Outside In

“I just want to be beautiful Jaiden, that’s all.” Sixteen-year-old Serena said as she applied mascara to her eyelashes in the bathroom mirror. She was leaning over the sink and using an ever-steady hand to gently brush the tiny hairs of her eyelids. She was already a pro. The bathroom was small; the tub-shower combination seemed to have been placed in after the construction of the rest of the room. There was barely enough space on the toilet to sit comfortably, especially with someone standing at the sink. But of course, Jaiden had a special fixation for being in places that he probably shouldn’t be.

“You already are beautiful Serena,” Jaiden said to her, not even able to break concentration from his handheld game.

“You’re only thirteen, you wouldn’t understand,” Serena spoke, switching to her other eye now. She looked at her brother as he took on whatever adventure it was that had him enraptured. He was a bit lighter than she remembered him. She smiled to herself, turning back to the mirror.

“But it’s not real,” Jaiden said in almost a whisper.

“What’s not real?”

“Your beauty. If you have to paint it on your face every day, then how can it be real? You’re just putting another mask on.”

The older sister glared at her brother through the mirror’s reflection.

“Shutup! You don’t know anything, just stay quiet for once in your life.” Serena hissed. Jaiden finally raised his head from the mind control device.

“Hey! What was that for?” He scrunched his face, becoming visibly upset. Poking his bottom lip out, he made himself look completely miserable. This was his puppy dog face. Serena, regretting her brash delivery, feigned ignorance to his dramatics.

Jaiden crossed his arms and pouted. She still treated him like a little kid, even after all these years.

“I’m not a baby. You don’t have to treat me like one.” Jaiden spewed back.

“Yes you are, you’re always gonna be my wittle baby brother,” Serena said in response, with a mock-baby voice. “Besides, I’m the oldest.”

“Barely! Only by a few-”

“Uhuh!” She said, cutting him off. “I don’t want to hear it. Mom said I came out first, so I’m the oldest.”  Serena stuck her tongue out at her twin brother. His dark green eyes locked with hers, his face is somber.

“How is she?” She asked, realizing her choice of words were less than careful.

“She’s great actually. She’s beautiful Rena, without all that makeup.” Jaiden replied, jeering at his sister, trying to lighten the mood.

“She always was.”

The two remained quiet for a moment, drifting off to the memories of their mother. Serena shook her head, freeing herself from the depths of her imagination to continue her makeup application.

“Do you know what time it is Serena?” Jaiden asked. The cellphone on the edge of the sink shown bright with the digital time.

“You know that I know what time it is Jaiden,” she half-replied while in the middle of choosing between eyeliners. “Why’d  you even ask?”

“You already know why I asked! Why did you even ask?”

“Smart ass.” Serena began adding dark purple eyeliner to her face. The bruise near her right eye had gone down significantly throughout the day. She caught her brother staring at it, unable to remove the solemn look from his eyes.

“Frozen carrots really do the trick right?” She chuckled meekly. “Can’t say mom didn’t teach me anything. Thank her for that one for me will you.”

The sarcasm in her voice was not lost on her younger brother, or herself, she was terrified. Her voice had begun to noticeably crack the deeper the two got into the conversation. Her hand was shaking, making this entire process that much more difficult. She  glimpsed herself in the mirror and finally saw her reflection, only half of her makeup was done. She could barely recognize her face as her eyes began to water. Her lips were broken and bloody, her left eye almost swollen shut.

“Freaking stuff stings so bad.” Serena lied, trembling violently now. She grabbed pieces of toilet paper and started patting her eyes. The tears started to form anyways, regardless of how vigorously the cotton cloth was dabbed.

“Rena, you have to get out of here, I don’t know why you’re still here. He’s a monster, and he never stops.” Jaiden pleaded to his sister. He stood beside her, looking at her through the reflection in the mirror. She was now an inch or two taller than he was. “I’m afraid for you.”

“Well, that makes two of us baby brother. I’m afraid too.” She started to apply concealer, pushing and pulling aggressively at her skin. “I’m afraid when I wake up. I’m afraid when I make breakfast. I’m afraid when I leave, and I’m afraid every time  I come back. I hate coming back here. But I have nowhere else to go. I have nothing. I have nobody. Everything I ever knew, changed or left me. Everything. I don’t have a choice but to stay.”

