(author’s note: this features the same characters that were in this short. I was working out an idea for a longer work.)
The wipers squeaked against my windshield as I sat and stared through the rain at the small barn beyond the gate. She was here. She was always here. I took comfort in that. I peeled my hands off the steering wheel—it was sticky—and pulled my hood up over my hair. It was cold. In the short drive, my car hadn’t had time to warm up. My wrists ached dully.
Sneakers squishing in the grass, I let the rain pelt me as I unlatched the gate, feeling slow and clumsy. I closed it behind me and made my way toward the barn. I could see Sugar standing cross-tied in the aisle. A small gray horse, she was nearly a ghost in the mist. She nickered softly as I came in out of the weather, tossing her head and watching me with those large, brown eyes.
I almost lost it. Almost tossed my arms around her neck and started to sob into her white mane. Instead, I blinked rapidly to clear my vision of tears. Why had he left me? No that was a dumb question. After my mother had died, all I wanted was someone to have all the answers. I wanted someone to fix me. To replace the medicine the doctors put me on. Too much to ask I supposed.
Laura emerged from the tack room, carrying a bucket of grooming supplies. She paused when she saw me but then broke into a wide grin.
I managed a smile.
That’s the problem with best friends. “Nothing.”
She was fast approaching. “What’s on your hands?”
Dumbly, I stared down at my palms. They were covered in dark red lines, still shiny in some places. The cuffs of my black hoodie were stiff in some places and wet in others.
“Jesus, Nikki.” She grabbed my hands and yanked up my sleeves, revealing raw, open wounds—slashes up and down my wrists. My skin was coated in semi-dry blood. The cuts began to throb.
I remembered doing it then. The memory floating back to me, disembodied. I had been staring at myself in the mirror, watching as my skin went pale and paler still. Feeling sensation leave my extremities and my heart go cold. My boyfriend, he shaved with an old fashioned razor. That was what I had used. I had wanted to feel. To feel something. To feel alive.
“He left me,” I whispered.
“Christ,” Laura swore and then she was dragging me into the barn office. “Take the hoodie off.”
My wrists hurt fiercely now but I did I was told. I shuddered in only my short-sleeved tee. Laura retrieved the first aid kit and turned on the sink, waiting for lukewarm water before she forced me to put my arms underneath it. The wounds stung and I inhaled through my teeth. Once the old blood was washed away, she tugged me over to the couch and sat me down. She put pressure on the worst of the cuts with gauze. I watched her dark hair bent over my wrists and had to fight back the urge to swing my arms around her neck and tackle her to the ground. And sob. Sob into her breast.
“So, Ty left. Did he say why?”
“The gist of it was that I’m too fucked up.”
She was quiet for a little while. “We’re all a little fucked up.” She removed the gauze and then sprayed antiseptic onto the cuts. It stung. She started to wrap my wrists with new gauze, round and round, securing it with medical tape.
“We’re all mad here,” I quoted then giggled, choked and began to cry.
“Oh, Nikki.” She pulled me into a hug which only made me cry harder. When my shakes had quieted a little, she pulled away, wiping at my cheeks with her thumbs. “You know, I’m always here for you right? Like a sister?”
I nodded, looking into her eyes, brown as the little Arabian’s that stood outside in the barn. Deep and endlessly compassionate.
I leaned over and kissed her on the mouth. She didn’t kiss me back.