Cycles

Sebastian's smile is whatever he wants it to be.

For parents and teachers he puts on his polite smile. For other girls he puts on his sincere smile, his affectionate smile, his playful smile, his lovable trickster smile.

For me, the one who's known him for years and is no longer impressed by his little tricks of seduction, he puts on his smirk. His smirk comes in four flavors: knowing, sarcastic, triumphant, and dangerous. Right now he's wearing his dangerous one.

He comes up behind me while I'm still on the phone, grabs the receiver and slams it onto the cradle. "Who was he?" he says.

"A friend."

"Do you usually tell your 'friends' what color underwear you're wearing?" Reaching down, he starts playing with my thong. His other hand is held firmly under my chin, around my throat, pulling me tight against him. Not strangling me, but letting me know he could if he wanted to.

"It's more his business than yours."

That does it.

He turns me around, slams me into the wall and punches me in the stomach. Then he punches me in the stomach again, yelling about how I'm his and nobody touches me but him. The next punch I'm able to block. Then he starts choking me. "Say you're mine. Say it!" Of course I can't say anything because he's choking me, but I make some small strangled animal cry and that brings him back to reality somewhat. He gets off me, looks at me with big puppy-dog eyes. "Are you hurt?"

"I'm fine. Now go away, Sebastian."

"I'm sorry."

"Yeah, whatever. Just go away."

A few hours later he comes into my room, wants to pretend like everything's fine again.

"Baby—"

"Don't touch me!"

He back away slowly, looking at me all sad and contrite, hoping for a reprieve. A few days later he tries to kill himself.

This is what he always does when I ignore him. Sometimes it's slit wrists, the blood red and awful looking, not particularly dangerous although it certainly looks bad. When I'm feeling especially perverse I'll lick the blood off, he likes that because it means he's forgiven for now. Sometimes it's alcohol and pills, sometimes a hanging attempt. He always tries to do it right in front of me, as if I'd be sorry when he died, as if I could ever be sorry for the things I do to scum like him. Today it's the window. I'm sitting in the living room reading, he's doing the same, each one watching the other out of the corner of their eye. He breaks first. Starts giving a little speech about how he loves me, cares for me, can't live without me blah blah blah. I continue reading my book. This is going to get violent—the only question is, where will his violence be unleashed?

He chooses himself this time. Moves to the window and leans out. I pull him back. "Please don't kill yourself, I love you, I care for you..." he listens to my lies, closes the window, and now we're in each other's arms, how romantic. We're moving to the bed, where we lay down and really make love. Not just sex. Love. To the rest of the world he's Mr. Flawless, Mr. Seducer, but in the end he always comes back to me because I'm the only one who's seen him at his worst. And he sees me, all of me, the coke, the drinking binges, the vomiting up dinner at midnight, the way I look in the morning with my hair messed up and no makeup, and he doesn't care. We're bound, not by vows and rings and sweet words, but by the fucked up shit we do to each other, to ourselves and everyone else. And I know I should leave him. I know he'll probably kill me one day. But right now it's like we're at the top of a Ferris wheel, looking out at the sunset and the lights in all the cute houses, and he's got his arms around me and I feel like we're on top of the world, and we are, we really are for a little while, even though I know we're still on a wheel and the only way to go is down.

The next week's pure gold. He showers me with compliments, attention, an expensive bracelet. At this part of the cycle I can do whatever I want with him. Sometimes I'll use it for my own social standing, telling him to seduce so-and-so, ruin her, dump her when she least expects it and spread her dirty pictures all over school. And he'll do it, too, but there's a price to pay later, when he tells me in private that he should have stayed with her. That she's prettier than me and better in bed. And then I find some guy, some poor normal guy with a nice body and a sweet smile, who I know I'll eventually get bored with but he's exactly what I need right now. He makes me feel beautiful again, and then Sebastian sees how beautiful I've become and comes in again to ruin it.

We're in the kitchen. I've been on edge all week, and I'm pouring myself a drink to steady my nerves. He tells me I drink too much. I tell him to fuck off. He pours himself another drink and soon we're having another stupid argument, it starts with him making fun of me for tripping on an end table and somehow goes from there to the time I threatened to call the police if he hit me in the face, which he's somehow convinced himself was a threat to hit myself in the face and lie to the police saying he did it. He tells me I talk too much, and I just laugh out loud. "Poor Sebastian," I say, "you've turned into a complete cliché."

And then he does it. Punches me right where he said he never would, right in the eye socket. The only thing I can think of is, will the makeup in my bag work to cover it up, or will I need to buy more?

If he was doing this to anyone else she'd have either left him or become his scared groveling slave by now. I know this, because I am the popular girl and have a ton of friends, and that means they all tell me their stories. Most leave. One had to get a restraining order.

I know I should leave him. But without him, I'll have nothing at all. I'll be Ms. Perfect, with good grades and lots of fake friends. That's the real reason why I haven't reported him, although most of the time I tell myself something different. I tell myself I'm doing it because of love, the kisses and the promises.

The next day, he comes into my bedroom with a dozen red roses and a fake, non-apology apology: I'm sorry and I'll never do it again but it's because you make me so mad sometimes I can't think straight and the reason why I get so mad at you is because I love you so much.

Whatever you say, lover.

Here we go again.