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Devil in the Storm

A red coffee house stood at the end of a chipped cobblestone drive. The small wooden frame appeared like a drop of blood against the frozen seacoast, which roared angrily in the background. Each wave washed jagged shards of ice onto the beach. And for some time, no life seemed to exist—walking, flying, or swimming—except for Eloise, who stood numb in the swirling, white storm.

The building moaned with each gust of wind that the sea pushed inland. Faded black shingles rattled rhythmically against the roof, and the door quivered in its frame.

A man rushed past her and pulled the struggling door open.

“You coming?” he asked.

She looked right through him and gave no reply.

“You’ll freeze,” he mumbled as the door slammed shut.

A rush of snow poured from the rooftop and clouded her vision. For a moment, Eloise was content with being lost in a soft flurry. But once the chill became intolerable, she ripped open the coffee house door with a force that almost knocked her over. And then, she hurried into the warmth of the lobby.

The building was nearly empty. A handful of people who had no apparent concern for the weather sat with their eyes glued to computer screens.

A harsh, alarmed voice interrupted a jazz standard that was playing softly from the ceiling.

“A blizzard warning has been issued for Washington county. Many local roads have become icy, impassible, and dangerous. Multiple accidents have been reported—along with fatalities. Please remain at home,” it commanded with forced politeness.

Eloise took off her drenched faux fur coat and gave an exasperated cry once she realized how wet and cold she was. A few eyes lifted from their computers and gave her a quick, judgmental glance before returning to their work. Her face flushed with embarrassment. She hated making a scene.

The barista said “hello” in a loud, chipper voice that made Eloise jump. Eloise smiled quickly and shyly, hoping to avoid more greetings or pleasantries.

“I’ll have a black coffee,” Eloise said meekly

“Would you like room for cream?”

“Just a black coffee,” she answered quickly and much too loudly.

Eloise turned and saw all eyes on her again. She felt a strange sensation cover her skin as she noticed that every person in the room looked nearly identical—all men with sandy blonde hair and dark-framed glasses. They were dressed conservatively and clacking on silver laptops.

Something felt off. Logic told Eloise that something was wrong. She felt an urge to leave, but as always, she never listened to her intuition. Perhaps if she had, she wouldn’t have lived such a disappointing life.

Her eyes studied the sea of similarity until she felt someone studying her in return.

A man, who distinctly stood out from the small crowd, sat comfortably in a leather lounge chair. His gaze felt tangible. Like it was brushing her cheek with mocking compassion. His long legs rested on another chair, and his wet shoes left a mark in its red velour fabric. The man’s rudeness and audacity made her uncomfortable. “The Stranger” by Camus was resting open on his chest, and he was smiling at her. The smile was cool, confident, and antagonizing—and his eyes were laughing at her.

She looked to either side of herself to see if he was looking at someone else, but he tipped his red suede fedora in her direction as if to say, “No, it’s you that I see, dear.”

She looked down—wishing to avoid further eye contact—and walked towards an empty chair that rested in front of a picture window. Her boots peeled against the mosaic tile floor, making an awful screeching sound with each step. She hurried faster, hoping to escape any more attention—especially from the man in the leather lounge chair. 

Eloise reached for the chair and dragged it across the floor before sitting. A few men looked up from their glowing screens again. Her heart was beating fast, and she was frustrated with herself for looking so obnoxious. She sat and dropped her purse to the floor.

“Black coffee!” shouted the barista from behind her.

Eloise started to stand, but the stranger stood instead.

“Let me get it,” he insisted.

She smiled with her lips but not with her eyes, and she nodded nervously as he walked past her. She felt the urge to run again, but her body froze in place.

Everything about the man felt terrifying. And even though their interaction had been short, she felt like he was taunting her. He was like a predator teasing its prey. She tried to push the feeling away. She wasn’t in any place to judge someone’s character. Eloise had never judged a person’s character correctly in her life.

