“Crimson,” Tabitha chortled, “my favorite color. I love it when mortals do each other in. All we have to do is munch on some popcorn and enjoy the show.”

Endora cooed in her highchair.

“Yes, well, maybe someday, when you get older, you will understand the value of having others do things for you. For free, no less.” Looking into the bowl, she crunched a corn kernel. Tabitha yelped and spit it out. Aged fingers poked through the remaining snack in her hand.

The bowl-o-vision started to bubble. The popcorn hit the floor. Tabitha flapped her hand like a baby bird learning to fly. “Hurry, zap the bowl. It’s getting all snowy, and I don’t want to miss anything.”

Endora raised her baby bottle and zapped the bowl.

“Thank you, my darling.” Tabitha pulled up a chair. “I would let you watch, but some of this is not suitable for children.”

“Eve…” Julian cried. “Oh, Eve…”

Blood streamed from his lips. He clutched at the wound in his chest; hand and shirt saturated in deep red. He sank to his knees. “Eve?” Eyes wide, he wheezed. “I…I loved… you…” He collapsed at her feet.

It had to be a nightmare. Her legs felt like concrete. Tears escaped and rolled down her cheeks. The gun dropped from her hand, awakening the abysmal reality. It’s no dream. Her heart pounded madly. Oh God, what have I done? What have I done?!

A pitiful cry filled the room. Eve collapsed next to him. She placed her hand over the hole in his chest. “Please…don’t die,” she wailed. “I can’t lose you…”

He moved. “I am here,” she said. Eve placed his head on her lap. Grabbing a nearby towel, she applied more pressure to the wound. “Please…don’t leave me.”

His eyes rose to meet hers. “E…ve…” His head slumped against her.

Alarm filled her being. “TC…TC…TCCCCCC…” She shook him, sobbing.

“Eve…” Julian knelt beside her. His hand reached out and touched TC. Quickly it snapped back. “Eve…” She turned to him. His arms felt warm and safe. “Come…”

“I killed him, Julian. I am a murderer. I am going to hell for sure,” she wailed against his shoulder.

“Never say that, my love. You had no choice. God won’t hold that against you. How could he? You are perfect in every way.” His hand lightly ran up and down her back, caressing her, comforting her.

Eve sniffed. “I think you are a bit biased, Julian.”

“You are innocent of any wrongdoing.” She wished she felt as confident as he.

Her heart stopped. “TC!?” Julian toppled sideways in her haste. She placed two fingers on the inside of TC’s wrist. Nothing.

Movement caught her eye. Sam groaned again.

“Oh my good Lord, Sam!” Eve’s hands and knees pounded the hardwood. “Oh, Sam, I thought you were dead.” She leaned over him.

His jacket was shredded. Julian knelt next to her. A police vest beneath his coat was riddled with pellets.

“You are one lucky man.” Julian exhaled sharply.

“What happened?” Sam raised his hand to his head.

“The vest saved your life,” Eve said. Julian’s arm slid around her waist.

Dread crept into Sam’s eyes. “What happened?” Sam sat up. He stared at TC’s lifeless body.

Eve pressed her face into Julian’s chest.

“TC shot you, and then tried to shoot me,” Julian explained. “Eve picked up the gun you’d dropped.” He turned and retrieved the gun. “Don’t blame Eve. She didn’t have any choice. TC could not be reasoned with.”

Sam wobbled to his feet. Eve and Julian clung to each other as they stood. Looking down on TC, Sam took the gun from Julian and wrapped it in a towel lying on the bed. “TC came here half cocked. I just knew that this night would end badly.” A tear rolled down his cheek. “I just wish I could have done something.”

“I am going to call for help on my radio out in TC’s truck.” Sam stared at Julian.

Julian held Eve tightly. “Don’t worry. I don’t know what happened, but I am almost back to normal.”

Sam nodded. Closing the door, they left the room. Stepping through the hole that was once a cabin’s front entrance, Sam headed out into the snow.

Julian pushed Eve back just enough to see her face. “Are you sure you are all right, my love?” Concern masked his face.

Tears streamed down her cheeks. “I am not sure if I will ever be all right again.” Julian held her close once more.

One year later.

Eve shivered as she climbed out of her SUV. Snow flurries fluttered and swirled around her. Her jacket was soon spotted with delicate white flakes. They dissolved quickly, leaving her coat damp. Pushing her hair back beneath her hat, Eve sighed. It might as well be raining.

She brushed against some bushes as she neared his grave. TC. The headstone looked cold and merciless. Warm tears spilled onto her cheeks. Twenty-five years of my life. Gone. She pulled her coat tighter. Oh TC...why did it have to come to this? Why did it have to end so badly? Why couldn’t we be a happy family?

Julian! He was a constant reminder of her failure as a faithful wife.

Eve knelt beside TC’s grave. “I did love you. We had a wonderful life together, didn’t we?” She looked up at the gray sky. A blizzard, Sam had said. “The girls are happy again. They will always miss you though… I wish, for their sakes, that I could turn back the hands of time. That I could give them their father back.” Her voice quivered. But no one will ever know the truth.

Sam had insisted on taking the blame, for the sake of her daughters. Losing their father would be enough of a nightmare. To blame their mother too would be too much.

He'd explained to the court that TC had gone ballistic when he found Julian and Eve at the cabin. He had tried to calm him down. TC shot him. All he could do to protect himself from further harm was to shoot TC.

Her girls were devastated. But they still had their mother, they had said, as they sobbed over the loss of their father.

No one could ever determine why Julian had become the incredible muscle bound giant soon after he was admitted to Harmony Hospital. Eve never pressed charges against “Hulk Julian” for kidnapping her. And Julian, in turn, promised not to sue the hospital for negligence.

“Mom?” Whitney and Simone approached her, tears brimming in their eyes. They hugged her. “It’s going to be all right, Mom. It wasn’t your fault.” Guilt pierced her soul. It will never be all right.

A few moments later, they headed back to their car. Eve turned and looked back. Goodbye.

Julian sold the Crane cabin. He didn’t relish the idea of being anywhere near the place of TC’s demise. No, it was better to get something new. Someplace else.

He leaned back in his leather chair and looked out his office window. The wet snow was accumulating fast. Driving will soon be unwise.

Julian flexed his muscles. They were larger than they’d ever been. Side effects of ‘Hulk,’ the doctor had said. Permanent ones.

The streets were quickly becoming deserted. His heart leaped when he spotted a silver SUV roll toward Crane Industries. Eve!

The car slowly navigated down the street. Damn! Eve wasn’t the same since TC died. She refused to speak to him or even so much as look at him. Guilt. It had to be guilt. I wonder if she will ever be all right again.

Julian sighed. A stiff drink and listening to Eve sing. Time well spent. He shrugged his coat onto his shoulders. Picking up his briefcase and keys, he opened the door. His heart skipped a beat. “Eve.”