“Yes, you do! You can run away like we used to talk about. You can make it to California Rena, I know you. You have to make it Rena, mom and I didn’t. If anyone can do-”

“SHUTUP JAIDEN! Enough.” Serena screamed. Her breathing was heavy as she held the sides of the sink to control her convulsions. Tears were beginning to roll down her face, destroying her cosmetic efforts. “I’m not ten anymore. The real world doesn’t work like that, its cruel and cold. Nobody cares how much you hurt. People look away from your bruises because they don’t want to have to ask. They ignore your absences because they don’t want to have to care.  They keep their distance from you because they don’t want to feel your pain. The only people I ever loved both left me. I don’t have anything left in me. So yes, you’re right. This is fake. But it makes me feel beautiful on the outside, isn’t that all that should matter?”

Serena turned to look at her brother, only to be greeted by an empty room. He was gone. But she wasn’t stupid. He was never really there in the first place. She looked down at her phone, 5:27. Three minutes. She had three minutes, to try to become beautiful again. If only on the outside.

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Silent Forest

“Hello?” Michael’s voice echoed through the night. “Is there anybody there?” But he knew there wasn’t, of course there wasn’t. He didn’t even know where there was. He looked at the area on the ground where he had awoken a few moments earlier. The Earth was displaced a little, he had been laying there for a good amount of time. The darkness was all encompassing, the moon was barely able to shine light through the treetops. It wouldn’t matter if it could anyways, the fog was so thick in front of him that he couldn’t see more than a few feet in any direction.

A tingle of fear started to creep up his spine. He grabbed the back of his neck, goosebumps greeting his palm. Until now, he had completely forgotten that there was a flashlight in his hand. It was heavy in his grip, but Michael did not turn it on. For some reason, his gut told him it would be best to stay where he was for now. This wasn’t his flashlight, and he didn’t know how to get to someplace he knew anyways. Or who could be looking for him. Or watching him.

“What in the world is going on,” Michael began questioning himself. “How did I end up here?” The last thing he could remember was heading back to campus and drinking at a frat party to celebrate the win.

“The game!” He exclaimed to himself. He wasn’t in his uniform, which meant he must’ve changed into his street clothes before going to the party. He examined his pockets, feeling for the answer to his prayers.

Thank God. His phone was still in his pocket. He pulled it out, feeling a rush of excitement heighten his breathing. But Michael had seen enough scary movies to tell him that there was no solstice in having a cellphone in the middle of the woods. No way! A full battery AND service. Relief began to flow through his entire body like a cool liquid in his veins. Him being in the forest was just a formality now, I probably just got a little too drunk and wandered off campus. At least nothing worse happened. 

He scrolled through his recent calls to see if anything unusual would present itself. Nothing. Clicking on his teammate’s name, he listened intently as it rang, half expecting something sinister to happen.

“Hello?” John spoke on the other end of the phone.

“Dude!” Michael answered, ecstatic. “Aww man, I’m so happy to hear your voice. You won’t believe what’s happening to me right now, but I need your help really quick. I’ll explain after.”

“Fow are you doing thith?” John said clearly inebriated. The party was still going on in the background.

“What are you talking about?” Michael replied.

“Is fish some find of puppeteer poopeen or somefin?” John said, fumbling through his words. “I gotta remit, it’s kind of school.”

“JOHN. What are you talking about, focus man. I need your help.”

“Sheeeeesh. Don’t get your panties in a bunch.” John’s speech became a little more coherent. The urgency in Michael’s voice offering a moment of sobriety. “You got this, Jasmine is all over you right now bro.”

The fear that had once been a tingle in the back of Michael’s neck was now a fully formed shot of electricity through his body. He must’ve heard the drunken football player wrong, or he was reading too deeply into it. He was talking as if he could see him. Jasmine?

John. Where am I right now?” Michael asked, his grip on the flashlight so tight that it stung his hand.

“What do you mean bro? You’re right here. You’re right next to me.”

Why Does She Stay?

I roll over in bed, underneath the 1000 thread Wal-Mart brand sheets that cover our mattress. “Our” mattress. She faces the wall, silent, lying on her left shoulder. I know she is uncomfortable. I want to reach out to her and pull her close to me. Let her feel my warmth so that she can sleep peacefully against my chest.