She looked back out the window towards a tiny seaside cottage. The blizzard was beautiful and powerful. Her breath made the window fog, but she could still see a black Mercedes parked next to the front door. Her heart fell, and self-pity consumed her.

“You sure you wouldn’t like some cream?” asked the man as he set the coffee down and helped himself to an empty chair across from her.

She felt a chill spread through her body like a small crack rippling through a sheet of ice.

“Sometimes minor changes can create a completely different life.” He sounded pleased with himself—as though he had made a clever joke. 

Her eyes turned from the window to his face for a moment and then back.

“No. Thank you,” she said awkwardly.

“What is so interesting out there?” He asked, amused.

She simply shook her head.

“I see your ex-husband parked close to the door. That’s lucky for him. Julia doesn’t like the wind. She wasn’t thrilled about messing up her hair, which is ironic since he’s just going to ravage it in the bedroom.”

He spoke exuberantly, as though he were telling her about a movie. She stopped breathing for a moment and slowly turned her body towards him.

“Excuse me?” Eloise gasped.

“I see your husband parked close to the door…” he said much slower. He gave her an antagonizing smile and stopped speaking before she could protest.

Speechless, she studied him for a moment. Did she know this man? He had a familiar face. The kind that would make people wonder where they’ve seen him—though they’d never figure it out.

His hair was nearly black, and his eyes matched. His face was long and thin with sharp features. He was handsome and intimidating, but the intimidation did not lie in his attractiveness. She assumed it came from his smug, overly confident demeanor.

“Are you a friend of Aiden’s or Julia’s?” She asked.

He was so tall that his legs hardly fit under the round wooden table, so he shifted himself a bit.

“No,” he said plainly.

She sat and waited for him to tell her more. He sat with no signs of speaking.

Eloise laughed uncomfortably. She’d been to the coffee house quite a few times once she found out her husband was leaving her for her high school friend, Julia. Julia must have figured it out and sent this man to taunt her. Aiden would never act so childish, but Julia was cruel. Julia was the mean girl from school. The gorgeous, rich girl who loved destroying people for sport. Gaslighting was her favorite form of torture. Sometimes Eloise wondered if she was being punished by the universe for being one of Julia’s cronies as a teenager and laughing as she made other, less popular girls cry.

“You must be friends with Julia.” She said, wishing he’d leave her alone. “I know she enjoys torturing me, but I don’t understand why she’d go this far. She already has Aiden.”

He continued to sit quietly with a triumphant grin on his face. 

“You can leave now,” she added. “Thanks. You can tell her you pushed me over the edge or whatever.” She attempted to sound strong and confident, but she sounded sheepish. She was angry but hated nothing more than confrontation or making a scene.

“Why don’t you just move on with your life?” he asked like he was making small talk. He wasn’t concerned, but he was curious. His mystery was making her annoyed and uncomfortable.

“Well, since you apparently read minds, I’m sure you know,” Eloise snapped. Her boldness made her blush.

He said nothing.

“Look—” she paused, wondering his name. “Dominic,” he replied. “Look, Dominic, I’d like to be alone right now.” Her face burned with anxiety. She hoped she hadn’t made him angry, but she went there intending to suffocate herself with self-pity and then go home and drink an entire box of cheap wine.

“So?” he asked.

“Why does it matter? It’s over no matter what. He left me the house and the money—because he pities me—and he moved to Julia’s cottage. He doesn’t need the money anyway, so it wasn’t a genuine olive branch. Julia has more money than god,” Eloise said, defeated.

She surprised herself by sharing so much with a stranger who made her so uncomfortable.

He laughed. “You people and your money. I thought money was supposed to buy happiness. You seem pretty miserable with what your money is buying you.”

She sank in her chair and glared at him.

“And that’s a silly analogy. God doesn’t have money,” he added plainly.

“I don’t understand your emotions. If it’s over, why are you sitting here wallowing? He doesn’t want you. He chose Julia, and I don’t blame him. She’s flawlessly beautiful. It wasn’t a fair fight for you.”

