Short Story: Change of Life


Zia Ahmed, Writer

Robert is sitting in an interview when he gets a call from Chloe. He cuts the phone call as he is asked if he has ever done any other job than that. He replies nervously, “N— No.” as he covers the tattoos on his neck. On the other end, Chloe, after Robert cuts the phone call while driving, comes up with a joke. Having no one to talk to while driving, she tells herself that Joke. She says, “A man was once drowning, and he was yelling ‘oh god help me please.’ As he was yelling, a boat came up to him and offered to help him, but he refused to say that only God would help him. As the boat passed, he yelled again, ‘God, please for the sake of humanity save me.’ And another boat passes by to help him, but again he refuses to accept the help, hoping that God will help him. A few minutes later he drowns and when confronted by God, he asks ’God! Why did you not help me?’ With which God replied, ‘Who do you think sent those ships for you.’” As she finished her joke and laughed, about six kids ran towards her car as they played soccer. While turning, her car swerves after hitting a pothole and almost hitting the kids. As she avoids the kids, she anxiously yelled, “Hey kids!!!! Are you all OK?” With the kids ignoring her, she backs out of the pothole to avoid any further damage. As she does that, she sees a man fixing the electrical system. Angered, she says, “Hey! Mister..” As he turned around, she goes on and says, “Yeah, you. Aren’t there enough potholes in the country, that you have dug up another one on this street? And for three weeks. I missed those kids by inches today, thank god.” The guy quietly standing there listening to what she had to say. With even more anger, she says, “Why the hell are you guys so irresponsible? Because of these potholes, someone is going to die, sooner or later. But you guys just care for the money, it doesn’t matter to you whether someone dies or lives, does it?” Now with all her anger released, the guy replies, without any emotion, “Don’t worry Madam, You will have no complaints from us, henceforth.” To which she replies, “really, ok then we’ll see.” And she drives off into the distance and to her house.

Her house was unlike any other in the block. Colorful and filled with memories. The house was filled with art and balloons as if a kid was living there. After all, her dream is to live life to the fullest. As she entered her house, she felt comfortable, something that she had longed for. She sits in a chair, right next to a window, and opens her phone to message Robert. On the mic, she says, “Hi, I just wanted to send you this message to tell you that I’m proud of you. I’m a hundred percent sure that whatever you will do in life will be right for you from now on. No matter how many obstacles you face, there won’t be darkness anymore.” She ends the audio record with a long kiss, to show Robert how much she meant to her. After she sent the audio, she walked out on the terrace of her house and walked as if she was free. Outside, she saw birds, and she thought of them as her life. It was beautiful. A couple of fresh breaths later, she walks back inside and reads her diary, one of the pages saying, “TO PLAY WITH SNOW.” She shuts the diary, looks at her phone, and gets a call from Robert. Her ring tone is just like her personality, Happy by Pharrell Williams. She picks up the phone call and says, “Hello” To which he replies, “Do you want to listen to the bad news to the worst news first?” She gets nervous, worried that he didn’t get the job. He goes on and says, “the bad news is that you’ll have to live without me every day between 6 am to 5 pm. The worst news is that I won’t be able to live without you every day between 6 am to 5 pm.” As she silently waited for Robert to go on, he say, “I got the job, Chloe. Now erase that wish from your dairy, I’ve become independent.” Filled with joy, Chloe smiles, but there was something she wanted to tell him. Something important. As she tells him to come home early, she hears a loud pop in the background. Someone was inside her home. The sound also caught Robert’s attention. Confused, he says over the phone, “Ch- Chloe? Is everything alright?” When he was saying that Chole had already put the phone down, she turned around and saw a man standing in a raincoat. Chole, nervously says, “Who are you? What are you doing inside my house?” Hearing this come out of her mouth, Robert gets even more nervous and starts yelling over the phone. “CHOLE!!! Is everything alright? Why aren’t you saying anything?” Chole’s attention was on the stranger, and soon he started walking closer to her. He swung at her and knocked her out. 

