Too hard to love
“No-one would love me like that” I sighed, more as a statement of fact than of self-pity. I placed my latest book on the dressing table. This time it was a romance that had taken my fancy. I had the ending figured out after chapter two but I loved the world the book took me too. Even if it was predictable.
The symphony of grammar and language wove an art that never failed to lift my spirits. Unlike a song or a sculpture that offered itself to you, a book asked you to work to see its beauty. To see it, to hear it, you had to search for it in the sentences. You had to walk into the world between the book covers and tread the steps of the characters. Many people were very particular about which genre they read but I was different, if it had two covers and pages I was hooked to it. Most days I wished my differences had ended there.
I looked at my reflection in the mirror. My blues eyes looked back at me disapprovingly from behind a pair of glasses. I wasn’t my appearance I was staring down, it was the inside that was the problem. My high cheekbones and thick, wavy brown hair, which I had tossed back into a loose braid, could be considered attractive. But the redness of my hands and the shadows under my eyes, innocuous to others, were signs of the demons that I was all too familiar with.
“Quorra! Come get your breakfast before you miss the train!” My dad shouted from the foot of the stairs. I paused for as long as I could without seeming suspicious. Today was not a day I wanted to be outside. But the daughter of a candidate for city mayor had to be seen going about her day as normal, just like everyone else. My mother, the most ‘up and coming’ figure in local politics, had a salary to match. Her daughter wouldn’t have any worries, she could go about her day like anyone else.
“Coming!” I shouted back, sweeping my textbooks into my bag. I looked back to the vanity mirror, kissed my fingers, and pressed them to a picture of my little brother’s round smiling face. I rarely ever touched my fingers to my mouth but this small ritual was on exception. The picture was an old one I had found in the bottom of a box when we moved to our new town house. It was from his 4th birthday, He would have been nineteen now. I took a deep breath before stepping over the threshold of my room and started down the stairs. Mum was the one who had chosen the décor for our new home, just in case a magazine or newspaper took an interest. She had taken to a contemporary and extremely minimalist taste. My shoes clacked on the dark hardwood floor, which contrasted with the stark white walls. The hallway was bare apart from a few abstract paintings, providing the occasional burst of colour. I doubted mum knew about fine art, but these pieces probably had a large enough price tag to guarantee it was the latest in fashion. I hurried past the living room and mum’s study to turn down the next set of the stairs to the kitchen.
“Morning, There’s some toast for you on the counter. I’ve kept an eye on it since I set it down.” Dad greeted. He had his usual morning stubble and faded pyjama’s as he pottered around the kitchen. I noticed him pause at one of the cupboards as I sat at the counter and faced breakfast.
“Has mum left for work already?” I asked. I meticulously picked up one of the slices by the corner, using only my thumb and forefinger.
“Same as every morning, they needed her in the office to go over the action plan for her campaign.” Dad was always proud of mum but he didn’t sound excited at the prospect of her taking on more work. He tried to keep himself busy looking through the cupboards but I could see him watch me as I nibbled my toast. I knew he was making sure I finished breakfast this morning. I knew he suspected something but I wasn’t going to admit it to him. Anxiety and germaphobia weren’t pleasant topics to discuss over morning coffee. I saw him watch me put down the corner of toast and slowly raise the next slice. I rarely ever ate what I touched. I always told him it was just a preference thing but I knew he suspected something more.
“I was going to the supermarket today. Is there anything in particular you wanted for dinner?” Dad asked. Now that mum was always at work, and earning plenty to cover the bills, he had quit his job to take over the housework. I just shook my head slowly.
“I might be studying late” I replied. He breathed out slowly at my reply.
“You’ve been doing that a lot lately. I know it’s his birthday today but I thought we could spend the time together? Are you sure there isn’t anything I can get for you?” He insisted, I could see he was fighting to keep the worried look of his face. I looked up at the clock and feigned surprise, dropping the last slice of toast down onto the plate.
“I’m going to be late.” Before I could rush out of the kitchen Dad held out his arms for a hug. As I leaned in I turned my head awkwardly to the side. Since hearing an article about the bacteria found in hair I always avoided letting his facial hair near my face. Just the latest in a long list of innocuous things I had to keep track of.
“Love you, I made you some lunch to keep you through the day.” Dad said, pressing a vacuum locked tupperware tub into my hands.
“Love you too. Thanks.” I managed a weak smile and left the kitchen. I still had the tub in my hand as I opened the heavy front door and walked down the steps into the street. Its contents were scraped into a public waste bin before I reached the station. I rarely ever trusted food I didn’t make myself. I would return home with an empty tub dad would be placated and my charade survives another day. I could feel my heart beating faster as I reached the crowded station. Despite it being an open, bright day for Mid-November. I always preferred the autumn months, the world always seemed to slow before the winter rush of Christmas and New Year’s.
“I knew today wasn’t going to be a good day” I muttered under my breath, feeling my fingers shake slightly as I walked through the crowded station. I pushed my earphones into my ears and played a podcast of one of my lectures, usually having something else to focus on would offset the worst of it until I got to campus and found a quiet room. I did have lectures that morning but I could feel I wasn’t going to attend. Rushing towards the gates, I shrugged my rucksack off one shoulder and began fumbling past the empty Tupperware to find my season ticket. The sooner I got to the train, the sooner I could sit down and try to forget as much of the world as I could. Suddenly I was knocked the floor, my textbooks and the plastic tub spilling out onto the floor. I looked at the mess in horror, I hadn’t brought anything to clean them with, and you could never guarantee the sanitation of a public floor. Before I could react a woman was picking up my books.
“I am so sorry I wasn’t watching where I was going” She said. I stayed mute, trying to figure out how to salvage the integrity of my textbooks. She stood over me, one arm extended for me to take and the other holding my dropped possessions. When I looked at her it was like she was only colour character in a monochrome movie. Despite the cold weather, she was wearing a large vest and thigh length skin tight shorts. Her hair was a light blonde and she had a bright red sash around her waist tied at the hip with tassels which fell below her knees. I avoided her hand, I didn’t touch people unless it was necessary, and lifted myself up. She seemed unfazed by my ignoring her help and smiled broadly.
“The names Lennox” I just looked back, frozen. My breathing got faster and my heart was pounding out of my chest. I had to get away, a panic attack in front of a stranger was never a good idea.
“I…. I…… I have to go” I mumbled, hurrying past Lennox and away towards the gates.
“Wait you left your books!” I heard her shout as I pushed my earbuds back in my ears.