This story originally appeared in Storyland, November 10, 2017.
Derek loosened his lucky tie with black and purple stripes, leaned back in his chair, closed his eyes, and exhaled. The soft orange rays of the setting sun grazed the city rooftops and illuminated Derek’s face.
“Congratulations on your big win in court today, Mr. Banning!” Derek’s assistant peered into his office.
“Thank you, Emma,” Derek turned away from the window and smiled. “We’ve all had a hellish few months. Enjoy the rest of the week off.”
“Thanks, Mr. Banning!” Emma looked forward to some quality time with her girlfriend in a hotel upstate. “You should celebrate, too. No one deserves time off more than you!”
Derek glanced at the photograph on his desk. His twins, captured by the camera at that sweet age when baby and adult teeth coexist in a mouth perpetually wide with joy, were embraced by their mom, to whom Derek had not been married for over a decade, but who at that foregone moment still looked at him with love and admiration.
“You know I don’t do vacations. And we can’t have our young law associates imagining they can have a life!”
“They are all terrified of you. They think you’re superhuman.”
Derek smiled and opened his laptop. “Good night, Emma. I’ll see you on Monday.”
Early next morning, Emma stopped by the office on her way upstate and found Derek lying on the floor. His lucky tie with black and purple stripes was wrapped tightly around his upper arm, his sleeve rolled up, a needle sticking out of his elbow pit. The bottom desk drawer, usually locked, revealed pills, needles, and syringes.
The bright golden rays of the rising sun grazed the city rooftops and illuminated Derek’s face, covered in dry vomit.
Originally appeared in Storyland, November 10, 2017.
This story was written based on the prompt “concealment,” which made me think of this article I had read in the New York Times, about a brilliant lawyer who used drugs to keep up with the demands of his job. The drugs eventually killed him. “Illuminated” is a ~300-word fictionalized homage to him and those like him, who, according to the article, are more numerous than we realize.