Eyes ablaze with a raging fire, he stares at the woman he thought he once knew. Engulfed by his own anger that has been fostering inside him for the past three hours, he feels struck with the inability to speak. Not that he needs to state the accusation; she knows the exact reason for his emotions.
Hands quivering with fear, like the legs of a deer noticed by their predator, she attempts to gently lay them on his strong hands, to ease the fury displayed in his clenched fists. He snatches them back. As if the mere touch of her skin would poison anyone who dares to go near.
“This relationship is a lie, Helen. Or should I call you, Sofia,” he finally says, with an air of pure disgust, malice dripping from the use of her real name. “Even your bloody name was a lie!” His face contorts into a snarl as he speaks. After lingering his gaze upon her a moment longer, as though searching for some sign, he steps away, staring out of the window, eyes continuously alert.
I’ve done this to him, she thinks, while he chews repetitively on his short nails that had finally begun to grow back. She sniggers to herself as she considers how it had been her to help him stop that old stress habit, only to be the cause of problems far worse. How did I let myself believe the illusion that I could honestly care for someone without eventually wounding them? How did I believe I could hide my retched past forever? How did I believe that I, the evil little girl who murdered her step-dad, deserved love?
“See y’tomorrow!” Abi shouts, as she pulls herself over the wall and jumps down, taking the forbidden shortcut. Giggling, Sofia enthusiastically waves to her, feeling overwhelmed by the joy of finally having one true friend in her small world.
Neither of them are popular. In fact, they are the most frequently bullied girls in their school. But besides this common ground, they are both quite different; Sofia tries to hide and distance herself from anyone who can hurt her, while Abi boldly stands her ground, indifferent to the chiding words of the children around her every day.
Turning the corner, her momentary joy begins to turn to dread as the sight of her dismal house comes into view. Counting her steps, she forces her suddenly heavy feet to keep moving forward, to the place where she never feels the safety or comfort that other people tend to associate with the word ‘home’.
Preparing herself for another customary Tuesday alone with her step-dad, while her mum takes the weekly shopping trip, she lowers her gaze to the floor. Gently, she pushes back the aged door, unsuccessfully attempting to remain unseen.
The newspaper headline glares up at her, as it lies upon their newly bought dining room table. Cackles at her petty life. At the pain its one single article has had the power to bring upon her. The headline taunts repeatedly in her mind:
“Murderer Finds Dead Body”
Her lips quiver as she considers the nearing possibility of losing her only love; her only meaning of life; one of the few people who is even acknowledging of her existence in today’s world.
“Please, Matt, you don’t understand. There was nothing else I could do. I’m not a murderer. I was never a murderer.” she remains determined to keep her voice level as she states the innocence she has queried throughout the last ten years of her life.
“I have hated every minute of lying; I did want you to know the truth. Honestly.” she whimpers, her voice decreasing in volume with each spoken word, scared of his reaction. Scared of her new future.
Starting a small earthquake through the table, the weight of his fist falls heavily before her. His face forming the same look of distaste she had faced throughout her childhood. Gasping in fear, her body jolts backwards, suddenly terrified of the situation.
You idiot, her mind screams. Of course the truths of murder and prison – living amongst the other hated juveniles removed from society – would eventually be revealed. Of course he would hate you for it, just as those staff had looked upon you every day with that glare of contempt and disgust. Either them, or the staff who peered upon you with that expression of pity, full of guilt for their inability to help solve another problem in the world.
That is what you have always been, Sophia, she tells herself; a hindrance to every life that you enter.
Each exhalation gusts into her face, infiltrating her nose with his retched breath. His words swim around her; threatening to drown her with their heart-breaking weight; each one another stab in an open wound.
“Useless…Waste of space…Failure…”
Her body shudders as she feels almost claustrophobic, trapped here in the corner of the kitchen; all view of her surroundings blocked by the face of her step dad, his face far too close to hers.
Each day the same anger, the same shouting, the same fighting. Each day she leaves the school bullies, only to face worse in her own home. Each Tuesday, the same threats from her step dad, the same abuse to fill their bonding time.
Her breath stolen, she doubles over as his fist meets her stomach. A single tear escapes an eye, as she gasps for air.
No, I can’t let him see my pain, she decides; I won’t allow him that satisfaction.
To the right of her, a knife glints under the light from the window. Offers its help.
If I can just injure him, maybe he won’t hurt me anymore. Maybe they will understand what is happening. Maybe I will be safe.
Resisting the tremors threatening to steal her control, she forces her hand to move quickly towards the light of help. Forces her feeble hands to hold the weapon.
Too lost in his own anger, his eyes only show a sign of awareness in the last minutes. Too late. She holds her breath as she thrusts the murderous object into his side. Feels it slice through his skin as she wounds his insides.
Frozen, she remains staring at the crime committed by her own hands, her nervous system too shocked to process the information before her, or to tell her how to respond. What have I done? Terrified of calling for help, terrified of staying; she begins to run.
Wildly grabbing any nearby belongings, Matt starts throwing them into a bag, muttering accusations at her.
“No, please, I love you,” she begins to beg; desperate to make him stay. Despite knowing every word is in vain – even doubting the fact that she deserves love – she continues, urged on by her own feelings and her reluctance to surrender the life they have begun together.
Reaching the door, he pauses, “I did love you, Helen. But you aren’t the person I thought you were and this relationship isn’t what I thought it was. I am leaving you, and I am not coming back. Do you understand?”
Her eyes glazed with tears, she responds with a slight nod, signifying her understanding.
As the door slams behind him, she gives in to the sadness that has been growing inside her. Backed against the wall, her legs fall under the weight of her own misery, tears stream down her woeful face.
He was everything to me and I failed even him; everything I touch I ruin. What right do I have to this life?