by Jessica Bell
TEARS LIKE ETHANEDIOL
I was half awake when she opened my door. From a half-squinted eye I saw her dark silhouette, her breath a shadow on the floor. Framed in sunlight, a femme fatale lost in absence, bound in smoky decor. With her red hennaed hair, waving like a flag, she lifted her fag to her mouth. In slow motion she parted her deep bronze lips, her face enamored with smoke, cigarette pinched between forefinger and thumb like a bloke.
I watched, clutching my sheet to my chin, smoke floating above my bed, lethargy looming like lead. I only closed my eyes for a moment when I felt the pain in my head. Like freedom. Mind frozen. Numb. I dropped to the floor when she pulled my hair, flung my arm against her shin, crawled along the carpet, and out my bedroom door. I locked her in.
I heard an hysterical scream. Glass being smashed, booming sheets, words inexplicably abashed. Then silence traced my feet, like cold air through teeth. Tap, tap. Scratch, scratch. Knocking wood? A desperate groan. I held my breath. Will I ever be left alone? Crash.
Fingers trembling I pushed open the door. Perhaps she’s dead on the floor? No. In her hand, a mirror, a shattered edge, a reflection of cherry lace, blood smeared across her face, through her hair, negated grace.
She stood still, a possessed china doll, dried mascara-tinted tears like ethanediol. My mother, a breathing shell of hate, reached for me, her daughter, her bait. Has she come to claim me too?
I closed my eyes tight, but she only cupped my head in her hands. Her pulse throbbed through my temples, fingers wet, cold—dark with disgust. She lifted my lids. Dug her jagged nails into my skin. I whispered, “Empty”. She’d engraved it in the wooden frame of my bed. I began to cry. My tears stung. “Now you’re like me,’ she said. “You may live, but within … you’ll feel dead.”