The first time Amelia died, it was mid-sentence.
In retrospect, Farahlyn isn’t surprised—the young woman talks a lot. It would only be natural that she’d choke on her own voice, lose her breath over a syllable, fall silent in the middle of a word.
The particular word this time is “potential.” She got down the first two syllables, but Farahlyn uses context clues later on, when she dares to remember, to realize the girl wasn’t saying potent but “potential.”
Maybe there’s irony in it, if she thinks about it, but Farahlyn never does.
She doesn’t give a damn about irony. She gives a damn about the girl trying to say “potential.” Altogether, Amelia had managed to say, “If the reports pass through inspection, which I can’t imagine them being denied, this could work, I really think it has potent—”
Amelia was galvanized, pacing around the bedroom energetically while Farahlyn watched her from the bed. She’d just returned from a run, hadn’t yet taken a shower, and Farahlyn was only partially attentive, more concerned with the way Amelia’s thick strands of pink hair were plastered to her skin, beads of sweat tracing patterns down her slender neck.
Farahlyn hadn’t forgotten Amelia’s details, after all those months away. She had gotten reacquainted with her, the feel of her, the warmth of her. She’d gotten used to her, but she was by no means satisfied, by no means tired of Amelia, always wanting more. Farahlyn watched her lazily.
She sure could talk. Farahlyn liked how her hands moved, thought the young woman might not be so useless on a stage—theatre was mostly gestures, after all, and Amelia clearly had a lot of them.
She liked the way Amelia smiled as she spoke, slipping grins between her words as excitement rippled through her, full of passion for some proposal she’d presented to her committee. She was a dedicated worker, and Farahlyn was always impressed with her, felt proud of her, and quickly fell in love with this feeling.
She’d never felt proud of another human being before. She felt privileged to witness someone so full of life.
But then she wasn’t. In the middle of “potential,” she fell silent, and Farahlyn didn’t so much as notice the silence as the pause of her hands, the freeze of her lips. The quiet came secondary to her attention, and Farahlyn sat up just as Amelia fell.
More accurate than fell—she folded in on herself, gravity pulling her downward until Farahlyn was kneeling beside Amelia, one hand in her hair as if she might find a heartbeat hidden there. The other hand went to Amelia’s stilled chest, but no movement met her palm.
Amelia? Hey … Hey, Amelia! Wake up, what are you doing? Amelia, don’t you do this, don’t you dare … don’t you—don’t you dare do this to me—
She attempted CPR before she called the ambulance. Then she remembered she should call the ambulance, and she did so with one hand still pumping Amelia’s heart. 911 numbed her fingertips.
Farahlyn was breathing hard into the phone, her lungs seemingly doubly full with the breath Amelia didn’t have. It made her gasp. The dispatcher had to speak first, asked Farahlyn what was wrong, and Farahlyn just repeated her address, over and over, their address, she had an address, she had a home, she shared this home, planned to keep sharing this home, might have said all this into the phone but couldn’t really keep track of what she was saying.
She tossed the phone aside, dropped her lips to Amelia’s, exhaled Amelia’s breath back into her lungs, because Farahlyn didn’t want it in her own lungs. It didn’t belong there.
Take it back, take it back, damn it, Amelia, Farahlyn whispered between breaths onto Amelia’s lips.
Her lips had touched Amelia’s before—but not like this, never like this.
The medics probably gave Farahlyn an explanation for how Amelia died, but Farahlyn wasn’t listening. She didn’t want to listen to them, their clinical talk, their quiet demeanor. They hardly moved their arms. They did not smile in between their words. Farahlyn only wanted to hear Amelia finish her sentence. Finish her word.
Just one more syllable, Amelia, give me one more syllable you selfish piece of—
But Amelia wasn’t selfish, and Farahlyn could not yell at a corpse.
She didn’t cry until the house was empty.
The second time Amelia died, Farahlyn was still recovering from the first.
She was pretty sure it was a nightmare, but she was used to those.
Farahlyn was more afraid of her reaction to the nightmare than the dream itself. She didn’t want to let go of Amelia that morning and woke up grasping onto her, shouting, and Amelia shook her awake, was whispering in her ear.
It’s okay, wake up now, it’s okay, just wake up Farahlyn, it’s okay. It’s all okay.
Farahlyn woke up with her fingers tight on Amelia’s shirt, face wet. She didn’t believe it at first because she had nightmares, but not of this girl’s death, not of something so real.
