I was only seventeen. There were things in the world I just shouldnt have known. Pains I was much too young to have felt. Every day I tried to hold to the perfection in my life. And every day it slipped a little further away.
Soon I appeared at the entrance of the cafe, a familiar place where I had been so many times before. "Dinah!" The sound of my voice reached my ears. I whirled around, back towards the street. Standing near the curb was a boy I knew all too well, blonde and muscular, with a smile so contagious. Instantly I felt myself infected by it, and then he was taking me up into his arms, pressing his lips to my forehead.
I could smell the alcohol on his breath. Better than the weed, I told myself desperately. It was only another lie.
"Hey," he said softly. "Was wondering when you were going to show."
I offered a wide smile. Hopefully he couldnt tell how forced it was. Anthony reached down to take my hand in his own, fingers entangling with mine. There was a dull sort of comfort in the motion, a want for protection that was just out of reach. Once I thought I had been able to reach it. Now everything seemed so far away.
"Are you hungry? Let's get something." Anthony pulled me into the dim lit cafe without even waiting for a reply. After six months he tended to pride himself on knowing me better than I knew myself. We'd gone to the same day school, the sort of people who were just sort of expected to be together. Royalty among theives, diamonds in a smog infested city.
I was only trying to breathe.
We got into line behind a brown haired girl who carried a general air of naivete. Normally I would have scoffed at her. The city was no place for failures. Now I found myself compassionate. Bordering pity, but doing all I could to block it out. She was speaking to the cashier with a heavy British accent.
Anthony shook his head slightly. "Fucking foreigners," he muttered.
I squeezed his hand a bit. "Come on, Anthony. We cant all be born with the city in our blood. At least she speaks English." God, I hoped she couldnt hear me.
"It doesnt matter," he pressed on. His voice was getting louder. I thought I saw the girl's head angle back towards us. In attempt to silence my boyfriend, I dared to dig my perfectly manicured nails into his palm. Anthony cried out, causing the people around us to hush as he ripped his hand from my grasp.
In the process, he drew his hand, stained with my blood, across my face. I couldnt help it; I recoiled, eyes wide with fear. Anthony stared at me with a gaping expression. One that asked the most basic question: Can you feel?
I didnt want to think about that.
Before I knew what was happening, Anthony was out the door and into the daylight. I swallowed hard, trying to simultaneously regain composure and turn the attention away from me. To stop everything from falling apart right before my eyes.