CW: sexual assault, abuse, suicide

It is snowing outside. It has been for some days. It has been relentlessly chilled, and a pink tint sits upon my face from the cold. I am sick and have been for years. I bring my fingertips closer to the strings, feeling every ache of my body intensify and the rate of my breathing quicken in pace. I can not do it. No matter how many times I have tried. No matter how many times I attempt to bring it to life, this aspect of me that has been gone for so long, it is always futile. I will never play the guitar again. I set it down on the floor and throw my face into my hands, the trembling ever so severe. I can hear myself playing it. I can see the chords and see my next move, each shift of my fingers, the furrowing of my eyebrows. I can see you sitting in front of me. Your face is so entrapped. Your expression is so intrigued. Us two, alone in the world. I can see you stand. I can see you begin to dance, your limbs so articulate. Your face is so surreal. I can see you quicken in pace as I begin to speed up my play, and your legs begin moving with your arms. You begin twirling, twitching your head to the side in a dainty motion. I feel my mouth open. I feel it begin to sing, and you begin to smile. Your dance becomes more freed, more bountiful, and the world begins to move around you. You are controlling the stars' alignments, you are controlling how fast the moon circles the earth. I see your leg begin to reach for the sky while your other stays planted on the ground. Your face is so concentrated and sleek as you pull my favorite move, your leg aiming at the cosmos and other aiming at the core. You then prettily stick your arms out in a beguiling sight of tranquility, and then you snap. You flick your arms as you return to being human, slowly curling your leg back down, and with a sigh, you laugh, because I am staring at you in awe.

I hate what she did to you. The way the smallest actions or words could set you off. The way that if I would raise my hand too quickly you would flinch away as if I were something to fear. I saw the way your room became so easily dirtied, and how you had no will to clean it. I recall coming to your house when you did not answer my calls or texts and finding you curled into a tiny clean corner of your bed, balled up into a concoction of what she placed into your mind. I feel guilty because I did not know what to do in these situations. I would see someone in need. I would find something that needs assurance, love, and yearning. I could never bring myself to be the one to give to you. I could never bring myself to lay a kiss on your cheek, to whisper to you that she is gone and it’s just me. She can no longer hurt you. She can no longer lay a hand on you. She can no longer lead you to this bed in your drunken stupor and do those terrible things that she did. She no longer is a part of your life. It’s just me. Even if I did say those statements to you, you would never exactly believe them. You lived on your toes, bouncing and ready to flee at the first sign of danger. You lived as if everyone had a dark side, and if every flower was poisonous. You saw the world as bleak, and never saw how beautiful you made it. Every day you lived the sun shone most bright, and the moon brighter. You made the grass green in the summer, and snowflakes shimmer in the winter. You made the falling of leaves a dance. The budding in spring was vibrant. You never saw it though. You did not exactly see anything after she was through with you. You would see shapes, colors, and patterns and turn them into an image. You would hear syllables, syntax, and pauses to create sentences. Yet you were never truly there. You lost a spark inside of you. You lost your pure smile, your seemingly indestructible poise. Sarcasm and wit were dismantled. Humor and laughter dissipated. The wonder in your eyes was lost. I still loved you, and that is what you did not understand. You did not understand that love was a feeling you could still hold onto. You held onto sadness instead. It gave you a sense of control. A small sense of living amongst the dead. You kept it like a mother keeps a child safe, like a lover loves a soulmate, and like an addict needs substance. With all around you crumbling, with your mind sprouting out poison, you were able to grab onto one emotion and feel it completely. It inhaled you whole. When you thought you were in control, it was the entire time controlling you. The words you spoke. The anger in your voice. The way your lips spewed venom, and the way your eyes struck violence. It made you hate the world you once loved. It made you fear the beautiful. It made you despise the lovely. 

I saw it change the way you danced. The way your solos became more hateful. They were once just made for serenity. How you would move to such beautiful cadences, becoming the notes and melting into the lyrics. They slowly moved to lash movements and violent lyrics. There was so much pent-up emotion that you would release in your solos. The way your face would be so furrowed, and sometimes tears would fall from your eyes. The notes would pelt and you would throw your body in such a smooth motion the crowd would applaud and let out whoops, and when you were done, you would stand there with outstretched arms and chest heaving, tears running mascara thickly down your cheeks. You won many scholarships for these solos. The people bowed down to you as you stood on stage, those lights dazzling into your eyes as they lay narrowed to the world around. Those brilliantly blue eyes. Throwing daggers into all who cheered. You did not want them to cheer. You wanted silence. For them to soak in what they just saw, for them to feel pity. You wanted her to be there most. You wanted her to sneak in. To watch from the back, and feel regret for all the time you spent with her. You did not realize that she would have loved to see what she did to you. So the cheers continued, and so did the tears.

