Contest #47 shortlist ⭐️



(TW: abuse)

You have to say it. You have to. Because if you don’t, it could literally kill you and you’re not ready for that, not yet. You aren’t that broken yet, but you could be. Soon. You take a deep, shaky breath – inhale, exhale. Do it. Say it. Do it. Open your mouth and just fucking say it.

You step back.

You keep your mouth shut.

You hate yourself.

There’s not a lot you regret in life, but this is up there, top of the list, the never-ending, forever-spiralling shame of never being able to do this. The eternal self-loathing that this happens in the first place. It’s not your fault. You know that. You know it in the same way that you know the sun is yellow and the sky is blue. You know it in the same way that you know you have to pay your taxes and your car needs gas to run. You know it in the same way that you know you never asked for this and you deserve to be safe.

But knowing and it believing it are two different things, especially when the sky is full of murky clouds or you're broke and the car is running on fumes or when you buy the wrong brand of beer to save a little extra cash.

That’s when you know, but you don’t always believe.

The hospital is busy. Accident and Emergency in the city is always anarchy, but it seems especially loud, especially chaotic today. And there are people here with real complaints, real problems, real life-or-death issues that need to be treated long before you and your measly black eye that can wait. You take a seat. It can absolutely wait.

You’re a coward and a liar.

And you hate yourself.

It’s not a black eye that can wait. It’s two black eyes that aren’t even black. There are bits of blue that aren’t blue, bits of red that aren’t red, and bits purple that aren’t purple. You take out your phone, do a Google search. Procrastinate. Hate yourself.

Prussian. Crimson. Indigo.

Such beautiful words for such violent instances.

You lean your head back against the wall behind you, exhausted, but you keep your eyes open. You’re here alone, but you know better than to close your eyes in a room full of people. You know better than to trust the strangers around you, the nosey ones who think they know everything, who think they can help by asking if you’re okay at the worst possible moment, who think they can butt in where they’re not wanted.

The ones who don’t think about the repercussions you have to face.

Like the woman across from you. She’s older by ten years, at least, but that doesn’t make her smarter. Whatever she thinks she knows – whatever she does know – she still doesn’t know, not really. Even if her concern is valid and her sympathy is familiarity, she still doesn’t know.

They’re all different. Whatever she once dealt with, it’s not what you’re dealing with and that alone makes her the enemy.

Because she will try and talk to you, try and talk you into doing and saying things that maybe you’re not ready to do or say just yet. Things that maybe you’re too scared to do or say. Things that could have severe outcomes if you do or if you say.


You’ve dealt with repercussions more than once, and it’s never been your fault. The neighbours called the cops once; you got a broken nose. The waitress at the coffee shop asked if you’d like her to call someone for you; you had bruises around your wrist for a week. The guy across the road said to call him if you ever needed anything; you got accused of flirting and choked until you passed out.

Yesterday someone dropped a domestic violence pamphlet in the letterbox.

Now you’re at the hospital with two black eyes that aren't even black, three broken fingers, and – if you had to guess – cracked ribs. It’s the cracked ribs that bother you. You know there’s not a lot that can be done about them, but the pain is immeasurable, and you don’t have anything strong enough to help.

Or perhaps you’re not strong enough to handle it – not strong enough to handle the pain of a few cracked ribs, not strong enough to make eye contact with the lady across from you, not strong enough to walk away …

Not strong enough to open your mouth and say it. Say it.

But you’ve never said it. People know – colleagues, neighbours, a few friends – but you’ve never admitted it, never agreed with them, never said you’re right, help me, because those are words you can’t say. They get stuck in your throat every time you try, and it makes you sick. It makes you sick that you can’t say them, that people look on in pity, that you know it’s not your fault but maybe it kind of is because if you can’t say the words then who’s to blame? Who’s really at fault here?

Or maybe it’s not about fault. Maybe it’s about speaking up, maybe it’s about the sheer exhaustion you feel every time something goes wrong, maybe it’s about the ache in your bones when you think about going home after all of this.

Maybe it’s opening your mouth.

Maybe it’s believing.

Maybe it’s trust and sympathy and no more repercussions.

The doctor, the nurse, the lady sitting opposite you – one of them is going to ask, and maybe it’s time to stop lying, stop protecting, stop hurting yourself not fighting for yourself.

It’s not your fault. You know that. It’s time to start believing it.

You open your phone and Google the colours again.

Prussian. Crimson. Indigo.

You don’t want to associate such vivid shades with bruises old and new. You want Prussian dresses that show off flawless skin. You want crimson nails done at the salon because you get to spend your money on what you want. You want indigo hair because it’s pretty and you want it.

You want it.

You want more than broken wrists and concussions. You want more than avoiding eye contact with every stranger who looks at you. You want more than being afraid of what someone drops in your letterbox.

The nurse at the desk calls your name. When you look up at her, it’s the same as the few other times you’ve been here – concern, understanding, an awareness that she might have a fight on her hands in finding out the truth in what happened to you.

You stand. You walk to the desk and try not to wince at the pain in your chest. You sit in front of her.

She asks you what happened.

You have to say it. You have to. It will kill you if you don’t. You take a deep, shaky breath – inhale, exhale. Do it. Say it. Do it. Open your mouth and just fucking say it.

“My girlfriend hit me.”

June 25, 2020 09:02

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in the Reedsy Book Editor. 100% free.