His words were painful to hear, but she had thought them herself. Tears welled in her eyes.

“I don’t know why. I guess so I can sit here and wonder what I could have done differently and needlessly torture myself.” The lack of sarcasm in her voice surprised her. She realized she was telling the truth.

Dominic’s eyes lit, and he leaned forward. “Well, now you’re problem-solving. A solution. Just go back and change the past,” he hissed.

He was trying to trigger her, and it was working. Her anger was boiling and mixing with her depression. She could feel herself losing control. She opened her mouth to yell but stopped herself.

“Breath,” she told herself. “Don’t come undone.”

She was falling into Dominic’s trap. Eloise was a passive person who rarely defended herself, and she was always miserable. She was like a teakettle on low heat that slowly simmered until it screamed.

“I don’t appreciate the sarcasm,” she said in a hushed voice.

“But I’m not being sarcastic, my dear.”

He tapped his finger to the rhythm of a grandfather clock behind him. The sound was maddening to her. She lifted her eyes from the table and met his. They were eager and inscrutable.

“Yes, I’d like to go back and change things,” she admitted. “But how do I know I could make it better? What if I made it worse?”

“Oh, so your benevolent god just enjoys playing your life like a cheap daytime soap opera? Poor you,” he said with a laugh. “At least you have your money.”

She held her coffee so tight that she nearly broke the cup. “I don’t understand this odd encounter with you, Dominic. I’d like to be left alone. I’d say ‘no offense,’ but I wouldn’t mean it. So, you’re free to take it.”

 Once again, she gasped at her brashness and winced while waiting for his reply. Surprisingly, he didn’t get angry. Instead, he looked giddy. The more he irritated her, the more content he was.

“Let me ask you this,” he said, disregarding her outburst completely, “Do you want to go back and change your story? The choice is yours.” He raised a single eyebrow in anticipation.

“If I could go back in time and never meet you, I would.” She whispered snidely, thinking he couldn’t hear her. And then a wave of emotions swept over her.

“Please, I beg you. Leave me alone,” she pleaded through tears. Every second of the game made her wind tighter and tighter.

Dominic smiled widely. His perfect white teeth glistened. He continued smiling until her discomfort and confusion were visible.

“…. I can make it happen,” he said, ignoring her again.

“Yes. Of course, I would—I’d save my marriage.” She couldn’t believe she was encouraging him, but she felt drawn into his words.

He leaned closer. Eloise could feel the heat from his face, and his breath smelled sweet. He inched even closer, so close that his lips brushed her ear as he spoke.

“Yes, of course, you would. What’s the risk?” His words flowed like silk. He didn’t wait for a reply before sitting back in his chair.

“There are a few conditions. If you make a mess of things, I’ll let you come back and try again—as many times as you need. But make sure you’re here on this exact day at this exact time. I don’t wait for anyone. If you do not come back, whatever life you’ve created is final—the benefits or consequences are yours to live with.”

He extended his hand to her. “Do we have a deal? You can have your sweet Aiden back.” He spoke his last sentence smoothly. He sounded like he was selling a Ferrari to an unhappy, middle-aged millionaire.

She looked deep into his dark eyes and felt hypnotized. He was beautiful and horrifying. And for some reason, she believed that he truly had the power to bend time.

Eloise didn’t trust his intent, but she craved his promises. She knew she needed to say “no,” but she wanted Aiden. She wanted him more than anything in life. And she was willing to face or ignore that internal voice that begged her to leave. It was for love, and love was all that mattered in life. She was doing this for Aiden as much as she was doing it for herself. She was saving him from unhappiness, from a life with Julia, who was a cruel and selfish person.

Eloise set her cup down and clenched her jaw. Her arm seemed to fight as she extended it towards him. She placed her hand inside of his, closed her eyes, and shook his hand.

Eloise opened her eyes. Dominic was still sitting across from her, and she was still sitting in the coffee house. Nothing had changed.

