~Chapter Seventeen~

I pushed the door open to my apartment. Heavier than before the door scraped just a little harder against the hardwood floor than ever before. The colors seemed different, the sun burned through the rippled glass of the old kitchen window and it gave the apartment a different energy. Suddenly, everything in the apartment was soaked in the essence of Sybil. The vacuum lines she put in the plush area rug in the living room. Even down to the pillows on the couch she'd angle just right to give the illusion we were expecting guests. I remember her telling me through her recovery she found healing in controlling the things she could and letting go of the things she couldn't. Call it OCD, or replacing one addiction for another, but she found comfort in keeping the apartment nice and organized.

I pushed my fingers to the pea soup green pillow she had put on her side of the couch. The embroidered lines across the silky front caught the pads of my fingers, for some reason they were more defined than ever before. Each stitch representing a day she was clean, or so I pretended. I pulled the pillow to my chest; her perfume soaked the lining of my nose and down my throat, sweet with a touch of spice. I sat down in her spot on our couch and curled my feet up under my body. Coiled, I held Sybil's pillow against my face, feeling the chill from the silk against my lips and nose, I breathed her in. I felt like I was living between reality and something I had no name for.

I ached to have Sybil walk through the door. Argue with me, laugh at me, and get pissed because I creased her favorite pillow. God, I just wanted someone to come and take me home. I wasn't comfortable in my own skin, in my thoughts, or in the expired promises we made to each other. Sybil's not coming back and I'm not ready to figure out what to do. Where do I belong now?

God Damn it Sybil, we didn't plan for this!

I didn't plan for this day to come so soon. I'm not ready to let go. I'm not ready to never hear her laugh again, or have her pissed at me for being such a fucking asshole. I spent my entire life pushing people away, so much energy wasted on making sure I never gave too much. It's because of this, this exact reason … it's too painful, too much investment if this is the return. God damn it, I'm not ready to let go. I don't want to be alone in this life. I don't want to be here without her.

Sybil, I just need you to come barreling in, pissed that you fucked up and didn't record your stupid ass reality show. I need to hear you argue with the pricks next door. I need you here with me.

Every agonizing brick hovered over me waiting for the moment I cracked, those deep personal feelings I was a master at pushing away, locking up and keeping at a distant suddenly slammed down across my shoulders. There was nothing I could do to bring Sybil back. She wasn't mad at me, she didn't leave to work, she wasn't visiting her family or pulling an all-nighter, my best friend, the only person who felt like some form of family to me was gone … forever.

I pushed the heels of my palms into my eyes, pushed so hard my eyes ached from the pressure. I lost my breath and crumbled to the voice in my head.

Well, Rosalie, if you weren't such a fucking idiot, you would have locked the door. Maybe you could have saved her if you didn't pass out after hitting your head. Weak, you're weak, crumbling to the demons you cling to as an excuse. Maybe your friend Sybil would be here right now if you didn't fail at saving the one person who always had your back. Did you have her back? Did you have her back when she needed you?

My inner voice was relentless, reminding me I was the same worthless broken girl I had always been trying to run from my whole life. I took a deep breath, and let it out. I didn't want to listen anymore; I didn't want to fall to the memories of who I never asked to be.

"Sybil! I'm so sorry I wasn't able to save you. I wasn't able to protect you. I'm so sorry … . … you're not coming home!"

My voice cracked as I curled up and let every last thing which ever broke me flood my existence. Every breach of trust, every second of pain scorched into my soul where strangers and people I thought loved me, used me. Every breath I took drowned my lungs. Buried in wasted moments and nauseating memories as they flashed through my mind. Incidents which created who I was and how I handled moments like this. I couldn't stop the twisted minds and pathetic excuses for people who took my innocence and ripped my heart to shreds. I thought about giving up Shane, losing a love deeper than any physical connect I'd ever had before. I bawled until my head hurt and my voice was gone. I cried until I had no more tears to give, until every tear I had left was soaked into the cushion of the couch or Sybil's pea soup green pillow. I cried until I was exhausted enough to fall asleep in the puddle of my agony.

