wrote.

“I could hear the noise in the kitchen. Rachel was cooking.”

Thomas entered the kitchen. Rachel was standing behind the counter trying to prepare dinner. She was clearly not gifted in this area, as the kitchen was a complete mess.

“What are you doing?”

Rachel, startled, quickly ran around the counter, unsuccessfully hiding her mess. Her dark hair fell over her face.

“Cooking? Why?” she said in a coy manner.

“You’re not allowed to do that,” Thomas said.

She laughed, spreading her arms wider.

“I’ve got to learn sometime. I saw this cooking show on television. They said anyone could cook.”

“They never met you.”

She blew her hair out of her face. “Then help me.”

An hour later, dinner was cooked and they sat at the table. Thomas was picking at his chicken concoction, listening to Rachel.

“So Brendan – you remember him – he walks into the office, trips on a chair. Falls right into Shauna’s… you know. The boss walks in. Brendan spends ten minutes trying to explain himself…”

Rachel’s voice carried on as Thomas watched her; fascinated with her large blue eyes, small nose and subtle lips as she told the story.

“The food is really good,” she said.

Thomas snapped to attention, distracted by the subject change.

“What?” he said, “Yeah. Of course.”

“You haven’t listened to a word I said.”

“I have. Brendan fell into Shauna’s lap…”

“That was ten minutes ago.”

“I’m a little distracted by you right now. Does is matter? I’m enjoying being with you. Is that a crime?” Thomas argued.

“Well, I won’t always be around, you know.”

What? Why would she say that?

“Don’t say stuff like that.” Thomas said defensively.

“Hey, hey, I’m not trying to scare you. I’ve got lots of work right now. I’m going to be in the office late this week.”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to snap.”

“Don’t you have a book to complete? You’re on chapter fifteen?”

“Nine.”

“Nine.” she replied. “And if you won’t eat that, I’ll take it.”

Rachel reached over to grab Thomas’s plate, knocking his glass on the floor.

“Shit. I’m sorry,” Rachel said.

“Don’t worry. I’ll clean it up” Thomas answered as leaned over. “This is why you don’t cook.”

He sat up and Rachel was gone. The computer screen still glowed. He looked at the broken glass on the floor.

“Shit.”

Thomas got up to clean the mess. In the kitchen, he noticed the light of the answering machine. He pressed the button.

“You have three messages.”

“Hi…” Skip. “Hey Tom…” Skip.

“Hey babe, it’s me. I’m running late tonight .Gotta pick up stuff at the store after I’m finished jogging. See ya soon. Love ya.”

“Message saved. End of messages”

Thomas returned to clean up the mess and continue working.

Knock knock.

Thomas could hear the door behind him open as Rachel walked into the room.

“You know I’m busy,” Thomas told her.

“It’s nine o’clock” Rachel said, “You need a break. You’ve been staring at that thing since six this morning. Come to bed with me.”

“I won’t be long. Promise.”

Rachel stepped closer and leaned in, wrapping her arms around his shoulders. She typed.

Follow me to the other room.

Thomas always liked this game. He typed.

What other room?

You know what room.

Depends. What do you have in mind?

If I told you, it wouldn’t be a surprise!

Thomas chuckled at the words as he typed back.

I want you to type it.

Rachel rolled her eye, made a dirty little grin as she typed back. He smiled as she finished her sentence. Thomas turned around. Rachel was gone; the door was open and the house was silent.

Ring.

The phone was ringing. He went to the kitchen and looked at the call display, hoping but knowing it could never be. Just a friend.

Thomas didn’t answer and let the machine it. No message. He resisted the urge to play the old messages and went back to his office.

“Rachel loved that crazy jazz that no one could dance to; the kind where they play a million notes in thirty seconds. She would make me endure some new latest album by some obscure musician no one would ever care about.”

The music got louder as he wrote. Finally, he couldn’t concentrate any longer.

Rachel was standing in the living room; a glass of wine in her hand. Her eyes were closed.

“Hey!” Thomas shouted over the cacophony.

Rachel opened her eyes.

“What?” she asked loudly, “Is this bothering you?”

“No!” he answered, “I love working with this stuff at the loudest volume ever!”

“I was trying to get your attention,” she said, turning the music down.

“I have to get this project finished.”

“Just a few minutes. Take a break.”

Rachel put her glass on the coffee table and jumped onto the couch, patting the seat next to her.

“Please?” she asked.

“Fine,” he said, relenting, “But only for a few minutes.”

“Deal.”

Thomas sat on the couch.

“So tell me about this chapter you’re working on,” Rachel asked. “How does she die?”

“You mean, in the story?”

“Of course. The wife, girlfriend, whatever.”

“It’s tragic,” he said, “Her doctor’s told her she’s pregnant. She’s driving home when she gets into an accident.”

“Sounds a little cliche.”

“What do you mean?”

She continued, “It’s been done. What if she died a more simply, like heart failure?”

“I don’t like it. And since when do you do simple?”

“People die like that.”

“It has to be dramatic. I don’t think I could sell it in a novel.”

“I think you have a problem talking about death.”

“No I don’t,” he argued angrily.

“I think you’re afraid.”

“No, I’m not.”

She stared at him. “Thomas,” she said, “You’re going to have to answer the question.” Why do I have to? “What if I died?”

“Are you trying to rattle me? Let’s talk about something else.”

“No, let’s talk about this. Answer the question.”

Thomas stood up.

“No, I won’t answer your question!”

And you can’t make me do it!

“Answer the goddamn question!” Rachel yelled.

“No!” No! “I don’t want you to die!”

He crumpled onto the floor, a mess.

Thomas broke away from his computer, frightened.

“What I am going to do?” he asked.

Rachel’s voice came back. “I can’t answer that.”

“But I can’t get you out of my head.”

“You don’t have to. But you can’t run.”

“Writing seems to be the only way I can cope.”

“It’s doesn’t seem to be working.”

Thomas shrugged with a half conjured laugh. He sat back for a moment.

“It’s time for me to go.” she said.

“What am I going to do?”

“I think you’ll figure it out.”

Thomas stopped typing, got up and walked down to the kitchen. The red light of the answering machine was still blinking. He pressed the button.

“Hey babe, it’s me. I’m running late tonight .Gotta pick up stuff at the store after I’m finished jogging. See ya soon. Love ya.”

He pressed the button again.

“You have no messages.”

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