The gunshot rung in Carlos’ ears, the only thing he could hear over his own shouting. He stared at Rosa’s body as it slumped to the floor. He’d done everything he could to protect her. Hidden Rosa in the bedroom closet when he heard the windows break. Picked up his bat and run into the living room to confront the intruders. He’d swung with all his strength. Even made contact.
But the gunmen overpowered him. There were three, their faces hidden behind masks. They never said why they’d come. Never explained what they wanted.
Carlos wept. He tried to inch closer, to will Rosa alive with his tears and screams. But the men barred him from his beloved. Rained down blows until Carlos couldn’t move.
Carlos was still looking at Rosa’s face when the men finally stopped. Stared into her dimmed out eyes when they turned their gun on him. Through the broken window he saw red and blue lights flash. But the gun’s hammer still cocked back.
Carlos welcomed the round even before it left the chamber.
In a split second, water streamed past Carlos’ face. It was jarring, sudden, his eyes wrenching open to spot a hazy, orange sky above him. Carlos stared up into the cloudless expanse. Marveled at how the orange dipped into peach and pink hues, stars twinkling amidst that dreamy skyscape. He looked down at his hands, saw the deep, turquoise water flow over his brown fingers.
“You’re here,” a voice said to him. It was Rosa, reaching for Carlos from the sparkling shore just beyond him. Her jet black hair spilled from her loose braid. She gazed at him lovingly, her dark eyes rife with a warmth he longed for.
Rosa helped Carlos out of the water. Carlos immediately pulled her into him, wrapping his arms around her without ever intending to let go. He begged Rosa for forgiveness, his heart heavy with guilt and shame.
It was then that he felt something other than Rosa touch him. It was cool at first, then warm, ringing with the tinkling of bells at his face, his chest, his back—his soul. Clear, crystalline hands stroked him with musical fingers, glowing like gold when they made contact. He followed their graceful arches through the orange and pink sky, realized that they were streaming from beyond a hazy mass of silver-white behind Rosa.
Each stroke of those tinkling, crystalline hands undid something inside Carlos, took with it the pain he bore from the last moments of his life.
“It’s hard to feel anything but peace here,” Rosa told Carlos, gently placing a kiss on his lips. “I have nothing to forgive you for.”
Carlos’ body slipped slowly into relief, still holding Rosa as he always had their twenty years together. “Then even in death, I get to have you?”
“Por supuesto, mi amor.”
“Then I will not cry.”
“Nor will I,” Rosa answered with another delicate kiss. “Now that we’re home together. Forever.”