Amelia—Her shirt wasn’t enough. Farahlyn dug her fingers into Amelia’s arms, but the woman didn’t even wince, instead swept her own fingers gently over Farahlyn’s face and through her long black hair.
Shh, sweet girl. Farahlyn, you’re awake now, it’s over.
Farahlyn decided against telling Amelia that it had been a different nightmare than usual. Instead, she just dug her nails in a little harder and felt the flesh of her companion swell gently around her fingers. She didn’t want to get out of bed that morning, but she didn’t want Amelia to know that this nightmare was so much worse than she was used to, so she finally let go of her, an hour or two after the nightmare had faded.
Farahlyn was usually able to forget the usual nightmares she had about her family, but her nightmare of Amelia’s death did not disappear like wisps of smoke on a windy night, did not flicker out like fire. Instead it dried like blood and crusted on her mind, acted like it was a memory, which didn’t make sense.
Farah, are you alright? Amelia asked, setting Farahlyn’s swirling tea before her.
Farahlyn cupped her hands around the delicate ceramic, her skin burning. She was not alright, but she nodded vacantly as the steam caressed her face. She felt hollowed out, her insides empty but for her heart, left to echo in her chest all alone. But there was no reason to feel this way. Here Amelia was, alive, peering at her with concern and love, breathing sweet lemon breath in Farahlyn’s direction.
Farahlyn reached out slowly and pressed her hand to Amelia’s cheek, palm warmed by the tea. Amelia smiled softly, tilted her head into Farahlyn’s fingers and shut her eyes, sighing contentedly. Farahlyn only paused for a moment before grasping the cup again, pretended that it was warm with Amelia’s warmth and maybe it wasn’t as soft but at least it wasn’t cold.
Amelia didn’t die until Farahlyn had finished her tea. Amelia was in the other room, and Farahlyn had been reluctant to let the girl out of her sight, but this was crazy, she told herself, she was being crazy. It was just a nightmare.
Then came the crash, and Farahlyn didn’t turn at first, called out from the kitchen instead, Everything okay?
Her voice rang through the house as if it were as hollow as Farahlyn’s chest felt so she turned around in her chair, stood up, feet falling heavy on the floor.
She walked to the doorway, saw that Amelia had taken the lamp down with her as she fell. She was lying on her side, arm reached out oddly, and Farahlyn stood very still, wondered if this was some kind of prank, some kind of joke, she always had the weirdest sense of humor.
Amelia, stop it. Get up.
Amelia did not stop it, she did not get up.
When Farahlyn called the ambulance, she waited for them to ask, Isn’t this the same young woman … ? But they did not.
Farahlyn discovered that she had no tears left, that her nightmare had left her completely dry, and she stared at this corpse only confused, only angry.
You said it was over. You woke me up and said it was over.
The third time Amelia died, they were having sex.
Farahlyn! Farah, wake up!
Farahlyn opened her eyes. Amelia’s face loomed above her, pale and concerned.
A nightmare, you were having a nightmare, Amelia explained, and Farahlyn squinted at her. Wasn’t this woman dead? Hadn’t they had this conversation before?
Amelia, Farahlyn breathed. She reached up, touched Amelia’s face, basked in the warmth of it. Amelia came to rest on top of Farahlyn, her weight familiar and comforting, and Farahlyn couldn’t help it, wrapped her arms around her, just gently at first.
I’ve been trying to wake you for ages, Farahlyn … it’s okay now. You’ve never shouted like that before, I was just—I was scared. But it’s okay now, right?
Farahlyn didn’t want to answer her, didn’t want to listen to her. It was dangerous for this girl to speak. She mustn’t ever talk again, mustn’t ever walk again, she must only lie there, heart beating against Farahlyn’s, and Farahlyn’s heart would remind Amelia’s every time it got tired that it had a job to do. No more of this nonsense.
Farahlyn would not be getting out of bed today, and neither would Amelia. Amelia tried, but Farahlyn talked her down every time the girl tried to plead with her.
Farah—but she didn’t finish her sentence. Not because she had died. Farahlyn guessed Amelia could read something in her face, maybe desperation, maybe exhaustion. Whatever it was, it kept Amelia beside her well into the afternoon, until she started to get bored, restless, so Farahlyn had to distract her. She kissed her.
Amelia kissed back, almost eager. Farahlyn could feel the life in her lips, and she loved this, pressed her mouth harder against Amelia’s. They made love, and Farahlyn pretended Amelia was still a virgin, that she herself was, too, that they had to be careful, that they were both shiny and new and scared.
