Porcelain Skin

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I stare at Trevor in confusion before my curiosity finally persuades me to agree.

“Okay, I’m listening,” I tell him as I place my violin down in its case and turn to face him. “Tell me about Trinity.”

He breathes out deeply as his gaze moves to the open loft door. It’s obvious he’s remembering something, and I wait patiently for him to reveal it to me.

“So, it was about halfway through my senior year,” he begins as he bends one leg, propping his foot on the hay he’s sitting on. He’s got one arm resting on his bent knee, the other leg stretched out in front of him. “I told you before how she had started to party more. She would get drunk and spend the night with random guys. I think I did everything, apart from telling my parents, to try and convince her to stop, but she ignored me. Eventually, she started to actually hate me. She just didn’t want to hear it, said she didn’t need another father to look after her.

“One day in particular, I noticed something was off. She didn’t smile at all; she didn’t even try to pretend that she was happy, which was unusual. I knew something was up but didn’t want to make it worse by cornering her.” He heaves a sigh, leaning over and resting his elbows on his knees. “I became concerned when I was getting ready to head home. We always met by my car, but that day, she didn’t show. I waited a half an hour. I called. Nothing.

“I sped home because I had this gut feeling. I don’t know; I just remember feeling panicked for some reason. When I got home I could hear music blaring even from where I was outside. I called out for her as I ran through the house, but obviously, she couldn’t hear me. I didn’t even think before I swung her door open—which, now that I think about it, was a very stupid thing to do. Who knows what she could have been doing in there. Changing? Having sex? Dancing naked?” He chuckles softly to himself, but then his expression turns serious again.

“I froze when I saw her. She had a pair of scissors in her hand,” he clears his throat. “And she was hacking off her hair. It was awful. It reminded me of one of her barbies from when she was younger and decided she wanted to test out her hair styling abilities. I couldn’t even recognize the girl in front of me.

“Then I noticed the bottle of Tequila sitting on her vanity—half empty,” he looks up at me then. “You remember how small she was, right?”

I don’t get a chance to answer before he continues.

“I just remember thinking that there was a chance she could get alcohol poisoning. I had no clue how long she’d been home, or how quickly she’d gone through the bottle, but if she’d downed half a bottle in just a few minutes I knew that was not good...

“Trinity. What are you doing?” I look around the floor at the mess of hair stuck to the carpet. Trinity spins around to face me with an over-enthusiastic smile lighting up her face.

“Treeevor!” she slurs as she stumbles towards me.

I quickly rush to her side and grab the scissors from her grasp before she accidentally hurts herself. She just giggles at the amount of worry on my face. She reaches up to run her finger over the creases in my brow.

“What’s going on Trinity?” I’m in a near panic as I grab the bottle of Tequila off the desk to check the alcohol percentage before setting it on the vanity behind meout of Trinity’s reach.

“Trev, I’m so glad you’re home. We’ve been waiting for you, you know? Yup. She says she can’t wait until she gets here. She’s so tired Trev... so tired.” Trinity staggers towards me and lays her head on my chest. I grab her elbows to keep her steady. “She’s tired of the dark.”

“Who is, Trinity?” I ask as I pull my cell phone out of my pocket. “You? Are you tired?”

“No, you idiot!” She’s lost the sweetest in her tone. Anger has overcome the softness in her face and I feel like I’m looking at a stranger. The rage behind her eyes is foreign to me.

“Calm down.” I grab her shoulders, hoping it will help get her back under control.

“She was right.” Her voice is barely a whisper and I see a tear carefully drop from an eyelash onto her cheek. “I’m weak. I’m fake.”

She shudders underneath my grasp and I tighten my hold, trying my best to keep her together. My mind is whirling with questions about who she could possibly be referring to. It’s like she’s jumping from one conversation to the next and I can’t keep up. My heart is pumping, my hands shaking, but I’m too focused to notice.

“Who was right? Did someone hurt you Trin?” My eyes are darting around the floor because I can’t figure out where my phone has gone. I must have dropped it in my attempt to sooth Trinity, and now I can’t find it.