Before leaving, he took her rings, which meant a great deal to her. He also took one of the fans and balloons she made. And the last thing he did was break her phone from which Robert was still screaming, “Please leave her alone. Whatever your problem is, it’s with me, leave her alone.” Angered, Robert runs, just wanting his wife to be safe, unaware of his surroundings, gets hit by a car. He still gets up and gets home, only to find out, that it was too late…

At her funeral, as Robert watches Chloe get into the grave, a police officer is spotted there by a bystander. The bystander asks, “what is the police doing here?” To which one of the head officers, John replied, “Don’t worry about me, he is the one we have to worry about, Robert.” The bystander confused asked, “why should I worry about him?” John knew Robert years back and he recalls the story of Robert’s life. John knew that Robert will do anything to find the killer of his wife, even if he had to kill other people. 

2 years ago

Robert walks up to a man and starts beating him up. He pours gasoline on him and tells him, “Imma light this match and go pray to god and beg him to blow this light out cause if it doesn’t then you will burn.” In fear the man starts begging Robert, begging him to not do anything and that he served his punishment. He pleaded and pleaded, but Robert was expressionless and burned him. Soon later the police arrived and arrested Robert. This was the first time Robert met John. In the prison cell, Robert was tortured and John was taking his anger out on him. John angrily said, “because of you and your gang three of my officers died just because they were doing their duty. Tell me who your leader is, isn’t it Raymond? Stop being so stupid.” Robert smirkingly says, “This isn’t stupidity, this is manhood, something you officers lack.” Unaware of the surroundings, neither Robert nor the officers knew that Chloe was watching. She went to the police station to write a complaint about someone. This was also the first time Chloe met Robert, not really meeting him but just getting a glimpse of him. As she left, a man walked into the station to bail Robert out, and since Robert is the best and almost like a son to Raymond, he was important to him. 

As Robert walked out of the prison, he saw Chloe and ignored her. She, however, on a bike, rode up to him and asked, “I have a job for you. I need your help with getting Caesar out of a mental hospital.” Robert, with an angry expression, rudely declined her offer, but she again asked him and he was annoyed. He said yeah, only after there was money involved.

The next day Robert and Chloe were on a ferry going to the hospital, Chloe as always started the conversation, “We are in this together and yet neither of us know each other’s name, Hi, my name is Chloe.” Robert without making eye contact, and his voice toneless, says, “I’m Robert.” Chloe’s face blank, she says, “Just like how superman must wear red underwear over his costume, is it also compulsory for you gangsters to have this rude tone? You don’t laugh, smile, or cry. WAIT, I know who you are, you are the angry bird.” Robert ignores her as she tries to get him to talk. As she kept rambling about something, they reached the mental hospital, and it was quite old and not guarded well. Robert easily opened the front door and got inside. He went to one of the group rooms where Caesar was. When he got inside, he yelled, “Which one of you is Caesar? Who is it?” As he said that, Chole ran in and went up to Caesar and hugged him, telling him that he is getting married. Turns out Caesar is old and was not mentally ill. His family was just tired of taking care of him and dropped him there so they don’t have to take care of him. For a moment Robert, a very secretive person, felt something for Chloe, something he never felt before, something that removed anger from him for a moment.

As they left the hospital, Chloe invited Robert to the wedding and Robert was shocked, but was willing to go.

In the dark of the night, Robert tried to express his feelings in writing, but he ended up writing a poem about how he felt around her. And the poem–which is not very professional and not the best– goes:

Is this the end for me, 

Is this that stop?

To rest here peacefully

Why does my heart tell me that?

I’ve found new emotions

I don’t know what the reasons are

As if someone has accepted me.

Like a poet’s poem

Which gives the soul moments of peace

In a sense, I have found someone

Like a homeless man has found a home.

