Clouds covered the sky, making the night black except for a double line of street lights running along the street on either side. The occasional car zoomed out of the dark at one end of the street and vanished back into the night at the other end of the line of lights, crossing the distance between in a blink and a rush of air. Houses lined the street behind the lights; all facing the street like boxes in a store aisle. Most of the houses had their lights out, the people inside them long since gone to bed. One of the houses had its lights on though, and shouts could be heard from inside.
Suddenly the door flew open and Lucy ran out, tears running down a face contorted with anger and frustration. She ran across the lawn and into the street, and would have kept going if another cat hadn't run out after her and called her name. "Lucy!" Mike yelled, tying his scarf around his neck out of habit.
Lucy turned around and glared at Mike as he started to follow her, "Get away from me you God damned idiot! I don't want to hear it!"
Mike held back a sigh of irritation, stopping where he stood on the night cooled lawn. Another conversation, begun calmly and innocently enough, had turned into a towering argument. It happened almost every time now. He wished these things didn't happen, he wanted to be friends with Lucy again, but whenever he tried to talk to her... he just couldn't stop himself from getting angry at her in return. "Lucy, just listen to me!"
"NO! I never want to see you again! I hate you! Get away from me!" The words cut Mike deeply, though he did his best not to show it, "I don't need you anymore! I-" She suddenly cut off and jerked her head to look down the road. Her eyes grew wide and she looked back at Mike. She opened her mouth to say something, then Mike saw a light in the corner of his eye. He looked, and saw the headlights.
Mike broke into a run toward Lucy before he'd even turned his head. He crossed the lawn and almost reached her, but then...
Mike jerked awake with a terrified howl, "LUCY!"
He was in his bedroom, dawn sunlight coming through the half drawn drapes. His fur was soaked in cold sweat and his heart felt like it was trying to get out of his chest by using a battering ram. Sitting bolt upright in bed he gasped for breath. It had been the same nightmare, that night so many years ago. It was always the same, for the past month and a half, always ending just before the car hit and... And... Mike groaned and held his face in his hands.
"Maishul? Are you okay?"
Mike peeked between his fingers at the snowy pale cat sitting up beside him. He attempted to smile and put on a brave face but he only succeeded in making a sad grimace appear on his face. Sandy put a paw around his shoulder and Mike slowly leaned into her arms. "Was it the dream again?"
"It was my fault," He murmured, tears welling up in his eyes.
Sandy hugged him affectionately, "Shhh, no it wasn't. She was the one that ran into the street; there was nothing more you could have done."
"I could have listened to her," Mike said miserably, huddling against her as tears ran down his face, "I could have been nicer to her." He sniffled for several minutes, wrapping his arms around Sandy's middle and holding her close to him. Sandy didn't say anything, there was nothing she could say; she just slowly petted Mike's fur and made soft, comforting sounds.
By the time Michael had expended his tears the sun was well above the horizon and he and Sandy had moved to the edge of the bed. He gave her one last tight hug before getting to his feet. Sandy watched sadly as he stretched and wiped the moisture from his face. "Do you want to talk about it again?" She asked.
"No," Mike replied, "I... I'm fine." He sighed once, then turned back to Sandy and smiled bravely at her, "Come on. I promised to take you to the park today. I know how much you love the park."
Sandy smiled reassuringly back at him and stood up, "That you did, and that I do. I'll go see what we've got for breakfast." She gave Mike a lingering kiss on the cheek and left, heading through the bedroom door and downstairs. Mike watched her go, smiling in case she turned around, then let his face slip into a depressed frown. He could have done something, he was sure of it, something that would have saved Lucy. He just had to figure out what, then he would... What? What good would that do? *Dwelling on what I can't change won't help anything,* He told himself fiercely. *I have to accept it. It's been ten years now, I can't let one moment ruin my life.* Mike walked over to the closet and opened it up. Inside were at least twenty different scarves dangling from clothes-hangers, almost all of them bought by Sandy. Mike ignored these though and swept them aside like a sliding door.
There, at the back of the closet, in a cardboard box a little smaller than a microwave oven; Mike felt the tears well up again but he forced them down. Dropping to his knees amidst the hanging scarves, Mike tentatively reached out and opened the box, as if it would disintegrate if handled roughly. Mike tried to keep himself cold and detached, but a few small tears still leaked out as he lifted the contents of the box, holding it in both hands.
It was a small, faded blue scarf, a little frayed at the ends, and one of precious few things he had left of Lucy. He stared at the old, blue cloth for a long time, just as he'd done many times over the past few weeks, thinking about Lucy. He thought about both the good times and the bad. Many of the things he'd been so ready to forget back then had become his favorite memories of her. Their arguments, her voice, that silly little bow of hers.
