Something is up with ffnet and breaks. Aggravating. And seeing how this story doesn't flow well without the breaks, I wanted to edit it and put them back in. Nothing major, so...yup.
Love never dies a natural death. It dies because we don't know how to replenish its source. It dies of blindness and errors and betrayals. It dies of illness and wounds; it dies of weariness, of witherings, of tarnishings.
Whispers of the Abyss
Mirror mirror on the wall, who's the fairest of them all?
Claire. Claire. Claire.
Shards of glass fly in every direction, while some embed themselves into my palms. I don't even flinch; I welcome the pain it brings me. The glass is cold and harsh on my skin, numbing it. I stare at the exact spot on the wall in which the broken mirror was once mounted, eyes vacant; very aware of the blood leaking down my hand, small droplets of the crimson liquid slowly caressing my fingertips before free-falling towards the welcoming ground.
Soft whispers wrap themselves around my throat like silky tendrils, their meanings constricting, taunting; choking me, killing me.
He doesn't love you, he's never loved you.
She's perfect; you're a screw up, a disaster.
It's all your fault, you're nothing but trash, he hates you now.
Lies. All lies.
He doesn't hate me, he can't hate me. I'm the love of his life, he said, we were going to be together forever. Get married, have children, grow old together…
We both did.
We were in love once.
I never thought it would happen, but it did. He was the geeky best friend, I was the tough tomboy; always getting dirty, always wrestling, always beating him up…
Always trying to get his attention.
He never saw me as a potential love interest in our younger years, opting for just a playmate instead. And I hated it so much. Why was it that boys never recognized a girl until later in their life? Was it because females matured sooner than males? Or was it because they were really just that thick-headed?
When we were finally teenagers, I got desperate. I hit the makeup hard and constantly tried to look good for him. How else was I supposed to get him to notice me? My nonstop flirting and eye-lash batting was getting me nowhere; was I just supposed to lay my feelings out on the table for him bluntly?
Apparently that was all it took.
One day I just couldn't take it anymore. We were both sitting near the Goddess Pond, our usual hangout, and he was going on and on about his family's farm, his dad, the watch his dad gave to him, his sister liking Kai too much, Kai being a womanizer, and his absolute hate for dogs.
Rick had always been a talker.
After I told him to shut up, he stared at me with a dumbstruck look on his face. I went on to tell him that he needed to get his glasses checked and stop complaining because his dad left for a good reason, batteries could be replaced so he could use that damned watch his father gave him, Popuri was happy with Kai and the tanned traveler seemed content enough with her, dogs could be trained to not eat his chickens, and the mere fact that I, Karen, was right in front of his face, waiting for him this entire time.
That last part caught his undivided attention.
"What are you talking about, Karen?" He tried laughing it off, but it was a nervous chuckle, one that seemed unsure.
"You are an idiot."
And then I kissed him.
I hiss as the scorching water stings the cuts that mar my hands. They would scar; the deep crevices burning a constant admonition into my skin, reminding me how useless…how tainted I am.
The water, tinted pink, rushes down the sink drain.
Oh how I wish it would wash my pain away as well.
But it doesn't.
Rick and I were inseparable after that faithful day by the Harvest Goddess Pond. It didn't take long for the residents of Mineral Town to start talking about our budding relationship. And I had to confess…I started getting a little haughty from it all. I was young, pretty, and I had won the one thing I had always wanted; I deserved to show it all off.
We shared many of our first experiences together. Our first kiss, our first dance… It was perfect, and I couldn't ask for anyone better in my life. Some would say Rick wasn't very handsome, but as we grew older, he grew out of his lanky, nerdy stage and started looking…good.
What could I say; I was always a sucker for a guy in glasses.
After being together for what seemed like years, people in town started questioning marriage between us. We didn't pay much attention to all of the talk that was buzzing around us; we were young, in love, and didn't very much care about so-called sacred marriage bonds at that moment in time.
I didn't think my life with Rick could get any better, or worse…
But I was horribly, terribly wrong.
My large coat blocks the harsh and bitter winter cold. But the large garment can do nothing to help block the sharp, cold wind of dread that snakes itself around me as I make my way to my usual destination when the day turns into night, when darkness envelopes the light.