The mornings of a new season

Or like the afternoons of winter

I’ve found someone in a way

Like a homeless man has found a home

Like a star that shines

In the same way, she lightened up my life

She made me forget about the pain

She is teaching me once again to love

She is teaching me once again to live

Like how rain spreads joy

Or like ointments on the wound

I’ve found someone in a way

Like a lover found his true love

After Robert went to the wedding,  he saw Chloe and he knew that he was gonna be happy. He found a diary on the floor which turned out to be Chloe’s diary. In the dairy, there were all her wishes. However, for a couple of weeks, they don’t meet each other, but he got a call from a friend. His friend said, “Robert we are holding a funeral for Caesar’s wife, please come.” Robert confused, went to the funeral, and he saw Chloe standing on the side. He saw her take a picture of Caesar’s wife getting buried. Angered, thinking that Chloe isn’t taking life seriously, he walks up to her and throws her dairy on the floor in front of her. Then he slowly walked away. He hears footsteps following him and he turned around and Chloe, said, “Thank you for saving my dairy, and also thank you for helping Caesar and his wife.” Robert is angered that Chloe isn’t showing any remorse for the dead. He grabs her arm and points at the dead wife. He says, “Why the hell are you joking so much huh? You think life is fun?” Chloe smiling but hiding her emotions tries to speak, “I kno–” As she tried to speak Robert cut her off and went on, “That is death and you cannot laugh at everything. STOP MAKING FUN OF DEATH.” Now that Robert was done yelling, Chloe smiled and spoke softly, “Life is playing its biggest joke on me. The biggest joke is that death is laughing at me.” Robert tried to figure out what she was saying, as she went on, “Yeah Robert, I’m dying. These wishes that I want to complete are my last wishes. I have cancer and I won’t be living for long. I don’t even know if I’m gonna be able to complete my wishes before dying. I just want to live life and have fun before death takes me.”

This is where John stopped telling the story to the bystander and walked up to Robert and tell him, “It’s so sad about what happened to Chloe, but if you befriend the devil, one day or another, he will stab you in the back.” Robert was also shocked to see a police officer, especially John, at the funeral. John said, “Raymond killed her, he ordered a man to kill her because she was taking you away from him.” Robert looked at John surprised, but he did not say anything as he was resentful. John knew how to make Robert mad, and it worked. Robert went home and on his phone, he saw Chloe’s voice message and he opened it. On the speaker, he hear her voice saying, “Hi, I just wanted to send you this message to tell you that I’m proud of you. I’m a hundred percent sure that whatever you will do in life will be right for you from now on. No matter how many obstacles you face, there won’t be darkness anymore.” Tears going down his face, his eyes red not just from sorrow but also from anger. He truly loved her and wanted revenge. He sat for a bit, he again wrote as he did two years ago, whatever came to his head. 

Why should my heart be alone?

Why should I live in pieces?

Why should my heart remain Alone?

Why should my soul suffer this misery

I’m living incomplete

I keep repeating this every moment

I need you

My relationship with darkness grew 

But you came and made me familiar with light

Now I’ve come back into this darkness again

But now it seems unknown to me

And I find myself alone again

Even loneliness has left me

The homeless have refused to accept me

I’m living incomplete

I’m beating myself

I need you

The fragrances of your body

Are still living on my breath

I’m suffocating because they remind me of you

It’s like a rope around my neck

The jingling of your bangles

echoing in this empty room

Listening to it I remember that

There were shackles on my hands

And you came and freed me from them

You released me 

Now again, I’m trapped

I’m living incomplete

I’m calling out to you

I need you

I want you

He picks his keys up and one of the key chains was red from the angry bird. He walked up to his car and drove to his old home. Back at the police station, the bystander, wanting to hear more of Robert’s story, annoys John till he tells the rest of the story.

Again two years ago

A few weeks after the funeral, Robert finds Chole working at the Mental Hospital, where Caesar was rescued from. He walks up to her and tells her, “Chloe, I want to help you complete all your wishes.” To which she replies with a soft, filled emotion, smile, “I don’t need any help anymore. This wanderer has found her home and now it’s time for her to rest and wait for death.” She walks past him and as she walks, he speaks up, “When I was five years old, my father was addicted to gambling. I loved my parents, especially my mom. One day when gambling money, my father gambled with his life and died. He took my mom and I saw both of them get shot and killed. I just sat there under the bed, a scared little boy. Many people tried to give me shelter but I just wanted revenge. So years later I joined a gang and found my parent’s killer and killed them. Even though I got my revenge, I still had this rage within me, but when I helped Caesar get out of the mental hospital and get him married, I, for the first time in my life was able to sleep peacefully. Why was that?” Chloe was shocked at the story, she kept a straight face and replied, “‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can, Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can’ Martin Luther King Jr. once said that.” Without any explanation, Robert knew what it meant but he still wanted to help Chloe with her wishes. He asked again and now she said, “Ok.” Robert again crazy over Chloe writes in secret, hoping that one day he will show her all his writings, and writes another “poem”

I cannot live without you

My life is nothing without you

If I separate from you 

I’ll get separated from myself

Because you are my love

Now you are my life

You are my peace and pain

Consider my life 

Not my position

A day without you seem like months

What kind of relationship have I created?

