And Then There Was One by Nicole Dragonbeck

For Desi, thank you for getting the flow going!

Forever 21 can kiss my ass.

Jane looked at her sweet, unlined face, which did not look over a hundred years old, and sighed. It had been exactly 97 years, four months, and three days since Jane, Katrina, Marianne, and Erica had concocted that potion and together, on the count of three, downed their smoking goblets. Contrary to popular opinion, immortality was not all it was cracked up to be. At times, it was better than others.

Jane tugged at the tight waistband and looked down at what she was wearing for the dozenth time. Fashions changed every two or three years, and though Jane had seen a lot, some things she still had trouble believing. Whoever had designed this had been drunk, high, or severely visually impaired and had forgotten to put on their glasses.

Marianne had been the first to give in to the madness of everlasting life. She had always been a romantic, and envisioned a white wedding, a blissful honeymoon, and a long life with many children, more grandchildren, and dying together when their hair was white and their mouths were more dentures than teeth.

After she had to leave Robert, she was miserable for a couple years, then she met Henry. That lasted for seventeen years, then she had to let him go when the grey started coming into his beard. After this, there were three more, but they were briefer, and her heart was no longer in it. Marianne had disappeared about twenty years ago, and though no one wanted to say it, everyone thought the same thing.

Jane put on the makeup with the quick proficiency of someone who had done an action so many times she no longer had to think, she just did. Her eyes were a delicate shade of brown with honey highlights. The green eyeshadow brought out similar shades in her eyes.

Next was Erica. After three decades, the adventurous, thrill-seeking, adrenaline junkie woman had done everything that could be humanly done three times over, from wing walking, to storm chasing, to shark diving in South Africa, climbing to the peak of Mount Everest, and racing motorcycles on the Dragon’s Tail. Then she ran out of things to excite her. Her eventual demise did not require guesses or suppositions like Marianne’s – what else was to be expected when you jumped off the top of a condemned building in the process of imploding?

Jane put on the jacket, made sure her keys and lip balm were in her purse, and let herself out of the apartment. A silver sports car sat in her parking space. The blue license plate proclaimed it an antique. Jane smiled as she got in, savoring the feel of the leather. She grew attached to things, and had difficulty letting them go, which was why she spent so much money keeping this thing going.

Katrina had gone only two years ago. For her, it had been her friends that had prompted the regret for their rash, unthinking decision to drink the potion that would give everlasting life. With only Jane left after Marianne and Erica had gone, Katrina became afraid that soon there would be no one, that she would be left on her own with no one to talk to, no one who understood what her life was truly like.

She had been working on the counter potion for a while, and when she hadn’t shown up for their usual tea date on Sunday afternoon, something told Jane that Katrina had found the potion. Katrina had been found in her bed, and they told Jane she had died peacefully in her sleep. The fact that she looked like a woman of one hundred and ten, and not the young woman in her mid-twenties was a mystery medicine and science were still trying to figure out.

Jane was the last one left. She was still hanging on, determined to continue on with her very, very, very long life. It was her game, she was the one living her life, her life was not living her. It was hard sometimes, especially when she thought of Katrina, Marianne, and Erica, or when she tried to act normally with the people around her, but they and their concerns seemed so petty and shallow. She managed, mostly.

Putting the key in the ignition, Jane paused before starting the car. Her eyes went to the shiny brochures and promotions on the passenger seat. Just now she was on her way to apply to another college, where the teachers would try to help her to find her way, find herself, if you will, find what she wanted to do with this life, with no inkling that that the sweet, naive young woman in front of them had lived many lives in that time.

Jane remembered the last time she had gone to do this; it had been the four of them together. Tears pricked her eyes, but she blinked them away. It was going to be okay. She started the car and backed out of the parking spot.

 

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