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The Last Sunset
She took the stairs two at a time. Flew up the first flight, sprinted up the second. By the third of fourth, she was almost out of break but didn't slow down.
The elevator was broken again. Not that she would have trusted that rickety old thing in the first place. Besides, the elevator only went up to the sixth floor. Her destination was a little higher than that.
The staircase was narrower now and echoed with every step. Her eardrums rattled but she didn't care. None of that mattered at that moment.
The dark blue paint had almost completely chipped off the door and the handle was coated with rust, but she lunged at it like it was the Pearly Gates of Heaven. She wrenched it open with an obnoxious creak, and stepped out onto the rooftop.
The roof was entirely surrounded by a brick wall that came up to her chest. A rusty electric generator hummed softly in a corner. It was no more spectacular than the rest of the building. But this was her rooftop, and that made all the difference.
Six months ago. That's when it started. Her parents had been fighting, which was normal—expected really. She didn't remember what it was about—something stupid, as always—but she could still see her mother's livid face, the spit flying from her father's mouth. Their shouts shook the world. She blasted her iPod as loud as she could, but their voices were inside her head now. She had no escape.
Past her parents and out the door. Stairs. Up or down? Not down. Not to the lobby, where she'd cause a scene. Not out on the streets where strangers would see her tears fly as she raced past them. No where to go but up.
Her legs burned. Her lungs ached. She had never run this fast or this hard in her life. She didn't stop, not until she got to the roof.
It wasn't light, but it wasn't quite dark either. The sun was low and distance, not quite ready to set yet. The rays set the clouds ablaze with color: orange, red, even purple. A sliver of light shone on the brick ledge. She went to it, warming herself in the faint light.
It was a stupid thing to have calmed her down, but it worked. Her muscles relaxed, her body sagged. Up here, there were no fights, no shouts, no tears. The sun was warm, the air breathable. She had finally found an escape.
Now here she was again, six months later. Life had gone on, but she had ended up back here again. She needed her sun—her escape—again, now more than ever.
She crossed to the ledge. The same exact spot. The same sunset—
It was like looking at a picture. The brilliant colors were just like she remembered, but that was all. No warmth, no serenity. A sunset was not enough to make her problems disappear.
She clenched the brick wall like her hands were made of iron. She gritted her teeth and tensed her muscles like she was enduring intense pain.
She wanted to feel the sun's warmth on her face. She wanted to bring back everything she'd felt that night six months ago. She wanted it all to disappear. She wanted to be . . .
There it was. And now that she had a word for it, it replayed itself over and over in her mind. Danced around in front of her. Taunted her.
Then a horrible thought accorded to her. Unspeakable. Unthinkable.
And yet . . .
The word “forever” swam in front of her. Then the o, v, and r disappeared.
Her fingers felt like lead from clutching the brick wall. She slowly clenched and unclenched her fists, then dusted her palms on her jeans. Then, with shaking arms and leaden legs, she hoisted herself onto the wall.
She gazed once more at the once beautiful, heart-warming sun.
It was the last thing she saw before hitting the pavement.