The ceiling above me is not my ceiling. The fabric beneath me is neither my bed, nor my couch. The scent about me is unfamiliar.
There is a body next to me, and I do not need to turn my head to see and know that it is not Naomi.
My head throbs, but the pain does not come close to the pressure descending in my chest—twisting my insides, searing up my throat: substantial anxiety. It is difficult to breathe, and forcing air into my lungs is an impossible chore.
I open my eyes a little wider with difficulty, and when my gaze alights on the figure lying prone against me, I jump back instinctually. Quickly, I stand up from the bed and gaze at him, shocked and bewildered beyond thought. I went home with him last night. I wanted it.
I wanted him.
I wanted him, because I wanted her.
And yet, my actions—it hits me harder than I thought possible, and it frightens me.
Fear closes my throat, and I find myself gasping for air that refuses to enter my lungs.
I have never done this before.
I have never gone away over-night.
My hands are trembling as I fumble around the discarded piles of clothing about the room for my phone. Eventually, I find my jeans, wrinkled and twisted underneath the bed. I hook my fingers underneath the back flap and pull out my phone.
I am not frightened. I am terrified.
My hands are shaking so bad, I can barely touch the keys. My heart stops its frantic beating for a millisecond:
Forty-five missed calls.
Then, I start to cry.
The full force of my anguish is like a dam whose cracks have given way, succumbing to the pressure it cannot contain any longer. I am breaking—I cannot stop.
It is so painful.
There is a hole in my chest; it gapes, raw and expanding. Always expanding.
I slide to my knees and sob, hard, heavy, heart-broken cries. My head is in my hands; my palms pressing hard against my eyelids, applying pressure so great, white spots dance in the darkness before me. I make no attempt to stifle my cries: my agony wakes the Man.
He stirs. I can hear him.
The bed springs squeak and groan as he jumps up, and footsteps thud heavily against the carpeted floor. Soon, he is crouching beside me, a hand on my shoulder. He is shaking.
"What's wrong? What's the matter? What happened? Are you hurt? Are you alright?"
He is frightened, I can hear it in his voice. He is concerned—not so much for me as for himself. Self-preservation is man's primal instinct; it kicks in before all others do. It is human nature, innate and unexplainable.
"Hey," he whispers. "Hey, please. Please, look at me. Please, talk to me. What's wrong?"
It hurts so much, the pain becomes substantial. There is a weight on my chest, pinning me to the floor, rendering me speechless and incapable of thought.
I understand her, then.
Emily, please. It killed me, afterward. What I did—I couldn't take it. I couldn't breathe, I couldn't think, I couldn't—I couldn't, Emily, I couldn't, I was, I was, Emily, the guilt, I couldn't take the guilt. I was dying. When I realized what I'd done; what I'd done to you—Emily, please.
I wanted to die.
I want to die, too.
I am no better than her now—two perfectly wretched halves with no excuses, and nowhere to hide.
He pulls me toward his chest and starts rubbing slow, soothing circles against my back. My tears do not abate, and my sobs, if anything, increase in pitch and frequency.
"Talk to me," he pleads, taking my hands and rubbing them between his, gently.
I look up at him, and for the first time since last night, I get a good look at his face. The only thing I see about him is his eyes.
They are a deep brown—a dark hazel, warm and kind; concerned and frightened: a child's eyes.
A gut-wrenching cry tears from the back of my throat and I lurch forward to absorb the convulsions my shoulders inevitable heave, shock after shock, until I am leaning forward, trembling from head to foot.
"I cheated," I whisper, tears slipping into my mouth. "I cheated. I cheated, I cheated, I cheated, I cheated." I grasp his arms and press my face against his chest; he holds me close and presses a chaste kiss to my temple. I cry even harder.
"Oh god, please. I didn't. I didn't want, I didn't, I couldn't, please, please, please."
I am incoherence personified; my words halting in the watery manner that children are oft inclined to speak in when they cry too much. I feel so small in his arms.
He tilts my chin up with a finger and smiles gently when I meet his gaze.
"It's okay," he murmurs softly. "People make mistakes, we move past them." I shake my head furiously, "No, no, no, no, no."
