Chapter 1 - The Truth
Charlie's not home when I arrive and I'm grateful.
I don't quite make it up the stairs to my room; I trip on the third step and decide to stay where I land. My forehead drops against the hard step above me and my arms automatically wrap around my torso, holding fast, while I draw my legs up awkwardly, curling myself inward. I fight to return to the numbness, but it's getting harder to stay there. I can't remember what the slip was this time; I sealed the memory away the instant it came, but the pain of it lingers, fraying at the edges of my consciousness, threatening to consume me again. I try to take several slow, deep breaths. The part of my brain controlling logical function—the part that dissimulates for the sake of outsider eyes—Charlie's especially—reminds me I should stand and move to my room. My legs are shaky when I make it to my feet.
My room is just as I left it; uncluttered, tidy—empty.
It happens almost the instant I enter the room. One second I'm recovering a portion of the numbness, and the next the memory rips the hole in my chest wide and gaping, uncompromising and unforgiving. For a moment I can't draw breath, and it's not because I can't work my lungs but rather because they have disappeared altogether, torn out from inside me with everything else. The image of him lounging across my bed is gone as quickly as it comes, shoved back in the deep, dark pool, but the damage is done.
I don't recall collapsing but my cheek is pressed to the floorboard now, my arms wrapped tightly around myself, trying to hold together whatever is left of me. I wonder how much more of this I can take. Some days are more manageable than others. Today is not a good day.
In the aftermath of the memory, another kind of pain takes its place. The pain of forgetting—his face, his smell, his voice, his touch. It's a pain greater than all the rest.
It's a while before I'm strong enough to move.
Eventually, I can feel the sharp edge of one of the floorboards digging into my cheek—the numbness still hasn't completely returned. I shift, irritated that I can't be allowed even this inconsequential form of peace, and the movement causes the sleeve of my sweater to catch on a splinter of wood. I tug my arm upward to dislodge it, and the offending floorboard comes up behind it before colliding back down.
This is when everything comes crashing down on my fragile, carefully constructed world.
The walls I built over months and months.
The careful boundaries.
The truths and fabricated lies.
All of it.
There's nothing left to protect me from the pain now; it ripples through me, relentless and unstoppable, and I know the damage will be irreparable now—there can be no coming back from this.
The loose floorboard sits at an angle where it landed above the opening revealed in my floor. I stare down at the items piled neatly between two wooden beams that make up my floor, and the certainty of the truth that now cripples me is a tangible thing; I can feel it pulsing around the edges of the searing hole in my chest, in every broken piece rattling in my bones, in every atom shaking inside me.
Edward still loves me.