I never told anyone why I quit.
It would not have made sense to them. I saw the confusion in their eyes as I emptied the pine-wood desk in the newly refurbished corner office I had been given. The desk’s contents were so minimal I could fit everything in my arms.
I avoided my new Commander’s gaze, and everyone else’s, as I walked toward the elevator. Their eyes were filled with judgment and disappointment. They all knew I had graduated from the program with exceptional marks, and they knew how hard I had worked to do so.
My success in the program had been so great, I was highly recommended by my former Commanding Officer, a man known for his harsh criticism of even the most successful recruits. His recommendations were not given lightly, and it was because of him I had been so conveniently accommodated in my short time at the firm. With such favor shown to a new graduate, and such potential for an outstanding career, it was, I saw, incomprehensible for them to imagine why I would give it all up.
I had only been at the firm for one month; after years of military service and special-forces training and the many years I had dedicated to learning languages, surely I should allow myself more time to adjust? The question was reflected in every scowl, every whisper, every shaking head, but I couldn’t bring myself to answer. So I left. I walked into the elevator and left.
I couldn’t blame them for judging me. There was no obvious explanation for my sudden departure, so they had no reason to believe that I was anything but fine. To their eyes I had been given my first assignment two weeks before, I had executed that assignment with only minimal difficulties, and I had returned successful.
It was precisely what they had come to expect.
But they didn’t see the nightmares, vivid and recurring visions of the fear in her deeply blue eyes, the effort with which she fought against me, and her haggard breaths as life leaked onto the tiled floor beneath her. They didn’t know how often I saw her face in my daily life, a ghost bent on destroying me and everything I’d built. I couldn’t escape her. Even the laminate floor in the firm’s bathroom brought her to the forefront of my mind, as it was the same floor on which I had left her body. She hadn’t even been the target.
I never told anyone. If I had, perhaps I would still want to live. But it has been a year since that assignment, and nothing has changed. She haunts me still, and there is only one way I can truly be free of her.
So I quit.
Janel Brubaker is currently a college student in Portland, Oregon. She recently graduated from Clackamas Community College with her A.S. in English. Her focus was in Creative Writing. She worked two consecutive years as an Assistant Student Editor of the Clackamas Literary Review, and has now moved on to Marylhurst University where she will pursue a B.A. in English Literature and Writing.