Shorty: Cerulean Sundown

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And here it is: the conclusion to the three-part cycle of short shorts concerning Mat. Please comment and let me know what you think/if any changes should be made! Thanks, and enjoy!

                It was six o’clock again. This early in the fall, the sun was only beginning to set. Faint traces of pink tinged the western horizon, but Mat knew the sun would not be completely down for at least another half hour.

                He knew this because he’d seen it act the same way each day for the past month as he went through his schedule in a dazed manner. He knew it wasn’t healthy, but he didn’t care. How could he? Andy was dead.

                Mat already had his car filled with gas after making his weekly stop at the nearby Shell. He already had his weekly groceries purchased and safely bagged in the trunk. All that was left of his public routine was to eat in his—their—booth at Juanita’s. He wouldn’t let himself think of The Booth as his alone. It was, and always would be, The Booth that he and Andy loved.

                He pulled into a spot a few rows away from the front doors. These days, he liked a little distance from everything and everyone. This weekly habit of eating out was his one concession to the community, though he saw it more as a memorial to Andy.

                While he walked, head down and shoulders slouched, he heard a female voice call his name. He thought he recognized it, and he lifted his head in a brief moment of uncharacteristic strength. The voice called again, and he looked to his right and over his shoulder.

                There she was. He knew he recognized her voice. She looked similar, after the eight years since college: still slim and ridiculously pretty, still with shoulder-length brown hair and pale blue eyes. She was wearing her glasses. He’d always loved when she wore them.

                “Jordan!” he said, surprised by the emotion in his voice. “It’s been, well, too long.”

                She smiled as she approached him, and he thought her smile had only gotten better in the intervening years. “It has.” She paused, her smile fading, and seemed as if unsure whether to go on or not. When she did, her voice held little of its original warmth and exuberance. “I saw you at the funeral.”

                Mat stared at her for a second, unable to speak. He found his tongue and said, “You’ve kept in touch with—with him?” He was unable to speak Andy’s name out loud.

                Jordan shrugged. “We spoke every so often.”

                At those words, Mat felt the familiar emptiness return full force. His stomach clenched, and a bright memory of Andy playing cards with the two of them their sophomore year surfaced. He struggled to find words, to tell her that he was sorry he didn’t maintain their friendship after college, that he never asked her out in college because he was afraid to ruin that very friendship…that right then, he needed to flee from her to contain his grief.

                Before he could articulate any of that, she stepped forward with startling speed and wrapped her arms around him, hugging him with a tight grip and weeping into his shoulder.

                Mat’s conscious self had no idea what to do. He was the one deep in the throes of depression. He was used to having other people pour their sympathies out to him. To be placed in opposition to that baffled him.

                At least, it baffled his thoughts. His instincts kicked in, and he hugged her back. The feeling of her warmth in his arms brought up a wave of memories from college, overpowering the grief-stricken thoughts of Andy. He brought one hand up and stroked her hair, moving it back from one ear and tracing an arc behind it. He murmured soothing words into that exposed ear.

                Her tears subsided after a few minutes, and by the time she finally released her hold on him and wiped the last vestiges of moisture from her cheeks he already knew that he loved her. Every yearning he felt in college returned to him, and he felt nothing holding him back this time.

                “Would you like to have dinner with me tonight?” he asked, gesturing to the restaurant behind him. “I have The Booth reserved.”

                A fresh wave of tears cascaded down her face as she answered, “Nothing would be better, Mat.”

                He averted his eyes, letting her cry free of embarrassment. He looked straight up at the sky, slowly darkening to the deepest blue he ever saw while the sun set behind them.

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