And Farahlyn was scared. She realized she hardly let her fingertips graze over Amelia’s skin once their clothes were on the floor, and maybe Amelia noticed this, but she did not say anything, only slowed herself down and treated Farahlyn as though she were made of glass.
It wasn’t enough. But it wasn’t a race this time, and Farahlyn was nervous, anxious. Kept picturing a corpse.
But then Amelia was a corpse. One moment, her hands laced in Farahlyn’s hair, body pressed close, and the next moment, liquefied, falling still and silent to the mattress. Farahlyn was already breathing hard, already gasping, so the next moments came naturally. Her pulse had nowhere to rise to and so it stayed as it was, at its peak, as she pressed a hand to Amelia’s sweaty chest.
She knew what a dead woman looked like, by then.
A dead woman looked like the girl she loved.
Don’t, please. Just don’t.
Stop this, stop this now. Jesus, Amelia—
She couldn’t call the ambulance. She got off the bed and paced the house, not bothering to put on clothes, slamming her fists into the walls, pulling the books off the shelf, weaving her hands through her hair and pulling hard, harder than Amelia ever pulled, hard enough that her eyes watered, but she did not cry.
She cursed the walls. She screamed, shouted, yelled.
She tried to knock the lamp off the nightstand, but it wasn’t there, and Farahlyn froze for a moment, stared at it, waited for the lamp to reappear.
There was a corpse on the bed beside the nightstand, but Farahlyn wasn’t distracted by the dead body of the woman she loved. She was distracted by the empty nightstand. She didn’t understand why it was empty.
But the second time Amelia had died, she had taken the lamp with her. It had crashed to the floor. Farahlyn did not remember cleaning up broken shards of light bulb or warped and splintered base. Farahlyn forced herself to walk to the trash, growing sicker with each step. Placed her foot on the lever, touched it gently, and the top slowly rose to reveal the remains of the broken lamp.
No. No, no, this isn’t real! Amelia! Amelia, wake up! Wake up, I’m not doing this again! You’re not doing this to me again, Amelia—
She fell in the doorway of the bedroom, where she could see the bed and Amelia’s body, her arm hanging off of it. Farahlyn drew her knees to her chest and cried, naked, into the folds of her arms. Her chest hurt. Soon, her body hurt from the position she was in, the length of time she stayed in it, and then she was shivering, the sweat and fear from before having cooled, the hard wood of the floor harsh against her skin.
Farahlyn stood, got dressed. Watched the corpse on the bed.
What are you doing to me? she asked.
Amelia didn’t reply, of course.
She was dead.
The fourth time Amelia died, Farahlyn tried to warn her.
There was the usual routine—how quickly it had become routine—of Amelia waking her up from her nightmare. Farahlyn was beginning to understand that it wasn’t a nightmare, but she never told Amelia that.
Instead, after Amelia had calmed her, she said, Listen.
What is it? Farahlyn? You don’t look well, let me get you a glass of water.
No, listen to me!
Amelia’s grip loosened on Farahlyn’s hand. They were both sitting up now, and Amelia nodded.
Okay, I’m listening.
You’re going to die today. Amelia didn’t say anything.
Amelia, did you hear me? I said, you’re going to die today.
I heard you.
I’m not lying. Another pause.
I don’t understand.
Farahlyn nodded. She didn’t understand either, but she wasn’t sure she wanted to. She just needed it to stop.
You’ve died everyday for the past three days.
Don’t. Just … don’t. Don’t patronize me, Amelia.
I said, don’t! Farahlyn shouted, and Amelia took a breath.
Farahlyn watched her breathe, the rise and fall of her chest, her shoulders moving, too, rising slightly up and falling slightly down again. Farahlyn didn’t ever want to look away, but found herself closing her eyes. She was so tired. Tired of watching this girl leave her behind.
It was a bad nightmare.
Don’t say that.
I don’t know what else to say.
Say you believe me, Farahlyn said, opening her eyes again and staring at Amelia, needing her to understand. Farahlyn’s coffee-colored eyes were heated for a moment by Amelia’s honey-colored ones until Amelia squinted at her. I just … Farahlyn, I don’t … Amelia didn’t finish her sentence.
Farahlyn thought. What day is it? she asked, realizing, and Amelia frowned.
So yesterday was Wednesday? Farahlyn asked, nodding. The first day Amelia had died had been a Monday. The days were passing, and Amelia was dying regardless.