I try to tell myself that I do not have a problem, that it all isn't my fault.
They say it's a disease.
I believe it is an addiction.
Time, for me, had melted into days, months, years. I was too involved in enjoying my life to actually pay attention to all of the time that was passing me by.
That's why I couldn't believe it when it happened.
My father fell ill one day while I was helping him run our general store. I…could have prevented it, but I was self-centered, too enraptured with my own life to heed the signs. He had complained about a stomachache the day before. I just told him to get over it.
It was so sudden, so unexpected. The Doctor had no clear cause of death, except for a simple stomach ailment that had gone untreated for way too long. My dad was stubborn, and if something wasn't life threatening, like his so-called stomachache, he didn't believe in spending money on it.
He was an idiot, he was cheap. And, for a while, I blamed my father for his own death.
Until I realized that I actually missed him. That I loved him. Reality finally smacked itself across my face:
My father was gone forever. I was never going to see him again.
Rick was there for me when I finally broke down. He was always there; waiting for me in the hospital when I refused to eat and fell ill, after I took too many sleeping pills because the pain hurt too much and I just wanted to escape, and when I just wanted someone to hold on to.
It got to the point where Rick wasn't enough.
I needed something more, something that would permanently erase my pain, if only for a little while.
It stings as it slides down my throat. I used to flinch at the sharp taste, but not anymore. It's a familiar feeling, and somehow it's the only thing that keeps me sane.
I'm alone at the bar, as usual. Ann is decorating the large Christmas tree off to the side, with Cliff. She's dangling some mistletoe above both of their heads, grinning, and Cliff is just blushing through the whole ordeal. Doug is cleaning out a glass, eyeing me wearingly, with pity.
I turn away from him and scoff, clutching the glass in my hand a little harder. I don't need his pity; I don't want anyone's pity.
I started off with wine. It was sweet and sugary, everything my life wasn't. It left me with a small buzz that even the memory of my father's death couldn't break through. And, as sick as it was, it made me happy.
Until it stopped working.
I moved on to something much stronger, but even that couldn't quench my pain. People were amazed at my high tolerance for alcohol. And worried. But I didn't care what they felt because all I was worried about was myself and how I was going to get by day by day if I couldn't find something that could make me forget, make me feel numb.
Rick, as usual, was always there for me when I was too drunk to even stand up, and after drinking so much that I was so incoherent to walk myself home. He never said anything about my drinking habits, only comforted me when needed.
But that all stopped when she moved to Mineral Town.
He stopped coming to the Inn late at night when I was found drunk, dancing on top of tables. Doug resorted to calling my mother for assistance.
I didn't think anything of Rick's sudden disappearance, or how coincidental it was that he started this behavior when she came to town. I was just worried about losing myself in the black abyss that awaited me every night, where I couldn't even remember my own damn name or where I was at the time.
Airy, light laughter consumes the inn as a young couple enters the double doors. I don't have to turn around to see who it is, and this just makes my grip on my glass that much harder.
Rick walks up to the counter and orders a few drinks, and it takes my whole being not to look at him. For if I do, I'll only see betrayal and hurt in his eyes and I don't want to be reminded that I was the one who stirred those feelings up inside of him.
Out of the corner of my eye I see him stare at the drink in my hand for a few seconds before frowning and turning away.
My grip on the glass only tightens more, and I am afraid that it will break sometime soon.
"You have a problem, Karen."
I snorted. "No I don't." What was he talking about? There was nothing wrong with me, there was never anything wrong with me.
"You drink too much."
"No I don't."
"There are other ways of dealing with the pain."
I finally snapped. "How would you know? You've never had to deal with something like this before, so how could you possibly know what I'm going through? That's right, you don't."
A sharp intake of breath, a look of utter betrayal.
"You aren't the only one who's lost someone."
And he was gone before it finally hit me, before that statement finally sank in. Rick lost his father a long time ago, all of us knew that he was never going to come back. He had been suffering a lot longer than I had, and I was never there to comfort him, to tell him that everything was going to be all right.
Because I was too self-centered and too deeply involved with my own problems to see that he was hurting as well.
I yell at Doug to pour me another glass. He lets out a large sigh before completing the tedious task. I hear a loud squeal on the other side of the large, open room and turn around to see Ann clutching Claire for dear life.
