by Ed Nichols
Sarah loved watching The Walking Dead. I told her that show was crap, and then a few other choice words about how life is short and it is crazy spending your time glued to the TV. Her mind was going to turn to mush, I said. “I could never watch that crazy series,” I added. She got up off the sofa, went into the bedroom, packed her suitcase, and walked out the front door, leaving me stunned and all alone in the apartment. I raced to the hall and hollered for her to wait a minute: I was sorry! Let’s at least talk. She kept right on going, down the steps and out to the sidewalk. I ran back inside the apartment, raised the window and hollered again. Wait! But she had already turned the corner and was out of sight. What stuck with me, for a long time, was the fact that she never even looked back, never acknowledged that I was talking to her. Her mind was somewhere else that day.
I closed the window and slumped down on the sofa. I thought about going after her, but it dawned on me that she would probably go over to Marlene’s apartment. Maybe stay with her a couple of days. That eased my mind. One night last summer, we’d argued and she had called Marlene, and went over to her place until we cooled down. That’s what she would do this time, too. No doubt. I would wait until tomorrow to call her at Marlene’s. I picked up the novel I had been reading and found my place. No use worrying. She would be okay there, and I would tell her I was sorry and out of line saying what I did about The Walking Dead, and about her watching too much TV. She never complained about my reading mystery novels all the time. I missed her already. I was sure we would get back together.
The next morning, I called Marlene’s early, because I knew that she left for work around 8:30. She answered on the second ring. “Hello, Jack. What’s up? How’s Sarah?” she said, as a sinking feeling hit my stomach. She was not there!
“Have you…seen her? I mean we had an argument…she bolted out of the apartment and I figured she was going to spend the night with you.”
“I’m sorry. No. Gosh, Jack. I haven’t seen, or heard from her.”
“Whew! I don’t know. I’m thinking…maybe—“
“Maybe she called Mark, her brother.”
“Let me know…if I can do anything. Okay?”
Mark said he hadn’t seen her either. He wanted to know more of the details of our argument, and I told him. I said it was nothing really. We’d argued before, about that show, The Walking Dead.
Mark said he didn’t care for the show either. Mark had served two tours in Iraqi. He was still having some PTSD problems.
“What about her cell phone,” he asked me.
“It’s here, on the table. She canceled it last week.”
“Well, that might indicate that she was planning to leave you, or something.”
“Yea. Maybe so, but I…I never had any indication. It’s just strange.”
Mark and I agreed to keep in touch—let each other know if we heard from her. A friend of Marlene’s said she figured Sarah moved south. Sarah never liked cold weather. She would get depressed and in a foul mood whenever it snowed, or the temperature dropped low. I put feelers out for a while, at Starbucks where she filled in occasionally, at Sonny’s Steak House where she worked nearly two years before we met, and some others. I didn’t think I should contact the Police. She was technically not a missing person. She had left on her own. “I prefer to be free as a bird,” she had said once, when I brought up our future and whether we wanted to stay in the apartment or try to get a house—maybe get married. I should have known.
Three months went by, and then coming home one afternoon from the library, I pulled a small envelope out of my mailbox and immediately recognized her handwriting. I tore it open and read:
I know you probably do not care, but I wanted you to know where I was and what I have been doing since I walked out on you. I live in Atlanta. Watch The Walking Dead this coming Friday night. Episode number 238.
I called Marlene and Mark and told them about the letter. They both came over to my apartment Friday night and we watched the show. About five minutes into the program, before the first commercial came on, a group of humans were standing on top of a balcony shooting down onto a swarm of zombies trying to climb up to the balcony.
Marlene said it first, “There she is. My God!” We all stood up and stared.
“Look at her shooting that rifle,” Mark said.
We couldn’t believe it. Sarah was on TV, an actress! She looked so good to me, even sexy. She had on jeans, boots and a very low-cut shirt. She handled the rifle with skill and a relaxed familiarity. She grimaced at the zombies as the camera zoomed in on her face. It was amazing. I will never forget her first episode. I determined then that no person can really predict what another person will do—what another really wants to do. Everyone has secret longings, and we all covet different dreams. Sarah went after her dream, and she found it. I still miss her, and I don’t miss a single episode of The Walking Dead.
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Ed Nichols lives outside Clarkesville, Georgia. He is a journalism graduate from the University of Georgia, and is an award-winning writer from Southeastern Writer’s Association. He has had many short stories published, online and in print. He is currently working on a collection of stories.