Her voice is lower than I have ever heard it before but it still rings in my head and the fear in her voice is throbbing against my skin.
The both of us are sitting in the yellow lit bathroom with striking shadows under the mirror and against the walls. The floor is made of light grey marble slabs, arranged in absolute symmetry with not a crack in place nor a different shade. Monotonous and dull, is that not what we all run from and crave at the same time, the kind in which differences are dragged through the mud and shook until they have left. The remnants of water gloss over the shower wall and along the floor into the palms of our feet. Damp and fresh they tickle against my skin, the water can only stroke against my feet, the rest of me remains untouchable.
There is an old toothbrush holder sitting on the edge of the sink. It’s an odd colour of red, rustic and scratched and yet absolutely artificial, the kind that pinches the eyes. It’s going to fall right into the sink. It’s wobbling and bobbing lightly but I can’t get up to fix it, I can hardly get myself to breathe not when she is sitting utterly vulnerable and lost on my shoulders. So, I hope that the holder will decide to sit still and not break through this moment that has already become far too fragile.
Her face is pressed into the curve of my neck. I can feel the tears in her eyes seep through my shirt and trickle down my shoulder. Her breadth hitches and her chest rise and falls directly next to mine. My hand moves with its own volition behind her, and pulls. Pulls her flush next to me, till I can feel her shudders tremble against my skin and make every hair in my body stand up.
“It’s not fair. I do love you, but I can’t do it, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry” she whispers, it’s been three months since but her rejection still stings
“Do you love me?”
“Yes, but you know that”
“Yeah…. Yeah I do”
“I can’t lose everything, not now. I’m sorry. I hurt you” She breathes sharply and continues “I hurt everyone but you’re the only one who stays .... And I end up hurting you the most” She says, with open eyes and a croaked voice and regret dripping through. The need to comfort her mingled with the need to make her burn, the anger and the betrayal burns through me.
“I know. I love you, and I don’t know how to stop anyway”, it’s true, with her it’s become my only truth anyway. There is a laugh bubbling on my lips but I push it down for her benefit, like I ending up doing with most things these days.
“I have to go tomorrow, mummy is going to be waiting”. So, this is what, this has been about. Leaving me alone for tomorrow when she knows that this is the first thing I have asked of her in the months since. There is a delicate silence between us as I try to process the words. I should have expected this, of course I should have known.
“I know that how unfair it is, please I’m so sorry, I’m so so very sorry” She speaks into the unbearable, uncomfortable silence.
“Oh” I manage to stammer, my old insecurities and fears dancing along the ceiling, along black stone tiles. It would be easy to spill, so easy to tell her everything. Make her understand how much it hurts and yet my throat is clogged, my fists have closed and I stammer. It’s an old fear of losing people, the one I have harboured and grown, am I really allowed to just let go.
But she’s here now and so I close my eyes and steel my stuttering and fluttering self-consciousness and choke out “What do you want to me to say?” as I entangle myself from her, slowly getting up and grip on to the side of the sink.
I turn to face her. Her eyes are damp and the mascara has begun to smudge on the corner of her eyes. She is beautiful. Black hair tied together in a light bun with hair escaping the rubber band and sticking up, absolute black eyes, all sharp cheekbones and chapped lips. She has got a lose flowy t-shirt on, it’s slipping off her shoulders. It’s the one we got together from the college fest and with that she has comfortable black shorts on. Her hands are twitching and yet the rest of her is stood absolutely still. She is almost an inch taller than me and so I have to tilt my head to look up. I have missed her so much
“You are going to listen to me, now are you?” I bark, its soft but it’s the first punch in this fight now that I have gone on the defence. But it hurts, it hurts so much
“You pretend like I don’t exist outside of this little bubble. You are always distant. I know we can’t be out, I get that, even I can’t be. But you’re never here and you pretend like you are the only one who deserves to be taken into consideration.” I tell her softly.
“I don’t, I don’t want to, I……………. Aria please” she wheezes.
“You left, you left without even seeing what it would do to me. You left” I am screaming now and all I want to do is close the door on her. Pretend that her betrayal doesn’t still keep me up at night.
“Nobody can know that we are together, I just thought it would easier, please” and she is trying to grasp my hands like I am going to run away on her. How does she not get that I have never walked away, not once! It’s always her.
Still, I take my broken pieces, cradle them is arms and put together my anger and betrayal and try to breathe through all of it. I really want to walk away from her. Staying with her its absolution of the worst kind. She is all perfection, perfect body, perfect family, perfect career, perfect friends. She is the kind of polished that you see in the old crockery shop in Forum Mall. The one with floral pattern and ridiculously expensive Knick knacks. I feel like her imperfection, the fatal flaw that she really has no idea how to keep around and yet keeps pulling back to. I feel like the black dot in her life. She throws me around in ways I don’t understand. I am not emotional, I know how to push things down yet every time she treats like I am the circus in her life that she can’t get rid of, it hurts. It doesn’t make sense for me to stay. It would be so much easier to walk away. I could actually work on me and stop being this crutch to her. How do I always end up becoming the crutch? But as much as it hurts she is the one part of me that I know has the capacity to be more than good. It always feels like foolish hope.
She is hyperventilating, her hands her shaking and I can feel the sob rise of her before it can actually go through. She is choking, graveling to suck in air, and her eyes have become glossy. I can see the fear in her eyes, that she has finally pushed too much, taken too much and I am going to walk away. I push away everything.
“Breathe, hey darling just breathe for me” I gently take her hands in mine, put her head on my shoulder. It’s more awkward than I expect it to be. I rub her back in a way that I know she will understand is to I’m here, I’m here, you messed up but I’m here anyway. We stand like that for a while. I trace the letters along her spine because the air is too thick for them to fall on her, and I know it will startle her, I love you, my fingers brand against her.
We sit there in silence for a while longer, until the damp on our skin becomes itchy and clothes feel unusually tight in all the wrong places. She takes my hand and I slip into my nightdress and move under the covers with her. We are a tangled mess of limbs. I take her wrist and graze my thumb there until I can feel her blood pulse against my skin. She’s here as well and maybe that won’t be enough in the morning but it is for now.