Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for mature content.
There was still snow in the mountains from the past winter. However, down by my house, the flowers were blooming and mornings were filled with the sound of sprinklers. He held my hand as we drove past the blurring trees and street signs. Chris made me feel like I fit somewhere. I told my parents that I was having a sleepover with a girl from my math class. My mother would lose her shit if she found out my truth. Deep inside of me, that is what I love about Chris the most.
My mother’s love has boundaries and rage. Chris and I are limitless.
He told me all about the cabin we were going to. It was his family’s; they went there whenever he had spring break. I love hearing all his stories about his childhood. His age makes him so wise and sometimes I think he’s lived through everything imaginable. I feel like I’ve done the opposite. All my life I have managed to do nothing memorable or worth of any value. Chris seems to be the most interesting attribute about me. Sometimes I think my parents wouldn’t mind his age. It’s not like he was older than them. Thirty isn’t grandpa-old. I think it’s sophisticated-old.
The cabin was lovely. It was drowning in trees which made the cabin so dark in the middle of the day. I patiently squealed at the thought of us being so hidden and recluse. With my bags still in hand, I admired the place, “oohing” and “ahhing” in every room. I plopped myself on the couch. “It’s like we're adults!”
“Almost...You know, you almost are a woman. Seventeen is so grown.” He said, recriminating the silent accusation I had made. “Now, go change and unpack; I’ll start the fire.”
When I came out of our room, the fire was cracking and he was sitting in the middle of the couch with a gift in his hands. “Happy Birthday, Charlotte!”
“Christopher! You didn’t have to…” I love calling him by his full name. I ran next to him and gave him a kiss.
“Come on, open it.”
I quickly tore off the colorful wrapping paper to reveal… a book? I never was fond of reading in my spare time. Regardless of the indecorous gift, I cuddled up real close to him as the movie started.
His fingers stopped tracing my hand at all the good parts like he had to freeze to fully enjoy it. It felt nice not hiding. When we were together in public, I had to act like he was my father or something. Us in this dark room felt so right, with only our faces illuminated from the television.
Just as my eyes started to close on his shoulder, a faint sound startled me back up. I couldn’t quite make it out, it sounded like pouting.
“Do you hear that?” I asked aloud.
He stayed quiet for a moment, letting go of my hand. “No, darling, I hear nothing.”
He got stiff and started gulping his beer down. The sound continued, was it from the basement? “No, there is something. I’m going to check it out.”
I started to hop off the couch but he quickly pushed me down, “Okay, okay. Stay here. It’s probably some sort of creature- a raccoon. It’s a raccoon… probably.”
I laid back down on the couch, holding a pillow to my chest. I wanted to see that raccoon, why didn’t he let me go with him? He made me mad sometimes with his bossing me around. I liked it when he got mad at me though. When his eyebrows get all creased and his veins pop out of his hands. I liked it because he would always hold me after while I cried.
I tiptoed towards the door Chris walked through. I heard whispering. Not from him but from a girl. I crept down to the floor and placed my ear as close to the crack as possible.
“Please. Please. Please.” She was sobbing. “I have money. If that’s what you want, my father can give it all to you.”
“Darling… I don’t want your money.” Then he whispered something I couldn’t make out, he was so careful with his words. Whatever he said made her scream but he quickly muffled it out with his hand. I darted back to the movie as soon as I heard his footsteps coming back up the stairs.
I got in my place, with my pillow on my chest and a smile on my face. He nonchalantly sat back next to me and without moving his eyes from the screen said, “just as I suspected, a raccoon. Nothing to worry about.”
That felt like a knife in my chest. He lied to me. I felt sick knowing that his lie hurt me more than when I heard the cries of that young girl. Tears filled my eyes for me and that girl and everything that has ever happened. Why did it have to be me? I’m too young and I’m scrappy and my hair is always tangled.
Right after the movie ended we went to bed. Minutes after we laid down he was already snoring. I couldn’t sleep. The blinding moon peeked through the drapes, the aged sheets clung to my skin like sandpaper, and the clock on my bedside table pervaded my thoughts. Tick Tock Tick Tock Tick Tock Tick Tock Tick Tock Tick Tock Tick Tock Tick Tock
With care, I slowly crawled out of bed. I prayed to God that his snoring was enough to drown out the sound of the creaky wood flooring. I didn’t want to think about the possibilities of what he was doing down there, but my body shook with wonder. Like a mouse, I opened the door I had my ear against earlier. Behind it, there was a long passageway of wooden stairs, at the foot of them there was a cloud of darkness. My body trembled as I crept down there. It was an average handy man’s basement. Tools, shelves, no real furniture, the smell of decay.
He killed her.
I saw my reflection in her. We matched with pale skin and glossy brown eyes. Her body was laying on the floor like a mangled starfish. She was my age, my size, she looked so tired. Blood lined her mouth and one streak had fallen on the side of her face to create a puddle. Her hair was tangled and bruises painted her legs all colors of the rainbow.
I could see it so clearly, she thought he loved her. She must’ve not taken care of him the way I do. With Chris and I, it’s different. It has to be different. He could never do this to me. He gave me a book. A goddamn book. Why would he get me a book if he didn’t want me to finish it? He loves me.
As I held her face and brought the blood back to life with my tears, I felt him behind me. The same dark shadow that had kissed me to bed. The shadow that laughed and cried and loved with me. He was mine, my shadow. I couldn’t run from my own shadow.
I turned around to see his face. He was furious with tears, holding an ax. In the darkness, I could barely recognize his poor face. I steadily stood up from the girl and looked at the veins popping out of his forehead. He was used to people running and screaming but I stayed. I took one deep breath and looked into his culpable eyes, “you got me a book.”
I took a big gulp as I looked at his face. His eyebrows creased and he stayed quiet for a long time. He kept looking at me and then down to his feet then back at me.
“No one ever remembers my birthday,” I whispered.
“Are you going to read it?” He asked, in his normal voice, not his angry one.
“Yes, of course,” I said, probably looking like a deer in headlights. This silence made me antsier and antsier. And just like that, he nodded his head towards the stairs, put down the ax, and placed his arm around my shoulder. I love when he does that.
We slowly walked back upstairs through the silent cabin. The more I thought about running or leaving, the worse I felt. Dark thoughts clouded my mind; but when I cuddled up with him under the covers, and I could feel his feet through my fuzzy socks, all I felt was solitude.
Tomorrow will be normal. He’ll wake me up to the sound of freshly brewed coffee and scrambled eggs. I’ll exclaim how embarrassed I am with how I look in the mornings and he’ll say it doesn’t matter to him while he kisses me on my forehead. In my ending, he’ll warm me with the ineffable feeling of loving him and being loved back.