Porcelain Skin

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A Teardrop Closer

His bed is neatly made. All his books are organized into size order on the shelf opposite from where I stand. I spy a pair of jeans on the floor near his closet, but other than that, there is nothing littering the carpet.

He’s got a large, worn recliner in the far corner near the bookshelf, and a desk to my left. My senses are fully aware of the tangy-spicey smell, mixed with a hint of cinnamon, that is easily recognized as Trevor’s cologne.

I decide to stop wasting time and start setting up my supplies on his bed. I’ve got my portable speakers sitting on his side table and I’m reaching for my iPod when the front door opens, welcoming a set of voices into the apartment. I freeze. I’m supposed to have another ten minutes to myself, according to the information that Chuck gave to Lindsey that she passed on to me. I’m pulling the remaining supplies from my bag like a madwoman when my ears perk up at the sound of my name.

“Emma’s coming over in a bit.” It’s Trevor’s voice. It sounds like he’s somewhere near the couch.

Seconds later my suspicions are confirmed when I hear the rustle of fabric as he plops himself down into the worn material.

“Emma, huh?” The voice is unfamiliar to me, but he seems to know who I am by the suggestive tone in his voice.

“No man,” Trevor deadpans. “It’s not like that. It will never be like that.”

I clutch my throat to prevent a gasp from escaping. I’m tempted to move closer to the door so I can hear better, but my bones are frozen solidly in place.

“Why not?”

“She’s just...” He trails off, apparently not sure how to explain. “She put my family through a lot, you know?” His question is met with silence and I can imagine that the other guy is giving him a look that says, ‘No, I don’t know.’

Trevor groans. “I just don’t trust the girl.”

Wow, he can’t even bring himself to say my name. I’m just ‘the girl’ now.

“My sister had a lot of problems because of what she did.”

“Yeah, and didn’t she apologize for that?” his friend asks, and I immediately decide that I like him. He’s the voice of reason.

“Yeah. I just... I’m not ready to just be okay with it.”

“Would it be such a bad thing to give her a chance to prove herself?” The unknown voice asks. There’s a pause and a sound of someone opening the fridge.

“Why are you defending her?” Trevor sounds irritated.

I’ve concluded that his friend is the one rummaging through the fridge since I can still hear Trevor’s voice near the couch.

“I’m not! I don’t even know the girl,” he says.

I rub my temples. ‘Come on guys, I have a freaking name!’ I growl inwardly.

“I’m just saying,” his friend goes on, “maybe you should just give her a chance.” He pauses and I can hear a smile in his voice when he speaks up again. “Or are you afraid she’s going to bully you into tears.” I hear Trevor grumble something under his breath. “I’ll be here to pat your back and dry your eyes when you start crying into your pillow every night.”

“Shut it, man,” I hear Trevor scold, but there’s humor in his voice. There’s a beat of silence before I hear what sounds like Trevor getting up from his seat. “I can’t help but kind of hate her,” he admits so nonchalantly that I have to hold the back of my hand to my mouth to prevent the shards of my broken heart from escaping with a gasp.

He hates me. I always suspected it, but I never really accepted it. My heart was pounding wildly in my chest as it slowly shriveled up. It would soon resemble a dried up raisin. I held back a tight sob, refusing to give away my location.

“Just be nice.” I hear his friend’s motherly advice, and I don’t realize that it’s too late to hide until Trevor responds.

“No promises.” He laughs, and suddenly he sounds way too close.

I’ve been too absorbed looking down at my fingers while listening to the conversation that I don’t realize that Trevor’s standing in the doorway staring at me until I glance up. The shock on his face is worthy of a photo, but at the moment I barely notice. I jump up from where I’ve been sitting on his bed as if I’ve been caught doing something naughty.

“Emma.” My name leaves his lips with a regretful sigh. There’s no denying that I’ve heard everything, and he knows it. I absentmindedly push my hair off my shoulder and pull it around to one side.

“I think—” My brain is swarming with the truth he’s just revealed, and I can’t get my head to pull together a coherent thought.

“What are you doing here?” He doesn’t sound angry, or accusatory; just curious.

“I came early to... uh,” I gesture around me, but don’t have the guts to confess my reason for breaking into his private territory.

Trevor’s eyes take a fleeting glance behind me to where I’ve set things up, but I doubt he really sees it. He’s too focused on my reaction.

“Emma...” He pushes a hand through his hair, and I get the sense that the guilt churning in his gut is making him sick. He doesn’t look good, and I know I don’t look good.