She glanced beside them, saw the books were off the shelf, scattered by Farahlyn’s desperation the day before, the death before.
Do you remember what you did yesterday, on Wednesday? Can you tell me everything that happened, Amelia? Farahlyn leaned forward, looking into Amelia’s eyes and breathing towards her. Maybe she would need this breath later. Maybe she could use it to last a moment longer, stay with Farahlyn a moment more.
Farah, you were there, you know what I—
Tell me anyway.
Amelia swallowed, closed her eyes, breathed in, recited a normal Wednesday.
She did not recount waking Farahlyn from a nightmare. She did not recount spending most of the day in bed, did not recount the sex, her death, no—she recounted getting up early, going for a run. Making breakfast and kissing Farahlyn on the way out, stopping by the market, attending a committee meeting before lunch with her mother. She said she got home early enough to see Farahlyn before her evening theatre rehearsal.
It went on. All rubbish, all lies.
That’s what you remember? Farahlyn asked, when Amelia was done.
That’s what happened, Farahlyn, she replied, words slow, careful. Deliberate.
That’s not what happened.
Then what happened?
Damn it, Amelia! Farahlyn got up, pulled Amelia up by the arm, dragged her to the bookshelf. She described the way she’d thrown them from the shelf, asked Amelia if she remembered what happened to the lamp. Amelia shook her head.
Nothing happened to the lamp.
Then where is it? Farahlyn demanded, and Amelia stared at the empty nightstand.
I … I don’t know, Farah, she whispered, and her worry was blatant now, showed in the way she caressed Farahlyn’s cheek with her delicate fingers, but Farahlyn had no time for this, instead pulled Amelia to the trashcan. She didn’t open it at first. First, she explained how Amelia had broken it the second time she’d died. When she slammed open the lid, they both peered inside. Farahlyn felt sick. She looked down at Amelia, who was staring up at her.
I watched you die three times, Amelia. I watched you die.
Amelia pulled Farahlyn this time, to the chair at the table, sat her down, put her hands on Farahlyn’s shoulders, rubbed her thumb on the nape of her neck in a soothing way.
I’m sorry, she said, but Farahlyn didn’t know if this meant she believed her.
I’m not going to watch a fourth time.
Okay. I won’t die.
You can’t just say that.
I’m not just saying that.
Do you believe me, Amelia?
Amelia didn’t say anything. She couldn’t, as she had died.
Fingers loosening from Farahlyn’s neck and collapsing against her, falling sideways because Farahlyn was too slow to react, to catch her before she slid off Farahlyn’s lap and landed on the kitchen tile with an unmistakable thump. Farahlyn was dizzy, couldn’t catch her breath.
When she could catch her breath, she crouched beside Amelia, picked her up, carried her, but she didn’t know where she was carrying the girl to, so she walked around the house with Amelia resting lifelessly in her arms. Farahlyn wanted her life back.
The fifth time Amelia died, Farahlyn did not notice.
She was busy swallowing every pill in the house and hoping one would cure her of this hell.
The sixth time Amelia died, Farahlyn tried to kill her.
She woke with her stomach in knots, and she knew it was from having taken all that medicine the day before. Amelia thought her hoarse voice was from crying during the night, and she was extra careful, was extra kind, soft syllables that fell against Farahlyn’s ears like rain.
I’m here, baby, I’m here. It’s over, all over. Just a nightmare. I’m so sorry, Farahlyn. It’s okay, I promise, I swear.
Farahlyn hated her. She kissed her, didn’t stop when Amelia pushed back at first, asking if they should talk first, if Farahlyn wanted to talk. But Farahlyn did not want to talk, and Amelia understood this. Farahlyn was not scared to damage her, she wanted to hurt the girl, to break her, to slam her so hard against the headboard that her skull cracked and it was over—Farahlyn just wanted it to be over, she felt out of control, but if she could do it, she could be in control, it could finally be over.
It was going to happen anyway. She was murdering a woman with a death sentence.
Amelia gasped, loudly, fingers hard in Farahlyn’s skin. And then they were slack, but she wasn’t dead, just afraid, breathing hard, but Farahlyn kept going, didn’t care, wanted to hurt this awful girl that kept hurting her.
Only when Amelia’s eyes shined, a drop of water catching in her eyelashes before the tear could slip down her cheek, did Farahlyn freeze. She got off the bed, stumbled over her own feet in her rush.
The room was filled with their raspy breathing.
