Porcelain Skin

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I'd Rather Die

I knew what I had to do, but I ran out of time to do it. This just means that it will have to wait until Friday, if not longer. Part of me just wishes I could have gotten it over with, while the other part of me is grateful for the time I have now to get prepared.

Classes are back in session but I’m just not feeling it. I’m already looking forward to next year, after I’ve completed most of my general education classes, and can actually study what I want. It’s Monday morning, and I’m sitting in Statistics class forcing the drool to stay in my mouth and my eyes to remain focused. It’s not easy. All I want to do is slink under my covers and sleep until Christmas.

Thanksgiving break is such a teaser. It gives you just enough to make you want more, but it’s not at all satisfying. My mom and I ended up spending our Thanksgiving outside around a fire. The weather was surprisingly warm for Fall, and we thought we’d better enjoy it. It’s a good thing we did because two days later it was thirteen degrees (-10.5 C). That right there is the definition of misery. Actually, anything below sixty degrees (15.5 C) is misery to me.

The day goes by slowly, and for some reason, I feel like a blob in a lava lamp. I sluggishly move about my day like I’m floating through space. I’m in desperate need for some activity, but I’m too lazy to care at the moment. I have decided to quit my outdoor running and downgrade to a treadmill. There’s just something very off about being so cold that you can’t feel your body, and yet, still sweating. It’s not a pleasant sensation. Which explains why Tuesday morning rolls around and I find myself in the campus gym.

I’ve surprisingly never set foot in this place before, and for good reason too: it’s a dump. It’s long and narrow with a whole whopping two treadmills shoved into the far corner, one elliptical, and an entire row of weights and machines lining the wall. A couple of the light fixtures have lost screws and are hanging slightly crooked on the ceiling. The place smells like mothballs that have been stored in a pair of damp boxers for about fifty years. To sum it up in a single word, it’s wretched.

I bring a fist up to my nose to block the smell, but it does no good. I scurry over to the front desk and receive a key to locker 125. Making my way to the locker room, I let my eyes travel over all the dedicated athletes that find fitness to be more important than brain function. I only say this because I’m sure the fumes surging from the mold-infested carpet are capable of killing a few brain cells. No doubt, a couple of the guys in here are utilizing the power of all two of their brain cells—not sure if the fumes are to blame for that one or the steroids —either way, something is definitely malfunctioning up there.

I find my locker and quickly shrug out of my marshmallow coat and three layers of pants. Goosebumps bubble up from my skin and I rub my hands over my arms to encourage them to hide again. I take a quick tour and am pleasantly surprised when I spy a hot tub in the back corner of the room. Its jets are blasting, steam is rising, and my body is yearning for the water to give me a nice, long, warm hug. It suddenly becomes clear to me why people come back to this place. Soaking in this magical pot of liquid sunshine is worth a couple drops in IQ. I mentally remind myself to bring a suit next time I come.

I guess I fall into the category of fitness over brainpower now.

I do a quick warm up before making my way towards the treadmills. This place lacks anything girly, and that includes girls. I’m pretty sure I’m the only one here, which would explain why the treadmills are available. Guys never use the treadmill. So stereotypical for the guys to grunt and groan as they strain their muscles to the breaking point, while girls show off their firm butt cheeks and bouncy boobs as they hop along on the treadmill. Pretty gross. It’s like everyone comes here to grab the attention of the other sex.

I’m ending mile two when a familiar face steps into the gym. My face instantly heats, and I try to pretend that I don’t notice him. You know how sometimes you can actually feel someone watching you? Well, I don’t want to be that ‘someone’ that Trevor feels. I focus my gaze on the little numbers illuminated on my screen. 1.8 jumps to 1.9, and I feel the drive to push myself a little harder spring forth. My goal today is to make it to five miles, so I’m pretty close to halfway there. Mental fist pump!

