Images. Images floating in my head. I turn towards the light but the dark consumes me once again. Once again I am back to that place. The anger, the anguish, the illusion. Pretending that everything is fine when it’s not. The face, the voice, the touch. Forever searing into my memory making it impossible for me to breathe at times. The misery, the pain. Reality. Just when I think I can’t take it anymore my mind returns to me. For years I tried to endure the loss, blaming everything except what was. That was where it all started. My mind playing tricks on me. Stirring up images I’d rather forget. Never freeing me. Always tying me down. Sometimes I find myself running from these images. Until I find out that I haven’t gotten too far. Far away is where I want to be and far away I am. Only that I’m not. It’s too soon. I don’t want to go back to the place. That place of fear, of knowing, of masquerading the pain. The pain that exists deep down inside. That never lies, but never shows. It doesn’t feel real anymore. I need the pain to feel real. Need to feel like there is something to cry about. I feel a sharp sensation gliding across my skin. The pain is released. A stinging starts to set in.

I dry my eyes and look in the mirror. Wondering who the stranger is looking back. The smile that would once brighten a room, gone. Faded. The eyes that would gleam with joy and excitement, lost. The replacement is something less. A kind of sweat sadness engulfs me. Of course the only ones who know are the people I choose to let in. Not many. Just a few. Enough to help me through my dark hours. Enough to keep me on track. Enough to be let in. I stare at the face in the mirror and she stares back at me. A solemn stare. A quick defeat.

My vision becomes blurry. The girl can no longer be seen. I feel the streams running down my cheek. The pain comes back within. It doesn’t feel real anymore. I need it to feel real again. The images are coming back. I need to focus at the task at hand. The gliding sensation comes back to me followed by the stinging. Relief. I take a gasp of air and release it heavily. The pain is real again. My head is free. The images no longer haunt me. I look at the mirror once more. Stone. Expressionless. The face no longer looks back at me. She looks down. Down at the object held tightly in my hand. Down at the red lines on my ankle. Down at the blood stained tissue on the floor in front of me. There will be no more weeping for the moment. All is well again. A free mind has been achieved. It is through pain that we grow in strength. And through strength we are able to achieve anything. Almost anything.

I crawl slowly across the floor. Softly. Not a sound can be heard. Not even the beating of my heart as it pumps through my chest. Silence is the key. If no one can hear, no one will know. The better for me. I peer at the vent that is shining light through my floor. I see nothing. I press my ear to the cool metal. I hear nothing. No one is there. I walk softly to my bed, grab a pillow, and return to the old heating vent. I cover it until there is no more light. The only light that exists comes from and old nightlight. I reach on top of my desk and pull my phone onto the floor. I feel for the plug and insert it into the jack. I move back. Away from the vent. Slowly sliding across the floor. The object still tucked away in my hand and the phone in the other. I find my spot in front of the mirror but do not look up. I have another task at hand before courage fails me and the darkness returns. The light is waiting for me at the other end of the phone. I take one more listen to see if anyone is awake, then pick up the phone.

I hear the dial tone through the receiver. The buttons glowing in the dark. Slowly I dial the familiar number. The phone starts to ring. I wait for the voice on the other end to pick up. I know it’s late but I need to hear the voice. It comforts me. Like awakening from a nightmare into the arms of a loved one. The voice heals me. Not many a day can I go without it. The ringing continues. With every new ring I feel my heart beat louder. Pounding in my chest. The voice picks up.

“Hello,” says the sleepy voice.

“Hi.”

“How are you?” There was a pause on his end. “That’s a stupid question. What happened?”

“The same thing that always happens.”

Another pause followed by a deep sigh. John was taking it in. Taking it all in. He does this sometimes when he doesn’t know what to say. I hate it. The silence can be numbing.

“I’ve change my mind,” I say.

“About what.”

“About tomorrow. I don’t want to do it.”

“Why.”

“Because it’s too hard. And the outcome will not be good.”

“You’re overreacting.”

“Am I? Am I really?”