Instead of accepting my emotions, Trevor has unknowingly rejected them, and I’m not sure how long I can hold back the blockade of despair and desire warring together beneath the surface. Something dark is battling inside me as well. Anger. Bitterness. Fragments of the old me - the shameful me.

I know the hurt is evident on my face as I glimpse the remorse lining his eyes. A small leak has formed in the feeble wall of my heart and is now trickling down the contours of my cheek. I flick the tear away impatiently as I grab for my near-empty bag on the floor. I don’t bother cleaning up my mess because I know I’ve only got seconds before all hell is released through the dam behind my eyelids. I brush past him in a desperate attempt to get away; the solidity of his frame not hindering my escape.

“Wait,” I hear him call behind me.

I see his friend standing in the kitchen with an ‘oh crap!’ look on his face. His hand is frozen in the air where he was preparing to pour orange juice into a glass. I don’t acknowledge him as I turn to face Trevor.

“It’s fine,” I say, even though my vocal chords are straining against the quivery words, “You were just being honest. You have every right to feel that way.” I tried to remain calm, but the ugly blackness of my broken soul had just shown its face as the words left my lips with an angry hiss.

And then I’m spinning back towards my exit. I faintly hear his friend mumble to go after me before I’m out the door and speed walking as fast as possible. I don’t hear anyone behind me, so I assume Trevor isn’t following.

My bag bounces haphazardly against my back as I aimlessly make my way back to my dorm. It’s hardly even registered that I’m back in my room until I’ve shut the door behind me. My eyes are surprisingly dry, but I know it’s only a matter of time. I need to get away from here before Trevor decides to come find me.

I glance around the room and note that Mercy is out. She must be in class. Either way, it doesn’t matter because I don’t plan on staying. I’m desperate to get away. I don’t want to see anyone or speak to anyone. I need to clear my head and mend my heart.

Most people have a special rock, a cliff overlooking the city, a quiet place in the forest, or a waterfall that they go to be alone and think. I, on the other hand, have none of this. But, I’m determined to find one. I grab my violin out from under my bed, put on a pair of tennis shoes and shorts, and head out.

I make my way out of town, scanning the scenery for a quiet place. As I get further from town, and out into the open spaces, I feel more and more defeated. Silent tears skim my cheeks as I press my foot deeper into the gas pedal. There’s nothing out here but fields that once held corn and wheat.

I’m just about to give up when I spy a barn a few miles ahead. It’s standing completely alone. No homes surround it, and it appears to be pretty worn down. The sun is setting behind it, illuminating the edges and pouring through the cracks of the decaying structure. It looks worn and abused, and yet so magnificent -- like it’s wearing a halo.

This is the place. My place. Because it resembles me in many ways. Broken. Beaten. Dying. And yet sturdy... fighting. Maybe I can absorb some of its strength; take a piece of this sunshine with me.

As I pull up outside the barn, I feel an instant warming connection. I slide out of the driver’s seat, pulling my violin with me. I tentatively make my way to the large barn doors. They sit completely ajar revealing the empty abandonment of its insides.

I step through the entrance and inhale the musty scent of hay and dirt. No doubt this place has been left untouched for years. It’s so vacant. Lonely... sad. It’s as if I can feel the faint thump of its delicate heart permeating through the soil and into the soles of my shoes. It vibrates through my bones to meld with the thump-thump thump-thump of my own muffled energy. I take a few more steps, finding myself in the middle of the deserted space.

The brokenness of this old structure causes something to clench inside my chest. A bond. Both of us falling apart but refusing to collapse. I smile hesitantly as I push a large, wild tress of hair behind my ear with my free hand.

I recognize a wooden ladder attached to a loft hanging above my head and slowly make my way towards it. I set down my violin and grasp the rails, giving them a good shake to assess the sturdiness of its frame. Satisfied, I grab my violin and make a careful climb up to the floor above me.

I notice a few abandoned bales of hay in the corner of the room, and I bypass them to reach a large window centered at the furthest end. I wiggle the latch until it loosens - and fling the door open. I assume that, by the size of it, this opening is where they had once loaded and unloaded the bales of hay.

I sit down on the ledge, allowing my feet to dangle over the side of the barn. I close my eyes, feeling the heat of the sun penetrating my skin. A sigh releases the tension from my core, and I allow myself a moment of peace. I try not to think about the events from earlier with Trevor. I don’t want to remember his words, but it’s inevitable. I can’t bring myself to think of anything else.