"Are you serious?" The barmaid practically yells. The sound scrapes across my eardrums and I flinch.
And all I see is the luminous, dazzling blue feather as Claire holds it up for her friend to see. Rick, on the other hand, is holding something dear to him as well.
He has his hand on her shoulder, gently squeezing. It's an intimate gesture, one that I thought he only saved for me.
The air rushes out of my lungs, leaving me cold and empty.
The feeling is not much of a difference.
I honestly didn't know when things between us changed. I was too caught up in my addiction, the only thing that could keep my happy and oblivious to my pain. But when I saw them talking and laughing with each other, I just knew that it was over between us.
It didn't mean I was about to except that fact.
"You need to stop this, Karen; you're starting to worry Claire."
"Like I care about her."
"Can't you accept the fact that we're over? Stop harassing Claire, she doesn't deserve this."
"She doesn't love you like I do."
"You're so selfish, Karen. Get over yourself."
"I hate you."
"No you don't."
He was right.
The wedding is to be held on Christmas Day, of all days. I count them down, a knot of dread forms in my stomach as the day moves in faster and faster. It finally arrives, and I'm surprised to find out that I am invited to such a cherished event, by the bride herself. So I go, even though I know it will just hurt me in the end.
The music starts and she walks down the aisle slowly, her pretty white gown trailing behind her. She suddenly runs the rest of way and practically knocks over a very bewildered-looking Rick, who smiles as she blushes and stands beside him in front of the altar. People chuckle at her show of anxiousness, and I'm surprised I am one of them.
I wish it is me up there, in that white gown, next to the ever-handsome Rick, the love of my life. But as the bride and groom turn towards each other to share vows, I cannot help but see the giant smile plastered on Rick's face, and the love and devotion in his eyes.
He is finally happy.
And all too suddenly I can't see myself up there with him anymore, expressing our love for each other. He is meant for her and her alone, and I'm finally able to except that. All I see is Claire and Rick up at the altar, getting married.
Maybe it's too late for Rick and I, but is it too late for me to truly be happy? Rick finally has his happy ending, but where is mine?
After the wedding I get up to go congratulate the both of them. Rick spots me and an uneasy smile spreads across his lips, while Claire just waves to me, smiling. I walk up to him and, without notice, grab him into a hug.
"I'm so…so sorry," I choke. And I realize that I am crying. Not because I'm sad, but because I'm happy for him, happy for her.
He's hugging me back and it's the greatest feeling in the world. It's me who breaks the hug, even though I'm reluctant to do so. I let out a shaky sigh as I try my best to wipe away the onslaught of tears that slide down my face.
"Hey," Claire places a hand on my arm tenderly, "you'll be okay." She gives me a warm smile, one that promises happiness and friendship.
I think I've finally found something to take the pain away.
It has been a long, hard journey for me. You can never get rid of the craving, the dull ache that is always there, ready to jump out and remind you of your past mistakes and all the wrong doings you've done. That's why you have to find something to take your mind off of it.
Being cold stone sober for five months wasn't easy, but I have loving people around me who wanted to see me get better, who actually care for me. It was so hard to stop though, I would scream, kick, and yell at anyone even remotely close to me to get me anything containing liquor.
That's when Claire recommended chewing gum. Something about how she used to smoke, but after chewing gum long enough, the need for smoking dwindled down to a bare minimum in which she didn't really care for it anymore.
I am still frightened of returning to the state I was in five months ago, but my will is strong and I'm determined to live my life to the fullest, without any aides to help dull the pain that come with it.
The whispers of the deep, dark abyss that I found myself in so many months ago still try to taunt me with promises of easing the pain and making me forget. But I don't need those promises; I don't need to be numb.
I walk up to counter and signal Doug to come take my order. He flashes me a small smile, but I still see hints of doubt on his face.
"Hello, Karen. What'll it be today?"
I eye the wine bottles on the shelves behind the redheaded bartender for only a second before turning away and making my decision.
"A water, please."
He's surprised by my answer, but hustles away to fulfill my order. "Good choice," he whispers under his breath, trying to not let me hear.
But I do hear him, and it makes me feel good.
A very good choice indeed.