I’m so consumed with my own thoughts that I don’t realize that Trevor is no longer within sight. Did he leave? How did I not notice him leave the room? I keep my eyes peeled as I scan my surroundings. I’m about to give up my search when he returns. Somehow, he must have slipped past and into the men’s locker room without me noticing.

I feel a twinge of disappointment that he never even came over to say hi. I’m wondering if he’s playing the same game I am—pretend not to see the other person, and wait for them to make the first move. But when twenty minutes later he still hasn’t noticed me, my heart sinks. I continue to creep on him until I realize that I’ve gone over my targeted distance by half a mile. I’m still feeling pretty good, so I push on.

I keep watching Trevor until he finishes his workout and escapes back into the guy’s locker room. I take this as my chance to stop and jump off the machine. I grab a towel from a nearby table and wipe my dripping face. The hot tub suddenly sounds horrendous—like dipping my body into molten lava.

I’m just rounding the corner, still wiping my neck, when Trevor and I come face-to-face.

“Hey,” he responds after a moment of stunned silence.

His hair is still dripping from his recent shower, the drops leaving their signatures on his red shirt in the form of dark splatters. He looks so fresh and inviting. I just want to wrap my arms around his waist and inhale his clean scent, but that would be entirely inappropriate and utterly bizarre for me to do.

“Hi,” I answer, and I hate that I actually sound shy.

The left side of his face lifts into a lopsided grin. “I didn’t know you came here,” he says, and I’m relieved that he’s surprised to see me. At least now I know that he wasn’t just ignoring me that whole time, but that he actually was just too focused to give his surroundings much thought.

“I don’t.” I tuck a damp curl behind my red heat-induced ear—running makes me look like the butt of a baboon. “This is my first—”

“Yo, Trevor!” Our attention snaps up to find a tall curly blonde-headed guy at the opposite end of the hall. “Soccer?”

“Yep.” Trevor nods. “I’ll be there.”

His friend smiles before ducking back inside the locker room. Trevor turns back to face me. I can tell that he doesn’t remember what we were even talking about, and I can’t help but smile. Why I feel so nervous is a mystery. I guess a week break has my nerves forgetting what it’s like to be around him. I feel like we’re meeting for the first time, and it’s extremely uncomfortable.

We had class together yesterday, but other than a smile from across the room, we hardly acknowledged each other. I had been so bummed when I came in to find Trevor already seated and surrounded by a bunch of his friends. There was no place for me to sit near him, and since we weren’t doing any partner projects this week I didn’t need to be close. He had glanced my way briefly, but then his attention was snagged by some obnoxious redhead. I immediately didn’t like her, and yet she’d done nothing wrong. Jealousy sucks.

“You meeting us at the lounge later?” Trevor asks as he scratches the side of his head.

He appears relaxed with his gym bag slung over his right shoulder, but when I catch him fidgeting with the strap of the bag I get the sense that he’s just as uncomfortable as I am. Realizing this makes me feel a thousand times more confident. I smile up at him.

“Not sure what you’re talking about,” I answer as I wipe a droplet from my eyebrow.

I see his eyes follow the movement, and I cringe knowing that he spotted the sweat before I could erase it. He probably finds me disgusting now, which I kind of am, but I can’t help it that my sweat glands love to share their contents with my clothes. I groan inwardly. In my defense, I’m only like this when I’m exerting energy. My dad on the other hand—I’m pretty sure he would have sweat just by picking his nose.

“Lindsey didn’t invite you?” he inquires.

I shrug with a lift of my brow.

“We’re all meeting at the Lounge and then possibly playing some pool later,” he explains.

“Hmm, nope I still don’t know what you’re talking about,” I inform him. I’m slightly hurt that plans had been made without me, and with the few people on this campus that I considered my closest friends. “Guess I’m not invited,” I say cheerily, trying to sound like the idea doesn’t bother me, but I’m not sure how well I pull it off because Trevor is watching me closely. I think he can read my mind.

“Check your phone,” he says as he ruffles his wet hair. Droplets fly off in random directions, but I’m stuck staring at the beautiful sight of disarray.

