The Silence Between Words

Submitted for Contest #29 in response to: Write a story about someone discovering something new about themselves. ... view prompt

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Feb 22, 2020

General

“I have something to tell you,” I murmured, hoping that my words would be lost in the darkness between us. We were sitting crossed legged, knees touching. We were holding hands in the space between our ankles. I was shaking slightly, a tremble that could only be felt and not seen. I couldn’t help it; a tornado of emotions was ravaging my head, making it hard to think clearly.

    Normally, Riley would have contested the darkness, but through my trembling and the fear in my voice, she kept the walk-in closet’s light off.

    “Go on, Lili. I’m sure it’s nothing,” Riley laughed uneasily, and my trembling intensified, growing into a tremor as beads of sweat appeared on my temple. Tears pricked my eyes, and I looked away from Riley’s hazel eyes, eyes that looked to be red in the dim light. I wished it was nothing, but I needed to grow up and smell the coffee. Grow up. I just wanted to be a child, take comfort in these delightful secrets for just a short time. I pinky promise - just a short time of keeping this secret to myself. 

    That’s what I said last week.

    “I love you, Riley. I am so glad that we are twins.” The comment was entirely unexpected that Riley released my hand for a minute. She needed to know. I needed her to know in case. Just in case. 

    “Was that it?” Riley stared at me incredulously. I wanted to say “yes” badly, so badly that it nearly just slipped out. 

    “No.” I pulled my shaking hands back in my own lap, for when asking the question, Riley forgot to grab my hands again. I felt cold without her warmth. “I just wanted to tell you.”

    “Tell me, Lili!” 

“I’m gay,” I whispered, the words rushing out. They hung in the air for a minute, - whispering, judging - then deflated, sinking to the carpeted floor like a washed-out rag.

“How long have you known?” Riley’s voice was calm, steady. She seemed so unfazed and a feeling of relief shot torpedoed through my body. I didn’t hear the chill or the distance that I imagined one hundred times over. “Oh, thank God, I thought you wouldn’t accept me or something. I know it’s stupid, of course you would, you’re my twin but I thought-” My eyes welled up with the intense reassurance, my fingers wrapped around Riley’s, brushing her tight knuckles with ill-concealed pleasure. I couldn’t get the words out fast enough. “I love you. Thank you, Riley-”

    “I said,” she snapped, drawing her hands away from mine robotically, stiffly, hurriedly. Almost as if I held something repulsive in my own. “How long have you known?” Now I heard the cold, the separation she forced between us. I could hear the demand, the desperate question. How couldn’t I notice before?

    I set my hands on my knees, feeling repulsed by them myself. But I didn’t quite know why.

    “Two weeks.” I stared at my sister, almost in more shock from her response than she is from my confession. Riley sighed.

    “Oh, good. Good, good, good,” She smiled with relief. “There’s still hope for you! You aren’t certain, it could just be a phase and-” Riley reached for my hand now, in similar delight I had minutes ago. This time, however, I jerked my hand away, clutching my trembling fingers to my chest, the words slipping from my lips. My thoughts came to a shuddering halt by the statement that Riley had just made, whether she intended to or not. It was silence between words, the emptiness that the absence of her support made.

    “You don’t believe me.”

    “What?” This time, it was Riley’s turn to be confused. Among many of these things we had in common, when we got confused, two little dimples creased between our brows. It happened now, another silent reminder of everything I lost. Everything and nothing.

    “You don’t support me,” I snarled, standing up abruptly, rage and confusion and grief flooding my mind. My sister- my best friend- didn’t believe me. I was shrouded in darkness, but the light from our bedroom shone from the crack underneath the door. I shrunk back until I was nothing more than a dark silhouette, surrounded by dresses and hats.

    “Of course, I don’t-” Riley reached for my hanging hand again, but I jerked away, refusing to meet her gaze. 

    “Don’t touch me!”

    “Lili, don’t be like this. I’m your sister!” Riley pleaded, struggling to stand up amidst the heaps of clothing. I stared directly into her worried eyes, sure that my message would come off loud and clear.

    “I’d rather have an enemy who I know,” I trembled with ill-concealed rage, my fingers quivering a gentle rhythm on my chest. “Hates me, than a sister who makes me feel like shit. You weren’t my sister the minute our hands separated.”

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2 comments

Nalia Grey
16:34 Feb 25, 2020

That is so powerful.

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Natalie Frank
18:14 Aug 17, 2020

Thank you, I struggled to find that point where I could communicate the emotion and chaos and heartbreak that was in this scene. Sorry for taking so long to respond to this!

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