Authors: Nancy Beaudet
No! No! No! I have been turned backwards and inside out. I fly into the wall of Mal’s dark bedroom and feel my heart give out.
I’m dead. I’m cold.
My ass lands against the hard ground. I have reached out and pulled a handful of posters down. I look at the crumbles mess of cartoons; super hero and super villain’s. None of these means anything to the man that I’m in love with. He collected them when he was a kid because of his dad. His dad loved comics.
Mal loved singing. Dancing. Math. Mal was a weird kid. That’s why I loved him. That’s why I still love him and scream until my voice threatens to shatter my head. I need to stand but instead I slam my body back. I felt him. I was back, for like half of a hot second, but I was still back. I felt it. I had it.
Just like that.
I felt my body being pulled apart like a rubber band. It hurts, and my jaw feels slack. I think I busted my hip. My tooth stabbed through my lip. I’m a mess.
Mal groans and rolls over, rubbing at his face as if I wasn’t just with him, on top of him, topless, and under him, kissing his neck.
He’s in pain. I can hear it.
What the hell happened? I try to stand. Something loud has stabbed into the palm of my hand. I try to focus on it but the frame starts to fade to black, and I know that this is almost it, but I’m not about to let myself burn out like that again. I don’t want to fade to black.
I want to be epic and ever-present. I want a second chance. I see it, and I know that I have to grasp it. Just a random image, like a
. I know that it’s about to be deleted, but I hold my thumb down to save it. I see a lifetime flash. The possibilities. A chance. I have to take it.
The universe doesn’t have to ask.
I stand and watch the world as I know it fade to black.
I woke up on my back in my kitchen. I was staring up at blank ceiling that stared right back. My heart was a hammer in my chest, and I had no idea what the fuck had happened.
I still don’t know what happened.
I haven’t found the strength to get up just yet. I was facedown into my vomit, yeah that was fantastic. I rolled over and wiped my mouth off, ridding my face of most of it.
My mouth tastes fantastic. Like ass. Old food and teeth that haven’t been brushed since…God I can’t even remember when. I have become that much of a mess that collapsing in my vomit wasn’t the surprise that it should have been, but waking up like this is.
I heard a voice I didn’t recognize, a scream that didn’t make any sense and a strange pressure in my chest.
I felt like I had invited some ugliness in.
Yeah, that makes no sense. I blink and blink again. I feel like death. I almost always feel like this the day after well,
. That’s what I want to call it, just
. Not my drunk sluttiness. Not a night out on the town that always ended up with me on my back on a mattress. Not me regretting my choices. Just
It happens again and again and I am not powerless to stop it: that thing that happened and cannot be taken back.
I just don’t know anything different. Hello, my name is Cadence Smalls. I’m twenty-seven. Five-foot-five-and-a-half, my hair is dyed a terrible red and my gel nails desperately need to be filled in.
I am an addict.
I am desperate. I am a fuck up. I am hardly ever missed.
I move my hands to the floor to push myself off of my back; I turn, and my hair falls on my face. I blow on it, trying to brush it back with the back of my vomit-smeared hand. I’m not wearing much, a slinky black dress and some sandals that are only hanging on now by the thin silver straps. My ankles are in a death trap. I try to slide them off with my hands but fail quite epically at that.
My kitchen is a mess. The floor stained with remnants of last night party fest. You know, just the usual events of me and a bottle of vodka cuddled against my chest.
My roommate is MIA again. Not that I should be at all surprised by that fact, Torrance doesn’t like to come home if he can help it. Not that I blame him. I wouldn’t come home either if I had a different option, but I don’t. This apartment is my prison. The pale green walls I painted with my best friend during a night high on energy drinks and sedatives. The door has ten deadbolts in it. The fridge is filled with alcohol.
I make myself stand and almost stumble backwards. Reaching out to the kitchen table, I slap the wood with my hand. It stings for about half a second. I live in a small two-bedroom basement apartment just off of campus. I have lived here for a year and a half with Torrance.
He is my younger brother’s best friend. He’s a good kid. I am an awful influence for him. He knows it. I avoid it.
My hair usually reaches my shoulders when it isn’t in such a mess. I desperately need to wash it and brush it. Possibly untangle it, spray it down with some super disinfectant. I am totally the definition of a hot mess, Only without the “hot” part.
The bathroom is located right off of the kitchen. My bedroom is next but the door is closed, and I don’t want to risk opening it.
I don’t know if I have any more guests. I don’t want to risk running into any of them.
I need to strip and shower, wash myself of any and all sins. I need to rinse off the evidence and shave my armpits. They are starting to inch.
As is my lady business.
That’s right. I said it. Deal with it.
