After returning home, I used some money that I had saved up and bought some used furniture for Donna’s room.
“Yellow, you didn’t have to do this for me.” Donna said. “I appreciate you so much, thank you.”
“Of course I did, dear!” I replied. “I couldn’t let you go without your own room. This was just an extra storage room, no one was using it anyway.”
I pulled her in for a hug.
“This is your home too, now.” I whispered.
When we finally had to pull apart, there was a brief moment in which her eyes lingered on my lips. I wasn’t sure how exactly to read the moment, but it felt like we were about to share a kiss.
But our slightly intimate moment was cut short, when Seymour called us out to the livingroom, he wanted to meet Donna.
My father was filled with amusement as they swapped stories. Both stories, admittedly, inconceivably remarkable.
Suddenly, Donna stood up from the loveseat, making a gagging sound, dramatically implying she was going to hurl. Morning sickness.
I quickly directed her to the bathroom and she ran for it.
“Now’s you chance!” Said Seymour. “Women love a man who can take care of them when they’re sick! Get in there, son!”
“Ew, Dad, I think I’ll just give her some space for this one.”
“I’m surprised you’re actually going with me, to find Clementine. It’s a long trip, and you were pretty mad at her last time you spoke.” Stated Ghost.
“Save it, Superman. Just keep your eyes on the road.”
After breaking in to Clementine’s e-mail, Ghost and Salem now knew where Clementine was headed, and what her plans were. She was going to Lucky Palms to reunite with her mother, at a hotel. Clementine was instructed to ‘tell nobody.’
On her own, Clementine found the address that her mother directed her to. It was a five-star hotel, very upscale. Clementine thought to herself about how she’d never been to a hotel like this one before.
She passed several floors in the elevator, making her way to the very top floor. It was a long, wide hallway with no doors, except for one double-wide door at the very end. She followed it. She could hear the sound of her flip-flops echoing through the entire hall. Her hands grew clammy. She took a deep breath, before finally knocking on the door.
Toni, or Diann, depending on who you ask, answered the door and threw herself into a familiar embrace toward Clementine. Clementine’s memories of growing up in Appaloosa Plains with both parents came flooding back to her and her eyes welled up.
Clementine, trying to avoid too many emotions, pulled her phone out from her back pocket and snapped a self-portrait photo with Toni.
“My god, Clementine, you are more beautiful than I ever imagined you’d grow up to be.” Toni said, staring lovingly at every detail on Clementine’s face.
Clementine chuckled, “Thanks mom.” She said hesitantly. Clementine felt uneasy calling her mom once again. She wasn’t used to anyone going by that title.
“Please, come sit down!” Toni invited. “We need to catch up, tell me everything I missed!”
Clementine did just that. There was a lot. They talked exclusively about Clementine, her dad, step-mom, little brother, best friend Ghost, the Darlings, school, and everything else she could remember.
“And now, I’m technically married to Salem.” Clementine continued.
“Married!” Toni gasped. “My little girl married to a Darling. Wow! Not the Darling I expected, honestly, but wow!”
“But she doesn’t want anything to do with me. I broke her heart. I’ve tried and tried, but she’s just too stubborn to listen.” Clementine ranted.
“Oh honey, she’ll come around.” Toni encouraged, taking a drag of a cigarette she had been working on for a while now.
Toni put the cigarette in the ashtray in front of her and smiled blankly.
“I can’t believe how much of your life I missed. It’s my biggest regret. And I’ve done a lot of things I regret, baby.”
Toni stood up and wandered toward the window.
“That’s what I wanted to talk to you about.”
“Those rumors… They’re all true.” She continued. “I’ve been running from the law, and I’m tired of it. I have a lot of blood on my hands, Clem.”
Clementine stood up and looked at her mom. She felt compassion for her. Compassion that every one else in her life was so boldly adverse to.
“It’s true? Mom, I- I don’t know what to say.”
“Honey, I have to go away. For good. Change my name, everything. I don’t want to keep hiding. I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t say goodbye to you.”
“Goodbye? But I thought you brought me here to reunite?”
It’s too dangerous, Clementine, baby.” Toni uttered raspily. “I could never put you through that. You have a whole life ahead of you, honey.”
“But mom, I don’t!” Clem cried. “I want to go with you, please! My wife doesn’t want me, my dad has a new family, he won’t miss me. I want to start a new life, too.”
“I’m sorry.” Toni whispered.
Toni knew she was toxic, and she knew that she’d just bring Clementine down. She knew that everyone who’s ever met Clementine loves her to pieces. She was positive that Salem still loves her, and will come around eventually. What Toni didn’t know, however, was how to put that into words that Clementine would believe. So she just stood. Silently.
“Say something.. please, anything…” The two of them shed a single tear each, in unison, as Toni said nothing and Clementine begged for anything.
Clementine couldn’t take any more and left the room with tears streaming down her face, something that she realized she did far too often.
“Toni Clinton, we have the building to surrounded. Please come out with your hands up.”
“It’s not her!”
The wail that reverberated throughout the air coming from Salem Darling that night was enough to haunt even the toughest of soldiers. It was a sound so desperate, so tortured, that anyone who endured it would likely never sleep peacefully again.
Except for one person, who needed the reassurance that was Salem’s wounded cries. No one deserves to die thinking their soulmate doesn’t love them.
“Clem! Please don’t! Clem I’m so sorry!” Salem cried, shaking Clementine’s lifeless body. “Don’t do this to me, please! I love you, please NO!”
Salem tried and tried to resurrect her, but failed each time, before remembering that with the elixir she used to conceive a child together, Clementine was immune to magic.
Without missing a beat, Salem flung her wand toward every cop on that perimeter, and none of them would have to worry about being haunted by those screams no longer.
Clementine Darling, survived by wife Salem Darling and the Darling family, as well as Brandt Martin and family.
A soul too gentle for this cruel world, may she rest in peace.