He steps up to the glass, staring out at powder white sand that stretches to meet an ocean so blue, he has to remind himself to breathe. Two palms, the beach to themselves, take in the sun, their fronds waving ever so slightly in the warm breeze.
It's Jessica's favorite. She loves racing - no, dancing - across the sand, stopping just at the point where the surf leaves it wet. There she spins, giving her head that tilt, the one that squeezes his heart, and fixes her tempting eyes on the hotel.
They're green, those eyes. And they're waiting.
He knows what she wants. She's hoping he'll slide up beside her. Take in the smell of the cocoa butter. The soft glow of her tanned brown skin. The loose tie on her bikini bottom.
"I took that on a trip to Cancun."
He ignores the voice, wishes it away. He wipes an open palm to his face and stares even harder through the glass. She has to show. Has to.
The voice continues. "Ever been there?"
Clarence summons a deep breath--it's the best he can do, his focus having been torn from the sand--and shifts his gaze from the framed picture to the man on the far side of the room.
Jonas Carson sits behind his massive walnut desk, a mountain of manila folders stacked before him. His elbows rest on papers spilling from the pile, some marked with circles of red or highlighted in yellow, while the others wait for their chance to be tattooed. To the far right Clarence sees the edges of black and white 8 X 10's peeking from an opened envelope. They reveal just enough of moments better forgotten and a chill slithers up his spine.
Grabbing another breath, he looks up at his lawyer and nods. Long. Slow. "On our honeymoon."
The attorney digs into the stack, pulling out a sheet of yellowed paper sealed in plastic wrap. "Holy moley...that was fifty-two years ago."
"Yes, Mr. Carson. It was."
Carson sets the paper aside, the Saturday afternoon look on his face now melted away. He opens a folder and gestures to a chair, but Clarence continues to stand. "We really should get back to business, Mr. Riley. When was she was first diagnosed with Alzheimer's?"
"Eight years ago," Clarence answers. Though he knows Carson's seen the report. Probably looking at it right now.
"And, more recently, her condition was worsening?"
"Ravaged her like a wildfire, Mr. Carson."
Carson sticks the end of the pen in his mouth, the beginnings of a confident smile showing at the edge of his lips. "Okay, so here's how we play it, Mr. Riley--"
"Play it?" Clarence interrupts. "You don't get it, do you? They were doing nothing more than stretching out her misery. Offering syringes filled with false hope..." He looks up, catching the defense attorney's gaze through tearing eyes. He points a shaking finger his direction, his voice cracking as he speaks. "We had a pact, Mr. Carson. A pact. I couldn't just stand there and watch while the one person who made me whole, gave me heart, gave me life, Mr. Carson...life...was slowly, unmercifully, robbed of her mind. Her memories. Her very soul." Clarence sucks in, more a gasp than a long breath. "Could you, Mr. Carson?"
Carson pales and, dropping his hand to the desk, surrenders the folder back into the stack. "No, Mr. Riley. I guess I couldn't."
Bio: Jim Bartlett lives in the Pacific Northwest with his wife and golden retriever - (shhhh - she doesn't know she's a dog).
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