Again

Their eyes were ringed red and bloodshot, staring blankly into the half-empty cup of cooling tea.

“How many times are you going to do this, Cal?” she asked.

A lazy shake of the head. “Shut up, Jane,” they muttered.

She leaned forward to speak, then sighed and relaxed back into her seat. Cal’s thumb drifted back and forth across the lip of the mug. Jane tried again. “I’m just sayin…” she began.

“No you’re not,” Cal interrupted.

“E-excuse me?”

Cal’s eyes turned deliberately away from Jane, out to the window. Out to empty darkness. “If you have to tell me that you’re just saying something, that hundred percent guarantees you’ve got something even worse that you’re not saying.”

Jane leaned back in her chair and folded her arms. “Like what?”

They gave a lazy shrug. “Fuck if I know.”

She rose, snatched up Cal’s mug, and carried it to the sink. “I’m helping you, aren’t I?” she asked. “I’m letting you stay here, right?”

“Don’t make it sound like such a threat.”

Jane leaned wearily against the counter, head low. “What do you want, Cal?

Cal’s eyes were wet with unshed tears. “I don’t know, Jane. I wish I did.”

* * *

Story by Gregory M. Fox

Dawn

The sun was rising slowly, persistently. Pale light illuminating gentle slopes, peaks casting shadows into the valleys folded around them. A world spread out around her, peaceful and still. A landscape of folded cloth.

Her phone buzzed. “Do you want to talk?”

Too much.

She retreated beneath the covers, back into darkness. It wasn’t that she wanted to sleep—not that her mind would let her anyway—another day was simply too much to bear. That growing light revealed the mess of sheets around her, the pile of unwashed clothes, the dishes in the corner. She couldn’t clean her room, couldn’t change her clothes, couldn’t even get out of bed.

Better not to try. Better to stay inside—to stay in the dark, where there was nothing to see and no one to see her. She recognized that she was cycling, but that didn’t mean she had the energy or willpower to overcome it.

Her phone buzzed again. A light beneath the covers. “I’m here when you’re ready.”

There was a whole world out there where the sun illuminated beauty as well as pain, cruelty as well as compassion. She wasn’t ready. Not yet. But she held her phone close.

     *     *     *     *     *

Photo by Hari AV on Unsplash 

Story by Gregory M. Fox