She started breathing heavily. She felt like she was going to explode in tears and humiliation. She expected to see Julia jump out laughing.

“Ok. You fooled me. Can you please leave and stop antagonizing me?”

He laughed. “I can’t seem to stop antagonizing anyone. So no, I can’t do that. But I never back out of a deal. Go and walk through the door. You’ll find yourself back at the beginning.”

He placed his red suede fedora over his dark hair and pushed his chair back, signaling that he was ready to leave. Then, he stood and tipped the hat like a 1950s Hollywood gentleman.

“I’ll leave you alone for now. Good luck, Eloise.”

He looked like a tower next to her. She had a hard time focusing on his face because it seemed so far above her. He turned and left.

Eloise needed to be anywhere but there. She looked outside and saw the light flicker on inside of Julia and Aiden’s cottage. She could see them standing in the bedroom, laughing. The snow was still falling. Nothing had changed. She cursed at herself for being so gullible and ran from the building, leaving her coat and purse behind.

***

Eloise ran through the coffee shop door. A distinct warmth hit her bare arms, and a bright sun shocked her sad, brown eyes. White wisps of clouds floated in an otherwise clear sky. Soft waves crashed on the shore and made just enough of a sound to lull an anxious mind into peace. She abruptly froze in place.

“Keep moving!” said a man with sandy blonde hair and dark-framed glasses as he crashed into her back.

About 200 feet away, at a tiny cottage by the sea, her husband stood leaning against a short wooden fence. Sea birds ran wild around him, looking for creatures in the surf.

Julia emerged from the water, looking like a mermaid from a vintage movie. She was perfect. The sun sparkled through the water droplets that were falling from her thin, toned body. A white bikini barely covered her sun-darkened skin. A bikini that probably cost hundreds of dollars. Julia was a wealthy widow with a trust fund from her grandfather. She had everything she wanted in her life—including Eloise’s husband.

Eloise stood in the same spot she had stood in three months earlier. Three months before the blizzard on Block Island. The same blizzard that would claim seven lives and leave the locals without power for three days. That year’s Indian summer proved to be the last taste of bliss for the islanders, or at least that is how it felt for Eloise.

The last time Eloise stood in that spot, she came undone and lost her husband. She had stopped for coffee before her weekly yoga class. Usually, she went to a coffee spot next to the studio, but it was a nice day, so she stopped to appreciate the beach. She also planned to convince Julia to go to class with her. There was a divorcee named Jude who had joined the yoga studio, and she thought Julia would like to meet him.

After Eloise bought her coffee and headed towards Julia’s cottage, she saw Julia kissing Aiden. Eloise exploded in anger, and she stormed over there without considering the consequences. Eloise demanded they end their affair. Aiden was Eloise’s husband. They took vows, and the vows meant something. She and Aiden started dating during their sophomore year in high school, and he was the only person she’d ever been with. They had been trying to start a family for years. In fact, they had tried that day, and the thought of him being with Julia hours after he left Eloise’s side, naked and hopeful, made her so nauseous that she threw up in a bed of white roses.

When Eloise gave Aiden an ultimatum, he chose Julia. And of the morning of the blizzard, he called to tell her that Julia was pregnant. He hated having to tell her, but he wanted Eloise to know before people started talking. It was a small town, and he didn’t want her blindsided. He knew how much she wanted a baby of her own, and he promised that one day she’d meet a man who would give her a family. But she knew that was impossible. She tried for years to have children with Aiden, and nothing happened. Since Julia was pregnant, it was clearly Eloise, not Aiden, who had the problem.

That day, Eloise cried pathetically into the phone and begged Aiden to come home. He was the only one she could love. He apologized for hurting her and softly hung up the phone.

Eloise spent every single day regretting that she had confronted them. If she hadn’t, she could have just ignored the affair. She’d have been miserable and jealous for a short time, but she’d still have Aiden. The affair would have burned out once Julia set her eyes on being a Mrs. again. Then Eloise wouldn’t have to be in a world where Julia was living Eloise’s dream.

