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Forty Minutes (published 2018)

Updated: Dec 11, 2022

Carey stood back and looked down at the body. Death was not what she expected. Looking at the body, watching her skin grow pale and flat; the confidence that she was doing the right thing started to fade. Beside the body, a Bible lay open on the bed. Almost forty minutes ago she had knelt beside it, head bowed, heart racing and mind set. She had known then that there was only one thing to do. But now…

And there were signs. So many reasons not to do it. First, Tina had called and “needed” to talk. A completely unnecessary conversation that had delayed Carey by nearly an hour. Then, after hanging up and stubbornly fighting her uncertainty she had decided to proceed. But no sooner than she had closed the shades in the bedroom did Joshua call to say that he was already headed home. His being back so soon should have been all the reason she needed not to go through with it, at least not today. But, at the time she knew it was the right thing to do. She thought once it was done her troubles would be over. And in a sense, she was right.

Doing it did end her previous troubles. But a whole new trouble was in front of her now. A question: what now?

Her eyes were dry and her pulse was still but she felt a panic like she’d never felt before. She wasn’t ready for this. She would give anything to take it back.

Outside of the bedroom, the door to the apartment opened and closed. She could hear Joshua drop his keys on the glass coffee table like he always did when she wasn’t there and always denied when she asked about the marks and scratches. He would go to the refrigerator first, like he always did when she wasn’t home. He would spend a minute there, and then he would come to the bedroom.

Would he run?

She wasn’t sure she wanted to know the answer to that question. She didn’t want him to come to the bedroom and find her there, but she would be hurt if when he did come, he came walking and not running. What would it mean if he walked? She stared at the door and listened intently.

He ran.

She heard his footsteps thunder down the hallway, and in a moment the bedroom door burst open. His eyes flicked past her and found the body. A sheet of paper fell from his hand to his feet. He dashed across the room in two strides and knelt down between her and the body.

He yelled, “No! God, no!” then bent over so that his ear was over her face. He looked up and around and again his eyes washed over where Carey stood and found the Bible on the bed. He looked around some more and saw the empty pill bottle. His eyes were filled with tears. He blinked and the pale face beneath him was sprinkled with them.

“Why?” he screamed at the body, but Carey knew he was yelling at her. “Why did you do this? Why!”

Carey didn’t respond. She wasn’t even sure she’d be able to if she wanted to. And even if she was able to, what would she say? She had done it because it felt like the right thing to do. It wasn’t selfishness, like people would think. She thought everyone would be better off after this. Especially Joshua. But seeing how much he was hurt… Had she ever seen Joshua cry before?

Then she noticed there were tears on her face. She couldn’t remember feeling them fall; she couldn’t remember feeling anything but panic since she first looked down at the body. But the tears were there.

Joshua sat up straight. He said, “No.” He said it so quietly she wasn’t sure who he was speaking to. He spread open the pale lips and pressed his on top. He pinched closed the nostrils and began to blow, his cheeks ballooning out then collapsing twice. He clasped his hands, one on top of the other and locked his arms and began pushing down on her chest. He mumbled a count with each push. His face was stern and wet. Carey watched him and knew he wouldn’t give up.

And then she felt something.

Her breath was caught in her throat. A chill that made her shiver ran through her body. Joshua blew more breath into the body and beat on the chest with his fists. Her chest hurt as she watched. Her pulse was no longer still. She watched with hope as he locked his fingers again and began pushing above the breasts again. With every push she felt a tug in her stomach. She didn’t understand the sensation but she welcomed it. Aside from panic, she had been completely without emotion and had felt lost. But now she felt, what? Found?

The tug got stronger the harder he pushed. He blew into the mouth again and pumped the chest and Carey felt a tingle in the corner of her eyes. He really cared. Joshua lifted his fist again and banged her chest and Carey began to cough and gasp. She stared up at Joshua from the floor and tears rolled down into her ears and hair as she struggled to breathe. She saw the Bible on the bed beside her. She saw her note on the floor by the door. She felt Joshua lifting her up. She felt her body getting used to breathing again. Then she started crying and it became harder once more.

Joshua looked at her and cried. His tears fell to her chest before he pulled her to his and held her. She couldn’t stop her body from convulsing with her own sobs, but she didn’t want to. Because for better or for worse, she was feeling again.

* This story was first published at

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