Loved
by Aishath Faiha Abdulla

Exhale

Inhale

Exhale

Darkness itched around her, wetness waved by her skin.

Exhale

Inhale

Her knuckles turned pale against the bathtub, her toes curled.

Scream

His stench was fresh against her nostrils, she could still feel him. Her hands crept up, her fingers coiled around her neck.

When he grabbed her for the first time, it was sudden; all too sudden. She wasn’t prepared, she wasn’t informed. Hell, she’d never imagined being on that end; unable to speak, unable to move, frozen, as her airway tightened with every passing second, hopelessness, helplessness thudding her veins.

He was sorry, he said. His eyes red, tears dripping down his face, he was sorry.

Confined within four walls, afraid of what mere breathing could cause, they’d been living together for almost half a year. Day in, day out, they’ve smiled, they’ve cried, they’ve laughed until one night, he came home, his mask hanging from one ear, his being swinging as he chugged down the many cans wrapped in plastic. It was the first time in months they’ve been allowed to go outside, and the grocery list she’d given him lay, withering to bits under the many cans and bottles he’d bought.

Exhale

Inhale

Exhale

The candles flared as she moved. The water glinted pink from the many rose petals she’d sprinkled in. Cupping the water, she gently rubbed her hands over her shoulders, halting at her elbows, and reverse. Up and down she went, pacing up with each slide, scouring until her skin screamed.

Stop

Stop

A bang bellowed throughout the apartment. She trotted towards the noise. There he stood, a dent clumped on the wall, his phone cracked by his feet.

“They fired me, they literally just called and fired me” “Can you believe it? They fired me”

The chair shared his frustration, screeching as he plumped down.

“It’ll be alright, it’s gonna be alright” She whispered, her fingers combing through his disheveled curls.

“They fired me, how’s that gonna be alright? They fired me” “It just is, trust me, it’ll get better”

Sometimes she wished that she’d kept her mouth shut, sometimes she wished she just held him tight, humming to the rhythm she knew would soothe him.

He pushed back, the chair piercing her to the wall.

“Don’t talk about what you don’t know” He clasped his hands around her shoulders, and tightened his jaw, every word seething passed his lips in intervals.

“Stop”

“Please, it hurts. Stop”

She didn’t freeze, instead, for the first time, she mustered up the courage to stutter the words out. Stop. He never apologized, he never showed any remorse.

The bath was ice cold, the candles were on the verge of disappearing into the void, water dripped from her as her feet met the towel covered in spots of crimson. It was dark, but not that dark. Light had begun slimming past the window blinds as she hummed, marking tiny puddles along her path until she stood, skimming herself from head to toe.

Her fingers felt like raisins as they traced her curves, they circled along every red-purple-blue spot; the marks, the handprints, everything.

You are so ugly

 Look at you, you dirtbag

His voice haunted her, his punches still vibrated her flesh, and she feared that the silhouette of his hands would swing at her throat, caulk her airway, and leave her panting on the floor again and again.

Bastard

No one’s ever gonna love you

As she continued to gaze upon herself, the mirror stared back at her causing her lips to curl up, just as a thundering tic she hadn’t felt for years entered her being. She felt pretty. She felt like herself. Beautiful.

“I love you” Her reflection mouthed.

She could hear her alarm ringing as the lights came back on. She heard the fans spinning again, burning out the many candles left around the house, the microwave beeped back to life and so did the TV.

“I love you” She heard herself utter.

“I love you” She wiped away the tears rolling down her face, reached a hand out, ruffled around before grabbing onto a tiny stick and applying it onto her lips.

She looked into her eyes, her lips gazed the glass, imprinting herself on it, before she lowered herself, kissed his cold cheek, and made her way towards the sofa.

Her footsteps followed her in red, staining the white velvet of the sofa as she switched on the news channel.

“The government has decided to extend the curfew for another two weeks… The pandemic has taken a toll on economies around the world…”

The news reporter faded into the background as her hands grasped onto the shiny sharp object sitting near the sofa. She twirled it around, the silver barely glinting from the many specs of dried brown, and she smiled.

I love you.

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