That’s how long it’s been since I took my last breath. Since my eyes found the worry on the face in front of me. Thirty seconds was all it took for me to realize that I am in love with Rex.
Such a small amount of time for such a monumental revelation. The funny thing about time, sometimes it passes soul-crushingly slow. Other times it goes in the blink of an eye. There’s no rhyme or reason. Time, like Life and Death, does what she wants.
Thinking back to the last eight weeks, she flew by faster than hummingbird wings beating over a hollyhock. Faster than she’s moved my whole life, and now, in this moment, Time has slowed to a crawl.
People say, before events of extreme trauma and almost death, that your life flashes before your eyes. I think that’s what’s happening, only I don’t see my whole life. Except for a few key moments, it’s been shit and not worth remembering. Instead, I see the last eight weeks.
I. See. Rex.
He made these last two months memorable. His persistence and damn near electric touch makes me feel things I didn’t know I was capable of. He brought the light when I was consumed in darkness. He saved me in every sense of the word.
It’s my turn to save him.
Just one second after my life altering revelation a bullet no bigger than my thumb nail will shoot out of a slate black barrel. And if I let it, that tiny piece of metal will snuff out Rex’s light. Darkness will consume him, devour me, and I’ll be left with nothing but a broken heart and shattered will to live. I can live with dying inside, but I can’t let the darkness take him.
The arm keeping me from Rex loosens as a fat finger moves to pull the trigger. My spine no longer presses against a stomach, round from too much whiskey and gas station food. A chill slides through me. Sweat on the small of my back icing over as the cold lobby air blows our way.
This is my chance.
I can’t hesitate. I lunge myself forward milliseconds before the boom of the pistol echoes in the lobby. I’m sure the hotel’s guests heard it, I can’t see how they didn’t, but to my knowledge no one is downstairs with us. The concierge lady ran away ages ago. The kitchen staff is probably hiding and anyone who might have been making their way to an early breakfast has likely taken cover. None of this matters. Whoever they are, they don’t matter.
The only person I’m worried about is Rex.
Pain pierces my shoulder, rippling throughout my chest. My hands find Rex’s shirtless body, touching his silky skin for what probably will be the last time. I shove him out of the way and fall to the ground, the wind knocked from my lungs.
Please let me have reached him in time.
I roll onto my back and struggle to fill the empty spaces inside with air. Each breath tangled with fire that seeps into every crevice of my being. My lungs fill, air pressing down on me with the force of an elephant. I exhale, bubbles rumbling beneath my chest, and attempt to take another breath.
“Stupid bitch.” Our assailant says, barely a foot away. His voice lost, muffled like it’s on the other end of a tunnel.
I should see more, feel more, but the world’s hazy. A blur of swirling colors and lights. A dark shadow towers over me. I want to see the face but it’s a pit of darkness. This is the moment I realize that I’m about to get what I wanted. Well, used to want. Death has finally come to take me away.
Only I'm not ready to go anymore. I need to know that Rex is okay. That I saved him. My life’s meant nothing. I’ve done nothing purposeful, but to die in place of someone I love would make my miserable existence worth something. I turn my head searching where I think he should be, but can’t see anything.
Icy fingers curl around my wrist. I shiver, mentally willing death to leave me be, begging her to give me five more minutes. A chill slithers through my veins like venom from a snake, paralyzing me from head to toe.
The shadowy figure above me leans closer, “Piper.”