I was woken up by my phone vibrating next to me. I guess life goes on; even when it was being torn to pieces. There was no consideration for a broken girl whose life was just ripped apart all over again. I peered at the clock, blurry through my swollen eyes; seven thirty. The apartment was dreary and I was exhausted. The sun was down and I just couldn't bring myself to get up and go out tonight. I tossed the phone on the coffee table. I knew it was horny Johns who had called me to hook up or wondered if I'd left the business or even died. Today made up almost a week were I didn't manage my eight squares of sidewalk, a sidewalk where memories of Sybil and me were the filthy runoff that ended up in the gutter after a rain storm. What the hell was I thinking; I knew my eight squares were already claimed by some other ho who thought she found gold at the end of her fucked up rainbow. How was I ever going to go back? I was done living in a broken world, filled with crumbling sidewalks and wrecked dreams.

I sat in our apartment sheathed in a fog knowing there were decisions I ultimately had to make. I looked around at all of Sybil's things and the other stuff that happen to belong to me. There was no way I could even consider going back to my squares. I had to be stronger than I'd ever been before. I had to get my shit together and pack up Sybil's stuff. I couldn't let anything of hers get lost or left behind. She wouldn't want that to happen, especially if her family decided to come and collect her things.

Sybil and I never talked about shit like this. Maybe it was being optimistic that we would survive beyond our profession. I was so wrong. I didn't know where to start. My hands tingled at the thought of touching her things. I wasn't the type who invaded anyone's privacy. I never snooped through her shit when she was gone, or borrowed any of her things without asking. The idea of getting into her stuff without her permission felt violating, wrong, and an invasion of her privacy. I stood in our apartment and looked around overwhelmed at where to begin. Should I have started with her clothes, or look under her bed for things she kept hidden away. I had to remind myself, she was gone and there wasn't anyone else who was going to clean up what was left of her.

I stood staring at her closet door. It was the only closet in the apartment and ample for the postage stamp square footage we occupied. The day we moved in our apartment poured through my mind.

"Wow, Sybil, get your ass over here and check out this closet. It's like bigger than the whole place!" I bellowed wiping the sweat from my brow. We had just finished unloading our last box from the back of my car.

"There's enough room for both of us to hang up our shit," She squawked.

"Hell, no, sistah, we're gonna roshambo for it! It's a luxury one of us should take full advantage of," I quipped as squared toward her and threw up my fist resting on the palm of my other hand. I knew how to rock, paper, scissor my way into any situation, I'd become quite good at it … until that day.

"Fine, one, two, three." She counted before slamming her fist down in unison with mine. She dropped the infamous rock and well, when my two fingers protruded from my fist, my fate had been sealed and the first game of three was lost.

Sybil won two out of three times and in less than five minutes claimed her closet. To the victor goes the spoils, well, all except for a little section in the front right side, a spot she reserved for me, just in case I had something that didn't fit in my rickety freestanding armoire. Me being the stubborn shit I was, never gave into her request and eventually she absorbed that space with more clothes she'd never wear. But that day, was the last time I ever played roshambo, with anyone. I learned my lesson; she was the best at anticipating people's choices.

I let the awkwardness roll across my skin as I pulled open the closet next to her bed and stared at all of her things. Dresses and tops she'd let me borrow a hundred times before, methodically hung from the clothing rods. I thought about the moments where I'd been in this closet before, where she had let me rifle through her clothes because she insisted I wear something of hers. Now, I was in her closet rifling because she didn't have a voice. Sybil would never have the option to tell me it was okay, ever again.

There wasn't a square inch of her closet she didn't use. Stacked boxes of high heels on the shelf above her dual clothes rods, and shoe organizer hung on the inside of the door. It was organized by outfits, and their matching shoes. Dresses she let me wear which reminded me of events that marked our lives beyond what we had in common. I pushed her clothes apart, noticing the little black leather dress she wore when she had an overnighter at the Sir Francis Drake. She was so excited to find red alligator skin pumps which looked like they were made for that dress. She looked beautiful with her deep red bristled hair and shoes to match.

I collected a handful of her clothes from the closet and laid them across her bed. A ritual which tore my heart apart with each step I took back and forth between her closet and her bed. Tears poured down my cheeks as each stack I created became the story of her life where someone either threw her away or paid for who they wanted her to be. I added the last cluster of designer coats and sweaters, balancing on the disorganized stack of shirts on the bed when something tumbled to the hardwood floor and rolled under my bed. Normally, I wouldn't care but today life was different, my life was slow and heavy and moved at a pace where everything seemed thick and raw, magnified by who was missing in our apartment's silence.