So, this time, Eloise threw up in the bed of white roses and then got into her red Honda and left.

On her way home, she continued to feel nausea deep in her stomach and an unsettling feeling in her chest, but she tried her best to ignore it.

How lucky she was to have a second chance? She had faith in herself that she could save her marriage. It would just be a short trial. Every marriage was hard, and she knew Aiden loved her. She held her hand outside the window and felt the warm breeze on her face. Her engagement ring sat proudly on top of her wedding band, and it glittered in the afternoon sunlight. The sight made an intense rush of relief run through every inch of her body.

On her way home, she picked up two fresh lobsters for dinner. She was determined to be the woman he fell in love with again. She silently chastised herself for getting so lost in her fertility battle that she stopped being a good wife. Once she got home, she changed into a sheer white sundress and put a fresh bouquet from their garden on the table. As she started dinner, she heard Aiden’s truck pull into their driveway. She forgot how much she loved that familiar sound of crunching gravel, and goosebumps covered her body.

He waited longer than usual to go inside, which made her nervous. But once he finally walked through their door, her emotions got the better of her, and she began sobbing. She ran and wrapped her arms around his shoulders and kissed him deeply.

He did not return the kiss.

“I’m making dinner,” she said as she tried to contain her tears. “Why are you cry-…. um, Eloise, we need to talk.” He shuffled his feet uncomfortably and avoided her eyes. She knew exactly what was coming. Her joyful tears turned into rage, and she turned from him. She dropped a lobster into freshly boiling water, and it screamed as it hit the rapid bubbles.

“No,” she thought, “No, he can’t be leaving me. I was just handed a second chance.”

“You’re right. I have something to tell you. I’ll go first.” Her mind raced, wondering what to say.

“No, Eloise, this can’t wait. I can’t keep putting this off. It isn’t fair to either of us—or Julia.”

She spun around and realized how awful she must’ve looked. Mascara was pouring over her face, and her eyes were swollen. The same irrational anger she felt when she first saw him kissing Julia resurfaced. And this time, it was mixed with desperation.

“Julia? What does Julia have to do with us? Does this have to do with that married man she’s screwing around with? She told me she’s been rebounding with some poor idiot, and it’s helping her get over Charlie’s death. Sometimes I wonder why I’m her friend. She’s kind of an awful person.” She forced a laugh, but she was panicking. Maybe that lie would buy her some time.

Aiden’s brow furrowed with concern.

“Julia said that?” he asked, visibly hurt.

The hurt made her feel good. He opened his mouth again, but before he could make a sound, she blurted out the first thing that came to her mind.

“I’m pregnant!” she yelled, forcing a smile. She threw her hands into the air. “It finally worked! We’re not Aiden and Eloise anymore. We’re mom and dad!”

He looked stunned, and she quickly began explaining herself to solidify the lie.

“I wanted to make dinner and tell you over dessert, but I’ve been crying ever since I found out, and I just can’t keep it in any longer. We did it!”

Her heart pounded as she waited for a response. He looked shocked, and then worried, and then happy. Aiden smiled and hugged Eloise. He believed her, and he did not utter the name Julia again—for a few months.

At first, it was like they were on their honeymoon again. He couldn’t keep his hands off of her, and they stayed up late dreaming of the future and trying out names. She pushed away from her fears, which nagged at her constantly, and the subtle ways Aiden acted uninterested or distant.

If a mystical man could send her back in time, she could get pregnant before he found out she was lying. She had convinced herself that fate was on her side, and fate would solve her problems.

But as time went on, she did not fall pregnant. And the lies became more and more elaborate. Why couldn’t she schedule her OB appointment when he was off of work? Why wasn’t she having any symptoms? When his suspicion became too much, she told him she miscarried.

