* * * * *
* * * * *
“You can stay here if you like,” Miles offered, but it was less a question than a statement of fact.
“How do you I need–” she began, but Miles cut her off.
“I know you have no where else to go. If you did, you’d have gone there first instead of bothering me in the middle of the night. I don’t what possessed you to find me, but I know you don’t have a plan, much less a place to stay. So it looks like you’re spending the night here.”
Karen was silent a moment, and considered a number of retorts, but came up dry.
“Bedroom’s down the back. Left side. Sheets are clean. I never sleep there.”
Karen reached for the bottle, resigned. She poured herself another slug, and grimaced again as it went down. Miles looked momentarily amused; this was the first emotion Karen had seen since the terror and surprise outside had melted away into cool indifference.
“Do you mind if I just talk to you for a while?” she asked. Miles shrugged. “I’ve prayed ever night, Miles. I’ve asked God for answers. I’ve prayed and I’ve begged and I’ve bargained and I’ve pleaded for a reason for all this.” She trailed off. Her words were falling on uninterested ears.
“And?” He looked at her with pity, and she felt anger rise up in her. She accepted pity graciously, but his pity was laced with scorn. “What did God say?”
“God has been quiet of late,” she said quietly, trying to suppress the anger that bubbled dangerously and held her on the verge of angry tears, and then her words gained momentum and she spoke as though reciting from memory. “But God took my children, and He’ll make His reasons clear in time.” Those words brought her strength.
“God,” Miles scoffed. “God had little to do with this. Brake failure is a human invention. God didn’t cause the accident, any more than God… clipped your fingernails for you. A person took your children’s life – a person backed by a thousand pounds of steel and machinery – but a person nonetheless. A man killed your family. Not God.”
“But that must be a reason. God has His reasons. There must be intention or meaning or a higher purpose, otherwise what’s the point in even—”
“There is no reason!” Miles slammed his glass down on the table as he spat out the words. “There is no purpose. There is life, and it is followed very shortly by death. The only purpose we serve is the purpose we give ourselves. They say a life without purpose is meaningless and that’s bullshit – a life without purpose is just life. There is nothing else. We have no reason to be; we just are.”
Miles half rose from his seat in frustration – but the violent outburst seemed to drain what little strength he had left. He looked hopelessly at the empty glass, seemed to consider momentarily pouring himself another, but instead pushed the empty glass away and stumbled to his feet. He stood, unsteadily, staring down at Karen, who had backed away from the table in startled surprise. Suddenly very unsure of himself, Miles picked up the bottle of Jack Daniel’s and gestured towards her in offering. She shook her head.
Karen looked at him for a long time. “What are you going to do to me?”
Miles looked surprised, almost amused. “To you? Nothing. I am, however, going to continue drinking until I fall down somewhere and I am going to try my damnedest to forget all about you.”
Miles crossed the room and pulled the knob on the television. Violent static filled the air. Miles sat down, bottle in his hand, rocking unsteadily. His body seemed to move with the noise from the television, shaking and shivering with the bursts of sound.
Karen stood tall, clutching herself, feeling very much alone. After a moment she spoke, her voice barely enough to be heard over the television.
“Can you really forget all about this?”
His face fell.
“…No. I never can.”