He rubs little patterns on the back of my neck, "If he loves you, he'll forgive and forget."
"NO!" I give a strangled, desperate cry. "You don't just forgive, and you can't just forget. I cheated," I twist my fingers through his hair and pull back a little too forcefully; he flinches. "I cheated. I'm no better than her now, I'm no better."
I look up at him, and my lip trembles. Bile rises up in my throat: I swallow it back down before I start to retch. "I'm so sorry. I'm sorry. I used you. I used you, I'm so, so sorry."
His eyes are kind, but they offer no salvation, even if his words suggest otherwise.
"It's fine. Wouldn't be the first time."
My tears gradually subside; we sit there, my head cradled in his arms as he rubs circles across my back.
"Sometimes, we fuck up. Everybody fucks up. You get fucked up, you fuck someone up. The world's a fucked-up place." He grins against my hair and presses another kiss, just beneath my temple.
"If she forgives you though, don't let her go. It takes a fuck up to forgive a fuck up. If she takes you back, little red, she's a keeper."
We don't talk after that.
I leave his apartment a little after lunch.
He sees me to the door and gives me a thumbs-up as I step into a cab. His smile follows me down the road until I turn a corner.
I'm halfway along the highway before I realize I forgot to ask his name.
My heart thunders hard against my chest, blunt and frantic. The tables have turned, and they're not to my favor. Not any longer.
I grip the door handle with cold, trembling fingers and push the door open. It creaks a little on its hinges and I find myself flinching at the noise. The flat is deathly quiet; all I hear is the steady thump of my own pulse.
She isn't in the kitchen, so I figure she must be on the porch. She never stays alone in the bedroom if she can help it. I pull open the drawer underneath the kitchen counter and grope around for a box. I shake out a cigarette from the lone packet I find and light it. My fingers tremble so badly I upset the lighter from its perch on the countertop and it falls with a clatter to the floor. She hears me then, I think, because soon the screen door slides back and her voice carries over.
"Emily? Emily, is that you?"
She looks awful. A small, detached portion of me—that is disconnected from all coherent thought—thinks briefly, she is adorable.
She's wearing that gray cardigan again; funny how it seems to be a catalyst for all our domestic troubles. She looks like a panda, for all the world: her hair is pulled back into a messy bun, and her eye make-up is smudged. Her brows are crumpled in the middle and her mouth is pulled into a thin, hard line.
But, when she sees me, her eyes light up. A smile involuntarily makes its way to her face and her shoulders relax.
On another morning, if things had been different, I would've run to her arms and kissed her. But this is not another morning. What we have today is all we have left, and as she stands there before me, hesitating despite her obvious need to hold me for reassurance that no, I haven't left her—it becomes too much, and soon, a sob rips from me. I cover my mouth with my hand as the tears flow, unhindered.
Her cheeks drain of whatever color previously stained them and she turns a pasty white. She starts toward me, arms held out to steady me.
"Emily? What's wrong, love?"
She rushes forward just as my knees give way and all too soon, I am in her arms. She rocks back on the soles of her feet, supporting both our weight and gently lowers us to the floor. I fight her—I brace my shoulder against her, push her, down and away from me. But she clings to me still and holds me tighter. I defy her warmth and struggle in her arms; all the while, she speaks. I cannot hear her over the pounding in my ears and the white-hot agony burgeoning in my chest. I am a deer caught in headlights. There will be casualties.
"Emily, Emily, Emily," she whispers over and over again. My elbow smashes into her lip and her head tips back. She hisses, very quietly, "Fuck."
Blood trickles from the corner of her mouth, a fine line of scarlet.
She clings to me still, and holds me tighter.
"Emily! Fuck's sake, Emily. Stop acting like a fucking mental case and stop thrashing, will you?" she gasps the last word out as my shoulder slams into her chest, knocking the wind out of her. "Ems," there are tears in her eyes now. I don't want to look at her. I want to drag out the inevitable, prolong the agony of confrontation.
I want to keep running away.
"Ems, please. Please. Tell me what the fuck is going on. Please. You're really scaring me, Ems. I'm really fucking terrified. What's happening to you? What happened? Where did you go last night? Why didn't you come home?"