How are some people so gosh darn blessed? I mean, I’m not one of those weepy girls who stares at herself in the mirror wondering why my hazel eyes aren’t brighter, or why my wavy hair isn’t curlier, or why my lips aren’t juicier. I actually like those aspects of myself. I just happen to be pretty aware that I’m not stunning, and I’m okay with that. I mean, even Trevor admitted to never actually having noticed me in high school. It was slightly heartbreaking to hear him say that, but definitely not a deal breaker—beauty is what draws a person in, personality is what secures them. I was going to have to rely on part two of that statement to snag Trevor.

“My phone’s in the locker room,” I inform him, pointing to the side with my thumb to where the lockers are.

“Okay. Well, even if you didn’t get a message from Lindsey, then consider yourself invited because I’m inviting you now,” he states, confidently flashing a boyish grin.

“Good to know,” I chuckle. “What time?”

Trevor pulls his phone from his pocket before answering. “About four hours.” He glances back up at me. “We’re meeting at five-thirty.”

“Okay.” I suddenly feel shy again, and I’m pretty fed up with the whole feeling. What is happening to my emotions?

Trevor and I part ways, and I’m feeling extremely down about how our whole conversation went. It seemed so stiff and lifeless. How did we backpedal so quickly? We’re away from each other for a total of six days and suddenly we’re back to square one—practically strangers.

I march into the changing room and pull out my phone. Sure enough, there are two missed calls and a text from Lindsey. I feel all the tension melt out of my body. Man, I’m insecure if I think our friendship is rocky just because she didn’t invite me to hang out with her. She has her own life. I don’t always have to tag along.

I send her a quick text to let her know I’ll be there and proceed to throw all my clothing layers back on. Now that my hair is matted down with sweat, I have to be extra careful; don’t want my hair turning into sweat-cicles before I make it back to my dorm.

I’ve just finished applying my last layer of make-up before adjusting my shirt in the mirror. I’m feeling pretty good about myself. I grab my purse off the floor before shrugging on a coat and heading to The Lounge. My spirit is high, my smile is wide, and my confidence is oozing as I shuffle across campus completely oblivious as to what awaits me.

Have you ever had the delicate bindings of your fragile heart ripped open, experienced rejection by the one person you can’t breathe without, or felt the furious little factory inside you heart shut down?—Yeah, well, I haven’t.

Not yet anyway...

“Yeah, but what if you could walk through them?”

“Makes you wonder what’s on the other side. Oh, or what goes on when you’re not around. Like does an entire story play out, but the moment you step in front everything changes. It’s like an alternate universe.”

I’m standing in line for my coffee as I listen to Trevor, Chuck, and Mike discuss mirrors. The conversation began when they brought up ‘Oculus’. Apparently, they watched it together last night and somehow the topic slowly shifted.

“No, what if the reason we can’t walk through them is because our own reflection is blocking us,” Trevor says as he wraps his hand around his coffee mug. “Like it’s trying to protect us from the horrors of the other side.”

“Or,” I interrupt after grabbing my coffee and sliding into the booth next to Lindsey. “Maybe we are on the other side.”

“Nice,” Mike whispers in awe. “Dude, that would make a sweet movie. Like all this time we’re curious about what our reflection does when we’re not around, and then it turns out that we are the reflection!”

Mike sounds so captivated by the idea that his eyes are glassy and distant.

“Hmmm,” Lindsey hums, lacking the same passion. “Could be cool. It’s the same kind of twist as ‘The Others’.”

“Yeah.” Chuck agrees.

“That movie was sweet,” Mike responds. “Still on my top list of creepiest movies.”

“It’s only creepy because it wasn’t that creepy,” I say as I suck the foam from the top of my cup. “Like you’re expecting it to be terrifying, but the twist in the end is so unexpected that it leaves you with this eerie feeling.”

“Way better than those bloody, slice-off-your-face, movies,” Lindsey says, and I nod in agreement.

