1 | The Seed

THE puddle expanded like oil––dense, stretching outward with a darkness as metaphorical as it was black. Its volume challenged the hope within my desperation, but I fought to hold on to it as if it could affect reality—by sheer force of will. Gloving my hand as it raised from her side, the thick liquid dripped crimson with flashes as embers of a dwindling fire glinting in the misty rainfall under the dim streetlight.

I saw two men, as my cloudy head could recall. They came so abruptly out of nowhere. The details blurred like an old memory while it happened in slowed time. At that moment, I had no idea what they could have wanted. We never presented our financial or social status in public. My dearest love didn’t relish attention and kept any flash or pomp far removed from her. We were nobodies, blissfully strolling home in the rain after a simple dinner in a modest restaurant in a safe but not overly posh part of town. At least we thought it was safe before this night.

I offered them my money, watch, whatever they wanted, they could freely take, without resistance. Initially, I admit, I considered the mental image flashing a scene of me heroically saving my wife as a damsel in distress, even though I had no training in hand-to-hand fighting or self-defense. Quickly, I squashed the notion, having learned that in most cases, a compliant surrender would mean the loss of a few meaningless items, some money, but allow you to go on with your life. To stay alive. And that was my solitary goal. No one ever told me the odds of both of us doing that.

The lead man clutched a handgun—I still see its substantial, thick barrel—as he eyed the watch with a disappointed grimace. Nervously waving a small pistol, the other removed my trembling partner’s necklace and yanked the ring from her finger—made of 14-carat gold but scarcely worth a few hundred dollars. Horrified eyes watched the anguish drip from her face for the loss valued in sentimentality her willful submission brought. She had always cherished her wedding band—cheap, gold-plated, and all I could afford when we wed. The necklace held higher monetary worth, the first-anniversary gift that set me back two hundred fifty dollars after saving for months. We were university students and barely scraping by back then.

My hand reddened her chestnut curls as it brushed them back over her ear to reveal her always glowing, symmetrically beautiful face. The other side pressed into the concrete.

“Ellie,” I said gently. “They’re gone. You’re going to be okay. I’ve dialed 911. They’re coming. You’ll be okay. It’s over.”

From her blank gaze, I surmised she hadn’t realized she’d been shot, the shock and pain not written on her face. Nothing there. I had learned to read her so well in our twelve years together but saw no expression, thoughts, or feelings advertised only for me to see in the deep wells of her hazel eyes.


“They’re coming. You’ll be fine. It’s over,” I muttered through my tears, my eyes blinking from the droplets of rain breaking through my lashes. “You’ll be okay. It’s over.” A simple mugging ended in the shaky man’s nervous finger retracting. Vividly clear in my mind, I can never forget the look of shock overlaying his countenance as if he couldn’t understand why the cold metal in his hand had jerked it. The men vanished, having fled into the darkness of the mist to disappear from the streetlight’s ghostly glow. The ambulance had arrived, and the paramedics were immediately in action, urgent in their movement. It was over. I was correct about that.

On that night, in my rain-soaked dinner suit under the haunting yellow glow of a streetlight-

turned-memorial marker, my dear Ellie expired.

Before I rose to my feet under the pull of the paramedic’s arms, I had already devised my plan.