She pulls me tighter to her. I gasp as her lips connect with the skin at my throat. My hands come up instinctually and I find myself holding either side of her neck, just as ready to push her away or to draw her closer at a moment's notice. This is all we have left— impulsivity and perfunctory phrases, fraught and punctuated with broken sighs and breathless whimpers, with tears and with cursing.
Love and hate, in equal measure.
Perpetually, I think, bitterly.
"Emily, talk to me. Ems, look at me. Look at me, Emily. Emily. Fuck's sake, Emily! Fucking look at me!"
I have never heard her so angry in my entire life, and for a beat, I stop thrashing. I turn my head a fraction of an inch towards her.
Our eyes meet.
A broken sigh escapes my lips. There is a pale flame flickering in those eyes.
She scorches me.
She leans in, closer, and I drop my gaze. For every inch she leans forward, I pull a centimeter's width back. Soon, she is close enough to see the tears that frame my lashes. The tips of our noses touch and her forehead brushes mine.
This close, I can taste her. Her warm breath slips into my mouth and I swallow past the lump in my throat.
"Emily Fucking Fitch."
I flinch at the quiet venom in her voice. She tilts my chin up with a finger and forces me to look at her.
"I just want to talk," she says, tiredly.
"I'm sorry," her shoulders slump. "Fucking sorry I raised my fucking voice. I just want to talk. You make it so difficult all the time, Ems. You won't talk to me anymore. I just want to talk." Her hands rub up and down my arms reassuringly, "What happened? Why are you crying? You look a downright bloody mess." Her lip trembles and I realize she's trying to manage a smile.
"Emily, please. I'm trying."
I take a deep, watery breath. Like a drowning man breaking the surface, gulping down great lungfuls of cold, salty air. I twist my hands into her cardigan, bunching it up into tight little fists at her stomach. I feel my features hardening; my mouth thinning, my brows creasing together.
I have every fucking right to get even, I think, desperately.
No. No, I don't.
Eight months. No excuses. Nowhere to hide.
I look up at her resolutely, defiance burning in my eyes.
"I fucked someone last night."
For all my arrogant candor, my voice catches at the last word. I take another breath and continue, boldly.
"I fucked someone last night, someone I picked up at the night club with Bianca. I was wasted, I fucking felt like getting fucking laid, so I picked up the nearest shag I could get my hands on. Took me home and took care of me, good and proper. Satisfied?"
She wasn't expecting that.
Her hands slide down my arms, slowly, coming to a stop at her lap. She blinks and I hold her gaze, steadily, until she drops it. She looks lost.
Her eyes flit across the room, helplessly. I want to be anywhere but here, next to her, watching her unravel. But I am rooted to my spot, a witness to her disintegration.
By my own hands, and no less.
Her breath catches in her throat, but she does not cry. Her lips quiver violently but she does not speak. I look down and see her hands, shaking violently in her lap. We sit there on the floor for what seems like a good hour or two, my piercing glare pinning her to the ground.
Suddenly, anger seizes me. A reckless, violent rage. I want her to say something. I want her to scream. I want her to get angry. I want her to throw something. I want her to hit me. I want her to break something. I want her to throw a fucking fit on the fucking floor. I want her to fuck me. I want her to do something.
I stand up and shove her roughly, hard. "Fucking say something!" I want to get a rise out of her. I push her so hard she bowls over, and it would've been comical if she didn't look so lost. "Fucking say something!" I nearly scream. I grasp her by the shoulders, twisting my hands into her cardigan. I pull her roughly up and slam her against the wall. Her head knocks against the cement. I shake her so hard her head lolls with the motions, "Fucking say something."
She remains mute, her eyes away from me. Her shoulders slacken.
"Fuck you," I say, strength draining from my limbs. I drop my hands until they come to a rest at her hipbones. She's lost so much weight over the past months, something I failed to note in the thirty-two weeks of our cohabitation.
I look at her, and I see.
I see her exhaustion—the dark, purple bruises underneath her eyes; the perpetual crease between her brows; her cheekbones thrown into relief underneath her thin skin.
