The night air rolled up his legs and slowly across the picnic table. He watched it with great focus as he let out another puff of smoke only a drag off his favorite Marlboros could produce. The curls that danced across the table matched with the light of the buzzing fluorescent bulb above him intrigued him. Something so deadly shouldn't be capable of producing something so beautiful he thought, so mesmerizing. One puff after the other kept his attention, and as the night continued, he questioned how long he could be there. He had a fresh pack but wasn't sure if he wanted to waste them all on this night. His thoughts never escaped him, but his trance maintained. Could he continue? Could the idea he needed be spelled out in the smoke? After inhaling the last take of his fourth cigarette, he slid his lighter and the remainder of the pack into his sweatshirt pocket; his focus brought back to the present. Nothing he needed came from the last hour of his wandering mind. The idea of re-entering his home haunted him. Even worse, the thought of sitting at the kitchen table inside for another sleepless night killed his hope of writing anything meaningful or even something that could pay the bills. He stood and paced the ten-foot square block of cement that made his patio. He was tired of thinking about his future and the countless days of writing for nothing but his dream. His dream had become his nightmare.
"Tom, what's wrong? Why aren't you in bed?" The voice startled him with a tone of sadness, but also eased him in only the way that voice could. He had not heard the sliding door leading to his patio open. He looked towards the house and saw the faint fog of his wife's breath emerging from the darkened house.
"I'm sorry, Sarah, couldn't sleep again. Head back to bed. I'll be there in a bit. I love you," he replied, knowing he had upset her by not being next to her as she slept. He heard Sarah turn from the sliding door and leave toward the bedroom, forgetting that the door had been slid open about one foot. He sighed at her negligence before calling out at her once again.
"Can you turn the kitchen light on babe? I'm gonna sit for a minute."
He waited for a response from her, but instead, the soft yellow kitchen light turned on. He figured she was too tired to care enough for a reply. He didn't mind that, knowing the shifts she had been working were for him to continue his work. She always motivated him like that. Small gestures like leaving the light on for him to write continuously made him fall for her more. He stopped briefly to think of his favorite part of Sarah, her beautiful blonde curls that surrounded her face. He had teased her continuously about how wrapped up in those exact curls he was. He never minded, but always stayed entranced by them even though he knew by just waving them she could do or have anything she ever wanted from him. He smiled and picked up his unused notebook from where he had been sitting at the picnic table and rolled his finger over the light switch on the inner post covering his patio, extinguishing the light that had previously teamed with his smoke. Tom stepped toward the house, remembering his cigarettes and quickly grabbing the pack in his pocket to make sure he had pocketed his lighter as well. A light squeeze reassured him, and by this time, he had reached the sliding door. Finally looking up, he realized he was looking at his shadow. How peculiar? It was past midnight, and his shadow was in full cast. He soon realized that there was a light coming from behind him, causing this anomaly in his thoughts. He turned, keeping his right hand on the door handle. He saw two distinct beams of light next to each other coming around the trail that led to his backyard. First the noise of the slider door opening skipped his attention and now a car, he thought, laughing slightly. He brought his free hand between the light and his eyes, trying to make out the vehicle to no avail. The car stopped when the majority of its light was able to shine on Tom.
His breath hitched when he heard the soft moan of both the driver and passenger doors open. Still unable to see through the blinding light, He shifted closer to the door as footsteps started toward him from the blazing light. The steps were slow and measurable, which calmed him.
"Sir, are you Thomas Raine?" a voice echoed while the steps still approached.
Tom changed his stance, so his right foot was forward after unclenching his hand from the sliding door.
"I am," he mustered, thankfully not giving away his fear.
A figure finally emerged, wearing a brown police uniform.
"Can I help you officers?" Tom said with a sigh of relief. He relaxed his stance and stuck his arm out for a handshake. The officer on the right grabbed his hand firmly and shook as Tom realized the solemn look on his face.
"What's wrong?" Tom asked.
"May I call you Tom?" the officer quickly asked in return.
"Of course sir, that's what my wife calls me anyway. I'm used to it by now," He said shakily, still curious and slightly nervous as to the reason of this late visit.
"Well Tom, I'm sorry to say this, but your wife Sarah was found unconscious and not breathing in her car about two hours ago outside of the gas station right down the road," The officer said with an in-depth look of regret while staring at Tom.
Tom stayed silent and teared up while looking at the burly officer standing in front of him. The officer let out a deep breath in sadness as Tom brought his hand up to his mouth in shock. The news struck him…but wait.
In a quick breath, Tom regained the missing breath in his lungs and turned slowly, looking at the open slider door once again. Tom collapsed to his knees, understanding now why the voice emitted from the very same door in front of him wanted him inside so badly. The inspiration he had always needed was right inside the door. Knowing anything else seemed pointless, and the coincidence could not escape him. He could only faintly whisper a few words through his sobbing.