I went to every one of your competitions. I would always see you after. We would go to a late-night coffee shop when you had competitions nearby, and we would just sit. I would stare at your withered makeup, stare at you as you stared into space, stare at you while you imagined the unimaginable. 

“You did incredible, Mary.”

“Thank you.”

“Do you want to talk about it?”


And with that, we would sip our coffee, and I would fight the stare of pity that you desired from everyone but me.

Your favorite animal was a cardinal. You would get so excited when you saw one when we drove. There was a period after her where you were actually good. You were you, so vibrantly you. Sarcasm and wit were a constant. Humor and laughter were a wondrous sight. Your smile was so pure. I remember you pointing frantically out the window as the snow billowed down.

“There!” You shouted. “There is one!”

I peered away from the road and smiled as I saw a cardinal placed on a branch. I laughed, and said, “why is it that you like cardinals so much?”

You shrugged. “They make everything so beautiful. They make the snow look prettier. They make a summer day seem warmer. They make the falling leaves less menacing, and the newly green trees a resting spot. And, they are the same color as my hair, so, of course, they are beautiful.” You leaned away from the window and faced me. “Why is a crow your favorite animal?”

I brought my hand to your face and waved my fingers. “Because they eat dead things.”

You laughed and pushed my hand away playfully. 

When I was a kid, I lived in New Mexico, rather than Michigan. I used to not talk, for fear of saying something or doing something wrong. I was never the best with words, nowhere near as outspoken as you were. Every morning I would wake in the summer and make my way to the driveway to sit alone, and every morning, a crow would land beside me. It would peer at me with its inky black eyes as if attempting to pry me apart. I would stare back, smiling at it, hoping it understood how much it meant to me. To have one aspect in my life that is constant and friendly. I never tried to touch it. I never tried to pet it or grab it, I would just let it exist. Sometimes I would talk to it. Tell it about my prior day. Tell it a funny story that happened to me. Tell it how I did on my tests. It was so easy to speak to something that never judged me. Never questioned, or tried to pull something from me that I did not want to be pulled, so that is why I call it my friend. This went on for two years, season through season.

The day my family and I left to move to Michigan, I woke up on that morning earlier than my family and made my way to the driveway. Of course, the crow arrived. I was crying then, tasting salt as tears slithered their way into my lips. I could see my breath, which was odd for New Mexico, even in the winter. That day I had brought a piece of bread with me. A final parting and thank you gift. To thank it for being with me when the acquaintance of my own thoughts was not enough. To be there when words needed to be spoken. But as I reached out to feed the crow, it paced back, a glint in its eyes. It reeled away and opened its wings, releasing into the morning sky. That was the last time I ever saw it. I still think of it when I see crows do this day. I grieve the things I loved the most.

I wish I had been able to do something for you when I could tell it got bad. After that moment of life that you felt, it fell again. Violently. That was the last time I saw you smile. Nothing, in particular, happened, at least nothing that you told me of. It just seemed that it all finally got to you. Everything with her, your childhood, your mind, your illnesses; it all finally caught up. 

The first sign was that you quit dancing. The second sign was when you became more affectionate. The third sign was when that affection dissipated. The fourth sign is when you came to my house, rain dripping from your face and red-dyed hair. 

“I hate you,” you whispered.

Last time you attempted suicide you did this.

“You think that out of everyone, you would be anything to anyone? Go back to not talking again. Keep your mouth sealed. Live life in silence. Live life alone. Hate what you have. Hate what you are.” 

Your words seemed almost planned, written out. I knew they were not real. I have known you since the fourth grade. I have known every aspect of you. Your second favorite animal was a cat, far more than a dog. You loved baking, mainly cookies, and you woke early in the morning and laid down to sleep as soon as the sun began to set. You loved reading, but you loved music more. That’s one of the reasons you loved dancing so much. With dance, you could physically show your love for music in your movements, creating stories to the rhythm. Of course, I know your favorite animal is a cardinal.

