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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Like magic

 Note: It's been a while but this follows on after the post, Underneath my skin from that series of short stories I was writing before.

I am running. Running. Running. I am running out of breath. Running with no place to go. Simply running, out of desperation and out of fear. My thighs ache. My heart clenches with each gasp of air I force down my lungs. I cannot stop. There is no option of resting. He is right behind me. I can feel him on the edge of my hair. I can smell his alcohol stench creeping closer to my pores. Suddenly, I fall. I try to stand up but I cannot feel my legs. I look down and realised that I am suddenly without them. And he is on top of me. He is inside me. He is everywhere. I scream. I scream. I scream. No one hears me. I am nowhere.

I open my eyes.

With the room spinning around my head, I rush to the bathroom and hurl my stomach into the toilet. I threw up everything: my breakfast, my lunch, my dinner then when there was nothing left, I spewed my stomach walls. I watch as blood swirls with half-digested food at the bottom of the toilet bowl. Disgusting. Repulsive. Even now, I can still feel his tobacco breath on my skin. Itching as though fleas are biting me, I crawl slowly into the bathtub. I close my eyes but do not dare sleep. I’m too tired to return there. Hell.

I walk into the lounge room after ensuring that I was thoroughly clean by rubbing until thin layers of skin peeled off. With one hand holding my towel to my body, my other searches through yesterday’s mail. Most of the letters were either for Sally, my room-mate or scams for poor misguided fools. Finally, my eyes are caught by a flamboyantly decorated envelope. I flick a glance towards the calendar and let out a small smile. Was it that time of the year again? I rip out the letter and merely examine the first sentence for confirmation: Darling, you are invited to Chris’ 25th birthday!  I knew it. 

From experience, I have about two weeks until the birthday party; plenty of time for gift hunting. I tap my fingernails on the dining table as I stare out the window while thinking with an absent mind. I listen to the predetermined ticking of the clock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. In the near distance, Sally is quietly snoring. I hate early mornings almost as I hate the night. I hate waking up before dawn, where the morning is a carbon copy of the night. In my mind, there is no difference. It’s dangerous either way.

I pull out my mobile and dial Neal’s number with practised ease. It takes a while and I listen to the mechanical ringing. He finally picks up and groggily tells me that if calling people so early in the morning was an act of crime, I would have been put into jail many times over. I laugh and ask him whether or not I could come over to his place then later go shopping together for Chris’ birthday gift. Begrudging, he replies, ‘Go ahead, I’m awake now anyway.’ I slip into my flower-print dress and grab the keys before escaping out the door. Without breakfast.

Neal opens the door with his eyes half-open, welcoming me. I hesitate before passing by him with a quick peck on his left cheek. He clenches onto my wrist and growls into my ear, ‘You should know by now what happens if you come over my place with eyes that scream hold me. I am only a man after all.’ I know. I know him very well and I came here expecting as much. It doesn’t matter if it’s only for a moment. I want to be held by him. I want to feel safe. I let him cling to me as we kiss, even though in the corner of my eyes, is a photo of her.

I watch him button up his shirt as I stir the scrambled eggs in the pan. I add a pinch of salt and pepper for flavour and scoop it onto his plate. He eyes me warily, ‘Where’s your serving? Have you already eaten?’ I shuffle my feet nervously, there is no point in lying to him, ‘I don’t have much of an appetite.’ Neal lets out a sigh and eats, ‘Ever since you came back from New York, I haven’t seen you eat. You do eat right?’ I give him a slight nod. I could never tell him what happened during my trip. He would book the first flight out of Australia and slaughter every man on the street of New York.

‘Did something happen while you were there?’

I drop the glass of orange juice I was holding and watch in shock as it broke into shrapnel oblivion. I quickly try to clean up my sudden mistake but Neal was on the ground in an instant. He gathers me into his arm and plops me onto the couch, pointing his finger at me he barks, ‘Stay! I’ll clean it up.’ I watch in a nervous shiver as he sweeps all the broken glass and dumps them into the bin. 

He returns to me and sits down beside me, ‘You’re hiding something from me.’ I look away, not daring enough to answer, fearing that once I open my mouth, everything will spill out. He touches my shoulder and I flinch. Not good. I’m starting to feel ill. A sickening feeling builds up at the bottom of my stomach and I know what’s going to happen. Before Neal could utter another word, I run into his bathroom and lock myself up. He shouts from the outside, ‘Emma, what’s wrong?’ I don’t answer. Rather, I couldn’t answer.

All I could do was vomit bile and blood into the toilet. 

I don’t know how long I spent inside the bathroom, but eventually I stumbled out and sleeping next to the door was Neal. At least, I thought he was asleep. He turns his head at me, ‘Tell me what’s wrong. I can’t help you if you don’t tell me.’ I walk into the kitchen and poured another glass of orange juice, ‘I don’t have to tell you everything that happens to me.’ I know that he cares but he is the last person I want to know about the incident. He stalks up to me and places the glass down and pulls my wrist until our faces are inches apart, ‘I have a right to know.’ I push him away and this time I glare at him, ‘Like hell you do. You are not my boyfriend; you are nothing but a fuck buddy!’ Immediately, I regret my words, I touch his arm, ‘Neal…I’m sorry.’ He storms into his room and I follow him, I watch helplessly as he seizes his keys and walks out, ‘It’s best that we buy Chris’ presents separately.’ 

I fall to my knees crying. Why does it always end like this?

At the party, I don’t see Neal. After weaving through mashing bodies of sweat, I end up at Chris’ private bar. Scanning through his collection, I pick the bottle of scotch and walk off with it, much to the protest of the bartender. I escape into the balcony and watch the stars. The only time, I can safely enjoy the night is when I’m distanced from it. 

I hear footsteps behind me and turn to see one of Chris’ friends that were introduced earlier. Adrian, I think his name was. He nods at my bottle of scotch; instead of passing it to him I take a long hard swig and glare at him. He chuckles at me, ‘You know, drinking too much isn’t good for your health. Especially, a whole bottle of scotch.’ I give him a side-glance, ‘What are you, my doctor?’ He laughs and combs his moppy hair with his hands, ‘No but I’m a psychologist, so a doctor of some degree.’ I let out a sigh, great he’s a shrink. Probably thinks I need counselling.

Instead of pressing my issue with alcohol, he looks at me carefully, ‘You know, I didn’t see you eat at the dinner.’ I watch him with tired eyes, ‘Please stop. I had an argument with someone earlier today about my appetite.’ He tilts his head as though to peek into my mind, ‘Your lover?’ I shrug my shoulders, ‘Something like that.’ He smiles and pulls out a packet of skittles and offers them to me, ‘I often find that eating some sweets when you have a poor appetite helps relieve your stomach. They’re like magic medicine.’

I grab a small handful and pop them into my mouth.
I grin back at him, ‘Like magic.’ 

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