Wednesday, 3 September 2014

FGC#14 The Knot

As time passes the knot in my stomach loosens, the weight in my chest gets lighter, and the dark cloud that's been over my head for months is starting to disperse.
Tonight has done me good. The comfort of old friends, a change of scenery, being surrounded by inane chatter and cheesy music. I've even managed to laugh.
I squirm and wriggle in the corner of the seat, trying to escape Alison's insistent fingers as they dance across my ribs and belly. I refuse to give her the satisfaction of laughing out loud but squeaks keep escaping my throat.
"All right! All right you're right! She's hotter in Fifth Element than in Resident Evil!"
She relents and sits up, straightening her top. My arm snakes around her shoulders and Alison leans into me, one hand on my knee, the other clutching her plastic pint glass. I give her a squeeze, enjoying the solid weight of her body against mine. We're comfortable friends. Goodness knows I wanted more once, but when I saw how good she and Monica were together I forgot all about it.
"One of these days she's going to get bored of me and we all know who she'll end up with."? Monica winks at me over her drink and I feel the corners of my mouth pull up as everyone else at the table laughs. It's been a while since smiling came easily.

A flash of auburn catches my eye and my heart skips a beat as I look up. This has happened three or four times tonight already. Only this time it's her. Kira. She's smiling. I've tried so hard to forget how beautiful she looks when she smiles. Now that smile isn't meant for me. It's for the short haired girl pulling her to another table.
I shrink into my seat, I want to be invisible. But when Kira kisses the short haired Michaela the knot in my stomach tightens savagely, the weight in my chest threatens to bear me through the floor as the black cloud over my head encroaches on my vision.
Pressure on my knee draws the rest of the world back into focus.
"Are you ok?", a soft voice asks by my ear. Alison is the only one in the group to have met Kira.
"I can't be here right now," I inform her and stand up, muttering my apologies to the others, knowing Alison will explain everything. I hold my breath as I walk towards the exit, taking measured steps, trying not to run, keeping half an eye on Kira. Ronnie, the bouncer, steps into my path before I can make my escape.
"Leaving so soon Rach mate?"?
"Saving you some unnecessary drama babe."? Kissing her on the cheek, I finally reach the door.
Gasping down the cool air I pound away down the street. I thought I'd cried all the tears I had, but the pressure is there behind my eyes and my throat tightens. With my hands buried deep into my pockets, fingernails digging into sweaty palms, teeth clenched, I refuse to cry in a public place.
"Rachel, wait."
That voice freezes me to the spot, my heart stops, my blood chills. Her footsteps are getting closer. I want to flee, to run and to keep on running until I collapse but my body won't obey.
Her hand on my arm is like an electric shock and I jump away as though burned. My heart is thumping so hard I think it's going to break out of my chest.
"Sorry. Are you all right?"
I fix my eyes on a piece of gum on the pavement. I don't dare to look at her. Just a glimpse of those eyes was always enough to make me cave. That's how she got me to go out with her in the first place.
"Say something Rachel, please."?
"What do you want me to say?" My voice is harder than I expected, colder than I wanted. But it's always up to me.
"I don't know. Anything. I miss you."?
A laugh bubbles up my throat and I shake my head. "Don't say that."?
"But it's true."?
"Maybe, but I don't need to hear it right now."? My whole body is beginning to shake, so I hug myself. "Things like that get my hopes up, even though you've made your choice and I need to forget you."
"Why? I thought we could still be friends?"?
"Because you still make me feel too much."? The words erupt out of my mouth before I have time to stop them. Taking a deep breath I continue, quieter, trying to keep my voice steady and reasonable. "And I won't let you or anyone else have that kind of hold over me again."? Turning, I stride off down the road.
"I might believe that if you'd stayed with your friends instead of running off in a sulk."?
I stop but refuse to turn around, refuse to rise to her taunting. "And ruin their night as well? Not to mention make yours awkward?"?
"As if you care how my night goes."
"Regardless what you think I do want you to be happy Kira."? Sometimes I wonder why I do, when she's taken so much from me and given me nothing in return but a broken heart. "Only problem is I still want you to be happy with me, but that's not going to happen."? The knot is twisting tighter, trying to choke me. "I can't be witness to Michaela making you happy when I couldn't manage it."
"So what happens now?"? Her voice is small and tight. I turn to look at her at last. Those gorgeous eyes are swimming in tears and her brow is knitted.
"We go our separate ways."?
The tears spill over and one hand moves shaking to her mouth. She didn't even look this stricken when she told me she was leaving me for someone else.
"But what about me? I still care about you a lot. I want you in my life."?
"Let me go Kira." Please let me go, let me think of myself for once instead of letting it all be about what she wants. "It's not enough for me. Alison told me something earlier."? A delivery truck rumbles passed and I welcome the moment to pull myself back together. "She said, at some point you have to realise some people can stay in your heart, but not in your life."?
Her face crumples and despite myself I pull her into my arms. A sense of relief floods through me as our bodies fit together as perfectly as before, her fingers clutching my shoulders and her face pressed against my neck. Slowly, I release my breath.
"So is this it? For good?"?
"I honestly don't know. Maybe."
She pulls away from me and wipes her face.
"Besides, you've got Michaela to distract you. You won't even notice I'm gone."?
She holds my face and draws my mouth to hers. The familiar taste of her makes my chest swell with the old warmth and the world twists beneath my feet. Her lips on mine are demanding, urgent, needy. I gently push her back.
"I won't forget you,"? she whispers.
"Go and live your life."? I turn and walk away.
The knot in my stomach is still there as the distance between us grows, but it's not as tight, the weight in my chest not as heavy, the cloud over my head not as black.
This short story is an entry into the Form and Genre Challenge #14: 1st Person POV. Check out the other entries and vote for your favourite here.
Final word count: 1252