T.W. Emotional and sexual abuse

**Click here to read Part 1**

“Yes, I’m sorry, I was trying to figure that out, princess. If I could turn down the light maybe I’d be able to see you.”

She took her hands and steadied their frantic dance by using them to lock his face into a frame. Once again she watched as his eyes strained to find her, his hand coming to push away hers and press into his forehead. “I feel like I have a hangover, but I only had three beers last night. How is that possible?” He moved under her arm and pressed his lined palms into the sockets of his skull as if to make them deeper with pressure.

“Look at me.” He continued to press. “I said, LOOK AT ME DAMN IT!”

His head popped up like a spark from a raging fire. She rarely yelled, but when she did, he knew he was in for it. Looking to quell her like the rider does the mare before she can throw him, he did as she commanded and searched for her once again. Once again, he could not focus on her. It was like trying to look through warped and stained glass. He adjusted the placement of his eyes in his head to where he knew they should be if he could see her and reached out to provide in touch what he could not with sight.

“I can see you.” She didn’t dare move, she didn’t dare breathe. His eyes were seeing her. He could see her.

“You can?” It was a quiet query, a whispered prayer to someone with the power to deliver her.

“Of course I can.”

“You can. You can see me.” She stepped towards him, feeling the echo of his touch on her waist. She pulled his mess of morning curls into her chest as she repeated the phrase once more, rocking to it like a lullaby. Both of his arms came around her slender waist, feeling even more slender than usual. There was a pleasing coolness in the feel of her compared to the warmth of the bed. He knew it wasn’t the time for such thoughts, but he couldn’t help himself from gripping tighter and reliving highlights of the night before in his mind. His thumb traced nonsense letters into her back of its own accord. Her breath was still ragged, bringing his attention to the rise and fall of her chest. It too closely mimicked his desires. He could not prevent himself from drawing her further in between his legs. Not the time, a slight wind breathed into his mind. However, he couldn’t prevent himself from pulling her down towards him, grabbing a fistful of her dark hair.

She felt it when he grabbed her hair, the sharp pull the realest thing she had experienced that morning. Sinking into his grasp, she let his mouth clamp over hers. She rushed to meet his efforts, thrust for thrust. Not because she wanted him. She needed him. Needed to feel.

He was not gentle. He couldn’t be. Her clothes were soon drawn from her skin like they were repelled to the material of her body. At first she tried to remain on top of him, but he soon dragged her under in his hunger. He bit her lip, teasing. She returned it with equal vigor. Sensing a rare moment where she wanted him as much as he did her, he bit down without restraint. It stung like a punch, and she could feel the weird warmth as her lip swelled. She knew it would be bruised. She didn’t care. She could feel it.

He drove in her without any forethought. It hurt. It hurt a lot. But the hurt was good because it meant that she was still there. Her lips came up on her face, seeking her nose as she winced. In her silence, he found authorization and pushed harder. He grabbed her wrists, drawing them above her head. His grip was so tight that she could not prevent her body from attempting to alleviate the pain. It wriggled under unwanted persecution, but he took it as a sign of her pleasure.

A small cry of pain fled from her before she could arrest it, escaping like a cut off siren, but he was too far gone to hear it. It had started, now it had to end. He was rough with her, rougher than he’d ever been. He worked himself over her like he hated her, like he owned her and there was no way for her to escape him.

She could no longer fight her body’s urgings. Bucking with her hips, she attempted to fling him off, but he only pressed harder. She sucked in air to finally plea with him, but his mouth came down on hers. When she finally felt a warmth between her legs and his body quaked like it was exorcised from its demon, she breathed out a whine of relief.

He slipped off of her heavily. Without his weight, she could take a small breath, but only a small one. Her ribs still felt compressed under the now imaginary pressure. It still lingered like a restless spirit indenting her bones.

“Well, that was hot.” He placed a kiss on her unmoving lips, like the prince to Briar Rose. Returning to his back he offered, “Of course, I can see you, you’re mine.” He practically hummed, the very paragon of contentment.

