By Jeff Hargett
"Everything dies, Wil. Everything."
William looked knowingly into Thelma's dark brown eyes. "Almost everything," he
corrected. "Not love." He refrained from calling her foolish or naive, even in the privacy of his
thoughts. She was pushing forty, but she couldn't know.
Thelma sipped her mocha latte and pursed her still-pouty lips. "Don't be silly. Of course it does.
Happens all the time."
"Not real love. That never dies." He wished she could know. He wished someone could.
"Explain divorce then."
"Divorce is easy. It's the logical result when people don't love each other."
"Exactly my point," she retorted with an index finger pointing at the cafe's ceiling.
William shook his head and gave Thelma a sardonic chuckle.
"What?" she demanded.
"Divorce doesn't happen because love dies. It happens because it wasn't there to begin with."
She let her mouth hang open as she placed her cup on the table. "So you think that everyone
who ever divorced never loved the person they married?"
"That's exactly what I think," he answered.
He did his best to ignore her huff of indignation. She was too young to understand. "Not
arrogance, Thelma. Experience. People mistake all sorts of things for love."
"And what would you know about it? I've never seen a woman in your life, or a man either for
that matter. What makes you the expert?"
"I've loved," he said, and turned his gaze to watch a young couple walking hand-in-hand on the
sidewalk. "I still love."
The couple on the sidewalk stopped and shared a playful kiss while waiting for the light to
change. "Someone who isn't here anymore to love me back."
Thelma studied him from across the table, watching him watch the couple. "I'm sorry," she said
at last. "I didn't know."
William turned back, stared at Thelma and forced a thin smile to his lips. "You couldn't. Liz
passed a long time before I came to Atlanta."
"Wil, I've known you seven years. You've never mentioned her. Is that why you came to
"I came for the work." She didn't seem to sense the lie despite his unelaborated answer that
came too quickly. He sipped his own coffee then. Black, strong and double sweet, but he tasted
only the bitter anguish of eternal love.
"And there's never been anyone since?"
He smiled again, this one almost genuine. "And there never will be." It hurts too much, he
Thelma switched from studying him to inspecting her latte. "I can imagine." She
shrugged. "Well, sort of, anyway. Greg and I have been together going on eighteen years now.
I can't imagine there ever being anyone else. But you can't shut yourself off to the possibility of
William took a deep breath. She couldn't know. The couple crossed the street and shared
another kiss after reaching the far sidewalk. "Is that what you would do? I mean if Greg up and
left you tomorrow? Or if, heaven forbid, he died or something?"
Thelma shifted in her seat and traced the brim of her coffee cup with a painted nail. "Greg
always says he doesn't want me to be alone, to find someone I can be happy with if he dies."
"You can do that?"
She hesitated, then gave William an honest gaze and shook her head. "I don't know. Maybe in
Time, he thought. It always comes down to that.
"The point is, Wil, that you can't stay stuck in one place in life. It's too short. Would Liz have
wanted you to be miserable and lonely?"
"Is my misery so plain that all can see?"
"You're what? Thirty? You've got a lot of life left. Make it a happy one. You deserve it."
Truer words were never said. He did have a lot of life left. Thelma hadn't the vaguest clue.
"I have a cousin. She's about your age. I could-"
William interrupted the moment he saw where Thelma was heading. "Oh no, no way."
"What? I was just-"
"You're not hooking me up with anyone, Thelma. I mean it."
"I appreciate the offer. I really do. And I am grateful, but it wouldn't be fair to her."
"Because she's not Liz."
"She's a nice girl, Wil."
"I'm sure she is. And that's all the more reason for me to stay clear of her."
"You don't like nice girls?"
"I don't like girls that aren't Liz. Loving once was enough. I can't do it again." He glanced out the
window for another look at the couple, but they had walked out of view. Gone. Like Liz. "People
like me shouldn't love, not even once." He wished he had understood that before Liz.
"Why? What makes you so special?"
He couldn't answer that question honestly. She'd never believe him. No mortal would.
Immortality's kiss cursed those who deemed to love. And one curse was more than enough.
Jeff Hargett is a grandfather from North Carolina with an imagination full of magic and dragons.
He stays young and fit by dining on epic fantasy whenever possible. He has a short story
that appears in the "Spells: Ten Tales of Magic" anthology and a couple others that placed
in competitions, but prefers his fiction in novel-length doses. He is currently writing an epic
fantasy series that he hopes to publish while he can still wield a pen. He's a firm believer that
when this world doesn't suit you, you should write a world that does. He enjoys interacting with
readers and other writers and spends far too much time loitering around his Strands of Pattern Blog