Oxygen

You can't save everybody, no matter how hard you try. They could never save themselves because they were trying so hard to save the other. Life is no chessgame, but they would still play it. Inspired by "How to Save a Life" by The Fray

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1. checkmate

They say not to believe those honey-spun fairytale endings, they say real life is not like that. They were right, of course, because they are always right. Somehow no one had ever told her not to believe in fairytale beginnings. No hardcover textbook, no 12 pt Times New Roman newspaper article, no sappy blog - nothing. Sarah had plucked those threads and watched her puppets dance, never imagining one puppet would have a voice stronger than her’s.

 

It was just high school, they told her. Sarah would forget, laugh at the memory. It had taken her years to build up her name, to build up the pretty girl with the shiny car and the chain of boyfriends in arm. There had always been rumors and whispered slithering down the sticky threads of her webs, but she had always snipped the corrupted strings. 

“What the hell was that?” His voice was louder than the quiet hum of the engine of her car. She wished it wasn’t. Then she could close her eyes, and he would go away.

 

“Not now,” said Sarah, but the glass of her car window slid down accordingly. They always fell in the same dance, always took the same steps. To drive away from his solemn frown would be like a sin. She couldn’t make herself do it.

 

“Not now?” He asked, his voice dangerously scaling high. “Alright, then, Sarah. Drive away. Just do it.”

 

“You know I can’t. Stop playing games.” 

 

“But you like games,” said Alex, “don't you?”

 

She couldn't breathe. “I like chess. But we’re just talking, aren’t we? Good friends. Just talking.” Looking at his flickering brown eyes, Sarah could almost believe nothing had happened. His arms were tense, one hand tugging at the sleeve of her blouse, the other running through his neat locks. Her face was tilted up at him, frowning, feet on the pedal, fingers outlining the shape of the open window. It could be normal, but she knew better than that.

 

“No. No. You’re right. No more games. No more chess - God, I hate chess - “

 

“That’s because you always lose, Alex.” She interrupted, her lips subconsciously tugged into a reminiscing grin. 

 

“Yeah, you’re right, I kind of do. Not the point though. No more games, Sarah. It’s like we’re always saying something and meaning something else. You know what I want. I want to -”

 

Her voice was shrill. “You want to save me. But don’t you get it? I don’t like these games anymore than you do. I just don’t know how to stop playing. You can’t save me. Okay?” He wouldn’t understand. They were too alike. He was the Sherlock Holmes and she was the Moriarty.

 

She was the villain.

 

“Sarah - “

 

“No! I don’t need to be saved. That’s you. You need to be saved. But I don’t want to be the one doing it. Go talk to a therapist. God knows you need one.”

 

Minutes ticked by. He was silent. She was trying to find air. “Why do I need to be saved?” Alex’s voice was hoarse.

 

That was just what she wanted him to ask. “Because you’re so caught up playing therapist, you never really look in the mirror, do you? You need to face yourself. You can’t just always fix everything.”

 

“But I can!” Alex said earnestly.

 

There was something beautiful about that moment. She had fallen of her throne, her golden crown had hit the floor with a dead thud. He had picked it up and risen. They were both long past gone, and neither sought redemption. 

 

“Even God can’t fix me,” Sarah said bluntly.

 

“I’m not God. I can fix you.” It was like he was begging, but she knew better to think that.

 

“I pray to God that He can fix you.”

 

“I don’t need fixing.”

 

He was broken and so was she. Except he couldn’t see it. He was blind, and she was deaf. What a pair they would make.

 

He spoke again. “Drive until you lose the road or - “

 

“I’m not making any choices. I’m not playing any games,” she said quickly because she didn’t know what she would choose. She didn’t want to make that choice.

 

“I did nothing wrong,” said Alex, desperation beginning to bleed into his voice.

 

“Then I guess you aren’t the same.”

 

Alex took a step back. It was like there was no oxygen, and her heart sped up, trying to pace with his pulse. This had never happened before. She gave up on him before he could give up on her. This was the wrong order. It should not have been happening that way. She felt sick to the stomach. 

 

Alex said, “I don’t know why I came”

 

“Neither do I.”

 

He walked away before she could. Alex never could play chess, but he had won this game.

 

Checkmate.

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