Two words. Just two words uttered from my terrified lips.
Two words become a ball. The largest most delicate glass ball. And it's dropping. So slowly down to the floor. Moving like a timeline of our lives. Rushing like a river of our memories. Everything between us. Everything not between us. Dropping and dropping, till it all meets the ground. Breaking and shattering everywhere. Leaving all our pieces to slip beneath our scared and frozen feet.
Everything just crashed down on us, so hard, right onto both our lives. Splitting our joint life in two. And those two words are the line.
The line between Before...
And an eternity passes.
And the water keeps dripping from the faucet.
Drips and drips till it hammers. Hammers through this painful silence. Hammers rhythmically, timing perfectly with my lazy and tired tears. And the silence continues. On and on. Forever dragging on, with that two word line echoing off every wall. Every surface. Every breath rumbling from both our panting mouths.
I don't know when she moved, if she ever even did, but she's so close to me now. So close, I feel every one of her shaky breaths slicing right into me. Dripping so deep inside my body.
Filling every empty space.
Neither one of us are doing anything. With so much said, so much almost said, so much implied, I thought one of us would do something. With a line drawn between us, I thought one of us would cross it. I thought she'd be the one to cross it. Cross it and carry us, bringing us far away from it. Because she's the one who always does something. She always makes it better. But for the first time, Ashley looks stunned. Ashley looks unreadable. Ashley looks like she doesn't know how to make anything better.
And it only makes breathing that much harder.
"Ash..." Water splatters against perfect porcelain, drumming her imperfect silence louder "...say something."
And over the rain of this kitchen, I find myself pleading in a voice so familiar, a voice I heard inside her not so long ago. "Please. Please just...say something. Anything."
I swear the air sparks with tension as she finally looks at me. Cause while her eyes may have been on me this whole time, they're not just on me now; they're inside me. They're so far inside, they feel like they're literally holding onto me.
And for a brief moment, it feels like they'll never let me go. A brief moment, before she speaks.
"I..." it comes out so scratchy, like she's never used her voice before "...I have to..." her eyes look into mine, once more, as she takes a tentative step my way, and then she takes it right back. Taking every step she's ever given me right back inside her.
As fast as my two words drew a line, hers just drew another one. But drew it so much faster.
Because she's already gone.
And I'm still here. With nothing more than a leaky faucet timing with my leaky eyes.
My eyes hold onto the empty chair across from mine. Holding on to what isn't there, and wishing for everything that usually is.
"What?" I absently ask to practically no one, as my father chuckles lightly.
I blink, needing to tear myself away from her vacant chair, finally focusing on my fathers concerned eyes. Needing to let go of last night, needing to let go of everything that went wrong. Needing to let go of everything I know I've lost and needing to embrace everything I still have. Needing to embrace another Sunday family dinner. A family dinner minus the family. Minus the Ashley.
And, ultimately, minus myself.
"Yeah, sorry, I'm fine. Just tired."
Both he and my mother share a laugh and a knowing look, "I'm sure. You guys really outdid yourselves last night, huh?"
My fathers lightheartedness breaks my heavy heart. My fathers unknowing words hit me in the softest, sorest, spot I've got.
"Yeah. I guess." I sigh so heavily, so miserably, that I can't believe no one notices. I can't believe no one asks what's wrong. It surprises me when I realize how much I want them to. It floors me when I realize how much I need them to.
And it reminds me of being a little girl in grade school. A little girl who can't tell her parents all that's upsetting her because they'll never understand. Because they don't know what it's like to be thirteen with a crush. Because they don't know how hard your life is. Because you naively believe they've never had it as hard as you.
Because you foolishly underestimate just how hard they've had it, and just how much they really do understand.
"I just hope Ashley feels better, she didn't sound too good on the phone."
My mother speaks through her coffee, stilling her mug before her lips, looking down on the table with genuine concern. Thoughtfully nodding her head in the way mothers always do.
She's always loved Ashley. Loved her like she were another daughter. And while it thrills me, while it's amazing to have Ashley so warmly welcomed into our family. It kills me more. It absolutely drowns me. Because Ashley's tied to this warm and welcoming family through someone who isn't me.
And after last night, I don't know if she's even tied to me at all.
"Maybe we should bring her our leftovers. Since Glen's gonna be away for a few more nights, I'm sure she'd appreciate it. What do you think, Spence? I mean you're probably swinging by there on your way home anyway right?"
My fathers hearty smile twists that twisted knife further inside my chest. Because not only do I think it's a bad idea, I know it is. I know it all too well. Because all I've done is call Ashley. All I've done is gone by her house.
All I've received is nothing. And I don't have it in me to take on anymore nothings.
I don't have it in me to keep facing a face that isn't there. A face that doesn't want to see mine. She's made that clear. She made that abundantly clear when she walked away from me. When I gave her all she wanted, and she gave me everything I feared in return. She turned me down and with it, she turned me inside out. I'm so reversed and disoriented, I'm like a lost sheep, trying to find my way back. Trying to find myself.
But really, what I'm trying to find, is her. And she's nowhere.
I've tried to get back to her all day. After going home a weeping puddle last night, I knew I had to make things right today. I had to find her. I had to talk to her.
I had to take it all back. I had to erase the line.