I see her sorrow—the tear stains down her cheeks; her slack shoulders; her unhealthy pallor.
Then, I see her eyes.
She is broken.
I broke her.
I stumble back, away from her.
The war I wage is a one-sided affair, a battle inside me—to stay and forgive her endless shortcomings, or destroy whatever is left of her. She surrendered the moment I walked away from her on the rooftop. I know this much. I never wanted her to fight against me, I think. There was no point. I wanted you to fight for me.
Fucking remind me why we're still worth fighting for.
I cannot remember.
And yet, a conflict, however subdued, will have casualties—I also know this much.
I will never see the light in those eyes ever again, the flickering flame of her passionate existence. I will never see them glint again, in mischief and in humor.
I broke her.
For the rest of my life, the memory of those eyes will haunt me—gaunt and hopeless; lifeless and dull; dark.
I will never forget that I took the light out of them.
I run, up to our room. I don't bother locking the door.
I collapse into a heap on the bed, curling my legs inward, towards my body. I pull her pillow towards me and memorize the scent.
I do not cry, though this is the end.
I do not want to cry.
But I do anyway.
I wake up to the sound of her breathing, warm and quiet.
I make to sit up, but her arms slide around my waist, gently pushing us back onto the bed. Her lips brush against my temple, her hands sliding underneath my blouse to trace patterns on my stomach.
I cannot think.
I do not understand.
All coherent thought leaves my body as she slides her lips against mine. I think, this is the first time we've had a proper kiss since—
When I kissed her at Freddy's shed, it was desperate: clumsy and messy and insincere. Contact for the sake of contact.
The way she kisses me now, she offers something else—salvation.
But I do not want it.
She pulls back, slowly and hovers over me. In the dark, I see the curve of her smile. There is a pale flame in her eyes. I prop myself up on an elbow. She takes my hand and guides it to her cheek, leaning into the contact. She turns her head and kisses my palm, down my wrist.
"Naomi," I whisper brokenly. She presses her lips to mine again, gently. She doesn't pull back.
"Fucking stop," she whispers back against my lips. She gathers me in her arms and pulls me to her in an embrace.
I don't fight her anymore. I don't want to any longer.
I wrap my arms around her neck and climb into her lap. She twists her neck and kisses me beneath my ear.
"You got even," she says, matter-of-factly; her voice is muffled against my skin. "Like you've always wanted. You wanted to make me hurt the way I hurt you." I open my mouth to protest.
I never meant to cheat.
Her fingers come up and brush against my lips. "But nothing compared to the agony you put me through all these months, Ems. I died every day. And this, this was more of a stalemate than an offense. I figured, since you finally got what you wanted, we'd be okay." Her voice breaks.
"I don't fucking want this fucking war anymore, I don't want you fucking fighting against me. I'm still fighting for us, Ems. Still fighting." She takes my hands in hers and kisses my fingers, softly.
"I figured you still wanted me around, because you haven't left." She looks at me with sad eyes. "But you never really talked to me much lately, about anything, so I wouldn't know."
She presses her forehead to mine, our noses brushing.
"Do you still want me, Emily? D'you still love me?"
Her voice trembles. She is afraid.
She is uncertain.
I realize, with a bitter, piercing pain in the center of my gut, that I am too.
I open my mouth to speak, but no words come out. She watches as I hesitate, as I come undone. For once in my life, I do not have the answers I so desperately need.
Her eyes ask me the same thing, over and over.
My world begins to fall apart behind my eyes—I do not know the answer. Pass.
She knows she is losing me.
She shakes her head, slowly at first, then frantically. "No, no, Ems. No, no, Emily, Emily, Emily, no. No, Emily." She is crying now, her face contorting into a painful grimace as she tries to keep herself from sobbing out loud. She grasps my arms and shakes me, forcefully.
"Don't you love me anymore, Emily? You said you'd do anything for us—you said we were special," she tears her piercing eyes away from me and turns to stare at the adjacent wall, shoulders quivering underneath thin cotton. She bites her lip, "You said we could do anything. Could get past everything. Don't you love me, Emily?" her voice rises an octave, it is shrill and desperate.
