By Jen Luu

The gentle pitter-patter of the rain on a December night soothed Marshall and Melanie as they took comfort in each other’s company.  Melanie laid blissfully in the crook of Marshall’s neck, peacefully snuggled in his warmth.  Although the whole world around them was uncertain and unstable, their happiness was constant.

It was evening, and the only sounds of the night were that of the burning from the fire.  As Melanie slept without a care in the world, Marshall sensed something different in the environment.  A quiet tremble in the distance stirred his thoughts.  He felt an eerie, ominous presence approaching them.

“Is someone there? No, this must be my paranoia talking.  What’s there to even worry about? I can’t be too sure, though,” contemplated Marshall.  Anxiety and worry began to seep inside his mind, muddling his rationality.  But after what seemed like eternity had passed, the night was silent again.

Relief flowed into Marshall’s state of mind, and he finally allowed himself to close his eyes to drift into slumber.

Then fear itself manifested.  Forcefully, a booming noise exploded from the surroundings.  The ground shook incessantly, as if Hell was emerging on earth.  Melanie’s eyes shot open and terror paralyzed her entire body.

“Marshall!  What’s going on?  What’s happening?  I-I can’t move,” shrieked Melanie.  “No…wait..it can’t be that! All this time we were safe!”

Trying to keep his voice steady Marshall said, “Look at me, Mel.  I thought there was no chance of this happening either, but we can get out of this.  Alright?  This isn’t the first time that we’ve escaped.  We’ve done it before, and we’ll do it again now.”

Despite the chaos raging around them, a gleam of hope appeared in Melanie’s eyes.  She choked out, “I believe you, Marshall.  I—”

Without warning, the force blasted through the interior of their safety and mercilessly gripped Melanie.  She let out a blood-curdling scream and frantically tried to squirm out of the predator’s grasp.

Marshall had to think quick.  He inspected his environment and haphazardly searched for anything that would be of use.  He couldn’t comprehend the horror taking place in front of his eyes.  He thought to himself how ironic life could be: just when the sea reaches serenity, an unforgiving storm unleashes its wrath.

“Wait! Marshall…stop.  Please come here,” pleaded Melanie.  There was resignation in her voice, but also calmness. “Marshall…it’s okay. You don’t have to struggle for me anymore.”

“What? Melanie, no.  Stop speaking nonsense.  Of course you’re going to get out. Of course —”

“Marshall…for years we’ve let others suffer in our place.  The time I’ve spent with you was undoubtedly the best in my life.  But I don’t want to place this burden on anyone else anymore for my own selfish interests.  The love we shared was more than enough happiness in my life… I’m content. Thank you.”

He understood, and a bittersweet acceptance settled into Marshall.  He swallowed the lump in his throat and began, “Melanie…I’m happy I lived long enough to be with you, too.  I just wish —”

Although Marshall didn’t finish his sentence, Melanie’s tender expression gave him enough closure.  Within just a few seconds, the predator took Melanie away and flung her into a dark, steamy sea.  Marshall solemnly watched the water submerge Melanie, but was grateful for their time spent together.

As Melanie resurfaced and laid on her back, there was a smile on her face.  Almost barely noticeable amidst the frenzy, there was genuine contentment embedded in the upturned corners of her lips.  And with that, she slipped into a peaceful rest.

“Mmm, this is some good hot chocolate,” I gleefully exclaimed.  “Huh, just one marshmallow? I could’ve sworn I grabbed two…”

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