The night is black velvet, devoid of anything but the stars and her; it wraps around her, a dark cloak fashioned of the very sky.
She trembles, a shiver that begins in her neck and traverses the path to her toes, despite the fact that layer upon suffocating layer of cotton sits between her skin and the cool surroundings. However, she knows that the ice in the air isn’t the sole culprit to her discomfort. There are many other spiteful mechanisms at work here: anticipation, exhaustion, dread. It could be a number of them; a sick combination of catalysts, working in the same direction, propelling her down the frost-laden street.
Tears were no longer an option—she’d left them behind on her pillowcase, and had not a single droplet to spare, now. The only remnants of their existence are the tracks through the dirt on her face, which she leaves as a reminder. Though she has no chance of catching a glimpse of herself—the ice is the only remotely reflective surface here, and it leaves her likeness distorted, eyes bulging and jaw protruding—she can feel their presence on her cheeks, acidic and foreign.
Hours ago, when she had still been weak—fragile as a sheet of glass—uncertainty stabbed from every faucet of herself.
That is all gone now.
She isn’t weak anymore. The fragility has disappeared. If she was made of glass before, she is now fashioned entirely from stone. Her resolve is firm and cold as steel—durable, unbreakable—reinforced by every teardrop she’d lost. Thinking had led to hesitation earlier, so she now quiets her thoughts, and focuses on the motion of one foot in front of another.
Left and right. Left, and right.
The streetlamps are now small, golden pinpricks of light behind her back—her destination lies in the far reaches of the town—and only darkness remains ahead of her. It occurs to her—a lilting whisper tucked in some remote fold of her mind—that she should be apprehensive. She knows well enough that this neighbourhood holds countless sorts of criminals and other maliciousness. This thought, as the others were, is disregarded. Thinking leads to trouble. Leads to turning around . . . going home.
Just keep walking.
New snow commences it‘s long and silent journey, falling silently upon her shoulders and soaking them until a dank chill reaches her collarbone. Her boots provide the only soundtrack to her solemn procession forward; sombre crunching of snow beneath them. Crunchcrunchcrunch.
Confronted as she is by the total and absolute blackness—to her left, her right, surrounding her. Mind-numbing detachment begins to settle in her bones; a subtle disconnect that threatens to leave her stranded in her own thoughts. She begins to feel that she isn’t walking at all. With no visible points of reference, it’s impossible to tell if she’s moving at all. She entertains a ridiculous fear that seems more real by the moment: what if she never reaches her destination? What if she remains in this darkness, with no way out?
Panic begins to flare, and she squelches it as soon as possible. Find the house, she tells herself, and you’ll forget this darkness even existed. Finally, she does.
The house is directly in front of her. It had begun as a small, glowing iota in the distance, among a cluster of others, and was now a large, off-white square, a few steps away from her. She steps quietly up the two stone steps, as she has many times before, and knocks on the door.
Once, twice, three times.
He answers just as she is about to knock again.
She didn’t think she would cry, but she realizes now that wetness is sliding down her cheek, gathering on her chin.
He isn’t angry until the plane of light from the doorway slides onto her face, and when he becomes angry, he’s furious. His lip curls up as if the very sight of her is disgusting and revolting in a thousand ways she’d never thought possible. His teeth are yellow beneath the angry line of his upper lip, and she can’t believe she never noticed that before. His chest expands in a livid intake of breath—to yell at her, she thinks—but it’s released explosively when he recognizes the item grasped in her pale hands. With morbid delight, she watches the transformation of emotion on his face between blinks as if it were a macabre stop motion film: Confusion. Understanding. Panic.
After a short moment of well-earned victory, she raises the gun. Presses the barrel of it close to his face. Then, spares an endless second in which she simply looks at him. His eyes—those mean, ugly irises which used to view her with overt disgust . . . now the pupils dilate with fear.
He is crying now, begging.
No. Oh, god, please don’t shoot. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.
Sorry? The word is ridiculous and alien. Sorry for what? There were a multitude of things the sentiment could refer to: Sorry that he broke her heart? Sorry for the years of physical, mental, and total abuse? Sorry that she used to lock herself in the bathroom when he came home, or he’d slap her silly?
She decides that, though there are many instances he could be apologizing for, he isn’t.
He is on his knees. The deciding factor is this second. This would fix it. This would fix all the hurt. All she needs to do is
She tries. She can’t. She still loves him. She wants to hate him. Wants to hate his guts for all the tears, the heartache, the bruises he’s caused her. She’s not strong enough . . . probably never will be. She was a fool to think that she could do it, that she was made of something stronger than him. She was always a creature of glass, and always will be.
The barrel of the gun is lowering—relief flashing through his face—when something is revealed by the slipping fabric of her coat: a circular burn, puckered and ugly from a cigar, placed with careful cruelty upon the delicate skin of her wrist. That’s all she needs to push her over the edge.