Send Her Away
You stand hidden in a doorway, your breath rising, a phantom on the frosty air. You watch another, similar doorway, dimly lit by streetlamps further down the road. On its step rests a holdall, the zipper slightly open.
It’s the zipper that draws your attention. It reminds you of the sighs and murmurs of trees. Above, colour creeps back into the soup of the sky – first a muddy sludge poisons the purity of the black, and gradually, an angry shade of red bleeds onto the horizon. You are reminded of the red handprint on your leg. You were less than the height of the kitchen table then, but the sting lives on. There were many more handprints – bright, livid – but they never hurt as badly as the first. You shake the memory away.
Your attention is drawn back to the gap in the zipper. You picture your hands leaving it open.
You remember other nights, as still as this. You remember other hands. You relive the soft slide of fingers over bare thighs, belly, breasts. The whispers, the breath caressing your nipples; the low moan escaping the cavern of your throat. An animal sound. I love you. Did the noise come from you or him? You’re beautiful, baby. It was hard to know where you began and he ended. Fathomless. You’re perfect. The tightness of the sheet, binding; the rolling, twisting feet and legs, gliding, turning; your fingers weave together, decipher the Braille of each other’s bodies. Your whispers send messages only the two of you can hear. You’re beautiful, you’re beautiful, you’re beautiful. Your mouth inhales his breath, his mouth inhales yours. Lips touch; part. Tongues graze. The brush of pink flesh over teeth. Your mind empties, fills, drifts, empties. You know nothing. Everything. Nothing but the touch, the gasp, the moment. Oh the love, the love, the love.
Birdsong disrupts the tranquility of the street, shatters the magic of the night. Baby, I love you – I have to go. You look at the bag. You know it’s time to move on. Shhhhhhh – she might hear you. It contains everything. Hopes, dreams, beauty, promises, future.
Everything’s clear this morning, but clarity makes you fuzzy, confused.
Bitch. Fucking bitch.
The pain, the pain. Hide it away. In a place no-one knows. Zip it up. Secure it inside with the red handprint. It’s there. You know that. It knocks. Baby, let me in. You don’t have to answer. Ignore it or let it in? It’s up to you. The choice is yours. Baby, let me in.
You recall the corridors, heaving with blue blazers, grey skirts, white socks. The suffocating percussion of voices, of laughter. You try to blend in, disappear. Your hair falls in your face; your blazer swamps your body; you carry your bag clutched to your stomach. Freak. Their eyes watch and follow. Fucking fat cow. You lock away the words with the handprints. Ruth, is there anything you want to tell me? No. No. You’re a bright girl. Don’t throw it away. She’s wrong. You’re not bright. You forgot. Don’t let anyone in. I can help. Don’t give them the key. Words can embrace, but after, there’s more pain. An agony of kindness.
You recollect the tender pressure of his leg next to you on the sofa. I don’t know why you bother? Stupid waste of space. The canned laughter on the television. Leave her alone, she’s okay. He touches your arm. The promise is in his eyes. Later.
All magic ends.
You remember the pain earlier in the woods. Lock it away, lock it away. You were all alone. Alone is good. Alone is choice. No-one will know. Shhhhhh – she might hear you. The towel’s in the holdall.
The constricting ache comes, goes, surges, depletes. Each wave clenches your gut, a gripping torment, stronger, faster. You squat under the cover of naked trees, reflect on the heavy grip of his fingers on your arm. Bruises. The spray of spittle in your face. Don’t tell anyone – they’ll never believe you.
An owl hoots, something small rubs past the channel of light from the torch, rushing through the brittle leaves. You pant; tiny exhalations. You’re beautiful, baby. You hear a sound. This time, you know the sound comes from you. The pain, the pain, the pain. Lock it away. Something slips between your legs. You recall his touch, his fingertips stroking the smoothness of your inner thigh.
In the torchlight, blood stains your hands. Wipe, wipe, wipe the red away. It’s gone. Like him. Fucking bitch. It’s all your fault.
Too many thoughts. Perhaps, the dam is broken.
From the doorway, you hear the drone of a car on the main road, the clatter of milk bottles somewhere amongst the jungle of houses. The world is waking. It’s time to go. No-one will ever know. You begin to move, falter. Shhhhhh – she might hear you. You need to go home, get to bed before more people edge into life.
You look at the holdall, the zipper, the door. You don’t know what you’re waiting for.
You remember the forest whispering its secrets earlier. You’re beautiful. You think about the bundle you wrapped tightly in your hoodie. You wiped away blood with the towel. No more red, just purest white. You buried the towel beneath the trees, buried it as deep as you could, as the roots and rocks sliced at your fingers, split your nails.
Baby, you’re beautiful.
You levelled the earth with your foot.
Hide it away, zip it up.
You look up. It’s getting lighter. The birds are much louder now. The spell of the night always ends with birdsong. Mercifully, they deaden the crescendo of words and images spiralling in your mind.
You run to the doorway, ring the bell. Twice. Three times. You glance at the holdall as you pass – you sense the stirring within it, hear the tremor of a whimper – then steal down the street, alone.
Time to go home.
It’s school in a few hours.
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