by Joyce Chua
There had never been any question about it. It was her fault. And for that, she was bound to him forever. Or at least, until she could assuage the guilt or until he forgave her, set her free. But the bonds were too tight; she could barely hope that they would ever snap.
“It’s your fault, Audrey.” He never let her forget that. “If only you hadn’t been there…”
He was drunk again. She remembered the last time he let his brain get addled with alcohol, and shuddered.
“Have you ever thought of getting a job, Ryan?” She had to approach gently. He was too volatile these days.
“A job?” He barked a laugh. “What can a cripple like me work as?”
“You aren’t crippled. You just can’t play anymore.”
He turned to her, his eyes flashing dangerously. “And whose fault is it that I had to give up the piano? And now you’re finding me a nuisance? Am I in your way, Audrey? Am I robbing you of a life?”
“No.” She took his hands. “I didn’t mean that. You know I didn’t –”
“I was meant to do great things, be world-famous.” A hazy glimmer settled in his faraway gaze.
When she noticed the hardening of his jaw, it was too late. He had grabbed hold of her. She braced herself for the incoming tide. But instead of hitting her, he took her face and pressed his lips against hers. The smell of alcohol made her gag, but she tried not to struggle.
It’ll be over soon. It’ll be over soon.
But his hands were running all over her now. He gripped her more tightly when she writhed. Her breathing was labored now, as the panic that spread from within her became a blanket of goosebumps. Her skin crawled wherever his hands and lips roamed.
“It’s your fault, Audrey.”
“Please stop. Please.”
“But don’t you see? It’s your fault.” His voice was muffled against her skin.
She imagined herself engulfed by the toxic cloud of guilt, the one that numbed her senses so that she was unable to bring herself to leave him. She choked on it, reveled in it.
Later, she would tell herself it was that cloud of guilt that made her grab his hair and swing his head against the edge of the coffee table. It was that cloud of guilt that made her deaf to the crack of his skull, blind to the crimson river that poured out of him, stained his face.
Right then, she stared down at him, her bloody angel, whom she once loved. She could think of nothing apart from the music he played, a hushed melody that she feared to forget.