Rhonda Parrish
 
Rhonda Parrish loves to write. That is, she loves to write anything but bio blurbs. You can find out more about her at her website http://www.rhondaparrish.com.
 
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How It's Supposed To Be (June 20, 2009. Issue 6.)

This wasn't how it was supposed to be, Alice thought as Eric's wet, gurgling breath assaulted her ears. The young man, his pale, pimply face distorted with an expression like none she'd ever seen before, stabbed Eric again. The kid's mouth was wide open, he looked like the face from that painting, The Scream, but Alice couldn't hear anything. It was as though she was underwater. Everything seemed to be moving in slow motion around her, even sound.

Again the silently screaming teenager stabbed her husband and still she stood, rooted by shock and terror. She watched as Eric fell to his knees beside the car, and winced. That's going to kill his knees, she thought, absurdly. He had bigger problems than his knees impacting the parking lot. As his upper body crashed into the cold, snow-covered pavement, the boy who'd stabbed him spun around.

She screamed.

She knew she screamed, though it sounded as though it came from far away.

She screamed, and the young man stopped and looked at her.

Alice wondered what it was going to feel like when the knife penetrated her skin. Would it hurt right away?

She didn't see anything unusual in his eyes. She'd read stories about seeing the insanity in them, or coldness, or evil, but she didn't see any of that. She just saw eyes. Big, brown eyes.

The kid dropped the knife. It hit a bare patch of asphalt, where the snow had already melted in the mild spring weather, clattered once, and then lay still.

When the knife came to rest, time restored itself. Alice heard herself scream for help, she heard Eric's wet, painful-sounding breaths, and, holding on to the open passenger side door of their car, she slowly, carefully lowered herself to Eric's level.

People came from all directions, most of them with cell phones pasted to their ears. She hoped they were calling 911.

Finally she was at the same height as Eric, lying on the ground beside him. He looked pale, and weak. His eyes were only partly open, and were completely unfocused. She reached over and gave his hand a squeeze.

Forty five years they'd been together. Today was their anniversary. It wasn't supposed to end like this. This was not how it was supposed to be.

"Hang on, Eric," she whispered softly. "Hang on, love."

Eric's eyes opened a little wider and she could see him struggling to focus on her face. "I love you," he mouthed without making a sound and she felt his hand go limp.

Sobs wracked her aged body, and she felt someone's hands on her shoulders, trying to help her to her feet.

She didn't understand. The man, the attacker. He hadn't even said anything. They'd have given him their wallets, but he didn't ask for them. He just came up behind Eric and—

"I love you too," she whispered to Eric's lifeless form.

~*~

Eric held the restaurant door open for Alice and smiled down at her as she stepped through it and outside. They'd been married forty five years today and still he loved her as much as he had then, more. Her hair was grey instead of chestnut and he could see the blue tracks of her veins through her skin more and more with each passing year, but he still thought she was the most beautiful woman alive.

Truly.

He continued to hold the door for a young woman who was going into the restaurant they were leaving and then stepped outside and drew his coat tighter around himself against the early spring breeze. The sun was warm, but as the wind swept against the patches and piles of snow that still littered the ground, it got cold, and cold was not his friend. Alice was waiting on the sidewalk for him and he caught up and offered her his arm.

She smiled at him, and he felt a wave of contentment swell in his chest. The kids would be by on the weekend to celebrate with them, and the grandkids with them. That would be wonderful, but so was this. Alice and he had decided to have a small lunchtime celebration for themselves, then they'd go home and hold hands on the sofa while they watched t.v.

He'd be with Alice. That was what mattered.

Her hand rested gently on his right forearm, and he reached over to give it a pat with his left hand. He smiled down at her when she turned her face toward him in question.

"What?" she asked.

"I love you," he said, and smiled.

"I love you too, you old fool, but if we don't get home soon we're going to miss Doctor Phil."

"Oh, that would be a shame," he said as they crossed the busy parking lot toward their car. He didn't like Doctor Phil at all, he watched it only because she did, but he couldn't resist teasing her about it every chance he got.

She looked like she was going to say something, but the she smiled and shook her head in a 'what am I going to do with you?' sort of way.

They reached the car. He guided her toward the passenger side and reached down to open the door for her. She let go of his arm and moved to get in. She hadn't even sat down yet when the pain clutched his chest with an iron fist.

It felt like someone had punched him in the back, but then there was a searing, burning heat in his lungs. Again he felt the impact of something against his back, and he fell forward, barely able to breathe.

He thought he heard Alice scream as he hit the ground.

~*~

He'd show them. He'd show them all.

They all thought he was a poseur, a fake. But he wasn't. They'd see.

Tyler turned the collar of his jacket up to protect his ears from the cool wind. He caught a glimpse of his reflection in one of the restaurants windows. Heh, he thought, I look like that dude in that old t.v. show, the Fonz. But scarier.

He laughed at that thought, and a woman passing by jumped at the sound. He'd startled her. He liked that.

He fingered the bowie knife in his jacket's pocket and thought about using it on her. He'd slit her throat. Zip. Just like that, give her a second smile.

Heh.

He felt his lips curl into a smile he didn't feel. His eyes scanned the parking lot. Looking. Searching. Hunting.

There.

Some old man helping an equally ancient woman across the asphalt. Perfect.

He walked toward them. Picking up the pace so he'd get there before they got in the car. This was perfect. It would show them. They'd see.

He shifted his grip on the handle of the knife, still safely hidden from view in his pocket. The feeling of the blade in his hand calmed him. Its weight steadied his nerves.

Zip. Just like that, he'd give the old man a second smile.

young thugTyler took a deep breath, and as the man reached down to open the passenger side door, he pulled the blade out of his pocket. It snagged on an edge on its way out, and a flame of panic flared up in his stomach. It hit him like a punch.

Flustered, he struck out wildly. Instead of reaching around the man and slitting his throat as he'd planned, he stabbed.

He felt the knife slam into the old man. Felt its keen edge slice through skin and muscle. It didn't meet any resistance, it just cut, like though a bag of rice. He pulled the blade out and stabbed again.

As the blade sunk into the man's body once more, Tyler was shocked to find that instead of the release, the thrill, the rush he'd expected, a cold, lonely sadness was settling into his chest.

The woman screamed, and suddenly he wanted to cry.

This wasn't how it was supposed to be.