Someone hits me, and suddenly my eyes are wide open, my cheek burning with an icy hellfire. It hurts – it hurts ever so much, ever so much, and then I open my mouth and I realise I can breathe, and so
There’s a thin film of tears still clouding my vision, but when I blink and look around, I see that every last dredge of grey mist is gone. My mother towers worriedly above me, her hand poised to hit me again, but there is no sign of Greg. My feet, still wearing the heels I planned to go out in, are propped on a high backed chair from the kitchen. I blink again, confused.
“What happened?” I ask my mother, my voice sounding as if it belongs to someone else entirely. It is raw and cracked, and feels like sandpaper rubbing against my throat as I speak. My mother senses this, and worriedly shushes me, her finger pushing against my cold, dry lips.
“You fainted, Ethel, darling. You – You’re okay now.” She stretches her hand out to stroke my clammy forehead, crooning softly comforting words into my ear. “Everything is going to be fine…”
I shake her off, sitting up as I notice something. “Mum… Mum, where’s my phone gone? It’s not on the floor anymore…”
Her lip twitches. “It’s just over there, on the table, see. I picked it up, so I wouldn’t stand on it. But, Ethel, you have to lie flat now. You’ll get all dizzy again if you don’t.”
“No, but Mum –“
She shakes her head at me sternly, in slight annoyance. “I said lie down, Ethel!” Shocked at her unusually harsh tone, I lie back down without a word. She smiles, and says, “There now, that’s better. Now, you’re going to stay there for a little while, get your strength up, you know, and then you’re going to have a little talk with myself and your father.”
My ears prick up, her words driving invisible needles into my spine. “What?”
She sighs. “We’re worried about you Ethel. We’re not sure you’re settling into that new school, and –“
Biting her lip, she refuses to look at me in the eye. “And, well… There’s a lot of things really, Ethel. I was talking to your Dad on the phone, and he said there must be some reason why you fainted. So, um… Listen, I don’t want us to have this conversation without your father, alright?”
“Why not?” I whine petulantly, like I’m half my age. “What is it?”
“Ethel, I really can’t –“
“Yes,” I pout in irritation, “But, why?”
“Ethel! Do not interrupt me while I’m speaking! I am the adult here, and I am the one who knows what is best for you!” Her face blazes red and she speaks quickly, angrily, snapping at my impatience. Without another word, she exits the hallway and makes her way back down the corridor into the kitchen where she is preparing tea.
In the kitchen, she can’t hear my questions. She can’t see my frustration, either. I need to know what they want to talk to me about – I need to. The thing is, what if they’re going to ask me about Greg? That would lead onto a conversation about the eerie, mysterious prank calls I believe to be from him. And then they’d ask who Lysander was – if he was just made up or something, - and then I’d have to explain that yes, now, he actually was my boyfriend, but in the past he’s called me names and carved an ‘L’ into my cheek, which made me cry.
Yeah, I’m sure that would go down well.
No. I can’t do that to them. I don’t want to lie, but I can’t let them deal with the truth. It would hurt them too much – cause them more pain than it did me.
Pain is not something many people want to live with.
People who carry pain try to hide it beneath empty, vacant smiles, and put on shows of happiness. Sometimes the ones you think are the best off will cry themselves to sleep every night.
I am hiding my pain now, from my friends, and from my parents. I will not show them my messed up, confused life – I will hide it all away, my own, sickening secret.
I am not the only one with secrets.