I cannot stay away from you for a moment

I don’t want a moment without you

I’ve devoted myself to you

Your kindness has taken me over

It has filled my heart

Just you and me

Day by day, Robert and Chole complete the wishes in the dairy and their relationship increases quite a bit. On their way to her last wish, Chloe collapses on the group but is still conscious. Robert runs to her and tells her that they need to go to a doctor. He picks her up and walks to the car and rushes to the hospital. At the hospital, the doctor sees him and yells at him for coming back again. Robert, after hearing that Chole has cancer tried to go to the hospital multiple time but everyone refused to help, knowing that the case was hopeless. The doctor yelled, “Why are you back here again? I Told you I cannot help her. It’s a hopeless case.” The doctor walked a few steps, but Robert’s face went from hopeless to anger in a second and he ran to the doctor, grabbed his collar, and yelled, “Who do you think you are huh? You better save her life or I will beat you up till there is nothing left of you.” The doctor was scared but he knew his answer, “I cannot help her but there is a doctor upstate, you can go there. She wasn’t able to help me with my wife, maybe she will help you.” Robert lets go of his collar but are still angry and sad that he might lose someone he loved again. He tells Chloe to go upstate with him but she refuses and walks away. Robert, too tired to talk decided to talk to her tomorrow

The next day he went to her house a she wasn’t there. He had a little feeling that she was gonna leave, but he wasn’t just gonna sit and wait for her to die. He drives to the nearest station and yells for Chole. He catches her attention but she refuses to see him. Robert runs around and the train slowly starts moving. Robert spots Chloe on the train and runs up to her. He yells her name and tells her how much he loves her but she doesn’t want to hurt him and leave him after they get together. She sobs and cries but doesn’t get out of the train. Robert hopeless falls to his knees and sees the train go without stopping. His face is down for a few minutes but when he looks up, he sees the train stopped. And then he sees Chloe running trying to get out of the train, and the doors open moments late. Chloe runs to Robert and both of them crying, looking at each other, both of their hearts beating for each other. Then Robert hugs Chloe so tightly as if he will never let go of her again. A few months later, they marry each other and live together and Robert decided to leave the gangster life and pursuit a business job where Chloe’s life would also be safe. 

It’s Robert’s first interview and Chloe is very nervous about him and he wants to get the job. Before Robert leaves for his interview, Chloe wishes him the best of luck and kisses him. Chloe goes out to meet her father, because she wants to tell him that she is pregnant. She did not tell Robert about her pregnancy because the doctor told her that due to her recently beating cancer, her body is too weak to give birth to a kid. Her father tells her, “You have to tell him. He is the father and he has the right to know the truth.” Chloe agrees with her father and drives home. Robert when sitting in an interview gets a call from Chloe. He cuts the phone call as he is asked if he has ever done any other job than that. He replies nervously, “N— No.” as he covers the tattoos on his neck. Later that day Robert calls her and tells her that he got the job. But that was when Chloe was killed. 

Robert is now at Raymond’s block ready to drop him off. Raymond has many people who fight for him so Robert had to beat up other people as well. After getting beaten and beating other people, Robert reaches Raymond’s place and spots him. With a weapon in his hand, he walks up to him and yells, “why did you get her killed?” Raymond sitting there emotionless, Robert points the gun at his face but moves it away as he remembered what Chloe said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can.” He put the gun down. Not wanting to fight, he was lost, and he starts walking away. Behind his back, Raymond grabs the gun and shoots Robert in the head. 

Even John felt bad for Robert, even though he killed many of his men. When Chloe was on the phone with Robert, she wanted to tell him that she was pregnant but she never got a chance to tell him.

Robert never got to show Chloe his poems…