When you were done, you were sobbing, and the determination in your eyes was gone. You were trying to say more, trying to pry out any last ounce of hatred, but you were run dry. I held my hand up to your cheek. Felt you relax into it. Felt you feel my warmth on your chilled skin. You broke character. When I realized this, I began to cry as well.

 “I love you, Mary. I am so sorry.”

The fifth sign was the look on your face after I said that. The way your eyes softened. The way your sobs ceased. The way your eyebrows relaxed, and shoulders fell into place. You looked at me with those blue eyes, and I saw the eyes of the first time I met you. The first time I knew I needed you. And without thinking, I grabbed your arm and pulled you close to me. Our lips met, our collarbones pressing. Your hand wrapped around my back and mine around yours. You ran your fingers through my long, blonde hair, and dragged it down my back, looping your thumb in one of the belt loops upon my jeans. 

I let you go that night. I let you reel away from my kiss, let you stumble back into the rain. Let you stare at me with disdain, lips slightly parted and eyes fierce. I let you say those words to me.

“You are just like her.”

That night was the night you left. I got a call from your mother. She said you were in the hospital in critical condition. I got a call from my own mother. She said she would be home soon. I got a call from my friends, father, and extended family. Each reply would be the same. 

“She is going to be okay. Thank you for the call.” Because, at that time, I thought you would be okay. I imagined being let into your hospital room, watching you smile at me with pureness, watching you begin to cry. Watch you as you apologize to me, and listen to myself as I respond through tears.

“No Mary, don’t apologize. I love you, I love you so much. Please don’t leave me.”

I never got that, though. No matter how hard I wished or even prayed. I never got that. You died at 3:14 am. The cause of death was suicide.

When I was a kid in New Mexico, I did not talk. I feared that what I would say would not be taken in how I desired it to be, and I feared that people would find me ignorant. My only friend was a crow. When I moved to Michigan, I feared talking to people because they had the ability to talk back. I did not have a crow as a friend. I met a young girl on the playground. She said she loved my hair. I said I loved hers. It was brown, mine was black. She asked what my name was. I said it was Vanessa. She said she loved my name. Your name was Mary.

We grew together. We watched the seasons as they sped past. I watched us both leap through age; you were much more graceful than I was. I watched you get your first puppy. His name was Logan. I watched you grieve when he died. I watched you find your beauty in the world. I watched you dance. I watched you find what you enjoy most, and how lucky I was to be one of those. I watched you sleep and wake. I watched you love and hate. I watched you go through her. I watched the bruises form and dissipate, and watched your gaze become cloudy and distant. I watched you become her. Watched the anger in you appear and never leave. The worst part is, I just watched it all. I watched you cover your arms. I watched you hide your body. I watched you slowly decide. Each day I let those thoughts run behind your mind, and I just watched.

I read your note. Everyone told me not to. But I did. And I read that section of me. I read that profession of love. You stated all the things you loved about me. I cried into that note, regret coiling its way up my body. All of those words, and the last line struck the most.

“You will never be her.”

Oh, how I desired you. Ever since I met you. Sometimes when I lay in bed to sleep I still imagine you in the wedding dress I planned for you, while you remained oblivious. How beautiful it would be to have you walking down the aisle to meet my side. The veil billowing in front of your face, blurring your perfect complexion and blue eyes potent against the white. I imagined our life together. Waking each morning by your side, sleeping in our favorite sundresses. I imagined you dancing until you couldn’t anymore. Whether it be on stage or just in our living room. You would have so much space, you know. You would be able to leap and bound, to dance in hatred or in serenity. It would all be your choice. You would be so free. If only you could have just waited.

March 03, 2023 17:30

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Helen A Smith
08:44 Mar 11, 2023

A very sad read balanced by how much the MC was loved. A gradual reveal like the paring back of an onion. Well written and moving.


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David Sweet
05:18 Mar 11, 2023

Wow. So emotional and heart-rending. I hope this is fiction, if not, I am sorry for your pain and loss. We are well into the story before we encounter dialogue and bird imagery. I'm wondering if you could start this sooner within the story, perhaps in the beginning with the dance and carry it throughout. I find it interesting with the character's choice of birds. Both represent death in their own ways. The cardinal a symbol of a messenger of someone who has passed, and the crow a symbol of death and the underworld. Thanks for sharing.


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