The Light


The Light, a short story by Kayla L. Mathys

He didn’t intend for it to end this way.

When the sheer brightness of the headlights had appeared in front of him, he’d found himself drifting toward the light as instinctually as a moth’s wings and by the time he realized what he’d done, it was too late.

He’d seen the lights through the watery blur of a path cleared by his windshield wipers and thought of her.

Forgive me, Sarah.

And as the blinding lights consumed him, his mind sparked with memories.

He first remembered how, as a child, he would arise each day to the good-morning glow of sunrise streaking through his bedroom window blinds and the sound of Sarah’s tentative knock upon his window.

Come play with me, Brad, she’d say with an adventurous grin, summoning him outdoors.

They spent their days as pirates in search of rare treasures; as super-spies on a secret mission to save the world; as the princess and the knight tasked with saving her from peril. 

They fought with water guns filled with blue and yellow paint, their clothes stained green; built castles out of old sheets hung from tree limbs; and captured rogue tadpoles in the creek that separated her house from his. 

The sun was always bright above their heads, their cheeks flushed from the warmth.

He then thought of how their childhood friendship had flared into something more during a summer camping trip years later.

They were teenagers then, sitting around the warmth of the campfire, melting the stiff edges of chocolate bars with the heat of gooey, blackened marshmallows pressed into graham crackers. She’d laughed at something he said, and he’d felt the sound as it burned and bursted in his chest.

I’m in love with her, he’d thought.

Then he leaned in and kissed her sticky-sweet lips as she was still smiling.

They spent the rest of the night snuggled in a single sleeping bag underneath the light of a thousand twinkling stars perfectly visible.

They spent the rest of the night snuggled in a single sleeping bag underneath the light of a thousand twinkling stars perfectly visible quote

The night his dad left, he remembered searching for her face in the crowd of people in the stands, the stadium lights beaming down on him from the field. It had been an important night for him. A game that would determine his future. 

He hadn’t known then how much his future was about to change.

His dad–the conqueror of the boogeyman under his bed, the one who taught him how to ride a bike with no hands, the fixer of broken toys and skinned knees–had gone from family to stranger in a single night when he abandoned his family without saying goodbye.

Brad had felt helpless as the question that burned his mind why would he leave me behind? Quickly turned into what if I’m just not enough?

The answer was always one bottle of 100 proof away.

The answer was always one bottle of 100 proof away.

He knew it wasn’t fair to Sarah, but in the darkest corners of his mind he worried he wouldn’t be enough for her either. He would see the glimmer of light in the deep blue ocean of her eyes and would press the bottle to his lips to drown out the sight, certain it was only a matter of time before she realized the truth and abandoned him too.

Tonight, when his worry had finally been confirmed–the light spilling from the hallway when he opened the bedroom door, shining a spotlight on her betrayal–he knew it was his own fault. 

She hadn’t wanted to go to the party, but they’d gone anyway–at his insistence.

Then, he’d broken the promise he’d made to her, the only thing she had asked of him that night.

It had been his choice, his fault, his mistake. He knew that.

But the image of her in the arms of his best friend had still unleashed the liquid fury burning through his veins and though the anger was at himself, he’d turned it toward her instead.

Now, it was too late to take it back.

a candle being blown out
Now it was too late to take it back.

His blood-stained hands were on the steering wheel, rain pouring in sheets all around him.

Forgive me, Sarah, he thought.

And in front of him, there was only light.

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