Tucked tightly beneath her chin, her favorite blanket created a cocoon around her as she lie quietly on the couch, everyone else going about their business around her. Sitting on the floor in front of the tv, her younger half-sisters bickered over who should have control of the remote. Her mom worked in the kitchen, cleaning up from a dinner she hadn’t been able to eat.
More than anything, she wished she was invisible right now, and yet, she couldn’t make herself be alone with her thoughts.
No matter how hard she tried to divert her attention from the hurt, she could not. It bubbled beneath her skin. It was sludge, heavy through her veins and a pulsing pressure behind her eyes, threatening release. It sat like a boulder on her chest, making it impossible to breathe deeply. She was afraid if she tried, she might burst.
She didn’t know what to do. How to feel. How to move. Her feelings were so huge and twisted, it seemed as if she’d never escape them. She had no idea how to go about a day without the weight of it pulling every thought to the pit of her stomach. Into the darkness.
I wish I didn’t feel anything at all.
It was hurt, there was no doubt. She’d hurt him, and she felt terrible. Worse than terrible. It was revolting. But it was even bigger than the immediate hurt, it was much deeper than that.
She’d done something really stupid, sleeping with that other guy, and the guilt had forced her to tell Doug the truth. Well, mostly. The ugliness and shame had kept her from telling him the whole story. And the fear.
She tried really hard not to think about the whole story, because when she did, the loathing was so intense she could taste it’s metallic tang and smell it’s charred blackness. The fear would burn and churn in her stomach until she could feel the sting of bile in the back of her throat. The worst part was, it wasn’t even the first time. She’d done it before and let the guilt liquefy her insides, all this time.
I’m just like her.
It was her biggest fear. She could not let herself be just like her.
Her mom had been married five times already, and the sixth would no doubt be soon. They’d moved in and out, and in and out. All of them were men who were not worthy of her mother’s love, none who treated her mother with respect. Men who took. Who hurt. And it seemed as if her mother searched for carbon copies, over and over, leaving the good ones in her wake. She cheated on every one, and always seemed to be looking for a plan B. And it often felt like she and her sisters were just along for the ride, and the ride had no breaks.
How on earth will I ever be able to outrun that? Look what I’ve already done, and I’m only 17.
It took her by complete surprise when her mom knelt down next to the couch and stroked her hair. It was uncharacteristic; she was not cold, but she was also not a huggy-touchy type. Vulnerability wasn’t in her wheelhouse.
“Are you going to be okay,” her mom asked, making eye contact.
“I don’t want to end up like you,” she replied, through quivering lips and involuntary tears, but maintaining eye contact, the hurt vibrating softly with each word. She couldn’t believe she’d said it aloud, but it had been sitting right there, on the tip of her tongue, for so very long. And maybe, just maybe, her mom might understand. Maybe she could help. Maybe it would help.
But, no other words passed between them. No words were needed. Her mom’s eyes had replied.
Hiding tears of her own, her mom stood and walked away.
-image credit studiojoslizen, found via google images