Mike swallowed and let himself revel in memory, while at the same time swearing to himself that this would be the last time. His fingers gradually curled as he reminisced, until he was holding the scarf against his chest, clutched in his fists. "Lucy. Is. Dead." He said slowly and deliberately. "I think... I think I've been denying that." Mike saw a bit of dark humor in that; denying something he'd lived through. The kind of humor that made him want to cry. "Lucy. I'm sorry," He whispered into the scarf, holding it against his cheek briefly before carefully folding it and placing it back in the box. Closing the lid again, Mike picked up the whole thing and moved it to a dark corner of the closet, quickly burying it in old coats and shoes.
Standing up, he closed the closet door, took a shuddering breath, and turned around, which took more effort than he wanted to think about. *Enough remembering,* He told himself sternly. Part of him, too large a part in his opinion, still wanted to run back to the closet and curl up with the scarf, crying his eyes out. *It's finished, done, over. It was over ten years ago. The time for grieving and self pity is long past.* He wasn't the only one that had suffered from his nightmares and remembrances. Despite her calm words and kind smile it must have torn her up inside to see him showing so much emotion for a dead girl.
By the time Mike was downstairs he'd managed to redirect his thoughts of Lucy and the stabbing guilt that came with them with thoughts of Sandy. Sandy; Mike actually smiled a little bit; she always seemed to be able to make him feel better, even when she hadn't done anything. They'd be going for a walk in the park today, probably pass the place where he'd proposed to her, where they'd held the outdoor wedding, where her uncle Samuel had gotten drunk after the service and puked on the grass. Mike chuckled at that memory. The grass had never grown back on that spot, and the dirt had been stained green.
When he entered the kitchen Mike was smiling contentedly. Lucy might be dead, he still felt a bolt go through his heart at that thought, but that didn't mean he was alone. Far from it. Sandy was standing at the stove with her back to him, making a slowly rising stack of pancakes as she hummed to herself. Mike slipped up next to her and rested his chin on her shoulder, wrapping his arms around her. She squeaked with surprise, but soon started purring happily, nuzzling her cheek against his, "Mmmm, feeling better?" She asked quietly.
"Yeah," Mike said truthfully, "I can't stay sad for long with you around y'know," He nibbled the side of her neck as she blushed slightly and giggled, "Go on and get ready, I'll finish these."
Sandy twisted around in Mike's arms until she was facing him, nose to nose. She put her arms around his neck and gave him a kiss before Mike let her go, "Okay then, if you insist. Just don't burn any of them."
Mike chuckled, "Me? Burn them? No way, that'll never happen." He watched Sandy leave the kitchen, grinning after her, before turning to the pancakes, one of which was already billowing smoke.
After saving as many pancakes as he could Mike had a leisurely breakfast with Sandy. Today was Saturday, so neither he nor Sandy had to go to work and they were free to just enjoy each other's company. Once breakfast was finished and the dishes cleaned, the two of them left the house to go for a walk in the park. Mike always enjoyed going on walks, especially when he could share them with Sandy, and especially as of late, with the nightmares chiseling away at his nerves. The combination of slow pace, open air, and the woman he loved really helped him relax. Maybe that was why the nightmares had suddenly sprung up on him. He'd been working a lot lately and been getting more and more stressed out. Maybe this was all he needed; to spend more time relaxing with Sandy. Mike slowly slid his arm around Sandy's waist, holding her close to him as they walked. Sandy purred happily and leaned into his embrace, putting her own arm around him.
It took almost an hour to reach the park, but neither of the felines noticed. They just enjoyed their walk, ambling along, talking about nothing. When they did reach the park, they picked a trail at random and let their talk fade off. They loved the cool shade of the trees and the soft whisper of the leaves. *This is what I need,* Mike thought, closing his eyes to take a deep breath.
Suddenly there was a leaf instead of air going into his nose. He jumped and snapped his eyes back open, swatting at Sandy's hand as she giggled, being the one who'd put the leaf on Mike's nose. Mike wriggled his nose, then grinned mischievously, looking sidelong at Sandy. He tightened his arm around her and the other went for her soft stomach fur, tickling her relentlessly. She shrieked with laughter, doubling over and trying to push him away, but Mike knew how she loved being tickled.
They tickled each other until they were on the ground, rolling around in the grass beside the path, laughing and panting. Mike smiled at the sky, Sandy lying beside him with his hand in hers as they caught their breath. The nightmares were just a smudge at the back of Mike's mind now; overwhelmed by the bliss he called Sandy. This was the way he'd always wanted his life to be, this was his utopia.
With a sigh of contentment, he let his head roll to the side to look at a playground where several children were playing, almost like he and Sandy had been doing. He just watched for a moment, then his stomach turned to ice.
In the middle of the playground, with that silly bow in her hair, Lucy stared back at him.