The Trick is to Keep Breathing
Where are you going, where have you been?
She woke up when he came into the bedroom. He discarded his shirt, carelessly as if nothing had happened, as if everything was business as usual. She sat up in bed and looked at him quietly, daring him to break the silence first.
He stopped undressing and raised his eyebrows, challenging her. She felt the necklace on her chest, the one that meant that he couldn't make her do anything she didn't want to do anymore and that he knew it. She might have lost the power to poison him silently, the power to kill him just because she felt like it but she still had one option. She got up.
"I'm leaving," she said.
"And where do you want to go in the middle of the night? Flower shopping?"
He mocked her as he had done before but she could easily ignore him this time around.
"You can't ever go home again," he said in a lilting voice, as if half-singing an old song. It was creepy.
"I can," she said. "And you can't stop me."
He frowned, then shrugged.
"So you're leaving without any closure?"
"Closure," she asked and furrowed her brow. "What kind of closure?"
He smiled and not one of his nice smiles either.
"I know you're angry at me."
She shook her head. She had gotten over it. Really, it had been nothing. He had been nothing.
"Really," he asked, obviously not believing her. "You had enough vervain to kill me many times over."
He looked at her expectantly: "I know you want to get even."
She bit her lip: "And? It's not like I can get even."
"I could let you."
"And why would you do that?"
"Do you have second thoughts about hurting me?"
He grinned widely, looking like the arrogant self-satisfied asshole side of his personality that she wasn't in love with at all. In a way this made it so much easier.
"For all the vervain you had, you've never used any of it."
"I was just biding my time," she said.
It sounded lame even in her own ears.
His smile was nearly sweet, serene. But its smugness was unbearable. She clenched her hands to fists and her fingernails painfully buried themselves in her palms.
He continued: "I never had any scruples about hurting you, Caroline."
Her hands clenched harder.
"You could say I enjoyed it. Do you remember when I broke your arm? I guess you wouldn't."
"It was such fun –"
She slapped him across his left cheek. His head turned briefly to the side but the smile stayed on. If anything he only seemed to become even more satisfied with himself. Her fingernails buried themselves in his other cheek, giving her a brief sense of déjà vu.
The scars on his cheeks healed nearly instantly and he still just looked at her, still hadn't hit back like she half-expected him to. And worse yet, he still smiled. She tried to knee him but he quickly took a step to the side.
"No cheating," he said, smiling, laughing and her fist hit him in the jaw.
Her hand hurt but if he had felt the blow, he didn't show it. Instead he raised his brows as if to say "that was it?"
That's when she became a messy flurry of kicks and thrown fists, and her only goal was to make him hurt, to wipe the smile off his face. Her hands struck every available surface of his skin, his chest, his arms, his stomach. She hit him in the chest and soon her hands were covered with his blood for some reason. How she managed to injure him like that, she didn't know. All that mattered were her hands, her feet, her body against his, causing him pain. Her hands encountered his more and more often, and suddenly his body was everywhere before she could even try to reach for it. His hands were across her body, painlessly and carefully whereas she was still wildly thrashing around.
The desire to destroy him, all of him, was slowly replaced with the desire to devour him, to be one with him. The blood splattered across her arms itched, she licked it off. Then she went tfor the dried blood on his chest and then his tongue tangled with hers, her arms with his. She scratched her nails across his back as they laid down on the bed, she still wrestling with him, still hurting him.
Drowning in bliss, in his pain, she was only faintly aware of his bite. Afterwards there was the familiar taste of copper pennies on her tongue again - along with a whispered, incomprehensible apology of sorts.
And that's how she passed out.
The morning sun woke her up. She felt sick and strange but there was no pain despite the dried blood on her arms and hands. She suppressed the urge to throw up when she realized it was Damon's. He lay in bed next to her, still asleep. His chest, outlined by the sunshine, rose and fell with every breath he took. Carefully Caroline lifted herself out of bed and treaded softly around the room to pick up her clothes and dress as quietly as she could. She kept glancing over to Damon but every time she looked, he was the same, sleeping like the dead.
Finally dressed, she tiptoed to the door. Her hand inched toward the doorknob. There was a sense of foreboding in the air, as if she had lived through this moment before. But the feeling of impending doom couldn't stop her. She knew that if she didn't leave now, she probably never would. Taking a deep breath she twisted the doorknob and then – as from far from away, as if it was already a memory – the door squeaked as loudly as a thunderclap. She closed her eyes briefly and then threw another furtive glance to the bed.
It was empty.
She turned back around and there by the door – so close, too close – stood Damon, smiling.
She took another deep breath. Courage, she told herself. Faulkner had been wrong all along. Only courage was worth wearing – was the only thing that was worth anything.
He backed her against the closed door. His hands buried themselves in her hair, his fingers dug in her scalp.
"No kiss goodbye?"
He lowered his head and kissed her. She screwed her eyes shut in remembrance of a half-forgotten pain.
But it never came. The kiss was brief and tender.
She opened her eyes. He was looking at her. She wondered what he saw in her face because in his she could finally see so many things so clearly.
Desire. Expectation. Pride, maybe. Hope for something she knew she could never be, never wanted to be.
He cradled her face in his hands and his voice was rough.
"You're going to be magnificent," was what he said when he broke her neck.
Thank you, to everyone who ever reviewed this story. You gave me the strength to continue.
And yes, I know. The ending, as much as I tried to foreshadow it, is pretty... yeah. But it's the only ending that ever made sense to me, so you're free bring on the rotten tomatoes.
PS: The title is also the title of a very lovely and very effectively creepy short story by Joyce Carol Oates.