“I'm so tired of this, Rick. When are you going to get a job? All you do is sit around, watch tv, play games. Is this one of your new 'let's mess with Em' games? Because I'm sick of those too. You need to grow up.”
He stared down at the scuffed brown boots he wore. “I mowed the lawn yesterday.”
“You have a degree. You have student loans to pay. You can't run from those forever.”
“I was thinking I should go apply for grad school.”
“I was thinking we still have a position open in marketing at Brown Webster,” she countered.
Brown Webster was the company she worked for. He imagined going to work with her everyday, and tried not to imagine choking her one day as they drove down the carpool lane.
“Em, I don't think--”
“Of course you don't think!” she pushed past him. “I have to go to work. I'm going to be late now because of you and your games.”
She covered her face with her hands and for a moment he panicked. She was going to cry and was going to be the bad guy after all. But when she lowered her hands her eyes were sad but dry.
“When I come home tonight, I don't want you to be here.”
Rick nodded slowly. “Yeah. I guess that would be best.” He shuffled his feet. Even though he wanted this it still felt awful. It would have been better if she had screamed and thrown something.
She grabbed an empty laundry basket. He watched her sadly and realized that maybe he didn't want to all of it to be over. He still loved her and knew that pretty much all the misery of the past 6 months had been his fault.
“You're in my way.” She was standing with the basket propped on her slim hip. He was blocking her way back to the stairs.
“Oh. Yeah.” He stepped aside. “Em.” She stopped. “I'll go. I won't be here when you get back. But do you think...?”
“Rick, I can't do this. It feels like I'm dealing with a twelve-year-old sometimes. I love you, I really do, but I can't carry you anymore.”
He nodded again. Looked down at the floor. She didn't move. Maybe she was waiting for his reply. He looked down at her small feet. She was still wearing her fuzzy green house slippers. Her shadow slanted away from her and he saw his own shadow pointing towards her. Only that wasn't right. The light was to their left. He glanced to his right and there was his shadow laying sadly on the concrete. He looked back at the shadow pointed at Em and realized it wasn't attached to anything, it was just a black smudge on the floor like a discarded rag. Then it wiggled.
“I have to go to work.”
“What!?” she snapped,whirling around--
--and the shadow leaped into the air, and as it flew it expanded and unfurled like two giants wings sweeping towards her. She had no time to react. He tried to reach her-his arm went up, one foot lifted to take a step; and the shadow was on her, wrapping around her small body like a soft black robe. Without a sound she disappeared.
The shadow crumpled, empty, to the floor in a puddle that spread like an oil stain. It expanded in a perfect circle, thinning until a circle of gray concrete appeared and grew larger as the ring of shadow grew thinner and rushed to the edges of the room. Then it was gone.
Rick stood alone in the basement. The light bulb dangling from the ceiling pushed the shadows into the corners. He stared around him, at the laundry basket lying discarded on the floor; at the washer and dry and his bike. It was all still and silent as if the shadow had swallowed all the air in the room.
His vision blurred. “Em?” The word fell softly as a he watched a shadow slide across the floor towards him.