She cried and cried one night and told him the doctor couldn’t find a heartbeat, but she’d hoped for a miracle. She didn’t believe the baby was gone, so she didn’t tell him right away. He was sympathetic at first, but the suspicion came back along with questions and eventually demands of proof that a baby ever existed at all. Then one snowy morning, he’d had enough.

“I want to talk to the doctor, Eloise. I deserve to know what happened. How can we be sure this won’t keep happening? Does the doctor know what caused the miscarriage?” His voice was insincere and taunting.

“No, Aiden. Doctors rarely know why miscarriages happen. They just do! Why can’t you let this go? Why do you have to keep opening the wound?” She swallowed hard and realized she needed to diffuse the situation.

“Look, Aiden, if I got pregnant once. I can get pregnant again. We’ll try again.” She smiled, but he could see right through her.

“Tell me the truth,” he said sternly.

“I don’t know what you want me to say, Aiden.”

“Tell. Me. The. Truth,” he repeated slowly and coldly.

“I had a miscarriage. They happen…”

“No, you didn’t, Eloise. I already talked to the OB,” he finally yelled.

“You what? How could you go behind my back?” She cried out furiously.

He exploded in genuine deep laughter and then quickly snapped into a terrifying rage.

“Oh. I’m sorry for misleading you.” He said sarcastically. “Why, Eloise? Why? You thought this would fix our marriage? We’ve been miserable for years! Why couldn’t you just let it end? I gave up everything because I thought I needed to be a father.”

“Gave up ‘everything’? Was Julia really ‘everything,’ Aiden? She would have left you like she leaves everyone. You were a toy for her. I actually love you!” Eloise realized she had just given away her secret and stopped speaking.

His face turned red, and he didn’t make a sound for a moment.

“You knew? You knew I was going to end things that day? So you made up a fake baby and made me break it off with Julia? Did you honestly think we’d live happily ever after? Jesus, Eloise, when did you become such a weak and pathetic woman. I honestly can’t remember why I ever loved you. Did I ever love you? I was happy with her. I loved… no, I love her. God. She told me you were lying. I stood up for you.”

He shook his head as though his words were pointless, then he grabbed his keys and ran out the door.

Eloise was sobbing so hard she couldn’t breathe. “Wa… wait. Where are you… going?”

It only took a second for her to realize the answer. He was going to Julia’s. She ran outside without putting on her shoes and coat. Snow and ice had already started covering the ground, and she couldn’t get a step in without slipping. He was already backing out of the driveway, so she sped up and screamed for him to stop.

“Go inside, Eloise. It’s over!”

Her foot came down hard on a cold, sharp piece of gravel. She rocked to her other leg to escape the pain, but her foot slipped from under and twisted with a sickening crack. With a cry, she fell to the ground. She looked up to the sky and let her sobs come out faster. She was hysterical and desperate to get him to turn around, and he did. He came running up the driveway, also sliding and stumbling on his way.

“Jesus, Eloise,” he said softly. “Look at you.”

She was shivering, barefoot in her lace nightgown. Her foot was bleeding droplets onto the freshly fallen snow. She looked into his eyes, and she knew he meant it when he said she was pathetic. He looked at her with both pity and disgust. Without saying a word, he picked her up and carried her inside. He acted as though she was nothing more than an annoying responsibility for him. He set her down on the couch and turned to leave again. She begged him to stop, but he ignored her.

“Dominic! Dominic sent me back in time,” she called out frantically. “He sent me back to fix our marriage because we’re meant to be, Aiden, that’s the only reason he’d do it. We’re soulmates! Otherwise, it wouldn’t make sense. We can fix this! Just stay with me, please!”

Aiden turned around with sincere worry on his face.

“Oh my god, Eloise, what happened to you? Have you lost your mind, or are you a compulsive liar?” He shook his head as though it didn’t matter. He had no desire to stay and find out.

Both of their phones blasted a hideous, shrieking alarm. Eloise jumped and looked at her phone lying on the table next to her. A weather warning flashed onto the screen.

