She shouldn't have drank those last two Long Island cocktails last night, but she had a long day, as all her days are lately, and she did drink those cocktails, and now she's stumbling to her bathroom with her eyes half open, balancing the weight of her headache and controlling the storm in her stomach. After decorating her toilet bowl with different shades of undigested fluid and regret, she flung herself onto the counter, knocking her elbow against the left tap, tired and almost melting into the washing basin, she stared at her reflection - her pale, mascara smudged reflection. She doesn't hate mirrors, she just hates what she sees in them, for as long as she can remember. It reminds her of the one thing she can't remove, can't kill or run away from, but tries to, day and night. The spitting image of her greatest void, and maybe even her only closure.
She had become well acquainted with anxiety at this point. A day without a panic attack was a day with too much work or too much alcohol - or both. Anything to sedate her unruly subconscious. She keeps it all to herself though, this hellhound chained to her neck. She doesn't want to make anyone worry, but mostly she doesn't want to look weak, feel weak,she hates weakness almost as much as she hates her reflection, maybe even hates it more than her reflection. It reminds her of that morning, that pitch black morning, 21 years ago, around 1am - nothing good ever happens around 1am…
She remembers how the light startled her within her dreams, how it pierced through her eyelids. She was dragged out of her peach blanket and light pink sheets, the top of her toes scraped against the floor as she tried to find her footing. She remembers how her short yellow nightdress had rolled up to her waist and her strawberry printed underwear had ridden up her small behind. She tried to open her eyes, but the light stung them shut. She heard a squeak, a squeak only the front door knob could make, a light sheet of cold air passed over her feet, just above her ankles, straightening the hairs on her skinny legs as the door swung wide open, bruising the couch behind it. An argument broke out, the words exchanged have been filtered out over the years, but she can still remember their wrath, how they made her feel, how the tremors from her pounding heart shook her chest and kicked her throat from the inside, how she stroked her hand across the wall, as if she was saying goodbye, as if she knew it was the last time she would touch it.
Her eyes finally settled and she could open them. The sleeve of her nightdress was tightly wrapped in a firm bundle around the fingers of an unfamiliar hand, a pale hand, a sweaty hand - a hand that looked a lot like her hand. Jerking her about more aggressively with every profane word she uttered. Saliva and tears watering the side of her face from above. She was so afraid she didn't wipe it off, she didn't move, and if she could've, she wouldn't breath.
With a little bravery still left in her, she turned around and tried to reach out for the figure behind her, the figure she knew, the figure with whom the unfamiliar hand was arguing with. She strained her dainty arm as far as she could, and the figure she knew reached out. She thought she was safe, but the unfamiliar hand wrenched her away with such force, such anger that she regretted reaching out in the first place.
The unfamiliar hand scooped her up, out of the door, down the pathway and out the gate. Her distressing screams echoed through empty streets, waking up the neighbours, and if her tears were blood, she'd be dead. Carried into the backseat of a small taxi that was parked outside, and another car, boasting a bright set of red and blue lights on it's roof, that for a few years, she had forgotten all about, parked right behind it.
The figure she knew stood at the door, drained and in disbelief, powerless to what was happening. The neighbours, curious but cowardly, peeped through the slits of their lace curtains, close enough to witness, but far enough to say they didn't. They drove off, and the blue lights followed close by. She stretched her neck out as far as she could, peering out the back window of the taxi, until her home, and everything she had ever known, was out of sight, swallowed by the dark.
The drive was quiet and unsettling. The unfamiliar hand, holding her closely to her side, forcing her frazzled bed head against her breast , conversed with the taxi driver. They were probably talking about the events that had just taken place, but her young mind couldn't comprehend any possible reasoning for what she had experienced.
The taxi finally came to a stop at the entrance of the local bus station. The unfamiliar hand dragged her out of the taxi and began to hurry towards the swarm of large metal and harsh fumes, with her bare feet struggling to keep up on the cold concrete beneath her.
They had almost missed the bus, meeting halfway out the exit point, flagging it down through the transparent folding doors. The passenger's stares were intimidating with stern expressions, trying to make sense of the odd pair. They had no luggage, blanket or pillows to place on the uncomfortable seats.
Their tickets were marked and they were directed to their seats, still unoccupied, still empty, still wanting, waiting to be filled. The unfamiliar hand led her to the window seat, too big for her petite body, but big enough to curl up and rest her ashy feet.
Vanessa was 1 week old when her mother dropped her off at her grandmother's house and disappeared. She never saw her mother, never knew her, never saw her hands, until that pitch black morning, at 1am - nothing good ever happens at 1am.
Something broke in her that day, something - changed, suffocated, died. She looks exactly like her mother, same size, height, build. They have the same voice and walk the same way. They have the shade of brown in their piercing bedroom eyes. They have the same hands, and after all these years, these 21 years, they are still unfamiliar.