Head resting in the palm of his hand, eyes fixated on a car parked across the street, Peter sat in The Victorian Parlor Cafe. The bright pink, painted tin ceiling and Victorian-era dolls and decor (that bordered on creepy) failed to cheer him. Very soon, Katrina, his fiancée, would join him. He thought of her radiant smile and crystal blue eyes. He could picture her strolling in from the summer street, the glow of the sun illuminating the world behind her.
And his heart was breaking.
For in just a few moments Peter was going to inform Katrina of his acceptance to graduate school. It was good news; he hadn’t expected to get into the school of his choice, The University of Washington, in Seattle; but he had. And Katrina had just accepted a job in Chicago.
Staring at the circles he was making in his coffee with his spoon, he didn’t notice her walk in. As she pulled up the chair across from him, he was startled by her approach.
He smiled quickly. “Hi, honey,” he said, leaning over the table to kiss her.
“So what’s so urgent,” she asked, referring to his message that they had to meet for lunch.
“It’s about Chicago,” he watched as her face darkened, expression hardened.
“What about it?” Apprehension fluttered in her voice like nervous bird wings. This topic was one they had discussed before—and it never went well.
“I got a letter today,” he said slowly. He laced his fingers together. “I got accepted to UW.”
“Oh.” Peter watched her, expecting more of a response. She didn’t look at him. Her expression didn’t waver for a few moments.
“So, you’re not going to Chicago with me?”
The matter-of-factness of the question caught Peter off guard. He wasn’t sure if he was supposed to answer or not. “I thought you would go to Seattle with me.”
“Jesus,” she sighed, slamming her hands on the small table, making the whole thing tremble. “It’s so typical. I have to drop everything for you.” She glared across the table at him. “You already agreed to go to school in Chicago. “
“I agreed because I didn’t expect to get into Washington.”
“And so now that you did, I have to change my life around. I can’t believe you,” she scooted her chair out. “I hope you enjoy Seattle.”
Peter stood watching her leave. At the door she stopped again, she turned to face him. Tears fell down her face, she began to speak, and then thought better of it. She escaped out the door. The door slammed, making the porcelain dolls on the window seat shudder.
Peter was looking down, hiding his tears. It was the screams of the cafe patrons that made his head bolt up. He looked into the street, his eyes widened, his voice left his mouth in a terrible scream, “Katrina!”
She had stepped in front of a speeding car.
* * *
The tubes and wires keeping Katrina alive gave her the appearance of a demonic robot. Peter was reminded of a Rube Goldberg machine, impossibly complicated and bizarre.
The doctors said there was next to no brain activity. It would be up to Katrina’s parents if they wanted to keep her on life support. Her parents would be in soon. They caught a flight from Tampa as soon as Peter called them.
Peter sat in a waiting area, staring out the window at the fading light, but not really seeing the sunset. He was thinking of Katrina and the first time they met. It had been in a film class. She had called him stupid. From that moment on, he had loved her.
Katrina’s parents would be arriving soon. He balled his fists and dug them into his face. Through his clenched teeth and hands he sobbed.
He had made such a mess of things.