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Behind Closed Eyes
My foot twitched anxiously over the gas pedal. I was already so late, and I’ve sent countless text messages with no response. I had to take an alternate route to his house due to a sudden down pour that flooded some of the roads. As I sat there my mind wandered to the conversation I had with my mom just moments ago.
“Be careful Skyler.” she said as if she knew something bad was going to happen. As always I had rolled my eyes at her. Now thinking back, it sent shivers down my spine. Our conversation seemed ominous with lightning flashing everywhere. It was like everything around me was telling me something was happening. Was something wrong with Jared? Could there be a deeper reason to his lack of a response to my text messages? As soon as the light turned green I let my foot slam the gas pedal to the floor. My tires squealed, and in the back of my mind it sounded to me like crying. Like even my car was sad for something that was to happen, or something that was too late to stop.
I tried not to think about it anymore and just concentrated on getting to Jared. So I could ease my uncultivated thoughts. It’s not abnormal for him to ignore my text messages. I could just be blowing things out of proportion. It’s not like I didn’t do that with Matt.
Why, after all this time, do I still think of him? I still see his deep green eyes staring back at me. I can still feel my fingers gliding through his dark hair. There are times I use to think Matt knew me better than I knew myself. I can’t break free from him even though it’s wrong. I have Jared now, and still memories of Matt assault my conscious mind. The only time I can break away from these ruthless memories is when I’m with Jared.
My thoughts race back to Jared, and I can feel myself starting to panic again. As I pull into his driveway I breathe in a slow and steady sigh. He was alright. Of course he was alright. I felt a smile slink across my face as I turned the car off. I sat there for a few minutes, taking him in. He was fine, and I was fine. My dread and anxiety turned into pure excitement as I pictured myself being taken into his arms. I quickly got out of the car, listening for the two beeps to insure it was locked. Then I turned to him, and waited for him to greet me.
I stared at him, while he stared at me. It was too dark to see his face, but I knew I looked like a child who stared into the windows of a candy store. A smile you couldn’t help but contain while you waited for the doors to be unlocked so you could help yourself. I couldn’t suppress my anticipation to see him any longer. I walked up to the edge of the porch where he waited. Without a care in the world I pushed myself forward and threw my arms around his waist.
To my utter surprise he ripped my arms away from his body and gave me a small shove. I blinked twice, trying to hold back any tears that threatened to escape. A little embarrassed I looked up at him.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, trying to keep my voice as steady and unfazed as possible.
“You know what’s wrong.” he said almost acidly. His words were slurred together.
“Are you drunk?” I asked horrified. I had no idea he was an alcoholic. Then again, I guess I didn’t know all that much about him. Two weeks isn’t long enough to know the secrets a person could hide. Even so, I also didn’t think two weeks was enough for those secrets to emerge.
“Don’t put this on me. This is your fault.” He hissed.
“What’s my fault?” I asked perplexed.
“Why are you so late huh?”
“Because of the rain.”
“It rains all the time.”
“The road was flooded so I had to take the long way.”
“The long way from whose house Skyler?”
“From my house” I muttered looking away from his angry eyes. I watched my feet instead.
“Liar, where did you really come from?”
“I already told you.”
“Who are you sleeping with Skyler?”
Where was this coming from? I didn’t do anything, and I didn’t deserve to be treated this way. “I’m leaving.” I stated rudely. Before I could take a step he grabbed my wrist gently.
“Don’t go,” he said softly. “Come inside for a minute.”
I stared into his eyes. They didn’t hold any emotion. I couldn’t tell if he was angry or not anymore. So I nodded and stepped inside.
“Hey Skyler,” Laurel called from across the school. I smiled at her, and watched as she crossed the courtyard. She sat beside me on the bench.
“Hi,” I mumbled.
“Nice glasses. Are those new? I’m pretty sure I haven’t ever seen you wear them before.”
“My mom bought them for me yesterday.” I smiled easily. “Do you like them?”
“They’re cute” She agreed. “But Sky tell me about this new boyfriend.”
“How did you hear about that?”
“Honestly I don’t remember.” she laughed. “Why didn’t you tell me about him?”
“It’s nothing serious. Just a crush that went a little further than normal I guess. We’re not even together anymore. In fact we broke up a few days ago.”
“Can I meet him?”
Just before I could answer the bell rang. Saved by the bell was an understatement here. I had to hold back my giggle. I waved goodbye to laurel, and threw my backpack over my shoulder. My class wasn’t far away so I got there in no time and took my seat.
