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As soon as I took a sip, I realized it was poison. I tried to spit out the contents, but my throat betrayed me, the poison sliding down my esophagus and into my stomach, prepared to eat out my life.
“What the hell did you put into this drink?” I shouted at the man. He grinned, his previously benign-looking eyes giving way to a malicious glint lurking beneath them.
“I invited you in for a drink. I didn’t say what would be in the drink,” he replied. I cursed to myself. How could I have been so gullible? Just because someone offers you inside for a drink and a place to stay doesn’t mean the drink wouldn’t be nightshade (I could taste it now) and the place to stay wouldn’t be the Underworld.
I frantically glanced around for a weapon, but all I could find was an iron pot, so I hauled it up with my scrawny arms and was about to clang it over the man’s head when the room started to spin. Immediately the pot slipped from my hands, and I found myself leaning heavily against a wooden chair.
“Why don’t you lie down, boy?” the man said, rushing over to me. “Standing up with poison running through your veins isn’t very comfortable.” I was about to retort dying wasn’t exactly very comfortable, yet when I tried to talk, my throat was simply too dry to make out words. Half-consciously I wondered when was the last time I had a drink and then remembered all too well it was about a minute ago.
Suddenly, I collapsed to the floor like a broken puppet, and as I did, I realized something: life does indeed flash before your eyes before you die.
“Mr. Monroe, might you face the board and not leer at your love interest?” inquired Professor Frank. The entire class burst into laughter, and I could feel the blush rising to my cheeks with a keen intensity. Just to see her reaction, I risked a quick glance in Lillian’s direction and noticed she was chuckling a little too. Not obnoxiously – just discreetly.
“Are you still staring at her, boy?” scolded the professor. I snapped back to the board.
“N-no, Professor.” The professor sighed.
“The only good news I could give you, Monroe is that you would make a terrible politician. And that’s a **** good thing,” he said before returning to his lecture. Only in between pauses in the professor’s lesson would I sneak glimpses at Lillian again, and on the off occasion -on the wondrous occasion- our eyes would meet. Then, we would break away, downcast. At least, I was downcast in those moments.
After class, I stood outside the door, waiting for her to arrive, which she did after a quick chat with the professor.
“Hey Sam,” she said, holding some books close to her chest.
“Hey.” I gazed into her face, imbibing her perfectly asymmetrical mien. Dimples decorated her smile, and a light blush glowed under her dark skin. Her chocolate-brown eyes were a bit close set, but I couldn’t find myself caring. Because they were staring up at me.
“Er… so. The lecture… what did you think?” I asked, trying to break the silence.
“Physics is always interesting, you know.”
“Yeah, yeah, I know.” I looked around the hallway, hoping for some inspiration for another successful conversation starter.
“So… physics, huh?” I said. Lillian rolled her eyes.
“My gosh, Sam! How much is going to take for you to ask a girl out?”
“My place. Seven-thirty PM. Don’t be late,” she said, poking her finger into my chest. And with that, she walked down the hallway to her next class.
Only a minute went by when I realized I would be going for an important job interview during that time. But it didn’t matter – it was too late.
A bead of sweat slid down the side of face and landed next to me, so I quickly rubbed my forehead again with my already-soaking rag.
“Business is slow today, eh?” asked my boss. He was an elderly gentleman with most of his hair absent and had to lean nearly all of his weight on his wooden cane.
“I suppose.” Then, a nauseatingly familiar face made her way in, along with a boy I’d seen in some of our classes together. They were laughing. When Lillian turned my way, her smile fell from her face. The boy, oblivious to her reaction pulled her hand closer to my boss and I.
“Hello, I heard that this tailor shop was the best in town, and you know I could only give the best to my girlfriend here,” he said. All the while, Lillian looked down at her green dress, examining a non-existent spot.
My boss, none-the-wiser donned his usual benevolent grin and said, “What would you be having?”
“A dress. The best one in the store.”
“Of course!” My boss tugged over Lillian to stand atop a box so as to collect measurements, and he beckoned me over. Throughout the entire time Lillian stood atop the box and myself underneath her, she would never look into my eyes. The night three months ago returned to me all too vividly. The pacing in my parlor. Glancing at the clock. The decision. The guilt. The guilt. The guilt.
“Alright. You’re off to go. I’ll be notifying you when the dress is ready.”
“Thank you.” She barely glanced towards me when she left.
Three years later, I received a note saying Lillian Smith died due to tuberculosis. I can’t remember much from that day except my mother calling for me, and I didn’t even know she had until she found me in my room. I’d been staring at a wall in a trance.
So, as I lay dying on the wooden floor in the mysterious man’s room, I couldn’t help but think that I had died the day I stopped being there for Lillian.
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