Her voice cracks and she tells me repeatedly, “You shouldn’t be here.” Over and over in the same way, all while she shakes her head and rocks. “You shouldn’t be here.”
Darkness descends, like a storm brewing inside of the small room. “Jenny, come with me!” I scream again, “Jenny, come with me!” as the room stretches, tearing her away from me. No!
“Don’t believe them,” she whispers and I hear it as if she’s next to me. As if she’s whispered it into my ear.
“Don’t believe the lies. They’ll all tell you lies.”
Even when she’s gone and there’s only darkness left, she tells me, “Don’t believe your heart; it lies to you too.”
“What happened?” I ask her the second I shut her front door. I’ve only just gotten here, intent on implementing consequences, and I’m already changing my mind.
Her eyes are bloodshot, and her skin is pale. Hugging her knees into her chest, she’s seated on her sofa, staring at nothing.
“Nothing,” she’s quick to tell me. “I didn’t think you’d be here in the morning. I thought you’d come at night,” she adds and then wipes under her eyes as she tosses the blanket to the side of the sofa.
“I don’t like it when I ask a question and you lie to me,” I speak as I walk into the living room. Not a single light is on and the curtains are shut tight. It’s too dark.
That gets her attention, and a hint of the girl I know shows herself when she answers smartly, “Oh, it’s not the best feeling, is it?”
The sarcastic response leaves her easily, and she watches me as I narrow my gaze at her. From bad to worse, the air changes.
“Something happened from the time you left me to just now.” I speak clearly, with no room for argument and Beth crosses her arms, staring just past me for a moment before looking me in the eyes.
She’s in nothing but a sleepshirt that’s rumpled, and dark circles are present under her eyes. Even still, she’s beautiful, the kind of beautiful I want to hold on to.
“Are you going to tell me?” I ask her, not breaking our stare.
Time ticks by and I think she’s going to keep it from me, but finally she looks to the kitchen and then back at me. “Over coffee,” she tells me.
She turns toward the kitchen like she’s going to walk there, but then pauses and looks over her shoulder. “You coming?” she asks, and I follow. Watching every detail, noticing the way her movements lag, the way she sniffs after a long exhale, like she’s been crying. The way she leans against the counter after putting the coffee grinds in the pot, like she can barely stand on her own.
“What the fuck happened?” I ask her and lean against her refrigerator. Standing across from her, we’re only feet apart but it feels like so much farther away. I should know everything that happens. I’ll correct that mistake immediately.
“Where do we stand on the debt?” she asks and then clears her throat as the coffee machine rumbles to life.
“I wrote it down; don’t have it with me.” I give her a bullshit answer and ask again, but harder this time, “What happened?”
Lifting up her head to look me in the eyes, her lips pull down and she tells me in a tight voice, “I wasn’t sleeping… not at all since Jenny…” She leaves the remainder unspoken. “So I took those pills you had.” She crosses her arms, looking down at the coffee pot and licking her lower lip before telling me, “I’m sorry. It was shitty of me and I don’t know why I’m doing so many shitty things, to be honest.”
Her arms unfold and she rests her elbows on the counter, like she’s talking to the coffee pot instead of me. Her fingers graze her hairline as she keeps going. “That drug doesn’t work; I’ll tell you that.” As she speaks her voice is dampened, although she tries to keep it even. “I had the most awful dream, but it felt so real.” I take a tentative step forward, getting closer to her, but am careful to keep far enough back so she won’t feel threatened.
She reminds me of a caged animal backed into a corner. One who’s given up and given in, but still frightened and not ashamed to admit it. One who would still try to hurt you, and you’d be the one to blame, because it warned you so.
“It was so real, Jase,” she whispers and before I can ask what her dream was, she tells me. “Jenny was there, ripping the cover off the book.” She turns around to face what little of the living room she can see from this angle. Her hand falls to her side as she peeks up at me.