It was December again. Hail pelted at the windows, a thousand spindly fingers knocking on her windows in the empty flat. But whoever was so desperate to come inside was invisible, submerged in the wintry darkness which enveloped her house and hers alone. She motioned towards her wardrobe, putting on a black jumper to combat the ominous chill surrounding her, choosing to ignore the familiar figure, stood silently behind her in the full-length mirror. The man who came back every December and would never leave her side. Even as she wrote this tale, she could feel his breath at the nape of her neck, willing her to continue writing and breaking down the layers bit by bit, until the tears irrevocably came spilling down her front and her feelings poured out, uninhibited, rotten and festered from remaining deep down inside her chest for so many years.
But no, not now. She was fine. She continued writing. She continued with her evening, closing the wardrobe door, ensuring to close her eyes ever so briefly, as soon as she passed the hallway mirror, before sitting herself silently down in the living room. Relax. She had to relax. But it was December Ninth, and this was the one day a year she could never relax. December Ninth was not a day she could ever sit and relax, and act like everything was fine as she did all other 364 days of the year.
Her body slumped low in the leather sofa, trembling fingers picking at the peeling fabric. Anything to distract her. The multitude of hands continued to pelt at the windows, the tirade of unwanted memories trying their very best to claw themselves back inside and take whatever they could from her. It pleased them so, to see her break down and realise that she wasn’t over his death just yet. Oh no, and she knew she never would be. And this made them squeal and cackle with glee. Their laughter rang in her ears, her fingers reached for her neck instinctively, as the spirits willed her to claw and scratch at her already-broken flesh.
It was no use. They came every time, every night. Every December Ninth was the very same and she knew it was better to get it over with and embrace it, rather than let them grow even more furious with her. It would only hurt more later. With shaky breaths and frozen hands, she opened the window and let them in.
There was a resounding crackle; the lights all went out. A projector illuminated the bare wall beside her, and they watched their lives on the screen. It started with an alright scene, a morbidly nervous girl on her first evening at a new college. She hid her beetroot face with messy, auburn hair and bit her nails for want of something to do. He wanted to play pool, and her hyperaware body rendered her electric fingers incapable and clumsy. The reel switched, she was in his room, splayed out onto his bed, absentmindedly trailing her feet up the lemon walls and wondering what her partner would think of this if he knew. But she didn’t really care. This man was her only friend, and she would do anything to keep him.
Her body ached the next morning, covered in carpet burns and sugar-coated bruises. And she liked it. It made her feel good. But the throbbing in the back of her head would never cease, and didn’t cease until that fateful December Ninth. That night she felt an abrupt release of pain, the sudden blissful silence in her head that she hadn’t felt in months.
Perhaps, she mused wishfully, I can finally move on.
She was on the phone with her partner, walking home when she first noticed it. Police tape cordoned off the flat, officers surrounding the entire accomodation complex. Students stood around in clusters, high-pitched voices and harsh whispers muttering about a man who had hurt himself. A man who’s lemon-coloured walls were now permanently stained crimson with his own blood. A man who was so miserably, unbearably alone, and had decided there was no point to anything anymore.
The video played over and over on repeat. The one she had imagined for herself, the one of him hurting herself.
How did he do it?
When did he do it?
Did he use a knife?
And if so, did he slice his wrist?
His throat? Which way did he slice?
Left or right?
Was he left or right handed? It was so long ago, she couldn’t remember. It occurred to her for the first time that she could barely remember his voice, his face. It was all, slowly, ever so slowly, becoming a blur. He was disappearing from her memory, the carpet burns and sugar-coated bruises long healed and replaced by new ones, from newer lovers that made her feel so loved she could never forgive herself if something similar were to happen to them.
The film stopped, the projector tick-ticked and turned off, leaving her in darkness. She didn’t want to remember anymore.
Copyright © 2017 Rebecca Sherratt
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