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Rowan leaned against the wall, his eyes fixed on the door. June walked in, vibrant as the summer, her blond hair plaited in a tight braid down her back. She was beautiful, as all beautiful girls are, accentuated only by the sparse make-up she wore, her clothes always flattering and in complete harmony with her personality.
“It’s funny,” Rowan said as she walked near, his voice low and gravelly. “I never stood a chance, did I?”
“That’s the sad thing,” June said quietly, carefully applying a new coat of lip gloss as she eyed her reflection in a small compact mirror. “You did once.”
“You know, I always expected you to be more,” Rowan paused, as if looking for the right words. His hands trembled as he wiped the sweat from his palms on the back of his navy jeans. “Dark, I guess. Maybe all cloaked and stuff? A scythe or something?”
“How very astute of you,” June said with a heavy sigh. “Death isn’t all dark and mayhem, you know.”
“What’s your favorite time?” Rowan interrupted, shoving his hands deep into his pockets, his foot tapping out an anxious beat on the floor.
“My favorite time?” June asked, her icy eyes widening in mild surprise. She touched a single finger to her lip, her brow creasing in thought. “No one’s ever asked me that before.”
“Well?” Rowan prompted, glancing at the clock.
“I liked that time we drank shots until you ended up in the hospital.” June mused, tapping her hands softly. Rowan snorted.
“That was probably my least favorite time,” he muttered, remembering his parent’s angry glares and the horrible hangover that came afterwards.
“What can I say?” June asked with a small laugh, spreading her hands in a pacifying manner. “You’re the one who wanted to flirt with death.”
“My mistake,” Rowan said sullenly. June glared at him for a brief moment.
“Oh come now,” she said. “No need to act so pouty. You knew the stakes, you chose to play. It’s not my fault that you lost.”
“I liked when we went dancing,” Rowan mused. June smiled widely.
“I liked that too.” She said softly.
“Nothing makes you feel so alive as knowing one misstep is going to send you plummeting to your death,” Rowan quipped with a chuckle. “Remember how I leaned over the edge, but I was so afraid to fall? I couldn’t even make it out to the very end.” He laughed quietly before his eyes clouded again, a dark shadow settling over his face.
“What?” June asked quietly, laying a hand on his forearm.
“So what now?” Rowan asked. “Do I just die now? Fade away into nothingness?”
“You humans,” June said with a wry smile, “and your misconceptions. You took the gamble, so you get a consolation prize, sort of speak. You get to choose.”
“How you go,” June said cheerily, a wide smile plastered on her face. “It can be easy, like in your sleep. Just, off you pop. Or something a bit more daring. Some people like to go out with a bang,” she said, pushing her hands together and letting them fly apart as if to demonstrate the magnitude of such a death.
“Oh,” Rowan murmured, his face paling. “How much time do I get to decide?” June looked at the clock, her face thoughtful as she considered.
“Until I come for you,” she said, giving a small giggle before turning and walking out the door. Rowan caught a glimpse of her strawberry blond hair glinting in the sun as she strode out of sight. He went through the rest of day dreading her return, repeatedly telling everyone how much he loved them, how much he cared. He wanted his last few hours of life to count, just like every other human being on the planet. But that, she didn’t come.
She didn’t come for the next week. The next month.
Forty-five years later, she still hadn’t come.
Forty-seven years later, Rowan Thomas Alexander found himself in a hospital bed, the heart monitors screaming as his heartbeat faded away to a pale nothingness. He stared down at his still form, half naked in the hospital gown, his face growing pale and cold. He felt a small, warm touch on his fore-arm.
“Hello there, Rowan.” June said, having not changed a bit. Her hair was shorter now, falling in soft waves around her shoulders. Her clothes were different too, but her eyes, her eyes were the same as Rowan had forever remembered them.
“Was this you?” He asked softly, gesturing towards his still body below. June shook her head, her eyes glowing with some internal secret.
“Not me,” she said quietly. “Just nature taking its course.”
“Why didn’t you come for me?” Rowan asked, taking one last look at the empty body laying stiffly against the hospital linens. June’s smile grew wider as she walked with Rowan, slipping her arm around his, leading him upwards, sideways, and through all the gateways.
“You didn’t need me to,” she said. “You lived your life so well, I hated to end it for you.”
“But now?” Rowan asked. “What happens now?”
“Now you go home.” June said, flashing him her dazzling smile. And for the first time in his life, Rowan Thomas Alexander leaned backwards and fell, with no fear at all.