But I don’t. I just roll over again, the thread count drastically diminishing as I wrestle with myself. She still does not move. I stare at the ceiling, wanting to utter the words that I know will make everything better. The words she wants me to be the only person to say. The words that can ease her unruly, yet patient heart.

But I don’t. Instead, I bury my face into the pillowcase apart of the matching bed set that is causing me endless angst, sighing with dramatic exasperation. She hasn’t made a sound. I know she is waiting. Waiting for my lips to press against the back of her neck. My hands to gently caress the parts of her skin that long for the most attention. For my body to say things that my mind could not formulate into human language.

But I don’t. The room is too cold and these sheets have as much heat retention as a bathrobe covering the body of a naked man getting the morning paper in the middle of winter. That was funny. She doesn’t laugh. She doesn’t even smile. She hasn’t even looked at me all night and now she has the audacity to lay over there and act like this is all my fault; silently judging me with her unbreakable…silence. I don’t even think she is breathing.  I could care less. I already know what I need to know. Everything except

Why does she stay?

This is the only thing I cannot conceptualize and rationalize into a clear, infallible, thought. If she doesn’t want to be here, then why does she stay? I am inconsiderate sometimes and I never really know what to say. I am not as romantic as I should be and it is getting harder and harder to get her to see the brighter side in things. There is nothing that I can give her to convince her that I am even the right one for her. So why does she stay?

Her foot accidentally touches mine, for a moment before pulling away. Only a moment. She’s freezing. I roll onto my left shoulder, so uncomfortable. I put my arm next to her head, and she raises it without a word, letting me pull her in closer. I’m so much warmer than she is, “I’ll never buy these sheets again” I whisper into her ear. She giggles softly, covering her mouth with her hand to hide her smile. “It’s ok.” I kiss the back of her neck and she pushes deeper into me. “I Love You.” I whisper just loud enough for her to hear me over her now deep breaths. She turns to face me, caressing my face.

 

“This is why”

 

Just not you

I don’t usually talk about love. Because I  hurt her, and there’s nothing I can do.

How can you truly say you love a person when all there pain is because of you.

People will tell you that’s the deal, love comes and it goes

There’s plenty of fish in the sea, just go with the flow.

But I don’t fish. My father never taught me. My mother was busy buying my love through the things that she bought me.

But my parents don’t know what I need, n what ppl say just doesn’t feel true.

So it’s hard for them to see it, because they’re just not you.

So what now?
My friends tell me I should start chasing to keep my mind from racing.

Try not to be alone, to avoid the pain that I’m facing.

“Smoke some of this weed, it’ll quiet your brain be patient.”

“Couple shots of henny in your veins and you’ll be wasted.”

Then I did it, because I know it’s the same things that you do.

Now im a zombie like them, but they’re just not you.

So I met Tonya n Toya, n Susie n Sharon. Type of chicks you can talk to and have no clue what they’re hearing.

Faces glued to screens, trying to see what the next chick is wearing.

And then I met her. She was perfect. In every way, in every fashion

Wore whatever she wanted, didn’t care what was clashing.

She ate like a guy, but could turn pretty on cue. She loved watching football, and making fat jokes too.

Everything was amazing, and I didn’t think about you.

Until I did.

I remembered you said you loved me, and made me promise whatever I do,

Not to let you go, or let you forget that this dream was true.

I told you I promise, and I’d wake up to every day like its brand new.

Because what good is having your dream girl, if she’s just not you.

Death by Love {The Letter}

To My Love,

Sometimes I really feel like I don’t have anybody, which is weird because I’m married with a child. Maybe weird isn’t the appropriate word, maybe I should say disturbing. I am disturbed. With my life, by my thoughts, in everything I do or have done. Disturbed. Twelve years ago when I told you that you were the best thing that ever happened to me, I was only half right. When I look at you, I feel life, I feel what it means to truly experience joy. You’re not just the best thing Matthew, you are my everything. Without you I would never have been able to experience the joys of being a wife, and a mother. I’ve been in love with you since I was 18, and every single day I wish I could find the words to express to you how deep, and sincere my appreciation for you as a human being is to me. You’ve given me everything I could have ever asked for out of life. Thank you so much Matt. Thank you for being my “enough”…

May Your Love Be Enough To Follow Me Into Eternity,

Kristin