But as every one of my calls went unanswered. As every one of my knocks on her door went unopened, I realized it was impossible. I realized I can't erase the past. I can't rewrite my truths. And then I realized it. I sadly realized I don't want to. Because I shouldn't. Because those truths have allowed me to breathe. Those truths have given me some kind of a life back.
My eyes solemnly glance across the table where her lonely chair still sits. Sitting there so empty.
So empty like the life I've been given back.
"So what do you say, Spence?"
Eyes never leaving her chair, I mumble between heavy lips, "Hmmm?"
"The leftovers. Will you drop them off for Ashley?"
I frown. I foolishly frown in front of the one man who knows I never frown. And while I'm quick to form the most manufactured smile ever, I'm not sure I'm quick enough.
"Um, she probably wants to rest, you know, I'm sure she doesn't want anyone to disturb her."
My father gives my flickering eyes the once over, maybe finally seeing how miserable I really am. And I feel a tiny piece of relief flutter inside me. A piece of relief for an outlet. Relief to release the rest of the weight living inside me.
"Spence, I think If there's anyone that girl would want to see right now...I'm absolutely positive it's you." My father smiles, genuinely smiles, and I feel even more miserable. For the words he's saying, and for the frowns he's missing.
Yup, for those unnoticed frowns, I hear my heart beginning to crack. And as my mother proudly corrects him, "...Well, aside from Glen."
I feel that heart shatter into a million little pieces.
I hate Sunday nights. Always have. I don't know why, but for some reason, after the sun goes down on a Sunday night, I become anxious. So anxious. I feel all these non-existent loose ends, and suddenly, I need to tie them. Suddenly, there's something I need to fix, something serious, and it's something I've only just remembered.
Because that's the thing, there's always something to remember. Whether I realize it or not, there's always something to take care of. Something I can do. And tonight, as I solemnly walk through my front door, I don't even know where to begin. I don't know which thread to tie first.
No, I don't know which impossible knot needs untying first. Because inside my stomach, there feels like there's a million of those little bundles, and I'm tired of them. I'm so damn tired of them.
There's only one light on in the living room, and it makes me feel so lonely. Because it reminds me that Madison is probably in her room, with Jack, living her perfect unknotted life.
And it make me realize Madison no longer knows anything about my imperfect knotted one.
Madison hardly knows anything about me anymore.
The thought is so heartbreaking that it sends more tears out of my eyes. And as I reach my bedroom door, I'm halfway to becoming that same puddle I was last night.
For an unknown reason, I take a deep breath before opening my door. Suddenly feeling as though something huge is about to happen. Suddenly feeling all those knots tie themselves extra tight.
And as I finally walk inside, I find the reason. I find her. Standing right there, in the middle of my mess of a room, is Ashley. Her eyes mirroring my weepy ones, her arms holding her body in the way I wish someone would hold me.
In the way I wish she'd hold me.
I whisper, so softly, afraid she might run away again.
She doesn't say anything, though, and it makes me nervous. So nervous. The way her eyes painfully look into mine, the way they look so hurt, it only makes me more scared. Makes me think of all the possible reasons I'm staring at her right now in this very moment. Maybe she's here to say goodbye. Maybe she's here to tell me to never come around again. Or, maybe, she's here to tell me the one thing I just can't hear. The one thing that will absolutely obliterate me.
Maybe she's in love with my brother. Maybe he does have her. Maybe he has her in the way I've always believed I've had her.
Because, maybe, I never ever had her at all.
This last thought makes me so unbelievably sad and insecure, that I have to turn away. I have to walk away from her silence. I have to because I can't bare to hear it any longer. I'm about to turn around, heading to a place I don't know of yet, but knowing it's somewhere I need to go.
But then a soft, yet firm, hand reaches out for mine. A gentle, caring, hand turns me around so slowly. Pulling me to face nothing but her honesty. Facing me with nothing but everything she is, somehow allowing me to see all of her all at once, as she holds my hand tighter.
My legs feel so wobbly, I don't know how they're still holding me up. I don't know how I'm still breathing, as she becomes so serious, realizing she's about to say whatever she came here to say. And I know whatever it is, she's going to break me with it.
"...He doesn't have me."
Like that, her breathy, raspy words break me. Her honesty breaks me right in half, and I can't breathe. I can't feel my legs. I can't feel anything except for my drumming heart, as she raises our linked hands to her chest; holding them directly over her own thumping heart.
"He doesn't have this."
I'm crying now. I'm crying so hard, feeling every fat tear running so sloppily down my wet cheeks. And as she steps towards me, I see the same tears refeleced in her eyes. I hear both our broken breaths, pushing out of our broken mouths. We're falling apart, but we're slowly pulling each other together. And she keeps moving. Moving right towards me, so slowly, giving me all my steps back. Giving me everything I've been missing, as she wraps her arms around my neck, pulling me right to her. So softly, so truthfully, she whispers right inside my ear and it slides straight into my heart.
"He doesn't have any of it, Spence, and he never has."
And I'm a goner. I'm holding onto her with my life, equally surrounding my body with hers. With no intentions of ever letting go. Because she just single handedly unraveled all my knots, and tied together all my loose ends.
Because, right now, in this moment, she doesn't just make me feel alive. She's given me a life. A perfect, unknotted life.
And, now...now I can breathe.