“Emma..." Her voice trails off. “I’m... so... tired.” She pants slowly as she falls forward into my arms.

Her body is limp. I move to put her on her bed when her body begins to convulse. My hands shake as I try to figure out what I should do, and then I realize she’s vomited down my pant leg, and all over my shoes.

“Trinity.” I shake her a bit too forcefully; the fear in me making me just shy of hysterical.

She’s passed out. I lay her on her bed, turning her onto her side before diving to the floor in search of my phone. I find it halfway under her bed, and fight to dial nine-one-one with trembling fingers.

The silence that settles over the old barn weighs down my chest. Trevor has just revealed to me exactly how much damage I caused his sister. I didn’t just cause her temporary sadness or even a moment of depression. What I had done had physically destroyed her. I don’t realize I’m crying until Trevor shifts closer to me and wipes a tear off my cheek.

“Emma, I didn’t tell you that to make you feel guilty,” he explains, but I can’t make eye contact. “It wasn’t all your fault.”

“How can you say that?” I snap, as fresh tears tumble down my face. “It’s totally my fau—”

“No, it’s not,” he says forcefully.

“Yes, I tormented her for months. I made her feel wor—”

“Would you just... shut up for two seconds, and let me explain?” He’s not quite yelling at me, but I can sense the frustration behind his words. “You keep assuming things, and you’re wrong. I didn’t sleep with some random girl last night, I didn’t try to hurt you, I didn’t purposely stand you up, I didn’t plan for you to find me with someone else—heck, I wasn’t even with someone else; I was with Trinity—and lastly, what happened to Trinity was not all your fault.”

“Wait. You were with Trinity?” I ask skeptically, causing Trevor to pause in his rant to look up at me. I happen to remember his sister very well—all five foot two of her blonde little self. The skyscraper of a girl I saw that morning definitely was not her.

“Really? So you didn’t read any of my messages?” He runs a hand through his hair in annoyance. “That may have helped you out a bit. Instead, you just immediately assumed the worst.” I have nothing to say. I feel stupid and my face doesn’t do a good job of hiding my shame. He notices and softens his tone. “She and one of her good friends from college surprised me with a visit. I lost track of time. I didn’t mean to forget about getting coffee with you.”


I sigh, defeated. I needed to work on my listening skills so I could avoid awkward moments like this in the future. Now I just feel stupid.

“Is she still here?” Part of me is really hoping that she’s already gone.

“No. They left this morning. Now, would you just let me explain?”

“Fine. Explain,” I say.

Trevor rubs his eyes before looking at me again. “Okay, so you know how she’d been babbling on about some girl being tired of the dark?” I nod and he goes on. “I thought she was talking about herself. I thought she was just talking crazy because of the alcohol. I was wrong.” He glances up at me with pain in his defeated gaze, his shoulders slumping slightly. “She was pregnant.”

“Oh my...” My words fail me as the realization hits.

“After we got to the hospital the doctors discovered a few of her secrets.” He rubs his temples, clearly hating to dredge up the past again. “She was pregnant, but the father was a mystery. Apparently, she’d been getting around. She’d also been taking antidepressant medications while drinking, which is a big mistake. It was a whole mess. Each new problem was the cause of another. I guess she’d been paying some guy to get the antidepressants for her,” he pauses to pull in a deep breath. “I just...”

“Trevor,” I whisper as I lightly touch his arm.

“I just felt so stupid. I’m her brother. We trusted each other with stuff that even our parents never knew.” Another deep breath. “I should have known. I should have done something.”

“Trevor,” I say a bit louder. “It wasn’t your fault. It was mine.”

He looks up at me and I can see just how much bringing up the past has torn him up.

“It just scared me, ya know? I had already lost James. I couldn’t lose Trinity too.” He pinches the bridge of his nose and drops his head. “I should’ve known.”

