I waited for Justice to knock. I stared at the key holder near our front door that spelled out HOME. There were also custom-made wood carvings just beneath it that read: Justice and Deanna. Her knock startled me. I stood in the doorway, opening it just enough for Justice to walk through. She was coming to get her things. This was finally it. I watched her as she moved from the front to the back, passing pictures of us that hung all over and picking up things that were once ours when we were in love.
Now out of love, they were just… hers.
I could see her sneaking peeks at me as she moved around. Her pain was apparent and so was mine. I never understood how loud silence could be until that very moment. Had we finally run out of things to talk about? To argue about? How did we get here?
For a second, I wanted to read her mind to see if she was thinking the same things as me. There had been a point when her love was exactly what I needed to get through every day until it wasn’t. In the heat of it, her love seemed replaceable. I had to admit that the last few days hadn’t exactly been easy without her. So did I still need her love to make it? Yes.
I felt my heart speed up as she walked over to our dresser and sat down the chain I’d bought her for her birthday. I wanted her to keep it. At least then, I’d know she would remember me long after time had healed both of our wounds and new lovers were in place.
She sat it down slowly, almost in protest with herself and that was enough for me to know that it was hard for her to part ways with it and possibly me, too. She never did hide her emotions well, but what cancer could unless it was behind exaggerated anger. I loved that I knew her well but I hated it, too, because it would make it harder to erase her; harder to forget that she liked her burgers plain, her fries loaded, and a Dr. Pepper to wash it all down.
Now I thought of everything that I would have to forget: our first date when she held my hands and asked me to be her girlfriend--wedding proposal style. Us sitting on the floor of the bookstore reading Canterbury tales, Nikki Gionvanni, and Shakespeare. Her, giving me the last of anything she was drinking when we went out to eat just because she knew I wouldn’t finish a refill and she liked to share. She would leave the television on my favorite channel—Lifetime—and run my bath water. I would complain about it being too cold. Justice got angry at me when I took too long to get into bed. She needed to kiss me every night before we fell asleep whether we were angry or not. I’d remember the fact that she wouldn’t sleep without some part of her body touching mine. Then, every morning she greeted me as though she hadn’t fallen asleep with me the night before. The thoughts of our movie dates and Blockbuster nights, just us. I’d be forever haunted.
She still packed. I wondered what she would miss about me, if anything at all since she was pretending not to care right now.
I knew better.
She had her favorite things about us. Our clubbing nights, where because of me, we always had to match each other no matter what; we’d actually started matching by accident. There were story nights when I read to her sliding in some poetry sometimes. I kissed her entire face, gave her countless back rubs, we took long showers; made love beneath the drops. I’d wash her back and she’d wash mine. She hated my random biting, but loved the nights she caught me singing by accident. She carried my bags when we shopped because I was too much of a diva to do it. Who would I put my feet on now as I slept? She’d never find another to give her our reinvented butterfly kiss, which was my long lashes, fluttering against her cheek. Why are we over, I thought.
Because I was stubborn? Because she was too sensitive? Because she chose silence over communication? Because we couldn’t compromise? Because I refused to put my shoes where they belonged? It was hard to remember while our ending stood pending right before me. I could only feel the possibility of her absence.
She threw her bag over her shoulder and turned to face me in our, no, my bedroom. It was the first time we’d looked into each other’s eyes since the break-up. My soul lived in those eyes; they set me on fire. She reached out her hand holding my door key in her palm, but I didn’t want it. I walked past her stretched arm, standing close, pulling her bag from her shoulder and dropping it to the floor. I reached for her chain on the dresser and unhooked it, latching it around her neck. I spoke in a whisper since the tears that sat in my throat prevented me from speaking louder, “Don’t… ever…” I paused to hold my tears, “…take this off again.”
My hand shook as I reached up to touch her face. Her eyes started to water. She grabbed me tight and held me close to her and it shocked me. I wrapped my arms around her and she buried her face into my neck and started biting at my flesh. I could feel her tears running down my collarbone as she kissed me. She tossed me onto the bed and stood beside me removing her shirt, then her sports bra. My eyes widened. She hated to expose her chest, so this was just like saying I love you.
