“Don’t you think it is time to move back home?”
Shaking my head, I let out an exasperated sigh. “Dad. Please, don’t start with this again.”
“Honey, we are just concerned about you. Your mom and I both think it can be good for you to come back home, so that we can take care of you.”
I look down at the food on my plate, building up the concentration to hide the irritability in my voice. It’s been three hours. “I have a place to live and I am pretty capable of taking care of myself, thank you.”
“Honey — ”
Mom doesn’t let Dad finish talking. “Are you?”
Mom’s question is contentious, and I can feel my blood angrily running to the surface of my skin. I suppress my anger enough and force out a calm, questioning response: “Excuse me?”
“Are you capable of taking care of yourself? Because to me it looks like you aren’t even capable of doing something about your appearance, never mind the fact that you are constantly sick and battling with sinus or something, and when last did you eat a proper meal.”
I shrug sarcastically. “I’m eating now, aren’t I?”
“Do you know how it makes me feel to hear my best friend telling me that you look like a poor, thin, homeless, neglected soul? I am even too ashamed to go to church, because if my best friend is saying that about you, what do you think the other people in the church are saying?”
I can no longer contain my forced calmness and I fire back: “Wow, Mom. I can really hear the genuine concern in your voice. But just in case you didn’t know, there is a huge difference between being concerned about me and worrying about how that old lady and her brigade of church-going prissies make you feel.”
“Skye! Miss Cook is just worried — ”
The loud penetrating sound of Dad’s fist against the dining room table abruptly silences both of us.
“Enough! This was supposed to be a peaceful Sunday lunch. I will not have you two sitting at the table tearing at each other. Skye is an adult and if she doesn’t want to move back home and says that she can take care of herself, then we must respect her choices.”
“John? Are you just going to sit there and let your daughter talk to me like that and not do anything about it?”
Dad doesn’t answer Mom. Ignoring her question, he resumes eating.
“Once again you choose not to stand up for me.”
“Linda! I said enough!”
Mom knows Dad’s limits and even though she tries pushing them every now and then, she knows that once Dad has drawn the line, there is no stepping over it.
I clear my throat and push out my chair. The screeching from the chair beneath me breaking the silence. “Please excuse me. I need to use the bathroom.”
In the passage I pause, staring at the wall filled with frozen, framed memories. I glance over all the photos and my eyes rest on a photo of the two of us, faces painted with purple paint as if we belonged to some jungle tribe. Smiling ear to ear. Did these times ever really exist? Happier times? How were we not aware of the lingering pain that was waiting for us around the corner? I stretch out my hand to a photo of Chloe taken during one of our family holidays. Her big, green captivating eyes shining brighter than her smile. I miss her! I run my finger along the lines of her face, hoping that somehow I can touch her again, for real – but nothing is real any more and I can’t touch her or hug her or even fight with her.
I can hear the voices in my head waking up.
She promised you that she would always be there for you. But she’s not! She lied!
I can feel the salty tears building up, burning my eyes.
Remember how she always told you that weeds don’t perish that easy? Well, they do!
No! Not here! I can’t fight them here!
Where is she? Why did she leave you?
Like hungry wolves, the voices snarl at me with their questions. Each question with no answer to feed the hunger of the voices, and with each question comes another and another unanswered question. I can feel my chest tightening. I hurry to the bathroom and open the tap, splashing my face with the cool water running from the outlet. It helps for a moment, but I know it is not enough. In the mirror, I stare back at myself. Eyes dead.
You know what to do. You know how to get us to quiet down.
Safely hidden, I retrieve the little plastic bag from the secret compartment in my sports bra. I always carry some with me, just in case.
She never existed – everything was a lie.
I turn around from the basin, eyes running wild, scanning every possibility in the bathroom. I kneel in front the closed toilet and carefully empty more than half of the white powder on the lid. The powder? It looks different. I hesitate for a moment, but the voices start screaming again, louder.
She’s gone, and you are left here with nothing and no one.
I grab one of the magazines lying on the floor, next to the toilet, and I rip off the front page. Using the page and, with great difficulty, I make four lines from the powder. I tear off a piece and roll it into a tube-like object. I didn’t plan to do this here and the magazine paper is not the best material for the job at hand, but it will have to do for now.
I hold the one end of the rolled-up magazine tube to my nose and I position the open end at the beginning of this first line. Pressing my other nostril close with the index finger of my free hand, I expertly inhale the powder while running the magazine tube up the line. Rotating from nostril to nostril I inhale all four lines. The powder runs down my sinus canal into my bloodstream and I can feel my inner-warrior awaking to conquer the voices and steal another piece of my soul.
I fall back on the bathroom floor against the bathtub, my heartbeat drumming in my ears. Something’s not right …