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Crumpled Paper

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“Would you kindly remove the sunglasses, Miss Brink?”

I freeze as spikes of ice meander through my veins. My grip tightens on the sheet of paper that I'm in the process of tearing out of m notebook. For a moment, all I can do is stare at the wrinkles that my hands have left on the paper, the rip that strayed away from the perforation and cut a jagged line through the lower half of its white surface. It’s strange to think how easily it gave way to what little strength I put into it and allowed me to make it imperfect; it only took a split second of stress and panic to damage the fragile object in my hand…

“Don’t make me ask twice, Molly.”

I tear my eyes away from the subtle reminder and look up to see, through the heavy tint of the aviator sunglasses, Mr. Roland looking at me from behind his desk. His chin is inclined slightly inward and his eyebrows are raised. He’s waiting. Expecting.

I swallow hard, my skin crawling at the stared of other students that cling to me like spider webs. My heart makes that strange fluttering motion that I realize that yours are among the eyes on me. You normally wouldn’t give me a second glance if that amazing intuition of yours wasn’t sending off red flags in your head; I can tell by that doubtful little slant to your eyebrows. I know this just as you know that I would jump to obey Mr. Roland, or any other teacher, because of my weird fear of disobeying authority—the ‘natural kiss-*ss impulse’, as you used to tease me. These are just things that any two people like us would know about each other, little insignificant things that people naturally pick up on after being together for so as long as we had. But I've come to realize that those little, unimportant facts that really meant the world to me only become painful little reminders of those two years.

If only that were the only ache I felt now.

“Can’t I just keep them on?” I ask, my voice inadvertently jumping to a panicked tone.

“They’re called sunglasses, Miss Brink,” the English teacher says before sarcastically looking around the room, “I don’t see the sun anywhere in here.”

I feel the worry spike in my mind. “I’m sorry Mr. Roland, but I have this horrible migraine today.” I wince as I realize my voice is just a notch too high, too begging. Will they notice? More importantly, will you notice?

“Is Molly hung over? Someone whispers from my right, eager for rumors to spread and gossip to share.

“I don’t make the rules. Normally I wouldn’t care, but I'm getting evaluated soon and I'm already in hot water with the district.” He replies with a look that says ‘you're on your own.’

That’s because so many people complain about your sh*tty teaching, I think bitterly, trying to mask my panic with anger when the reality is that I can't even fool myself.

A fight or flight response triggers in me, and I'm tempted to disobey; it’s not as though this man would harm me merely for going against his wishes.

Of course, that’s what I thought about him.


Suddenly I find my self once again trapped in the events of the night before. I can practically feel my back against the wall and see his enraged eyes staring into mine. My pulse begins to race just as it had last night, when he’d let this new, terrifying side of him show for the very first time. He was so close, his red and angry voice his only sight and his demeaning shouts the only sound in my world. I had no clue that this had awaited me when I decided to stop by his house after work. He must have just been dropped off by his drinking buddies, because by the time I arrived he was good and drunk. His angry accusations were flung at me the second I closed the door behind me. His parents were out of town, so I had no choice but to defend myself against his ridiculous accusations.

That’s when he struck.

He left the room in a drunken stupor, turning his back on me as I sobbed on the floor.

I snap back to first hour English, now not with just a few but all eyes turned on me. I grabbed these reflective, ugly aviators from my brother’s room to avoid this very scenario. In seconds, they’ll see. You’ll see. You aren’t one to jump to conclusions, but who says that you’ll have to? How long will it take you, with your uncanny intuition, to put two and two together? I bring my hands to the lens—can you see them shake?—and pray one last time that its not still the throbbing, black and blue mess that greeted me this morning. I wished adamantly that I hadn’t thrown all my makeup out in some self-empowering attempt t convince myself that I was actually worth something—which now only proved that I'm not.

But it’s too late for regrets; I know this awful truth as the glasses fall from my face and the sharp intakes of breath fall on my ears. It’s too late to drop my gaze, but I do anyway. I stare at the cream-colored, speckled linoleum and try to convince myself that they won’t think about what they can no longer see. I pretend that they all have short-term memory loss, but that just reminds me of that funny little fish in the movie that we watched together when we were little and didn’t have a clue what love was.

“That’s one heck of a shiner you’ve got there, Molly,” Mr. Roland notes, concerned.

“Yeah, I fell.” I force myself to laugh as though it was just a stupid, klutzy accident. “Hit it just right.”

“On what?”

The voice doesn’t come from Mr. Roland. The familiarity of them sound makes me ache, yet I've been so deprived of it that it almost sounds as though I'm listening to a stranger. Besides, I've only heard you speak like this in the fight that ended us. You speak in such a controlled voice, you teeth locked together as though to create a barrier between my ears and whatever it is that you think you shouldn’t say.

For the first time since I'd banned myself from looking at you—which was immediately after the breakup, a painfully long time without seeing your eyes—I turn to you and meet my dull grey eyes with your striking green ones. Every muscle in your body, it seems, is tensed as though you’ll lose control unless you maintain a firm grip. Your expression is impossible to read, but I know by the fire in your eyes that you're upset. You might not know exactly what’s wrong, but you know me well enough to know when I'm lying. You know that my wound wasn’t inflicted by accident, and it’s only a matter of time before you realize the whole truth.

Noticing all of these things in you, picking up on all your familiar emotions as I always used to, I wonder what you see reflecting in my own eyes. Shame? Fear? Pain? I feel all of those ramming relentlessly inside of me, desperate to unleash itself and reveal my weakness.

I have a feeling you’ve already seen.

I refuse to trust my voice, so I just shrug. Not a strange reaction for an ex-girlfriend, but if I was being absolutely honest with myself for once, I'd admit the longing I feel right now; I'd accept the fact that, if I could tell anyone this awful truth, it would be you. This thought, however, is too much. I lose my grip on my tears and let them flood my eyes. I drop my gaze once more to the paper, to the tear that spills onto the fold. When class ends, I’ll have to throw this piece into the trash; it’s of no use to anyone anymore. It’s damaged.

Everyone else slowly loses interest, the tears unseen by their invasive eyes. But even after I slide the glasses back onto my face, I still feel one pair of eyes on me and I know that I didn’t lie well enough. The only person that I truly needed to fool has seen the truth plainly scrawled on my face.

You know everything.



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