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by Traci Mullins

I remind myself that you didn’t intentionally vacate the premises, hang a “for sale” sign on your condemned body. But I can’t help being angry at you for your implicit betrayal. For breaking your promise not to text when you drive and trapping yourself in 3,000 pounds of twisted metal. The jaws of life got you here, but left you there. You haven’t come back, even for our daughter, who thinks you’re just sleeping but is starting to suspect you of something more sinister.

Your eyes are no longer the windows of your soul. No, your eyelids are closed now, windowless, strips of gauze taped over them so your eyes won’t dry out should they crack open and you stare, seeing nothing.

Your daughter and I are here by your bedside, where you lay day after day under washed-limp, hospital-grade sheets. I don’t take my eyes off your once exquisite face. My longing to see a flicker of recognition sears me clear through to my viscera. But you have locked me out — or locked yourself in.

Your daughter swings her green-sneakered feet in the chair as she lines goldfish in a row up your pale, flaccid arm. Every now and then she eats one, swallowing it down with the thick silence. She’s stopped curling up next to you. You give her nothing. How long will you keep us trapped here, hovering between who you are and who you were?

It’s time to go, I tell your child. A storm is forecast, and I left the windows open. I can’t promise you when we’ll be back, but maybe you don’t care. Promises don’t seem to mean much to you anyway.

Traci Mullins writes short fiction and has been published in Flash Fiction Magazine, Dime Show Review, Ellipsis Zine, Palm-Sized Press, Fantasia Divinity, CafeLit, Flash Flood Journal, and others. She was named a Highly Recommended Writer in the London Independent Story Prize competition.