I turn on the bathroom light and glower at the disgusting damp towel and piss puddle mess that has now soaked into the small shower mat. It used to be purple; at least it was when I was regularly washing it. The laundry room and I are no longer friends. I look into the mirror, and the death of my best friend looks back.
I didn’t ask for this.
No one asks for life to end, but the world is a cruel place and change only happens when you least expect it. My usually happy brown eyes look black, and my face is a blotchy, red mess.
It has been like this since the moment that I found out my little brother, my best friend, wasn’t coming back.
Every day I think about Alex. It has been like this all of the two-thousand-five-hundred-and-fifty-five days since it happened. He is every pain in my chest and everything about my old life that I miss.
He was my best friend. My only sibling. My other half. My better half. I was supposed to protect him, and take care of him and keep him sheltered from all of the bad. Instead I pushed him into it and failed at being a big sister, I failed at being the person he needed me to be, and now he’s dead. I did this.
Everything that happened? Well, I’m to blame for it.
I can’t stand my own reflection.
I pick up my toothbrush and soak it under the tap before covering it in my favourite minty goodness. I stick my toothbrush into my mouth and give my teeth and gums a good bath. Rinse. Spit. Rinse. Spit. I do this like ten times just because I know that I need it.
I close the door with my foot and peel off what’s left of my tiny black dress. I’m not wearing a bra, or underpants. I have no class. I’m spastic. I turn on the shower and push back the curtain. Someone had sex in here last night; I can still smell it.
How nasty is that?
I don’t even know if I was a participant.
I step in and almost slip because I don’t have a shower mat. I used to; at least I think that I did. Torrance must have gotten rid of it.
The water hits me with a vengeance. I deserve every burn mark from it. The temperature scalds and I welcome it. I let it. I could kill it. But that would be bad.
It’s while I’m standing naked, letting the worst of myself in that I see it: a memory. A flash, neon green and vibrant. I see a casket.
It’s all gone before I can remember where the hell I saw it. Probably on Webflix. My laptop has become my only friend, my blood relative.
It’s always there when I need it. The relaxing hum of my favourite movie playing again. This week it’s a romantic novel, film adaptation. Next week it might be something so bad and cheesy, I can’t even watch it.
I’m freaky like that.
I wash my hair about ten times; I just want to make it soft again. My constant dye jobs have almost killed it. I have wicked split ends.
I turn off the water even though there are still bubbles on my skin. I reach for a towel and pull it on, wrapping the towel around my boobs, the soft fabric hanging right below my ass.
I forgot to shave my armpits.
I grab a pair of pants off of the magazine rack we keep in the bathroom, loaded down with reading material for my many male guests. Not all of which are mine. Some belong to Torrance.
I pull my pants on under my towel. I do not even believe that they are my own. I think they belong to some random dude.
I swap out my towel for a shirt that I found in the hall. It’s light blue and super comfortable, sewn together out of clingy material. I drop my still soaked towel onto the ground. I know that I need to check out my bedroom. The scene of the crime if you will.
One night stands are my thing now. It’s the only time that I don’t feel. The only way for me to let my mind go, blocking everything about me out. I don’t remember last night’s dude very well. I think he was cute, at least somewhat decent down south.
You know, dick wise and all.
I knock on the door just to be polite before turning the knob and stepping forward with both eyes closed.
I’m such a chicken shit I tell yeah.
“Come out, come out wherever you are!” I call, opening my eyes one at a time, and only after peeking through my fingers.
My room is empty, but the bed is a disaster zone if I’ve ever seen one. There are pink sheets and fluffy white pillows all over the ground. I check the garbage just to make sure that the condom got thrown out. I cover it with a tissue.
As if any of this will help.
I know that it won’t.
I don’t know what happened. I remember being at school and coming back. I remembering being at the park, again and again, staring at a grave that just stares right back.
I’m in my bed again. I left the shower running and climbed into my sheets naked. My birthday suit is soaked in sweat. I’m sick, a demon that can’t be fixed. I imagined that she came back to life again.
How pathetic is that?
How twisted and sick?
I feel like a God damn idiot.
I breathe in.
I hear a knocking downstairs. Soft but persistent. I roll onto my back and reach for my phone. I think I left it on the table beside my bed, but I can’t find it. The sound knocks again.
My head aches. My chest is throbbing. I want to puke and piss. I feel sick. I reach over the edge of my mattress to pick up a pair of sweats. I don’t know what I find, but I think it’s blood red. I swing my legs around push my legs into the holes and pull the fabric up and over my dick. Tying the rope into a bow that looks more like a drunk ribbon.
I force myself to stand.
My bedroom is pitch black. I have no idea what time it is, but I push my curtains back. The weather outside is sunshiny and golden.
Fuck that shit. I let my curtains fall back.
My bedroom is a mess. It always has been. The hardwood floor is covered in clothes and blankets and damp towels.
I am a mess.
