Gone by Rhiannon Root

The fork stabbed at a bite of syrup soaked pancake and scooped it upward. The triangular bite disappeared in three seconds. The fork floated down to the table. Then the coffee cup floated up and an audible slurp filled the IHOP booth.
Jack hadn’t gotten used to eating with Helen since her accident eight months ago. Watching her eat was skin crawlingly creepy, like a surrealist painting.
“What did you want to talk about, Helen?” Jack asked, wishing she would stop eating. He hoped that the gooseflesh prickling on his arms would die down.
            The coffee cup floated down. “Jack, I don’t want this,” she said.
            “The meal? We can send it back.”
            “Us, Jack. I don’t want this anymore,” Helen’s voice was pointed. She seemed angrier these days. Jack wasn’t entirely sure why. 
            The coffee cup floated up again. Slurp. “It’s like you can’t stand me anymore,” she said.
            “That’s absurd!”

            “You can lie to yourself, Jack, but don’t you dare lie to me,” Helen said. “I’ve been doing my best to handle this. Being relegated to the copy desk after being in front of the camera has been tricky, sure, but I’m dealing with it. And it would be easier to deal with if you would get onboard.”
            “I am onboard. I’m so onboard I’m in the cabin.”
            Silence. Jack knew Helen hated silence. She craved the spotlight, which was part of the reason why she’d been assigned to cover the chemical plant story in the first place. Of course, it ended up disastrously when the plant exploded and the chemicals turned Helen and some three hundred other people invisible.  Helen’s news story had become something of an Internet sensation because you could see her dissolve into invisibility. Most of the citizens of Springfield had gotten used to it since the accident, but the occasional stares irritated Jack.
            “OK, Helen, fine, you know what? This is a pain in the ass. You can’t be alone anymore because you could be hit by a car or a bike or something. Eating dinner is weird. And I can’t see you anymore. How can I find you sexy if I can’t see you?”
            “You’re so shallow.”
            “I just don’t want to babysit an emotionally codependent invisible person.”
            “You think I’m enjoying this? I hate that I can’t go to the grocery store by myself. I hate that I’m forced to be behind the camera instead of reading the damn news. And you know what else? I hate relying on you. You can’t even pay the bills on time, how can I expect you to take care of me?”
            “Oh that’s it, isn’t it? It’s always been about you, Helen. God forbid anyone steal your spotlight and look at me for once.”
            “NO ONE CAN LOOK AT ME, JACK!”
            The silverware slammed on the table.  Now the other diners were now staring at Jack and his booth.
             Tear drops fell next to the coffee cup. Jack heard the distinct sound of Helen’s sobbing. She never cried when she was sad; she only cried when she was beyond furious.
            “So what do you want to do, Helen?”
            A piece of toast flew at Jack’s head. Yeah, she was angry.
            “I want to break up,” she whispered.
            “You want to see other people.”
            Another piece of toast flew by Jack’s head.
            “You know what I mean.”
            “What else can we do? You’re only here because you feel guilty because I was hit by the explosion instead of you.”
            “You don’t think that I love you anymore?” She wasn’t wrong, but Jack wasn’t going to say that now. He loved her, just not unconditionally.
            “This has nothing to do with love. This shouldn’t be so hard.”
            “So you want to give up?”
            Jack’s brow furrowed. “Oh sure, we hit a little rough patch and now you want to call it quits.”
            “I’d hardly call chronic invisibility ‘a little rough patch,’ Jack. This  isn’t working. We’re not having fun and it’s not going to get any better. It’s time to call it quits.”
            “Just because something is hard doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile,” Jack argued.
            The coffee cup floated up again. Helen sighed and took a large sip. “You can’t force me to stay, Jack. I’m done.”
            The cup floated across the room. The front doors swung open and shut a few moments later.
            “Helen?” Jack called.

            For the first time since her accident, Helen was truly gone. And Jack was alone.


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This work by H.E. Saunders is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.