I stood between our beds before I looked over at the haphazard piles of clothes. I was hit hard with the realization, these clothes piles were all I had left of her. I crumpled to the floor, and landed rough against the shaggy black area rug between our beds. My knees rippled with pain. My face burned hot while cool tears clustered at the edges of my eyes, and I ached to go numb. I wanted to believe today was just one fucked up dream and at any moment I was gonna wake up. I was spent as I poured myself across the soft area rug, pressing the side of my face to the old warped hardwood floor. Neglected like I was, the coolness of the old hardwood stung at my cheek, the soft pile of the area rug kissed any bare skin it could touch. My tears pooled in the corner of my eye, before they trickled across the bridge of my nose and splashed down against the floor.

I just wanted to disappear, get lost in my pain. I wanted to have one more moment where I had the chance to say goodbye, to tell Sybil that in my own twisted way, I loved her like a sister, she was the only person who made me feel worthy of having a family to love me, even if it was only the two of us, sisters by choice. I was buried in the moment; I didn't want to look beyond the loss of Sybil, I was alone again in a life filled with disappointment after disappointment. In this desperate moment, where my broken heart beat weak in my chest, I couldn't believe there was a chance that not even the blood which pulsed through my veins would be warmed by the sun's promise to rise another day. All I wanted was one more day with her, just one more day.

I opened my tear clouded eyes and saw the collection of white and brown boxes covered in a thin layer of undisturbed dust under my bed. Each package was a proposition from Mr. C, they were reminders I kept hidden of how much he still resided just below my skin, even a year later. He knew the power he had over me and seeing those boxes conjured an ache that thundered across my soul. He was my breaking point, the one I was convinced I could quit, just after this one last time.

I stretched my hand out to the closest box and pulled it toward me. In its wake the box scraped out an unmistakable clear path along the dusty hardwood floors, more evidence that I was disturbing the demons I struggled to keep dormant. It represented the agonizing moment when I would be at my lowest and seek out those who were the most damaging to my soul. I tossed the first box on the bed and collected another, then another. I didn't stop pulling the packages out until they filled my entire bed. I welcomed Mr. C's bribes like a lost friend, hoping by piling them up I would see the evidence of what I meant to him. I dropped my head one last time to the shabby hardwood floor and saw a silver cylinder tucked under the edge of a manila bubble mailer. The clank against the hardwood floor and the lopsided roll that led me to the buried past under my bed replayed in my head. Realization clung to me like an old friend … it was Sybil's lipstick. I reached out and grabbed it and collected the last package from Mr. C.

I turned over and sat back against my bed. Chills rippled across my skin as memories shuffled through my head. Memories of Sybil as she dragged her dark red lipstick across her mouth before she rolled and puckered her lips. How she would constantly go around and kiss all the mirrors in the apartment. It would irritate me and she would try and convince me it was her way of keeping track of her new favor colors. She'd go around kissing the mirrors and I would follow behind her a week or so later, and clean all her kiss marks off. I craned my neck, I looked over at the mirror behind the front door, my heart tumbled into my stomach. Just a couple of days ago I had cleaned all the mirrors in the apartment. Sybil's colorful kisses wiped clear from the reflection, without a thought of never seeing them again. Something she did which was so irritating, and now a reminder of how desperately I ached to have them back.

Alright Rose, it's time to shut this shit down. Yep, time to pull your ass out of this fucked up moment and callous your heart. The familiar judgmental voice I've listened to all of my life echoed through my head. Look at yourself, curled up on the floor! Nobody is coming to save your shit, Rose. There isn't anybody who's willing to shoulder Sybil's life. Her family isn't going to fucking come pick up her shit. You know it, deep down; you have to admit that nobody ever cares about the broken girls buried in shady back alleys or abandoned buildings.

I was good at shutting down, better than most my age. I'd lived my entire life filled with the sheer agony of wounds rubbed raw by the people who were supposed to love me. You couldn't offer your body to perfect strangers and not expect to have scars. Take it from me; it was for the best when you couldn't find a place to bury your feelings. It was the only way you stay somewhat sane when your heart was trampled and you were functioning in a desolate numb.

I reached over and picked up the dusty bubble mailer from the floor next to me. It was the first package Garrett, Mr. C mailed me after I told him I wasn't going to see him anymore. It was the nastiest kind of torture when you fell for a John and pinned your future on him hoping he'd save you from all the dirty fucks who never gave a rat's ass beyond just getting off.

I got up, stood there and stared at all the bribes Mr. C sent me before I pulled open the edge of the package, tilted the bubble mailer and watched the contents tumble out.