“Soph?” Chris called up the stairs. The light in his daughter’s bedroom was on and the door was open, letting her music seep out. “Sophia?” he yelled again.
The two middle kids went running past him, chasing each other. Or fighting. Either way, they were occupied.
She poked out of her room, holding a piece of chocolate in her right hand, looking down at him expectantly.
“Ethan’s outside.” he told her. And, the curious thing about it was, instead of her face brightening and a smile appearing, he could’ve sworn he saw her grimace. Perhaps they had been fighting, or maybe something else that Chris couldn’t guess had happened between them. Either way, he watched Sophia, dressed in her pajamas, fly outside.
“I was a huge prick.” Ethan breathed when Sophia was standing in front of him. She blinked at couple of times, hearing the crickets squeaking in the darkness, feeling the cool summer breeze break through her tank top. “I’m sorry. I can’t even…express to you how sorry I am.” He whispered.
Sophia stood, riveted, having never seen him like this before. His head was bent, face downcast and eyes depleted. He was holding a dozen long stemmed roses, tied in the middle with a red ribbon.
He always brought her flowers after these sort of episodes.
She swallowed hard, folding her arms over her chest.
“Please, I…” he shook his head before bringing his eyes up to meet hers. “I can’t live without you in my life, Sophia.” Ethan murmured.
He had gotten her a ring. A beautiful sapphire ring that she wore on her right hand, making it clear to everyone, even herself, that it was not an engagement ring. But everyone still noticed and swooned over it, even her fathers. This was, by far, the farthest he’s ever gone to win her over which made it very obvious to her that he indeed loved her.
But even with him back in her life again, she still felt so out of it. Maybe it had to do with the fact that Jace wasn’t talking to her anymore, probably because he too saw the ring Ethan gave her. Or maybe it was because her dads had continued to fight. Quite loudly, if she was honest with herself.
She was thinking about all of this during her Thursday night jazz dance class with Mr. Endicott.
“Very good, Sophia.” He called to her. She had pushed her legs into a split, letting go of the ground and testing her muscles to hold her weight. Normally, she took pride in being the most flexible girl in all of her dance classes, but tonight, she was pushing herself further than she would’ve naturally.
If anyone were to ask her why, she wouldn’t know the answer.
He walked by her in his tight black yoga pants and grey undershirt, showing off his hard muscled arms and toned legs, holding a couple of books in his hand. “Get up for a second.” And she did, her legs feeling like jelly for a few moments. Without knowing what he was doing, Sophia and the other girls in the class watched as he tossed a book on the floor. “Okay. Put your right foot on that one.” He threw the other one behind it. “And your left foot on that one.”
She stared at him, puzzled. “You mean in a split?”
He nodded. “I have to keep challenging you.”
“But I can’t do that.” She almost laughed.
“Hey,” he scoffed. “Be careful, or else I’ll bring Harry Potter in here.” He threatened. “And not one of the first ones, either.”
At her dropped jaw, he winked and motioned for her to split. And after a couple of seconds of her muscles stretching painfully, she managed to hold herself up on those two books, over-splitting. All of the girls broke out in a round of applause, just as Sophia leaned to the side, falling out of it and exhaling all of her pain. Mr. Endicott helped her up and turned to face the other girls.
“That’s all for tonight, ladies. I’ll see you next week.” He bowed to them as they curtseyed in reply, grabbing their bags and chatting their way to the door.
“Hey, Soph.” She turned around to find Haley standing with a couple of the other girls. “We’re gonna go grab some pizza. Do you want to come?”
She glanced at the clock. It was eight now. “Um,” she sighed, unlacing her jazz shoes. “Sure, just give me a minute to get my stuff.”
“No problem. We’ll be out front.”
Pretty soon, she was the only one left in the studio, packing away her shoes and pulling her tights up so they were around her calves.
“You did really well today, Sophia.” Mr. Endicott said, putting a CD back into the case and unplugging his iPod. “Then again, that’s not really a surprise.” He laughed. Sophia slid on her flip-flops and took out her bun so her brown hair hung in a wavy ponytail down her back. Mr. Endicott, Eric as he preferred to be called, had trained her since she first started dancing when she was three. He was about as gay as gay could get, but was such an amazing dancer that it almost didn’t matter.
“Thanks,” she murmured, flushing. Eric was the older brother Sophia always wished she could’ve had, but never did. He was more than just her dance teacher because he offered her advice, not with just how to break in her pointe shoes better or how to pirouette faster but with boys and school.
“Keep working with those books. I might have bigger ones next week.”
She rolled her eyes. “As long as they’re not Harry Potter or the Dictionary.”
Eric smiled at her, slinging his back over his shoulder. “You’ll be splitting that in a couple of weeks, easy.” He promised.
“Maybe a couple of months.”
And he laughed at her, shaking his head and motioning for her to walk in front of him so he could turn off the lights. “We’ll see. Hurry up, the girls are waiting for you.”
She was feeling great after her dance class, her conversation with Eric and going out with her friends for a couple of slices of pizza. At least, she was up until Haley dropped her off and she was welcomed home by her dads fighting. They were so busy shouting over each other that they hadn’t even realized that she had come home at all, or that she was an hour late.
In fact, they were yelling so loudly, she wondered if they even knew what the other was saying at all.
Either way, while they were shouting over God-knows-what, she dropped her back by the front door and headed upstairs to her room. Through the vents in her floor, she could still hear them. Then again, if they had soundproof walls, she could still probably hear them.
Hate burned inside her belly. The way they were anymore, it was impossible. She hated it. And she was so sure it was ruining the other kids as well.
“You have no idea, Seth!”
“Don’t fucking tell me what I do and don’t know!”
Sophia looked over herself in the mirror from all angles. After all that pizza, she felt so full and bloated. And with her parents screaming downstairs, she was starting to feel nauseous. In fact, what had happened next, she hadn’t even predicted.
With tears forming in her eyes, she dropped to her knees in front of the toilet and shoved her fingers as far back down her throat as they would go. She heaved. Once, twice. Then, she vomited three times in a row. Gasping and hands shaking, she inhaled deeply, feeling the tears come free. Strands of hair clung to her cheeks, but she rammed her fingers back again and threw up until she was sure she was as empty physically as she felt emotionally.
She couldn’t control what was happening downstairs. She couldn’t control what Ethan did to her. She couldn’t control Jace not wanting to speak to her. Really, she couldn’t control much of anything in her life.
But she could control this.
Sophia’s quivering hand pushed down to flush the toilet and she rose to wash her hands and brush her teeth. Afterward, her jaw ached and her throat burned. But, even still, she felt pretty good considering. For a few moments, she just sat on her bed and stared at the mirror over her dresser. The screaming downstairs had stopped suddenly.
And conveniently, so had the screaming inside of her.