Drowning, part 2 [Flash fiction prompt: Page by page]

Flash fiction prompt 27 and I cannot believe I’m almost at the end of this challenge! Today’s prompt piece is a follow up to yesterday’s, the same event told from the perspective of the other person. I’m pretty sure these are indeed the guys from day 24’s Push and I’m intrigued to see how much more of their story they want to tell me.

As with yesterday, content warning for fucked up relationships, mutual violence and emotional manipulation.

Colour photograph of a car-lined street at sunset viewed in the wing mirror of a car

7.09pm and the sun is setting as I drive away, encased in blissful silence and fading light. This has always been my favourite time, with clouds glowing red and orange as another day falls warm below the horizon. The side of my face is pulsing in time with my heartbeat, swelling like the symphony of your charismatic rage. I grip the steering wheel tightly as if it was built from the delicate structures of your throat, begging to be crushed in my hands. You, with your poet’s soul, who will never understand how close I came to not being able to stop, how close I come every time. You provoke me with flashing eyes to the tipping point of almost, knowing nothing of the times before you when almost was not my limit. The times before you when I knew no limits.

11.16pm and I pull in to the garage to fill up the car, letting my hair fall across my eye when I go in to pay. People already regard me with a sense of caution that I know has more to do with my demeanour than my size. I don’t want to deal with that tonight. I don’t want to be reminded that strangers can feel the violence in me. I don’t want to be reminded that it’s there, always, my defining feature. In a past life, it was celebrated by the people who put guns in my hands and money in my pockets. In a past life, it was useful, directed. In this life, I struggle to control it. You see me as calm, steady, reliable. You have no idea what it took to build these walls and what it still takes to hold myself behind them.

4.35am and the dark miles stretch out before me like the faces of the fallen, the worlds I have ended with only the barest of consideration and tragically little remorse. I used to drive at night then too, telling myself every time that I could just keep driving if I wanted to, that there was no good reason to go back. The truth is, I needed it. The money was just an excuse. I would have done it for free. You only know half of this story because I can’t get past the feeling that if I told you everything, I would wake up one morning and find you gone. For all we have done to each other, for everything asked for and given and received, we are still standing knee-deep at the edge of a bottomless sea and I have spent too much time at its centre. I was never caught in the current. I was directing the tides.

7.43am and I imagine you at home, in bed, still clothed and unable to sleep. I imagine being the kind of person who could be beside you now, the kind of person who could trust myself as much as you trust me. Instead, I sit in my car and fill more pages of a book that holds all the words I would never dare to speak out loud. A book that holds my past, my secrets, all the things I wish I had the emotional capacity to regret. The last thing I write before I slide the book back through the carefully concealed tear in the leather of my seat is for you. The last thing I write is, “I’m sorry”.

9.02am and I close the car door quietly and head back into the house. I walk with steady footsteps and hang my coat on the hook in the hall, smoothing the fabric with my hand before I go to the kitchen to make coffee. I know the smell will wake you because it always does. I know you’ll arrive downstairs in a few minutes, dishevelled and captivating as ever. I know you’ll think of this as a battle and assume I’ll believe that I won. I’ll make two cups of coffee because it feels like the right thing to do and I’ll try to smile when I hand yours to you. You’ll see the bruises on my face and I’ll see the bruises on your neck and for a fleeting moment I’ll feel like maybe I can tell you everything. But I won’t.

11.51am and you settle back against me as the fire burns with almost as much heat as you. I welcome warmth into frozen places, trying to ignore the fear that one day I won’t be able to stop myself and you’ll see past the parts of me you love to the reality that I suspect might be too much, even for you. The darkest fear is reserved for the possibility that you won’t fight back, that you’ll look into my eyes with pure acceptance and in the end your undoing and mine will be too perfect for either of us to bear.

We are the calm and the storm, the secret whispered in the moment before the tidal wave crashes. And for all the times we have pretended to dive into this darkness willingly, the truth is we are falling and we have so much further to fall.

About the photo
I rarely get to take pictures of sunsets from cars because I’m usually driving. This time I wasn’t.

Index of January 2017 flash fiction prompts.

3 Replies to “Drowning, part 2 [Flash fiction prompt: Page by page]”

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