In Memoriam

I have a habit of downplaying things, accepting it all as normal. It's how I cope. But he knows it isn't normal. He's the only one who listens in my own private dystopia.

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1. Beginnings

"So how old were you?"

He locks his eyes onto mine, not willing to let go. I take a sip of water, no, a gulp, swallowing hard.

"Oh, maybe about eight or nine? I don't remember."

We could be talking about my last time playing with dolls. Something, nice, mundane.

"And when was the last time it happened?"

I pause, taking another sip. The ice cubes in the glass crack, and I wince.

"Last week when I forgot to empty the dishwasher."

He drops his eyes to my forearm. The truth lies there.

"Let me see."

I try to hide my arm from him, but he wiggles his eyebrows at me. Sighing I show it to him and stare out the window. Golden hour, my father called it, the part of the afternoon where the sun hangs low and casts a golden glow across the leaves. I don't want to see his face when he sees.

There are tons of red half moon marks, some white and infected, some bruises though they don't show beneath the tan of my skin. I don't visually bruise easily. But the scars show through underneath, also in the shapes of half-moons. White slivers running across my forearm, partially obstructed by the new marks.

"She just..dug her fingernails into my arm and didn't let go until I was bleeding." I shrug like it's not a big deal, because it isn't, still staring out the window. I should have emptied the dishwasher faster, I knew mom was going to be tired after working the night shift.

He draws in a breath, and it hitches. I'm startled to see tears begin to run down his face. 

"Why are you crying?" My throat is dry so I toss back more water. His fingers trace the light bruise on my cheek, the finger marks of a slap so hard my head was spun to the side and I hurt my neck. He'd seen that one. My brother attacked me in the car while he was next to me. He sat still like a statue, fingers clenched, tightly wound, unable to throw a punch for me in return. Helpless. We were both helpless like baby birds, no flight feathers, suspended over the ledge.

"You shouldn't be hurt like this," he says quietly. I sit there next to him on the bed, the sunlight fading from a day already dying.

"I know," I whisper. But there's nothing either of us can do about it.

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