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Her Hands

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Her hands are cold, moist; so slick that they cannot zip up the two sides of her black jacket. The zipper jams, revealing her paint-stained white tank top. Her fingers finally give up and clutch her stomach, but they slip as she tries to hold herself together. She grasps her hands. They move between each other, sliding back and forth, back and forth, unable to stay still. She wipes them on her black jeans and clenches her stomach again. Within seconds they fall down and hang defeated.

Her black shoes slide on the smooth linoleum floors. She nearly falls and reaches out to the apathetic wall. Her wet fingers slip on the metal lockers, but a few grip the locks and keep her body upright. She stays there for a couple of seconds, heaving in and out. Looking down, she sees the floor laughing at her. It scrutinizes her with a humorous indifference, judging her mistakes. Swallowing, her left foot takes the first step toward the path that leads to the stairs and out of the building. Her knees wobble; her head dizzy. She is afraid to move faster but even more fearful of staying where she is.

The halogen lights sit overhead, interrogating her with condescending silence. They observe each dizzying step and examine every painful hesitation of her body. They bear down on her like a weight; a spotlight; a constant reminder.

She turns the corner and instantly wishes she had gone the long way. She dips her head down, receding to the blanket of her black hair, instinctively clutching her stomach again. She sees him first. He is with a friend, his back to her, but he can sense her and stares at her, meeting her blue eyes through her hair. His gray eyes are confused, anxious, and then they slowly put the pieces together. He knows now where she was last week, and why this is the first time he has seen her. And he is relieved—more than that—understanding. He understands.

Vile threatens to come out of her mouth. She feels sick; nausea overwhelming her empty stomach. She has to walk faster. His feet tap on the linoleum floor behind her, catching up to hers. She tries to run, but her feet stumble, and her knees give. Her arms grope the walls for support, but they stand aloof. They regard her fall with disinterest, noting superficially as his hands reach out to catch her.

He calls her name again and again, a mantra she had grown to love. “Look at me,” he coaxes. He is still holding her, touching her, making her sicker. “Look at me,” he orders more forcefully.

She averts her eyes. “Let me go,” she whispers. “Please, just let me go.” Bile approaches her mouth, and she achingly forces it down.

“I can’t.”

“You have to. If you love me, let me go.” Her voice is a whisper. The fight is gone. He hears that and slowly releases her.

“Why now?” he asks; his warm hand still stroking hers. He moves up to her wrist, feeling her past, her present. She pulls away; the heat lingers in her palm.

“It’s too late. I don’t have a choice.”

“There’s always a choice,” he refutes.

She shakes her head and turns away, shuffling down the hall. She falters, looking back one last time at his sad gray eyes. He must know now. She blunders down the stairs and out the door. Her head bends down as her blue eyes turn red. The cold sun shines above, but it does not share its warmth with her today.

In the fresh air, she moves faster, still feeling his eyes watch her from the window above. He is too far away now. He knows he cannot stop her. She has space to breathe for the first time and takes huge gulping breaths. The pressure is gone. Rejuvenated, she walks into the busy street, the heat finally leaving from her hands.

“There’s always a choice,” she echoes, her voice a feeble whisper. “This is mine.”



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