With a spinning head, Pete looked away from Thomas. Outside, the sky was a blanket of black velvet pierced through with stars. A covering for a world so broken and equally as dark. When he looked back to the other officer, it was with a shattered expression, a pain that seeped from his pores and filled the room around them both.
“I’m going,” he said, finality lacing through the words. With that he turned away and disappeared out the door, into the night.
The car ride was silent, only painful memories as his companion. Pete lit up a cigarette and sucked at it greedily, ashing every now and then into the wind he couldn’t quite feel. Numb. That’s what he was. He was numb and alone and wondering why he still breathed when all the good things had long since faded from his life. His love was gone, loving someone else. And his daughter, his little girl who had once looked at him as though he was the sky itself…well, she was gone too.
The city was a good distance away, but Pete made it there in much less time than usual. Ignoring the rules of the road like all those reckless kids. God, what had become of him? Pete knew he was turning into all the things he hated, and yet the path was laid out so clearly before him. It was easier to be someone you didn’t want to be.
Turning into the parking lot a little too fast, Pete killed the engine and flicked the butt of his cigarette out onto the asphalt. With a sigh much too wistful for his taste, he stepped from the car and slammed the door. The stars and the moon were his guiding light, a flicker of hope that he clung to so, so desperately. As if Sarah might look into his lifeless eyes and remember how he’d held her. How he’d loved her and promised the world. And she had it now, didn’t she? Even if it was someone else’s, she had it.
Pete yanked open the door to the hall and scurried inside. A frown creased his brow when he found himself wrapped in shadows, in a dark and vacant concert hall. Rows and rows of empty seats. His steps down the carpeted aisle were measured, hesitant. Before him was the stage, but that too was dark. “Sh*t,” he whispered, or maybe only thought he did. He couldn’t be too late. He couldn’t be…
A light came on over the stage, illuminating the hallowed hall. Pete jumped a little, sucking in a deep breath. The light focused over a piano, black and glossy and grand. Pete froze where he stood, entranced by the single beacon in the nothingness.
When the music came, it was everything soft and sweet, rising and falling in dramatic crescendos. Pete felt himself falling out of reality, into a place where pain wasn’t quite so captivating. Where hurt gave way to a second chance, and endings were the birth of something even more beautiful than before.
And then a voice. A single word breaking through the barriers he’d put up so long ago. “Daddy?”
Pete took another step towards the stage. “Megan,” he breathed. His voice grew louder as he spoke. “I’m here, baby. I made it to hear you play.”
The girl rose from the piano bench, the light now falling upon her. A slender frame was clad in a wispy white dress, blonde hair falling perfectly around her face. She took him in with wide, innocent eyes, a smile daring to take over her lips. “Daddy,” she repeated. “I missed you.”
Before he could quite make sense of what was happening, Pete found himself running towards the stage, up the stairs so he could take his daughter into his arms. Pete crushed her against his chest, stroking her hair and kissing her forehead. Murmuring promises he would never, ever break. “I wont ever let you go again,” he told her in a voice damn near destroyed. He didn’t realize he was crying until the tears hit his arm, falling into her tangles of golden hair.
“I want to come home,” she told him. “Me and mommy both. I want everything to be just like it was.”
Pete felt a surge of relief rush through him. So there was hope yet. There was a reason to keep fighting, to press on through the sea of heartache. “I know. I promise I’ll make it all better, Megan.”
She pulled away just enough to look up at him, a gentle smile tugging at her lips. In that moment Pete knew that no matter what life was to bring, this was his sole purpose. Not all the deaths that consumed his job, not all the lives he watched fade away to dust and ashes. But this. Her. Making sure that no demons ever took hold of her hand to drag her into the abyss.
“Everything will be okay,” she said, the words barely audible. Then she was dancing out of his arms, away from him. Out of the spotlight and into the dark. Pete shouted out after her, but to no response. She was vanishing, lost to the shadows of the recital hall.
“Megan,” he pleaded, falling down to his knees. Tears fell freely from his eyes, streaming over his cheeks in rivulets, hitting the stage. The lights went out around him; darkness devoured him.
A jolt ran through his body as Pete lurched into a sitting position. Blinking a few times, he took in the familiar surroundings. White walls and wide windows that revealed the blackened sky. The heavy wooden desk before him, an ocean littered with paperwork islands.
“Sh*t!” He cried, pushing back his chair as he leapt to his feet. It fell to the floor with an obnoxious thud. Across the room, Thomas jerked awake.
“Jesus, Pete, what the hell?” Thomas demanded. “You trying to give me heart attack?”
Pete ignored him completely, frantically shuffling through the papers until he found his half empty pack of cigarettes. “I have to go,” he said, unsure if he was speaking to his coworker or himself. Not that it mattered. He was walking, walking away from the mess that his life had become. But towards something, too. A new fire had ignited within him. And even if all he could do was try and pick up the pieces, goddammit, he would try. Because sometimes trying was all there was to do, and it had to be enough.
On the way out the door, he dropped the pack into the garbage.