John didn’t know anything. His knowledge came from the information that I chose to share with him. He didn’t know what was going to happen after. He didn’t have to see their faces. I did. I knew exactly what was going to happen. Exactly how it would be. How everyone would react. The out come would not be good. John didn’t know. He wouldn’t have to live there. He wouldn’t have to see the look of hatred and disbelief in everyone’s eyes. I would.

“It’s the right thing to do, Liz.”

“Right for who?”

“Right for you.”

I tried to speak but words faltered me. How could I make him understand? I couldn’t. There was no way he could understand. To John, he was looking out for my safety. I was grateful for that. But there had to be another way. I wish there was.

“I don’t know what to say.”

“Then don’t.”

“I don’t want to do this,” I paused. “I’m scared.”

“Why? It’s the truth, Liz. You shouldn’t be scared of the truth.”

“But I am.”

“Don’t you think you’re better off with things out in the open?”

“No.”

Things were better off the way they were. I couldn’t possibly hurt anymore than I already did. It wasn’t possible. If things stayed the same, nothing would change. I wouldn’t loose anyone I loved. If things changed, things would be different. I would loose everyone. I would have nothing.

“It’s not your fault, Liz.”

“I know.”

“No, you don’t. You say you do, but you don’t believe it.”

“I hate that you know me so well.”

“I’m glad somebody does,” John paused slightly. “You shouldn’t have to go through this alone.”

I shouldn’t have to go through this at all, but I am. Everything should be alright. But it’s not. I go through the motions of my day-to-day life like a canister. Hollow. Every gesture I make, every expression I have, is a facade. An illusion. I am all alone in this. It’s my word against his. I know how things will be. What the truth will bring.

“You know, if you won’t say anything, I have to.”

“I know, but I wish you wouldn’t. I wish you would respect me and not say anything.”

“Liz, I can’t not say anything.”

So many things are at stake. There is too much to loose. I will not be forgiven for this. My days of living in peace will expire. Forever replaced with conflict. Conflict is something that I try to avoid in life, no matter what the cost. That’s why I’ve lived with this for so long. I didn’t want to deal with what the outcome would bring. I still don’t. I just want everything to go away. I don’t want to be afraid anymore. But I don’t want it done this way. Not this way. If only there was another way.

“Are you still there?”

“I’m here.”

“Don’t be mad at me, Liz.”

“I’m not mad. I’m frustrated.”

“You shouldn’t be. We’re only trying to help you. I’m only trying to help you.”

“I know that. I just feel that it’s being done the wrong way.”

“There is no wrong way for this, Liz. Not for this.”

“Well than, it’s the wrong time.”

There was another awkward pause. John was getting frustrated. He was thinking about what to say to convince me. There’s no way he can convince me. This was a bad idea from the start. I should never have agreed to it. Should never have told him the truth.

“It’s never going to be the right time. There will always be on reason or another as to why it can’t happen. But the truth, Liz, is that those reasons…they’re just excuses. Every last one of them. Don’t tell me that it’s the wrong time.”

I didn’t say anything. I couldn’t. Anything that I thought about saying would just start an argument. I couldn’t have that. It had to stay quiet. My voice couldn’t come above a whisper. I needed to control myself. I needed to control my thoughts. I needed to get off the phone.

“I know you’re scared. But you have me and everyone else backing you on it. You shouldn’t have to live this way. You shouldn’t have to live in fear. If you don’t say anything tomorrow, I will.”

“Alright.”

“Alright, you’ll talk?”

There was a sound of relief in his voice. I know that it had been difficult for him and everyone else as well. What kind of friend would not want to help out another if they were going through what I had gone through? I would be doing the same thing if I were in his situation. Only I’m not. I’m the one who is going through it. I’m the one who knows the outcome. I’m the one whose life is about to change. Not his.

“I’ll think about it.”

“That’s not good enough.”

“I’ll let you know first thing in the morning. Usual spot?”

“Okay. I’ll see you then. Try to get some sleep and not think about it.”

“I’ll try. Goodnight.”

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