The floor creaks with my every tired step. I push my hair back; I don’t bother stopping to look at myself in the hallway mirror because I have no use for the person who looks back.
The man I was is dead.
The man I am doesn't have a name yet.
The small hallway upstairs ends at the staircase that leads into the main floor. My townhouse isn’t massive, but it’s decent. I was lucky and privileged enough to snag the end unit. Meaning I only have neighbours on the one side, they don’t make noise.
I make enough of it.
The noise knocks and knocks again. The strange noise has a soft edge to it; gentleness edged with perseverance.
I’m annoyed. I can’t help it. People have been stopping in since well, you know when. Since it all happened, since the papers got word of it, and her face ended up splashed on every local news station. They even had a helicopter filming live footage fly over the cliff, zooming in on her body.
Once the search team discovered it, an anonymous call came in…
My heartbeat had jumped; I wasn’t around to catch it.
In that moment my life had started to end but I’m still alive, I still somehow exist and I don’t understand it. I hit the steps one heavy foot a time with a heavy and memory filled head.
I am dead.
“I’m coming, shut up,” I warn, calling out to the door in the kitchen. I have two doors: one in the living room, and one in the kitchen. Both lead outside. Both have locks and windows next to them.
My townhouse has an awesome set up to it. My kitchen is grotesque. The fridge full of rotting food. Expired milk. The table is covered in bills and garbage. The floor is sticky with spilled shit.
I like gin.
I unlock the door and pull it open. My eyes are taking the girl before me in. She comes up to like my chin; her eyes are dark and stained red. Her skin, pale and blotched, is a complete mess.
She’s holding a tray of something I automatically fear might be poisonous. “What’s this?” I ask, kicking myself and biting my lip. That sentence is not how I wanted to start this. This, whatever this is.
“It’s a sandwich,” the girl says, “a ham sandwich and some cheese crackers, and some chocolate with a side of friendship.”
Her words seem heavy, filled with a silent expectation.
I try to take her strange expression in. Her hair is dyed what I think must be an attempt at pumpkin orange, with brown roots sticking out the top of a hairstyle that was started, but never finished. It hangs past her face in ringlets. Soft brown eyes take me in. So much like Flo’s that I suddenly feel sick. I hate the resemblance, no matter how fleeting it is.
“I heard you could use a friend,” the girl says, and I’m so stunned by the audacity and strangeness of what she said, that I don’t even try to block her when she invites herself in.
“Not really but I could use the sandwich.” I watch her make herself at home in my kitchen. My eyes are dropping to her round hips.
Even in grey sweatpants and a red top made of nothing but the slinkiest of fabric, this strange girl makes me breathless. I don’t like that. I also don’t like the fact that I can’t take my eyes off of her curved back. Short legs and large breasts just begging for my attention. She’s all torso from what my eyes can grasp.
I want her out of my kitchen.
“Do you always stare at everyone like that?” the intruder asks, unwrapping the tray and setting it down. Her hands are careful with the heavy glass. She's delicate. I don’t get it.
“Get out of my kitchen!” I demand. “I’m not doing this. Whoever you are and whatever you want, you’re not going to get it. I’m in no mood to be used for information about the death of my best friend. I get that this town is small, and this story is massive but get the fuck over it. I sure as hell am.” This is complete and utter bullshit, but I don’t give a shit. The story about Flo is only massive because there is nothing else in Three Hill quite like it.
Our crime rate is non-existent. When we have a problem, we bury it.
“I’m Cadence.” The girl laughs, not at all threatened by my childish temper. “And I don’t want anything, I don’t know about your friend and I don’t want to talk about it. I just want to be your friend,” her words seem genuine, but yeah, I’ve heard about a thousand versions of what she just said. Every one of those conversations haunts the back of my head.
“Get out. Leave the sandwich but take the chocolate.”
Cadence mocks me with a smile that makes my stomach swell with nervousness.
I hate this feeling. I hate it. I want to murder it. I never want to feel that way again. I promised.
“Get out.” I say again. I can’t stop saying it. I can’t explain the anger that flares out into my expression, but whatever Cadence sees in it, she seems to understand. She’s not afraid of me.
“Okay. I can do that, but I’m not taking the chocolate. Only because if I take it home with me I can’t promise that I won’t eat it.”
“Fantastic.” I bullshit.
She makes everything nice and pretty on the counter before turning back towards me, bumping my chest with her shoulder. I don’t think that this move is by accident. I feel nothing awkward in the contact. I just feel flesh.
Her glance is finally gracing mine with its presence. She is about to leave and that should be that but for some reason it isn’t.
“It’s not your fault,” Cadence says without one hint of rudeness or cruelness. Brown eyes shine, reaching somewhere deep down inside of me and twisting my heart in her fist. “You should know that.”
I close the door behind her with a slam.