Last Light
Author:M. Pierce

Again, I took stock of the faces before me—all eyes on me. How many of these people read Night Owl? How many thought I wrote it? And how many hated me for it?


I caught a small smile from Pam. God, at least I had one friend here.


“I lived with Matt,” I began, “for … for almost … two months.”


A patch of clouds closed over the sun. The graveyard dimmed.


“Two months. Two … of the happiest months … the two happiest months of my life.”


A day ago, I could recite this speech in my sleep. Now the words scattered.


“I … we met, um…”


A flash of movement caught my eye.


I looked toward the motion, which came from a figure standing apart from our group. It was a man. He seemed to be visiting a nearby grave, but as I focused I realized that he was watching our service. With a camera. What the hell?


He was taking a picture … of me.


“You motherfucker,” Seth growled.


“Seth!” Nate grasped his brother’s arm. Seth broke free and ran at the man with the camera. Owen began to cry.


The peace of the cemetery dissolved.


The other guests and I watched in a trance as Seth caught the man by the collar of his coat. “I’ll kill you!” Seth bellowed. “I’ll fucking kill you!”


The man’s arms flailed. The camera flew from his hand.


“Hannah Catalano!” he called to me. “Hannah! Aaron Snow! Please, we need to—”


His words cut away with a groan. Seth’s fist hit the man’s jaw with a dull thump. The reporter went down clutching his face. He curled on his side in the snow.


From where I stood, I could see the blood seeping from his cupped hands.






Chapter 8






I dyed my hair that night for the first time in my life. As I watched the charcoal swirls spin down the drain, I thought of Hannah.


Would Hannah like my hair black? It would be a surprise.


I slicked my fingers through my hair and shut off the shower.


I should prepare other surprises. I should have bought something special at Smart Mart—food for a nice meal or candles, maybe something sexy. Warming lube? A ribbed condom?


Ha? a condom. If Hannah and I didn’t use a condom the first time, we weren’t about to start now. And fuck if she wasn’t crazy to let me have her without a condom that night, IUD or no IUD. I knew I was clean, but Hannah couldn’t have known.


Sometimes, she was as reckless as I was.


I wiped fog from the mirror and inspected myself.


“Fuck,” I muttered. Black is … black. My skin looked pale against the wet spikes of hair. I needed a haircut. Long pieces matted against the back of my neck and across my brow.


But I looked less like Matt Sky, and that was the goal. Another way to hide. I dried my skin and padded out of the bathroom.


Most days, I didn’t give one fuck about how I looked. I looked damn good on my worst days. Hannah, though, made me want to look my best. I liked to make her stare. I liked the way she touched my body, with obvious appreciation.


The cabin had no treadmill, no pull-up bar, nothing—but I improvised. I had a one-hour routine of sit-ups, push-ups, crunches, and squats, plus the occasional jog through the woods and chopping firewood.


I pulled on jeans and built a new fire.


I wondered, not for the first time, if I would ever feel forgotten enough to stroll into a gym or barbershop. And if not, how would I live? What if I needed to go to the doctor? What if I needed a hospital? What if, what if?


I studied my phone as I lay on the couch. Those moments were the worst, when I missed Hannah and the future felt impossible.


But the future feels impossible for everyone. That’s life, I told myself—a series of impossibilities ending in the greatest impossibility, death.


I waited for a call I had no reason to expect. Night thickened around the cabin. I turned out the lights and let the fire illuminate the main floor. Always, a fire. It was cheery and warm and it reminded me of—“Christmas,” I said aloud.


A broad smile spread on my face. Christmas. The perfect surprise for Hannah. We’d missed Christmas in December, so I would give her Christmas in February. Our own Christmas.


But how much time did I have?


I slid my finger along the kitchen calendar.


Hannah flew back to Denver tomorrow. I knew she wouldn’t take a week off work, meaning she would drive up to see me … on Friday, the 14th. Valentine’s Day.


How strange.


How perfect.


I jumped when my phone rang.


“Matt.” It was Hannah. I could barely hear her above what sounded like music and a crowd. “Are you there?”


“Bird, hey. God … I’m glad you called. I was just—”


“Matt, listen. We have a problem.”






Chapter 9






Noises from the main floor filtered to the basement. Classical music, muted steps, a hum of chatter. And the tone: cautious.


Funeral talk.


Now and then, laughter flared and died fast. Probably someone was reminiscing about Matt. A funny anecdote, I imagined.