This story is one of the May Writing Challenge entries chosen to be a featured story.
Ten months on, and I still wake up curled like a bug on the left side of the bed. Alex was so much bigger than I was, and I used to grumble that sleeping with him meant that I had to sleep squashed up against the wall.
Sighing, I blink at the LED light on my clock display — 2 in the morning. A cup of tea would be nice.
I stumble into the kitchen, tripping over my feet, crashing into every bit of furniture lying around. Ten months ago, I would have been more careful.
Tea was always Alex’s thing. I hate the damn stuff, but he was a wizard when it came to milk and sugar. I’m still drinking it, but it’s crap when I make it. Anything is crap when I make it, really. That may have been the deal breaker for him.
“Alex,” I whisper.
Ten months on, and I’m still wearing the engagement ring. Even though we broke it off ten months ago. Even though you’re probably already engaged to some pretty, perky girl whose culinary skills aren’t limited to burnt parippu and smelly fish. She’s probably a white girl who can cook Sri Lankan better than I can. She’s probably—
I sip my tea, and wow, it is sh***y, but it also brings the kitchen into sharp focus. Maybe I should move out. Everything in this place reminds of him and me, and me and him, when there was an us. There’s a big, serrated knife hanging from a hook on the wall. I remember one day I was raking it across my wrist when he came home, admiring how each cut went clean and white before letting red, red blood stain it, blotchy and beautiful. I remember his sharp intake of breath, how he took it away from me, lifted me up like an overlarge potato, bandaged me, kissed me. He never was one for first aid, not until he met me.
Maybe that was the deal breaker.
I have an ugly, ropy scar on my stomach. That scar kept me a virgin throughout college. Insecurity about it did, technically. I remember the first time Alex pulled my shirt over my head. I knew he wouldn’t say anything, but I waited for a wince, a slip in his smile, anything. It didn’t happen. He looked at my body like I was a goddess, and he gasped — quietly, like he didn’t mean to. He let his fingers weave through my hair, kissed the base of my throat.
“You’re beautiful,” he told me, and moved to set my skin ablaze.
I believed it then, along with the other lies.
I’ll always love you. I’ll love you no matter what.
If this is forever, it’s not long enough.
I wish I could talk to him now. I want to tell him that I’m going for AA meetings. He always would get on my case about going for those. I used to laugh at him. “I’m not an alcoholic,” I would say, taking another swig from the bottle, swaying like a willow in the wind. I just like a drink to calm down. One day he got really mad and poured a whole bottle down the sink. I lost a moment of time then. One second I was standing there screaming, and then suddenly he was holding his pale blue shirt sleeve up against his lip, blood blossoming against it.
That was the first time he slept on the couch. It wasn’t the last.
He left me ten months ago.
I feel it then. It’s almost like an earthquake, and yet it’s only an infinitesimal shift. How this particular 2:00 am cup of tea differs from the rest, I don’t know, but for the first time since he left, I feel okay.
If you were here, I’d tell you that I still love you.
I always will.
I’m really okay now. I got help, and a proper diagnosis. The wave doesn’t pull me under quite so often anymore.
If you want me, I’m yours.
But if you don’t — suddenly my tea doesn’t taste quite so sh***y anymore.