“Hold on Jon!” the young woman yelled as she raced after a slim, sandy-haired youth. “Jon! Jonathan! I’m tired, I’m not chasing you anymore, you can keep the danishes!” she sat down on an exposed tree root, panting heavily.
“Ah Liz, come on, we had a deal didn’t we? I buy the pastries with the cash I have left but you have to chase-and catch me, to get em”
“Didn’t know you were so bloody fast” she said, smiling ” How much were they anyway? The danishes?”
“Doesn’t matter anymore does it? I bought them already” he said with a cheeky grin and added, ” I’ve already had like half of em”
“What!?” Liz yelled as she snatched the bag of pastries from Jon ” When did you even have time to eat them?”
Jon said nothing as he laid his head on the bark of the giant oak whose shade they were currently enjoying. It was late afternoon and the fall chill was starting to creep in. He closed his eyes, enjoyed the shade and the silence for a minute or two then sat up sharply, waking Liz from her half-doze as well.
“Come on Liz! Don’t fall asleep yet! You’re going back tomorrow right? I have one last thing to show you” Jon said as he pulled her up and patted her back to get rid of any dust.
All this was done without a moment’s hesitation, as though once he had made his mind up, he was going to pursue his goal with the single-mindedness of a charging bull, heedless of any obstacles or the opinion of anyone else. Liz couldn’t help but think about what a double-edged trait it was, as she was pulled deeper and deeper through the woods, to a destination only he knew.
“We’re here!” Jon announced as he pulled the weary and confused Liz out into the clearing. “Here” appeared to be a tiny clearing in the midst of giant trees; Major oaks, Hawthorns and was that a Dawn redwood? Jon, of course, did not seem to care about the trees. He was standing close to a stream Liz had not noticed at first glance and motioning upwards.
“Sit” he said, his grin wider than ever. “Sit, wait and see”
And so she did.
She was just starting to get a bit fidgety when she saw, and it was well worth the wait. As the sun set, the sea of trees around her were dowsed with bright orange light, then a bright surging red, so that they seemed afire. In that moment, Jon motioned for her to look down, towards the stream and there, awash in the colours of the sunset were dozens of fish, right below the surface, their bodies gleaming in the otherworldly colours of a perfect sunset. The clearing gleamed a ghostly blue colour, a chalky mauve and finally that was gone, leaving the ebony blackness of the night.
“Jon, that was… that was beautiful” smiled Liz who was still a bit teary eyed. “Why didn’t you take me here earlier?”
“Well” Jon started, looking a bit embarrassed “I didn’t know I wanted to share it with you yet. It was there at the tree, when we were having a bit of a slummock that I made up my mind”
“What the hell does slummock mean?”
Jon smiled and said nothing. He was just standing up when Liz’s hand found his sleeve and tugged him back down.
“Thank you Jonathan, I’m going back tomorrow, but no matter what happens, I’ll always remember you”
“Hmm? Remembering me isn’t enough Liz” Jon stood up and patted at his backside, wearing a cheeky smile. “Remembering just me isn’t enough. Remember me… as a time of day”.
Liz gazed at the man that had been Jonathan Pritchard. Withered, wasting away, comatose. All those words had been used to describe him, but it was over, done. The fact that the man that used to be Jonathan Pritchard was probably going to die within the next hour no longer mattered. Since when? Liz wondered, when had she stopped caring? It was not hard to see why she would, the accident that left Jon gone and her with only minor bruises, the five years of him being in a comatose state, the elation she felt when she was called and told that “her husband had woken up” only to rush to the hospital and eventually be faced with the shocking truth. PVS, a harmless acronym for a horrifying truth, her “husband” was in a persistent vegetative state. In truth she didn’t think of him as her husband anymore, the man in front of her was merely an empty vessel, one that used to house the loving spirit of Jon, her husband, her lover, her friend.
It was late afternoon and the sun’s rays were losing their bite. As the time for his death drew near, Liz was reminiscing about how they had met. She, abroad for a single semester in England, meeting a cute English boy on her first day- who turned out to be Jon, his relentless pursuit of her, their first date, their last date, Jon, drenched in rain on her doorstep after they had lost contact for almost three years, their wedding, their children.
Oh! Their children, Todd, frantically rushing home from Australia- he’d never make it in time, and Lee, stubborn as an ox. She practically lived down the street from the hospital, but would never come, still nursing an argument with her father twenty years after he had lost the ability to make amends. Liz sighed as she recalled the night; just before she left England that Jon had shown her the perfect sunset. Deep in her thoughts, she had not noticed when the man beside her had snaked an emaciated arm towards her palm on the bed.
The sun was sinking faster now and the sky looked aflame. Liz stared wistfully out the window as the man finally found her palm, gave it a small, almost imperceptible squeeze and died, his last breath almost echoing in the stillness of the hospital room. Liz turned back in shock, her eyes swimming in tears as she looked at the still body of the man she had loved.
“Remember me as a time of day, huh?”
– Obi A.