“Would you kindly remove the sunglasses Ms. Eden?”
I freeze as ice spikes through my veins, my grip tightening on the sheet of paper that I’m in the process of tearing out of my notebook. For the moment all I can do is stare at the wrinkles my hands have left on the paper, the rip that strayed away from the perforation and cut a jagged line through the lower half. How easily it gave way to my strength 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, Skyler.”
I tear my eyes from the subtle, painful reminder and look up to see, through the heavy tint of the glasses, Mr. Roland looking at me from behind his desk, his chin inclined slightly inward and his eyebrows raised. Waiting. Expecting.
I swallow hard, my skin crawling at the stares of other students that cling to me like spider webs. My heart makes the strange fluttering motion when I realize 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 in your eyebrows. I know this just as you know how much I hate sunglasses, how I would jump to obey Mr. Roland or any other teacher because of my strange fear of disobeying authority. These are just things that any two people like us would know. Things that people naturally pick up on after being together for as long as we did. But I’ve come to realize that those little, unimportant facts that meant the world to me only become painful little reminders of those two years.
If only that were the only ache I feel.
“Can I keep them on?” I finally asked, my voice leaping to a panicked tone.
“They’re called sunglasses, Ms. Eden,” Mr. Roland says. Then sarcastically looks around the room. “I don’t see the sun around here.”
I feel the desperation spike in my mind. “I’m sorry Mr. Roland, but my eyes really hurt today.” I wince as I realize my voice is just a notch to high and begging. Will they notice? Will you notice?
“Is Skyler hung over?” Someone whispers from behind me, eager, as though they realize they just stumbled on a gold mind of rumors and gossip. I wish it was something that simple and petty.
“I don’t make the rules. Normally I wouldn’t care, but there’s really no reason and I’m already in trouble with the district for being too lenient.” He replies with a look that says ‘you’re on your own.’ A fight or flight response triggers in me and I’m tempted to disobey; It’s not like this man would harm me for disobeying his wishes.
Of course that’s what I thought about him.
Suddenly I’m trapped inside the events of last night, my back against the wall as I stare into his enraged eyes. My heart pounds against my ribcage just as it had when he let this terrifying side of him show for the first time. He was so close, his red and angry face the only site, his demeaning shouts the only sound. I had no clue what was coming; it came from nowhere as I stopped by his house for a short visit. He must’ve been drinking for a good while, because by the time I had arrived he was good and drunk, and his angry accusations started to fly seconds after I stepped onto his porch. His parents weren’t home, so I had no choice but to defend myself against his accusations.
That’s when he struck.
He left the room in a drunken stupor with me sobbing on the floor.
I snapped back to first hour English, now not with just a few but all eyes turned to me. I bought these ugly sunglasses for that exact reason. In seconds they’ll see. You’ll see. You aren’t one to jump to conclusions but who says you’ll have too? 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 it’s not the same throbbing black and blue mess that greeted me this morning. I wish adamantly that I hadn’t thrown all my makeup out in some self empowering attempt to convince myself that I was 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 fell from my face and the sharp intakes of breath fell 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, like that funny little fish from that movie we watched together when we were little and didn’t have a clue what love even was.
“That’s one heck of a shiner you’ve got there, Skyler.” Mr. Roland notes, sounding concerned.
“Yeah, I fell.” I say, forcing out a laugh as if it was just a stupid, klutzy accident. “Hit it just right.”
This voice doesn’t come from Mr. Roland. The familiarity of the 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 last conversation we had before we agreed to break up. You speak in such a controlled voice, your teeth locked tight as if to create a barrier between my ears and whatever it is you think you shouldn’t say.
Noticing all of these things in you, picking up on your emotions as I always used to, I wonder what you see in my own face. Shame? Fear? Pain? I feel all of those ramming 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 honest with myself for once, I’d admit it longing I feel right now; I’d accept that if I could tell anyone this awful truth it would be you. This thought, however, breaks my grip and causes tears to flood my eyes. I drop my gaze once more to the paper that I had torn earlier. I’ll have to throw it away; it’s not good anymore. It’s become damaged. Just as I have become damaged and imperfect. I’m no good anymore.
Everyone else slowly loses interest, the tear unseen by their invasive eyes. But I still feel one pair of green eyes on me, and I know that I didn’t do well enough. The only person that should be fooled has seen the truth plainly on my face.
You, my Matt, know everything.