The thunder woke me and made me reach for the knife that I no longer hid under my pillow. Fuck, no matter how long it was, I was always going to be a light sleeper. I got out the bed and checked my phone, it was only four in the morning, at least I made it through most of the night.
My pajamas stuck to me from sweat from a nightmare that I had long forgotten. Fuck.
I opened the bathroom door and walked in, making sure that I locked it, and turned the shower on. I had class in three hours, so I guess the thunder helped. As the steam rose, I leaned on the sink and stared at myself in the mirror. My brown skin was still pale and my near-black brown eyes were red. I would have to put eye drops in them. I had cut my loose curly hair to where it barely brushed my neck dry and barely went over my shoulder wet. Even then, I looked like her.
I took my clothes off, I had gained weight over the past few years. Being plumper, and with each pound I gained, it took away the body that I had when I was in hell. There were scars all over my body, a thin one on my cheek from the time that I narrowly avoided...nothing. Those things didn’t exist in my world anymore.
The water stung on my back and I breathed in. My muscles untensed and I gritted my teeth. I still can’t sleep without her in the room. I forced her out of my mind, I wasn’t going to see her again. Six years later, she had chosen a side and it wasn’t mine.
I stayed in the shower until the water went cold and then got dressed for the day. The sun soon shone through the window onto my bed where I slept with only one blanket. The first time I had lived on my own, away from them, I had bought so many blankets and pillows. They were all locked in my closet now.
Before leaving for my first class, I packed my bag and checked the apartment twice to lock in my mind the position of everything. Four years before, I wouldn’t have been able to leave the house before checking everything four times. There was a little growth at least. I locked the door behind me and walked to class.
It was a nice day outside, the thunder was gone, Saint Thomas University was already slowly waking up. My first class was Contemporary and Multi-Ethnic Expression and Culture, I enjoyed it. But, I enjoyed anything other than how my life used to be. Me and another girl sat next to each other every day in class, we rarely talked but I couldn’t help but feel worried about her if she wasn’t in class one day. I wondered if she had ever been worried about me.
She probably didn’t.
After class, I sat in the library in a far corner. I watched as a man met his group of friends on a couch. Maybe I needed to find friends--allies--but every cell in my body told me that I had seen enough of friends and allies for the rest of my life. The group also reminded me of someone else, someone I would rather never think about.
The nice day outside had soon turned into thunder and rain outside. The day went by in a slow blur that it usually did, I had attempted to stop the way time goes by for me and only made it worse. I can’t remember what I exactly wrote for my paper but I would be fine when I reread it.
There was a bookstore down the street from my university. It was between to a McDonald’s and a clothing store. I liked the smell of it and it wasn’t ever really busy. The uniform was a navy with my name tag and a pair of khakis. I restocked around the store often, attempting to hide behind the bookshelves. I stopped and stared at the classic books.
Every shift, I couldn’t stop myself from staring at them. She really liked them, it was the only thing that he would let her read. I rubbed my finger over the spine over one of the copies of Sula. Upon realizing what I was doing and the emotion that swam in my chest, I retracted my fingers back. Get yourself together. She’s dead. Dead to me, might as well have been dead to the world.
When my shift ended, the rain had stopped, though the clouds still looked so angry, and the humidity had gotten worse, I pulled my hair into a bun and walked home, hoping to beat the moon and my stretching anxiety.
Two men stood in front of the stairs to my apartment, they were smoking and laughing. They both said hi to me and I smiled back at them. I walked up the stairs and walked into my apartment.
I forced myself not to look the room over and to just turn the lights on. My roommate usually spent the night at her boyfriend’s apartment, so the apartment smelled like me. Before college, there was rarely anything that smelled like me, or like home at all. When I opened my fridge to see what to eat and cringed when I had forgotten to buy groceries. For the third day in a row. So, I had to opt into eating the Chinese food that I had been nursing for the past three days.
I tossed it into the microwave, hearing the thunder and rain splattering on the ground outside. I walked into my room to get my laptop and ended up using the bathroom. I heard the microwave beep and walked with my laptop to the table.
The hair on the back of my neck stood as I passed the door to my roommates room. Was it always closed? Anxiety pierced through my chest, to my heart and my lungs. Fuck, fuck, fuck. I walked to the kitchen and opened the drawer that my roommate had filled with knives and other sharp objects. The only one that I knew had good balance was a slim knife with a shredded edge. The knife gave a sense of relief that I rarely felt by myself.
Drip. Drip. Drip.
It was behind me.
My breath left my chest as I whipped around with the knife, ready to slash whatever had come for an act of stark revenge in the night. Standing in the doorway was a girl, with curly hair that was usually so big and long dry, that water dripped from and onto the floor. Her skin was brown from not only the melanin but also from being outside so much. Her near-black, brown eyes stared at me with a bored expectation.
She had gained a new scar under her eye. “Nirabi.” She said, there wasn’t joy in her uttering my name but there wasn’t any contempt.
A sob got stuck in my throat, I didn’t know if it was from anger or grief. “Jupiter?”