“Can I explain something to you?” I ask gently, drawing Trevor’s attention to me. “You are not God.” He watches me closely for a moment. “You are not God. You realize this, right? There’s no way you should have known what was going on. You can’t know everything. She hid it from everyone. She hid it from me.”

I turn my gaze towards the open doorway of the loft and see the sky changing colors as the sun dips lower. I didn’t realize I’d been playing my violin for so long. I’d missed lunch without a second thought—the snacks in my bag completely forgotten.

“She hid it so well,” I say again. “I like to believe that I would have stopped if I’d known the damage I was causing. I was mean back then, but I don’t think I was evil,” I sigh. “I just wanted someone to experience what I had experienced—Pain. Guilt. Neglect.”

Silence fills the space around us for several minutes. Nothing is said as we digest the events of the past.

“Did it survive?” I finally ask, but I’m dreading the answer.

Trevor shoots me a confused look before his expression clears with understanding. He subtly shakes his head.

“No,” he mutters. I feel my chest constrict. “No, the baby didn’t make it.”

“Oh, my Go—” I choke. “I killed—I killed her baby. I killed it.” I cover my face with trembling hands, but there’s no stopping the tidal wave. It only worsens when I feel Trevor’s arms wrap around me, my stomach tightening in an attempt to purge the horror of my actions from my system. “I killed her baby. I killed it...” I keep muttering these words over and over until they become indistinguishable.

My fingers dig dangerously into his shoulders as I cling to him. I feel suffocated and desperate. I suck a breath in, but it’s a fight since I can’t stop crying long enough to even breathe properly. It’s a flashback of the moment Trevor pulled me over the edge and into the lake. A furious attempt to pull in air, but each inhale only weighs me down further. Trevor wraps his fingers into my hair as he rubs circles into my back. He’s muttering words into the crook of my neck, but I barely notice.

All my thoughts are swarming with images of a baby—innocent, pure, faultless. I see what may have been if she had lived. Playing on the jungle gym, blowing kisses to mommy, giggling as Trinity tucks her in with a kiss on the forehead. And then, I see myself with a gun in hand as I mentally blow the possibilities away.

My body trembles as I push the painful images out of my mind. I attempt to breathe, but it only comes out as weepy hiccups. Trevor continues to hold me for several minutes as I struggle to pull myself together. I don’t know how much time passes as I release my regret in the form of salty liquid emotion. My whole goal was to break Trinity, and I did. I wanted her to experience shame; shame that her life was better than mine. I wanted her to feel guilty.

Now I sit here shriveling into myself as I realize what I did to her. I wanted her to experience guilt. I just didn’t realize that guilt was so much more painful than heartbreak.

I finally calm down enough to pull myself from his arms.

“I know what guilt feels like Emma, okay?” He brushes my hair behind my ears and then tilts my chin up so I’m looking at him directly. “But this wasn’t completely your fault. You didn’t kill that baby. You didn’t force her to take the medication or to sleep with a whole army of guys. You didn’t put that alcohol in her hand or pour it down her throat,” he pauses for a moment until I peer up at him to meet his gaze. “Trinity knew better. She let some stupid words affect her entire life, and the consequences were her own doing.”

I knew he was trying to comfort me, but the words were basically like rocks thrown at a wall. They didn’t stick. I shut my eyes to ward off the burn after the release of so many tears.

“Why did you forgive me so quickly?” I hiccup as I attempt to change the subject.

It’s a question I’ve been dying to ask him and now seems like the perfect moment. I need to get my mind off of what I did to Trinity and her child. Trevor just looks at me for a moment as if he’s trying to find the answer written on my face.

“I didn’t. Not really.” He crosses one arm over his chest and rubs the opposite tricep. “I told you that I would put the past behind us until the project ended, and I did, but I don’t think I actually forgave you for awhile.”

“But just the fact that you were able to put it behind you so quickly... why?” I ask.

