“I love you,” he said.
I uttered a tearful “I love you, more” as Jack covered my head slowly, and kissed my concealed forehead. We’d practiced this dozens of times over the last fifteen years, but most of the time, we were high or drunk, filled to the brim with laughter, and we’d quit practicing to make love until sunlight streaked through our window. This time, it was real. This time, there was no booze, no coke, and we haven’t made love in weeks. We’ve been on the run and to our dismay, it wasn’t a dress rehearsal. I began to shake. Sweat dotted the lining of my face, partly from the fact that I had a cloth bag draped over head, but also because in a few minutes, we would be dead. The pressure was making me uncomfortable.
“Louise, baby, we’ve talked about this. This is the only way out. I refuse to rot in a jail cell, and I won’t let that happen to you either, okay? We gotta do this, baby. It’ll be okay. I promise that we’ll meet each other on the other side.”
I slammed my open palms onto his chest and wailed loudly.
“Jack, ain’t no other side! I can’t, baby, I can’t! Honey, we’ve got money. Lets go back to Australia. They won’t get us there, baby. ‘Member that bank we robbed in Gladstone? We had so much fun! That little bar we’d go to and watch those crazy fools get into fights. We can start over, baby, it’s not too late. No more robbing, no more killing, we’ll be a boring old couple. We’ll settle down and have us some babies! We’ve always talked about that, sweetheart, why can’t we just leave?”
I heard him sigh. He was emotionally collapsing, and I wasn’t making this any easier. I hated to admit it, but he was right; this was the only way out. Yet, I couldn’t wrap my head around it. Jack and I never gave up on anything, so I didn’t understand why we had to give up on our entire lives. I wasn’t ready to be a forgotten, rotted corpse. We’ve had this plan looming coldly in our back pockets for ages, but I never thought it would come to pass.
“We shouldn’t have hit that last bank. You should’ve listened to me, Jack. Now, baby, I love you, but I told you we were too hot, and even still, you insisted. Now look! Look at us, Jack!”
I continued to cry, but never received a response from my lover. I attempted to remove the cloth bag from my head, but right as I was about to lift it so I could stare into his eyes, and he could stare into mine, Jacks’ fist connected to my hidden cheek and I stumbled back a bit, using the chair that was supposed to be an accessory to my suicide as an anchor to keep me upright.
“Cut it out, Louise. Get yourself together! Now, we done talked this out so stop acting like we made this plan last night. I don’t want to hear about that bank, you understand? What’s done is done. No one told you to kill that teller lady, but she’s deep in the ground now. You don’t see me bringing that up everyday.”
My eyes grew wide.
“I did it to protect you! She was going to shoot you!” I screamed at him, but kept my distance. I didn’t want him to strike me again.
“Well, darlin’, maybe you shoulda let her shoot me.”
We heard the sirens in the distance. With every passing second, it seemed as though the daunting sound got louder, and closer…closer, and louder.
Though I couldn’t see him, I felt Jack getting prepared. I heard him shuffle around the room, his boot heels clicking against the moldy, wooden floor.
I sat down on the chair Jack put out for us and closed my eyes. I listened to the world for the last time, breathed in the pungent smell of the room, and tried to calm my nerves. I don’t regret anything I’ve done in my life, and I’m lucky to have been happy. I’m lucky to have had Jack, my lover, my partner, my everything. But this couldn’t be it. It just couldn’t be.
“Get up, Louise. It’s time.”
“Are those gonna be your last words to me, Jack?”
He didn’t respond.
A moment later, I could feel Jack standing before me. I smoothed out my pleated skirt and stood up as a final tear slid down my cheek. Jack put his hands around my waist and pulled me close. I wrapped my arms around him tightly and nuzzled his neck, trying to absorb his beautiful, musky scent, but I couldn’t. This cloth bag had already made me dead to the world before I actually was.
“I love you, Louise. My life woulda been nothin’ without you, baby. I’m so sorry for all the wrong I did you. You didn’t deserve none of it, but I will love you until I can’t love nothin’ no more.”
“Oh, Jack. I love you too. I’ve always loved you, and I’ll never stop loving you. I know you’re scared, and I am too. But we have each other. Other side, right?”
“Other side, baby.”
We brought our faces towards each other and kissed for the last time. I couldn’t feel his skin, I couldn’t feel the softness of his lips, or the rough hairs on his face. Our eyes couldn’t connect, but at least our hearts did.
“It’s time, darlin’.”
Jack choked back sobs as he slowly made his way up onto the creaky chair. I followed suit and got on the chair as well. He reached out and grabbed my shaking hand, and said “together, okay?” Though he couldn’t see, I nodded my head in agreement. The sirens were getting closer, and now, they seemed to be right outside the window.
We reached up and grabbed our nooses, placed them around our heads, and pulled ’em tight. I could hear my lover sobbing and sniffling, choking on his spit as he was about to do the unthinkable.
“Baby, we don’t have to do this…”
“On three, Louise.”
In three short seconds, 38 years of my life would come to an end. Everything I had ever done would be wiped off the surface, and our love would be dead forever. Jack counted out loud, and on the second count, he dropped my hand. I grabbed ahold of my noose, and took deep breaths as he reached the third count. Tears burst out of my eyes and I began to scream.
“Jack I can’t! Don’t do it, baby, please!”
“I love you, Louise.”
Within seconds, a loud thump was all to be heard. The chair fell to it’s side, and I continued to scream his name loudly, wishing that I could bring him back. Forgetting that I was still trapped within the confines of death, I jumped off of my chair to reach out to Jack, but my chair slid out from under me and my frantic body clashed into my Jack, and I began to choke. I grabbed the noose and tried to loosen it, but it refused to let me go. I kicked my legs out in search of the floor, but it seemed to have disappeared. I couldn’t scream, I couldn’t cry, all that was left for me to do was die. My strength began to dwindle, and right as I was about to just let myself go, the motel room door was kicked in and a swarm of police ambushed us. The world around me grew fuzzy and hazy, and finally, I felt my heart slowly give out. I stopped trying to survive, and I decided that I would meet Jack on the other side. I felt my body being lifted, and the noose was removed. I was being handled like a lifeless doll as the police tried to revive me, but I had already watched my soul slide under the door and into world the moment Jack died. My body grew cold and my throat felt tight, and finally, everything went black. We were cowards, and that’s exactly how our story would be told. We were brave enough to steal money, jewelry, and lives, but we weren’t strong enough to face the noise. Instead, Jack and I used the only get-out-of-jail-free card we had, and rode off into the darkness together.
“I love you,” he said.