Tiny shivers racked her body, abating only briefly enough to make their return the more unpleasant. Desperately she encouraged the convulsions to stop. She didn’t want him to notice, to know what he had just done to her.

She turned over and sprung herself from the bed on trembling legs.

“Where are you going?”

“I’ve got to get clean.”  

“What?”

“Just going to the bathroom.” She amplified her voice in this statement, eager to flee.

“Ah, right. Hurry back.” He brushed his forefinger up the back of her right thigh to punctuate his order.

Once more, she retreated to the bathroom. Avoiding herself in the mirror, she went and sat on the toilet seat and waited until the shivers dulled into manageable quakes. She rose from her reprieve and washed her hands, still not raising her eyes to acknowledge the power of her reflection. Half anxious and half hopeful, she dared to lift her gaze and crumbled under what she did, or more accurately didn’t, see.

A whimper, just a hushed sound of anguish pushed itself out of her. She was glad for the sound if only to prove that she could still inspire one of the five senses. Before her was supposedly her face, transparent to her own eyes, just a bit of a shadow. When she sought to touch herself, there was only a small place in her middle that would not separate itself when pressed into.

“He can still see me. It’s got to be me. I’m going blind or going crazy, but at least I’m still here. I’m still here, he can see me.” She could no longer stand the damning proof of the mirror and instead addressed her plea to the towel rack before her.

He had said he could see her. That she was beautiful. He’d looked right at her. She’d seen it. He wouldn’t lie, not about this. But, hadn’t he lied before?

She had to admit that “thou shalt not lie” only mattered to him in regards to her statements. When she had gone out with friends last Friday, he questioned her until every detail of the evening was extracted and firmly in his possession. He was assured that no men had been part of her group, excepting those dating her friends. Even those he scrutinized, as the interaction with Eric proved.

He, however, had failed to mention that he had been sleeping with Claire, her roommate, while he had also been sleeping with her before they made anything official. That latter part was the most valiant element of his defense when Claire revealed the secret to her after too many shots last semester. Could she trust his word now when her very existence was at stake?

She broke herself out of the bathroom to be scolded by an irritated snore that dreaded to have its sound disrupted. Grimacing in the darker twin of a smile, she gathered her clothes. She threw them onto her body, not caring for disarray. In fact, the odder she looked, the more she convinced herself that someone might notice her.

Her hand choked the doorknob as she willed it to open the door. Careful to shut it without noise, she entered the hallway.

Far down towards the window, she saw long brown hair draped over an overfilled backpack. Emily from her biology class was already up and working, even on a weekend morning.

“Hey!” The brown hair swept out like the swish of a laid out mop when Emily’s head came around. Emily had glanced to her left and right, finding no source for the faint sound. She tried again once more.

“Emily!” This time, the girl turned completely around, facing her.

“I’m sorry, but who’s there? I can see you, but just barely!”

“It’s me!” Even to her own ears, this last line said with more intended volume came out with less force of sound. Her despair was only alleviated by the seeming approach of Emily.

“Did you say something?”

“I said it’s me!” She began moving forward, but the girl, hearing no reply, turned back with a shake of her head and left.

With the absence of Emily, she felt the urge to sink into the old, stained carpet. Instead, she forced her feet to carry her back to her own room, a few doors down from his. Tapping the pocket of her jeans, she felt the calm surrender of relief in feeling the ragged edges of her key. Even it slipped and slid against her skin. Trying to gain purchase of the small object was like trying to stop skidding on ice. Through sheer force, she cupped her hand in a way that the key was trapped. She retrieved it and battled to fit it into the slot in the knob, trying at once to maintain her hold and make it turn.

She came so close to giving up and flinging herself to whatever mercies would take her, but some luck found her at last. Her fumbling produced the desired result and she was able to unlock the door. Pushing with all her remaining matter was easier now that the door was unlocked. It opened enough for her to enter.