“I didn’t want any regrets.” He relaxes his arms in his lap and studies his thumbnails for a moment before glancing at me. “You know what I regret most about James?” He smiles crookedly. “This might seem stupid, but I have never been able to wipe the sound of my voice calling him a ‘pansy’ out of my mind. I had challenged him by basically calling him a wimp. Any normal guy would feel the need to defend his manhood, ya know?” He stretches his shoulders before relaxing back into a slouch.

“After James’ death I realized that it doesn’t matter how young a person is, no one is invincible. Any one of us could die at any time.” His eyes find mine. “I made the steps towards forgiving because I didn’t want to live with the guilt of not trying if something ever happened to you.”

“Do you forgive me now? Or are you still working on it?” I ask after a few moments.

“Come on,” he grins. “That kiss wasn’t a clear sign?” His smile is contagious and I find myself chuckling with relief. “Yes, Emma, I forgive you.”

Warmth envelopes me and I breathe deeply. I want to thank him, but I don’t think I can speak without getting emotional again. I dip my head but the smile doesn’t fade from view.

“Tell me about her. About Trinity.” I change the subject again as the need to know about her well-being surfaces. “How is she now?”

Trevor smiles down at me and then leans back. “She’s good. Great actually.”

His smile changes the entire atmosphere of the barn. The stuffy, claustrophobic feel slowly dissipates.

“She’s studying at Denver School of Nursing,” he tells me proudly. “She wants to be a Nurse Practitioner. It’s only an hour or two from where we used to live, so it’s basically home for her. She’s really happy.”

“I’m glad to hear that.” My body relaxes slightly knowing that she’s okay. “Why didn’t she visit longer?”

“She could only stay the night. She was passing through on her way to Chicago.” He shifts positions slightly. “Her boyfriend lives up there.”

Several seconds tick by as we both stare across the barn in our own thoughts.

“I really am sorry for the pain I caused your family; the pain I caused Trinity... and you.” I’m shaking my head with disappointment at myself.

“I’ve already told you that that’s in the past. Trinity has moved on. I’ve moved on. But I need you to understand exactly why we can’t be together.” He looks at me closely to make sure I’m fully paying attention. “She’s my sister. I would do anything for her. If I dated you, I’d be choosing you over her. She wouldn’t see it as anything other than a betrayal, and I can’t do that. Tuesday night was not a mistake in the sense that I wish I wouldn’t have done it. I enjoyed it entirely.” He smirks at me, and I feel my belly rumble with warmth. “It was a mistake in the sense that I just wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I let my little sister down.”

“I get it,” I assure him quietly.

My heart aches, but I can’t deny that it makes sense, and I can’t blame him for putting his sister’s feelings above my own—above his own. He’s the most decent man I’ve ever met—completely selfless.

Silence settles over us again until Trevor pulls my attention back to him by clearing his throat.

“You thought I’d kissed you and then run off to meet some other chick, all in the same night?” There’s a look of sullen disbelief on his face.

I laugh at his sudden change of topic. “Well...?” I smile insecurely after realizing just how stupid that would have been for him to do. “What would you have thought? You were acting suspicious.”

“Yeah. I wasn’t looking for a cat fight,” he smiles. “If the two of you had seen each other who knows what could have happened. I was trying to avoid drama, and in the process, I just made things a hundred times worse.” He laughs softly to himself. “Oh, and for the record—I don’t sleep around. I know it sounds lame, but I really don’t care what the rest of the world has to say about it because whoever I marry is worth the humiliation of saying ‘no’ for.”

My lips twitch up as my eyes rove over his features.

“Me too,” I agree while examining the proud smile accenting the lines on his face.

“I’m not going to lie,” he tells me. “There have been moments where I came close to slipping, but I’ve never... you know.”

I just nod as I turn my attention to a strand of hay that I’m twirling between my fingers.

“And just for the record,” I say copying his words. “That fact just made me that much more attracted to you.”

Trevor chuckles as I lean my head against his shoulder.

The day fades away, but the emotions that I hold in that special compartment in my heart just bloomed. Remember how I said I didn’t love Trevor Nixon?...

I lied.

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