Contemporary Teens & Young Adult Coming of Age

Memories swirl in her mind, a kaleidoscope of colours and emotions set to a soundtrack of indescribable music. The highs. The lows. Where did it all go wrong?

There are the sweet memories: the handholds on the beach, the hugs she never saw coming. The feeling of closeness that overwhelmed her lonely soul; the feeling that itches for her now to make a move. To send a text. To show up at a door, just not with a boombox of some kind. Just to show up, to say she is still in this. But isn’t there a limit on how much sweet memories can overwhelm all the damaging, hurtful ones?

It’s almost like a bird song: how the sweet memories tell one version of the story. Of a love that’s lasted amid hard times, of a love that stays and returns in kind. But that is not the story, she knows that. Even when part of her wants to believe it is. Yells echo in her ears, the vulnerabilities pin-pricking and aching beneath her skin. Love is not supposed to intentionally hurt anyone. If it does, is it love?

As she sits, thinking about the pin-pricks she wrote off and the crappy feelings she let be put on, applied to her skin like paper mache, another tear rolls down her face. Because this is how it is, how it’s always been. Her feet have been brushing the floor, held up by the force of her will, and now they curl inwards. The pattern isn’t hard, but it is this: lovestruck romantic scenes, followed by a fight with too many bad words, where all the wrong notes are played in a soundtrack of hurt feelings. Then the apology, the promise that things will be different. That it was just circumstantial, and it’s enough to pull her back in. More amazing moments. More fights and apologies. More pin-pricks of feelings that are not love. But this time, these tears do not feel the same.

If this cycle has been a sickness, then maybe these tears are both the curse and the cure. They rain onto her knees, lightly staining the grey of her sweatpants a darker shade. Maybe it was never right; what if it was always wrong? What if she just wanted to believe in the illusion that this could be love, even when it’s not?

There’s always an apology, and as she looks out her bedroom window, the softness of her bed cushioning her against the epiphanies blooming in her mind, she sees who the apology is coming from this time. He’s walking up to her apartment building, a briskness to his pace. She can tell there’s a hard line on his face without even being able to see it. He’s gonna say he said the wrong thing or took the wrong step. That he knows he is in the wrong, but they do belong. There is still love to be shared. But when a person has seen the light, can they ever go back to the dark?

She swipes at another tear, stopping the water in its tracks. This time feels different. She does not deserve to feel like less for the sake of calling something love and wanting to believe in it. Real love deserves that kind of belief, not whatever she has been calling love in its place. At a heavy knock on the door, her cushioned feet leave the safety of her bed, feeling like they’re walking her towards the final frontier.

When the door opens, his face has lost its hard edges. His brown eyes are like swirling chocolate and he is all apologies with a side of sweet nothings she can no longer believe are anything but sugary dreams. “Mia, I am so sorry.” She watches as his eyes sweep over her, taking in her sweatpants, hoodie and messy hair in a bun. Pieces of hair have escaped the elastic, but not in a way to frame her face. If she had smeared mascara, she would be a completed look of a gutted, broken heart. But she is not broken, not like he wants to believe. “I should have never said those things to you. I was just having a moment of insecurity and you did not deserve to be included in that.”

She’s quiet for a moment, analyzing the way his facial expression has made her want to believe that before. The way it appears so open, honest, and caring. “You’re right, you should not have said those things. I deserve more than that.”

“You do,” he’s so quick to say, “You deserve so much better and I will be better. I really promise, I am trying. I guess personal growth isn’t as easy as I wanted it to be.” A small, self-conscious laugh leaves his mouth, a laugh that would have garnered something like sympathy before today.

She can’t see what her face looks like, but it feels stony. Full of hard edges he doesn’t realize cannot be chipped away. Not anymore. “I do deserve better. Growing never promises to be easy, but it should be better than that. Better than repeated apologies over the same behaviour.”

There’s a flicker on his face, a moment of confusion in his expression that interrupts the soft, candy-laced look he’s been going for. “Mia, we can figure this out. I can be better.”

“You’ve been trying to be better for a while,” she tells him, “and it always ends up here. With one of us apologizing, saying we were wrong before it happens again. And again. It doesn’t seem to stop.”

His jaw clenches, and she knows the monster of rage that keeps making an appearance is trying to retake the stage. To say something else he ‘doesn’t mean’ in a phase of infuriation. “Who says it’s always going to end up here?”

“I do. Because it keeps happening, and I can’t do it anymore.”

“But I love you.” It’s short, but it’s always his defence. The last line of apologies, the one she’s bought too many times.

“Maybe you do. But this,” she gestures between them, “doesn’t feel like love. I shouldn’t be crying so often. I shouldn’t love someone who spends more time breaking my heart than making it happy.” As he stands in front of her, everything about his posture says he wants to argue or at least disagree. “I need you to leave.”

“We can fix this,” he says again, “We just have to try.”

“I need you to leave.”

“Are you seriously asking me to leave right now? After everything?” The notes of rage in his tone keep going up, and she snakes her hand to the doorknob on the side of the door he can’t see, positioning herself further behind the wood.

“I need you to leave, Brendan. And not come back. This needs to stop.” At his widened eyes, she continues, “Maybe you can actually get some growing done then.”

She shuts the door, locks it. Everything is quiet for a moment: him, her thoughts, the hallway. She stands and waits a few feet away, and just like she expects, it happens. There’s more knocking, some insistent whispering of her name as he urgently pounds on the door. “Come on, Mia, we can talk about this! We always do.”

And that’s the problem, isn’t it? Sometimes things repeat like bad habits, and the only way out is for them to be broken. Her friends have told her for a long time, in their soft way, that this pattern is not healthy. Looks like the message has finally stuck, because she doesn’t want to open the door. She doesn’t want to talk. And she’s never felt stronger for it.

May 19, 2022 18:47

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Caitlin Cusack
18:29 May 26, 2022

Nicely done. I feel you captured the voice of a teen girl perfectly. You made the reader root for her. The underlying message of finding the strength to advocate for yourself is powerful. It needs to be communicated in an interesting way, and that's what your story does.


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Michał Przywara
16:46 May 23, 2022

Good story, very tense. I didn't know how it was going to end when she started confronting him, and every time his rage spiked I was wondering if a fist was coming next. When she shut the door was a relief. I like that she's struggling with her memories here, giving the good ones far too much weight for too long. That pairs nicely with what her friends have been telling her, what she's finally prepared to accept. I don't know if there's hope for them or not, but it's a good point: you can't fix a broken pattern if you do nothing to change...


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