“A blizzard. It’s a blizzard. It’s today! Dominic is at the coffee house today. I can prove to you that he’s real. It’s today,” Eloise laughed manically.

She looked up at Aiden, only to see he was gone. She heard his tires crunching the gravel and pull out to the street.

She frantically searched for her keys and ran to her car. Still wearing nothing but a lace nightgown, she ripped open her car door and threw it into drive. Her car tires yanked side to side as she hit the gas pedal and sped into the road. She saw him by the stop sign at the end of their road and hit the gas harder. Her car swerved, and her tires slipped, but she didn’t slow down. She pulled up next to him and pounded her horn. He rolled down his window.

“Eloise! GO HOME! You’re going to kill yourself.”

He drove off cautiously, and she attempted to follow. But her tires grabbed a snowbank and did nothing but struggle without traction. She pushed the gas harder and harder until the Honda shot forward and slid out onto the road. Eloise continued to increase her speed until she caught him again and then drove alongside him.

She hit her horn over and over and waved to him. He pointed into the road and screamed at her, but she didn’t look away. Finally, she looked forward and saw a car stuck in the street ahead of her. She slammed her brakes and sent her car sliding. She spun into a sharp circle and smashed into the side of Aiden’s truck.

She awoke to another alarming siren from her phone. It was another alert reminding her of the blizzard. Confused, she called out for Aiden. For a moment, she couldn’t remember why she was there. The confusion instantly disappeared once she saw Aiden’s truck in a ditch with his driver’s side door smashed. She got out of her car and weakly hobbled to him.

“Aiden, wake up. Aiden, darling, you’ve been in an accident. Wake up.”

Blood was rushing from his nose and head. She shook him, but he didn’t respond. She could still hear her phone, and it reminded her that time was running out.

“Dominic. I can go back and try again. I can fix this, and I can fix us. You’ll be alright. I’m so sorry.”

He laid slumped over the steering wheel, motionless.

She limped to her car as fast as she could. Her feet were numb, and she was disoriented. She turned the engine a few times before it started. The coffee house was less than a mile away. She looked at her watch—11:55.

“You must be here on the same exact day at the same exact time,” she remembered Dominic saying.

She originally met him around 11:30. Would he still be there? Crying, she pushed the gas as far as it would go. She could see the red wooden building coming into view. She sat forward, willing her car to go faster, and then she felt a crunching sound and heard her own scream.

***

When Eloise awoke, she was shivering and lying on her back. The snow was falling on top of her like billions of white, glittering crystals. She lost herself in its peaceful descent. But the reprieve only lasted a short time before the sounds of the paramedics and emergency vehicles made their way into her reality.

A man rushed to her and covered her in a scratchy, black blanket.

“Where are your shoes? Why are you in a nightgown?” he asked, concerned. She didn’t care to respond.

Weak and confused, she blinked snowflakes from her eyelashes.

Suddenly, a tall man with sharp features appeared on the horizon like a mirage—Dominic. He was strolling slowly and contently down the sidewalk through the blizzard. The swirls of snow seemed to part for him, and no one else appeared to notice that he existed.

Eloise felt one last push of hopeful desperation. She tried to make a sound to draw his attention, but she didn’t need to. He saw her. She tried to scream, but her mouth wouldn’t open.

He drew closer, and his lips curled joyfully. The first responders worked furiously, dashing between two vehicles, and she realized they couldn’t see him. Was he an illusion?

Two firefighters pulled a man from an SUV on the other side of the road. She didn’t know she hit another vehicle. They supported him on their shoulders and helped him to an ambulance. But as they did, the man weakly drew his hand from his side and pointed towards Dominic. He said something to the EMS workers. They looked around, confused, and then quickly returned to their tasks.

As Dominic passed Eloise, he looked her in her eyes and tipped his red suede fedora. A rush of snow poured from his brim and clouded her vision. Then he continued forward into the chaos of the storm.

Recommend0 Simily SnapsPublished in Contemporary Fiction, Fantasy, Fiction

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