It’s crazy how wrong I was. I had assumed we had crossed the line from enemies to friendship. He had treated me different lately. There was no hostility in his actions anymore. We even shared a moment at the lake yesterday. He had looked at me. Really looked at me. If it had been anyone else, I would have assumed they were trying to make a move. It could have been that moment where he would have leaned in closer and brushed his lips against mine. If only.

But with Trevor it was different. I got the feeling that he had just discovered something. An emotion that he didn’t necessarily want to associate with me, but in that moment it exposed itself. It may have been attraction... or desire. Or it simply could have been the realization that he didn’t despise me anymore. Either way, the moment had come and gone without any recognition from either of us. We had let it float on by like a precious whisper in a gust of denial; neither of us willing to admit what we’d felt in that moment.

I move to set my violin down next to me, flicking open the latches and pulling out the cherished instrument. I take a moment to tune it and rosin the bow before placing it gently under my chin as I test out the sound. The bow caresses the delicate strings with practiced ease. I slide the ribbon against the twisted strands of steel that run along the neck of the instrument.

Closing my eyes, my body vibrates with the soothing blend of acoustics that pulsate throughout the old structure as the simple melody builds. It’s a hollow, yet wholesome sound that’s like honey to my ears. I feel a layer of hurt fall away from my aching chest, and I breath deeper.

My fingers easily find the progression of chords for a familiar tune. It’s one I remember my father humming to himself often, and I imagine the lyrics floating across the endless fields below me as I play.

Oh no I see

A spider web it’s tangled up with me

And I lost my head

The thought of all the stupid things I said

And oh I never meant to cause you trouble

And oh I never meant to do you wrong

And oh well if I ever caused you trouble

Oh no I never meant to do you harm

I’ve got tears streaming down my cheeks as I’m taken back to another time. A place darker than the shadowy corners of despair. I rewind past the pain to clutch at the warmth of what used to be.

The belly of the barn swells with the passionate murmur of a one-woman symphony. My fingers tingle as they graze the strings under them. When the song comes to an end, I release the violin from my chin, loosening my grip on the neck and allowing it to slide into my lap.

I listen as the last remnants of the reverberating melody echo faintly throughout the cavernous frail walls of the delicate structure before disappearing completely. I stare across the acreage around me without really seeing. My eyes are puffy and on fire from the release of pent-up misery.

Not a day passes that I don’t miss the man my father once was. The man who helped me build forts in the living room so we could watch scary movies together in a canopy of blankets. The man who would knock on my door after mom went to bed to see if I wanted popcorn. The man who spent three painstaking hours prying splinters from my palm when I fell from the treehouse—after he’d already told me not to play in it when it’s raining.

I remember his words clearly in my memory. I’m wrapped in his arms on my bed. He’s rocking me back and forth soothingly. I’d just gotten my thirteen-year-old heart broken by a stupid boy, and I was crying my little eyes out. Normally my mom would be the one offering words of comfort, but on this cherished, rare occasion she’d been held up at work and wasn’t home yet. I relish the feel of my father’s comforting fingers as they push the wet strands of hair away from my face.

“It’s okay, baby,” he murmured against my ear. My head was nestled tightly under his chin. “You’ll get over this and move on. Someday it will just be a silly memory,” he told me, and he’s right. I see that now, but at the time I was angry because I felt like he didn’t get it.

“I’ll never be able to forget what he did to me.” I was being a dramatic child. The boy hadn’t really done anything wrong, except admit to not liking me anymore.

The words my father whispered in response are words I’ll always remember. He took my face in his hands, looking at me with sorrow and affection, and said, “Do you know why we cry?”

I shook my head as I wiped at my damp face. His thumbs skimmed the skin under my eyes before he answered his own question. “We cry to make room for forgiveness.”

There was a pause as I’d looked back at him, hiccuping as I fought back more tears.

“Once you forgive,” he goes on, “you start to forget the pain.” Taking my chin between his fingers and thumb, he looked directly into my eyes. “You’re already on your way to forgiving.” Then, to prove his point, he wiped away a fat tear from my face.

I welcome my thoughts back into the present, as I slide my violin back into its case. By now the sun is dipping lower into the sky, creating an infinite array of oranges, reds, and dark blue across the vast space.

If there’s any truth to my dad’s words from years ago, then I guess I’m already a teardrop closer to forgiving Trevor. As they say, ‘Time will heal.’ I know this to be true, but at the moment it doesn’t feel like I’ll ever know what true healing feels like.

I never even got the opportunity to be forgiven, because my father never gave himself the chance to cry.

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