She woke up, her eyes puffy and dry. She had to blink multiple times before being able to keep them open. She didn’t move. She simply stared upward at the ceiling fan as it rushed by. Her eyes tried to follow it as if it would come to an end soon, but couldn’t keep up.
Turning on her side, she saw the impressions left behind from Jack. He didn’t usually sleep with her, but last night he had. Pausing one last time, she hesitantly sat up and let her feet dangle off the side of the bed. Looking down at her bare legs she saw the remnants of tragedy. She had grown thin and she had no color anywhere on her body. Her skin matched one that would be found inside a morgue.
“Clara?” It was Jack downstairs. She smelled the no doubt delicious breakfast being made specifically for her. She didn’t answer or move. He probably had a second of worry that she had attempted to end her life again. Her lips moved, almost resembling a smile. It felt foreign and her cheeks felt like a ten year old rubber band without any more spring to it. Feeling odd, she found herself giggle ever so slightly.
“Clara?” Jack had rushed upstairs, spatula still in hand. She looked up.
“Are you alright?” What a ridiculous question, she thought. “Are you hungry? I made your favorite, blueberry pancakes.”
“That’s not my favorite anymore.”
“Oh, and what is?” he couldn’t hide his excitement over a conversation. This angered her.
She simply got up and went into the restroom, closing the door behind her. She didn’t bother using any sort of force. She heard the slow, calming swoosh of the door as it fell, as if a feather, back into place after her. With great satisfaction she could practically feel his hesitation, his defeat as he pondered his next move. She heard the loose floorboard in the doorway creek twice before his quiet footsteps resounded down the stairs. Someone caught her attention in the mirror. For a few seconds she stared at the creature in the glass – trying to decipher who she was. For an even smaller fraction of time, she thought the girl was Anna. Inside tears formed. She could feel her face scrunch up in a disgruntled and repulsive fashion.
“No one wants you here.” She spat at the mirror, seeing tangible droplets of her saliva connect with the surface. Slowly, she wandered out of the room, passing over the creaking board as she did, and down the stairs.
She tried to ignore the family photos, but she felt them – felt their gaze reach out toward her scrawny arms, tempting her to look. It was as if Medusa herself was in her living room, her snakes hissing at her, “Show us those dazzling eyes.” She winced and hurried through the living room, leaving the heat behind. The hissing dimmed in her retreat, but the hot sweat proceeded.
“Are you feeling ill?” He was standing at the stove, an apron covering his t-shirt and jeans. Normally, he would have been in a cheap suit, but he hadn’t been to work in a while.
She shook her head, moving to sit without a pause to fully answer his question. Yet, again it was ludicrous that he kept asking her how she felt. If he just opened his eyes he wouldn’t have to ask – he would know. That’s where they differed. He only cared to know, she cared to experience.
“You look warm. Do you have a fever?” He went to place his hand on her forehead, but she flinched and jolted back upward. He stumbled backward, almost falling onto the hot stove. She couldn’t tell what he saw in her face, but in a way she didn’t care much to know. “I- I’m sorry. Hungry?”
“No.” She spoke, realizing he would need more obvious answers. She’d have to keep that in mind. How frustrating, she thought.
“You need to eat something.” She shook her head again and repeated her previous response. “Please. Just something, anything really. I can’t lose you too – “she shot him a glance, no emotion, just watching him. He squirmed, but continued.
“Clara, I believe you ok, whatever you say happened, happened. I just want to move forward. I know you loved Anna and that you would never – “
She scoffed and he paused, hope in his eyes that she would just talk to him, just come back to him.
The phone rang and Clara jumped, her eyes closing as the panic immediately made her eyes turn toward the now covered pool. She held her breath, trying to decide whether or not to let it out.
Jack moved to answer the phone, the spatula still in his hand. Clara spoke, “Don’t answer it.”
“Why not?” He proceeded to go for the phone.
“I said no!” Her hand slammed flat against the table, causing Jack to freeze.
“It’s Dr. Lane. She told me you cancelled the other day.” He let the ringing end, but stepped closer to Clara. “Listen…you need to start going to these sessions.” Clara remained silent and so he continued, but only after a hesitant silence. “It’s the only way to get…better, the only way to – “
“Fix me.” She met his eyes and she wondered again if he finally saw it. If he finally realized she wasn’t there anymore. His face fell and he turned away from her. The phone rang once more and he turned to catch her expression. She tried to keep her gaze trained on him and not flicker to the window. She nodded for him to answer it. Confusion covered his expression, before picking up the receiver and stepping away to another room. His voice became muffled as he moved further away from her.
She moved to leave, her steps silent, just as Anna’s had been that day. How long had it been? Four months? Weeks? It felt like years sometimes, seconds other times.
She stepped outside, her bare feet connecting with dirt. She walked slowly, with purpose. As she reached the pool, her hand moved to take off the cover that had been there since however long it had been.
She climbed up the side of it and glided into the water. It was ice, reaching up to her heart and her head, finally feeling something different. For that half a second her mind was on the cold, and not Anna. Her hand slid across the top of the water, barely touching.
She smiled, closed her eyes, and immersed herself in the cold. She felt it all over.