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Greg Leeds knew if he opened his balcony door, there'd be no turning back. His heart bangedbuhbum-buhbum-buhbumhad to be five hundred beats a minute. He closed his eyes. Anything to block the surge of emotions smothering him, sucking away what was left of his life.
Relax. Stop thinking.
After a moment, he opened his eyes. One lone lamp on the side table lit the room and the sofa they'd bought last year, a white one, showed the abuse of their four-year-old. What the hell had they been thinking buying a white sofa? He and Marianne had laughed over that gaffe and chalked it up to a lack of parenting experience. He wanted to hope there would be more of those parental missteps. Wanted to.
If he had any sense, he would catch up with Marianne and sweet little Evan, who were on their way to the evening showing of Disney's latest 3-D flick. The pall of quiet over the house pushed Greg one step closer to the balcony and his heart tripped five hundred again.
For weeks he'd been at this routine. Teetering on this fucking precipice of despair while eyeballing that fucking door with that fucking lock. Each time he'd backed away. Convinced himself he could make things right.
Until this morning.
This morning it was made clearthere would be no redemption. Wanting only to provide for his growing family, he'd played the game and lost. His dream had been simple: get out of the tiny apartment and into a place with a yard where Evan could play with his friends. Somehow, Greg had slipped off track. Or maybe he'd jumped.
At first, it was one small thing. A second of miscalculation. A minor error. Then it became a moment and the moments turned into hours and the hours turned into days and before he knew it, he'd fucked up good.
No turning back.
His scalp tingled and he absently rubbed the spot. Outside, darkness continued to descend on Chicago's streets.
He took one more step to the door, close enough to touch the handle. To unlock it. To open it. And then the burst of frigid early March airthirty-six degrees' worthblasted him. Somehow, the cold settled his nerves.
She won't want you now. Why would she?
Little by little, moment by moment, hour by hour, he'd betrayed Marianne and Evan.
From eighteen stories below, a truck horn, that long, piercing blare, sounded. Rush hour. Pedestrians. He should check.
No. Didn't need to. He'd lived in this building five years. He knew the traffic patterns. He stepped onto the balcony and dragged the iron bistro chair next to the rail.
Minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, he'd thrown his life away. He was the only one who knew. They'd know now. Marianne, his family, his friends. Evan.
They'd know now.
He closed his eyes, breathed in that frigid air and began to shiver. Fear or cold? Not sure, but his dress shirt offered little protection from the lake wind.
Stepping to the rail had been the farthest he'd made it in weeks. It must be the right thing if he'd come this far.
Across the street, half the units in the building were dark. Directly across from him, right in his sight line, one was lit. A bright light in a sea of darkness. There was his answer. The light.
He stepped onto the chair and his breath disappeared into another gust of wind. Somehow he'd started to sweat, and his mind looped. Do it. Don't do it. Do it.