She pulled off her shoes, then her jeans and boxers. She got into bed, leaning over me and raising my shirt. I pulled it over my head, exposing myself to her. She pressed her skin against mine and lay in my chest. Her tears were warm. I reached my hand to her face and in my mind I had flashes of the first time I wiped her crying eyes due to her thoughts of not being good enough for me because she had nothing to offer. That was so far from the truth. She leaned up kissing me again, while sliding my pajama pants off. She kissed down the middle of my stomach but I grabbed her head. I didn’t want to have sex. We lay in bed holding each other and crying. This is what it took for us to understand each other. We couldn’t get anything right, because in arguments we had the same problem, we never saw the other side. However, this was love and love was where we both wanted to be. We had achieved love and now we had to get through the hard part—loving the flaws of each other. I looked into her eyes. ''I'll unpack your bags.,” I said.
She kissed me and turned around so that I could spoon her. She liked when I laid behind her and held her. That was the only time that I didn’t mind seeing her back.
She made me feel good about myself, gave me confidence in the gap that I covered with my hand every time I laughed, giggled, or smiled. She rubbed oatmeal on my summertime eczema—the only time it would come. Her grandmother used the remedy long before Aveeno started shipping it by the case in cone shaped bottles. I hated everything about myself until she came, and she knew it, too.
“Why do you have those hazel contacts in your eyes?” Lizzy asked.
“They help me to see. I might as well have a color since I’m paying eighty-nine dollars for the prescription,” I replied.
“Is black your natural hair color?” she asked.
“No, it’s a shit brown as I like to call it,” I said.
“Why are you always wearing tennis shoes?” she asked.
“I walk better in them,” I replied.
After that conversation, she wanted to meet my mother. She wanted to see the embarrassing pictures that were kept in a photo album, where the pages turned yellow. The pictures had been behind that plastic for so long that they would rip if they were removed.
She was the first girl I’d ever brought home. I guess I loved her before I even realized it. My mother smiled like she hadn’t had company in over a decade as she swung her screen door open.
“You must be Lizzy,” she said, pulling her into a tight embrace. “It’s so nice to finally meet somebody that Vaughn is dating. I always hear about them, but I never get the chance to put a face to the name.”
Lizzy made herself right at home. She kicked off her shoes, claimed a spot on the sofa, and waited for the juice that was offered after introductions.
Lizzy and Mama laughed and talked like old friends, while I sat with my legs crossed at the ankles and my hands in my lap. It didn’t take long for Mama to break out the Polaroids. She pulled out pictures of a girl I didn’t recognize, one much more confident than I.
She died long ago—died with insults of being too dark, having bad hair, and a big nose. She grew up with acne then discovered makeup. She had a little more meat around her waist, butt, and thighs. Being called “fat” sent her into overdrive and instead of losing the weight the healthy way, she starved herself and eventually developed an eating disorder. There was nothing worse than standing in front of a mirror, pinching yourself and always finding more to lose, always finding something wrong.
If hating herself wasn’t enough, she fell in love. At first, she thought everything was all good until she got cheated on and started to question why? Why her? Why wasn’t she good enough? Never getting a response from her lover, the answer was simple. It was her. She wasn’t pretty enough, fine enough… she just wasn’t enough. Everything that society had for sale, she purchased—weaves, expensive jewelry, high fashioned clothes, push up bras. It only cost her, her soul. That seemed cheap when she didn’t know better or realize that everything she owned was priceless. Priceless because it came from her ancestors and couldn't be duplicated no matter how many surgeons tried.
My mother pulled out the last picture she took of me before I became a what I was now.
“This is my favorite picture of her.” she smiled, handing it over like a first-place trophy.
“So, this is what you really look like,” Lizzy said. “Feels like I’m seeing you for the first time.” She smiled and looked into my eyes. “You’re beautiful.”
I wondered if society gave refunds.
© 2016 Christiana Harrell