"Don't you fucking love me anymore, Emily? Emily, look at me. Fucking look at me, Emily!"
I do not want to cry any longer. I continue to gaze obstinately at the opposite wall.
She screams. I clap my hands over my ears and curl inward, flinching.
"FUCK'S SAKE, EMILY! CAN'T YOU JUST DROP IT AND FORGIVE ME? CAN'T YOU JUST FORGET AND FUCKING—"
Her voice catches on the last word, she takes a deep, shuddering breath.
"—Fucking, love me like you used to. Love me like I love you. What am I to you now, Ems? What am I now? DON'T YOU FUCKING LOVE ME, EMILY? WHY DO WE HURT LIKE THIS? WHY DO WE ALWAYS HAVE TO HURT LIKE THIS?"
She is breaking.
I do not know the answers.
"FUCK'S SAKE, EMILY! ANSWER IT, THEN! DO YOU STILL LO—"
"I DON'T FUCKING KNOW!"
It takes a moment for me to realize that the animalistic scream that tore the air is a sound ripped from my throat. It frightens me shitless and I cringe at myself. I take a deep breath and exhale through my mouth, swallowing the bile that rises in my throat.
"I don't know," I admit, quietly. "I really don't fucking know anymore, Naomi. I used to. I know I did. You were everything to me."
"Past tense," she whispers, tears slipping down her face.
"Past tense," I murmur back, nodding. She cries silently. She bites down on her own knuckles. After awhile, she pulls it out of her mouth and looks back at me.
"But I love you, Ems. I love you. I do."
"Love doesn't solve everything, Naomi. I thought you lived to defy clichés."
"But I love you, Emily."
"Fucking stop, Naomi."
"But, Emily. I do. Ems, I—"
"I said shut up, bloody cunt—"
"I do lo—"
"SHUT THE BLOODY FUCK UP, NAOMI SHUT THE FUCK UP!"
"FUCKING STOP TALKING! FUCKING STOP TALKING."
My fingers twist knots into her hair and I surprise myself—
I meant to pull her away from me, throw her hard against the floor and hear—with a sick, sadistic twinge of pleasure—the sound of her head smacking against our carpet.
Instead, I pull her to me, forehead against mine. And I kiss her.
Hard, and open-mouthed, and painful—teeth and bruises. My tongue curls around hers and I lick her teeth. She shudders in my arms and tries to pull back: she is frightened.
I let her draw away and we sit there; her hands hanging limply at her sides, my hands cupping her face, still. I can feel her eyes on me, but I do not look up at her.
"I don't want to talk," I say, reaching down and pulling her top over head.
"Don't fucking talk to me. I don't want to hear a fucking word. I don't want to talk."
What am I doing? I think briefly. My coherent thoughts, the part of my brain responsible for logical thinking, have ceased to function. I know this much to be true, because soon, she is underneath me, skin against skin.
She doesn't make a sound when I kiss her again, roughly.
She is silent when she comes—she has thrown her head back, arching from the bed, thrashing beneath me.
Later, she falls asleep against me. Our legs are tangled underneath the sheet, her arms are about me—one underneath my head, the other around my waist. Her head is on the crook of my neck. Her weight is not uncomfortable, but it is far too familiar to feel natural quite so soon again.
I cannot sleep.
I look up at the digital clock on her desk table.
It is 3:52 in the morning.
A/N: This is me, simultaneously updating two of my fanfics in a single go because I have finals to revise for. This was draining, however. Conflicted Emily is agonizing, but Broken Naomi is breaking my heart. Fair warning my dears, we are far from breaking the surface again. Yes, this is but Canto One in nonsequitur's Naomily Inferno. Oh, dear, sweet, Jesus. My revisions. My finals. Emily. Naomi. Season Seven Skins. This is too much, my feels.
But, thank you for all those people who left reviews and follows! You guys are the best, hihi. Left you all a little something in yer Inbox!
Leave me a little something in the form of a review, go on. Make me happy. Make my little sacrifice worth it, hihi. Chapter Three will be up soon! And let me tell you, it. Is. Shocking.
Spoilers and hints? One word: Twitter. Mm-hm.
Love you all, I swear. Best readers, ever.