Shh just lay down, Sophie tells me, and she's touching my forehead and my eye is throbbing something awful. She has a Ziploc bag of ice in her hand and she's eyeing it like it's offended her terribly. Meanwhile, I do as she tells me and I lay back, and the sheets are dirty and kind of smell, but I haven't gotten around to washing them. My navy blue comforter cascades around my head like a broken halo, hiding the pillow my head is resting upon.
It isn't as bad as last time, I tell her, and she doesn't respond, just makes a soothing noise with air whistling between her teeth before gently pushing the ice onto my throbbing eye. Before I close my eyes, I glance over at the shut door and pray that he isn't waiting outside. He went out, Sophie whispers, knowing, always knowing. I nod and let my eyes shut and feel the frigid sensation of the ice melting over my blackening eye, a pale moon over the midnight landscape.
Have you ever, Sophie begins to say, but when I look at her she has this tight-lipped look on her face, mouth locked and key thrown away. I urge her to go on. To get help. She says. Have you ever thought to tell someone?
It's a stupid question, and I think for a moment that she's lost her mind. I learned long ago to keep my mouth shut, but she looks so small all of a sudden, I can't bear to tell her that. Have you? I ask, and she just looks away and tells me to get some sleep.
Anne from the other side of the white picket fence pokes her head out of her gardening shed the next day, her strawberry blonde hair colliding with the faded brown of the wall, a fire on a long burned down forest. Jon, she says, tilting her head to one side and giving me what can only be described as a weird look, eyebrow arching over porcelain skin, and it's a wonder she isn't burning into a tomato red in this sun. Your eye, she elaborates, her hand gesturing wildly and vaguely over her face, a storm of fingers and deep red nail polish.
I have a bag of garbage from the trash in my hand, and I'm frozen against the wall of the garage, which is made up of tiny white pebbles that hurt my back since I'm pressing myself back into them, leaving marks on my shirt, my skin. Fell down the stairs, I answer, plopping the bag into the can and moving back to the house. She calls after me, and it could almost be comforting if it wasn't too good to be true.
Are you sure? I know that your dad can get mad sometimes.
No, no, no. You definitely don't know what you're talking about, I feel like telling her, but I don't say anything, just shrug and say I was tying my shoes. My porch is small and the stairs are steep
and then open the screen door and slip inside.
Jon, get in the car Sophie hisses at me and it's two o'clock in the morning and I swear to god, I can hear the echo of his snores against my eardrums, the shifting of him against his sheets in my ossicles. Get in the car, she repeats, and her hands are gripping the wheel so firmly that I can see the whites of her knuckles even in the darkness of the garage. It's a pretty shitty ride, when I think about it. It's an older model of a caravan, and it's an ugly shade of green and I would be embarrassed to be seen riding in it if I was ever actually in it.
I can't get in. I can't just leave because he'll chase us and then he'll kill us. I don't mean to say it out loud, but Sophie just bites her lip hard and her eyes are like marble, only they're melting under the force of hot tears as the dam threatens to break.
He'll kill you if we stay. She points out, but I tell her she has a shot. She just looks at me unbelieveably before resting her head against the wheel and I can see her shoulders shake, can hear her sobs whispering down the cochlear duct, and she's still begging me. Begging me to get in the van but I won't.
i apologize in advance. this'll be an ongoing project. i'm experimenting with styles right now.