Ed was holding Rana’s hand when she learned her brother Curtis was dead, and he didn’t let go, it seemed, through the days leading up to the funeral or the long, blurred weeks after. He didn’t say much, while he was holding her hand, to her or to anyone else, but he’d never been much of a talker.
Rana didn’t want to grieve. She’d sit and stare into space, Ed next to her, and let her mind go blank. Memories of Curtis would pop up, them as kids and teens and barely adults, off in the big city together for an adventure. Curtis had found that adventure, or something, and it had left him dead. Rana would push those thoughts out of her mind, clearing it again only for the pattern to repeat itself.
Ed’s phone rang, a week or three after the funeral; Rana hadn’t bothered to keep track. He answered, still holding her hand, and turned away to speak softly into the receiver.
Rana studied him. Soft was a good word to describe him; he had the physique of a teddy bear, although he was solid muscle beneath the baby fat he’d never lost. His personality was soft too, warm and gentle, although every now and then she caught a glimpse of steel underneath. She wouldn’t want to run into him in a dark alley, she’d decided after they first hooked up, but she’d definitely want him at her side if she had to walk down one alone.
He hung up the phone and turned back to her, something other than softness fleeing from his face.
“Everything okay, baby?” she asked him.
“We good.” He fidgeted with the phone, then smiled. “How’d you feel about you and me taking a trip somewhere?”
Rana shrugged her agreement. She’d only come here to be close to Curtis, and he wasn’t coming back.
An hour later they were cruising through the tunnel out of town, heading to god-knows-where, Ed’s hand still holding hers. As they came out into the sunshine, he squeezed her hand. She felt the softness and the steel, and smiled.
E.D. Martin is a writer with a knack for finding new jobs in new places. Born and raised in Illinois, her past incarnations have included bookstore barista in Indiana, college student in southern France, statistician in North Carolina, economic development analyst in North Dakota, and high school teacher in Iowa. She draws on her experiences to tell the stories of those around her, with a generous heaping of “what if” thrown in.
She currently lives in Illinois where she job hops while attending grad school and working on her novels. Read more of her stories at her website.