the short story project


Rajan Thapaliya


Jason often ran away to Starbucks to lose himself in the cyber world. Browsing Facebook memes and Reddit chat rooms let him escape the tears and mind games of Sylvia. She was so pretty that it always shocked him when the monster inside her came out. There was never any peace in his own mind; he didn’t need the constant strife in his home as well.
Sylvia suspected that Jason was cheating on her. When he came home from work, he always made some excuse and took off with his laptop. She tried to scour his phone and his computer, but he kept both password locked. If only she knew that he was just at Starbucks, net surfing, a green tea latte in hand.
Of course she would be suspicious. He was nearly six foot, with green eyes and warm sun kissed skin, and blond hair always falling just so over his forehead. 

Even the barista in her little green smock had to flirt with him.
But what Sylvia did not realize was that Jason did not see his own attractiveness and did not believe women were actually batting their eyelashes at him. When he looked in the mirror, all he saw was the worthless little boy whose father didn’t want him, the hungry boy begging pricelessly on street corners, the scared boy in foster care clinging to his little sister’s hand because their mother couldn’t afford to feed them anymore. And when he got his promotion to supervisor at the distribution center, all he felt was relief that maybe he could now send his little boy to college and not be the deadbeat dad that his own dad had been.
That all changed the night of the work party. Jason’s boss hired a DJ and a bar service and they partied at his expensive house in Long Island. Sylvia was with Jason, glowing with her hoop earrings and her red lips and her tall pink cocktail. But then a girl walked in and it all changed. The music fell silent, Sylvia’s chatter faded away, and nothing mattered but the tall, dark-haired girl with the blue eyes and the scar on her cheek. 
Jason frantically wondered how to approach her without setting off Sylvia’s hair-trigger jealousy.
He finally got his chance, later in the party, when Sylvia was drunk and he noticed the girl slip outside for a cigarette. He sat so close to her and used her lighter. She had very long nails. “Sofia,” she told him as she shook his hand.
“Let’s go for a walk,” he indicated the garden alongside his boss’s house.
“I’m here with my brother,” Sofia said. “He might get worried.”
“We won’t be long. I want to get to know you.” Jason could tell by the way she looked at him that she wanted to get to know him too.
They walked in the garden and stopped by a little fishpond. Sofia told him how she was the baby of the family, with four older brothers that were very protective of her. She still lived with her mom and worked at an art gallery, sometimes even selling her own paintings. Jason told her about his stint with homelessness, his days of hunger, and she empathized. She, too, had grown up with a single mom, who struggled to make it without their heroin addict dad’s help. “He even stole my money from the tooth fairy when I was five,” Sofia laughed bitterly. “But Mom always at least had pancakes or peanut butter and jelly on the table for us.”
Jason knew then that he had found someone special.
Sylvia just never understood him, the fears he had, the way he hated wasting food.
So he got her number.
He did not want to cheat on Sylvia or leave his little boy. But the more he talked to Sofia, the more in love he fell. When he went to Starbucks one day, he called her to meet him. Over coffee, he watched her as she laughed and he said suddenly, “I have to be with you.”
She paused, a sudden scared look in her eyes. “But your girlfriend. Your son.”
“I can’t stay with her. I don’t love her. I will always take care of her, of Daniel, but I can’t stay around any longer. I have to be with you.”
Slowly, she leaned forward and kissed him. 
A day later, he packed his things and left the condo he shared with Sylvia and Daniel. Sylvia locked herself in her room and Daniel clung to Jason’s leg, begging him to not go. But Jason had to. Sofia pulled to him, even when she was far away in her mother’s apartment.
For weeks he pursued her. He knew he loved her, but she was just so afraid that he would hurt her the way her father had. He worked hard to convince her that he was different; he brought her flowers and sang her songs on her voicemail and went by to see her everyday. Once he even made an effort to have dinner with her family, so that he could make a good impression on her mother and four brothers. Vaguely he knew one of her brothers as a driver that sometimes came to the distribution center where he worked. 
That’s how Sofia had wound up at his boss’s party, an event that he was grateful for with all of his heart. Slowly, Sofia began to open up to him, and gave him the sweetest, purest love he had ever experienced. She always had a smile and a kiss for him.
The one thing he never anticipated was how hurt Sylvia would be. She called him constantly and begged him to come back. When he told her the name of the motel where he was staying while waiting to find a place to rent, she began to come by all hours of the day and night, and she would call him verbally abusing him if he was not there.
“It’s that bitch at the party, isn’t it?” she asked him one day when he came to take Daniel to McDonald’s to play on the playscape.
“Yes,” he admitted.
Sylvia just smiled strangely and wished him the best. “I’m happy you found someone you love,” she said.
“You know that I will always love you,” he told her. “Just not the same way that I love Sofia.”
“Sofia is her name? Oh. Well, I understand.”
Jason was so relieved, thinking that at last he would have the peace he had never known.
One day, nearly two months later, Jason went to Sofia’s art gallery to pick her up, only to find the place roped off with crime scene tape and policemen everywhere. 
He immediately felt sick to his stomach. Somehow he just knew that something bad had happened to his Sofia.
“What happened?” Jason cried. “What happened to my girlfriend?”
A cop sadly approached him. “Your girlfriend was killed in a homicide. Witnesses saw a woman shoot her as she was closing the art gallery, and she just waited until we arrived. 
She’s in custody. Your girlfriend – well, I’m sorry, but she has passed away. She bled to death from a bullet wound in the chest.”
Jason collapsed to his knees in anguish.

Sylvia was sentenced to twenty-five years for first-degree murder. Jason could not bare to attend the trial. At least he was able to get full custody of his son, Daniel. Every day, when a woman smiled or winked at him on the street, when the barista at Starbucks made hints about a movie, or when his co-workers tried to get him to come to a party, he could only feel guilty. He didn’t want to be alive without Sofia.

The light in the world had darkened with her gone. But then he looked at his little son, and he knew that he had to be there for his boy. One day he could join Sofia in Heaven, where she surely had gone, but for now she would want him to provide for Daniel the fatherly love that neither of them had had.                 


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