It’s okay. It’s okay. Farahlyn, it’s okay.
It wasn’t okay. Nothing was okay.
Farahlyn wished Amelia was dead because it would be better than this pity.
I’m … Sorry, the word Farahlyn was looking for was “sorry,” but she couldn’t find it.
Farahlyn, Amelia said, voice breaking. I’m okay, I am. It’s okay, we’re okay.
She needed to stop talking, to stop saying it was okay. There were neat, thin trails of blood seeping from nail marks on Amelia’s arm. Farahlyn had put them there.
Farahlyn doesn’t know when Amelia died that day. She refused to be in the same room as Amelia, refused to be in the same house. She’d left, freeing her wrist when Amelia reached out and caught it. She did not come back until midnight.
Amelia lay dead on the couch, soft violin music playing from the record player.
Farahlyn touched the dried blood on Amelia’s arm, found a note in her hand.
If you won’t talk to me, will you dance with me?
Farahlyn wished she’d come home earlier, wished she’d never left. She wished they’d had one last dance.
Farahlyn remembers every single way Amelia had died.
She wishes she didn’t, wishes she could forget.
The hundredth day Amelia will die is today.
Farahlyn wakes knowing she won’t stay.
Amelia is shaking her, as is their routine.
“Farahlyn. Farahlyn, it’s okay, wake up now. It was just a nightmare, you’re okay.”
Farahlyn opens her eyes, Amelia staring at her.
“Farah,” she breathes.
“Hi, Amelia,” Farahlyn says, and she smiles slightly because she likes this girl so much. This young woman used to make her happy, and Farahlyn remembers this. It’s only been one hundred days, after all, that’s not too many. Farahlyn can still remember what it was like before, to wake beside her, for her wide eyes to be the first thing she saw in the morning.
“You look …” Amelia starts, but she doesn’t finish, and she doesn’t need to.
Farahlyn knows what she looks like. Gaunt. Dark circles under her eyes, cheekbones too sharp under sallow skin. Amelia had been starting to take note of Farahlyn’s appearance every morning because she forgets why Farahlyn has become this way. She remembers not what a dangerous cocktail of fear and grief can do to a person, not how one hundred days of this cocktail can destroy someone, or that Farahlyn has even been suffering for one hundred days.
Amelia knows nothing, and at least there is this small thing Farahlyn can be grateful for, that she carries these burdens alone. But after a while, a burden becomes too much. One hundred days is quite a while, Farahlyn thinks.
Farahlyn had given up trying to stop Amelia’s deaths. Instead she spent the moments Amelia was alive with the girl, trying to pretend there was no new routine. There was a lot of anger. Many things were broken, in one hundred days.
“Farahlyn, you really don’t look well,” Amelia says, and Farahlyn smiles for her.
“I am. I am okay,” Farahlyn lies.
Lying is easy now. She does it often.
She reaches out, dusts Amelia’s cheek with her fingertips. She likes to touch Amelia. To feel her skin. To remind herself that it isn’t all that bad. There are still these moments when the girl is alive.
Today, Amelia dies applying makeup. It’s an early day. They hardly had an hour.
It’s not that the days have been getting shorter—even that might be a relief, something Farahlyn could plan for. But Amelia’s deaths are a surprise every day.
She is sitting on the edge of the bathtub when Amelia dies. She doesn’t like to let Amelia out of her sight, so she is there to watch the girl’s hand stop, fingers losing their grip on the tube of lip gloss so that it lands on the floor with a soft clack as she falls.
Farahlyn is fast enough, catches her before she can hit her head on the bath. She shifts the girl in her arms, carries her to the bed, sets her down carefully and writes the note she had been planning since they’d woken up.
Had to head out early to take care of something. Will be back late tonight. Don’t eat all the ice cream, I’ll want some when I get back. Love you.
She leaves the note on the nightstand where the lamp used to be around one hundred days ago, for Amelia to see every day when she wakes up.
She will be dead before she can notice that Farahlyn is not coming back, so Farahlyn doesn’t worry, packs a few of her clothes that she doesn’t think Amelia will notice, and leans over the corpse’s head to kiss her pink lips before she leaves. She tastes mint as she walks towards the door.
Farahlyn does not know if the morning will bring her back to this bed, being woken from a nightmare by this girl. Maybe it will. Maybe she can’t escape this curse any more than Amelia can.
She shuts the door quietly behind her as if the corpse is not a corpse at all, but Amelia simply fast asleep, waiting to be woken from this nightmare.