lingered in my mind long after I woke. Their sound surrounded me
me and contracted against my lungs - my own self-torture. My eyes
stayed shut, keeping me in darkness, allowing images from that
night to embed themselves into my eyelids.
couldn't it have been me? Why didn't I protect him
He's still in
there. He's still in there. He's still. . .
I turned my head
towards the sound. A figure was in the doorway, blurred by the
bright light peeking in through the window. Even so, I knew the
frown and contempt that would be found on her face were I able to
ready. Ten minutes." She didn't bother with warmth or even with
waiting for a reply.
"Yes, mother," I
muttered to the empty doorway.
My family had
gotten used to my detachment and had eventually given up on me.
Now, they hardly ever even tried with conversation. They knew I
was beyond caring.
I glanced at the
alarm clock on my night stand, green numbers glowing blearily
back at me. Of course, everything seemed exceptionally dull to me
I noticed the
crinkled, folded note next to the clock. It appeared weathered
and worn from the months and hours I'd spent unfolding it over
I reached towards
the paper and clumsily gripped it between two fingers, pulling it
I propped up
against my pillows and slowly unfolded the note, same as I did
twenty times yesterday and the day before that and all the rest
of those long, miserable days before that. The words were already
blurry from unshed tears.
I focused and
wiped at my eyes so I could read.
Meet me @ the
harbor tomorrow night. I have something amazing planned for our
anniversary. I love you so much. Live for me
"Oh Nick, Nick.
I'm so sorry!" I fingered the words helplessly as tears landed on
seriously. You'll be late if you. . ." My mom stuck her head in
my doorway and looked at me. Frowning sadly, she tilted her head
and nodded in understanding. "I know, sweety."
were slow and deliberate as she entered. Readying herself for my
harsh words, I knew. I'd been pretty insensitive the past year.
And honestly, I was too tired to be bothered by the invasion
I stared at the
note, refusing to make eye contact. When the mattress moved and
sank down, I knew she sat beside me.
reassuringly ran her fingers up and down my spine. She hadn't
done it since I was young so I was in shock.
"I'm not a child
anymore," I mumbled, but secretly I felt relieved to have her
there with me for once.
We sat in silence
for all of a minute before she decided to ruin it with
"I was gonna tell
you when you got home..." her voice broke off, unable to
"Tell me what?"
I glanced up to
look at her discreetly before staring down again. Her mouth was
set in a thin line and she seemed wary.
"Just tell me. I
can handle it." I sighed.
"Well. . .," she
cleared her throat, "sweetheart, it's . . . it's been a year. I
think it's time you got your life back together. Your friends
miss you. They miss you . . . and we do too." She paused every
now and then to gauge my reaction.
I carefully kept
my expression blank. "What do you mean?"
"I . . . We, your
father and I that is, think it might, uh, be best if you started
spending some time with your friends again. You know, like Kayla
"I guess we can
catch a movie," I lied weakly, " At Kayla's. Like we used to." I
gave a half-hearted nod and looked away.
Kayla had moved
to wherever about five months ago without so much as a whisper
good bye. And Lauryn. . . Lauryn was celebrating her victory as
head cheerleader at the popular table. I would no longer fit into
her world. I mean, it hurt to be abandoned, but I guess I
abandoned them first.
Since I had no
one else to turn to - no one to spend my days with - I decided at
that moment it was time to make a trip to the library. A few
hours there each day would allow an escape from my mother's
torrent of questions. Perhaps a few weeks around books would be
enough to get my mind off things.
"And Ashley," mom
kept her sad eyes locked on the window. This was her away of
avoiding my gaze. "I think. . . it's time you got a
I spluttered and
stared at her in astonishment. "Please tell me you're joking. You
are joking, right?"
"I'm not." Her
gaze was sharp and clear of all humor.
"I guess," I
sighed wearily and eyed her for any crack of a smile, "I guess I
can just apply at a nearby fast food, or a deli. Can't be so bad.
It'll be temporary until I can find somewhere. . ." I choked up
and looked away.
Until I can find
a place that won't remind me of Nick. I thought this, but refused
to admit it to my mother.
"No, Ashley." She
sounded adamant. "I called Sophia. You know, from that little
boutique you were working at before. She said. . .
I was shaking my
head quickly. "No. I am not going back there! I can't believe
you'd even suggest . . ."
"You used to love
it there." Her eyes were downcast. "I don't understand. It's the.
. . best thing for you."
"No, mom. The
best thing for me. . ." I took a deep shuddering breath. "The
best thing for me would be holing myself up in my room. Maybe
boarding the windows. But. . . I'll work at Danny's Deli if I
have to. I am not - I refuse - to go back to
My mother's hands
tightly clutched the blanket next to her. She grew quiet and
seemed to tremble. There was a sound of moving cloth from beside
me and I felt my skin prickle. She was looking at me
whispered and touched the back of my hand with a brush of her
fingers, "the accident was a year ago. You have to get over
I stood and
glared at her, keeping the tears locked inside me, refusing to
let her see the pain I felt at those words.
"You are wrong."
I shook my head angrily, hair falling into my face. I didn't
bother pushing it back into place. "I'll never . . . never get
over him. You're wrong." My hands clenched into
She reached out
as if to touch me, but I didn't let her. I spun away and stomped
into the hall, not caring that I was still in holey sweats and a
tank top. The door, I was sure, could be heard throughout the
house as it was slammed shut.
I trembled there.
Stay, I urged the tears, I promise I'll let you free tonight.
The tiled floor
felt cool under my feet and I focused on that until I was sure I
had my grief under control.
made my way to the sink and gripped the cold white porcelain in
shaky hands. It took a moment of convincing before I finally let
my gaze rest on the mirror.
A pale, sickly
girl stared back. Her eyes were bright from unshed tears and her
hair was piled on top of her head in an unkempt manner. But it
was the scars that glared at me. The little white marks marred
her neck. A couple were scattered here and there on her face, but
those weren't as noticable.
I reached up and
ran my fingers across the raised scars.
"What color scarf
will it be today?" I asked my reflection with a
She smiled back,
unhumored. Her eyes were as sad and distant as I felt. Her smile
quickly disappeared under my scrutiny.
I thought of how
my mother looked when I left her sitting on my bed.
"She is wrong," I
said softly, biting my lip to suppress my tears. I could never go
back to that boutique. I would never go back to the place I had
The girl nodded
back agreeably, biting her lip in the same manner. Even so, a
small tear managed to find it's way down her cheek.