The familiar sight of a space that was entirely female was almost enough to bring the tears down from the ledge she kept them so carefully balanced on. Clothes were scattered on the floor, pages strewn across her desk. Five pairs of shoes peeked out from underneath her bed. More extraneous items claimed dominance atop her covers, but she quickly shifted them enough that she could climb beneath.

She looked over to see that her roommate was sleeping soundlessly, her limbs pooling outward like they had melted into a softer substance.

“You stayed there again last night, didn’t you?” It came muffled from the confines of the pillow her face was resting in.

“Yes.” She had to practically shout, but it came as a significant whisper.

“I thought you were mad at him.”

“We made up.”

“Mhmm.” Her roommate shifted back into a more reasonably human shape and kept her silence.

“Claire?”

“Hmm?”

“Can you see me?”

Claire’s head rose from the pillow, carrying the skepticism she held at the request.

“What do you mean, can I see—” Claire stopped her question with a suction of air. Her palms grew hot and slick under Claire’s silence.

“You can’t, can you?”

“It’s… I’m trying, but it’s like…I don’t know, trying to stare into the sun? What’s going on? Is the light really that bad in here?”

“Go back to bed, Claire. I may be gone when you get up.”

“The hell you will. That boy is no good for you and you’ve got two essays due next week. Just stay here and get your work done. I’ll head to the library and you can play your shitty music in freedom.”

She closed her eyes and let her tears seek their release from their drying prison. For a moment she considered that Claire had no reason to judge, as she too had once fallen for the boy she despised now.

“Okay,” she said, “Thank you, Claire.”

“Of course.”

She felt her grief overwhelm her because she knew there was a chance that Claire would never be able to hear her again. Surrendering to the hollow comfort of her worn blanket, she let herself drift into sleep still with the hope it was all a dream.

The shutting of her door woke her once more. Her eyes swiveled until they could see the clock, alerting her that it was two in the afternoon. She brought her hands to her face immediately, seeing with both dismay and a bit of relief that they were unchanged since she had fallen asleep. She didn’t need to search for her reflection to know all was the same.

Resolutely, she got up from the bed. She felt like a balloon in the loose grip of a toddler, barely keeping some purchase on the ground. Her desk was a collection of everything, but she was able to locate her laptop through memory. It took her several tries to grasp it, but when she did and had it open, she sat and tried to type.

Each tap of a key was a painful and laborious task. She spent five minutes typing “the.” She had to do something to keep her in this world. With repetition she was able to get a better rhythm and soon an entire page existed on the screen. She took a moment to rock back into her chair and enjoy the proof that she still lived.

A soft knock came at the door in the middle of the second page. She ignored it and continued to write, knowing not being seen would only bring her more pain. The knock renewed itself, this time with vigor.

“You in there, babe?”

She rose from the chair in a reflex to answer his call, but at her first step she hesitated. She thought. She remembered the last touch of his skin and how she still didn’t feel clean.

Another knock. “I woke up and you were just gone.” She flinched.

Two more knocks. “If you’re in there, let me in.” His tone was low and soothing.

She walked another step towards the door, but then took a breath.

She retrieved her step and turned slowly to the chair. The cushion greeted her as she sunk into it. Her hands unraveled her headphones as he continued his assault on the door. She placed one in, then the other. Through some more work, she was able to hit play on her computer. Music flowed into her ears, breaking through his words. She thought she heard footsteps less and less clearly as she listened to the song. Salt water came down her cheeks in rivulets, but she did not answer the door.

This time, when she reached for the keyboard, she found it was easier to type. Her hands too looked not so spectral as before, like the artist who had created her had added more definition to her shape. Looking at her reflection available just barely in her screen, she could see her face, just a little bit clearer. And that made her cry more than anything else.

FIN

Aubrey Link is a senior English Major with a Writing Concentration at Gettysburg College. She lives in Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania with her four dachshunds. In between applying to law schools and writing her first novel, she enjoys spending time with her 18-month-old nephew.

At what moment have you seen yourself the most clearly? Tell us in the comments.

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