“I’ll never forget that time,” she said, looking around for something to comfort her. She always did that when she felt numb, and when she couldn’t find it, she continued. “When he pinched my stomach and asked me if I really needed second helpings.”
“Yeah, that wasn’t all that nice.”
There was an awkward silence and we both looked away. The lines in her face were soft, her eyes sparkled a hazel-grey, and I started to feel sorry for her, then I stopped. I couldn’t feel sorry for her.
“But he left a flower outside your bedroom door, remember?” I said, finally breaking the silence.
“Yeah, but only because he felt like a jerk.”
“You didn’t let it bother you though.” It’s the only thing I could say. I had to try to make her feel better.
“Not on the outside, no, but on the inside, inside it was like ...”
She stopped, but I understood. I knew exactly what she wanted to say. How she wanted to tell him that he struck a chisel to her heart that day, that he left a crack right down its middle.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I know how much that hurt you.”
Through the silence came the echo of a door slamming. The vibrations traveled through the walls and the reflection quivered. We both looked away. I knew she felt like crying. We listened.
“They’re fighting.” She turned back to me when she said it, looked in my eyes, into something deep beyond me, something I couldn’t see, but I could feel. “It happens a lot, for as long as I can remember.”
“Sometimes.” Why was I defending them?
“All the time, and it’s so hard to listen.” She was on the verge of tears. “It’s like they never loved each other.”
“I know.” What else could I say?
“He blames me, you know?”
“I know he does.” I wanted to cry and she did too.
“He says I’m the reason they fight.”
“It’s not your fault.”
“I know.” What else could she say?
“What am I doing wrong?” Tears were shining in her eyes, but she forced a weak smile.
“It’s not you.” As soon as I said it, I meant it.
“I try so hard though, you know?” she said. “Too hard.” She started to cry and I tried to get her to stop. We couldn’t even look at each other, a black stream of mascara cascaded down her cheeks then out of view. There was just too much pain. He did blame her, but she’d never understand why. We looked at each other. “He tells me I take criticism too hard.” She believed him when he said that.
“Maybe you do?”
“Maybe.” She couldn’t speak. She was choking back tears. I walked away. She mocked me. Why was she letting him have this effect on her? Why was she giving in?
“I’m not giving in!” she screamed now, to feel strong. We didn’t speak again for what seemed like hours. I stared out the window. She was still crying. I put my hand to my face, she put her hand to hers. I looked into her eyes, and she stared right back.
“You’re pathetic.” I hated her, because of him.
“I know.” She made me feel bad. I picked up the watch he had given me for my fifteenth birthday. He thought a nice watch would patch things up. It didn’t. I threw it at the mirror. It shattered, and she was gone.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.