I woke up to burning sunshine. The sheets were crumpled from our bodies and I could hear him urinating in the bathroom. My eyes were crusty with day-old mascara. I sat up halfway, felt the sheets sliding around my naked lower half, and laid back down in the sunshine.
Go away, I whispered to the thoughts crowding around the edge of my newly-awakened consciousness, ready to spill into my brain and ruin everything. So I just lay there in the morning warmth until he came in, pulled on pants without looking at me, and walked out of the bedroom to the kitchen. I heard a bowl being set on the counter, cereal falling like rain, the yawn and shut of the fridge. I rolled over and scrunched my eyes up until they watered. There, I thought, idiotically. I’ve cried.
Taking a deep breath, I sat up again and let my legs swing over the edge of the bed. My pants were nowhere to be found. The shower squeaked when I turned it on, but the water quickly warmed and I stepped into it gratefully. I sucked in mouthfuls of steam and ran my hands over my hair. I faltered for a few seconds over his shampoo, but in the end I caved and squirted a dollop into my palm. Lathered, rinsed, repeated. Soaped my legs and then between. Over and around my breasts. Under my arms and finally, using a drop of his masculine face wash, swished my hands on my face. While in the shower, I didn’t have to think. Every thought was dedicated to an action, every action had purpose, and the goal was clear. Be clean.
The water cooled and I dried myself with a towel from the rack behind the toilet. I peed, scrubbed my teeth with a fingerful of toothpaste, rubbed at my hair with the towel before wrapping it back around my body. Even through the steam on the mirror, I could see the bruises, purple and smudged, covering my neck, chest and breasts. I closed my eyes and thought about other things. Grapes. Violets. Plums. Eggplants.
I found my pants tangled with the sheets at the bottom of the bed. My shirt was under his pillow. I didn’t worry about my socks, just shoved damp feet into my shoes and tied them tightly. I walked down the hallway to the kitchen, where he was sitting in a kitchen chair pulled up to the low counter, his eyes scanning the sports pages of the newspaper. A bowl of milk sat forlornly in front of him.
“Morning,” I said.
“Good morning,” he said, without looking up from his paper. No are you hungry, no did you sleep well, no we should talk about last night.
I stood there while the minutes crawled by. Finally he looked up at me, taking in my wet hair, my shoes tied. I thought I saw his eyes pause for a second at the open v-neck of my shirt.
“Are you leaving?” he said obtusely. Choiceless, I nodded. It was over, it was done, and now I could go home and scream into my pillow, which would smell like my shampoo. I could call my best friend; I could call my boyfriend. I could say I was sorry, that it hadn’t meant anything, and that it would never happen again. The last part was true, anyway.
My footsteps sounded loud and echoey in the narrow stairwell and once out in the bright sunlight, I started to run. I ran until I couldn’t breathe, and then I started to cry.