“So, back to the mirror story.” Apparently, Mike can’t let this topic go. “We should, for real, turn it into a movie. You all know I’m studying film-making. We could do it for one of my projects.”

“Seriously?” Chuck has his brows lifted, not at all excited by the idea. “Dude, my dead grandma’s a better actor than I am.”

Mike ignores him.

“Okay, so where should it take place?” He looks to each of us for a suggestion, but we all just stare back in silence.

Trevor’s attention is on the display of delicious looking tarts and cakes. I follow his gaze, allowing my mouth to water at the scrumptious looking desserts before Mike pulls our attention back to him.

“Here’s how it will play out. Lindsey,” He points at her, causing her eyes to widen and her back to stiffen at attention. “You can be the maid.”

“What?” she whines.

“There will be a house located in the mountains—” He stops to think for a moment. “No, wait. We don’t have mountains, so let’s just keep it simple. The house is located on a lake near a river.” His eyes pop open wide. “The Hole! Okay, so the house can be located near The Hole. The main characters will be Trevor and Emma.”

Trevor’s gaze slides over to me and I just shrug. A smirk plays at his lips, and he watches me a second longer than necessary. My throat closes up and my chest tries to gasp but no sound emerges.

“The two of you are married,” Mike continues, “with two kids, and you live together in this rickety old house that sits at the edge of the water.”

“Oh man,” Trevor moans. “I’d rather die.”

The rest of the table continues to discuss the story line of Mike’s epic movie, but my brain can’t stop repeating Trevor’s words over and over in my mind. It’s like he pulled a trigger or flipped a switch to my insecurities. I had thought I was over this, but the throbbing in my chest and squeezing of my gut say otherwise.

I don’t realize that the table has gone quiet and everyone is staring at my frozen expression until the silence snaps me out of my daze. I’m working to hide the hurt that wants to melt my smile, but it’s not working. It’s as if the edges of my lips are experiencing a seizure as they twitch uncontrollably. I notice Trevor’s brows dip in concern as he takes in my face.

“Emma?” I hear Lindsey say, and my eyes sluggishly find hers.

“Did I say something wrong?” I hear Trevor say, but it sounds like background noise to the chaos going on in my mind.

“Emma? What’s wrong?” Lindsey inquires as she reaches to softly touch my shoulder.

“I just...” My voice cracks and I allow the words to die with a breath.

“Is it about your dad?” She asks, but at the moment I’m unable to grasp just how intuitive she must be to have been able to comprehend that. Apparently, she didn’t miss my reaction to Trevor’s words.

“Didn’t your dad...” Chuck begins to ask and lets the implications of his words finish for him.

“He uh...” I’m having trouble getting words passed my throat.

“It was a suicide,” Lindsey whispers softly so as not to disturb my already fragile state.

I happen to peek up and notice Mike’s confused expression. He’s clearly lost at how the topic so drastically changed from exciting movie to tragic death all within seconds. I avoid looking at Trevor, but I can feel his eyes on me from across the table. His hand slides across the space between us to cover my own.

“Emma, I didn’t mean—”

“I know.” I cut him off without meeting his gaze, but I’m not actually sure what I believe anymore. Was the guilt that I’d been struggling with for years actually genuine? Was it my responsibility? Apparently, even Trevor would rather die than live with me. If Trevor couldn’t even handle the idea, then of course my father couldn’t handle the reality. My own selfishness killed my father.

The need for air has me shooting out of my seat, leaving my nearly full coffee behind. I’m hoping that getting up will take the attention off of me, but it just draws more.

“Sorry...” I stutter, but I know I don’t have time to explain my behavior before the wall of grief collapses over me. I spin on my heels and head towards the exit.

“Her dad killed himself?” I hear Chuck ask, and just before I push open the door to leave, Lindsey catches my eye, silently asking if she should tell my secret. With a soft nod, giving her permission, she responds softly.

“Yeah. Emma found him.”

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