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And When I Crumble

By Charred_Lungs All Rights Reserved ©


Chapter 1

Outside, the rain falls down from the sky, the grey above motionless, empty in its eternal fathoms. A rosary clutched tightly in her gelid hands, those fragile fingers like pale insect legs, her breath coming in labored bursts and hoarse wheezes. About her small shoulders and thin body is a thick woolen quilt, a gift from her grandmother, and she appears like a chrysalis on the verge of breaking open and revealing the butterfly beneath. But, that is naught but a fool’s dream, rebirth was reserved for Jesus Christ, not for lowly creatures like herself. Small, weak, faithless, shunned, and despised she was, how many people had awaited this day, the day of her death? Die, she could hear the whispering like imps from under her bed. Die. Worthless. Disgusting. Die. Damned. Whore. Die. Die. DIE!

She shuttered and burrowed deeper in the blankets. She could smell the ink on her shaking hands, she opened her tremendous, luminous blue eyes and cast a blurry look at her desk by the window. Pages upon pages of fanciful writings, poems, essays, novels, they all seemed to mock her now where once they had been her only comfort. Outside lightning flashed and thunder rumbled, shaking her pitiful apartment and causing her neighbor’s children to scream. The walls were paper thin, she heard everything her neighbors did, at times it made her feel as a spy and she took a certain childlike glee out of that aspect. But, now all she wanted was silence. Why must even the heavens throw discontent into her face with its reverberating voice?

The ceiling was leaking now, a steady drip descending like tears onto her bare feet. She tucked them under the quilt and listened to the dull tapping of the water against her bed sheet. A fit of coughing fell upon her again, and she tasted blood once more. She whimpered and begged for silence, why must there be no silence? He had always loved silence. He had always been so gruff and solemn, his hostility driving people away like mad. Where was he now, she wondered, her fingers wrapped tightly around the amber beads and silver cross. Would he want her dead, too? Yes, the imps snickered, everyone wishes you dead.

The last time she had had contact with him was through a letter on thin yellow parchment, his flowing handwriting making her so envious. He had repeated his former claim of love, and some notion of bringing her west. He had a horse ranch some place, some place silent. She hadn’t replied to that letter, not in ten years. The water had soaked into her sheets, making her feet sting with the frigidity. He came visiting once, she had been with her fiancé then, and she recalled the pain in his flint grey eyes. He had smiled, doffed his absurd hat, and wished them all the happiness in the world. The thunder shook the apartment again, the blue flash piercing the grey sky and making her want to scream. All she wanted was silence.

That wasn’t so long ago, and yet, she couldn’t help but think of it as ancient history. She curled under the quilt and wondered how happy her former husband was with his wife right at that moment. That woman had been so vibrant, with golden locks and lustrous green eyes, she smiled like a lioness surveying her kingdom, and naturally no man could withstand her. Her own black hair, often unkempt and thick as cord, was so hideous her mother wouldn’t allow her outside the house unless she had a hat on when she was a child. Plain, people called her, yet she knew that was their polite way of commenting on her ugliness. She wasn’t really surprised when she found them in bed together. All she had taken with her was the rosary. The damp had spread and was now making her rail thin legs burn with the cold. Another arch of lightning sundered the heavens, the boom of the thunder making her sob and clutch the rosary until the beads dug painfully into her palms. All she wanted was silence.

She opened her eyes again, this time to look at the silver cross, so haunting in the bleak grey light. With a smooth thumbnail she tilted the cross so as to look at its side. There, so tiny and unobtrusive, were the initials J.T. She closed her eyes and wished she had gotten rid of the damned thing along with the letters, the flowers, the sketches, the I love you’s! She sucked breath in angrily, which made her lungs hurt something awful, and she flung the amber beads and metal crucifix across the room. It clattered against the cracked glass window before sliding through the tiny sliver of an opening between the window and the windowsill. The damp was now at her waist, her lower body painfully numb. See? The imps chortled merrily. All you do is throw gifts away, all you do is whine, all you do is cause others pain. Just die already! Silence, all she wanted was silence, just silence.

The rain was horrible now, the droplets the size of fists, and the raging torrent beat down upon her without mercy. She hated the rain, people had always said she was something like it, too, which had made her contempt even greater. The rain was cold, the rain was unforgiving, the rain sucked away the sunlight, it was like a parasite, a wraith sucking life from her veins. Of course, he had loved the rain. He walked around in it, his arms spread wide and his face turned up towards the sky. His rosary dangling from a wrist, his hat pushed back from his brow, his duster soaked from shoulder to hem, that was how he appeared when she first saw him walking through the park, the rain falling upon him. What a strange man he was, and for some reason she couldn’t fathom, she walked into the rain to meet him, the deep voice of her father asking just where was she going. The damp was halfway up her chest, making her ribs feel like brittle icicles quivering and cracking painfully. Her neighbors slammed open their door to a guest, making her cover her ears and grit her teeth. Just silence, please, just silence.

Then, the heavens mocked her once more as her neighbors slammed their door shut and a knock resounded from her own. Who could it be? Everyone hated her, her former husband, her parents, who would want to visit her? No one! You are nothing, no one loves you, you disgusting thing! The imps hissed. The damp was up to her shoulders and she felt her heart fluttering in her chest, she felt as if she were sinking away, and things were becoming silent. Finally, silence… but, the knocking persisted, breaking her final wish. Slowly, she rolled out of her soaked bed, the quilt wrapped around her. Her bare feet padded noiselessly across the floor, all they supported was a thin wisp, a fading ghost. She trembled and nearly fell, how far away the door seemed.

Finally, her death touched hand grasped the brass doorknob. Slowly, she unlocked the deadbolt and inched the thin piece of wood open. “Yes?” was her shaking whisper, her clouded blue eyes not recognizing the old man before her. But, was it truly an old man? His face was lined, yes, but his damp hair was still a dark brown without a single sign of grey, and his flint grey eyes still seemed very much alive. Yet, how could he not be old? He was from ancient history, by all rights he should only exist within her memories. Her legs shook violently and she would have fallen had he not caught her. She felt the rosary he held in his right hand pressing against her side through the quilt. “How?” was all she could muster, warm tears flowing down her hollow cheeks. She didn’t know what she meant by that. How did he find her? How much did he still care for her? How, how, how, how?

He lifted her easily, his warmth slowly comforting her. She nuzzled against his thick neck, she felt his heartbeat against her cheek. “How?” he whispered in her ear. “How about some warm tea, hmm?”

He carried her to her bed, her dry bed, the drip having stopped with the rain. Outside, a golden sun was on the horizon. She watched him as he prepared the kettle. His broad shoulders, his straight back, his fine duster dry from shoulders to hem, his absurd hat gone, and his rosary wrapped around her thin wrist. She smiled and enjoyed the silence.

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